WW's desert island discs #2

The Fan Worship of Cliff and the Shadows wore off gradually until one day in the summer of 1963 when I bought "It's all in the Game", a Cliff ballad. I was nine. The record was cheesy and sentimental, and I knew it then. End of Cliff. Of course, by then, the Beatles were about to release "With the Beatles" and I had already heard "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me". I became, and still am, a Beatles fan. In 1964, I was given a Rolling Stones EP with "Bye Bye Johnny" on it, and by then, Cliff was an embarrassing memory.

In the meantime, there was the Jazz Club. I tell people I was brought up in a Jazz Club. This is true. The Club was a loose association of jazzers who gigged as and when, until the early sixties, when my father and some friends got together and transformed a cavernous Victorian warehouse adjacent to our house, with high beams and ornate clerestory windows. into a jazz venue. It was all done on the cheap - an artificial ceiling was eventually added, made from a theatre curtain. Coloured lighting was added, shaded by cheese graters. But there was a bar and a raised performance area with what was supposed to be an accoustic ceiling, and my dad made huge paintings in the manner of Toulouse-Lautrec on a wall and the place was duly called "Club Montmartre", but everyone knew it as Boston Jazz Club. I spent nearly every Sunday evening between about 1962 and the mid 70's sitting, nursing a Schweppes bitter lemon, listening to trad jazz. The Club is still going, though does not have its own premises. Only Ronnie Scott's has been going longer. It was on a Sunday night, a Jazz night, that I came into the club to tell astonished and disbelieving punters that the President of the United States had been shot dead. I know where I was, exactly, on November 22nd, 1963.

There were many characters in the Jazz Club and I developed a life-long ability to be comfortable with bohemians and freaks. There were drugs, (I learned later) everyone was shagging everyone else in all the combinations, and I met these big American jazz players who wore sharp suits and pinned down collars and looked like gangsters - people such as Ruby Braff and Wild Bill Davison. To a small town boy in the mid sixties, this was something special. When, years later, I did get to spend an evening in Ronnie Scott's, it was like coming home, right down to the gingham table cloths and the candles and the smell of cigars. Everyone was a more or less functioning boozer, if not a full-on alcoholic, like my dad, who despite the booze could play the Mozart clarinet concerto from memory as a warm-up, before going on. The front man for the club was someone called Ivan Jessop, who was a trombone player and who more or less kept it from folding when my dad upped and left town, and us. Had it not been for Ivan, I don't think it would have had the momentum. My mother had an affair with Geoff the drummer, who eventually left his wife for her and they were married some years later. I was in the middle of all of this and it was mostly shit because my dad was violent and prone to take a swing at people. Barry is dead now; long gone, a combination of 40 Player's Plain and two bottles of Vodka a day. The only bright thing he did was to marry an ex-nun who nursed him in his last years, which were spent in Australia, funded by a brief career as an international confidence trickster and chef.

And so we come to the disc. By a stroke of incredible luck, somebody decided to do a professional recording when Ken Colyer performed at the club in June 1972. It didn't work out so well, and the recording guy had to do it on a Uher four track at 7&1/2 ips and three AKG mikes and apparently lost a few numbers while frantically changing reels. But a CD exists and can be bought HERE. The Club was considered a "hard blow" by the musicians and caused Alex Welsh to opine, "Never mind Boston Massachusetts, this is Boston Bad Accoustics".

Well, here is me, aged 18, (somewhere in the audience) listening to Ken Colyer and his Jazzmen, playing, Mahogany Hall Stomp.


Jim Baxter said...

Great stuff. The telltale background hubbub tells its tale. Music to smoke, drink, and laugh by.

The Edinburgh Jazz Festival in its early days - hat-tip to Mike Hart - purveyed jazz to the people in assorted small pubs across the city. Go into a pub in darkest Slateford and you could find Humphrey Lyttleton with his regular band, maybe with Bruce 'Go home dirty bopper' Turner there too.

Years later and we're in the ballroom of the North British hotel, as it was then and there's Humph and the band and there's us, smoking, drinking and laughing. A woman at the next table looks across with a face like an avalanche and hisses, 'Do you mind, we're trying to listen to the music'.

Speaking of being in the audience, if you listen carefully to the soundtrack of the film, 'Brazil', just at the bit where the tanker lorry thunders under the bridge, you can hear me being quiet, sitting in the big Abbey Rd. studio, watching the big screen as Michael Kamen conducted. Me brother-in law was a bassist who'd got the gig as a session man. And as for what is in the street outside the studios, yes, of course I did. Wouldn't you? Doesn't everybody?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

One of the amazing facts of life is that the famous zebra crossing has not been covered over by the local council due to elf n safety.