“We built this Skeggy, we built this Skeggy on Rock and Roll”
This was my tenth year at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival.
First up were Slack Alice who had some impressive new material. Not sure about singer Cliff Stockers new hat which he seemed reluctant to wear in case it gave him ‘hat hair’.
Then came my mate Rob and Dr Feelgood. I really don’t know where he gets the energy. It was exactly forty years ago that I was playing the drums behind him at the Melody Maker Folk/Rock Competition at Newcastle Polytechnic. We didn’t win but he prowled the stage exactly the same as he does now.
Last up was the Quireboys who were exceptionally good. I saw them at CRF last year but this was a different kind of show and they really do play to entertain.
At Butlins the music never stops so at 12:30 we were off into Jaks bar to catch Blues Commotion. Well it was my mate Tims 50th birthday after all.
Thats Tim on the left (age 50 and one day). It has become part of the ritual to get out to Gibralter Point NNR to do a bit of bird watching and although the hides and lakes were disappointingly devoid of birds we did spot (or at least David pointed us towards) a pair of little egrets, a merlin and a flock of scotas.
We had to get back to camp swiftly to catch Stray who were originally responsible for me growing my hair and joining a band. Del was joined on stage by Pete Dyer for this gig which directed the set, quite rightly, towards the 1975/76 albums. Joined by Cherry Lee Mewis for a couple of songs this was an event rather than just going through the old songs.
Next up Groundhogs who, given we knew Tony McPhee had had a stroke a year or two ago, did remarkably well. Eccentric Man, Split parts 1 and 2, Cherry Red.
After dinner we were back in our seats for the Yardbirds (I forgot to get a photo) who have a great strategy to keep their music sustainable, recruit twenty-somethings as replacements. At first we thought this was a travesty but the quality of singing and guitar playing was stunning. The whole place sang along. I was especially pleased to see them play ‘Back Where I started’ as drummer and original Yardbird Jim McCarty was in the Box of Frogs (the 1983 Yardbirds re-union album which I love).
Anticipation was high just watching Carl Palmers drum kit being assembled. I saw the ELP at Newcastle City Hall back in 1971 and, shhhhh, I never really liked them, but tonight I was forgiving and as the set went on through Welcome, Pictures at an Exhibition, Fanfare for the Common Man and a whole lot more it was great to see Carl enjoying it so much. So much that he overran ridiculously and still demanded a double encore. It is a great privilege to see such talent at these festivals.
Much later than billed on ran Eddie and the Hotrods who were fantastic. Such a fuller sound since (John Otways) Richard joined them. Barrie Masters has a great trick with his braces to get the females at the front of the stage to participate in the fun. His T-Shirt reminded us that not all rockers survive long enough to play Butlins in their eighties and RIP Hotrods founder Dave Higgs who died just before Christmas last year.
Sunday was dull and wet outside, we never even got out onto the beach, but inside the Reds Arena, everyone in the camp was in early to see Wilko Johnson. He certainly didn’t disappoint. Touring relentlessly despite being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer refusing any treatment. Roxette, Back in the Night and just about everyone in the place wiped a tear from their eye as an elongated Bye Bye Johnnie Be Good had some of the fans waving to him.
Trever Burton of the Move replaced Stan Webb and Chicken Shack who according to Twitter had mistakenly arrived a day earlier and then gone home.
I think we all thought that the next late addition to the line-up might be ‘good fun’ but no-one was prepared for the style and delivery of Ray Dorset and Mungo Jerry who had many people saying he was in their top three acts. In the Summertime, Baby Jump, Long legged Woman dressed in Black and a terrific Roadhouse Blues. Another star who seemed amazed at the great atmosphere and response he would not leave the stage. A lot of this reticence to leave was due to being joined by Stevie Smith on harmonica, as they and never played together since 40 years ago so another great moment to savour.
After Sunday dinner and a very flat Auburn Acoustic who walked off early (everyone was next door watching Chantel McGregor, it was a bit disappointing that Jefferson Starship were without Paul Kantner after all the advance publicity. This was quickly made up by the thrill of seeing David Freiberg, a founder member of Quicksilver Messenger Service especially when they played ‘What about Me’ which was a track from 1970 that took me back to the old Arts Centre in Sunderland. Singer Cathy Richardson didn’t disappoint either and her Janis Joplin on ‘Me and Bobby McGee was sensational, not surprising as she was in the Broadway musical ‘Love, Janis’ in the US for years. For some reason they do not play “We built this City”.
We decided that our final band should be a proper rock band and Oliver Dawson’s Saxon fit that bill a treat. I still think of them as Son of a Bitch, regulars at Sunderland Boilermakers in 1976. New singer Bri Shaughnessy from Barnsley has settled in well and is hilarious in his banter with the audience. This is the band that inspired Spinal Tap and they really do not take themselves seriously but they pack a real punch with some great songs. Rock and Roll Gypsy, 747 Strangers in the night and the endless singalong Wheels of Steel. Bri like Carl Palmer, Ray Dorset and many others actually said that he didn’t want to leave the stage, getting his picture taken with the audience. I was in the mosh pit and shook Steve Dawson’s sweaty hand as the feedback subsided. Looking at my photos I noticed that some bands pretend to throw their guitars skywards at the end but I caught Graham Oliver doing it for real.
As I walked back to the chalet for a final sleep the place had a magical feel to it. Thank you Butlins for an unbelievably great weekend.
[all photos Rondon - Ecology of Knowledge Ltd]
[the following video by punkrocksal ]