The Wurzels – Walkabout, Bristol Thursday July 5th
It was a good time to be fourteen in the long, hot summer of 1976.
I was living in London and just discovering that not only were these things called “girls” actually quite interesting, some of them seemed to be interested in me, too…
The soundtrack to that summer was provided by such quality acts as John Miles (“music was my first hit – and it will be my last”), Showaddywaddy (“Under The Moon Of Love”) and Abba.
All very safe, and very dull. It was time for a change, a new sound. A sound from the streets that would make people sit up and take notice. A sound that would define a generation. Once you heard this song, nothing would ever be quite the same again.
The Wurzels had been going since 1967 as Adge Cutler And The Wurzels. Adge sadly died in a car crash in 1974 but just as Joy Division were later to morph into New Order and create a more commercial sound, so too did The Wurzels carry on.
They began to mess around with the lyrics of old hits and scored massively with the above Combine Harvester, which went to No. 1, I Am A Cider Drinker and Farmer Bill’s Cowman.
I found out years later that the actual immediate follow-up single to Harvester was “One For The Morning Glory”, the subject matter of which meant it was pretty unlikely to garner any airplay. It DID get on “The Arrows” teatime pop show on ITV though.
As a snotty kid from Sarf Lunnon watching Top Of The Pops, they seemed to come from another planet – far more so than the Sex Pistols.
The Wurzels enjoyed something of a renaissance in the noughties with their covers album which mocked their former rivals with its clever play on words in the title and cover.
This included the likes of “Chelsea Dagger” and “Oo Ah Just A Little Bit” (Yes it works. Sing it in a West Country accent . See?) as well as possibly their finest hour – a cover of Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger” which is every bit as great as it sounds in your head.
They also did a split single (on good old vinyl) with the mighty British Sea Power on which they covered BSP’s “Remember Me” while BSP did a scuzzed out take on “I Am A Cider Drinker”
Incredibly, the Wurzels are still going strong today with two of the classic ’76 line up
I managed to get two tickets cheap from Sally at work for their gig at the Walkabout in Bristol. I have no idea where she gets these things from. Its best not to ask.
After a couple of rejections for the second ticket I eventually twisted the arm of old rocker Dave – ten thousand CDs and two ex-wives, an encyclopediac knowledge of rock music up to about 1985.
They were fantastic. Really tight band, as you’d expect from the time they’ve spent together. They did the hits, and a LOT of the old songs, which are mainly either about (i) drinking cider, (ii) shagging or (iii) both.
Except one about the Pill ferry, a fantastic take on all those folk songs about waving your loved one away on a ship – except that this one just goes to the other side of the river and back 8=)
I was expecting the audience to consist of fat old men like me and Dave but no! They were mainly twenty-somethings and teenage girls.
The band, undeterred by the age gap, engage in a good deal of lewd flirting with the girls, who seem to love it.
Fair play to them.
The drummer was introduced as “79 years old – the oldest drummer in captivity” and I can well believe it.
One of them did a striptease towards the end of the set, and for the first time in a while, I wished I still took a drink. Then I may have a fighting chance of forgetting the image one day …
They encore with the disco remix of “Harvester” and their version of the Kaiser Chiefs “Ruby”. No “Oo Ar Just A Little Bit”, unfortunately but you can’t have everything. Glad I finally saw them, but from the vim and vigour of the performance, I’m guessing they’ll be around for a while and there will be a few more chances yet.
Drink up thee zyder me babbers …
This is a clip from the gig courtesy of that internet. You can see Dave on the left in the Feist T-shirt. Don’t the band sound great?