Sunday, 27 March 2011
So let's go back just over a week to last Friday and we piled everything in the trusty MPV and breathed a sigh of relief as we considered that, had it had rafters, it would be full to them!
We were taking our full set of gear down this time so with PA and speakers, keyboard and guitar, gig bag, stands and luggage and four people, we zoomed off down the motorway, stopping at every second services - drat these pills...
The hotel we've used the last two years is now a Travelodge and a communal breakfast-free area so we were staying at the Sunley Conference Centre of Northampton University, who were providing a large room for the Friday night jam session.
Lots of familiar faces there from years past and also some new ones. Some that I knew from the Billy Fury forum but had never met.
In fact the first thing we saw was the Danmobile! Daniel Heeney, is a long-standing member of the billyfury.com forums but it was our first meeting. "Long-standing" suits him - he's a tall fella! And I loved his act on Friday night!
Cathy and Jean were on hand to give me my first cuddles, Katie, Marie and Jan hadn't been able to make it alas! Likewise a few others but there was a good crowd of us. The Furygirls' favourite, Johnny Storm was there to wow them with his voice. Miss Franny came over all accusingly at me because he did one of her favourite Michael Bolton songs - er... yes, it's a while since we've done that one I know...
MC, the fabulous Rob Dee called us up. Creeping Bentgrass took to the stage area and we set off with a Billy song - Like I've Never Been Gone, one of my favourites!
We had a bit of help with Johnny B Goode (below) - he can be a bit of a handful that one!
And at the end of the night we were surprised but very honoured to be asked back to play a live backing for all the performers from the night to sing Billy's best known hit, Halfway to Paradise.
All the photos from Friday night are in a set at my Flickr account and the video of Like I've Never Been Gone is at the band's YouTube channel.
Saturday night report to come...
Sunday, 20 March 2011
A more detailed entry to come but for now before I climb or crawl up the stairs to dreamland... the opening number from our set last night: Elvis's Suspicion. G'night all...
Saturday, 12 March 2011
In the summer of that year we visited the summer fair of the local branch of BLESMA - the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association.
At that time there were still a couple of old soldiers there who had lost limbs in World War One I seem to remember and their prosthetics included the use of old fashioned hooks to replace a hand.
There was a small fairground laid on for visitors as a fund-raising venture and Gill won a prize on one of the stands. She wanted a goldfish. We hadn't banked on this, but she most definitely wanted a goldfish and a comb, screwdriver or a small and tatty plastic toy wasn't going to sway her away from wanting a goldfish.
We arrived home with this small, over-hot and suffocating little fish and it lived for a day in a large glass mixing bowl until we could buy a small plastic tank to put it in. Gillian decided it would be named "Eric the Twink". I've no idea where that came from...
Eric, against all expectation, did not die half an hour after getting him home. He stubbornly held onto life, requiring the purchase of said plastic tank so that Fran could wash out his bowl and make more cup cakes...
We grew fond of him and a few friends were found for him. He did then eventually pop his clogs not long after the new friends came... But these grew to need a larger tank and a couple of them, a large goldfsh called Jaws and a shubunkin called Bluey are seen above.
Jaws eventually grew to around 6 inches in length and, exactly as with model train sets, we realised that if we wanted a more scenic environment then we had to shrink the scale somewhat and at Christmas 1981 a 3 feet long tropical fishtank made an appearance.
The fish were much smaller, more colourful, much more varied in shapes and behaviour and ...er... bred like rabbits...
But the hours of pleasure (or hypnotism) we got from sitting and staring at the large tank was brilliant.
Large versions of the photos: goldfish and shubunkin, guppy, fish tank
Sunday, 6 March 2011
We set off with the usual country and folk sets to an enthusiastic audience. As the hall warmed up (literally), a couple of balloons exploded quite spectacularly close by my head - talk about playing under fire...!
We had a break whilst a hotpot supper was served and then came back complete with sparkly ties to play through the late 50s and 60s sets and a selection of smoochy ballads for dances "in hold" as David described it...
A great night with plenty of folk on the dance floor and lots of happy faces singing along at the tables.
We usually play for around 3 and a half to four hours on such nights and lots of friends ask how we can play so long.
Well if you play guitar regularly you just build up corn on the ends of your fingers and although some of it wears off after a full night's playing, as witness last night's photo of my fingers, it doesn't hurt any more than feeling a little tender and this morning my fingers are back to normal again.
The next gig is the annual Billy Fury bash in Northampton in a fortnight. Looking forward to that!!!
Saturday, 5 March 2011
The snow that blanketed much of the country in December last year had happened before in Blackpool in 1981. On the evening of Sunday December 13 1981 Blackpool suddenly realised that an almost unheard of amount of snow had fallen within not much more than an hour.
A full eight inches of snow had covered the ground and was left merrily to freeze overnight. The resulting ruts meant that it was impossible to turn off a main road into a side street if no one had done it the night before, whilst the snow was still soft. The snow was so packed and hard that it was like being on rails. All that turning the steering wheel did was make the car judder whilst the ruts took you in the direction someone else had gone before!
These photos were taken several days later on the 17th December and the snow still hadn't gone. This is a view of Bank Hey Street looking south towards the Tower and Victoria Street. The first photo was taken from the pedestrian bridge over the Promenade. It was demolished in 2010 as part of the Promenade and sea defences refurbishment.
Traffic travelling south on the Promenade Road had to use the offside lane unless they were turning into Talbot Square due to a stubborn and unofficial traffic island!
With Hazel onstage were saxophonist Clare Hirst and providing a really solid and feisty piano accompaniment, Sarah Fisher.
I met Hazel back in 2007 when I was introduced by Ingrid Pitt, the actress at a Memorabilia show, who said to her, "This is John, he's a fabulous singer!" Which, being said to someone I consider to be a fabulous singer, was a bit embarrassing at the time! Once Ingrid had gone back to her own stand, Hazel grinned and dug me in the ribs and said "So? Fabulous singer eh?"
At that show I bought her album Hidden Heart which had a very strong Celtic influence and was acoustic in its backing. Well worth a listen, by the way. So I wasn't sure what to expect when we turned up to find friends Chrissie, Alex and Ellie waiting for us. There were a few punk hairstyles in the audience and I knew everyone (myself included) would be waiting for her to perform that wonderful song, Will you from the film Breaking Glass. And with a saxophonist in the group it was a pretty certain bet!
It came towards the end of the set as could be expected and was as good as you could expect. Not as in "as good as you could expect with just two musicians" but seriously "as good as you could expect". Sarah filled out the backing throughout the night quite magnificently on the electric piano and Clare's saxophone solo was every bit as good as the original 1981 single. Hazel's voice remains as haunting as it was.
But it wasn't the only reminder of those wild punk rock days. Eighth Day and D Days, everyone singing along to the former and spellbound by an excellent arrangement of the latter whilst Hazel's delivery and swinging arms took us back to... can it really be 30 years ago???
Swing arrangements, a healthy dose of jazz, blues, a cover of Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars and a stunning version of the Four Tops classic Do What You Gotta Do - which Hazel said she had first heard as the B side of Nina Simone's hit Ain't Got No/I Got Life. I never knew that! It is however my favourite Four Tops song of all time.
And my sad realisation is that nobody under the age of 30 will know what a "B side" is...
A special mention to a great support act: Tensheds
Fabulous night! There are still more dates on the tour and I'll tell you what - I'd go again!
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Approaching the city from the south via the town of Biggar, I found myself following an extremely aged large saloon, possibly a Jag XK120 or XK140 which was bouncing about, half covered by plastic sheeting on the back of a trailer being towed by a large 4x4.
It was bouncing about because the twerp in the 4x4 couldn't grasp that the trailer was wider than his car and he was driving right up to the edge of the road, sometimes kerbstones, sometimes grass verge and sometimes fairly large rocks.
The trailer, being wider than the car was obliged to travel on the rough grass verges, bounce over the rocks and mostly scrape the side of its wheel along the kerbs. I kept well back, waiting for the trailer's tyre to explode and shred...
However, there isn't always justice and he eventually turned off, narrowly missing being hit by an oncoming wagon. Perhaps he later got out of the 4x4 and did a double take at the trailer and vintage car, saying, "Where the hell did that come from?!?" He certainly didn't seem to know it was there!
I was driving so I've no photo to add to this - you'll just have to imagine me driving along in the choking dust that he kept throwing up from verge and gutter...
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
So today I'm celebrating 550,000 views instead!
Bunting. Fireworks. Trumpets. Hurray!
Thank you! I couldn't have done it without you. It doesn't count my viewings...
This time though there's a few of different places we went to in late 1981, starting with one of Lytham.
After I uploaded this one to my Flickr account (link to large versions below) I had a comment that it looked pretty much the same 30 years ago that it does now. Only the amount of traffic had changed.
It's a problem we all face and one that catches us all out. We take photos of what we expect to change and what we want to remember. The things that only change after a lifetime we don't bother photographing. And yet I wonder.
I haven't been back to Lytham to look at the view from this same spot but maybe I should. The comments I get on my older photos at Flickr are ones that have stirred memories for people. Shops long since gone. Rides on Blackpool Pleasure Beach that no longer exist.
Buildings tend to look the same over a lifetime but what or who resides in them changes. Shop frontages change and people like to be reminded of their past.
So where does that leave photographs like this one of Inskip parish church? The church itself is unlikely to have changed in a mere 30 years. But what about the churchyard? What changes to trees and shrubs, flowers? Has the churchyard filled up with graves or have some older graves disappeared. How many graves would there be in the churchyard of a small rural village? The answer would probably be surprising.
Many of those churches have been there for 800+ years. How many funerals are held in a week? Mutiplied by 52. Multiplied by 800...
Finally here's a photo of Oldham. I had worked there for a while in 1972 and I think this visit in 1981 may well have been the last time I went there!
Has it changed? I suspect so. But at the least I'd be surprised to still find Freeman Hardy Willis still selling shoes there!
Large versions of the photos: Lytham, Inskip Parish Church, Oldham