If you have been foolish enough to give us your email address over the past few years this email will have popped up in your inbox already. For everyone else I hope it gives you a chuckle
If you have been foolish enough to give us your email address over the past few years this email will have popped up in your inbox already. For everyone else I hope it gives you a chuckle
Do you ever have times where you feel you pass through life with your eyes shut? Do you ever feel you make subconscious assumptions about people, underestimating them due to the setting in which you meet them? Well, I know I do.
As little boys we used to play little boy games. Often it was football where the rebels would all pretend to be George Best, tearing down the wing with their shirts out. No thought then of what George was up to in his spare time with Miss World. The good boys, shirts tucked neatly into their shorts, would pretended to be Bobby Charlton with his bald head and rocket shot.
On other days we would be motor bike racers pedalling furiously on our bicycles round the pavements where we lived, three abreast with no concern for little old ladies on their way back from the shops with pull along baskets.
Or we played soldiers and often some of those soldiers were Gurkhas. We picked the Gurkhas because they were the meanest, hardest, most dangerous soldiers in the history of soldiers.
The Gurkhas come from Nepal. The Victorians called them a martial race and the head of the army in India once said: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying he is either lying or he is a Gurkha”. Their own motto is: “Better to die than be a coward”.
They carry large knives called Kukris and, although they are now said mainly to be used for cooking, the legend was that once removed from its sheath the Kukri had to taste blood. During the two world wars 43,000 Gurkhas were killed. To put that in context there were only a maximum of 112,000 of them at any time. They number a few thousand now but every year 28,000 young Nepalese men apply to join. Only 200 pass the test.
There is a 100 km long annual race in England which takes place over hills called the South Downs. The fastest time ever recorded by a Brit is over 12 hours. The Gurkhas, who come from the high Himalaya mountains and so consider these hills as almost flat terrain, regularly enter the race and always come in under eight.
A Gurkha once applied to join the regular British army and went on the basic training assessment course. He broke his leg but still finished top ahead of everyone else.
You get the picture? We are talking hard, fearless men. That’s why the Queen has two of them as her personal bodyguard. It’s said that when they fight, they fight for their families for whom there is the tightest of bonds. That fact is relevant to my story as you will see.
So, many years later and no longer a boy, I would pass through the doors of a shiny, smart office in the heart of London’s Soho. The centre of media land in a country which punches way above its weight in that field. And I would pass into a world kept going by the efforts of immigrants. In general, the local population doesn’t want to clean those offices early in the morning or stay up all night keeping them safe, not least because the wages for those jobs would make it hard to live and bring a family up in London if they did.
If I was early or late I would pass a smiling man on the reception desk. “Hello sir. How are you today?”, he would say, this nice man with a smile, obviously Asian but not Chinese, Indian or Thai. I would usually have some preoccupation, replying “OK, thank you”, and smiling back before passing on with not a thought for him. He was just a nice man with a smile, not particularly interesting and not worth me stopping to find out more about him and his world.
Then one evening he wasn’t there.
An earthquake had ripped Nepal asunder. The devastation was terrible, many were dead and many more were trapped alive in one of the poorest regions of the world under the rubble of whole towns and villages which no longer existed. Getting machinery through mud tracks over the worlds highest mountains where the air is so thin it saps your strength in minutes was impossible. You had to be born there to help and our man was once a Gurkha. Yes, the nice, smiling man was a trained killer, capable of snapping my neck if he felt so inclined and now he was in Nepal using his training, skill and resourcefulness, with whatever tools were to hand, to rescue his family from the catastrophe they were the victims of.
And he did rescue them.
Then he returned to London where he continues to greet everyone coming into the building with a nice smile, and a cheery hello, a positive influence on a world which takes him for granted and knows nothing about him.
So what do I know about people? Perhaps in London there are just too many to be interested in. I’m reminded of that scene in Crocodile Dundee where the man from the outback walks down a New York street on his first day saying “G’day” to everyone. You just can’t do it. But at the same time, I know I should pay a little more attention and live a little less in my bubble.
What’s more, the nice, smiling man gave me a song. You can listen to it here.
So what would I have been able to do if I had been in this man’s position and my family had been trapped beneath a mountain of rubble in need of being rescued? Sing them a song?
“The Man on the Desk” is taken from our third album, Bombs Away. To listen to the whole record please follow this link HERE
Some places are just magic and Ireland has a fair few of them. It had been another raucous night at Fibber Magees. Drunks had been ejected, Brazilian beauties had samba’d, Irish lads had talked quickly to each other in a tongue which was supposedly English but which no Englishman could decipher, and we had not been allowed off the stage until six encore songs had been played.
My great friend Peter Jones of Irish punk rockers Paranoid Visions told me: “You are all playing the Stags Head tomorrow night right? You’ll have the time of your lives”. Dublin’s cheeriest and most loveable rascals, Charlie Higgins and John Farrell, chipped in: “You’ll not stop us coming up. It’s the best boozer in Ireland”.
And so we took the train north to near the border, on a cold day with the wind blowing specs of rain through our clothes as we walked from the station to our hotel.
But our hearts and souls were warmed to the core as we later stepped into the Stag’s Head to be met by Skinner, organiser of shows and contender for most generous barman in the world. He was assisted by a host of regulars with warm handshakes and kind smiles. Some places just ooze friendliness.
The Stag’s Head has three main areas. There is a front bar, where the older, more restrained element tend to drink, a back bar where the bands play, and an outside smoking area. Now, of great significance to our story is the fact that, when bands set up, the door to the smoking area is to their side meaning smokers need to walk across the stage and through the performing band to feed their craving for the devil’s weed.
With most bands this presents a minor obstacle. The elderly gentlemen drinking steadily and quietly in the front bar can enjoy their seven or eight pints of Guiness while occasionally tottering, in a less and less steady manner as the night wears on, through the din and mayhem of the back bar. They then wend their way between the musicians and exit stage right to enjoy a peaceful smoke with their friends.
Those of you who have seen us live, however, will testify to the fact that there is a fair degree of movement going on by three characters holding guitars, each of whom therefore represents a moving barrier approximately four feet wide (that’s 1.3 metres for our European friends) on a stage, in this case, with a total width of 15 feet.
And so the evening’s entertainment progressed. We all agreed we were having the time of our lives. The audience were completely drunk and sang along to the songs, including a number of glamourous, exhuberent, long legged ladies in cinderella high heels and party dresses. Nick was excited.
Every now and then one of the aforementioned elderly gentlemen would come tottering from the front bar toward the stage in contemplation of a relaxing smoke, to be met by the sight of three dangerous, axe wielding maniacs, the most deadly of which was Welsh and female. Imagine, if you would, a line of desperate, Irish Walter Matthaus waiting by the side of a motorway/autobahn/freeway (call it what you will), hopping from foot to foot, occasionally advancing, then thinking the better of it, while trying to judge the opportune moment to make a dash through the speeding traffic to reach the sanctuary of the far side. If you can imagine that you can picture the scene in Dundalk’s finest pub that night.
So did we slow down to allow safe passage for the elderly gentlemen in their time of danger? Did we hell – we sped up! It became a badge of honour that none should pass. We fought a losing battle, of course, since periodically we had to pause for breath between songs, or one of us would be rooted to the spot while on keyboard duties. On these occasions a flood of relieved nicotine junkies would grab their chance of safe passage through the deranged rabble, leaving for later the challenge of how they would make it safely back to their drinks.
The evening ended with Irish retribution of a kind as Charlie and John joined us on stage, frightening Sophie into joining Karen behind the drum kit. The cheers of elderly men in the front bar could be heard above our din.
After the show the night flowed on into the early hours and much Guiness flowed with it. More unintelligible english was spoken at high speed by our wonderful hosts and even more laughter was to be heard mixed in.
A large 21st birthday party was in full swing when we arrived back at the hotel. We hadn’t found any food on our way but were warmly encouraged to help finish off the birthday buffet, which we duly did.
Ireland: it’s full of the Irish and, because of that, you can’t help but have a good time.
Our third album Bombs Away is released on 19 May. At that point it will be available for Streaming and download. Additionally CDs will be available worldwide on Amazon etc, and all the best record shops.
If, however, you would like to order a signed pre-release CD please email us at email@example.com with your address.
Stop Press: The vinyls have now arrived as well so email for your signed copy!
In punk circles vinyl tends to be king with good reason. It’s a joy to hold something substantial in your hands, read the liner notes and look at the design. The sound on a good system is also the best you can hear. Warm and rich with all the instruments separated.
But the world of music is becoming increasingly streamed and it’s easy to see why. On your phone you have almost every record ever released. I have to admit, as a consumer, I love it.
One particular feature on Spotify has been a joy: Discover Weekly. Every week Spotify sends me 30 tracks it thinks I might like: and they are often right. I’ve discovered loads of bands I’d never heard before who I’ve come to enjoy.
How does Spotify decide what I might like? When I put a song on a playlist, it looks at the playlists of other people who have added the same song, works out which songs are most common and sends them to me.
It works! So much so that the major record companies spend a fortune trying to get people to add songs by their artists to playlists.
So -you can really help us if you have Spotify. Just start making playlists and, in among the tracks you love, add Duncan Reid and the Big Heads songs. It’s that easy and its really powerful. The more you do it, the more people are likely to have one of our tracks sent to them each Monday when they receive their 30 songs on Discover Weekly.
And as an added bonus Discover Weekly will work better and you will be more likely to discover music you didn’t know that you will love.
I don’t know if the same thing happens on Apple Music but it’s been such a hit for Spotify I bet they will be using the idea in some way.
Moral of the Story: Make playlists and add Duncan Reid and the Big Heads songs (and songs by other bands you love and want to help).
Sad news that Chuck Berry died today. It took me back to the one time I came accross him on my travels.
In 2013 we were lucky enough to tour Argentina and Uruguay with TV Smith. It was a mad tour, as they all seem to be, but great fun.
The tour finished up in Montevideo, a lovely, sleepy town that I’d written a song about, implying that the place was a non stop partying cross between Dublin, Ibiza, Berlin and anywhere else you’d like to throw in where the locals value a good time over sleep eight days a week.
In fact Montevideo has a lot more in common with Geneva where everyday seems like a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.
It turned out that the government of Montevideo were delighted with my portrayal of the local population as a bunch of 24 hour a day inebriates and decided to bestow on me the honour of becoming a “Visitante Illustre”, the equivalent of being awarded the keys to the city. The only other British musicians to receive this honour are Paul MacCartney and Elton John so it’s a big deal.
In particular they liked the video of the song which can be seen here.
So, after a wild night of last show of the tour celebration, with precious little sleep and a thumping head, off I went to the Uruguayan Parliament to collect my award. This entailed giving a speech in Spanish, – demanding under the circamstances.
Afterwards, as we walked up the stairs to the front of our hotel, the doors opened before us and an extremely sprightly, elderly black guy came through. He was cool. Dressed in a captains hat, bootlace tie and leather bomber jacket, he passed quite quickly on his way to somewhere important.
“That’s Chuck Berry”, said my wife Liz and by golly it was. I didn’t realise he was still alive at the time, let alone still touring the world and playing shows.
So, clutching my medal as the illustrious visitor to Montevideo I felt honoured to have received it, excited to have seen one of the original greats of Rock n Roll ……….. and a complete and utter fraud. Who was I to be honoured in this way when playing in town was the guy who invented the rock guitar solo, the widely acclaimed ultimate poet of Rock n Roll, the man who inspired The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and just about every other iconic musician of taste who picked up a guitar? Indeed you listen to all the great guitar solos on the early punk records and there is one man whose two string style is behind them -Chuck Berry.
I got over it though, and when I showed the hotel my medal they allowed me to check out later that evening, way after the official leaving time, without charging. A memorable day then, but they often are in South America.
(PS: There is a fuller blog I wrote about this eventful tour which begins here )
Many thanks to Steve Green and everyone at green square design for coming up with a great album cover.
The cd will be a digipak with a 16 page booklet full of pictures, song lyrics and the usual notes on the stories behind the songs. The same information will be on the insert included with the vinyl LP.
For those downloading the album or listening to it on Spotify or Bandcamp we’ll post some of the song notes on this site later on.
Keep an eye out. Not long to go now!
The internet has been both good and bad. The bad? More than ever truth is a thing of the past. Newspapers were bad enough but social media is worse. It has been shown that false, made up stories are seen by five times as many people as true ones. Facebook and Twitter algorithms make sure we tend to see things we agree with. So the chances are we see false stories which reinforce our prejudices and make us more extreme in our views. It’s like the Daily Mail (a right wing UK rag) on steroids.
Today I saw a post that said John Lydon is worth $175 million and owns a chain of UK burger bars. The article had made up his worth and a quick trip to Google shows that the burger bars don’t exist. But a huge swathe of people now think that is true.
But on the plus side the internet has bought us its radio. Programmes put together by people who love music and which don’t play the same, narrow playlist of songs, targeted to maximise listener numbers in a narrow demographic in order to make the station efficient, and therefore more valuable to advertisers.
One such show is Danny Mac’s Testifying Time. Most night’s you’ll find Danny in his cab delivering the sensible citizens of Glasgow from bar to home. On Wednesdays you’ll find him on Village FM playing music he loves and interviews he plans a year in advance, plotting questions he can intercut with particular songs from an artist’s career.
The result is well thought out, expertly edited, and, the highest praise I can give, interesting.
It was an honour and delight to be the subject of one of Danny’s labour of loves. I hope you’ll honour him and have a listen here.
If you grew up in East Kent the word “Dreamland” will mean only one thing –Margate. And Margate means excitement!
You know how it is: when you look back on summer days as a kid every day was sunny. And so the whole family, Mum, step dad and three brothers would cram into the tiny family car and head off to the coast from Canterbury. There would always be traffic jams on the tiny country roads because everyone else had the same idea. The farmers had always just cut their crops so the whole journey smelled of cabbage!
But what a treat when you finally arrived. Three little boys digging holes in the sand, burying someone’s dog and anything else our parents didn’t keep a close eye on. Swimming in the sea or in the huge stone pool craftily constructed to capture a load of pea green sea water so bathers didn’t have to wade out miles to get up to their knees when the tide went out.
But it was in the evening the fun really started.
First up a local delicacy. A type of shellfish, usually so badly cleaned it was still full of tooth crunching sand, liberally dowsed in face scrunching malt vinegar, going by the name of -I kid you not – cockles! British cuisine is not what it was.
And then: Dreamland!
Roller Coasters, candy floss, bumper cars and penny cascades. You’d feed your pennies into the top of the latter, they’d drop down, bouncing off various pegs and, if you were lucky, land in a way that made a load of other pennies be pushed over a ledge and fall in a flash of lights and loud music to a place where you could pick them out. But we’d spent all our pennies on the rides. So one brother would keep a look out for the attendant while another gave the machine a good nudge with his shoulder in an attempt to dislodge the pennies without putting any in. It never worked. The machines were set like the Rock of Gibraltar into the floor of the penny arcade and all that happened was the alarm was set off which brought the attendants running to shoo us out with threats of the jails we would reside in should we show our faces round there again.
When I became a teenager the attraction of Dreamland changed. In London a world of David Bowie, Roxy Music, T Rex and Slade existed. No one ever came to Canterbury but they did appear at Dreamland. Only one problem though. I was banned from going.
Ever since the sixties Margate equalled danger in the eyes of parents for unaccompanied teenagers. It started with mass fights between Mods and Rockers and carried on with dark tales of the worst possible danger prowling the known universe at the time -DRUGS! Evil men lurked in Margate, luring the innocent into a lifetime of addiction in order to relieve them of all hope and pocket money.
But we sneaked off anyway. Especially when Hawkwind were playing. They had a young Lemmy on bass and vocals but, more importantly, a female dancer with huge knockers whose shirt and bra would go missing on a good night. For 13 year old boys nothing could possibly be better than that.
Dreamland closed not long after. Margate became a victim of the cheap beer and sunny weather on offer in Spain and fell into a state of deepening decay.
But largely through an influx of European money things are looking up. You’ll still see a fleet of teenage mothers pushing prams up the high street, dodging the shoplifters desperately running away from overworked store guards. But now Margate is also home to The Turner Gallery, named after the painter who admired the North Kent skies so much and who was the subject of Mike Leigh’s wonderful film. There’s a charming Covent Garden like centre of antique shops, boutique hotels and restaurants and, best of all, Dreamland reopened a few years ago as a vintage recreation park.
At 9pm on September 8 2017 the wheel will turn full circle and I will be there, not as an excited teenager slinking off for illicit pleasure, but as a fully fledged performer appearing at Mick Moriaty’s wonderful Undercover Festival. It’s one of a number of festivals we are playing in 2017. Since we blew people’s socks off at Riverside Rebellion they haven’t stopped coming in!
I’m told by regulars that Undercover is a seriously good time for all who attend. To say I can’t wait is an understatement.