Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part Eight - " Last Orders at The Bar"

January 2000 - Febuary 2002

The Rhythm & Blues @ The Top Bell

Kevin Braithwaite had done us proud over the following months, he had got us into some pretty good venues and even securing us at The Colne Blues Festival, which was a total nightmare.

What I had in my mind was tents and stages in a field someplace but in actual fact, we played in the local working men's club and had to haul the gear in at double speed. Everything had to be up in 5 mins and off you go. 

We had practiced this like an army crack SAS team at rehearsals so to watch must have been very entertaining. Keith was another matter as he seemed to wander around while myself and Stret set the PA up,  while Dave seemed to turn into the greatest illusionist in the world and seemed like his kit popped up like a tent!  We were all on the ball and were ready to play without a sound check so you just hoped we all had the right feel and not make a massive shitty entrance...

The band before us had gone down a storm but every song was a 12 bar and every song was the same but with different lyrics. We had some Cream and Freddie King and only one 12 bar, so when we went up there wasn’t much enthusiasm for us coming in from left field. It was a bit of a disappointment really but we lived through it and were soon off onto the M6 back home.

Kevin had got us some good gigs, The Pride Of Coventry, The Queens Head in Lichfield & The Tavern in The Town in Tamworth, but the first gig of 2000 was in Worcester in a pub on the main drag called The Dragon. It was just a normal pub and we always went down well there and the landlord liked us. 

The one gig we wanted was on the horizon and word had come through that we would be supporting ‘ The Climax Blues Band’ at Ronnie Scotts in Birmingham.

Soon the day was upon us and we all managed to get into Birmingham at 6:30pm. We were lucky that we got a parking space right outside the club. Kevin had booked a bus from the Top Bell and a load of folk came to see us & support us, which we were grateful for and soon the club was packed. I think we were all nervous but we were ready to have a go and we were well rehearsed.

The Flyer for our Ronnie Scott's show
The Climax Blues band were a big draw. They were formed in Stafford, England, in 1967 by vocalist and harmonica player Colin Cooper (1939–2008), guitarist and vocalist Pete Haycock (1951–2013), guitarist Derek Holt (b. 1949), bassist and keyboardist Richard Jones (b. 1949), drummer George Newsome (b. 1947), and keyboardist Arthur Wood (1929–2005). They had a UK 10 ten hit in 1976 called ‘Couldn’t Get It Right’  And it was that very song that while we were standing on the steps with Colin Cooper that Keith asked about.... 

“Colin, Do you ever get tired of singing that song?”

Colin smiled & said "Well. it bought me a house in LA”  

The set went well and people seemed to like us, The whole room was heaving and people sat in front of the stage ordering drinks and eating steaks. Our slot went so quick and in the end, we stood on the stage waving and the shouts filled the room,  then something happened that I had never heard before, it was a huge roar for us it was amazing and something I have never experienced since.  We left the stage and went into the crowd where where we watched The Climax Blues band who also rocked the night at Ronnie Scott’s.

After The Climax Blues band had been on, a tall black guy who was sitting across from us held out his hand to me and shook it. He said he had enjoyed our set and told me “Why ain’t you one of us brother?"  This guy turned out to Dion Dublin who at the time was playing for Aston Villa. It was a compliment that floored me and I was so proud of the band. 

Ronnie Scotts was on Broad Street you turned left into a one-way system,  Keith had parked further down and returned to his car & then came up the road the wrong way. This, of course, was illegal but it looked like he was going to get away with it if it wasn’t for the panda car pulling into the road which met Keith head on.  

They couldn’t have timed it better, he was, as they say in the Force, “Nicked”!!
We were all in tears as this played out in front of us. There was a few seconds were neither of them moved and it looked like Keith wasn’t backing up. I really think to this day that he thought that the police would back up but it never happened, until a uniformed officer jumped out and backed him up. It was hilarious!

Copper: “ Hey MOVE !, Back it up !, This is a one way”

Keith: “I'm only going one way Officer” 

We did, however, return to this venue again to support a long forgotten artist and we seemed to have our foot in the door.  The guy that booked the bands said he would have us back sooner than later but months after that there was news that Ronnie Scotts was to be closed and opened as a Gentlemen's Club. This was a kick in the bollocks for sure.  Looking back this was our pinnacle we seemed to have reached that something and if anything was going to happen to the band it could have been then.

Our only release ' Last Train Home' 2001
During the Easter Holiday, we all were recording our album ‘ The Last Train Home’ which was being recorded by Jon Broberg in his studio way up in the Derbyshire hills, in a barn/recording studio. It was a bit of a trek up there but we finally had our own CD that we could sell.  Dave decided we should order 1,800 CD’s these I still have piles of them today.  They are everywhere!

While all this was going on I was really into keeping things from gigs, the posters, and other stuff.  I still have Joe’s strings from 1991, Stret’s crisp packet which he folded in a very imaginative way and Dave’s snapped drumstick from 1995. I began to film the band in 2000 and took it to gigs and really went for it. We would film all year and have a premiere night before new years eve. Keith said he hated being filmed but was the first one to play up to the camera.

The Old Mill in Northfield was run by a guy called Bob who was a character.  He had booked bands in the Sixties and knew most, if not all, of the famous artists from Birmingham.  Trevor Burton used to play The Old Mill every Friday night. The pub was on the main drag on a corner near a housing estate. It was a massive pub with two massive rooms.

After we had done the gig I went to his office and he shut the door,  he made some small talk and suddenly got up from his chair and walked out of the room. There by the side of me was £20 on the floor. I picked it up and placed it on his desk, He then came back in and I said to him:

“Bob, You’ll never get rich leaving money about” 

This I know now was a test and I think he’d been watching me on a close TV because the timing of it was amazing.  He gave us a load of gigs so I was glad he I had done that. It never crossed my mind to stick that £20 in my pocket. I would be a terrible thief. One of the best things about coming back from Northfield was if you took a left at the fork coming out of Northfield you would end up going through the Balti Belt. I was like a Kid in a tit
Singing The blues

After Bob Died we returned to the pub a few times but it faded and in the end the pub was knocked down in 2012 and now a supermarket stands in the place where we once played 

Dave mentioned a piano player, Andy Buck, who was interested in joining us, he had taken a trip to see us at The Jolly About In Rugby a few weeks before.   He came to join us for a jam at our rehearsal and of course, with a keyboard player, lots of other avenues open up & you can do songs that you couldn’t do before. He came in and it was brilliant.

Andy was quite a humble chap. He would play something amazing and think nothing about it. He had been playing so long that it was just normal to him but to me, it was amazing or 'Fantastic' as he would often say, this led to him being known as 'Andy-Fantastic'.

Andy made his debut at the Top Bell, It was all too loud and some of it was captured on film. I didn’t really give it much thought then but we were progressing . Things do not stay the same, we don't stay the same. Whether it was for the better or not, it seemed right at the time, but now we had another member to pay.

@ The Fiddle & Bone, Birmingham
By June we were to play ‘ The Fiddle & Bone’ just around the corner from Ronnie Scott’s in Broad Street. Stret couldn’t make the gig and as it was our first we couldn’t turn it down so Guy Jessop Braithwaite stood in for him and he did a great job and part of the gig was filmed.

In December everyone that entered the house was met at the door with a glass of champagne and classical music playing in the background. Before we all settled down to watch ourselves I gave a speech with much heckling we watched the film. 

Dave lay on the floor propped up by a bean bag and focused on the film, never once talking but watching intently at the end he turned and had tears in his eyes, that for me is a special moment.   Everyone enjoyed the film and talked well into the night.
Guy Jessop Braithwaite

2001 will be a year I won't forget as I left Nestle and started a new venture  Live Music Magazine with the help of Judith & Alan Cooke, Guy Jessop Braithwaite, Kevin Braithwaite & Sonja Strode.  We all did articles for it, I had the idea of doing a free magazine with the hope of using local business to advertise in it. 

While waiting for a band you could read through it. I ran it for a year but what really had stopped me from doing it was I was owed money from the couple that run The Derby Turn had taken two massive adverts then did a midnight flit so it really put me out of business and also the pile I had given The Doveridge Blues Club were all over the road the next morning and as I went picking them all up I decided to hell with this and stopped the magazine.

As the year rolled on we kept hearing the news that they thinking of knocking down our practice room and turning the sports field into a Marina. With us hearing more and more about it we started to think of where we could move to and we ended up turning the old cowshed in Doveridge into a rehearsal room come recording  studio at my home.

It all needed to be emptied and through June- August the Cowshed became The Shack, Dave wired the main electric supply from the house and did an amazing job, Except the dimmer switch to this day trips the whole supply off. The roof was soundproofed and we did want we could do and new carpet was laid and even today looks as good as the day we bought it. 

Dave 'the hedge' Shipley
This is where Martin Gilman comes into the story. While working at Nestle I used to be on a packing line and worked with his Mum, Janet. Some days I would be working with her on the end of the line stacking coffee and she would mention Martin always being in mischief and having visits from the police.

Martin eventually started work at Nestle and I got to know him he was into music so used to pop over to my studio and listen to the songs I had written. He really got into it and bought an acoustic off me and started to learn bits and bobs. His influence was Oasis and Coldplay, he just wanted to learn to play the songs but he also liked to mess around on the guitar as well, which led him to coming over more as he found writing bits of songs interesting.  Martin is also very practical where I am not. I cannot do bloke things. I am useless at building things. 

Destroying things is another matter. My woodwork teacher at school would not let me take my mug tree home and flatly did not want me to take it out of the woodwork room. He told me he didn’t want him or the school to have nothing to do with it. This was said in front of the whole class. What a wonderful man he was.

So when Martin offers to build a sound booth in The Shack I take him up on it and he did a great job and is still used today.

Kevin Braithwaite Landlord @ music Lover
We didn’t know it at the time but we played our last gig at the Top Bell on November 30, 2002, after that gig I went up to see Kevin Braithwaite he made me sausage, egg, and chips and we sat in the pub and watched the late morning traffic pass the pub.  It was then that he told me that he was moving on and would be closing the pub after so many years of being there. I was in total shock.

The Top Bell was home for me and loads of other people, but you had to respect Kevin & Margaret's decision to leave. It is hard work running a pub and even harder today than it was then. The loss of the pub would ripple out not only through the village of Barton but also ripple out across the country. Make no mistake  The Top Bell was a well-respected venue. Kevin used to be inundated with phone calls from Liverpool, Manchester and all over asking who was on that night.

Build it and they shall come. That’s what happened to the Top Bell. Such a small pub which was close to our hearts. The music was rocking and the family were close, there were some great moments in there.

Again we didn’t think at the time that the Blues Doctors Gig on New Year's Eve 2001 would be the last one and also the last one to see the new year with all the family.  As fate would have it the final night of the Top Bell should have been a Rhythm and Blues band gig so The Blues Doctors were counted in on it.  It was a very sad night with musicians from other bands wanting to play or be featured as a tribute to the
Inside the Top Bell with Margaret Braithwaite 
Top Bell. It was rammed. You couldn’t move but the beer flowed and as the night went on the bitter went first,  then the lager and then slowly the pub ran out of everything but not before we all had our fill so the timing was right.

The musicians that played that final night; Pete Smith, Emmet Till, Dave Onions, Trevor Burton, Gut Jessop Braithwaite, Jack Poxon, Keith Wheldon, Mick Strode  and of course the Blues Doctors finished the set. 

I wouldn’t be singing backing vocals with Mick Strode again on Big Cadillac, No more Walking the Dog, Keith singing Born Under a Bad Sign no more tripping on Mick’s pedals. It was kinda sad. Not only was it the last night but it was the end of the Blues Doctors which was fun to do.

The Top Bell sadly missed
At the end of the night, I crossed the road at looked back at this amazing pub. A place which we had worked hard to get into and also to meet the family and be a part of something.

Times were changing, and I didn’t like where there were heading. Things would never be quite the same again. Every New Years Eve I think back to those days with a smile I was honoured to play there and honoured to meet those guys who played the Blues, to the most loyal and appreciative audience around. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part Seven - ‘Walkin’ The Dog’

January 1997 - December 1999

After the Christmas holiday we began our residency at ‘The Boom Club’ in Derby, which was situated halfway down Sadler Gate. It once had been called ‘The Blue Note’. I always thought that the club was really cool and had a great atmosphere which Jim the owner helped by blasting out Northern Soul dance classics and little gems which I came to love over time.

We added other songs to the set and it amazes me now to think that we played from 10:30pm - until 2:00am with breaks every monday for a month and not once did we repeat a song. We worked hard on a Sunday night and would learn 2 or 3 songs and play the next night straight off.

I remember this one night, we had packed up the stuff & everyone had gone home, apart from Keith & I.  We looked over to Derby Cathedral which was lit up with a brilliant white light, which made it look medieval. We were just chilling looking at this great monument & I said to Keith:
“Look at that Keith, it looks brilliant doesn't it?’

Just as the words were leaving my mouth it was plunged into darkness and left us looking at blackness!  It was a sure sign for us to go, so we headed home. 

Keith came over one night to tell me that Kevin Braithwaite from the Top Bell was interested in getting us some gigs which I thought was really nice of him,  he seemed to like what songs we were doing and I was grateful to him for giving us a little push we needed. One of the first few gigs he got for us was The Fountain in Nottingham which was an odd place as you were playing to a brick wall, I always thought it was a bit odd that they wanted a band because it never was that packed but we got quite a few off them and they always were on a Thursday night.

I don't know how he did it but he managed to get us at the famous ‘Ronnie Scott’s Club’ in Broadstreet Birmingham. In the fantastic July sunshine we played outside at the front of the venue we even stopped the traffic who had now slowed to a crawl to catch where this Chicago blues was coming from. It was an amazing experience which we would do again outside the venue, but the main room was where we really wanted to be. We had a look at the main room which was decked out in little tables with lights on them and the room had a great feel. 

One of the gigs I always liked was "The Vaults’ in Leicester which Kevin had got us. It was a right ball-ache to get to being smack band in the middle of Leicester,  but it felt like the Cavern as you descended the steps into the cellar. It was always packed and had a real vibe to it much like the ‘Boom’ Club. Joe also liked this venue as it sold ‘Scrumpy' cloudy cider which was lethal, he had a few one night but played amazing!

By the winter of 1997 we finally got a date for The ‘Running Horse’ in Nottingham.  Barry who ran it did a great job of publicising us and we went down really well. Everything was miked up which was strange for a small pub but it sounded great and we were glad that Barry had given us another return date for February

It was a great time to look back on and sad also that it would never happen again. As the years went on I watched all the band members leave home, get a house, now children were on the horizon and time was moving on fast. It was a special kind of bond that the music entwined with our lives and would continue to do over the following months.

Sometime during 1998 Kevin had the idea to do a sort of
The Fantastic Mick Strode @ The Top Bell
scratch band with different musicians  involved who I had not met socially. Mick Strode was on guitar he had his own band called Duke La Rue, He was an amazing player and his slide work was excellent. He really knew how to bend those strings and to hear notes that soared and wobbled as they came down again I was in awe of the man. Of course I didn’t like him when I first met him,  he seemed aloof but I came to like him every time I met him and soon realised under that front he was quiet shy and humble. 

Pete Smith was a kind of a celebrity and he played the guitar, full time teaching and driving his truck. Tony Tipper was on the drums I hadn’t met him either so I don’t know much if anything about him.
Gareth Williams was on bass and he was out of The ZZ Birmingham Blues band who were very popular on the blues scene.  Alan ‘The Stork’ on keyboards cannot remember his full name, he was so low we couldn’t hear him, but when you did he played lovely bits and wish we could have had more volume, but it was what it was.

We were to play The Top Bell the following Saturday and we worked up a few numbers but never bothered how to finish a song. I was to sing 5 numbers dotted about the set. It was great that I just had to turn up and sing and not to hump gear about with this in mind I decided to hit the vodka before I went so when I finally turned up I was in a good mood and rather pissed. 

We did a great set and what was absolutely brilliant about it was that because no-one really knew the songs everybody held back which gave the song a wonderful bounce and relaxed feel. No-one knew how the endings were going to end, so they all sort of melted into silence. It certainly was a relaxed night and I loved it and so did the people in the Top Bell who had tuned up on spec and witnessed something.

And so 'The Blues Doctors' were born. Before long we started playing regular which was good but also bad. We could or would never get back that relaxed sound as we had done a few gigs before because we all knew the songs by then and volume crept up so it lost the chill out. But
nevertheless the band really worked welll together & Kevin’s son Guy Jessop Braithwaite joined us on bass. We would have also have various drummers along the way, Keith Wheeldon joined us on rhythm guitar and soon enough Dave Shipley was in the band.

My songwriting partner Paul Cook had been popping over regularly now for a few years. We learnt together and we had wrote many many songs and played well into the night. He started to stay over, so the songwriting sessions would go until 5AM and we would crawl out the studio on all fours!

On one of these sessions we started to write to a theme and I called it ‘ A Three Piece Suite’, songs would run into each other and that is where the name Split Sofa comes from I bought it up in a joke which wasn’t very funny, but was at the time. So the name Split Sofa originated from May of 1999.

Cookie also decided to move on and so I was left to build Split Sofa and started to write an EP through the Summer and into the Winter of 1999. I missed Cookie and his humour but I bought in Dave Shipley and Martyn 'Big Ted Stret' from the band to give it a punch and we began to record the EP ‘ Angelistic Pillow’ Sofa’s Debut.

I would always ask Kevin if the Blues Doctors could play either Christmas Eve or New Years eve. I wasn’t bothered about the little extra money because I would have done it for free and I think we all felt the same. As we we leaving the 20th Century behind we were booked to see in the new Millennium at the Top Bell....

It was kinda special night for the human race not alone us who stood outside the Top Bell on that magical night. With The Top Bell being on a hill  we could see the colour that filled the sky that night with fireworks bursting out all across every inch of the sky. It would never be seen ever again not on that scale. As the year 2000 struck it was like being on a trip. There wasn’t a blackness in the sky it was now a psychedelic maze of beautiful colours.

As we all went back inside I announced “Ladies & Gentlemen welcome to the 21st Century” and we broke into ‘Walking The Dog’ I was of course was very merry and giggled through most of it and then it was all over.

The year 2000 so much had changed and what would happen? Would we still be together in 2 years time? Would the Top Bell be still entertaining the people that travelled out to Barton to see bands? Would Keith ever break into a sweat?

 It was all to be seen but the future looked good....

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Mary Jane Crazy Train - Split Sofa Interview Oct 2018

                  MARY JANE, CRAZY TRAIN

It’s been over 3 years since Split Sofa have released an album but on the horizon lies a pure gem of a product that really stands out as a sofa classic. 

Sofa in that time have upped the discography by releasing EP Treadbare (March 2017) and releasing two singles Such a long long time (Dec 2017) & Shame (May 2018) which was released to coincide with their annual pilgrimage to the world famous ‘Cavern Club’ in Liverpool

P - I was having a listen through all the releases you have done mate and It's quite impressive to say the least. Your new self titled album is it done yet?

L - Most of the albums done but I have been feeling a little burnt out with it all as I have been working full time on the project since May of 2017. The tracks were recorded very quickly so for the first time ever the guys have been waiting for me not the other way around. I have took time out but I am picking it soon and finishing the last song then get it mastered

P- I can say though the cover is very impressive and will leave people very surprised

L - I hadn’t started to think of the album cover until February 2018 and I needed to raise the bar and better ‘Thornby Park’. You cannot have a terrible cover following that album, we had to go one step above

P - Well, you certainly done that

L- It had to be done Lol

P- So what’s different from Thornby Park to Split Sofa Album

L- The Cover Lol, Thornby park for me is quite a sad album. I lost my Mum and brother in the time frame of 5 months while we were recording and writing it. After we had done that album I wanted to get back to SOFA ROCK and back to basic’s sort of rockier sound so I started an unreleased EP but we go half way through and it sort of died a death and was put in the vaults. When we had new band members join we jammed a little and the sound sort of changed and we began to record with a massive push this lead me to again pick up on the new sound and we released THREADBARE EP
P- Yes Pete Garyga your  bass player is solid and weaves himself through this album

L - yes pete fills the music really well, he is not how many notes can I add to a bar to make me look good sort of guy , he is deffo a musician who understand a song. Magic Alex is more like a Mini Roger Moggs, It’s quite erie really.Both these guys have given me encouragement to carry on with live work also Roger’s been very supportive

P- This albums kinda got it all. I take it you are really happy with it all

L - Yes, all the instruments were all done by May of 2018 and since then I have been putting it together. I worked on it full time for 6 months. Some have already been mastered by Michael and Izzy in Melbourne Australia who are brilliant at mastering and it helps that they like the songs I am sending them. All the songs on the album were written as we went along so it kept that freshness and hopefully that comes over

Backstage @ The Cavern, Liverpool
P - It certainly does I think it’s Sofa Rock with a massive step up

L - Thanks you cannot do everything the same. If all songs sounded the same I would stop. Wants the point of repeating yourself? Wasted energy.

p- So what does the future hold for Split Sofa

L - The album will be released before May 2019. We have a major advertising campaign drawn up. When you have a cover like that you want the world to see it, We have a few events lined up so 2019 looks quite busy

P- I wish you luck with the new album and say Hi to  the guys from me

L - Thanks I will

P - The discography of split sofa is quite impressive. I left a guy who remains focused and hopeful that the music they release will be picked up by someone from the industry and I feel that in time this may happen. Stranger things have happened. 

Let it be said I am not an album man at all but I feel you have gotta be kinda brain dead not to like this album or not to be drawn in by the melodies and damn good musicianship from; Pete Garyga, Joe Nicklin, Martin Gilman & Magic Alex Ganley. Long live Sofa Rock & so say all of us.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part six - 'One Foot in The Door'

January 1996 - December 1996

On the twelfth we played for the first time Sgt Peppers in
Derby. It had been the pub that I had shown up to play a few numbers with Stoney Ground in 1987 and it was then called ‘ The Duke Of York’. In the late 80’s it was always packed, it was a meeting place before you went into town & is was always packed over the weekends. It was a good warm up gig for our debut at the Top Bell.

Now that we were well off the cabaret circuit,  we now were a pub band and a Blues Band. The Top Bell was the place to aim for. It was Blues up close. There were regulars that were part of a family and we were lucky to be apart of that family, but respect is earned and when we got the chance we went for it....

It was a small pub on a hill looking across the fields of Barton-Under-Needwood that captured something. Run by Kevin & Margreat Braithwaite and Guy, who became a rather good bass player with local bands in the area. The place became a mecca. A Blues Mecca. 

The place was always packed people pushed up against one another but nobody cared,  all they wanted was first class Blues. Bands such as The Razors, ZZ Birmingham with their leader Arthur Billington, with raised arms saying ‘ Good Night Sweet Prince’. Duke La Rue plus many many more great bands played at the Top Bell.

We were all nervous but we went down really well. Kevin was happy with what we had done. We were Blues virgins. We didn’t want to do all the Blue’s standards everyone else did.  That stood us apart.  If you want to do something make it original and come from left field.

Many hours were spent searching for the right song. In my mind I took this back to the cabaret days of Tun To Red. If a song’s got a great melody then it can be likeable right from the start. So I looked at album tracks and B sides and tried to pick a song with a good melody. There were plenty to go at and many artists which I came to love:  John Mayall, Lonnie Mack, Peter Green, Eric Clapton. Joe had already heard of these artists so it wasn’t new to him. I could always tell what Joe had been listening to because it came out of his playing style. We were all learning.

February came and we were at an old venue near Coalville called ‘ The Griffy Dam’, we debuted the song ‘ I Just Wanna Make Love To You’ with me on the harp. We were then back at the Top Bell on The 16th March. There was a band table near where we played where you would be guaranteed a good seat & we got talking to a lovely couple Alan & Judith Cooke from Ashby. They would talk to us and we made friends very quickly with them & everyone at the Top Bell. Caravan Ken was another friendly guy and Graham who used to tap the back of his hands to the rhythm of the music. Lovely bunch of people there.  A chap to get respect off was Robyn who was a great harp player who would always sit in if you needed a solo. It is reported that he played Harp on the Hollies song ‘ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ and he brought Bobby Elliott, the Hollies drummer, into the Top Bell many times.

One of the weird gigs we used to regularly do was ‘ The Britannia’ in Nottingham. I have no idea how we got this gig but it was well run down. It was a long pub and at times hobos would wander in and be marched out in the middle of a song. The bar was run by a husband and wife and he was a mad David Bowie fan. When we had set up we walked over to the empty bar and he asked us what we wanted,  then on the radio came on David Bowie’s ‘Starman'. He put the pint pot down and seemed to go into some kinda trance. We stood there and watched him sing the whole song note for note until it finished. “three pints wasn’t it” and carried on,  a real weird scene, I should have filmed it!

If The Top Bell was the Blues Mecca for Derbyshire,  The Running Horse in Nottingham was the top Blues pub to head for next. A guy called Barry ran it. He had a long grey Mexican moustache,  we used to all go up and see whoever was playing. There was a kebab shop across the road so I knew we had to get a gig there! Despite trying to get a gig there we heard nothing back, it was really hard to get in there. The only difference with them was they had they own sound man so you were mic’d up.

My songwriting continued while all this was going on and I would ask Joe if he would play lead guitar on my songs so he was well used to hearing some of my shit songs which I had written. As we entered May,  Simon Bates (not the DJ) an old school mate who I had met on the first day of school and I had kept in contact with after leaving school in 1984,  bought up one of our old school mates in a conversation on that May night. His name was Paul Cook, aka Cookie.......

Cookie  was the younger brother I always wanted, we knew each other even before we started school. His Mother knew my Mother so they would stand outside in the street and talk while we pissed about. We were thick as thieves and would take great pride in disrupting the whole class.

One of the great things that Cookie could do was to break wind on cue. And very loudly. The times I found myself in the corridor after being thrown out yet again after pissing myself laughing at one of his loud farts. The cleaners knew me more than the teachers ever did at Hatton Secondary Modern!
School for me was a total waste of my time. I clowned my way through never tried much never did home-work. I had a desk named after me in the detention room. The problem was nothing went in. Maths was totally confusing when we got to cutting a pie in half and so on.

I got the first detention in our year by declaring to the French teacher that;

“We won the war so they should be speaking English!”

The only thing that really intrigued me was words and the sound of them. So as the school life went on I started to like English. I loved the words of John Lennon and Jim Steinman. I loved melody and it stuck.

Cookie & myself were kept apart because the fool who taught us at Hatton Heath Fields Primary told Deputy Head Bubble Brown that were were like a Morecambe and Wise show and to keep us apart at the new school. However we had options in the 3rd year & we began to have lessons together again......

Through the 6 week holidays we would muck around each others house and make up songs and listen to Beatle records. I was just bouncing along, always loud and having fun. I would be buying records and got Paul McCartney’s Tug Of War Album. I used to have headphones at night and would have the windows open, but the pig farm at Foston used to stink like hell and also we had the Turkey farm at Scrpoton so it was double shit stink.

I was spending more and more time with Paul Cook and Clive Sayers, who was a new lad who had moved into one of the new house at the top of the road. His family was the first family who would watched telly with their socks off. I had never seen this in anywhere. My Dad didn’t sit there without his socks on in fact none of the family did. So I always thought that was odd!

By now I had started to write songs. I would write reams and reams of stuff that wasn’t very good but Cookie, Clive and myself would take turns to be round each others houses and play records. Clive discovered Jimi Hendrix and Rod Stewart, Cookie found Marillion and Meat Loaf. I on the other hand had discovered The Who. I would sit there writing stuff and would read it out.

We formed The Breeze and Clive bought a Les Paul copy and Cookie ordered some guitar out of Kay’s Catalogue. I was going to be the drummer but Dad put a cosh on that. I seem to remember “Not in this bloody house, you're not”
We never actually played together as a band but myself and Cookie would mess about, but Cookie’s attention span wasn’t very good so he really went off and on it. I however kept writing little songs and would sing them to the guys.

As time went on we all left school. Cookie was always there and we had many nights of side splitting times around Michael Hassent's house (a neighbour of Cookie’s) who would buy records then toss them out the window like a
Clive Sayers

It’s hard to image now but nothing happened on a Sunday. Everywhere was shut. The BBC seemed to transport everyone back into time with repeats of Victorian programs like ‘Upstairs Downstairs’,  Just William, and that Edward whatever. I hated it all. The only light at the end of this dark tunnel was the radio chart show from 5. Trying not to get the DJ saying anything while you were recording. It was a pretty dismal time. The only change in Hatton & Tutbury was that ‘Kangs’ shop was open all day and Hatton Chippy started opening on a Sunday night so way hay!

Over the years Cookie would drop into my life now and again and by 1996 I hadn’t seen or heard from him in all that time. Simon asked the question that night “ Whatever happened to Cookie?”
So I wrote him a letter and within a few days he rang up and we decided a night for me to pick him up and bring him over to the studio. To my surprise he too was playing guitar again and was messing about, as he calls it. I too still played but not in the Blues band. So we were in the same boat.

So here we were. We had a play around and I instantly fell into a groove with him. We ended writing a song called ‘Jennifer’ which evolved over time but to write a song on the very first meeting is a special thing indeed. Having that spark with someone doesn’t come around much if at all. I can only write with people I have a connection with. If it’s there it’s there. 

So back to the band....
Our band was flourishing. We had all clicked and now were all enjoying meeting up and playing the Blues. My collection of Blues was expanding but Joe had all the songs you could shake a stick at. I was a Blues virgin in 1995 and like everyone else who joins and loves a new genre you find new artists.

After a while I could tell who Joe had been listening to by the way he played. Buddy Guy was one of my favourites he
used to do and Freddie King was another. You could always tell a muso guitar player fan by the way they were checking out what amp he had. Joe wasn’t a lover of effect pedals. He didn’t like them at the time saying that he was after the raw sound of the guitar.

Over time though, as I might of mentioned in past posts, the amount of Amps he would go through was amazing. You would get used to one and then he’d turn up with another one. I think though that his true heart lay with Eric Clapton. Many a time he would be talking to someone who also was a guitar player telling him he sounded so much like Eric. How many times did we hear that one? So his true roots lay with him and expanded out and much to my delight saw the same thing as I did with George Harrison. Although Joe’s not a massive Beatle fan he can see a great artist in George and I can see that In Joe.

Stret he was like a younger brother. I had watched him grow as a solid bass man. He now kept us in a straight line down the middle of the road and to me was the heart of the band. Stret used to stay over sometimes all weekend. He would come over for the gig on Friday and be gone after eating a massive Sunday dinner to meet up at 7 in the Stretton rehearsal room then we would all pop up to the Top Bell to finish the weekend off.

You could always hear Dave turn up in his car. 9/10 it would be Death Metal but on occasions it would be classical. He listened to everything and loved it. When I discovered Muse it was no surprise Dave had the album before I had even heard of them. One of his great traits was structuring a song and taking it away from what is once had been. Dave was also part of an operatic group and he was part of the orchestra and also part of a brass band so he seemed to be always busy which showed his passion.

Keith was a character he would endure people to him. He was a loveable rogue (his words) he was really good at working songs out and would make his own guitars. Of
course if you have been reading this blog you would have known that I had met Keith in 1987. He was the one that went out and got us gigs. He would spent time hunting down the person to get the gig. There were quite a few he got for us. The Derby Turn, St Helens, The White Hart, The Fountain, The Griffy Dam, The Fishpond in Matlock Bath.

On one occasion I went with him around Derby on a Monday afternoon. We went into a few bars asking for gigs. Walking down Sadler Gate heading for the boom club Keith pressed the intercom button. He let it buzz more than he should have. The guy comes on;

“Yeah, Yeah, what you want?”

Keith then pushes the button again and speaks keeping his finger on the buzzer

“Hi my names Keith I was wondering….”

"Keith take your finger off the button"...... At this point he does and we are met with

“STOP, pressing the…”

Again Keith does the same and starts to talk again

‘Mate get your finger off the buzzer”

This he does and again we are met with

‘Will you stop pressing the pissing buzzer!, what do you want?”

His name was Jim and he had took over The Boom Club a few weeks before. He was a northern soul DJ and by the sound of it had his fingers in a few pies and this was one of them. He played some great classics and I loved his style. 

To my surprise he gave us a gig on December 30 which could be a curse but it wasn’t it was rammed. I liked it in there it was done in a sort of old jazz club style and with that genre really fitted in with the music that was being played.   Jim seemed happy in what we had played and offered us a months residency for January. Every Monday night till 2:30. This would make us work harder and we began to learn songs by the bucket load. No sets was the same which was brilliant because it kept us on our toes.

Another step up for us and 1997 was looking promising