Thursday, April 30, 2020

30th April 2020

  In these strange times where nature breathes heavily, we find ourselves being isolated in our own homes. Those of us that are lucky enough to have them, that is.
I sincerely hope you are all safe out there and that you are as fascinated by people’s reassessment of life as I am.

  Keep safe and wear your masks when you go to the store. My masks arrived a few weeks ago from the manufacturer.
My protective mask. The 'Alone Ranger' mask.

  So, ladies and gentlemen, the next blog will have some filming I had done on October the 5th last year at the gig I orchestrated for the benefit of the Community at Lyde where James Honeyman-Scott is buried.

 One of the songs I played was 'Postcards’, a song I had written about having visitations from Jim and Pete after all these years.

  I did my best, even though a few audience members insisted on being by the stage and talking really loud, during this light, confessional, acoustic song. There were tables and chairs available to them at the other end of the room by the bar for that very reason.

 So, if you see me looking hard into the audience, that's the reason. There is also an edit. The long strumming break where I say 'I can do this all day'. (and not start singing the second verse!) I almost stopped playing completely!

Please let me know what you think. Your opinions are what matter most to me.

Pretty soon this COVID-19 / lockdown period will be over, and I look forward to seeing you all next year!

And yes, we do need to do our own tour of the world!


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Friday, 4th October 2019

Me and Johnny.
  It was the day before the Lyde church gig, and my concert kit was on its way from storage in London to Hereford. My drum tech. Justin was bringing them over in a van, and would eventually set them up for me.

 Around lunchtime, the phone rang. Paul Cheshire, the key guitar player for my songs, was on the line. The night before he had gone to see a gig and had damaged his leg badly. He couldn't walk and was stretched out, unable to move. Needless to say, he couldn't do the gig on Saturday, and the pressure I felt had just been ramped up a few notches.

Cramming before the doors open.
 Luckily, another friend of James Honeyman-Scott, Nick Trigg, was already on the bill and was able to step in and rehearse Paul's key guitar parts with hours to spare. Ready or not, the gig was happening in 18 hours time.

 I had never played guitar in public before, let alone lead a band! I had, however, travelled to Minsk in 1991 to play a song of mine in a stadium there for the 'Children of Chernobyl'. It was at the end of the USSR and later in December the country was dissolved which was in effect the end of the Cold War.

Paul Cobbold and me after the show. I look so wired!
 Film of that gig was smuggled out and can be found on the internet under ‘Children Of Chernobyl’. It's a long film with a voice over by the actress and politician Glenda Jackson. I hope you can find the time to watch it!

 On Saturday around lunchtime, we ran my two songs with my tech. Justin on drums. Justin used to play in the band Elastica and now has his own band, Piroshka. Then we ran the Stevie Winwood song 'Can't Find My Way Home'. I did three or four songs on the drums with Paul Cobbold’s band, Mode-X and one song with my surprise guest Johnny Borrell from Razorlight. He had turned up right on time midafternoon from Birmingham airport for a quick run-through for the number 1 hit song 'America'.

 The rest of the time I was helping out, setting up images for the video screen and finding suitable sounds for the evening.

Those lyrics never left that pocket!
It's the waiting that gets you. 

 By late afternoon I had dealt with all the last minute incoming phone calls and tried to relax.
Fine chance. Doors opened at 7 pm, so we had just an hour or so to go. Maintain an even strain.

 The stage is eighteen inches high and the faces are right there four feet away and they are expecting big things.

Oh well, what’s the worst thing that could happen? 

 I had written out the key lyrics to start verses and lines that were not readily forthcoming as I sang. I had only finished the lyrics the previous evening and I was finding it hard to get them to come to mind just before I opened my mouth to sing them. These prompts were in the back pocket of my Levi skinny jeans as I went on stage to play the drums for a while.

My plan was to put them on the floor by my feet for security.

They never left my pocket for the whole evening.


**Special thanks to Richard Shakespeare for taking these wonderful photographs!**

Sunday, November 17, 2019

17th November 2019

Winging it at the one rehearsal.
I was piling up the pressure on myself by adding an unfinished song that I had written about some of the memories of Jimmy and Pete and specific things that were said and done.

 By now we had the venue booked. It was the Three Counties Hotel in Belmont where Paul had had his birthday some time ago. We booked the staging and Paul had sound and lights. 

  We had set the date for October the 5th, a ticket agency was found, and of course extra security was arranged. After all, this was Hereford-England's wild West!

 I had a guitar rehearsal with Paul Cheshire and Paul Cobbold. 'Chesh' was a friend from Hereford back when Jimmy Scott was still a kid and Pete was getting into his first band. Paul Cheshire was a key man. 

Another guitar rehearsal saw me requisition a guitar player, Matt Warren, who I had used on my first track in Paul’s studio about two years ago. He is a young man with talent and good feel.

 These rehearsals were spread over the best part of a month. In reality, three rehearsals of about 5 or 6 hours in total. 

I had learned a lot. I had also done the unthinkable again. On the last guitar rehearsal, I had got another one of my songs into my 'set'. This was a slow acoustic song. I played it on my 2008 Martin guitar with mellow bass to accompany me and the two guitarists playing small roles to give the song some atmosphere and shape. The song was called 'Postcards'. It was again about Jim and Pete and how they are still, fantastically, in my life. 

Now I am singing and playing guitar on three songs. How did that happen?! I guess they just needed to be sung. It felt like they were desperate to escape!!

 A full band rehearsal was called for late September. Everything was loaded in and set up by a small group of us and the organisation of the rehearsal got underway. I had never fronted a band on guitar in my life. I needed to get 'my sound' but I didn't know what it was.

 We played the Steve Winwood song and I could hear very little that I liked. We were playing to a wall some twenty five feet in front of us, and I simply had trouble hearing my guitar or voice. In the middle of the rehearsal, my amp blew a speaker and started to flap a little (not that I noticed during the run-through).

 By the end I had to make a few split decisions. The show date, my debut in my home town, was coming up soon. There was no way I could just busk it. 

I had organised a projector and operator from the Friends of Lyde who were the beneficiaries of the show. I wanted as many pictures of Jimmy and Pete as I could get and some live pictures of them in concert.

 It wasn't long before it dawned on me that there were a few key people who should have their pictures up on the screen with Jim and Pete. One of them was my long time tight friend Bryan Morgan. He had driven the van and set the gear nearly fifty years ago and on October the 5th, show day, it was the third anniversary of his death.

 Meanwhile I set out to finish lyrics to my two self-penned songs. I had to improve everything, and fast. 


Friday, November 8, 2019

8th November 2019

(L-R: Paul Cobbold. James Williams, and the show off,
Martin Chambers. Photo by Alan Bayley.)
I had made up my mind, and this celebration for James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon had to be done. A couple more shows and I would be home for many months. Chrissie was heavily involved with getting her 'Valve Bone Woe' album out in September, James would be touring The Rails' new record (as was Carwyn), and Nick was enjoying family time and his own pursuits.

 First thing, I had to get a band, a venue, and a date. I contacted my friend Paul Cobbold, with whom I had begun to work with on my album. I had worked in a band called Karakorum with him from the end of the 60's until 1973. The band started as a trio, Paul on left handed Hofner 'violin' bass and James Williams on guitar. James and I had played in blues bands from 1967. My musical journey started from there.
Playing with Karakorum at the Hereford
United football ground with Mott the Hoople,
Heads Hands and Feet, Amazing Blondel,
and Frumpy (a band from Germany).
Photographer unknown.
After a brief meeting with Sally, the representative from the community of Lyde, we fixed the date for September 7th at the Left Bank near the old River Wye bridge. Paul and I agreed that the left Bank venue had a harsh sound. I made the point to Sally that this was all about the music and the venue was too small and didn't hold the sonic quality or the audience capacity that was needed. Sally was great and she was very supportive. 

 A few years ago, Paul Cobbold had put on a show for friends at a hotel venue at the edge of the city. It had a large ballroom and was the perfect venue for our tribute night. Paul had also contacted a local production company who supplied the stage that had to be assembled. Things were looking good!
 Paul and his partner Sue Watkins front a band called Mode-X, and they sang all sorts of cover songs including Kid. Sue was also a great organiser so things progressed well.

Yep that was me back in 1970.
 Photo by Alan Bayley
 I mentioned I wanted to play four or five songs with Mode-X and then play guitar and sing the Steve Winwood song 'Can't Find My Way Home'. What was I thinking?  I'm no guitar player.  I'm no singer. Some way down this bumpy lane I would realise how much I had to improve to stand a chance of pulling this off. So, not shying away from the importance of this evening to me, I ramped up the pressure adding a song of my own for the Jim and Pete 'celebration night'. A half finished song about 'us boys' called 'Back in the Day'. 

Soon enough the reality dawned on me that I had a mountain to climb.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

6th November 2019

Hello again everyone, and my apologies for the long gap in posting a new blog. 

 The rain is belting against my window as I write to you and the guns have moved off the escarpment to the north of me. The Spaniels and Labradors have finished the clear up of murdered pheasants across the meadow and the land can breathe again.

 As usual it's been insanely busy with so much still to do here with the conversion work at my barn. Dressing stones, walls to erect, and continued gathering of my archive. 

  It's been over three months since the Pretenders did a show, and what a show it was in the beautiful countryside way outside Boston, Massachusetts. We ended on a high after a strange conclusion to our European shows. This occurred at a festival someway outside of Oslo in Norway. Something went out of kilter timing wise between Chrissie and I mid show. We managed to rope it in ok but it was a strange one. Not the best way to finish summer touring. Fortunately, the Boston show put it all to rest. I can still find no explanation for it!

  By chance I met up with James Honeyman-Scott's sister Lynn Scott in June or July and she mentioned to me that the 'Friends of Lyde' had asked if it would be possible to use Jimmy's name to help raise some money for works to be carried out in the community of Lyde. Lyde is a small village where Jimmy is buried.

After thinking about it, I felt it could possibly be put together. The fundraiser had to be a musical evening to celebrate both Jimmy and Pete. 

This had to be good.

  With summer shows over I approached some key people in Herefordshire to put a band together. These people had either known Jim (and/or) Pete, or had played in bands with them and shared a hide out with them back in the day.

  As it approached, it seemed to get harder and turned out to be the most important and frustrating gig of my life, not to mention nerve-racking to the point of sleeplessness.

  I will describe this celebratory gig in my next blog post!

  In the meantime, here's a random picture of a sign in my home town of Hereford. Remember this: 
In the 1960's it would take over 4 hours to get to London in the van! In the early 17th century it would take a stage coach more than 12 hours to deliver the 'London Letter'. 
But then again, parking was a doddle.

This blog will continue soon. Honest.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

17th June 2019

Well, ‘hello to you all’.

After taking a long break from touring and spending time building a new space for my barn swallows, seven species of bats, and the c.1840 cider press, we at last got down to some work.
The Pretenders supporting Fleetwood Mac at Wembley Stadium, June 18, 2019. Photo Credit:@tealbassmusic
A new album was recorded after I had planted some seeds with Chrissie about getting together with James Walbourne to get some new songs written. As some of you may know, I have deferred from recording for a while. The reason was Chrissie had to make the albums she made. This new one had Stephen Street in the chair and that was a big plus for me. I completed my parts in four days. I guess my parts are a little ‘off the cuff’. I haven’t as yet heard the finished article (album).

Last year, on our way to a festival in Portugal a delayed flight gave me some time to talk with John Lydon at the bar of the airport lounge.
An ambush of drums.
John is an interesting guy and got more interesting as more drinks arrived because of a delayed flight. Like the ska band, the Specials at the Arroya Seco festival in Pasadena earlier in the year, John’s band Public Image were great. He showed his usual quick-witted presence and forceful vocal attack.
Sound check at Wembley Stadium.
This year we were asked to perform some shows in Europe with Fleetwood Mac.
I had seen them first at a tiny club called the Top Spot Club in Ross-on-Wye in 1968.
The first show there was with a blues band called Black Cat Bones. A few months later they had the band Chicken Shack in support.
The piano player in that band was Christine Perfect. That night she played the song ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ that was a recent release by Etta James. I stood no more that a few yards away as she sang and played the piano. She became Christine McVie after marrying John McVie bass player with Fleetwood Mac.
I was wearing a bib and brace outfit, like a man who paints the inside of your house. The outfit combined with the bowler hat made me look like a Clockwork Orange gang member... 
he he he he he he. (Photo credit: Justin Welch)
I got to play on the bill with Fleetwood Mac in 1970/’71 at the Winter Gardens in Weston-super-Mare in my band Karakorum. Over the years I have got to know Mick who is a wonderful gentleman.
Photo credit: Justin Welch
So…last night we played the first of our two Wembley Stadium shows.
The date, 16th of June. It was the 37th anniversary of my best friend, James Honeyman-Scott’s death.

With regard to my book and album,
I will finish my book this year and also try and complete my album.
There is no release date as yet. Between the conversion of my home, working on the latest Razorlight and Pretenders albums, and touring duties, time has been a bit pressing to put it mildly.
My room, the Tudor Suite at the Gore Hotel, London.
Much love from the Gore Hotel in London.
I can’t wait to get home on Saturday after our last festival show in Oslo.

Be good to yourselves.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

UK / Euro Tour, Summer 2018

Always Travelling...
The short stay at home after the summer tour of the USA was a good time for catching up with sleep. However, with all the decision making to be done on my build back home, it became as hectic as ever.

I thank all of you who sent messages encouraging me to rest up. It didn’t work out like that, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

Things are progressing nicely at my build and soon phase 1 will be completed and I will have more room to at last organise and correlate my archive and get on with all the other projects on hold.

This UK/Euro tour which we started on Sunday the 29th is a logistic nightmare. The first two weeks involved a lot of travel. After driving east across England and parking in the multi storey car park, I took a flight from Luton Airport to Glasgow for our opening show at an open air venue known as The Bandstand.

Panoramic view has done something to James' arm. Eek!
This was followed by three days of production rehearsals in Glasgow for the upcoming shows that are all outdoors. This involves some talented people controlling the screens. We have been a band that have only ever had sound and lights, so this was new for us. 

On Friday the 3rd of August, we traveled from Glasgow in Scotland by train down to York and were driven to Leeds for a show in the city centre. After the show we travelled on down to Maidstone in Kent and arrived at our hotel rooms at around 6am. The rooms faced south and the weather had been very hot with the drapes open wide all day. Consequently, it was too hot to sleep.

This was the first show with KT Tunstall and Simple Minds. After the show we travelled again through the night to Cardiff in Wales with another show that night in Merthyr Tydfil and a train the following day to Belgium. The combined distance travelled to these shows in a handful of days was approximately 1500 miles. This was followed by two nights in London where I fit in a rehearsal with piano player and singer/songwriter Diane Birch. We were joined on guitar by Paul Stacey and Johnny Borrell from Razorlight on bass. We made a bloody good quartet and got some good grooves down. Later in the year, I may be working with Diane on her new album, which would be pretty cool.

In rehearsals with Diane Birch, Paul Stacey and Johnny Borrell.
That evening there was a promotional Razorlight party at the Cuckoo Club in Swallow Street in Mayfair. Razorlight played five songs and after that, it became swinging London with bad thumping repetitive so-called ‘dance music’ played way too loud with people shouting over it. I was in and out in a flash but still had time to sample the free booze. The evening ended with a hot chocolate at the Soho Sanctum Hotel bar being served with added love by Rita.

Currently, I am travelling on the train up to Manchester to do a show in Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium. Tomorrow we charter two aircrafts to take the band, crew and equipment to La Coruna in north-west Spain where we play the Noroeste Festival. The weather has been impossibly hot in Spain for quite a while, so it will be a dust bowl. I can’t wait.

We go on stage at 11.45pm. The following morning we travel back in the same chartered aircraft to Luton airport. The reason for parking my car at Luton Airport to begin with becomes clear. I drive back across country to spend another few days at home. Without my car, it would take far too long to get back. Maybe five or six hours by train.

Sod that!

I will write again after the next few days at home. We are about to stop at Stockport and in 14 minutes will disembark at Manchester Piccadilly and catch a taxi to Salford. 

My, how the summer is getting swallowed up in large travel bites.