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Posts Tagged ‘Kast Off Kinks’

DomeSunday, November 22:
In Tufnell Park
did the Official Kinks Fan Club a pleasure dome decree as the venue for this year’s Konvention.  (Stately? nah!).  In the Dome – still the Boston Arms but upstairs, entry gained from the edge of Betjeman country at the bottom of Dartmouth Park Hill – a more spacious venue than the more plebeian ground floor function room, entered from the more prosaic Junction Road, which had hosted the gig for a decade or so.  Biggest wrist stamp I’ve ever had, cloakroom £2.00 an item on a dry cleaner’s wire coat hanger and Guinness at £4.50 a pint, which I’m pretty sure was a lot cheaper downstairs last year.

A bit late, I’d foregone my annual mid-day pilgrimage – make that sentimental journey – to Waterlow Park, up on Highgate Hill, a place of succour, respite and inspiration (such trees!) when I first moved to London many moons ago (and lately a place Highgate resident Ray Davies often chooses to do print media interviews).  Turned out I could have made it, such was the amount of time it took for the queue to get in.  So it goes.  But once upstairs, of course, hey – always good to see the usual suspects; you know who you are.

OKFC KOK 1998Muswell hillbilliesThe Kast Off Kinks started off as Fan Club treat.  The first four London Konventions (there had been a couple further afield) were held at the Archway Tavern, where the fold-out cover photo of the KinksMuswell Hillbillies album – my favourite, for what it’s worth – was taken.  The set list was agreed by email and over the phone; no full rehearsals, cassettes were exchanged.  It worked, it was great fun for all.  This was basically the Muswell Hillbillies rhythm section of John ‘Nobby’ Dalton, to whose leukemia charity the profits went, original drummer Mick Avory, and John Gosling (aka The Baptist because Salome cut his head off – no hang on, because of his long hair and beard), with Dave Clarke, a mate of Dalton’s from the Hertfordshire rock’n’roll beat group scene and beyond – no, not that Dave Clarke, this one’s a musician – bravely taking on the roles of both Ray and Dave Davies.  Crucially, without attempting to take on either’s persona, he’s always excelled and has become a firm favourite with the, if you’ll excuse the spelling, the British Kinks fan Kommunity.

Geoff Lewis maintains a website for the band at http://kastoffkinks.co.uk/ with a whole bunch of live videos and some fascinating interviews – variously transcriptions and recordings – with the chaps.

2015: John Dalton taking it easy. (c) Julia Reinhart. www.juliareinhart.com www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

2015: John Dalton taking it easy. © Julia Reinhart.
http://www.juliareinhart.com
http://www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

The Konvention moved down Junction Road to the Boston Arms in 2002 and over the years more and more ex-Kinks have become involved, to the extent that whereas early on there were support slots, the Konvention Kast Offs became a moveable feast spanning all eras of the Kinks, filling the afternoon by themselves.  At the peak of all this re-gathering I think we had two back-up singers, (was it?) three bassists, two drummers and three keyboard players leap-frogging the performance area.  Ray Davies has been known to turn up and say a few words, sing the odd verse; Dave Davies has never had anything to do with them.  I won a signed photo of Ray in the raffle one year, put it proudly in a frame and the sun faded the autograph faded out of existence.

As things progressed the Kast Off Kinks started doing the odd gig elsewhere, and this has developed into the core members becoming a regularly gigging band up and down the land.  As The Baptist’s presence has diminished, Ian Gibbons, who continues to work with Ray Davies, has become the keyboards man in residence, with Mark Haley guesting.  John Dalton announced his retirement half a decade ago but no-one believed him, and so it has proved; Jim Rodford took up most of the gigging bass duties when available, though the recent resurgence of the Zombies‘ career may limit his appearances in future.  Jim and Ian’s fellow Kinks-as-stadium-rockers band era drummer, the amazingly well-preserved Bob Henrit, has been known to take a turn too; an interview covering his decades spanning career in the music business (including the introductory cowbells on Unit 4+2’s Concrete and Clay) is one of the highlights of The Kast Off’s website, and is well worth your time; he’s published an autobiography too, titled Banging on).

I've taken the liberty of posterizing Kevin Kolovich's photograph

2015: I’ve taken the liberty of posterizing Kevin Kolovich’s photograph.

So, Sunday before last, and we’re upstairs in The Dome, which is certainly an upgrade from downstairs.  A two tier stage – “I’ve played in pubs smaller than that stage” says Geoff Lewis – and  improved sound from the PA.  Stage left upper tier were back-up singers Debi Doss and Shirley Roden, looking down on Ian Gibbons, who, as Nobby said at one stage, was “on fire”, and indeed he was, a real tour de force.  He also called him “the funky gibbon”, but I never liked The Goodies, so find that regrettable.  Centre, raised at the back, the redoubtable Mick Avory, in front of him Dave Clarke, and to his right, the aforesaid Dalton.  And on the raised dias behind him, it was good to see the excellent Oslo Horns (from Norway!) again, sporting trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone – always adding something to the sound, never intruding.  Even better to hear them properly this year.

Julia Reinhart 06

2015: Messrs Gibbons, Clarke and Dalton. © Julia Reinhart. http://www.juliareinhart.com http://www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

Over the years, as the Kast Offs have turned into a working band, I’ve got a bit blasé about these performances, and – dare I say it – it had all got a bit routine.  Something today about the special emotions of an OKFC audience – international, spanning three generations – and the tightness that comes from constant gigging, along with the limited personnel which meant not so much chopping and changing, but this year I think it was the best I’ve seen them, really on top of their game and still enjoying it too.  With Nobby and Ian and the gals helping out on the vocals it was a storming show all round.  No-one’s put up a set list on social media yet so I’m running blind here; they probably played for at least 3 hours, doing most of the hits and more.  Almost at random, my highlights from memory: they do a slow and stately Village Green Preservation Society (outsider for new English national anthem, anybody?); Dave excels on the long intro take on a passionate Celluloid heroes; the band are really rocking with the fabulously obscure It’s too late; Debi fronts up for Stop your sobbing; they do a brilliant Better days.

DC & JD.

A delicate touch: DC & Doolin’ Dalton. © Julia Reinhart. http://www.juliareinhart.com http://www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

John Dalton always makes a point of saying how much he rates Shangri-La and that wonderful Ray Davies song hidden away for years on the Percy soundtrack album, God’s children (atheist that I am, singing along gleefully), and they are never short-changed.  Alcohol always gets full measure too; how I’d love to see him and Ray doing that as a double act, but later for him.

The incandescent Mr Gibbons and pal. © Julia Reinhart. www.juliareinhart.com www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

The incandescent Mr Gibbons and pal. © Julia Reinhart. http://www.juliareinhart.com http://www.facebook.com/juliareinhartphotography

It’s one of those strange inversions that the passage of time brings about, but what could well be The Kinks‘ second worst recorded cover version (nothing can compare with their Dancing in the street) always turns out to be one of the rousing closing climaxes of a Kast Off Kinks show.  I speak of Louie Louie, which is swiftly followed by a Long Tall Sally, to which even I was goaded to dance (thanks … sorry, forgotten your name), and Elvis Presley’s One night, the first song, apparently, that Nobby and Dave Clarke ever played in public together.

Ronny Van Hofstraeten posterise2Ronny Van Hofstraeten posterise4Ronny Van Hofstraeten posterise7Somewhere in the third set yer man Ray Davies came out and said a few words, and towards the end was cajoled into delivering, in fine form, a full reprise of – what else? – You really got me, with Dave Clarke getting the first few bars of Dave Davies’s original guitar solo – something he never normally tries – note perfect. [That’s Ronny Van Hofstraeten’s photo of Ray I’ve mucked about with here]

A fine way to spend a winter’s afternoon.  Thanks as ever to Bill and the Official Kinks Fan Club stalwarts for putting it all together.

Stony Lights Bard launchAnd the next weekend …

… another fine way (with added mulled wine) to spend a winter’s afternoon.

Last Saturday of November is the Stony Stratford Lantern Parade leading up to the ceremonial switch-on of the Xmas lights that brighten the High Street, church Street and Market Square for the season.  Weather was not great – only wet and windy, though, as opposed to the gales and heavy rain at one stage forecast – but that didn’t stop the crowds turning out as usual.  Impressive community dedication.

Gimp night

Gimp night: Photo from the phone of Ray Roberts.

Earlier, a select band gathered in the Library for what has now become an established part of the tradition.  Entertainment and enlightenment from bards past and present, near and wide, poetasters, storytellers and singers, not forgetting the Stony Mummers and local kids’ group Act Out doing a scene or two from their panto.  Excerpts from a new Fay Roberts epic about the child of a mermaid and dragon had us entranced, while, as is now – that word again – traditional, the mighty Antipoet – self-proclaimed Bards of Bugger All – brought proceedings to a splendid end, showcasing new and newish material.  In their quest to alienate as many sections of the community as possible we got another fine atheist piece and a spirited demolition of hipster beards, particularly of a ginger variety; Sam Upton, Bard of Northampton, didn’t seem to  mind.  Then there was Gimp night (was it at the Rose & Crown? – NO: it was, much better, the Fighting Cocks (thanks to my pseudonymous correspondent Pedantic Pete for the correction)), a report on the parlous economic plight of many of the nation’s public houses, necessitating their resort to the promotion of niche nights for all variety of minority interests and perversions, including … poetry.

Here’s a link to Stony’s Bardic Council: http://bardofstony.weebly.com/

 

 

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Blimey.  Done more this last week than since the last time on holiday.  So the intention here is for whistle stops, and given that brevity has been conspicuously absent from Lillabullero for some time now it should be good training.  Let us first bring on the books …

Scan heft front Scan heft backHeft

First thing to say about the edition of Liz Moore‘s Heft (Hutchinson, 2012) I read is: What a great cover, reflecting as it does beautifully the house in which a lot of the novel’s action takes place; and I love the steps leading up to the barcode on the back – take a bow Nathan Burton.  Click on the back cover and you’ll get some specifics, but without giving too much away – it says it’s ‘restorative’ on the cover – I’ll just add it’s a story of four lost souls, vividly told alternatively by two of them, one of whom rather annoying never spells out ‘and’, which is represented by an ampersand throughout his testimony.  The one who doesn’t make it, a particularly significant one, we only meet by hearsay and in her letters.  I zipped through Heft, engaged and moved by their various wretched situations; I don’t think the teenage boy would be out of place in a Donna Tartt novel.  It’s a really good read, the more so if you don’t think about it too hard; it suffers, this cynic would say, for all its contemporary New York locale, from a touch of that good ol’ American (modern Dickensian) sentimentality.  I read it because it was a Reading Group choice, but I liked it well enough, have no regrets for the time spent.

Darkness darknessDarkness, darkness

I’ve missed Charlie Resnick so it was good to see John Harvey had bought him back for a final fling with Darkness, darkness (Heinemann, 2014); Harvey’s other lead characters never came near Resnick’s resonance.  No longer a copper but working as a humdrum civilian investigator in the police service – “keeping the stairlift away” – he gets actively involved in a case again when a body is found in the process of a street demolition in an ex-mining village.  It’s a case going back to the dark days of the miners’ strike, a political milieu full of perils for the fiction writer which Nottinghamian Harvey treats even-handedly – and cites sources and contacts in an appendix to this end – while hiding nothing:

‘There was a lot of what we did that wasn’t right,’ Resnick said eventually.  ‘A lot we should have done differently or not done at all.  And a great deal of what happened locally, well, that was taken out of our hands. Not much of an excuse, maybe, but there it is.  But I met some good people, no mistaking that.  Either side of the picket line.’

Scargill’s tactics – how things could have been different in the Notts coalfields – get a critical airing too.  The scars of the conflict are still there as the investigation proceeds three decades on, with the women’s part in the strike an important element of the plot.  Chapters describing events concerning the murdered woman at the time of the strike cut intriguingly into the main investigation narrative.  The outcome is a long way from what might have been at the start, with the crucial intellectual breakthrough in the case down to Resnick’s passion for jazz, which also gets a familiar airing in passing throughout.

Darkness, darkness is a worthy coda to the canon.  His personal situation – ageing, wearied, crotchety, grieving, still interested – is affectionately and adeptly handled, and, fans, rest assured: he doesn’t die.

Pedant’s corner: in the ongoing query as to what editors and proof readers do for their money these days, how do you flick your headlights at someone “waiting patiently to overtake”?  And would a pro-strike miner get away with making a speech criticising the “false promises” of the NUM rather than, as it should obviously read in context, the NCB (p221 in the paperback)?

xoa-coverlores1Anais Mitchell

Saw Anais Mitchell at a stupidly un-sold-out Stables on Monday – the side seats were empty – but if anything that added to the intimacy.  Support and occasional accompanist Rachel Ries opened with a set of songs that kept the audience fully engaged, and – nice touch – was joined by her friend Anais for her last number.  Anais came out and was stunning from the outset.  She’s a decent singer, with a neat inflection, and a fine acoustic guitarist with a folksy presence that belies the power of her compositions.  She has an endearing habit of – standing with her guitar throughout – fidgeting about on her feet, (mostly softly) stamping or shuffling, the tour de force being a natural/naturalised balancing on one leg temporarily resting the other on the calf of her standing leg.  Her voice is much stronger live than heard on previous records, and the spare unaccompanied performances of songs from Hadestown and Young man in America (especially an intense Why we build the wall from the former, where opera-style, it’s sung by someone else, and the title track of the latter) really gripped emotionally; both are on Xoa, the fine new album of re-workings illustrated here.  Young man in America is a devastating, concerned song, looking into the void.  If she weren’t a song writer she’d be a writer, no question.  Wearing pretty new H&M dresses – I’m only telling you this because she told us – she and Rachel, when the latter came out again to add harmonies or piano, towering I guess a foot over Anais, were enjoying each other’s and our company.  It was a great night and, icing on the cake, for an encore, lovely touch, unplugged and un-miked they stepped in front of the monitors and gave us a thoroughly acoustic little country ditty.  Refreshing (well I’ve not seen it done before) and so satisfying.  Audience exit smiling.

MK Rose Nov 11Scribal Armistice

Tuesday was Armistice Day and we joined a small group of MK Humanists joined local worthies and other members of the public at the secular civic act of Remembrance at the MK Rose.  A bit blowy, but it was a relief it kept dry.  Not exactly massed ranks but everyone pleasantly surprised at the size of the turnout, a genuine gathering, the feeling being that this was now an established event in the civic calendar.  A feature of the ceremony, along with all the usual – the Exhortation, Last Post, Reveille, the laying of the wreaths and the Kohima Epitaph – was the reading of Day of names, an apt poem written by MK Poet Laureate Mark Niel for the occasion.

Scribal Nov 2014And the theme continued in the evening, with the November Scribal Gathering featuring a moving 20 minute reprise extract from The hell where youth and laughter go, the World War 1 commemoration in poetry put together earlier in the year by the late Scribal regular (and many other things) Dick Skellington.  Remembrance of one sort or other became something of a theme as the evening progressed with Alzheimer’s the topic of a Caz epic and touched on by others.   Couple of notable first time poets of distinction were blooded (rotten metaphor for a vegetarian, I know, but it is a rite of passage), while Mr Gurner performed a Japan classic, solo on the modern equivalent of Sparky’s Magic Piano, and Mr Frost was back in charge of proceedings (though, if memory hasn’t failed, sans chapeau.

Terror and wonderLondon libraries

And so to London for a celebration, but first Terror and wonder at the British Library.  A wide-ranging exhibition sub-titled The Gothic Imagination had me absorbed for a couple of hours or more.  Always a favourite place to visit in London, I was enticed this time by Andrew Graham-Dixon’s three parter on the telly, which for the first time seemed to make sense for me of the relation of Gothic architecture to all the horror stuff, from John Ruskin to The wickerman in easy stages.  Not so much of Ruskin and the general architecture here, but there was plenty else to take in.  Like Castle of Otranto author Walpole’s Strawberry Hill villa (hence Strawberry Hill Gothic as per Stony’s St Mary & St Giles Church) and Dr Dee’s obsidian scrying mirror that was part of Walpole’s collection.  Indeed, many things; I’ll just point at random to a goth adaptation called Jane Slayre (there were more); an aged cabinet housing a similarly aged but impressive ‘Vampire slaying kit’ (no example found older than the early ’70s);  original illustrations from Patrick Ness’s A monster calls (which Lillabullero raved about this time last year); and as part of a photographic essay of a goth weekend at Whitby, a goth football team (or is it even a goth football tournament as part of the entertainments?)  For the first time in my life the thought occurs that I might actually read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Different kind of horror show at the 50th birthday ‘celebration’ of the iconic Swiss Cottage Library, which just happened to be the first port of call of my 40 year library career.  Missed the first introductory bit because Transport for London deemed it necessary to close Swiss Cottage station for the brief time I needed to use it so had to walk back down the Finchley Road (and nearly got run down by a honking taxi – one forgets about London traffic), but I was reassured later I’d missed nothing.  Then a rambling interview all about the building with a surviving member of Basil Spence’s architectural practice, and absolutely nothing about how it was a beacon in the library world for a decade, about the good old days of a thriving library, no recollections of how it felt to use it or work there.  Then some sort of performance art/mime performance that nodded to all the library clichés (“shhh…”) while most of us nodded off, culminating in a less than rousing ‘Happy birthday’.  Orange juice and crisps!  Good to see old colleagues, though, and even better, old friends in the pub afterwards.

mkg2

Photo taken from the MK Gallery website http://www.mkgallery.org/exhibitions/ where there is a lot more information.

An-My Lê

Went back for a second look at the An-My Lê exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery.  As a child she was airlifted out of Vietnam near the end of the war to settle in America.  Was really impressed with the Events ashore sequence of large colour photographs in the Long Gallery.  Her subject is war and the military but she’s not a war photographer; rather she, to quote the leaflet, “explored the myth and memory of war.”  There a some stunning compositions here – like the hospital ship in the accompanying photo, and the medics awaiting casualties – beautifully composed in both sense of the word.  There is quietness, stillness, vehicle patterns in the snow and other seemingly set pieces, but such is the subject matter there must always be the unstated implication you cannot escape, even in the missions of humanitarian aid, of potential violence, the uniforms, behind the picture.  It’s an extraordinary feeling, not so much alarming as haunting.  Thought the video installation worked too – on one wall black and white close-ups and middle shots of troops in training being instructed, filmed movie quality; on the adjoining wall at right angles, long-range, less focussed film of a landscape in which a training exercise battle is taking place, the soldiers like ants.

Further musical adventures

Hey, and Saturday the awesome energy of women dancing at a party (happy birthdays L & S) with three bands – The Outside This, The Box Ticked (Waterloo!), and the impressive Fear of Ray.  Which gives me a chance to introduce events the next day with …

… but there was no fear of Ray at this year’s Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention at Tufnell Park’s Boston Arms.  And indeed, Ray Davies did turn up briefly to wish us well and lead us through a truncated You really got me (50 years old this year, same as, I suddenly realise, Swiss Cottage Library).  Now in the past I’ve given this escapade a big write-up and it’s got flagged in the splendid Kinda Kinks unofficial website and I get more visitors here at Lillabullero in the next couple of days than I get in a month.  But  I can’t see that happening this year.

Waterlow Park 2014.  Not the usual autumn leaves pic.  Something more reflective.  Oh, and Where's Wally?

Waterlow Park 2014. Not the usual autumn leaves pic. Something more reflective. Oh, and Where’s Wally? (Click and click again to enlarge).

But first, the annual pilgrimage to Highgate’s Waterlow Park, where I spent many a pleasant hour when I first moved to London.  And down Dartmouth Park Hill to the Boston with cranes much in evidence on the London skyline.

The thing is, the Konvention used to be special.  But for the Kast Off Kinks these days it’s … well it’s not quite just another gig, because (apart, of course for Dave) they’re all there, including Deb and Shirlie, and this is hard-core Kinks fans, who come from far and wide.  Now they’re regularly gigging throughout the land, not much new is happening on stage.  Not that they do not put on a decent show, but the sound is crap.  The bass, with either Nobby or Jim playing, is – there’s probably a technical term for it, but – too fucking loud an awful lot of the time.  No, I don’t swear very much on Lillabullero.  The bass coming out of the speakers is at times serious industrial noise pollution rather than music and it drowns out Ian Gibbons’ fine keyboard tinklings when he hasn’t got said keyboard functioning as an organ – his swirling away behind certain songs was a musical highlight for me.

KOK Phil Anthony WardDave Clark (the other Dave Clark, the one who’s still alive) puts in his usual sterling performance in the Ray and Dave roles (though thankfully not fighting among himself) and the others were fine.  I dunno.  Maybe it’s the familiarity, and/or I’m getting old and jaded.  Also, there were (no bad thing in itself) backing singers – here’s photographic evidence.  I certainly saw three young Swedish women trot through the crowd onto and off the side of the stage more than once, and heard them introduced, and Deb and Shirlie were there too, but apart from the latter two’s solo spots I never heard any of their contributions.  The sound improved for the closing rock and roll sequence and the final rousing Louie, Louie was great as ever, with Ian’s percussive Hammond-setting extemporisation outstanding.

And another thing …  Oh yes, it was too crowded – uncomfortably so; to quote one of Ray’s songs, “too many people.”  To be honest I have to say that the not necessarily worthiest part of me says I preferred it when Ray Davies was an unacknowledged national treasure.  Still, you have to pay tribute to the hard work that goes into this shindig, so again, thanks OKFC.  It’s always good to greet old friends and Kink community acquaintances.  But next year can we have raffle tickets that don’t change colour under the UV lights, please?

Dodo Bones by danni

Percussionist hidden, not a 4-legged Robbyn Snow. Photo (c) Danni Antagonist

The Konvention is an afternoon gig, so I’m back in time for the excellent Dodo Bones at the Old George.  Robbyn Snow has an extraordinarily expressive voice – country-tinged soul (maybe) contralto is the best I can describe it.  Tonight as well as regular partner, guitarist Stephen Patmore – they often gig as a duo – they are more than ably accompanied by Ian, the one in the Antipoet with the double bass, and the augmented – bass drum pedal attached and one-man band cymbal on the other foot – cajon percussionist hidden in the picture.  And a fine time was had.  Their own more than decent songs were interwoven with some craftily crafted self-confessed “cheesy” covers.  So you suddenly realise it’s a countrified Let me entertain you, they’re playing, and it works beautifully – a better song than you expected.  Specific lines in a raunchy Rihanna track with lyrics approaching the status of an instruction manual is greeted with laughter; “I am so pleased you laughed at that,” says Robbyn.  Spoiler alert: they close with Hey hey we’re the Monkees.  A delightful evening.

 Actual dodo bones

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Waterlow Park

London Skyline plus crow looking vaguely west from Waterlow Park; mildly posterised.

That time of the year again and so I indulge in a swift ritual perambulation of the eastern edge of Waterlow Park – a favourite haunt of mine when I first lived in London many moons ago – before the descent to Tufnell Park and the Boston Arms for the annual Konvention of the Official Kinks Fan Club. The Konvention is well over a decade strong now, and the music room of the pub was packed out, jam-packed even, for the Sunday afternoon extravaganza that is the expanded Kast Off Kinks show.

For the last three or four years the core of the Kast Offs – original Kinks drummer Mick Avory, Jim Rodford (with semi-retired John Dalton filling in) on bass, Ian Gibbons on keyboards and the redoubtable Dave Clarke doubling as the Brothers Davies – have been increasingly gigging up and down the land on a regular basis.  So while the ramshackle charm of the original outings has diminished somewhat – they used to agree before on the tunes they might play, but not practise in the same room – what makes the Konvention gig special these days is that pretty much everyone ever involved in the basic Kinks line-up, including back-up singers Debi Doss and Shirlie Roden, shows up and plays a part in the proceedings; the notable exception being Dave Davies, while Ray has made some fleeting appearances at Konventions of late.

Nobby's nuts

You can interpret this as you may, but that the illuminated one is known as ‘Nobby’ and appears to have taken some sort of a blow, so I feel the need to make obscure reference to a popular brand of bar snack.

I offer just a few observations rather than any attempt at a balanced overview.  Good gig as always, and a pleasure to see people again.  This year the trend towards the sharing of lead vocals was even more pronounced, with Mark Haley in particular displaying a decent set of pipes on whatever his allotted songs were (Kinks and Kast Off fans will know where to find the fine details of the sets).   The musicianship of Ian Gibbons, another of the keyboardists in attendance,  stood out for me this year, with the basic Kast Offs crew delivering an outstanding version of Better things – organ flourishes to the fore – with some original touches that have obviously been worked up on tour.  (Great song, by the way, worthy of far wider acknowledgment, for those not familiar with the Kinks’ later output).  It made a nice change when Shirlie and Debi did Death of a clown and Debi did justice to another great song, Stop your sobbing.

Shirlie and Debi

Shirlie and Debi do ‘Death of a clown’. That man Dalton again in between.

 Dave Clarke acknowledged “the over 60s disco” going on in front of the stage but in truth the packed crowd (too packed, some mumbled, and I’m not gonna disagree too strongly) was made up of all ages and decades, from teens to those at least in the early throes of seventy-hood.  International too, with more than the usual European and American contingents in evidence; Chile, Brazil and Russia were mentioned.  No brass section this year – I missed the shadings the Oslo Brass have added the previous couple of years.  And I missed the traditional extended classic live ’60s workout on Milk Cow Blues, but then there were only thirty-odd other songs played.  A storming Louie Louie near the end – how strange that what was once a dodgy Kinks cover on disc has become such a live Kast Offs favourite – with Ian shining again on keyboards and also offering the fascinating sight of Debi and Jim doing a dance that I believe was called ‘the swim’ – led into a joyous rock and roll finale including Sweet little sixteen and Long tall Sally.

Favourite overheard bit of conversation was Ian Gibbons to John Gosling (the third ex-Kinks keyboards player to tickle the ivories this day (or whatever they’re made of these days)) concerning a lyrical memory lapse:  “Compared to the sun that sits in the fucking sky”Ray Davies turned up about half-way through, said next year was gonna be a big one, 50th anniversary of You really got me and all that, dropping cryptic hints about a Kinks reunion (about which, to tell the truth, I am only slightly less enthralled than I am about the surviving Monty Pythons getting back together again, he said with deep irony).  Ray looked in good shape, despite a cold which meant he only gave us the first spirited verse of Acute schizophrenia blues before splitting, but for which much thanks nevertheless.

ArthurI’m beginning to think I imagined he said it, given that all the news commentary has been about the prospect of that reunion, but am I the only one in Kinks fandom to be really excited about Ray also saying that he’s been talking to Julian Mitchell about finally bringing the full Arthur project – not that the album isn’t brilliant enough on its own – to fruition.  Especially now I see, in Mitchell’s Wikipedia entry it is reported (unfortunately without a source cited) that Mitchell has said recently about the aborted endeavour:

Arthur had a most unhappy history. It was originally meant to be a … sort of rock opera, and we got as far as casting (excellent director and actors) and finding locations and were about to go when the producer went to a production meeting without a proper budget, tried to flannel his way through it, was immediately sussed and the production pulled. I have never been able to forgive the man.

Alex

This is ‘The Alex’ pub, also on Fortis Green, and another that features in the Davies brothers’ history. Is that the 2000AD version of Dan Dare’s Mekon? And for why is it there?

Pleased to report, also, the previous evening – aint it funny how things can happen, the karma of one of one’s kids moving in just down the road from where you want to be payback time – I managed, for the first time, to get to sing along with a whole bunch of other dedicated followers at the Kinks Fan Kollektiv’s pre-Konvention singalong at the Clissold Arms on Fortis Green, the pub where Ray and Dave Davies first performed together in the band that was to become The Kinks over half a century ago, and now boasting a Kinks room – cultural heritage, no less (well done, host George).  Great fun.  I left early – saving myself for the Sunday, seeing folks – but not before being reminded what a brilliant song Scattered is, even though the band faltered midway through.  Which somehow added to the fun, because there was an awful lot they did not. 

I don’t know where Geoff Lewis, the silver-haired keyboardist who put the band together – basically by email (it was their second more formal year) – and the others got their stamina, never mind their vocal chords, from.  After performing pretty much six hours with a few short breaks of Kinks songs Olga was a baritone.  Geoff runs The Kast Off Kinks website, which is full of good stuff.  Well worth a visit, not least for the relaxed interviews with band members. The extended session with drummer Bob Henrit (still looking ridiculously young behind the skins at the Boston on Sunday) is particularly fascinating, covering as it does details of his long experience in the music industry – like he’s the cowbells on Unit 4+2’s Concrete and clay, about how as a session player he was offered the final hit You really got me recording session but was already booked elsewhere.

 

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Scandinavia rules

Despite their black shirts, the Oslo Brass aka The Kinky Horns added colour to proceedings on this sunny afternoon.

Wham! So, Sweden beat England 4-2 at football and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores that ‘amazing’ goal – and even though it was in injury time, the keeper had set it up himself and was way out of position and the man himself said it was half-luck, it’s still certainly worth a freak slot on You’ve been framed.
Bam!  We get Sarah Lund back on our TV screens with The Killing III starting this very weekend.
Thank you, mam!  We have the mighty Oslo Brass being more than just the icing on the cake at the annual Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention on Sunday.  But first, we have to actually arrive at The Boston public house, in Tufnell Park …

Another year, another late late autumn mid-November day, another journey to the capital.  The Northern Line tube trains are out of action, so in its stead I opt to go by bus, which I should do anyway because 1). I am no lover of tube train travel & 2). It’s free, thanks to my bus pass (one of the advantages of having hit the big 6-0 in the UK).  It’s a bright sunny day and from the top deck of the 390 bus this part of London’s looking much better than it did when I was living and working in the vicinity some decades ago.  Hey, there’s the Brecknock – where I saw the Tom Robinson Band rock this joint in the late ’70s – only it’s not called The Brecknock anymore.  On this day I always try to re-acquaint myself with the delights of Waterlow Park – a fondly remembered oasis of solace, good vibes and greenery still – and it’s a beautiful day to make the trek past the statue of Dick Whittington’s cat and up Highgate Hill.

The Karl Marx Tea Room advertised.
(Click on the photo to read the full offer).

But it’s something of a surprise before reaching the park to discover a place of refreshment to strike fear into the hearts of many an American, particularly those of a Republican persuasion.   Yes, heritage fans, it’s the Karl Marx Tea Room, where apparently one can enjoy a cup of tea with decadent pre-revolutionary fresh scones and cream.  As the sign says, Take Courage, comrades.  Probably not communism in action, but time was getting tight and I could investigate no further.

Waterlow Park is just a few more steps further up on the left,  an authentic part of my autumn almanac.  Linger awhile, stroll round the pond and out by the cemetery gates.  Make my way round to Dartmouth Park Hill for the descent to The Boston.  And if you’re ever up on Dartmouth Park Hill on a clear day …

Being a bit of a yokel these days, I hadn’t seen it before, and The Shard, dominating the distant skyline, comes as a bit of a shock.  Dubbed Mordor by a Tolkien-loving friend, it’s an alien presence in my book too.  And still not a single tenancy agreement signed. We are the Village Green …

In we go, to be hit with a healthy buzz of chatter, anticipation and familiar faces in the music room of a non-Irish-themed Irish pub.  You can get a bit blasé about The Kast Off Kinks these days, now that they’re a touring band, gigging throughout the land.  These OKFC meets used to be one-offs, a special time, great performances of remarkable songs like God’s children seemingly pulled out of the hat, rehearsed by the players on their own from a tape.  It’s different now.  What’s been special the last three  years has been the number of ex-Kinks happy to enjoy one another’s (and the fans’) company and strut their stuff, and this year’s no exception, with a grand total of three keyboards players, two bassists, two drummers and two back-up singers from various eras.   One Ray turned up in the middle of the second set to say Hi, but declined to perform due to his having a cold (I think he actually said flu, but if so, probably man-flu – he looked OK).  And we should never forget, of course, the huge contribution of tower of strength Dave Clark on guitar and more vocals that anyone else.

So for the time being at least we’ll take the Kast Offs‘ for granted – another brilliant show, chaps.  Nearly 50 Kinks songs.  And isn’t John Dalton’s ‘retirement’ going well?  No, what distinguishes this year’s bash for me is the presence on stage for most of the time of the Oslo Brass, or more to the point, the refreshing musical shadings their contributions add to all those wonderful songs.  Including fairly early on Dave Davies’ Strangers.  With the OB you don’t just get the Trad sound that embellished early ’70s Kinks, though that’s well to the fore, and it was a delight to hear them let loose on Baby face and closing out Dead End Street.  No, you get the melancholy of the silver band (Days, So tired) as well as the odd touch of classic Stax soul (the YRGM riff behind Set me free) and many stations in between.  Take a bow, gents.

Among other highlights for me were

  • the long intro version of Celluloid heroes, the main vehicle for extempore playing this afternoon (shame Milk cow blues was given a miss this year)
  • Art lover and Still searching – great obscurer songs, always good to hear, and lovingly performed
  • Stop your sobbing with Debi and Shirlie and the band a lot closer to The Shirelles than La Hynde
  • Juke box music – never one of my favourites -with the Oslo Brass adding some bottom and the girls on top, it sounded infinitely better than the original on Sleepwalker.  Slowed down to great effect – and to the displeasure of some of the traditionalists in my vicinity – just after, as it happens, The Baptist had soloed on Slow down.

A surprise as the afternoon neared its end was a second vocal performance from Mrs Avory’s son, giving us a rendition of Mr Pleasant, for which bowler hat and glasses were called into play.  Yup, he’s reading the words and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This was followed by a stirring You really got me with all three surviving keyboardists vamping on the same keyboard.  Such is the historical significance of said happening that I give you here a really crap photo to document the siting.  You can just about make out the ghostly presence on the left of the redoubtable Ian Gibbons, in the centre the shining pate of Baptist, with Mark Haley, who made everyone else look old, on the right.  A rousing Louie, Louie, followed inevitably by Alcohol, and that’s it for another year.

Respect and thanks to Bill and the Official Kinks Fan Club committee and cohorts for all the work that goes into the Konvention.  (But can the raffle tickets be all one colour next year, or at least their hue unambiguously discernible).  And if you haven’t visited already, there is some great suff – not least the interviews – to be found at Geoff Lewis’s splendid Kast Off Kinks website.

Clockwise from the top: Mick Avory, John Dalton, mostly drunk ex-pint of lager, unknown pate, Dave Clark.

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And so to the stadiummk.  Yup, that’s right – one word, specifically italics and upright bold.  It’s a Milton Keynes thing, ‘modern’ design that will look dated soon enough, of which there can be little doubt.  MK, as we locals call it – rhymes with LA, indicative of the fun and wit indulged in by the new city’s original creators in the late ’60s, who probably didn’t initially intend it but leapt on it with glee, just like the town’s name; but that’s another story.  Anyway, First Round of the F.A.Cup, the visitors are Nantwich Town – the Dabbers, from the Evo-Stick Premier League, their first time ever appearance in the First Round proper of the Cup.  What’s a Dabber? – nobody knows: leather industry, maybe; dabbing a thumbprint because they couldn’t write, maybe; baking and pies, maybe; something Irish English Civil War mercenaries might have said (and a few others)?  But on with the game.

Though living in MK we were in the Nantwich end because that’s where a friend was born; I was born in Wimbledon and saw my first football match there – when they were Isthmian League – but have no problems with the Don’s controversial move from Wimbledon to MK a few seasons ago, because the local Merton council did nothing to help them stay there.  So, we’re in the away end of this magnificent modern stadium (no, really) and the padded seats are splattered with birdshit and there was a dead bird on the floor that looked like it had been dead a long time.  We are 3 of the 756 fans in the away end (though it was fewer by the end because a couple were ejected for fighting amongst themselves), 20% of the frankly pathetic total attendance of 4110 – there’s usually at least twice that.  So where were all the home fans, eh?  First round of the romantic FA Cup?  When I were a lad etc etc … So the Dabbers fans chant of “You’re grounds too big for you” sung to the tune of Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay (a music hall and vaudeville tune it turns out, not some elusive-to-memory operatic aria) was entirely appropriate.

Although their keeper made some superb saves (Brazil 1970 was mentioned) you might say that rendition of Ta-ra-ra was pretty much the Dabbers best moment.  The Dons played with intent and purpose and ended up 6-0 winners.  Luke Chadwick ran the midfield – for all his being someone with a great future behind him, the class shone out – and his pass for the fourth goal was a beauty.  Towards the end the Dons put on a 16-year-old substitute – he scored – then a 15½ year old, both local graduates from the club’s Academy, to join an established striker who also rose from the junior ranks (not to mention Sam Baldock, sold to West Ham earlier this season and succeeding there) which rather suggests the continuing scorn poured on the Dons (“Franchise FC”) is a bit like the old style Communists refusing, as Morgan’s mum does in the under-rated ’60s cult film Morgan: a suitable case for treatment – to de-Stalinise; surely time now to live with it.

And so to Sunday …

A sunny late autumn day in London. Figuring heavily in my autumn almanac, the annual Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention at the Boston.  As is my habit if the weather is fair and there’s time to spare, up Highgate Hill I climb – it was a clear day – to have some moments in Waterlow Park, a place I spent fondly remembered time in when first I moved to London Town some decades ago, descending again by another route to join the usual suspects in Tufnell Park in celebration, in raucous communion, where Kinks past – or at least those still alive, which for The Kinks is thankfully a lot more than most – perform as the Kast Off Kinks.  All of ’em, as advertised – so no surprises this year – save the brothers Davies themselves, whose parts were taken as ever by the redoubtable Dave Clark, plus back-up vocalists Debbie and Shirlie.  (Ray, no stranger to proceedings, is in the middle of what must be a punishing US tour, and Dave, unfortunately, has never shown). Nor must we forget the Oslo Brass.

 Different format this year. No support, three sessions with various combinations of ex-Kinks packed in, so with raffle and auction in between sets there’s less time to talk. And a core of Kast Offs have been a gigging earning band this year. I’m not saying there was a serious lack of spontaneity but these factors, a certain familiarity and the event’s now regular status – and the years seem to fly by these days – meant, I dunno, I wasn’t quite as elated as I have been previous years (with or without Ray showing). That and only two pints of Guinness this year, maybe. (Re-reading what I’ve subsequently written below, you can see it’s all relative).

 Things started well.  Third song in, David Watts and the electricity fails in mid-song. Noise limiters? No worries, song completed a capella by the assembled ready and willing choir. Power restored, the Oslo Brass sounded great and their presence made for a Supersonic rocket ship I actually thought better than the original. There was a tremendous I gotta move (beat that Yardbirds – no, seriously) in there too. Middle session was the basic Kast Offs touring band (late 80s and ’90s vintage) playing a few songs that they’d recorded as Kinks, and it was good to hear a live Still searching and a decent Better days, while Debs did Stop your sobbing to good effect too and what turned into a full impromptu Apache raised appreciative cheers. Bob Henrit was hitting hard and looking younger than the rest; I think he’s the oldest, so what’s the secret Bob?

 Closing set was yer vintage crew – John Gosling, The Baptist, and Mrs Avery’s son (by now changed back out of the sailor suit he’s had on earlier). Always good to hear that lovely favourite of John’s, God’s children (one of my favourite Ray Davies compositions too, and I’m an atheist). Not quite all cylinders firing initially but no doubt about the storming finish: Mick Avery leading Dedicated follower, an explosive One night (“we’re old rockers, really” said Gosling), a celebratory Louie, Louie, and a rousing Alcohol to great acclaim.

Ta very much, KOKs, OKFC.

Oh, and somewhere in there a significant premiere.  John Gosling had to put on his glasses to read the words singing Maximum consumption – given a rare enough outing on its own – bespectacled for the first time ever on stage, said the man.

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The ghost was washed out, muted, grey, ashen, blending with the stonework of the castle; no special effects and all the eerier for it. A good start, then, and the current National Theatre production of ‘Hamlet’ last Tuesday just got better and better.  I was made aware of the political, diplomatic and military context of the personal tragedy as never before (and I performed in it once, in another lifetime).

Elsinore as police state, black suited secret service agents bedecked with blue tooth ear pieces a constant presence; regional power politics the reason for the comings and goings.  So Claudius’s set speeches are all filmed by a tv crew and the modern dress tells you something in a way that period dress can never get over.  Laertes designer suit cool dude, Fortinbras in full guerilla drag at the end, Hamlet an angry misfit in ordinary well-worn-in off the peg suit at the start, basic student scruff in the middle, hooded scally smuggled back in to Denmark for the graveyard scene.

Rory Kinnear as Hamlet was magnificent;  I was exhausted emotionally just watching.  You lived his anger at his father’s murder – not just a plot device! – and he was a complete bastard to Ophelia.  Energetic and moody, always engaging.  Lighting up a cigarette during the big “To be or not to be …” soliloquy – brilliant.  Another neat twist: Ophelia’s mad scene, she has all her belongings (Rosemary a child’s rag doll … now there’s remembrance) in a supermarket shopping trolley – perfect for her line, “Oh how the wheel becomes it.”  Great cast and an inventive, exploratory production that never one that got in the way of the text, that made the text breath; it will stay with me a long time I’m sure.  Smart business suited Claudius, by the way, was the thin copper from ‘Minder’; sorry, I’m just too much a miser to buy a programme and at £3 no-one ever seems to leave one behind.  Huge excited buzz from the audience exiting the theatre.

The very next day the Kast Off Kinks at The Stables.  A fine bunch of musicians, I’ve had some great times with the Kast Offs at the annual Official Kinks Fan Club Konventions but this was, if you’ll excuse the expression, a proper gig.  And they were great, a 400 seater full house standing ovation from a mixed crowd of Kinks fans and civilians.

This is Mark II Kast Offs, ’80s vintage.  Still original drummer Mick Avory, of course, who I’ve never seen talk so much, stalwart bassist Jim Rodford and Ian Gibbons on keyboards, who it was a joy to hear for once, over a decent PA in a venue with state of the art acoustics.  And playing though never trying to pastiche the Ray and Dave Davies roles was, as ever, the excellent Dave Clark, who has, as they say, been around himself and was better than ever in a different setting.  This was one of a series of gigs the lads are doing so they’re a polished outfit these days, a bit more rehearsed than just swapping suggested set lists by email as per the annual Fan Club gigs.  But they are still obviously enjoying one another’s company and having fun.  Expect banter and anecdotage as well.

The set list wasn’t restricted to the Kinks hits either – still room there for Pye era b-sides like ‘Come on now’, album tracks like the magnum opus ‘Shangri-La’ and a glorious intro work-out to ‘Celluloid heroes’, not to mention a great ‘Better things’ as encore.  One is constantly amazed – despite it being obvious – at just how many great songs there are in the Ray Davies portfolio. And the Kast Offs do them proud.  Go see if you get a chance.

Quite a week, then, ending up Sunday for a change with a comedy gig, one of the semi-regular  ‘Fantastically Funny Fox‘ nights run by Chris Purchase and chums at The Fox and Hounds pub.  Fascinating evening on the bottom wrung  of the stand up comic circuit.  Don’t ask me who they were but no duds, some neat invention and a lot of laughs with enough edge to make it feel live.  Liked the young Welsh woman a lot; nice self deprecatory routine that can take include an Alan Bennett version of ‘Star Wars’ with ease.  And those 3 pints of nicely kept Timothy Taylor’s Landlord played havoc with my WiiFit age next morning (I’m not used to it anymore, see).

Briefly, I’ve been making my way through Robin Dodd’s ‘From Gutenberg to Opentype: an illustrated history of type from the earliest letterforms to the latest digital fonts‘ (Ilex, 2006)  which pretty much does what it says in the subtitle. It’s a stylishly presented large format formulaic survey of the evolution of printing and typefaces that falls a bit between two stools. Some of the potted  context is a bit obvious to anyone with a smattering of historical knowledge, while it’s set alongside technical stuff, the terms of which are not explained in the text. The major fonts over time get a fair showing; not exactly prose to inspire, but it does a job.  Overall, a decent introduction.

Finally, another reason why I like Stony.  The A5 bridge over the River Ouse.  If the artist wants a name check …

That’s “Fight useless tripe, Be ripe”.  Absolutely.

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Never mind the Memphis Horns … but first the journey.  Bus pass to the station, Senior Railcard towards the rail fare, bus pass again for the 390 from Euston to Archway, via Kings Cross and up York Way, past the territory defined by the old Kings Cross goods yard and steam locoshed (mainline A4 Pacifics still in the early ’60s, you could never get in there without a permit), territory I’ve not set foot or tyre in for 3 decades, back when it was a grubby backwater dump.  The forgotten joys of the upper deck of a London bus reveal a transformation in progress – the Guardian/Observer HQ, the stylish High Speed Rail link road bridge – and then into more familiar territory again.  Torriano Avenue and the Astroturf football pitches, where practically half a lifetime ago I cracked a bone in my wrist playing in freezing conditions just like Sunday’s.  And where the Flying Pig – doesn’t every football team at some stage have a goalkeeper nicknamed as such? – was knocked out once.

Anyway, first a nostalgic climb up Highgate Hill, past Dick Whittington’s cat (see him turn) to one of my favourite old London haunts, Waterlow Park – past its autumn best but still a treat in the winter sun, coots treading carefully over the  frozen ponds.  And down by Highgate Cemetery, a revelation since I last walked this way, when it was so overgrown you could hardly see a thing inside the railings on the east side.  And across a bit and down the hill to our destination, The Boston Arms, Tufnell Park.  Must be that time of the year again.

This year’s Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention yet again full of surprises.  Good vibes, familiar faces from all over Europe and the US, the usual suspects for sure, but on stage with the Kast Off Kinks no less than three keyboard players, two bassists, two drummers and a back up singer all from the illustrious past of the Kinks – for the last number all at the same time – and throughout the stalwart Dave Clark guitaring and vocalising.  And the icing on the cake, a brass section from Oslo (ja! ja! ja!) to remind us of the ’70s and how much we miss them.  (A brass section, not necessarily the ’70s though there have been worse decades, like … every one since?*)  Ray Davies’s genius back then, to augment the band with a brass section drawn from the training ground and tradition – Trad, or rather New Orleans Revivalist – that the 60s beat groups ousted from the clubs while the others pace the Stones went for soul horns.  And how good it sounded yesterday afternoon.  On ‘Village Green Preservation Society’.  On ‘Alcohol’.

I started this piece off with mention of the over-60s bus pass (thanks to the last Labour government – age has certain pluses) because on occasions like these one is forced to consider the lines of age, as guitarists’ hands start to cramp up and you wonder how long we can keep this going at such a phenomenal intensity – the need to sit down during a set, the drinking, and that’s just the audience.  Not that there weren’t reasonable representation of  fans in their early twenties and ages in between.  Most of the players are older than me and the  subtle muscularity and showmanship of especially John Dalton’s splendid bass runs was (still) staggering.  When you consider that Ray Davies‘s ‘X-Ray: an unofficial autobiography’ (published 16 years ago) had himself as a wizened old man by now (never mind considering what our parents were up to (or not up to) in their 60s) and you realise the proportions of the social shift we have ridden in post-war Britain.

Anyway, I’ve always considered the best place for music is a comfortably crowded pub with a bunch of decent players, and what could be finer than an extended workout, organ swelling around a tidal river bore** of a tune , the controlled pandemonium on what was once – and remains – ‘Milk cow blues’?  A great afternoon; respect to the OKFC.

* Did you see Robert Plant’s ’80s hair in that TV prog of his a few weeks ago?
**not boring: it’s a metaphor – look it up

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