It’s Definitely not Grim Up North!

There are some heroes on this small island of ours. Fighters who keep the flame alive and give a platform to those of us who plow our furrow in the unfashionable and underloved arena of melodic, tuneful, punk rock, – heroes who enable weekends as fun-filled and fulfilling as the one just passed.

We’ve been guilty of ignoring the Northern end of Great Britain for a couple of years. Those Germans, Scandinavians, Spanish, Irish and even Americans are just so damn welcoming. And I don’t know what we’ve done to Rebellion but they never answer our emails. We started to put that right this week though.

So step forward  Mr Joe Maddox and his band The Breakdowns. We needed a stopover between London and Glasgow and up they came with our salvation. The Chameleon Arts Cafe: smack bang in the middle of Nottingham on a thursday night. Run by two very friendly fellas who are determined to enjoy their work and make sure their wares are up to scratch before offering them for sale. If you ask nicely they are also not backward in coming forward with the Jaegermeister post show.

Heated to a level just a few degrees below St Petersburg on Christmas eve, the Chameleon still has a warmth only the good people of Nottingham can engender. I lived in this town for a couple of years when I was helping to run Nottingham Forest FC (twice Champions of Europe!) and I love coming back to hear the dulcet tones of the local OAPs telling me: “You’re blocking the road and breaking the law”!  Well I was, but only because we had to stop somewhere in the car to telephone the venue which is hidden down an alley and up some stairs. A great crowd, a great thursday night and we were bloody good too.

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Sophie and Mauro

And so to Glasgow. Last time we were there was a Saturday afternoon matinée. Bold idea and a good one. This time it would be a friday night proper, promoted once again by the charming Alex Mainy Main, a man of many entertaining opinions, as evidenced by his blog –“Itsaxxxxthing” (Warning: do not read if you like your point of view filtered by the Daily Mail, or are of a Trumpish disposition). He is also a general doer of good deeds for struggling musicians through his local collective The New Hellfire Club. The venue, Audio, is one of the best in the UK as were the two support bands, Media Whores and Heavy Drapes.

I love a big stage. Give us a Big Stage and we’ll show you how to use it! Sophie K Powers threw her best poses, thrashing away with no regard for life or limb,  a blur of hair, white Les Paul Junior and legs.

Mauro Venegas strutted his patch, a wild mixture of Mick Ronson and Steve Jones. Our own Jones (Karen) whacked away behind. How does someone so light hit those drums so damn hard?

And me? You know what I do when you give me a bit of space.

We were shit hot that night. It was worth the long drive just by itself.

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Audio Glasgow: Brilliant Venue

Afterwards we headed off to sample the bars of Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow late on a drunken Friday night? Well why not? You only die once.

Actually it wasn’t threatening at all. We arrived in an establishment full of young bearded fellows, quite clearly off their faces on MDMA, throwing karate poses to each other in time to modern music of indeterminate quality. The girls, clearly also floating in another dimension, were together enough to be pissed off at the lack of attention from the blokes who, despite their lack of terrestrial presence, seemed to be quite aware that they looked like a bunch of bearded Craig Revel Horwoods.

And then things got weirder. The besuited DJs played first “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, then Whitney Huston, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton and a whole host of guilty pleasures from the 70s and 80s. By this time the place was heaving with hipsters all getting off to music they probably wouldn’t be seen dead owning up to on Sunday morning.

We’d been joined by Guy Jardine, boss at Rebel in Print T Shirts (Check them out), a man who wouldn’t be seen dead on facebook (cough) and unmistakably: A PUNK! “This isn’t Punk” grumbled Guy, “Punk was invented to get rid of all this”! “Don’t be a silly sausage” I said. “Yes, come and have a dance” said Sophie. So off he sheepishly trotted to have a bop whereupon the DJ took Lionel Ritchie off and put on Billy Idol to save Guy’s blushes. Hospitable people these Scots.

And so to Middlesbrough, home to Stephen Harland and his Riverside Rebellion. Well at least there’s one Rebellion festival which will have us 😉

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Riverside Rebellion

And that is what you call a line up.

We were on at the perfect time: about 8 pm. But: we followed Church of Eon and Cyanide Pills. Watching them both I was thinking, “This is going to take some serious showing off to keep up with”. Church of Eon even had a portly local jump up in his ABBA pyjamas during their cover of Mama Mia.

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Man in ABBA Pyjamas

Cyanide Pills were simply magnificent: everything you want when Leeds meets Lager.

So we really did get up to some serious, world-class showing off. There weren’t the wide open spaces of Audio so we crashed into each other a lot, I couldn’t hear a word I was singing and the mike kept flying off its stand. But I think we pulled the largest crowd of the night and kept them there to our glorious finale.

On the way back to the hotel Mauro stopped to pick up a local delicacy: the Chicken Parma. He had a half sized one which was about 4 kilos of breaded, fried chicken covered in 3 litres of melted cheese and a bucket of fries. I share a hotel room with him and was worried (having seen Monty Python’s Meaning of Life).

Back in London the next day I discovered that the first band on in Nottingham, Bones Park Rider, had kindly sent me a recording of our set. In celebration of this deliriously wonderful jaunt we offer a 15 minute extract for download here. It’s completely free (subject to Bandcamp’s monthly limit) although you can pay a little if you want to.

London, Brighton, Sheffield, Grimsby, York and Nottingham again in the first quarter of next year do you say? I can’t wait.

Post Script (3 Jan 2017) Following this post a number of people contacted Rebellion to say we are great. Rebellion have contacted us and we have been offered a slot for this summer. I love you all!

 

 

Kiss and Make Up

Well it happened and what a joy it did.

The ever smiling Harry Steen, arranger of gigs in far flung corners of Norway, purveyor of fresh Norwegian salmon at unexpected times, and general uplifter of the soul, sent me a text: “Is it alright if Honest John comes on the tour?”. “Is it alright?”  Bloody hell! Is it alright if all my birthdays come at once?  Is it alright if Cara Delevigne declares she’s gone off girls and would like to pop round tonight?

“Does he want to?” I replied. “He says yes”, was the short answer.

I didn’t think it would happen though.

Believe it or not, there were those who tried to stop it. To the incredulity of all in the know, there was an element (no member of The Boys I hasten to add) on the phone to John, many times a day, heaping pressure on him not to play with me. And John hates confrontation. A lover of the easy life he’ll shy away from anger rather than be the cause of trouble.

But good for him. A bang on the head and glimpse of the hereafter has given John a view of life a little above the rest of us. And: an ability he once didn’t have to ignore silliness.

I still didn’t think it would happen though.

But the week before, I was on the phone to our mutual mate Jim the vicar who mentioned with joy in his heart: “So John says he’s coming on tour with you next week”. “Did he say that?” I said.

I still didn’t think it would happen though.

But on Thursday 14 April 2016 we were in Oslo and so was John. Ready to play his classic “Where have all the Good Girls gone”, and an almighty cover of M.O.T.O.’s “I hate my fucking Job”, backed by the outstanding Oslo band, Hard Luck Street. And more importantly John was there to play “Box No.”, “Sick on You” and “First Time” with us.

I’ve spent the last 3/4 years with the Big Heads praising and promoting The Boys. In print, on the radio, and at every gig I laud their achievements and what they meant to the world. And especially John, author of so many classic songs. So what a thrill at the appointed hour as the big man stepped up, plugged in and launched into Box No. Oh how I’ve missed standing in front of that monster, world class chug. Even If you ignore all his other achievements John could take any other punk on in a rhythm guitar contest and wipe the floor with them.

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The audience were a wall of cameras and phones. Word had got around Oslo through John’s many friends that this reunion was happening and the various gadgets couldn’t hide the mile wide smiles on faces as the familiar, iconic intro chords to “First Time” rang out.

As I looked up I felt a huge wave of relief that this had come to pass. We nearly lost the fella last year and I would never have had the chance again. There’s a lot of silliness in the world but we only live once. Let’s ban silliness and, like John, rise above it.

We’d all be happier and better off.

Some things never change though. On the last night of the tour I was at the bar ordering my customary pre-show water when a familiar Londonised Yorkshire voice cut across the room: “Duncan Reid LPs; half price for cash”! Yep. Someone had let him loose on the Merch stall!

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Honest? You’ve gotta love him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honest John Plain has been fibbing again
Honest John Plain has been fibbing again

 

Scandinavians: probably the most generous fans in the world

Last summer our delightful Norwegian agent, Harry Steen, turned up to our London show with three kilos of salmon and four jars of caviar. It was a charming gift, albeit constituting a somewhat unconventional package to carry around at a gig.Thankfully he brought the fish in a cool bag so I managed to get it home without it starting to hum our tunes.

Wild Norwegian salmon. What a treat.

Stockholm last week managed to surpass that. My total haul for the gig was as follows:

1 hand painted portrait freshly arrived from Finland,
2 bottles of liquorice firewater,
2 bars of dark chocolate, and …….

the icing on the cake ……….

2 jars of peanut butter.

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Hand Painted Portrait by the effervescant Juha Rindall from Finland

 

Aren’t people wonderful?

Rock and Roll: it beats shopping and still provides the essentials of life.

Check out some steaming footage of C’est la Vie from Stockholm here

Our version of that Boys classic Soda Pressing here

Thinking

Jeepster

Long Long Gone

Duncan and Tim’s South American Jaunt. Part 6: Montevideo revisited

You can read part 5 of this blog here

And so to the ferry across the River Plate and the bus to Montevideo. I’d played here two years earlier with The Boys and had the time of my life. So much so that I wrote a song about it and, in particular, the ClashCityRockers bar where I’d spent most of the time hanging out.

The effect of the song was pretty much to big the place up and everyone was talking about going to this mythical location as if it would be the source of all happiness. “What have I done?”, I thought. “It’s only a bar. Everyone is going to be so let down”.

The gig was in the smallest venue of the tour with a suitably scaled down audience but the reaction was the loudest and most raucous. Tim was not allowed to leave the stage and nor where we.

There was also a first for all of us: an outdoors dressing room! Liz came into the four walled, lit up area, about the size of a normal room. It normally served as the grill area of the bar. “This has got a very high ceiling”, she said looking at the sky. “And it’s got a barbecue!”.

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Having a laugh in the outdoor dressing room

And onto ClashCityRockers for an after show drink. It didn’t take long for Alex to get up on the tables with Tim’s guitar and start taking requests, most of which he could sing and play to the delight of the locals. Everyone took turns to join in and goodness knows how long we were there singing and drinking. All I know is it was 7am when we left.

“How do you do this all the time?” I asked Valentina, wife of Hugo who organised the gig. “We only do it when you come”, she replied smiling.

“This bar is the best place in the whole world, isn’t it?”, said Alex to Tim as we made our way out. “Not far off. But then so was everywhere else”, was the reply which pretty much summed it up.

A truly superb week. New friends made, especially Jose on drums, Tommy and Juan on guitars, Chino the roadie and Mariano to thank for organising it all. Sad farewells made as the rest of the guys headed back to Buenos Aires.

Liz and I stayed on an extra day as I had a date with the minister to receive my “Illustrious Visitor” award. A charming lady as it happened, who made a welcoming speech which I responded to in Spanish without mishap. Then onto a TV station for an interview which, this time, I took the sensible way out and did in English.

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Getting ready for my close up on Uruguayan TV

As we walked up the steps to the hotel a very sprightly old black guy came down toward us. Dressed in one of those 50’s American jackets James Dean might wear, and a captain’s hat, he was the coolest looking 86 year old you’ll ever see.

“That’s Chuck Berry”, said Liz and by George it was. So, one of the greatest Rock n Roll poets and inventor of the rock lead guitar is in town and I’m the “Illustrious Visitor”?

“C’est la Vie” said the old folk.

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A sprightly young man passes us in the hotel

Duncan and Tim’s South American Adventure Part 5: Back to BA

You can read part 4 of this blog here

And so we traveled the blissfully short 3 hour drive from Rosario back to Buenos Aires. You may remember I had left my telephone in Brazil with my iPad charger. Emails back to England had elicited help and FedEx had been engaged to ferry the equipment from Rio to BA. I was looking forward to picking it up in the hotel and for the twitches which come from being estranged from these modern day curses to subside.

“You were expecting a package from FedEx”, said the receptionist. “Yes”, I replied in joy. “The customs have impounded it” he said. “You are #*$¥%}ing joking me”, was my measured response after less sleep in a week than I’m accustomed to enjoying for a Saturday afternoon nap.

It turns out that Argentina’s much admired and completely rational president, Kristina Kirchner, has had a spat with Apple. She demanded they build a factory in her country, they declined, so she banned my particular model of iPhone. I could go to a Customs office in the equivalent of Swansea on Monday, in person and only in person, pay a fine, whereupon my iPhone would be restored to me.

“But I’ll be in Uruguay on Monday and from there I’m traveling back to Brazil and the UK”, was my plaintive cry. All were agreed it was not a promising situation.

At least there was better news from Uruguay. A government minister would be welcoming me to his office on Monday afternoon to present me with a medal as an “Illustrious Visitor” to Montevideo. The only musicians to receive this honour before were Paul MacCartney and Elton John. This was, of course, in recognition for the song “Montevideo” on my cd “Little Big Head”, a song inspired by my last trip to the city which was largely spent in an alcoholic haze of the night time hours in a bar called ClashCityRockers.

So you celebrate getting rat arsed in a city and they give you a medal for it. My kind of town.

“If he’s a government minister tell him to get onto Kirchner and get your phone back”‘ was the solitary response from a geographically challenged, and unimpressed Liz.

And so to the nights show. By now the whole team were running on pure adrenaline and audience reaction to overcome the lack of sleep. Both adrenaline and audience reaction were there in copious quantities.
Tim was in fine form as ever and the Adverts song, “One Chord Wonders”, which we played together as he joined me and the band on stage at the end of my set, particularly went down a storm.

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Tim with the gaucho Big Heads on One Chord Wonders

An early night. In bed by 3pm and six, count them, six whole hours of sleep before getting the ferry across the River Plate, a river the width of the English Channel, in the morning.

Duncan and Tim’s South American Adventure Part 4: Tandil to Rosario

Read Part 3 of this blog here

So, a stupendous if somewhat late night in Tandil. Today a 9 hour haul to the lovely town of Rosario. Now, here’s a fact you might not know: there is one heck of a lot of grass in Argentina. The road from Tandil to Rosario goes straight from south to north through flat terrain of mile after mile of ……………. grass.

Not a lot happened. There was a welcome burst of excitement each time we needed petrol. Especially at one stop where Mariano pulled up at the kiosk to pay. A battered car approached from the other direction which slowed down but didn’t quite stop. The rotund driver opened his door and leapt out, door left swinging as the car hurtled toward us with no one at the wheel and no brake on. Liz leapt onto our car horn and started honking for all her worth. “That’ll stop it”, we thought. The runaway car came to a halt just short of our driver’s door.

Such excitement over we became a little bored. As car passenger backside set in we became so bored, in fact, that we decided to play pub cricket. It’s a childhood game you play on long journeys in England where all pubs have a name. As you pass a pub the person “in” scores “runs” according to the number of legs in the title. E.g. the “Dog and Duck” will score you 6 runs. If the pub name has no legs, e.g. “The Plough”, you are “out”.

There aren’t any pubs in Argentina so we managed to while away quite some time that way on the look out!

Rosario hove into view at 8 pm. Bags dropped at the luxurious Holiday Inn and sound check. We were due to play at 1 am but the audience didn’t start to show up till then. I think you might be starting to get the drift here? So, after 3 hours sleep in 48 we took the stage at 3am.

But that’s when it’s all worth it. Great audience, great show.

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Cast and Crew from the Tour

Liz, Tim and I left the venue at 5 pm to the cries of incredulous locals. “You are leaving so early?”, they insisted. “Stay a while. There’s plenty of life here yet”. And I bet there was, but after the delights of the Hotel Austral in Tandil the night before, the vast acres of freshly laundered cotton covering our bed in the Rosario Holiday Inn were enticing like a Siren’s song, calling out to tired mariners nearing land after being adrift for eternity on a sea of pampas grass.

Click here for footage from the Rosario Show

You can read part 5 of this blog here

Duncan and Tim’s South American Adventure Part 3: The Real work begins

Read Part 2 of this blog here

Tuesday and a beautifully sunny, mishap free day arrived in Buenos Aires. There’s no blue like a clear day in “BA”, as the locals call it.

Liz and I wandered the haphazard, cobbled streets around the hotel, popping in and out of shops and lunching on the pavement of a “Parilla” restaurant. A mountain of steak, salad, grilled tomato and wine set us back a fiver a head.

8 pm saw the first rehearsal which went on till 11 at Tomas, local Dave Grohl lookalike’s, apartment. Out the back he has a wide, tiled, walled garden. The kind of space you’d kill for in a London townhouse. It was now midnight. Tomorrow was a working or school day depending on the age of our new friends so, after a long day, everyone did the logical thing.

They all called their wives to bring the respective tribes of children round, the barbecue was lit and a delightful few hours were spent into the early hours eating, drinking and talking under the stars, music playing with no complaints from the neighbours.

South American logic, you see? Sleep isn’t very important, having a good time is.

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Tommy’s garden at God knows what hour. He’s poking his head in top right. “Sleep’s not important”

Wednesday arrived and all the parts were assembled. Tim “TV” Smith arrived early in the morning after his 24 hour flight, with a day to be spent staying awake to avoid being completely messed up by the jet lag.

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Mariano and Alex doing something weird at Recoleta

So, a day sight seeing at the stunning Recoleta cemetery. And La Boca, home to Boca Juniors and vividly painted houses. At the lunch restaurant one of the cocktails offered on the drinks menu was “Vodka and Speed”! Perhaps a translation error but we decided to pass as everyone had ordered the “all you can eat pasta buffet” and thought it might be a waste of money after such an aperitif.

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“Vodka with Speed” Yep. That’ll be an “Energetic Drink”

Having just come from the cemetery across the road we also passed on one of the main courses, labeled on the English menu as a “Stiff”.

Another 3 hours rehearsal in the evening but this time bed at a reasonable hour before the 5 hour journey south to the farming city of Tandil: home to the most famous sausage, salami and cheese in Argentina and soon to witness the respective Southern Hemisphere debuts of TV Smith and Duncan Reid and the Gaucho Big Heads.

There were 2 support bands that night. Tim was to play at 1 in the morning and myself at 2 am. This was a Thursday night gig, remember, not a weekend. Try getting people out midweek in London past 10 pm!

We checked into the hotel and all were in agreement that these were not the roomiest, brightest nor most recently decorated and furnished spaces we had ever stayed in. In fact, we were all looking forward to checking out. What didn’t bother us, though, was the dull thud of drums and bass coming from the band in the bar downstairs. We wouldn’t be getting to bed before 4pm so, of course, the din would be finished by then and wouldn’t disturb the precious few hours sleep to be grabbed before setting off on tomorrow’s 8 hour drive back north to Rosario. It’s a big country, Argentina.
We arrived at the venue in time to catch The Nylons, a really entertaining Ramones tribute act. They feature a singer who gives a truly remarkable vocal impersonation of Joey. Close your eyes and it’s him.

I’d wondered how Tim would go down here. He’s great of course, but Argentineans like their music with driving guitars and drums. How would our acoustic guitar backed political troubadour fare among a crowd with little grasp of English?

No need to worry. Argentinean audiences are magnificently welcoming and Tim had them eating out of his hand, the reaction growing with each song towards a rapturous finale.

And so it was with us. Absolutely bloody exhilarating. From the kick off with Montevideo, through highlights from Little Big Head and The Boys, to a finale with Tim on One Chord Wonders. Varying degrees of pandemonium ensued. At times a stern, school masterly, Mariano was required at the front to keep things in check. His magisterial gaze even made me feel naughty and I was meant to be on the stage.

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Poster for the Tandil gig. The yellow was the inspiration for the cover of “The Difficult Second Album”

Afterwards, having towelled down a bit, there was a deluge of Latin warmth as I went back out to the venue. Photos, CDs for signing, kisses on the cheek, unfortunately from both sexes, hands to be shaken, backs to be slapped and hugs to be exchanged. At one point I was surrounded by 5 extremely interested and gorgeous teenage girls. Not the worst experience I’ve ever suffered but it would soon be dawn and I needed my beauty sleep. But help was at hand as I spotted a nearby Alex.

“Here’s my friend, Alex” I explained to each of them before sneaking off, looking back at a slightly bewildered, but mostly delighted multi instrumentalist. “Mmmm”, I thought to myself. “There’s a song in there”. And, indeed there is. I’d been saying to Tim earlier that I’d a good tune in my head but was struggling for a theme to write the lyrics to. (Note: check out “Just as Good as I used to be” on “The Difficult Second Album”)

Downstairs a band was playing Gaucho, horse riding, cow punching music and people were dancing. Outside, at 4.30 pm in the morning, in the equivalent of Kettering, people were queuing 4 abreast for 50 yards to carry on partying the night away.

The whole of Tandil was up and at it. A multitude of dogs were joining in, engaged either in canine courtship or playing with the traffic up and down the roads.

Back in the hotel the underlying band were in full swing and the paper thin walls were keeping neither their sound nor that coming from the other residents. The latter were either returning back, or just as likely, heading out for a little reverie before work in a few hours time.

We did manage a couple of hours sleep though. On departure for Rosario shops were open and the populus were at work and in school. How, I don’t know, but there is much that is unfathomable about this admirable country.

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Tandil by day with that blue, blue Argentine sky

Tomorrow: the long road to Rosario when our intrepid troops would suffer from “car journey backside”.

You can read part 4 of this blog here

Duncan and Tim’s South American Jaunt Part 2: a partially successful radio interview.

You can read Part 1 of this blog here

So, we last left our intrepid travellers landing in Buenos Aires as night descended with no phone and no directions as to where to go. Would Liz and I be alright? Or would we be left to wander the streets forlornly looking for help?

Of course not. I was just being artificially dramatic to create a cliffhanger ending in the style of the best Brazilian soap operas which play on their TV channels for most of the evening.

Liz had a phone and, in any case, trusty Mariano, my Argentinian friend and collaborator, was there at the airport to meet us.

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Mariano Asch: Our lives were in this man’s hands!

We were therefore safely ferried to our hotel, bags were dropped, faces were refreshed and off we set to pick up a newly arrived and very much jet lagged Alex, multi instrumentalist and vocalist from the Big Heads. We passed by the rehearsal room to say hello to Dave Grohl lookalike Tomas of The Mamushkas, and Juan and Jose from local legends Katarro Vandaliko, who were lending extremely able backing on guitars and drums for the following gigs in Argentina and Uruguay.

They played us a couple of songs and all was extremely reassuring. Hugs all round and, very worryingly, Alex was starting to assimilate the local culture at an alarming rate by joining in with the custom of kissing male colleagues. Admittedly, there were no tongues involved and the manoeuvre was lips to bearded cheek, but – still not to be encouraged.

Male bonding achieved off we went. It was 10.30 at night and Alex who, even when not knackered, could sleep on a high wire strung between two skyscrapers, was coerced into finding something to eat. As the food was ordered in the bustling restaurant Mariano’s phone rang. “It’s a radio show”, he said. “They want to know if you will do a telephone interview now”. “Does the DJ speak English?”‘ I asked. “They want to do it in Spanish”, was the reply.

Now languages are one of my hobbies. I hate going anywhere and not being able to converse. At the same time I love the greater understanding that a little comprehension brings as you learn how people express themselves. So, I have a completely misleading grasp of French, German, Spanish and, many would say, English. Misleading in that I can appear to be conversant in a language while having no idea what people are talking about.

“I’ll give it a go, then” was my foolhardy response and Mariano passed me his phone.

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Mariano: As he would like to be seen

Liz, meanwhile, was completely oblivious to the fact that I was trying to conduct a radio interview in a foreign language and all she could see was that I was carrying on the completely unacceptable social practice of talking very loudly on a mobile phone in a restaurant. There was only one appropriate response to this and that was to strike up a very loud conversation with Alex to make it difficult for me to hear whoever I was talking to and so stop at once!

And so the interview began. Against a background of a bustling restaurant enhanced by marital misunderstanding the interviewer fired off his first question at machine gun speed. I had not a clue what he’d said. “Que?” Was my Manuelesque response and so the question was repeated. Again, not the slightest shred of comprehension on my part. Panic set in and quick action was required if British honour was not to be lost. I said what came into my head. “Yes, I am delighted to be back in Argentina and really looking forward to playing here again”.

There was stunned silence at the other end of the line. A silence which quite eloquently conveyed the message “what on earth is this half wit doing talking about that, when we’ve asked him something of far greater import?”.

And so a second question was ventured. Again, quite inaudible and unintelligible against the restaurant and wifely din, but a question which clearly contained the words “Margaret Thatcher”, who had died that day.

I had long ago discovered that, as an Englishman, discussing anything to do with “The Malvinas” in Argentina is best avoided, especially by telephone from a crowded restaurant on FM radio in a language which is not your first, in answer to a question not understood in the first place. It was then that I pulled my master stroke.

“I’m very sorry”, I said, ” but I can’t understand a word you are saying because my wife is sitting beside me and won’t stop talking in my ear”.

There was audible relief at the other end of the line from the two male members of the team who collapsed into gales of laughter. They were not dealing with a half wit and normality was restored by means of a macho cliche: the wife who won’t stop talking. Very unfair on Liz and, not for the first time, she had come riding to my rescue by taking the blame for a scrape I had got myself into by overestimating the extent of my abilities.

The aural equivalent of back slapping commiserations were conveyed down the phone and the interview proceeded in English, with no further mention of Margaret Thatcher nor anything connected to military skirmishes in the South Atlantic.

Disaster averted and normality restored: Englishmen conversing in English, the rest of the world joining in, and not a hint of men kissing each other on the cheek.

Read Part 3 of this blog here

The Rock Twins

Rock Twins
Jessica and Janine Lenz

You know, often when you are on tour you meet the most remarkable people who dismiss their lives as boring while performing feats of heroics. Single mums who hold it together, long distance lorry drivers, firemen (now what have they seen and done which I could never manage), ……………… every day people who have brought families up with all the trials and tribulations that entails.

Last week in Munich was something special though.

Tine, our wonderful German agent/tour manager (who we normally call “Mum”) told me earlier in the evening that the Rock Twins were coming. They are apparently quite a feature in Munich, not least because of their ability to play a song, both of them on the same guitar. And as we were on stage they were there; right at the front smiling and enjoying the set.

After the gig I was found by their friend, Andi who said “There are two young girls who would love to meet you. Do you have 5 minutes?” And thank goodness I did because I then spent an enchanting time with Jessica and Janine.

“Hi”, they said, “we think you are such a great writer. You are the story teller of punk. We love your stories and the way you tell them. Like Joe where you change the gender of the protagonist without changing the name, and like how you use the same word weather/whether in the same line and like ……..”. And so they carried on, taking turns to speak but with one often picking up mid sentence from the other. They gave me a detailed analysis of my lyrics knowing far more about them than me, understanding everything: all the nuances and double meanings.

I answered their questions filling in a few holes in their knowledge such as who Joe was written about and all the time thinking: “This is amazing. It would be incredible for an English speaker to understand so much of what I’ve written, let alone two German girls for whom English is their second language”.

And there was something else that made me feel even more humble. It shouldn’t have made any difference and maybe it shows up a little bit of prejudice in me but I suddenly realised they are both totally blind.

I later learned that they studied as translators and interpreters so my astonishment at their grasp of English was completely misplaced. It didn’t diminish my sense of wonder though for two beautiful, super intelligent human beings.

I came away from our chat floating on air, exhilarated that what I do is so understood and appreciated by two blind, young German girls in a far flung town. It’s such days that make it worthwhile and I’ll always be grateful to the Rock Twins.