Thursday, 14 November 2013

(Si si) Je suis un rock star

This is another music post, which, as the blog has acquired a new reader with expertise in that subject, leaves me rather nervous. It makes one nostalgic for the old days of nothing but a couple of wargamers in their dotage and the trusty Russian spambots. Anyway, be that as it may, I have been to see Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and I need to write about it.

Zank 'eaven....
I hadn’t seen Wyman perform live since Knebworth 1976 at which the Stones notoriously failed to appear until the early hours of the morning. The assumption at the time was of backstage debauchery, of sex and drugs getting in the way of rock’n’roll, but I think these days it’s generally accepted that there was a genuine, boring technical hitch rather than anything more glamourously decadent. The end effect was the same whatever the cause: most people had to watch the set through a haze of tiredness. Not me though. I had been asleep all day, suffering – and I mean suffering – from too many Hosepipes the night before. I briefly came round for 10cc, was OK for Lynryd Skynryd and was fighting fit when the headliners appeared.

So, to the Grand thirty seven years later to find that despite all his excesses Wyman appears to have aged better than me. Certainly musically he was on fine form, as were his band. Unfortunately Georgie Fame was in hospital with pneumonia, but the rest were all excellent. Albert Lee was, almost inevitably, the stand out, but the others – including guest vocalist Maria Muldaur – were no slouches. My personal preference was for the Chicago blues numbers they did (including a belting cover of a Little Walter song the name of which escapes me for the moment), but the version of ‘This is a Man’s World’ sung by Beverly Skeete was also first class. (As a digression, the only time I ever saw James Brown that was also the highlight of the set).

I made the point in previous posts that some performers clearly don’t like singing the song with which they are most associated (Elkie Brooks with ‘Pearl’s a Singer’, Ralph McTell with ‘Streets of London’), but Muldaur – someone who hung out with Dylan in New York and appeared regularly with the Grateful Dead – didn’t seem to mind performing ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ at all. It didn’t make it any better though. There weren’t any Stones songs, although there were a few that they had covered such as Irma Thomas’s ‘Time Is On My Side’. Introducing the final encore Wyman announced that he didn’t like the songwriter and I wondered who could have had that effect on the mild-mannered bass player. It turned out to be Chuck Berry and therefore entirely understandable.

The inventors of the Hosepipe
Upon re-reading this it occurs to me that some of you may not be fully aware of the contents of a Hosepipe. To make one take a pint glass and put in a half of draft Guinness, a bottle of barley wine and a double brandy. It is delicious, with the bitter taste of the stout offset by the sweetness of the barley wine and the warmth of the brandy (you must imagine that description being said in the voice of the man from the Cointreau advert of days gone by), but to avoid the hangover from hell one shouldn’t drink more than the appropriate number. For the avoidance of doubt the appropriate number is none whatsoever.


  1. I have seen the great Elkie Brooks many times in concert. I never felt her her lack of enthusiasm for singing " Pearls a Singer". As with many of her other hits.

    1. I'm afraid, Ms James, that we shall have to agree to disagree on that one. What I don't disagree about is that she was an awesome performer with a great voice. I'm personally rather sorry that I'd never seen her before, I shall certainly catch her on her next tour and would urge others to do the same.

      As for the song itself, I always preferred the Richard Digance parody 'Earl's a Winger'; sacrilege I know.

    2. "Earls a Winger" never heard of it or Richard Digence. I am from the U.S A.. Not sure the producers of Elkie's version (Lieber & Stoller ) would approve .
      Elkie's great voice is indeed a fact.