Drink Up Thee Zyder

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.

West Cuntry Music at its finest

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?

Waving Flags

I do love the old Queen. Still just as classy as ever as you can see from this video clip here

If you caught any of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert last week, you will have seen an array of popular British music acts from down the years. It all seemed very pleasant in the middle of an extended Bank Holiday weekend, with everyone in such a good mood.

There was Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney and Tom Jones (and of course Elton John!)  representing the old guard, Madness on top of Buck House and Jessie J and JLS among the current acts. Grace Jones and her amazing hula-hoop stole the show for me but that could be because deep down I suspect I am a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body.

And all I’ve heard since then is either “That was fantastic, what a great selection of bands” or “What a load of rubbish, we’ve got way better bands than that they could have had”. Polar opposite views, but they share a common assumption – we do pop music better than the rest of the world combined. You’ve only got to look at their charts – they’re all full of British music.

Erm – newsflash. The reason we, as English speaking people, think our music is better than the rest of the world’s is that we can’t speak French, Russian, Swahili, Punjabi, Dutch, Chinese or Swedish.

And the reason the charts in so many other countries have so many English speaking records is that a large percentage of the world’s population learns English from the cradle.

And you know why they speak English? That’s right. Its because the most powerful nation of the past 100 years is English speaking. And it ain’t England, or Britain, its the USA.

I listen to a lot of music. A lot. Because I’ve lived my whole life in England most of it is British or American. Its easy to get parochial on this point, but its also incorrect.

You only have to spend a short time abroad (and by that I mean mixing with the locals, not just staying in the Brit bars) to realise that there is a hell of a lot of music out there – some good, some bad, some great, but all of it worthy of a listen, and worthy of consideration in exactly the same way “our own” music is. And in the cases where different countries’ music has fused, its interesting to see the different takes on a familiar beat.

There’s a huge project to be done by somebody  on the music of the world (NOT “World Music” which in this country simply means another bunch of obsessives with another exclusive musical club – the arrogance of lumping the entire non-English speaking world into one category is so damn English)

Unfortunately, this is not that project. I don’t have the time as I have a day job and a relationship to hold down.

But over the next few weeks, to coincide with the 2012 European Football Championships, I will be featuring a random sample of music from each of the sixteen countries taking part. There is absolutely no plan or rhyme or reason for the selections, other than I love them all, and they won’t be bands everyone knows (so if you guessed Abba for Sweden, Demis Roussos for Greece and James Last for Germany, then guess again)

All are well worthy of your attention although it has to be said it isn’t always for purely musical reasons (you’re gonna LOVE Russia!)

To kick off, then, here are a couple of vids from great European bands whose countries unfortunately didn’t make it to Euro 2012 :

Its a mystery to me how Belgium, with Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard, managed to avoid qualifying. They would have graced the tournament. It is also a mystery to me why this band are not huge. They even sing in English fer Chrissakes.

This lot are brilliant – saw them at the Thekla in Bristol a few weeks ago. They will go further than the Norn Iron football team ever will, with or without Neil Lennon.

And finally, ending on an “up”, Norway didn’t quite sneak in but Katzenjammer are the best band I’ve seen in a very long time. Dig this cheesy madcap trumpet ride!

Okay, back tomorrow with the first of the sixteen countries, ahead of the first day’s matches.

One last thing about Elton. I was so relieved when he didn’t do Candle In The Wind with the Diana words. That would have been awkward turtle and no mistake.

Katie Malco – The Lexington

Friday 4th November, 2011

First act on at the Lexington last Friday was Katie Malco.

Her voice sounds like honey soaked in whisky. Her songs occupy the same territory as Sarabeth Tucek and Laura Veirs (to these ears). All doe-eyes and wistful and melancholy. She’s left-handed but plays a right-handed guitar much like that other great doe-eyed musician, Paul McCartney did, at least in the early days.

There aren’t many punters in this early at the Lexington. Can’t believe all the hipster HerNameIsCalla fans have something better to do than get here early for the supports. Heck, school finishes around 4 in the afternoon, doesn’t it?

So Katie plays her beautiful songs to a solo guitar and an audience of maybe twenty people, mainly sitting down. She charmingly forgets the words to some Bob Dylan song or other but so what?

Robert Plant famously forgot the words to Stairway To bloody Heaven at Knebworth in 1978, possibly the most famous rock song ever written at that time (and number one in John Peel’s inaugural Festive 50 in 1976, fact lovers.  You think I had to look that up? Hah ! I remember TAPING the show at the time !). And he wrote the bugger!

Katie remembers her own songs fine though, and you can tell that this is what she really wants to do, her own stuff. Although her other cover is interesting (a cover of a mate’s song, whose name I  didn’t catch unfortunately) and I get why people want to do covers early on, I’d say she’d be better sticking to her own excellent material..

Or failing that, do the Abba and Zeppelin covers that she alluded to towards the end of her set … (Knowing Me Knowing You or Immigrant Song could work … just sayin’ … )

I downloaded her debut 5-track EP off of bandcamp, and its loverly.  Best £2.50 I’ve spent all week.


Forthcoming gig with Katie givineg her Courtney Love as her band play a set of Hole covers this Saturday at Brixton Windmill (supporting the Cash-In Pumpkins 8=) ), which I am gutted to be missing … ( I need to put in an appearance at home every now and then or the Wife will forget who I am)

Go see her soon.