i know it’s an awfully strident thing to say,but this was maybe my most enjoyable night of live music ever… excuse me dear reader for indulging,but i’m typing away here in an effort to fully communicate the feelgood i felt on that evening around a week ago.
it starts standing outside in a line, frozen in soho evening atmosphere, which only served to heighten the warm feeling as we stroll through the lobby into the blood red velvet room. ronnie’s got a good interior. you’re hugged by endless black and white framed photographs of players on every wall. you’re cushioned in nice chairs. cocktails come quick and strong. all is loose yet civil .. everything tastes nice.
a chap beside us brought along an old vinyl album for georgie to sign,which i consider cute as buttons..it’s a live L.P at the soho flamingo in the early 60’s.i’m loving all of this as the rum in my mojito begins to hit all five spark plugs.we’ve got good seats..three feet away from georgie himself,right at the very front,so before he comes on,i’m gawping at his hammond covered with stickers. it looks comically road worn…many of the stickers are of air force and army bases…one for rothmans cigarettes. little things that trigger curiosity … silly really.
when georgie ambles on stage, there’s this one table of philistines behind us that shouldn’t be there…phuck nose why they came,but they continued to talk loudly while georgie greets the crowd to set the tone..it gets interesting though… one daft bleeder shouts up that she wants him to smile.. he gives her a super spiky reply in the light of her irritating demands …turns out georgie’s got pneumonia. as awful as it must be for him,it only adds healthy tension…he plays and sings like life depends on it, and hook or by crook he’s there to give his very best, so no messin around…he’d already done one show earlier,along with doing two shows a night for three nights in a row…with pneumonia. something like that would render most singers below par ,but his vocals are sublime. he’s not going through the motions either. grumpy yes, but that just makes him even more likeable. i mean…here’s a man somewhere around seventy years old with pneumonia, singing two shows a night,three nights in a row, with ear melting tone..holy lung butter, batman !@£$%^&*
then there’s his band.. the son of cleo laine and the late johnny dankworth is playing double bass.. drums and guitar are georgie’s own sons. the trumpet player’s guy barker… guy barker is like theeeeee english trumpet player..he’s played on everything from classic wham singles to freeform jazz.. he’s got a flippin OBE for trumpet playing. there was even a top banana sax and a vibes player. i love a vibraphone..it’s so……swish
y’know one of the neat things about good players is how they don’t blind you with volume…they don’t leave you deaf..the moment they lay hands on their instruments it’s just sweet on you….bugger me,but how i love that. it’s groove that gives welly,not volume.
georgie likes to fill you in between numbers..he talked briefly of being managed by that poofter,meaning larry parnes in the 1960’s … parnes thing was to change all his artists names … so he had marty wilde (reg patterson) … billy fury (ron wycherley), and joe brown … but joe refused to change his name .. y’see parnes wanted to call joe brown…wait for it…..ELMER TWITCH!!..hahaha.
never underestimate the contribution of our early 1960’s music business gaylords though. imagine a world without brian epstein styling the beatles, or joe meek’s trailblazing record production..robert stigwood mid wifing the bee gees..larry parnes…these gaylords laid a gold frame around our earliest pop aesthetic..sounds pretentious, but i don’t care ducky.georgie fame (clive powell) was first clocked by lionel bart(yet another massive gaylord) who wrote the musical ‘oliver’,and he tipped larry parnes off,who then placed him in billy fury’s backing band…he fired georgie for whatever reason,and the rest is history. georgie sure is one excellent storyteller though,and he informs us how it was eddie cochrane on his visits to england who single handedly spread the word of ray charles on these shores. this sort of thing is fun education for a pansy such as i…there’s unspoken sadness too.. georgie’s wife took her own life in the early nineties by jumping off a bridge,and the two sons are up there with georgie playing guitar and drums brilliantly…it’s hard to not think about that sort of thing while hearing them groove together so well .. getting on with life .. i imagine they’re a close gnarly bunch..blessed by each other.
the evening wouldn’t have been complete without a little trip across the road to bar italia for frothy cappuccinos. bar italia and ronnies go together like fork and spoon. they say it’s ran by london mafia..as much as i love the romance of that, it’s maybe more of a myth. hadn’t drank coffee in years cause it blows me like a rocket into hyperspace, but i had two as a night cap..was gibbering like a speadfreak in the car going home…long live bar italia.