The Fiery Bird Show – John McNally Interview The Searchers

Fiery Bird Show on Radio Woking featuring an interview with John McNally founder member of The Searchers recently returned from their Australian tour and hitting Aldershot on 5 May.
The Fiery Bird Show this week featured an interview with John McNally a founder member of The Searchers and and Mabbsy and I used it to have a retrospective of 60’s poptastic tunes laced in with the memories we had of hearing the songs in the background on the radio (he does admit to being a 70’s kid really). We also mentioned the Fiery Bird Venue fundraiser with Eddie & The Hot Rods, Dept S, Ed Tenpole-Tudor and  Phoenix Chroi. 

To catch up on the show and the interview with John you can listen again here


Female of The Species – The Walker Brothers – well obviously 

The Clapping Song – Shirley Ellis – remember this one trying to remember the words

This Boy – The Beatles – 

Anna and I, singing along, 14 years old, hairbrushes as pretend microphones. Now, I pretend my microphone is a hairbrush, my friend is singing along and the whole world is ahead of us 🙂

She’s Not There – The Zombies – Andy interviewed Colin Blunstone on his radio show this was a song for me mate

Autumn Stone – The Small Faces – one of my London songs – on the way to sound check, early evening sun, train passing Pimlico plumbers pulling in to Waterloo, head against the train window the song on the iPod, in rhythm with the train moving, the usual gig thing – going up in the afternoon, no matter how sunny and then cold out into the night air after the gig to go back to Waterloo the portal in and out of London for us suburbanites, picking up my bike at the station and cycling home, cold clear night, stars out, moon full.

Swords of A Thousand Men – Ed Tenpole Tudor – a man coming to support our Fiery Bird Fundraiser

Is Vic There? – Dept S who arranged the fundraiser with their excellent hit from the post punk halcyon days

Destruction – Phoenix Chroi – our band – the local support at the venue fundraiser with the song that raises money for Living Without Abuse a charity supporting those who are surviving abusive relationships

Do Anything You Wanna Do – Eddie & The Hot Rods – headliners at the Fiery Bird venue fundraiser and their brilliant anthem to cut the shackles and do your thing

GLORIA – Patti Smith – because her version of this song is excellent – the Them song interspersed with her own poetry to make something completely new – I believe this is what is known as ‘ripping a new one’ and fair play to her – thoroughly enjoyed and enriched from reading Just Kids and M Train.

Sweets For My Sweet – The Searchers the song John Lennon credited as being the best single to come out of Liverpool

Needles & Pins – The Searchers – Peggy, my Mum and Dad’s neighbour used to get me to babysit her kids or rather my Mum told her I would – it seemed I communicated this willingness psychically. Anyway she gave me a load of records and among them was this one – listening to it again brought me slap right back to being 13 and the start of finding out about modernism, playing bass, writing songs and then only three years later putting the bass and the songs down for another 25 years.

Brand New Day – Deep Six – a new release from a band releasing new original material 

Never Buy The Sun – Billy Bragg – speaks for itself, this was the week that yet again there was controversy about truth in  papers relating to Liverpool and it’s citizens characters. Interviewing John McNally a founder of a band that was part of the movement that brought the cultural output of Liverpool to the world stage – we should all stand up for people of any city who are demonised and belittled by the international money that might seek to make of us knaves and fools. People deserve better.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry & The Pacemakers, if people listen to the words of the song adopted by Liverpool, credited as a hymn and forgotten as a musical gem it can really mean something. An extra religious head teacher at assembly once poured scorn on ‘football fans making sacrilegious chants of sacred songs’ using this as an example – I wonder did anyone have the heart to tell him it was a song from a musical and no hymn at all. Bless.


Fiery Bird Show with Eddie Roxy – DeptS 

This week I was joined at The Fiery Bird Show by Eddie Roxy from Dept S a band well known for their hit ‘Is Vic There?’ yet now touring and producing new material that has been delighting audiences hungry for more than a nostalgia circuit. In 2016 they released a new album ‘When All Is Said & All Is Done’ and more recently a video of the title track single available on YouTube here. You can catch up on the radio show here
Eddie, a charming guest brought his song choices in and also gave insight to the start of Dept S, from the brainchild of Gary Crowley ‘Guns For Hire’, gigging with bands such as The Jam in the early days, the music landscape, genres and tribes of audiences, to its current line up including Phil Thomson (previously Bug) & Pete R Jones (Public Image Ltd, Cowboys International, Brian Brain). Relating their experience as young band members working with Pete Overend Watts & Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin – now both sadly passed away – who produced their single ‘Is Vic There?’ As well as talking of their plans for the year to come, an almost full circle to Mott The Hoople again playing with Ian Hunter & The Rant Band in June, Eddie gave insight to the touring experience here and abroad and the importance of local venues in the wider music industry.

He also spoke of the gig he has pulled together in support of our live music venue project in Woking- The Fiery Bird, where the Phoenix Cultural Centre CIC volunteers, musicians and community members are taking over an unused nightclub to make into non profit live music venue that supports community work. Whilst waiting to take over, Eddie brought together bands to play a fundraising gig which is taking place on Friday 21st April in the venue ‘as is now’. We were overwhelmed with this support, having seen and knowing how great Eddie & The Hot Rods, Dept S & Ed Tenpole-Tudor are live and how they appeal to a broad range of people, as he said, ‘if you love live music, regardless of genre, you will love this gig’. Our own Woking, post punk band, Phoenix Chroi are joining them as the local support, part of the philosophy of the venue when it is open is that a local support is put on with a touring band. Tickets can be purchased here

1. Theme from Dept S

2. Making Time – The Creation

3. Set The House Ablaze – The Jam

4. No Pain No Gain – The Witchdokters

5. Roxette – Dr Feelgood

6. Reaching My Head – The Prisoners

7. Roll Away The Stone – Mott The Hoople

8. I Can’t Make It – The Small Faces

9. Is Vic There? – Dept S

10. Public Image – Public Image Ltd

11. GLORIA – Eddie & The Hot Rods

12. Girl On A Beach – Phoenix Chroi

13. Have Love Will Travel – The Sonics

14. When All Is Said And All Is Done – Dept S

15. Who Killed Bambi? – Ed Tenpole-Tudor

16. Sound Of The Suburbs – The Members

17. My Way – Frank Sinatra

Woman In Black – (Puts the Willies up Woking) 

This isn’t the first time the Woman in Black has brought its tour to Woking and I hope it won’t be the last, it has become of itself despite its fairly modern history, a story deserved to be counted amongst the great classic ghost stories of the likes of Wilkie Collins, MR James & Dickens and the play adaptation too is a welcome relief from what is usually frothy musical and touring tribute bands so often experienced in theatres just trying to stay open to offer some theatrical presence in towns across the country.

I arrived, scared. I have been before but still know it is different each time, the sudden shocks in different places. There were a lot of women in black milling about the foyer but luckily they looked chirpy and corporeal. I wondered if they were stealing her thunder – the real, actual, Woman In Black; outfit clashes can be an embarrassing taboo.

David Acton plays Arthur Kipps a man so traumatised by past events and held still, in their thrall. Desperate to lay ghosts to rest, he seeks help from an actor (Matthew Spence) to dramatise the events of a few days that, as a young man changed the course of his life. He needs help because he has never been able speak the words of his story to his family.

I took my friend Mary, she jumped and screamed like a big cry baby. I hadn’t really warned her (this was my third outing to the play) I am a frenemy. Well I say I didn’t warn her but my disclaimer is that I did whisper ‘brace yerself Mary’ as we sat down – not my fault she didn’t hear….

Based on Susan Hill’s novel, a torchbearer to the gothic ghost novel genre so favoured and flourished in Victorian Britain, they manage to pull off a theatrical coup – making the story so embedded in the audience imagination that the spare sets, lighting (a cast member in itself) and sound effects have you pulled in to all it’s horror, sadness and it’s comedy, for there are also a lot of laughs in it too. The atmosphere pervades throughout. To me, the play knocks the widely publicised film into a cocked hat, because it absolutely gives a chance for modern audiences to experience the art of story telling, the ghosts around the fire late at night, the primeval feeling of sensing threat, hairs standing up on the back of the neck. Not only does it tell a sad and painful story, one that spawns baleful jealousy from someone sent mad with loss but it also acts as a heritage piece giving people back something of a culture that seems lost. Not only a fine tribute to the story and it’s author but also the writer Stephen Mallatratt whose stage adaptation moves the action along so well. That it has successfully run for over 27 years is a great legacy to someone who has sadly passed away.

Though a double handed performance the dexterity of both Acton and Spence is such that it feels like a cast of many, the finely drawn characterisations that they move between has you in no doubt you are in the hands of masters of this craft and, as well as the light and shade and spare set means you have drawn in your mind vast marshlands and lonely mists, and imagine yourself seeing the Woman In Black so often referred to throughout. (No spoilers here I should get a theatrical medal I really should) 

To see this play whilst in Woking get tickets here 
 Oh and wear sturdy pantaloons.  

Here is a link to an interview with David Acton who plays Arthur Kipps in the second hour of the Radio Woking Fiery Bird Show where he gives insights into the play and the tour. Thursday 6 April

Fiery Bird Show with Claudia Stark & David Acton – Woman in Black

Photo credit Tom O’Donoghue: Tomodo

Claudia Stark visited the Fiery Bird Show bringing her guitar and all her plans and news. Claudia is a Guildford based songwriter who has developed her performance from solo to a whole band sound. I also had the opportunity to play the interview with David Acton who is starring in The Woman In Black currently on tour and coming to Woking from 11th April 2017. You can catch up on the show here

The first time I met Claudia was at one of our feature nights, the open mic section was just finishing and this tiny little girleen came in with her guitar on her back, told all about us by one of the masters of the local scene – Vic Cracknell she came to see if we had space for an open mic slot so we all budged up and squeezed a 15mins free and it was the start of what was for us, a very lucky and pleasurable occurrence. As she strummed her first chord and her clear voice rang out, the pub went silent and remained so for all she had to sing…. and so it has been ever since. As you will hear from the interview she writes of those times and issues that mean so much to her. Claudia is one of the next generation of amazing songwriters that we are so lucky to come across in our work in grassroots music and the reason we keep going, the reason for local gigs, local radio and local support. She is launching her new single on April 22 at The Boileroom in Guildford – so see her now while you still can locally.

Also check out local music nights you can catch some great talent at nights run by Vic Cracknell, Gavin Thomas, Blue Trouser Records and many others, not only do they encourage great musicians but are a fertile creative bed for so many others too – photographers, writers, poets and a learning base for more promoters to come forward and develop.  It is also what our own Phoenix Cultural Centre/Fiery Bird project is about too.

                                                                                     DAVID ACTON – THE WOMAN IN BLACK

During the show I also had the opportunity to play the interview I recorded (here’s one I made earlier) with David Acton who plays Arthur Kipps, the main protagonist in The Woman in Black which comes to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from Tues 11 April. David, who has worked extensively in theatre and TV explained how the approach taken in the staging of Susan Hill’s famous story as a play enhances the suspension that the novel is renowned for as a torch bearer and tribute to the Victorian gothic ghost story tradition. Having seen the play twice and going for a third time on the opening night, I can vouch for the impact it has, sometimes wondering if I should reinforce the ol’ pantaloons as sensible preparation for the night out. It was a lovely chat with David, an interesting fellow who gave lovely insights into the play, the tour and the story that underpins it. You can probably still get tickets try it here, if you go on Tues I’ll be the one bricking it. I did offer to get all my friends to go along all of us dressed in black like a miserable version of the Rocky Horror show as a cult support but a) it would look like we were the female branch of a Johnny Cash convention turned up on the wrong day or b) Mediterranean widows or c) possibly quite threatening and not supportive at all so that idea got kicked to the kerb.

Lucky old me – one show, two great and diverse guests.

The Playlist

Spring – Argonaut 

Oh Bondage Up Yours – X Ray Spex

Man – Cardboard Carousel

This Way – Claudia Stark

Suit of Armour – Lisa VonH

Agape – Bear’s Den

Too Soon – Claudia Stark (live) in dedication to Sam

Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy – The Tams

There’s a Ghost In My House – R Dean Taylor

Spooky – The Belomors

Give Me An Answer – Claudia Stark (live)

Redemption Song – Bob Marley

Underneath The Stars – Kate Rusby

Wonderland in Woking!

Wonderland at the New Victoria theatre in Woking last night was a bit of a surprise. Not sure what to expect on arrival it seemed to be appealing to a large audience intent on holiday fun with kids, an expectation of the event to be a family affair. The wonder of it all wasn’t that this wasn’t necessarily a musical for kids although the imagery and large characterisation of the Wonderland characters made it appealing. 
Alice (Kerry Ellis) is a struggling single mother, hitting 40 who hates her job but who has been so undermined by her controlling ex husband telling her she needed his protection, that she believes she will never get the job she loves and dreams of. She has always wanted to be a writer. She had started to believe what he had told her about herself and given up on her dreams, her daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris) desperate to see her take control, feels she should move on, go back to the teaching she gave up because her husband didn’t like her earning more than him, meanwhile Alice doesn’t even notice the geeky next door neighbour Jack (Stephen Webb) who works in the council recycling dept nursing dreams of being a singer and worships her from afar. 
One day with her car stolen making her late for work she is fired. Fed up and tired she repeats how she ‘doesn’t want to live in the real world’ Ellie spies a large rabbit hopping past their tower block and follows him into a broken lift. Panicking as the lift door closes brings the rabbit back again who says he will take them down, and that is how they get to Wonderland ladies and gentlemen in these days of technology or rather disused lifts and depressing grey, high-rise, flats.

Wonderland is run by a tyrannical Queen of Hearts (Wendi Peters) who makes regular threats to chop off heads unchallenged by the residents; after all, they only lose their head once meaning they can’t return to the real world that gave them so much grief, and by complying they have an easy life and don’t question her authority. An encounter with the Caterpillar (Kayi Ushe) who Alice looks to as a guru, the Cheshire Cat (Dominic Owen) (both brilliant performances of comedy and cool) who tells them to move forward always, brings them to the magic mirror where they are advised by the White Rabbit – a judge in the real world, more like Yoda in this – that the mirror turns you into someone who you could be, maybe want to be, maybe should have been – Jack and Ellie jump in quickly, Jack’s metamorphosis into the singer he has always wanted to be, fronting a boy band with stage moves is a hilarious moment and great vocal though longer than I needed to get the gist. Ellie, comes out as the teenager she would be, had she not felt unnoticed by her mother’s grief and responsible for her happiness. She stirs the Mad Hatter (Natalie McQueen) to go through the mirror, take responsibility for her hat factory and over throw the Queen, but the mirror change for her makes her as power hungry, turning her hat factory into a sweat shop nearly killing the dormouse (who was a lawyer in real life) in the process. Ellie, realising that her explanation of how power works to show unity to remove a dictator has resulting in her abetting another, worse one to the seat of power and yet one who, despite causing more suffering, it turns out is as frightened and confused about the change, repeating ‘that’s how power works’ like a frightened child and needs to go back, she didn’t need to change, she was told she wasn’t enough but as it turned out, she always was.
Alice refuses the mirror, refuses change until the realisation that it is what is needed to save her daughter under threat of being beheaded so the Queen can keep her in Wonderland as advisor. Finally Alice takes action, takes back the parent role, protects her daughter and the Mad Hatter goes back and all is well. 

Perhaps this spoke to many people in similar positions the paradigm of fighting for a loved one overriding a lack of courage is always prevalent in the roles where a parent is called upon to save their child. That they have made an adaptation that brings these themes together recognising in Alice an everywoman facing those dilemmas being more common today, as Jack says to her ‘It’s not a unique story’ yet reaches the time old themes of courage coming from facing fear, from the ordinary heroisms of the everyday and from the different archetypes we set up as friend or enemy; always an extreme and yet existing in layers in all of us, the caterpillar as a guru denied he knew anything when Alice relied on him and quoted himself back, the cat causing trouble to be the one to say ‘I told you I was a trickster…..’ putting responsibility for her decisions firmly back with her.

 And Ellie – her own natural chrysalis being shed from dutiful daughter to separate human and the dichotomy of adolescence back to the baby again who still needs her mum when she may have burned her wings in a too bright world.
The characterisations, costumes and comedy in this made it a pleasant alternative to the original story, still enjoyed by many but by those expecting the more traditional this was a delightful twist. This isn’t a jukebox musical the new songs are for the story, but there are a diverse range and the cool stylings of some of the choreography and costumes make it a show that has a broader appeal. The vocals of all the performers are stand out excellent, though a couple of songs in the second half had the music dominating occasionally making the words hard to make out. The magic mirror did look like a giant toilet seat though and the topiary of the bushes at the entrance to Wonderland did look like they were left by a giant cat so I’ll leave that subtext to be explored by finer minds that don’t boggle. 

The cast got a very enthusiastic response the whole way through which is a great thing for new work albeit on a well loved theme which can be a risk. I’d take the risk if I were you Wonderland is at New Victoria Theatre until Sat 8 April 2017