Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christy Moore,Royal Festival Hall,April 18th 2014

The concert on Friday at the Royal Festival Hall was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have ever had. Partly because of the company I was with and partly because Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott were simply great.. Here is what happened.
                                I got to Waterloo station and there was The Festival Hall right next door which was handy I thought. A quick stroll across the bridge and I found my hotel on the Strand. Then I met up with my friends Jacky and Bill and their daughter Sarah. It was especially nice to see Sarah because i hadn't seen her since Glasto 97. After an hour we were joined by my nephew Dominic. It was great to see Dominic again as well. We chilled out for a couple of hours and then took a leisurely walk back over the river and found a nice restaurant by the Southbank and had some nice food. Then we walked to the Festival Hall and sat outside by the river until it was show time and we took our seats.

                                                                                Christy and Declan were joined by young Jimmy Higgins who I had never seen before who really added to the sound on a variety of percussion instruments. The first song was Biko Drum probably chosen as Christy's tribute to Nelson Mandela. This got warm applause and Christy said, " Thank you very much, I can tell you are all full of hot cross buns". This was followed by Natives which was really moving. One thing I really like about Christy is that he believes in singing every word really clearly so even if someone hasn't heard a song before they can understand what he is saying. Some singers mumble the words and you don't know what they are banging on about. The next song was City Of Chicago from the Ride On album which is where I first discovered Christy's music thirty years ago. Another great song was Smoke And Strong Whisky written by Larry Page. Black Is The Colour was wonderful. It was written by Hamish Imlach. Declan picked out some beautiful notes and the audience joined in. The hilarious Delirium Tremens followed and then A Pair Of Brown Eyes by the great Shane McGowan. Some eejit near the front kept heckling Christy and he said, "If you interrupt me again I’ll have you out and you can have your money back". It must be really annoying for a performer when they are concentrating and doing their best for the audience and somebody keeps distracting them. Anyway, there were no further interruptions so it did the trick.
Magdalene Laundries followed which is a really sad song. I always thought that the Magdalene Laundries were only a shameful part of Irish history but the first one  opened in England and they actually spread all over the world. Another sad song followed They Never Came Home which is about the tragedy at the Stardust night club in Dublin in which 48 young people died but it did actually remind me of the South Korean ferry disaster of a few days ago. I can't think of another singer who cares more passionately about social issues than Christy. The story of Farmer Michael Hayes was next. It’s one of the great songs on the Folk Tale album. The beautiful ballad written by Barney Rush Nancy Spain was next which really pleased this audience. Christy has recorded several songs written by Jimmy McCarthy and Jimmy's song Missing You was next. Then a song I was certain would be sung tonight Sweet Thames Flow Softly written by the great Ewan MacColl. Does This Train Stop On Merseyside? was especially poignant with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster being last week. Christy's great song about the Irish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War Viva La Quince Brigada followed which is another great song from the Ride On album. Declan then sang one of his own songs which was a great country blues type song but I’m afraid I don't know what it is called. Sorry Declan, I hope one of the experts will tell me.( Colm aged 9 from Kerry tells me it was called Blood Rushes Through My Veins)

                                                                                                                                                                 Christy's great peace song North And South Of The River followed and I thought it was particularly apt as it was Good Friday and the 16th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The Well Below The Valley is a great song that Christy's band Planxty recorded in 1973 and Christy said that he learned the song from a singer from the travelling community called John Reilly. The Voyage is one of Christy's most popular songs and it was written by Johnny Duhan so it must have made Johnny a few bob over the years. Bog Man was next and this song was written by Christy's brother Luka Bloom. One of my favourite songs Curragh Of Kildare was next followed by the great Lisdoonvarna. One of the many reasons I have always liked this song is because it mentions Van The Man. I think Christy must like Van as well because Van gets a mention in his Weekend In Amsterdam song. Ordinary Man followed and then Beeswing.I found this very moving because it reminded me of Kim. Afterwards I said that I didn't think Christy's version was as good as Richard Thompson's original which is a stupid thing to say because they are both great versions in their own way.

Christy then recited On The Mainland from his Graffiti Tongue album of 1996 in which he has a poke at the BBC for claiming Seamus Heaney as a British Nobel Prize winner. Then it was the crowd pleaser Don’t Forget Your Shovel which evolved into some hilarious nonsense about meeting Charles and Camilla in the Acoustic Tent at Glastonbury. I was glad that Christy sang Ride On because Sarah had said it was her favourite Christy song. This was followed by Joxer Goes To Stuttgart and there was the usual huge cheer when Ray Houghton got the ball and stuck it in the net. Spancil Hill  written by John Considine in the 19th century was next and quite brilliant. The songwriter actually came from Spancil Hill which is in County Clare and he wrote the song after he emigrated to California.

                                                                              The evening was coming to an end and for an encore Christy performed Rocky Road To Dublin followed by the tear jerker Sonny’s Dream. Then Christy, Declan and Jimmy left the stage in triumph after one of the most enjoyable concerts I have ever seen.On the way out of the hall i was really pleased to meet Hilary  from County Kerry.I hadn't seen Hilary since Christy's show in Bath last year. She must be the worlds number one Christy fan so I hope Hilary will put me straight on any mistakes in this review.

                                                                    Next day walking  back across the bridge I took one last look as the sweet Thames flowed softly underneath and I renamed the London Eye the London Diddily Eye in honour of Christy Moore. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Van In Brighton, Part 2

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling all bleary eyed and goopy and the events of the night before came back to me. What a great night it had been especially getting the autograph. After the pub had closed most of the gang went their separate ways which left a hardcore of Nosey, Tom and i. We decided to see if we could get a last drink in the Grand Hotel where Nosey thought Van was staying. We hurried along the seafront in the rain but when we arrived they wouldn't serve us because we weren't residents which was a shame so i said we could go to my hotel next door,The Metropole.  The three of us relaxed in the comfortable chairs and had a really good Van related chat. I ruined it though because i went outside for a cigarette and i got chatting to this blind lady who asked me to guide her to the bar because she could murder a drink. She joined us at our table and proceeded to ruin the whole conversation by talking about herself non-stop so in the end we were relieved when the bar closed. I'd had more than enough to drink by then anyway. I had paid £12.50 in advance for breakfast but i couldn't be bothered to get up. I turned over and went back to sleep until the afternoon.

                                           When i finally got downstairs it was 3.00 in the afternoon. I went for a walk along the seafront and who should i meet but Dail and Carol. They were staying at the Grand and told me they had spotted Van at breakfast that morning. I said i'd see them later in the pub and carried on walking. I had intended to have a look around the bookshops but i couldn't be bothered so i had a walk to the end of Brighton Pier which was much more fun. It was packed with families out enjoying the half-term holidays in the sunshine. There was a tattoo parlour and i toyed with the idea of getting a Van Morrison tattoo but in the end i didn't because there were quite a few people waiting. After that i went back to Yates's because i liked the barmaid the day before. "Hello, i'm back again", i said to her and ordered some nice food and a pint of cider. Then i had a lazy stroll to the Lord Nelson stopping off at a couple of other pubs on the way. When i arrived, Othmar and Daria were already there and one by one the rest of the Vanatics arrived. The time flew by and it was time to head for the Dome.

                                                                                It wasn't a sell-out by any means and Amanda had a spare front row ticket which she gave to Brendan and Brendan gave me his ticket in Row C right near the front which was brilliant. Thank you very much Amanda and Brendan. Shana opened the proceedings again and unlike her dad she did three completely different songs to the night before. I didn't recognise the first one but i think the other two were called 10,000 Things and Blues On A Rainy Day. Van arrived on stage and started with the now familiar Celtic Swing and Close Enough For Jazz. Then a welcome change, Higher Than The World  which was great and Van's sax playing was sublime. Rough God Goes Riding followed and when Van said "Just Like Jesse James" Shana said, "Just like Van Morrison". Back On Top was next  and then So Quiet In Here which was Van at his very best. At the end Van Van was really in the zone, repeating over and over, "We can dream on, in black and white". Keep It Simple, Queen Of The Slipstream, Keeping Mediocrity At Bay  all followed with Van saying, "Move Over, Rover". Benediction was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light  with Shana. The percussionist Bobby Ruggerio was really good on that one as was Van on harmonica. Then Chris Farlowe appeared again much to my chagrin. A lot of the fans like him though and Van seems to enjoy his company. Early In the Morning, Rock Me Baby, Hoochie Coochie Man and Stormy Monday followed and Farlowe and Van dueted on Born To Sing which i have to admit i really enjoyed. Then Van played the keyboards while he and Shana sang Have I Told You Lately?. Then they duetted with That Old Black Magic. I can't understand why with Van's vast repertoire of great songs why they have to waste precious time singing this old jazz standard. The proceedings came to an end with Brown Eyed Girl, Stand By Me and Gloria. During Gloria i took the opportunity to take a couple of snaps and a bit of footage. (See Below). Soon all the gang were back on the street again, back on the corner again  and the general consensus was that it was a slightly better show than the night before but only an average one by Vans high standards. I could do with less R & B and more of the transcendental songs as shown by So Quiet In Here but that’s just my personal opinion.

                                                                                 Anyway, the night was yet young. After the pub closed Dail led the way to the Grand Hotel and as she was a resident this time we got served and we sat in the window seats and enjoyed the luxury. It was great. I had a really good chat with Miquel about Keith Jarrett because he is a big fan so i resolved to get an album by him. All good things come to an end and everybody gradually went and the bar stopped serving. I tried to get us a last drink in the Metropole but the bar had closed so that was the end of that. Next morning i caught the 10.33 train back to Westbury, back to the forlorn rags of everyday life with no more Van gigs to look forward to....but wait, it's just been announced that Van is on at the Cambridge Folk Festival....Hmm, now there’s an idea.

Van Morrison Sings Gloria at Brighton Dome 18/ 2/ 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Night I Met Van Morrison

I had a wonderful two days in Brighton seeing Van Morrison  for many reasons. Here is what happened. I caught the 11.04 train from Westbury on Monday, grateful that the trains were running after all the terrible floods and storms of the previous week. I changed trains at Southampton and arrived in Brighton about 2.00 and walked to my hotel the Hilton Metropole on the seafront. I had chosen this hotel because it was at this very hotel in the summer of 75 that i had the shortest job of my life. I had started work as a kitchen porter at 11.30 and walked out at 12.15. I bet they didn't think i would return in triumph 39 years later. After i got settled in i went for a bit of a stroll and had something to eat in Yates's and then took a slow walk to the Lord Nelson Pub in Trafalgar Street to meet my friends. It was great to see Othmar and Daria from Switzerland, Marion from The Netherlands, Julia from Marsailles, Miquel and Tony from sunny Spain, Especially great to see Simon and Sandra again  because it was Simon who started the pre-show meetings of the Van fans in the first place.  Nosey was there with his friend of 60 years Ted who i had never met before.
Over the two days i met Peter & Kathryn, Brendan from Dublin, Alan Douglas was there and Alan Randall and his wife, Tom and Sandra, Dail and her friend Carol who i met in Peterborough. Jez and his mate Steve from Worthing, Amanda and Paul, and Sue from London and her husband.  I hope i haven't forgotten anyone. The Van fans are wonderful, i don't think i have ever met one that i don't like and they are so kind and generous. Julia gave me a really nice gift that i am playing right now and Nosey gave me some great  memorabilia from a friend Kenny from California who i have never met but i hope we meet up one day.  Van has created some amazing friendships without realising it.... Eventually it was time to make our way to the Dome. Kim and i came to this venue to see Van in 2004.and it was one of the lesser Van concerts i have been to but after the enjoyable Bristol gig a few weeks ago i was hoping for a great night.

          I took my seat in the circle and Van's daughter Shana came on first with the band minus the brass section to start the evening. She looked beautiful as always and sang three songs, God Must Love Me, Serve Me Right To Suffer and Higher And Higher  which i really enjoyed. Then it was time for the Celtic soul brother himself to walk on stage with the now familiar opening of Celtic Swing followed by Close Enough For Jazz. This was followed by Back On Top which i think i enjoyed more than at Bristol. Then it was one of the first highlights of the evening for me, So Quiet In Here. It was great and i liked Shana's backing vocals and the brass section of Chris and Alistair White were really good as well. This was followed by Rough God Goes Riding, which was also great but i was beginning to realise this was almost exactly the same set as in Bristol. I wanted to hear something different. Van ended the song by doing his Clint Eastwood impression again which was funny the first time i heard it. He is trying to get away from his grumpy image though. Following this was Keeping Mediocrity At Bay.I have seen a comment about him doing this song from somebody who wasn't there. I think performed live it isn't bad at all. Benediction, by Van's friend Mose Allison was next which was ok but the gig for me was getting a bit 'samey' now. Van sat on the stool next for Keep It Simple which is one of the best songs of recent years. Then it was the excellent Queen Of The Slipstream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Things took a nose-dive for me then. Van said, "Now i'd like to bring on my old china plate (Cockney rhyming slang for mate) Chris Farlowe". On walked Farlowe and he and Van sang Early In The Morning,Hoochie Coochie Man,and Stormy Monday which Farlowe had recorded under the name Little Joe Cook back in the 60's. I didn't hear all of it because when Chris Farlowe came on i had a sudden urge to go to the toilet. Dave Keary's guitar playing was good though. When i returned from the loo i didn't bother returning to my seat because i didn't want to disturb people again so i watched quietly from the back. Sometimes We Cry  with Shana was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light and Days Like This. Then the new arrangement of Brown Eyed Girl which is replacing Moondance as the song where all the band get to play a solo. Baby Please Don't Go was brilliant followed by the eternal Help Me. Then Farlowe returned for Gloria/Who Do You Love and finally Stand By Me. I was disappointed that there hadn't been a single different song to Bristol but i was determined to make tonight special one way or another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Before the band had finished playing i made a bee-line for the door and turned left and left again and made my way to the stage door. There was a mercedes parked outside and a man holding an umbrella. I knew he was waiting for Van. I stood against the wall and waited ten minutes in the rain. Then the door opened and out came Van with his assistant. I stepped up and handed him my moleskine notebook and my pen that i had got in the bookies a few days ago and said, "Could i have a quick autograph please Van?". As he scrawled his name i said, "Thank you very much Van, I’ve been a fan for 40 years", "That long huh?", said Van and smiled at me and gave me back my book and sad little pen and got in the car. A couple who were standing there applauded and he was gone... It didn't matter about the bit of ink on a page, that was just the excuse. What mattered was that for just a few fleeting seconds i had connected with the genius whose music has meant so much to me for so long. I wish Kim had been there to witness it, she would have been thrilled. It was the highlight of my Van fan career. To quote Van himself i was 'Higher Than The World'. I'll never bother him again                                                                                                                                                                     I ran back to the front of the hall pumping with adrenaline to show my friends the autograph. I was so excited. A gang of us retired to a nearby pub for a drink and i tried to calm down. I'll tell you all about the rest of my visit to Brighton tomorrow..............

To be continued..............


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back On Top.

It all began in the early 90's.
Pubs began introducing quiz machines where you could win money by answering general knowledge questions.I was soon completely addicted to them because i found i could answer the questions quite easily and could have a free night down the pub whenever i liked. The local pub landlords grew to hate me as i went further and further afield in search of quiz machines.One night i started in the Phipps Arms at Westbury Leigh and went on to The Hollies,The Royal Oak, The Castle, The Angel, The Horse And Groom,The White Lion, The Ludlow and The Crown. When i emptied my pockets that night i found i had £78 in £ coins.It weighed a ton.Brilliant.I mean, what other way could you go out at night and come home 3 hours later, smelling of drink and have seventy quid in your pocket? Dont tell me.
                                          The Landlord of The Horse And Groom Rod Decided to use my talent to his advantage and asked me to be captain of the pub quiz team.In our first season we won the Trowbridge and District League and my fame grew in leaps and bounds.I felt really brainy. Then one night in the pub my mate Dave said i should go on Fifteen To One.This was a popular afternoon TV show which was a forerunner of The Weakest Link and at its peak had an audience of 4,000,000.It was very popular with pensioners, students and the unemployed.In a burst of egotism i sent off an application form and was invited to an audition in Bristol.Two weeks later i received a letter inviting me onto the show.I had been on the telly before,i was in the congregation on Songs Of Praise several years earlier( I'll tell you about that some other time) This was different though, this was going to make me famous! Everybody i met i told that i was going to be on the telly and to make sure they watched.
The big day arrived and i set off for London and my date with destiny.The studios were in Wandsworth and myself and the other contestants were put up in a nearby hotel as the programme was to be recorded the following morning at 10.00.I began to have my first niggling doubts because the others looked really well educated and posh and i found out that several of them almost made a career out of TV shows and had been on several other shows.I calmed my nerves by staying in the hotel bar till 1.00 in the morning. The others went to bed.
                  Next morning i was suffering with a really bad reality attack and all my bravado had gone out the window. I didn't feel brainy any more,i felt like a stupid scruffy lowlife.At the studio we drew lots and i was to be number 8.Then we were led into the place with the cameras and the genial host William G Stewart.I felt like i was about to be executed.The floor manager said,"One minute to recording" and i seemed to lose all control over my body, my right leg suddenly started shaking uncontrollably.William started asking the questions and everybody was coming up with the right answer.
Finally he got to me and he might as well have been talking Chinese.I was so nervous it sounded like this,
I stood there looking at him like a dumb moron,then i realised what he was asking and i thought "Thats parallel,surely he wouldn't ask a question that easy".The buzzer went before i could blurt it out and William said,"The answer is parallel".
                                               A couple of minutes later William returned and asked me who wrote the music for the film Brigadoon,i didn't know but i was in such a state i didn't care who wrote the music for fecking Brigadoon.I answered ,"Rogers and Hammerstein",in a sort of high pitched squeak, just to say something."The answer is Lerner and Loewe",said William smugly,and i was out. My entire TV appearance was about 14 seconds. I hoped against hope that nobody i knew would watch the bloody programme but of course they all did.For about a year afterwards i was known around town as Parallel Pat.People came up to me in the pub and said things like"Sorry i didn't see you on the telly,i blinked and missed, it" that sort of thing.Just when people were beginning to forget about it,the TV company went and repeated it the following summer and the piss-taking started all over again.I lost all interest in quizzes and licked my wounds for 5 long years.As they say though,revenge is a meal best eaten cold and i was to get my revenge in the sweetest possible way.

Five Years Later........

Five long years had past since my disasterous TV appearance.Then in 1999 they announced that if you hadn't appeared on the programme for 5 years you could apply again.
"I've gotta go back",I announced to Kim.
"London,i've got some unfinished business with William"
Once more i set off for London,
"Go get 'em Floyd",Said Kim,"Go kick some ass"
The stakes had never been higher,if i messed up this time i faced total humiliation but as they say 'Who Dares Wins'
This time i was number 5.As William came along the line asking the questions my leg started its familiar jig, but this time i was grimly determined.Finally William got to me,
"When Britain joined the EU in 1974 which two other countries joined at the same time?"
"Ireland and er um Denmark"
"Thank you god", i breathed a sigh of relief. Two minutes later William was back with my second question.
"Dancer Michael Flatley became famous in which musical show?"
Easy peasy "Riverdance".
Brilliant! i was into round 2 and had all my lives intact.In round 2 if you got your answer right you could nominate one of your opponents to answer the next question.This is where it got dirty. I soon got nominated.
"Such is life" is reputed to be the last words of which Australian outlaw?"
"Ned Kelly"
                      Then i went on a killing spree, one by one my opponents were going down like skittles,i was enjoying this.After a few minutes there were 12 down 3 to go and i suddenly found myself in the final.My two rivals in the final were a lady who worked at Tesco's and a lad from Galway called Brendan who had only entered so he could visit his brother in London for free.At the beginning of Part 2 you had to smile at the camera while they told the viewers all about you.'Pat lives in WestburyWiltshire,he enjoys reading and music particularly Van Morrison and he supports Peterborough United football club'.Then it was into battle.I got my first 2 questions wrong and only had one life left so the other two kept nominating me to try and kill me off.I held my nerve though and i answered 13 questions in a row correctly.The others started to get their answers wrong and i was fighting back.The Tesco lady was the first to crack and she was out.'Get your coat.' Then finally Brendan lost his last life and i had won. I scored 113 points and the 13th highest score in the series so far.
 I kept my composure until i left the studio.I was back on the street again,back on top again. I jumped up and punched the air YES! Then i floated on a cloud all the way back to Waterloo Station.I couldn't wait to get home and see those bastards up the pub."I'll give them parallel Pat" I thought.I had to wait an hour for my train so i walked over Westminster bridge and went in a pub near the houses of parliament.It was frequented by politicians, all knocking back the G and Ts .Look at them i thought, they think they are so bloody important,dont they realise i'm the 13th most brainy person in Britain".
We had a big party in the pub to watch my glorious win and i had a cake with 15 candles and i blew out 14 of them.
A lady came from the local paper and wrote a story with the headline'Getting The Answers Off Pat'.I went back on the show twice more as a previous winner.The last time i was on the show the voice-over person was PhiIip Lowrie who i remembered because he played Dennis Tanner in Coronation Street.It wasn't as exciting though.I didn't get the same buzz off it.When you get to the top theres no where else to go and that was the end of my TV career.

                                                                          THE END.
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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Mystery Of Maggie Cassidy.

Today i thought i'd tell you about a book which arrived in the post today.It is only a small paperback but i think it is great.It is called Maggie Cassidy, A Love Story by Jack Kerouac.A first edition published by Avon in the USA in 1959.Maggie Cassidy was a fictionalised account of Jack's relationship with his first love Mary Carney.As you can see it is signed 'John L. Kerouac' which is Jack's real name and the name under which his first novel The Town And The City was published many years earlier.It seems a bit formal to call himself John when everyone knows him as Jack.On the opposite page he has written Dear Jerce-sweetheart-June 13 1960.Jack Kerouac has been a favourite writer of mine for decades so it is great to own a book signed by him.
I wonder who Jerce was?.I looked up the name and it means 'tranquil'.I have never heard the name before.It got curiouser and curiouser.I decided to try and find out what Jack was doing on June 13th 1960.I googled Jack Kerouac June 13 1960 and incredibly this came up.
On ebay somebody is selling a cheque signed by Jack Kerouac on the very day that he signed my book.Although he has signed that cheque Jack you can clearly see that the Kerouac is exactly the same as on my book.The cheque is for a tax bill to the Inland Revenue.They are asking $6,999 for the signed cheque so what does that make my signed first edition worth?.How did that cheque get into the public domain?Is it normal for the US tax authorities to sell off cheques from famous people?.I don't think that would happen in Britain would it?.
                                                         1960 was a busy year for Jack,he had three books published,Tristessa,Lonesome Traveller,and Book Of Dreams so there was money coming into the house.In June 1960 i think Jack was living in Northport, Long Island with his mother and i expect on that day he dealt with a few business matters like paying bills and then he signed a book for somebody called Jerce and posted it to them.Fifty two years later the book arrived at my door.I still don't know who Jerce is.Has anyone got any idea?


I wrote that story a year ago and nobody  came forward with any info about the identity of  'Jerce'. That was until today. I had put the book on ebay a couple of days ago with the starting price of what i paid for it and my nephew Dominis saw it and contacted me about a postcard written by Jack Kerouac which was also for sale on ebay for £10,000. The postcard was addressed to Joyce Glassman.. Joyce Glassman was Jack's girlfriend at the time and she later became Joyce Johnson and wrote the best selling book Minor Characters about her time with Jack.  The stunning thing is that Jack begins the postcard  'Dear Jerce, Sweetheart', exactly the same as in my book. Jerce is the Brooklyn way of saying Joyce. 
                                                                                     The mystery of Maggie Cassidy has finally being solved. Thanks a lot Dominic.