The Unorthodox Website Blog

Out and About in London

27 Feb

An update on things I’ve been doing lately. On January 30th was the annual 2Is coffee bar reunion/British rock’n'roll heritage gig now at the Borderline venue near Charing Cross Road. I arrived during the performance of Terry Wayne, which was very good, and met my former Drama Coach, Bea Scott, at her first Tales From The Woods gig (apart from my 65th birthday party last year), and other ‘Woodies’ as we are known. Next on the bill was Graham Fenton, who I’ve been following since the 1970s when he led groups called The Hellraisers, The Houseshakers and the hit-making Matchbox (Rockabilly Rebel, etc.). He hardly seems to have aged at all (like Sandy Ford of the Flyin’ Saucers group. How do they do it?) Graham, as usual, gave a great performance backed by the excellent Tales From The Woods houseband with Brian Clark on drums, and the brilliant lead guitarist John Spencely.

Then we were treated to the wild rock’n'roll pianist/singer Roy Young backed by his own band including two saxophonists, one of whom being Howie Casey. John Spencely stood in for Roy Young’s regular lead guitarist who was indisposed. How often does one hear songs like Little Richard’s ‘Bama Lama Bama Loo’, ‘Hey Hey Hey’ or ‘She’s Got It’ nowadays, even on the rock’n'roll circuit or from Mr Penniman himself? Roy also treated us to some Larry Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis numbers, among others. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Earlier in February I saw the film ‘Hereafter’ starring Matt Damon and reviewed in an earlier blog. Later I went with my friend Chris to see ‘Black Swan’, a surrealist film about a ballet dancer in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’. It has received great reviews and acclamations, but it was not really my sort of film since I have no interest in ballet, and I was very confused by the  surrealism. The main character hallucinates, and I missed the entire point of the film’s ending not realizing that she had, in fact, fatally injured herself. In fact this part of the storyline made no sense to me whatsoever, since she danced while mortally injured with no difficulty and not a trace of blood from the fatal wound until the ballet was over.

Last week I went with Chris again to see ‘Million Dollar Quartet’, the Broadway musical now transferred to the West End about the historic occasion when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis sung mainly gospel songs together in the legendary Sun Studio at 709 Union Avenue, Memphis and Sam Phillips, the owner, caught much of it on tape. There was a certain amount of poetic license, such as ‘Great Balls of Fire’ being sung before it had even been written let alone recorded, and Jerry Lee sitting at the piano thruout, when in fact on the actual occasion it was Elvis at the piano most of the time.

It was, however, a very entertaining show which the nearly full theater at this preview appreciated, clapping along to the music. One elderly usher was even dancing but restrained himself from ripping out the seats in a nostalgic re-enactment of when Bill Haley visited our shores in the 1950s, or when his movie ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was shown in cinemas.

There was a storyline as well as the musical numbers, mainly about how Sam Phillips was unable to keep most of his discoveries because the label was so small and couldn’t promote them properly, or even distribute their recordings efficiently. Of the 4 artists in the Million Dollar Quartet, only Jerry Lee remained at the label for any length of time after this unique occasion, Elvis having already left the label for RCA.

Last Friday was the monthly gang meet-up of the Woodies, this time at The Plough public house near the British Museum, then on to a nearby Greek restaurant where most of us had the enormous meze. Too much for most of us to eat at a very reasonable price.

Next Tuesday I’m going with Chris to see ‘Woody Sez’, about another ‘Woody’, namely Woody Guthrie, and featuring his songs. This is at the Arts Theatre very near the Noel Coward Theatre where M$Q is playing.

Earlier that day I have an outing with the Senior Service group of another organization I belong to with a meal out in the West End.

So quite an eventful time at the moment, and towards the end of March on the weekend of my 66th birthday I will see Roy Young and his band again along with Bill Haley’s daughter Gina, and a Bill Haley tribute group called Phil Haley and the Comments, plus many other groups and singers at the Shake Rattle & Roll Weekender at the Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth. Will also meet up with my friends Derek and Peter who live in nearby Norwich.

So after a few weeks before/after Christmas with not much doing (apart from the annual Woodies post-Xmas meet-up/meal in December which was fantastic – The Carvery at the Strand Palace Hotel, all for only £19!), I’ve had quite a few things going on the past few weeks.

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