The Wonderful Digby, The Fiery Bird and Prog-gate

The Wonderful Digby aka Jimmy Brandman came into the Fiery Bird Show on Thursday 23rd March – it is great to interview Woking musicians who you may not have come across before to find out their experience of growing up and making music here.  

 For those of you who were out on Thursday watching live music – well done as it should be, but you can catch up here to listen to the interview and songs and chat n shit. Jimmy, as well as writing and singing has made a low-fi high interest documentary about travelling about, doing open mics and gigs on the grassroots scene and is releasing his new single Until We Fall in April 2017 with the documentary coming soon after – I’ll post more details as they come.

To umpire a text row between friends and field band members poking fun at me over ‘Prog-gate’ wasn’t how I envisaged radio life but it happened and I’m all the sturdier for it. Check out his facebook page for more info here
1 The Smell of Incense – The West Coast Experimental Band

2. The Dog The Dog He’s At It Again – Caravan

3. Celeste – Donovan

4 To The Birds – Suede

5. No More Heroes – The Stranglers

6. Before the Deluge – Jackson Brown

7. Until We Fall – The Wonderful Digby

8 Tonight The Streets Are Ours – Richard Hawley

9. Birds – Neil Young

10. Tank Park Salute – Billy Bragg

11 Can’t Judge a Book By Looking At the Cover – Bo Diddly

12 The Love Song – Donovan

13. A Paupers Love Song – Morgellons


The St Patrick Day Special and Old Woking Town

The Quiet Man joined me this week to put some London interjections into my Woking ramblings and the songs we grew up with. 

Catch Up of the St Patrick’s Day Special show starts 9mins in here have a little listen while maybe having a little read…….it is an important day always in our family and always has been and in Woking we always had a high old time of it.
St Patrick’s day to us was a meaningful celebration, it was before Riverdance, before it was turned into a major Guinness marketing campaign with floppy hats in abundance, before the Pogues made being Irish edgy in an acceptable way. In our early days – the other Irish kids at school (which was basically Irish or Italian in numbers reflecting the nuns and teachers who taught us) with decorated lapels rosettes or shamrock that grannies sent over – would it come in time? Or the Irish Association got hold of it and we all wore it later to the Dance or ‘THE DANCE’ the big one of the year at the Centre Halls. Woking had a massive, well organised Irish community and the Irish Association were active, we went on seaside trips (load the coach with crates of beer, stop half way, all get out, children running about, have a drink and a sandwich and then all back on the coach til we saw the sea. Tony Fuller always had his guitar and entertained everyone, stop at a pub on the way back)

Brian Kelly & Tony Fuller

Irish dancing first in the back of the red house (now O’Neills) and then at St Dunstans school with Mr Kelly who travelled down from London to teach us – London!!! 

It was like that bit in fame where the teacher said – ‘fame costs and this is where you start paying!’ Except there was nothing so egotistical as fame involved fame? fame!? It was just an ordeal we were sent to like every other Irish kid to keep our culture alive and literally, kicking.

No you served……..served the high holy Irish jig….I remember severely hurting my toes once, convinced I had broken it I didn’t dare say anything and carried on (I have since learnt I have a low pain threshold for physical injury and I probably stubbed it)
All standing to attention hands firmly by your side…..

First bar of the song up on your toes, slight rotate to the side and and yer off!! 
Jumpety jump jump…one two three four five six seven
If you were flash that wobbly ankle thing and back again…..

If you were really really good then you went into 

And then your Mum got this green felt stuff and someone had a pattern and cut it out and then you got the plain green dress and the more dancing and Feis you did the more pattern got embroidered on them and you had hair put in rags (I never reached that goal) I gave up when I was worried people could see my knickers on the high kicks.

The boys had green kilts, grey blazers and socks with little green ribbons out of the side.

There was none of this flouncy shirts and big sleeves and Riverdance lothario look 

When my brother grew out of his kilt he refused another and his irish dancing career withered into the distant past (if it was a soap opera this would be the bit where the credits would go silently up over a film of my mum holding his too small kilt and saying ‘Nooooooooo!’) My 13 year old baby Mod stirrings purloined the tailor made blazer and it became part of my wardrobe, its service as a badge of Irish culture now morphed into my youth cult of choice.
As we have all grown up we now try to re enact our Irish dancing prowess especially at family parties, anyone not Irish thinks we know what we are doing because we have serious looks on our faces, anyone with any idea (basically everyone post River dance knows we are a shower of shite) whatsoever knows we are saving up all the showing off we weren’t allowed to do as kids and it is erupting on the dance floor. Also, none of us really ever remember how long the River Dance song is (we learnt to dance to songs like ‘Round the Dresser & Up the Stairs’ or ‘If I had Maggie In The Wood’) and so when we ask the dj to play it at family parties and enthusiastically flock to the floor, five minutes later of huffing and puffing and desperate pelvic floor exercises usually does us in vowing never again. Until next time. Real experts like my cousin Mary-Theresa do doubles and that thing where you hold hands with someone in a really complicated cross over way and then try and do ‘sevens’ in sync. Once my son said ‘Mum all of you think you can Irish dance but you can’t; you either look like horses with your arms by your sides pawing at the floor or penguins going around and around – when will you realise we know you don’t know what you are doing?’ My shocked response at his dismissal of our sacred dancing still rebounds in my heart. The other week though I danced in Lizzie McAleese’s kitchen my dancing partner of old when we were kids, we are fifty now and still no better at it. It’s nice to have a dance with the same old friend and laugh the same old way though. Alcohol may be a factor in my later dancing prowess and also lack of it.
And we went to the St Patrick’s day dances which were a holy day of obligation. The best of the set dances was the ‘Seige of Ennis’ four people face four people dance in/dance out/divide into twos dance up and back/ grab the partner in front go apeshit round and round. It was a great laugh for many reasons: 

It was great to see the faces of the people who you dragged in but who didn’t know what you were doing. 

There was always a wild card who nearly threw you in the air. 

 As you reached adolescence you would do complicated logistical forecasts so you were in the right position to be thrown round and round by a nice fella (who just two goes before ends up swapping with a hairy old fella with string for a belt) 
Everything your parents wanted you to do was under the guise of a holy day of obligation. And later this also counted when they wanted you to do something that you would never be allowed to do eg

Have the day off after St Patricks day – ok because celebrating a ‘Holy Day of Obligation’ was good

Having a day off college with a hangover in later years – not ok because you’d end up and omaduan and they and other parents worked hard to build the school that got you the brains to go to college…..??
Dances meant 

Dads all at the bar

Women all at the tables

Mum’s dancing with each other or making you dance with them

Kids completely unsupervised doing what we liked, sliding on knees, leaving the building to watch older ones go snogging, trying to nick sips of people’s beers, babycham, brandy & pep.

Dads bringing drinks back and fifteen bags of crisps balanced under their arms, a bag gripped between their teeth and thrown on to the table
By the time you were old enough to go to these dances your older brothers and sisters were off out doing shenanigans with people who not being from the same background thought we were all weird and so you took on the mantle.
And the family parties where we were all in one room with our music and our parents, uncles, aunts, their friends, in another drinking whisky out of glasses that said Sham 69 on and singing the songs from their area of Ireland til the early hours and into the next day…..

And then Celtic punk happened, and for once, those records that looked so untrendy, the fellas with matching Arran jumpers kneeling down holding a fiddle or a banjo and looking cheerful, became the treasure seam of songs we would take and change from green field to pavement street walked over by our boots in the 1980’s Thatcher’s Britain……….and the songs became our own again and eventually when we, with these same experiences of defiant song and ballads that could tear your heart in two, made a band it was with that same spirit that we were taught kept our families going through generations; so it had to have the Irish heart (chroi) in its name. So many people have told us it is an odd name and get that ‘look’ when they hear it, and it well maybe – but google it, the name rises to the top, like the Irish hearts of our parents, their parents and generations gone by.

And now it seemed in getting the show done, it would be easy to laugh and pick those old songs that we said were cheesy that our Mums liked or just to document a time and place, but that can’t happen without bringing up all those memories, the songs that Mum sang that we rolled her eyes and teased her about, that she isn’t here to celebrate today, her anniversary is also this week, and the Uncles and Aunts so strong, now so frail or gone too…. meant it wasn’t a dry eyed preparation for this show, and there were so many songs that couldn’t go it. 

It really was a special time when St Patrick Day was the meaningful day it was about wearing green as a show that you can’t crush culture, before it became a fluorescent parade; but, if that is the price of people putting down barriers and celebrating together about what is good then it is a small price to pay and we still have precious memories…………..and so say the people here in Neck – Everybody is Welcome to THE HOOLEY!!! And new horizons for all in common

The Playlist

The Songs, all played for different reasons, different people and times.
1 Irish Washerwoman Trad

2 Extract from Foil Arms & Hog see the video here 

3 Fields of Athenry – Tony Fuller & The Free MacGuinness Band

4 Nora – Johnny McEvoy

5 Do you want your auld lobby washed down? Brendan Shine

6 Whisky In The Jar – Thin Lizzy

7 My Perfect Cousin – The Undertones

8 Seven Drunken Nights – The Dubliners

9 Danny Boy – Celtic Woman

10 Irish Rover – The Dubliners & The Pogues

11 When You Were Sweet Sixteen – The Fureys & Davey Arthur

12 Hay Wrap – The Saw Drs

13 Don’t Forget Your Shovel – Christy Moore

14 Oro se do bheatha ‘bhaile – Sinead O’Connor

15 Rare Auld times – The Dubliners

16 Ride On – Christy Moore

17 Four Green Fields – Phoenix Chroi Collective 

Fiery Bird Show feat Baz Warne -The Stranglers w guest Finn Panton – Menace

This weeks Radio show was like getting a strike in bowling and I can’t bowl (terrible hand to eye co-ordination and balance, had to do ballet as a kid and pick up pencils with my toes) so you can imagine the delight that not only having a phone interview with a Strangler lined up, then a Menace turned up as well! These punk rock stars are like buses aren’t they? I imagined telling my Mum I was dealing with a Strangler and a Menace in one go just a day after International Women’s Day as well!
Arriving for my show in normal attire, old clothes with bits of dinner on, red cheeks and a million bags of stuff, CD’s, notes, bits n bobs, lucky gonk, a proper pen, different notebooks in case I get to do work in between and I bump into Finn Panton (off of Menace) ‘eh? Eh?? Are you with another band then?’ ‘Yep he is not only a MENACE, or a D’Ska Assassin (for a nice man he has threatening band names) but he is also part of Lysander a band from his school days. I invited him to chat and he joined me for a bit, his passport into my studio was also that he was wearing my band tshirt though he boasted a bit much that his Irish passport had arrived and had nice pics of Eire in and mine is still ‘in the system’, what if I get denied now- after all these years, surely the number of Kimberley biscuits I’ve eaten should qualify me if the parents, summers in the Wesht and the attitude don’t??!!

Getting a Strangler on the phone was also a pleasant surprise to me earlier as the call came that one of them would do an interview. Whilst we waited for our gig in Brighton on Saturday the band tried to speculate which Strangler I’d be doing. They decided the best way to do it was to pitch the seniority of the team member I would get against my media status and decided based on that formula that I would get the roadie that had only joined the band five minutes before whose job was to lick the spittle from mics between the sets. THAT’s how impressed my bandmates are with this scenario of me as radio host. One of them once came in and showed his crack on my radio show (naming no names Darren) and it’s been a wipe clean studio ever since. I poo pooed their cynicism and basked in hope, and gratefulness. And after all it turned out to be guitarist and singer Baz Warne. I live with a life long Stranglers fan as well who knows more than me so I made sure to finger his collection before the show. He didn’t even flinch.

Ringing up from a radio station in a school named after a Prime Minister, Baz Warne answered in surprise ‘my phone said it was Winston Churchill on the phone!’ 
My riposte

‘Well the other day, my phone said it was The Stranglers Office on the phone.. in top trumps would a war time leader out trump a strangler?’ He agreed it probably would so I won (for God’s sake Elaine you gave up trying to win at Monopoly ages ago blaming it because of it being capitalist when really it’s just because you’re crap at games- why start being competitive now, in an interview, with a big cheese?!!)
Lucky I can’t hear the sound of eyes rolling across the phone lines but the man prevailed and was delightful in his repartee. 

He spoke of the writing process, the things that are important to them as a band and the relationships with the fans, and took the time to talk about a dear friend to the music scene here Anton De Croft. The encouragement of parents and coming to terms with loss is important milestones for all of us and this was again, an epitome of why I love having guests on the radio show, talking to new people at gigs or anywhere in daily life; ultimately whatever job we have, whatever profile, we all feel the same about the same things, we all want our kids to be healthy and happy, our elderly to be well cared for and to fulfil our lives with whatever vocation we have chosen to follow and it is always interesting the more people I meet to find that we all have more in common that divides us. A lovely guest who I could have chatted to all day but mindful that he was on the road and a first gig of their tour that night, he shared a lot of the bands insights, their commitment to writing and constantly making new work, and you can catch up on it here. Locally, The Stranglers are playing GLive with guests Ruts DC on 21 March 2017 

Morgellons – A Paupers Love Song

Oh Bondage Up Yours – XRay Spex

RESPECT – Aretha Franklin

Get Back In Line – Nervous Twitch

Not Rich – Argonaut

Lightning Strikes – Phoenix Chroi

To Be Someone – The Jam

In A Broken Dream – Python Lee Jackson feat Rod Steward

Sound of The Suburbs – The Members

Lily – Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra

Til Victory – Patti Smith

No More Heroes – The Stranglers Live at The Hope & Anchor

Hanging Around – The Stranglers

Mighty – Phoenix Chroi

Tank Park Salute – Billy Bragg

RENT – The Musical, Woking Ovation

I’m still a bit dumbstruck by RENT. I am not sure I have ever seen as diverse an audience at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking nor one that so enthusiastically responded to the performance throughout, ending in a total standing ovation from people who absolutely engaged with the show from the first. (There you go, short version- if you need to get encouragement to go and see it) 
The set, musicians and cast are amazing the cleverly choreographed dances, Angel (Layton Williams) in Today 4 U and Mark & Joanne (played by understudies Joshua Denver & Jenny O’Leary) in Tango Maureen were amongst the stand out dances. The vocals of all the cast members were absolutely incredible, soulful, poignant, heart wrenching, rock and raise the roof however the vocals from Layton Williams, Jenny O’Leary & Phillipa Stefani (Mimi Marquez) Ryan O’Gorman (Tom Collins) particularly moved me. Jonathan Larson the writer who tragically died the day before its first scheduled performance was influenced by rock n roll as much as musical theatre and this is brought to bear in the songs, influences of of The Who are apparent as well as a sample of Quando M’envo within the score documenting it within La Boheme skilfully re made for the future.
If you have ever been slapped with a great big mackerel across the cheeks several times to wake you up and pull your attention (in a nice way) to witness something fantastic then you’ll probably be quite used to this, but despite an apparent brashness over the subject the beautiful layers intermingling and revealing universal themes throughout draw you in to this world created in Jonathan Larson’s RENT. That it is based around the tragic La Boheme set in 1990’s New York with AIDS being a central spectre as opposed to TB shows these sadnesses, celebrations and preciousness of life are the pulse that keep us going. These young people then living under a sentence repeating that mantra as repeated by young people century after century in war, disease and revolution know the value of life as a rich tapestry unafraid to stand against what is destroying them and make life beautiful in whatever way they can. I could see the musical, I could see the New York factory set and the people but then this odd stuff happened. I remembered a friend and when the lesions came, and I remember that he was happy in a relationship but then he died and his family threw out his loved one, partner of 20 years from their joint home, because they could then. Now we would be shocked by that and now they could be married and his partner would have grieved in the home they shared memories in. I hope those people have changed their minds about what love is now. There’s a theme I saw in RENT, there’s a lot of love in it with all different people but it remains the same, same as then same as now, just love.

Then I saw these bohemians protesting and dancing and the audience going wild for them and I remembered that our cultural spaces are being razed by big business and the bohemians are protesting, I hope people cheer on these guardians of culture as well, not just when it is in a play but when it is in real life in the spaces where dreams are made; in song, in art, in word and in gesture and that when we are poor it isn’t that romantic or glamorous when the electricity fails and people have nothing to eat; and I hope that in another 20 years or so that when RENT is still sharing this humane and universal message it won’t have to be updated again for a modern audience because these things were still happening, but I have a sad feeling were it set in these days it may be, the diseases we live under may change and the prejudices and the injustices and poverties but they are still there with a different outfit on. It would be great to make them historical dramas….
RENT is on at The New Victoria Theatre in Woking until Sat 11 March 2017