Music related postings

How to play guitar in a band (Video Tutorial)

First, get a guitar. It doesn’t really matter what kind.

Then learn how to hold it.  It doesn’t really matter which way around, so long as you have one hand around the neck with the fingers on some of those little metal strips that go across it.  Then the other hand… well you need to practise moving that up and down more or less in time with the music.  It is important that you don’t plug any wires into the guitar as it might start making a funny noise.

Next you have to make sure no one actually looks at your hands, so get yourself a full makeover including the all important scouse brows.  Make them nice and high. Go for the “surprised” look.

Okay, this might still not be enough to ensure your guitar playing is authentic to the eye of the onlooker, so just for good measure take your vest off and replace it with  bit of sheer chiffon. Oh, and ditch the bra of course. That would spoil the effect.

In fact… damn it all… the last thing you want to do is allow their eye to wander to your hands. Whip off your knickers too.

All you have to do then is practise your expression and you’re on your way to pop stardom…!

Play the video to see the amazing results in action!

nakedrockstarWarning… If you’re a bloke, the above instructions don’t work.  You’ll just have to learn how to play the damn thing…

By |June 10th, 2015|1 Comment

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Merry Hell Rocking Conwy Folk Club


Raising Merry Hell at Conwy Folk Club

Feeling down, depressed, under the weather?  Forget the potions and pills…  If you’ve got the Monday morning blues, let Dr Hairy prescribe a dose of Merry Hell!

That was precisely the situation last Monday. By the end of the evening, practically every foot at Conwy Folk Club was aching from tapping merrily to the uplifting songs from the most upbeat folk rock band in the business.


John Kettle belting it out on guitar

Merry Hell has growing band of ardent followers, myself included, who wouldn’t dream of missing another opportunity of seeing them perform live.  Looking around the packed auditorium I recognised many faces from other North Wales clubs and beyond.

This Wigan based band never disappoints.  Their songs have the kind of hook that you hear once and evermore instantly recognise. Virginia and the Kettle Brothers deliver their wonderfully lyrical songs with such energy and enthusiasm, you can’t help but sing along.

And those in the room who’d not had the pleasure of seeing them before, found their perception of folk music suddenly elevated to a whole new level.

Virginia Kettle

Virginia Kettle

We heard many of the old favourites including some off their current album “Head Full of Magic and Shoes Full of Rain”.  It wouldn’t be a Merry Hell gig without Drunken Serenade, Fear of Falling, Pendle Hill and Bury me Naked.  But we also had a taste of what is to come on their forthcoming 2015 album with “A Ghost in our House”.

They appeared this time as a six piece comprising their main acoustic line-up of  singer Virginia and the Kettle brothers John on guitar, Andrew on vocals and Bob on mandolin, plus their bassist Nick Davies and Neil McCartney on violin and stomp box.

At larger venues they often perform and an eight piece with the addition of drums and keyboard.

It was a night of good spirits, good music and good humour.  Conwy is, in the main, an enthusiastic friendly club – apart from the one gentleman who objected with very rude sarcasm to my obscuring approximately 10% of his view of the stage for a full 20 seconds!

Regardless of that, it is a club I would happily recommend to anyone on that part of the North Wales coast looking for a Monday night live music venue.

Singer songwriter Lori Campbell

Singer songwriter Lori Campbell

I can’t let this review end without mentioning the lovely Lori Campbell who opened the evening.  This young singer songwriter from Bristol absolutely captivated the audience with her beautiful voice.  Although her style was totally different to that of the main event, she certainly set a very high standard for them to follow.

Suffice to say I will be looking out for any future appearances she makes in our neck of the woods.  And to do her justice, she and the EP I bought from her on the night will be the subject of a separate review to follow shortly.

Watch this space.

By |December 3rd, 2014|0 Comments

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The Cabinet Maker – Album Launch

Sitting in Liverpool’s Magnificent St George’s Hall last night was very much like sitting in my own living room.

Well… When I say “very much like” what I mean is “…likebut a thousand times better“.  I’m not for one moment suggesting my living room in any way resembles St Georges Hall in stature, grandeur or size. But if I tell you that during the six weeks or so since we bought Gary Edward Jones’ album The Cabinet Maker, my living room as resounded pretty much non-stop to the absolutely lovely songs on this CD.

141115-7688Listening to them in St George’s Hall was different of course.  For a start the seats were not as comfy as mine [facetiousness alert! 😉 ]. Not that it  mattered, because I was on the edge of my seat all evening, soaking in every word, every note, every harmony of the sounds emanating from that magnificent stage.

I was revisiting the stories I’d already discovered behind the beautifully crafted lyrics and searching out more of the hidden meanings that talented songwriters such as Gary weave into their songs, like little secrets hidden away in rooms with doors ajar just a chink, as if to tease and leave you wanting to know more.

They were bound to play all the songs on the album of course, so I knew I would hear my personal favourite, Free Falling.

Gary wrote this song a few years ago in honour of a mate who had sadly lost his father to suicide during a bout of mental illness. That poor man’s favourite song had been Free Falling by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Gary’s song, bearing the same title, closes with the words “I sing free falling to the end”.   Every time I hear it brings a lump to my throat and a tear to the corner of my eye.

141115-7651Last night the tears were free flowing. Gary choked up introducing the song, so his partner and backing singer Elizabeth Kearney took over. Despite the emotion, Gary sang this beautiful song beautifully and faultlessly.  When he finished, he announced that it was the first time he’d ever sung it live in front of the mate to whom it was dedicated.  When that mate rushed up to the stage, hugged Gary and thanked him, there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole auditorium.

In terms of a live concert, I think I can honestly say I have never been to one that was better.  Not just in terms of the songs themselves, but for the sheer quality of musicianship and visual performance too.  Gary with his powerful yet unassuming presence, Skeet with his entertaining “guitar faces” during meticulously executed riffs, and Oscar whose relationship with the double bass is much like that of a ballroom dancer on the dancefloor.

I141115-7681 have heard Gary Edward Jones perform on three occasions  over the past twelve months, as a three piece comprising himself, master guitarist Skeet Williams and brilliant bass player Oscar South. Each and every time I have been knocked out by the sheer quality of their combined sound.  Everything balanced to produce an overall tight unified sound, whilst at the same time being able to hear every word in the vocal right down to the emotion and inherent tremors; every note in Skeet’s delicately picked yet intricate guitar licks; and every rich, powerful, yet subtle note from Oscars double bass.

Last night the magnitude of the task was doubled, with the addition of electric piano, drums, banjo and of course two backing singers. Getting the right mix is hard enough in the studio, when levels can be adjusted after the event. With up to eight people playing live on stage it can become a nightmare but Gary’s sound engineers accomplished it like a dream.

The sound in the acoustically perfect St George’s Hall did The Cabinet Maker full justice.

Let’s not forget the two warm-up acts Johnny Sands and Rob Vincent who put on a fabulous show in the first half, preparing the audience for the main event.

You can hear a sample of the track from The Cabinet Maker on the Gary Edward Jones website 


By |November 16th, 2014|0 Comments

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Paul Weller Flashback Friday

It’s Flashback Friday today on Paul Weller’s Twitter Page.

He, or more likely his minions, have obviously been trawling the web and come across this picture I took back in November 1979 of my then 13 year old son Neil getting Paul’s autograph after the gig  I’d been covering for the press.

Neil recalls the gig on his website,

By |November 7th, 2014|0 Comments

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Cilla, The Sixties, The Executioners and Me

Cilla Black pictured at the Cavern in the early 60's

Cilla Black pictured at the Cavern in the early 60’s

I thoroughly enjoyed watching ITV’s ‘Cilla’.

Christ, the music was bloody great back then. We didn’t realise just how good it was at the time. We just took it for granted. It was simple, unsophisticated, raw and real.

I loved being part of it. And in truth, I would have loved to have been a bigger part of it.

But it was not to be. I was one of the silly buggers who said “No” when we were offered a tour of Hamburg! After all, we were all serving apprenticeships. Why on earth would we give all that up just to play in clubs in a land where they speak German and make hamburgers!

Naive or what!?  Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing!

chris001My musical journey started when at the age of fourteen I acquired an acoustic guitar and a Dansette record player at about the same time.  My first record was Apache by the Shadows and I pretty much wore it out, playing along to it for weeks until I could play it properly.  Then I flipped it over and did the same.  After a month my entire repertoire was Apache and Quartermaster’s Stores.

I took my new found talents down to the Youth Club in Ruthin. This lad came up to me and said “I play that with my band. Can you play bass?”  His name was Dave Evans. I said “Yes, of course”. Then got back on the bus home, took the top two strings off my guitar and stuck Apache back on the Dansette, this time listening carefully to Jet Harris’s base line.

By the time I met up with Dave at ‘Youthy’ the following week, I still had a repertoire of two tunes but now I was a bass guitarist!

Executioners-2The rest of the band was there. Well, Dennis was there with a set of drums.  There hadn’t actually been a band. Dave had spun the same line to Dennis who’d subsequently bought a drum kit out of his mother’s catalogue.

When Dave had said he could play Apache, however, he wasn’t spinning a line.  And he had an electric guitar, which impressed everybody in the youth club, including me!

We played Apache, then we played Quartermaster’s Stores. Then we played them again.

Although we didn’t realise at the time, that night The Executioners was born.

Meeting up once or twice a week, we worked our way through the Shadows back catalogue. I built a bass guitar out of a lovely piece of walnut in my dad’s woodworking shed using a bought neck, fretboard and machine heads, and indulged my interest in electronics and built a valve amplifier with a fifteen inch speaker in massive rexine covered cabinet. Dennis added a second snare, additional toms and cymbals to his original three-piece drum kit and Dave upgraded his equipment.

We were the dog’s bollocks.

Executioners-1By now Ray had joined us as rhythm guitarist and we had enough material to entertain at the youth clubs and village hall dances.  All Shadows stuff.  We even perfected the Shadows “Walk” which helped us all keep time as we played Kon Tiki.

Dave and I wanted to start singing but Ray wouldn’t hear of it. One night when we were playing at Ruthin Picture House, Ray broke a string. When he went off stage to change it, Dave looked over to me and said “Money”? We launched into the song and the kids went wild. From that day on it was out with the Shadows and in with The Beatles.

We got a manager (well, the local greengrocer, who had a van!) and progressed from the village hall dances to British Legion and Working Men’s Clubs, and eventually to Merseyside venues like the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, The Cavern and The Iron Door.

Executioners-4It was a whirlwind few years. We were often billed as support for The Undertakers – we’d murder the songs and they’s bury them!  Three times we were support band for an up and coming teenager called Freddy Starr.  Even in those days Freddie was manic. Very funny and a very good rock and roll singer. Also the very best Elvis impersonator I’ve ever heard. On each occasion he had a different backing group: The Starrlights, The Flamingos and The Midniters

Executioners-3We shared the stage with many Merseyside bands, including the likes of The Searchers, The Big Three, The Black Abbots, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, The Foremost, The Hideaways and The Merseybeats.

We played on many of the same stages as The Beatles but sadly never on the same night. So I never got to meet the Fab Four.  I never met Cilla either.

Through it all we had kept our day jobs and eventually careers and marriages won over the music.  The band was already in the process of breaking up when the Hamburg trip was offered.

Anyway, no regrets whatsoever. It was fun while it lasted and I’ve had a good life since, filled with a lot of blessings.

And I was never big on hamburgers anyway.


By |September 29th, 2014|3 Comments

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