‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 18)
This week Mick endures mixed fortunes with Spurs, celebrates Spooky Tooth, prepares to tour Greece, listens to his own song on the radio, sees an interesting band live, pays his respects to the late Mick Green, sees a hot new movie and recalls a couple of old haunts…
Tottenham Hotspur were playing at home against Hull – and as you now know, Spurs is my team and Hull is [Heep bassist] Trevor Bolder’s team. Trevor and his family came all the way down to London from the north of England for the match, but I could not go. I had things to do on the home front, which is a shame, as I only live little more than 20 minutes from the football ground, and would love to have been there with Trevor. Still I rang Trevor on his mobile at the match, but it was impossible to speak, due to the noise of the crowd. I really wanted to get a bit of banter going with him, but there was no chance. However the score was 0-0!
Now Spurs are fourth in the Premier league and Hull are 18th – and there are only 20 teams in total. Trevor would be delighted with that result, as they get a point, which is one more point to help them move away from relegation, so really he came off better on this one, and of course it was an away match. I planned to watch the highlights on Match Of The Day later that night to see if I could spot Trevor in the visitors’ stand, but someone in our household had wiped it from Sky Planner, so this was not possible. Of course when I questioned this with my family, it apparently had nothing to do with anybody in our house and was a freak of nature – maybe it even wiped it itself!
I was reading a couple of headlines that were side by side the other day and this tickled me: ‘The cold weather leaves roads full of holes’, ‘Dental school may not fill gap’. I do not know about you, but these little things keep me smiling throughout the day.
Went into our kitchen on Monday, and we usually have the radio constantly on Classic FM or BBC Radio 5. Classic FM keeps our dog Elvis calm, and BBC Radio 5 keeps us informed. While I made a cup of tea, I changed the channel to Planet Rock, and to my surprise they were playing the full version of Heep’s song The Magician’s Birthday. Well, I tried to telephone a number of people to tell them it was on, but to no avail, as nobody was answering their phone, so I sat there and enjoyed it all on my own. I cannot remember ever hearing that particular track on the radio, so it was most enjoyable. There was some fine guitar and drum interplay in the middle between Lee Kerslake and my good self (all done in one take), and it sounded great. Lee’s kazoo playing still makes me smile every time I hear it. His first take was brilliant, but they did not push the record button. Anyway take two was still great, and that is the one we kept. I can remember in the early days when I was driving along in my car, and heard Gypsy on the radio for the first time. I was so excited trying to turn up the volume, that I nearly had an accident. These are special moments that stay with you forever.
I was listening to the band Spooky Tooth on one of my walks the other day, and back in the 70s I used to go to see them whenever I could, when they played in or around London. They had a wonderful blend of psychedelic pop and thunderous hard rock. They were formed by Mike Harrison (vocals) and Greg Ridley (bass). I always thought Ridley looked so cool, as he had that ‘Rock Star detachment look’. Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records, suggested that Mike Harrison should pair up with Gary Wright on vocals, and this worked perfectly. Harrison with the low registers and Wright with his falsetto. It was like the rock version of the Righteous Brothers. The band were Mike Harrison (vocals and keyboards), Gary Wright (vocals and organ), Luther Grosvenor (guitar), Andy Leigh (bass) and Mike Kellie (drums). They recorded such great songs as Tobacco Road, Evil Woman, Better By You Better Than Me, I Am The Walrus, The Weight, That Was Only Yesterday, Son Of Your Father and many more.
I remember once seeing them at Eel Pie Island in Twickenham, which is on the edge of the River Thames, and the bands had to ferry their equipment across a small shaky old bridge to get to the venue, transferring it from their large van, into a small car or small van, owned by the venue, that would fit over the bridge. Some crew members would leave their own van on the bank where they unloaded it, and would come back later, and unbeknownst to them it was high tide, and they found that they were stuck with a waterlogged vehicle that was going nowhere. Bands that played Eel Pie included Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men with Rod Stewart, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Tridents with Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones, Alexis Korner, and jazz musicians such as Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and George Melly.
The stage was kind of cave-like, with a staircase running to the right hand side of it, and the dressing room directly above. The drink of the day was Newcastle Brown, and you were literally knee deep in bottles by the end of the night. It was such a fantastic atmosphere, and you could bump into any of the above musicians there, who invariably came down to check each other out. Another great venue like this was the Cooks Ferry Inn, in Edmonton. This became my old musical hunting ground, as it wasn’t far from where I lived in Walthamstow, which is in the East End of London. I saw so many amazing bands there, like Led Zeppelin, Ten Years After, Mott The Hoople, Mogul Thrash, Wishbone Ash, Lindisfarne, Hawkwind, Graham Bond and many more. Playing there pretty regularly were the Alan Bown Set with Jess Roden on vocals. I loved his voice, and it is a shame he did not go on to greater success. I know after he left the Alan Bown Set he formed the Jess Roden Band and then Bronco, but I kind of lost touch after that. They were fantastic, though, and brought the house down every time they played there.
It was either 1968 or 1969 when Led Zeppelin performed at the Cooks Ferry Inn. I sat cross-legged in front of John Bonham’s huge bass drum that night. What a special night that was too; I came away buzzing and to be honest, I have never needed an excuse to have a drink, but that night I needed one to calm down after that. I was talking about it for weeks after. These were very exciting times, and I was also playing these venues too, so I got to know them on every level. I feel blessed to have been lucky enough to have witnessed this all first hand, because there was so much creativity going on, and every week, on most days, there was always something happening.
My wife Sheila procured us two tickets to go to the Record Shop, Rough Trade East in London, where apart from being able to buy a plentiful amount of vinyl, CDs, T-shirts and books they have small shows. Playing there that night there was a new band from Southend-on Sea which is on the East Coast of England, called These New Puritans, and their new CD is called Hidden. This is a good place to launch new bands, and even Blur had their comeback show there, on June 15, 2009, before they headlined Glastonbury to 100,000 people, on the Pyramid stage on the Sunday night. There were 170 fans jammed into the shop for Blur’s free show, and it was announced that morning on guitarist Graham Coxon’s Twitter feed. It was their first public performance for nine years. The gig marked the release date of their new collection of hits, Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur, and it was a rare opportunity to see Blur at such an intimate venue. By all accounts it was a triumphant return.
Sheila also gave me The New Puritans CD to check out before going to see them, which I played once at home, and once in the car on the way up to the shop. The band consist of George Barnett (drum kits, toms, drum chains and tamborims) Jack Barnett (singing, programming, beats, roto-toms, keyboards, toms, marching drum, taiko drums, synthesisers, chains, clapping, electric guitar, gongs, and foley techniques), Thomas Hein (roto-toms, rocket toms, clapping, flintlock, tamborim, electric guitar) and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, who is not credited on anything on the cover. A lot of their music is blended with alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contarbassoon, flugelhorn, french horn, baritone horn, trombone, bass trombone and tuba. A few tracks have the New London Children’s Choir on them too, so you can see this is quite an eclectic collection of instrumentation.
The track getting the attention off the CD is We Want War, and to be honest a lot of this music would work very well in movies, and is probably best suited to that. At times it sounds like a school brass and woodwind band, with drum beats, but it is well put together, and of course on a small stage the instrumentation was stripped down considerably. They suffered a little from that, I felt. It did have its moments live, but they have a lot of work to do on stage presence, and there was no charisma at all. I do not think I heard more than one lyric and it is hard to even decipher lyrics on the CD. However they are printed on the inside cover, and are quite good. It is a shame they do not come across on the CD or live, as this would enhance everything. If you are looking for a little something different, then check it out, as they are making a few waves at the moment on the London scene. Probably though for me, it would be filed under the category of… interesting, but not my cup of tea! Still, as we were up in the Spitafields Market end of London, we went for a curry at the Scarlet Bar afterwards, which was superb, and probably the best curry I have tasted in many a year.
We are playing Greece in February 2010, and these will be our first shows of the year. We play Thessaloniki Block 33 Club on February 5, and Athens Gargarin 205 Club the next day. We always have a fantastic time in Greece, and the audiences go mental. They love their rock music, and are not afraid to show it. Today, I have been doing quite a few phone interviews for the promotion of both shows and our 40th Anniversary Celebration CD. They were with Greek Rebels (music portal), Tralala (music portal), Solid Rock (rock hard web portal), Radio Pireas (major news radio of Pireas), Sport Day (major sport and culture newspaper) and Rainbow (major rock radio). Everything went well, and we are looking forward to getting back in the rock saddle again.
I see that the 3-D blockbuster sci-fi epic Avatar has been named best film drama at the Golden Globe Awards, and it is likely that it will get further glory at the Oscars in March. Its director James Cameron was also honoured at the event, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. It really is a must-see movie, as reported in my column No.15, and some people that have read that column, have since gone to the movie on my recommendation, and reported back that they thought it was brilliant.
As a youngster, I first saw guitarist Mick Green of Johnny Kidd And The Pirates performing in a theatre in Leytonstone, East London. He had a beautiful Fender Telecaster, and an air of confidence that really made an impression on me. Seeing him on stage was when I decided I wanted to be a guitarist myself. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to meet Mickey at a festival in Scandinavia, and he was a complete gentleman as I retold the story of that first encounter, that made such a big impression on my life. He was truly the guitarist of the Manor in the East End of London at that time for sure. Johnny Kidd & The Pirates had a No.1 hit in the summer of 1960, Shakin’ All Over, and it still stands as a classic today. The song’s riff made it so memorable, and in later years it was covered by The Who on Live At Leeds, also by Humble Pie and more.
Apart from playing with The Pirates, Mick played guitar with the likes of Bryan Ferry, Van Morrison and Paul McCartney, and taught guitar privately, and at schools. Sadly he passed away on January 11 from heart failure, at the age of 66. He will be sadly missed by all of us, and may he rest in peace. Something tells me though, that the classic Shakin’ All Over riff will be reverberating around Heaven, if Mick has anything to do with it!
Well consistency is not a word you can use when talking about my football team Tottenham Hotspur. We were away to Liverpool last night (Wednesday) and lost 2-0. We should have had a perfectly good goal by Jermaine Defoe allowed, and a penalty for shirt-pulling on Peter Crouch in the Liverpool goal mouth, which I am sure would have changed the outcome of the match, but in all honesty Liverpool looked the stronger side on the day. This does not bode well for our match on Saturday against Leeds in the FA Cup. With that result, I bet Martin Darvill our manager (avid Leeds supporter) is rubbing his hands with delight. We are going to the match together, so it will be a lot of fun, and a lot of banter for sure.
It was shock horror when I read the headline ‘Black Magic Boy Recovers’ in The Times newspaper this week. In Brasilia a boy just two years old had 32 needles inserted into his body by his former stepfather during black magic rituals. He is leaving the hospital in Salvador, Northern Brazil after a month of operations and recovery. The doctors said the man confessed to the rituals as a way of taking revenge against his former wife. It looked almost like he was using the boy as a human voodoo doll! It is just too much to comprehend that someone could do something like this. The stepfather deserves everything that is coming his way, and it surely will if karma has anything to do with it.
My wife Sheila and I went to see the movie 44 Inch Chest with Ray Winstone as Colin Diamond, John Hurt as Old Man Peanut, Tom Wilkinson, as Archie, Stephen Dillane as Mal and Ian McShane as Meredith. The film is about a jealous husband, and his friends, who kidnap his wife’s lover, with the intention of restoring the husband’s wounded ego. It was written by Sexy Beast writers Louis Melles and David Scinto, and directed by Malcolm Venville. If swearing upsets you, and you are looking for a big Hollywood ending, then this film is not for you, but the acting is top class, and I really enjoyed it. I must say the casting was super-excellent, and the performances from the actors so incredibly strong, that it stays with you.
Now to Tottenham Hotspur vs Leeds in the FA Cup. Well I was picked up by our manager Martin Darvill and we went to the Tottenham ground on Saturday for a 5.15pm kick off. We met up with Don Mckay who is a booking agent for some of Martin’s bands, and he kindly got the tickets for us. Don has been a Spurs fan for years, so it was only Martin who was for Leeds. I made a visit to the Spurs shop to get some birthday presents for Romeo as he is nine next Wednesday (January 27) and then we took our seats. The game was high-spirited, and on this showing to be honest, I think that Leeds are far too good for League One. Spurs had a blistering first 20 minutes, and their goalkeeper Casper Ankergren made some magnificent saves, especially a fine lob from Jermain Defoe. Defoe then won a penalty and took it from the spot so tamely, it was saved again by Ankergren.
Eventually, Peter Crouch put Spurs in front three minutes from half time. Eight minutes into the second half, however, Jermaine Beckford of Leeds equalised. Roman Pavlyuchenko was then brought on for some extra fire power for Spurs to great effect, and scored a wonderful goal making it 2-1. Robbie Keane, another Spurs striker, was brought on as a substitute, and had a goal disallowed with only five minutes to go. Martin and I had to leave at this point to get his car, so that we did not get stuck in the traffic, and we thought that the game was under wraps, with so little time to left to play. Back in Martin’s car, he tuned in the radio to Radio 5 Live, and to our surprise we heard that in the 96th minute, Leeds had been awarded a penalty from a foul by Michael Dawson, which Beckford took brilliantly. So it was 2-2 at full time. This again just pin-points the saying that football is a funny old game, and as they say it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
See you next week, and thanks for reading the above.
Tags: Aker Bilk, Alan Brown Set, Alexis Korner, Andy Leigh, Blur, Bryan Ferry, Chris Blackwell, Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, George Barnett, George Melly, Glastonbury Festival, Graham Bond, Graham Coxon, Greg Ridley, Hawkwind, Humble Pie, Jack Barnett, Jeff Beck, Jess Roden, John Bonham, John Hurt, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Kenny Ball, Led Zeppelin, Lee Kerslake, Lindisfarne, Long John Baldrie's Hoochie Coochie Men, Luther Grosvenor, Mick Box, Mick Green, Mike Harrison, Mike Kellie, Mogul Thrash, Mott The Hoople, New London Children's Choir, Paul McCartney, Ray Winstone, Righteous Brothers, Rod Stewart, Rolling Stones, Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, Spooky Tooth, Stephen Dillane Ian McShane, Ten Years After, The Tridents, The Who, These New Puritans, Thomas Hein, Tom Wilkinson, Trevor Bolder, Uriah Heep, Van Morrison, Wishbone Ash], Yardbirds