Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sheila Regina

It is usually a spontaneous thing.  We tend to meet The Tuckers around the ‘reduced to clear’ section in Tesco and then head back to our house - or their house. We pool the kids in the garden and have a glass of wine. 

I play guitar with the Tuckers’ eldest – he’s 12. I recently taught him the Elvis version of ‘That’s Alright Mama’ – something he’d never heard. It felt like we were rebooting Rock and Roll.

Maude enjoys a singalong and always makes the same request:

‘Play ‘How Long Will I love you?’ Pleeeease!!!’

The ‘Ultimate Guitar Tabs’ app on my phone has come in very handy lately. I can’t remember chords or lyrics any more – my brain is full of shopping lists and clouded by apprehension of impending children’s parties.

‘Of course my darling – anything for you.’

As I played the Waterboys song I realised how similar the chord progression is to ‘When will I see you again?’ by ‘The Three Degrees’, so I slipped seamlessly into that song.

Maude suggested I ‘pack it in’ and return to her favourite and her only request. I did as I was told, but playing The Three Degrees reminded me, obviously, of Prince Charles.

When Prince Charles was an eligible bachelor in the 70’s they forced him into the company of leading figures from popular culture – mainly to make him appear fashionable and less out of touch than he inevitably was and remains to this day. He memorably met and became a fan of the black all-girl group The Three Degrees. He was apparently quite taken by the lead singer – Sheila Ferguson. Some reports have used the word ‘besotted’. He even invited the group to perform at his 30th birthday party.

What a missed opportunity.

Had he gone with his instincts, we would now have a mixed race heir to the throne and the monarchy could worry less about its inability to connect to the majority of modern humanity. 

Queen Sheila would have looked tremendous at state occasions and she would probably have brightened them all with a song and some sequins. The other 2 degrees could have become Ladies in Waiting and/or Overseas Ambassadors for Disco.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

'Hatful of Gladwin'

'Is that a cravat?' asked Archie.

'No, it's a scarf.'

I was showing Archie pictures of our family trip to the bleak tundra that is Edinburgh Zoo in late March.

'I am, of course, wearing a cravat under the scarf.'

Archie smiled and admirably feigned interest in the rest of the pictures.

We were catching up with Archie and Leap after a long estrangement. We were in a bar in town. It was one of the bars with fruity beers and an Italian name designed to justify its high prices and to distinguish it from the unashamedly Geordie bars: The Market Lane, The Beehive and (surprisingly still trading under the name) The Blackie Boy.

Archie and I have always enjoyed talking about music - ever since we lived in neighbouring bedsits. We were on the ground floor and one of Archie's sash windows didn't lock. If I was locked out I would climb through the window and probably borrow a cassette on my way through.

I could see that maintaining an enthusiasm for pictures of my children pointing at two bedraggled zebras who couldn't believe their bad luck at ending up on a Scottish hillside was becoming a strain for my old friend, so I moved the chat on.

‘I'd love to know what you think of my ideas for niche compilation albums. Original takes on songs we all know....'

‘I'm all ears...’

‘Do you remember Joe Gladwin?’

‘Of course.'

‘Well, though I say it myself, I do a really good impression of Joe Gladwin – nearly as good as my Max Wall. I also know enough chords now on the ukulele to put my uncanny Gladwin to music. It’s a concept album of ‘Joe’ singing Smiths songs: ‘Hatful of Gladwin’. The backing obviously wouldn’t be as elaborate as the originals – more strummy uke than jangly guitar.’

'I'm liking it.'

The twinkle had returned to Archie's eye. As he considered the Gladwin concept, he stroked his beard. I watched as fragments of crisp left the beard and danced in the mood lighting before they dived into his beer.

''I'm thinking of tracks that showcase Joe's trademark rolling of the 'R':

'Reel Around the Fountain'
'Girl Afraid'
'Miserable Lie'
'William, it was really nothing'

Arch struggled to hear my Gladwin rendition of 'Reel Around the Fountain' above the noise of the bar, but nodded and looked positive.

'Amazing! I love it. What are the other albums? You said 'concept albums'.'

‘Well, the other compilation album I was toying with is called ‘Now That’s What I call Fetish...........1'.
That one's not as well thought through, but I do have an opening track'

Archie's interest was now well and truly piqued. He leaned in to hear the title and his face glowed with approval as I whispered:

‘The First Time ever I soiled your face.’