In October 2019 we went to Japan and Korea, supposedly to play 7 shows and it’s true: we did do that.
We also caught many very fast trains, ate some delicious food out of boxes, met the most respectful but friendly people (like Rumi) , washed stains off our trousers with holy water, cycled around Kyoto on and off pavements to holy shrines, a taxi drivers cafe and along a river, never bothered to lock the front door of our Airbnb because you don’t have to, nearly fell in a number of ornamental lakes, dropped our sunglasses into a number of ornamental lakes, worried about football sized spiders dropping on our heads and pretended we were mediaeval horsemen taking part in an archery contest (I kid you not. The evidence is below).
And in all of this we were lead astray by a Welshman, Russ Mainwaring, pretending to speak Japanese to uncomprehending locals while filming our every move, begging us with all his heart to buy a “go everywhere” train ticket so as not to be forced to queue at every station, while rescued by an army of super lovely and efficient Japanese women like Chihiro Isadora.
Big thanks to Russ for making it happen and for recording this home movie which we will always treasure:
We played Scotland Calling recently (https://festivalflyer.com/festival/scotland-calling-2019/) and like at most gigs we headed out front after and ended up at the bar. We had a fun couple of hours chatting with people, taking photos and signing things (especially enjoyable if the item had just been purchased from our merch stall!).
“Most bands charge for this”, said a nice man with a smile on his face. “Really?” we said. “What, else do they charge for?”.
“Well, Stiff Little Fingers charge £500 for someone to play with them at a soundcheck”. “Bloody Hell” we said, or something similar.
Some people just deserve a break and we want to ask you to help us give one.
Debbie and Carl North are two of the most generous, kind hearted people you will meet. Carl is a big Chelsea fan but for the purposes of this message I would ask you to put that to the back of your mind and forgive him.
Debbie, on the other hand, has absolutely no faults at all.
Debbie has been in the wars for a few years now. It started off as a mystery illness which stopped her working and became worse from there. Just recently Carl has been able to take her out of the house in a wheelchair but a stroke kept her prisoner at home for over a year.
I won’t go fully into Debbie’s symptoms as they are just too many but among the worst is that, for a women who likes to natter (and boy does she like to natter), she can’t communicate.
Earning money in this time, with Carl required to be a full time carer, hasn’t been easy especially as Debbie had to give up work as a newly qualified lawyer.
It’s a great little venue with the best sound I’ve ever heard. There are details here on the facebook event page including a ticket link.
So: please try to make a trip to Brighton to support the cause if you can. It’s a great seaside town for a pre-Christmas trip. If you can’t make it, perhaps consider buying a ticket anyway, whether or not as a present for someone who can get along.
So, let’s have a great time and raise some money to give Debbie and Carl a break
Last week we played Bristol, Boardmasters Festival (to huge acclaim I must add) and Abertillery in the beautiful valleys of Wales. A fella called John Lovell was in Bristol and Wales. We had a chat at both shows and afterwards he sent me this review. “Please rewrite it”, he said, “and don’t mention my name”. Clearly a man of great confidence.
In fact, I enjoyed the piece which evoked the evening so much I didn’t change a word. And, as for not mentioning his name, …………. Ooops!
Here it is:
A Lunchtime Superstar and his Big Heads…
Without being labelled a stalker this was the second time I’d seen Duncan Reid and the Bigheads over the August weekend.
Abertillery met me with a greeting of typical Welsh sunshine. It was pouring down!
I eventually found The Dolls House via the satnav and surprised myself by the location and surroundings.
Houses and mountains. Loads and loads of big Welsh wet mountains with lashings of rain.
Third gig for the band and a very different view.
Bristol with all the shops and road works and, I expect, Boardmasters with sunshine and blue sea.
Paid a few quid to a guy on the door and got a nice black stamp on the back of my hand. No ticket stub to add to my memorabilia.
The venue was downstairs, a compact area with a small stage, bar, dance floor, tables and chairs at the back which the bands used as a set up for their merchandise.
Met and had time to chat to Duncan who always finds time to talk. Usually the chat is after the gig.
The first of the two support acts went on and one song didn’t half sound like Honest John Plain’s “New Guitar “…
When they completed their set, Duncan chatted about songs he had written for his forthcoming fourth Big Head record.
The second support act (Plague UK) played and that’s when it struck me that The Bigheads wouldn’t be on till way past 10pm.
I’d put some pics on facebook from Bristol with the title “First Time I’d seen Duncan Reid and the Bigheads sober”: very ambiguous.
This time we all were sober (all driving home after), and first time I’d had free drinks in a pub even if it was only soda water.
The band opened with “Can’t Stop”, straight into “Montevideo”, “Soda Pressing” and “C’est La Vie”.
Then came “Baby Doll”, ”Let’s Skip to the Good Bit”, “Thinking” and “Just Because You’re Paranoid”.. but for the love of me can’t remember the banter during the pause in “Thinking”..
They were speeding through them and it wouldn’t have been believed that they had previously played the West of England and traveled hundreds of miles.
“Rolling On” was next and there was some banter which included new lyrics featuring tequila and almost a version of rawhide!
It was hot, humid and sweaty. Duncan took his jacket off and chatted about the travels of the Welsh flag seen at many a gig.
He was going to speak some Welsh taught to him by Sophie, the non-rude translation being “I love to eat cornish cheese bell quays”. The literal translation is not fit for a family publication!
An introduction of the band members followed and somehow they all became Jones or Evans: quite apt for Abertillery.
The venue like many others is under threat from residents which seems a little unfair as the wedding party from upstairs joined in, but to the disappointment of the band, failed to bring down any food.
Looking round there were wedding guests dancing in the hall and children’s faces pressed against the doors’ glass windows.
People started to drift in after hearing the music blasting onto the street.
Not sure but maybe those living nearby opened their windows. Rain or no rain, I would have. Maybe the Bigheads saved the Doll?
“Rolling on” was followed by “Bombs Away” which saw Duncan throw in some well-rehearsed choreography moves pointing to each guitar player.
Some more “Boys” tunes followed in “Brickfield” and “First Time” which got the crowd singing and jumping, and “Terminal love”, the Old Grey Whistle Test guitar version, my favourite.
Duncan joined the crowd during “First Time” doing well to avoid the water on the floor from the air conditioning unit above the front of the stage.
After a few more it was into the encore: “That’s the Way it is”, “Shortest Song in the World” (three times), “One Night in Rio” and “Sick on You”.
One of the best performances from the band I have seen and, looking at their smiles and the body language between them all, they did as well.
At the end they looked exhausted. I took about five photos of the evening: unknown for me to take so few, and the reason why? It’s hard to snap when you’re singing and jumping.
I know they went down well with a good Welsh crowd from seeing the people round the merchandise table at the end of the gig.
They liked The Kid and hope he comes back with his Big Heads sometime in the future, and there is a future for The Dolls House.
So, a fourth album in the pipeline, the songs are gonna have to be belters to get any chance featuring in any future Big Heads sets..
Sorry Duncan you’re going to have to play the set faster or longer 😉
The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds is a gem of a venue. Perfect size, great stage, proper backstage, great city, lovely Yorkshire people: all was set fair.
We were a bit worried about playing on the first Friday after New Year. Would everybody be on dry January or skint or just recovering from the excesses of the previous week? And in truth advance sales hadn’t been great. We’d even resorted to some promotion which was demanding as there was no way Facebook was tolerating the advertising of a show including a band called The Fuckwits who, along with the witty, quirky and just generally wonderful Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies, were our support for the night.
But commeth the hour and the good folk of Yorkshire didn’t desert us. A great turnout was present as we took to the stage.
Now there’s one thing my voice seems not to be able to survive: stage smoke. Just one puff seems to be enough to remove all the moisture from my throat and leave me with a croak where my once mellifluous, seductive, uplifting, honey-dewed tones of a siren used to be. The effect is quite horrible to hear.
And as we stood ready to crash into the opening chord of Can’t Stop, first song of the show, I spied the tell tale trail of deadly, white, puffs of doom escaping from a blower above the stage, drifting toward me like The Fog in that film by John Carpenter.
And so, quite reasonably, I let out a little girly squeek of panic and leapt into the air, waving my arms about in order to grab the attention of the sound and lighting guy, the man responsible for spreading the end of the world (-well my voice anyway) across the stage.
Unfortunately, after decades of practice with a heavy Rickenbacker bass (now resplendantly purple, by the way) slung round my neck, I am rather good at jumping. And so my head went straight into the sharp corner of a pa speaker cabinet hung above the stage.
For the first time ever, after many decades of experience, I heard and saw an entire audience, in perfect unison, to a man and women, with shocked looks on their faces, say: “Ouch!”.
Karen, Nick and Sophie had similar looks (actually Nick was laughing, the heartless bastard!). “You’re bleeding”, said Karen, a vegetarian so not used to such things. I rushed into the dressing room thinking: “Shall I put a plaster on” but realised there’s very little you can make stick to your hair. The wonderful Chris Jones, promoter for the night, had left some lovely soft, white towels for us. They didn’t stay white for long.
I thought I’d stopped the bloodflow and so ran back on stage to launch into the show. Completely oblivious, I had no idea I still looked like an extra from a spaghetti western until the next day I saw this photo on Facebook, a testament to the unfaltering bravery, and never say die willingness to suffer for his art, character of your humble bass playing Big (Red) Head!
We have had some great times in this band and last weekend was up there with them. Gridlock in London on Friday made us late to The Lighthouse, Deal but the welcome made the 5 hour journey worthwhile. Then thanks to everyone who crammed into The Black Heart for Camden Rocks on Saturday. There wasn’t the same full house for all who played there.
Pride of place, though, goes to the people at Wychwood who stayed in the pouring rain to cheer us on. Not one of you heroes left when the heavens opened and it made us feel so humble. Thank you!
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.
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 )
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.
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.