Gigs · Music

Concert for Stewart

This show was one of my favourites from 2017 – Concert for Stewart at St Luke’s in Glasgow on 24 November.  Loads of my favourite people and favourite musicians performing in tribute to Stewart Cruikshank, famed radio producer who was so generous over many years with his time and knowledge.

The concert poster below shows the blue plaque which appeared in Glasgow’s Byres Road shortly after his untimely and sudden death in 2015.

A pretty stunning line-up of talent there…

Concert for Professor Stewart Cruickshank

I hadn’t been to St Luke’s before and as it turned out, the 24th was the first cold night of the year.  I waited about an hour for the bus from Edinburgh and found Glasgow well slippy, so was doing a good Bambi impression for much of the walk down to the venue.  Being an old church, the ground outside is made of stone and was like an ice-rink.  Zero coefficient of friction.

But what a lovely venue.  Just past Barrowlands and a sort of mini-me Queen’s Hall, with great staff, service, drinks and prices.  We’d booked a hotel at the far end of Sauchiehall Street as we were aware there was going to be a lot of music played that night – about three hours as it turned out.  Lots of Dylan and Byrds references – Karine Polwart did a lovely version of “Make You Feel My Love.”

It was the first time I had seen The Pastels, who were amazing.

The picture below, courtesy of Sushil K Dade, shows the finale, with (from left) David Scott on piano, Stuart Nisbet on David’s guitar, (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson on Rickenbacker 12-string, Jason McPhail, Rab Noakes and Emma Pollock on vocals, Justin Currie on pint, Kim Edgar, Chloe, Gerry Love on bass, John Hogarty and Duglas T.

Concert for Stewart live Glasgow


Sushil is hosting this event in April, in Helensburgh…if only I still drove…

Festival of Bass Herbie Flowers Jah Wobble


Gigs · Music

Pink Floyd at the Usher Hall

I mentioned this gig in my last post about the Caley Picture House/Wetherspoon’s…

Pink Floyd Usher Hall Edinburgh

Guy Fawkes’ Day 1974 and yes indeed, there were some people in the stalls who let off fireworks.
I would be 14 and a half at the time. I can remember nothing about going to or returning from the show, but I vividly remember everything else about it.
My friend Alan and I went to our seats in Row C of the upper tier to find there were already a couple of herberts in army surplus greatcoats sitting in them – when we pointed out they were our seats, they told us to go away, in the demotic…so we hung around until the end of the first tune, when the two went off to their third row seats in the stalls.  Not the brightest.

The first set was all new material – “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy.”  The first, of course, would appear on Wish You Were Here, which the band started recording at the start of 1975 and released in September of that year.  The other two would be re-titled “Sheep” and “Dogs” and appeared on Animals in January 1977.

The second set was a complete performance of Dark Side of the Moon, which had come out in March 1973 and I think I must have got in early 1974 – I had a set of headphones as well and spent a lot of time listening to this album.

For an encore, PF did “Echoes” from Meddle, which I must also have heard by that time.  I probably got that in late 1974, it certainly wasn’t the second Floyd record I had after Dark Side – like a lot of people, that would have been A Nice Pair, the budget-priced reissue of the first two Floyd albums from 1967 and 1968, in a pretty vile Hipgnosis sleeve. Although The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Saucerful of Secrets may not have been immediately palatable listening for the youthful fan of Dark Side, it was cheap and a nice early introduction to the Barret Floyd – that fascination has never gone away in forty-odd years.

Pink Floyd A Nice Pair

After the show, we went to the edge of the stage to look at the equipment (I hadn’t yet figured out how to walk into dressing rooms, that came a bit later and is now close to involuntary) and were impressed that Nick Mason had car or scooter wing mirrors set up on the drum kit to allow him to sync with the back projections.  For such a hi-tech show, that seemed comfortingly homely.

Note that the ticket for the show by one of the biggest bands in the world at the time was £1.40.  It’s fairly trite to laugh about the price of things 43 and a bit years ago, but what does stick in the mind is that Alan’s dad paid for our two tickets by cheque, which he forgot to sign.  The Usher Hall simply returned the cheque to him and asked him to sign it so they could send the tickets out.

I can’t imagine anything like that happening today.

Gigs · Music · Pubs

Caley Picture House

The Wetherspoon bar at The Caley Picture House has been open for over year now – this plaque is outside;

Caley Picture House plaque

here is the foyer;

Caley Picture House Wetherspoons foyer Lothian Road Edinburgh

and here’s the main bar, in front of the stage of the old Caley. The company has done a great job of the renovations and have paid appropriate respect to the history of the building, as they always do.
The latest edition of Pints of View mentions that the pub has been nominated for a CAMRA/Historic England (sic) Pub Design Award.

Wetherspoons Caley Picture House

Unfortunately, this wee sign in the foyer lets the side down a bit. Ignoring the extra apostrophe (nobody cares about that, do they?), we have the information that Beck had played at the Caley Picture House, as had a duo called Bogert & Appice…

Caley Picture House Pink Floyd

When, in fact, on 9 January 1974, something like this happened at the Caley…

As the plaque also says, Queen played there – they don’t mention they were the support for Mott the Hoople (I was there.)

Mott the Hoople Queen Caley Picture House

As for Pink Floyd, the excellent Edinburgh Gig Archive reports that although there was a show booked there for 19th May 1971, it was moved to the University’s Health Centre in Bristo Square. The Songkick website also places the gig at the University, while Pink Floyd Archives lists it as being at The Caley.
I would tend to follow Edinburgh Gig Archive. I wasn’t there, but I did see Pink Floyd at The Usher Hall, about three minutes walk away, on 5 November 1974.

Last Friday, a second Brew Dog opened on the other side of Lothian Road, I look forward to a visit soon.

BrewDog Lothian Road Scotland

BrewDog Edinburgh

Festivals · Gigs · Music

Bright Phoebus Revisited

Well, I thought it was great.
The Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow on Wednesday night, after an epic bus journey from Edinburgh (the capital) to Glasgow (Scotland’s major city) of 2 hours and ten minutes – for forty-five miles, in normal weather.
Infrastructure, we got it.
Martin Carthy, Marry Waterson, Eliza Carthy, Richard Reed Parry from Arcade Fire and supporting cast MD’d by Kate St. John.

Bright Phoebus Revisited live Glasgow

They did the record proud and I got Marry and Martin’s autographs on my Bright Phoebus booklet with the great sleevenote by Pete Paphides.


Bright Phoebus

I was raving on about this album to my friend John last week. I’d just let him hear The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle. “But would I get it – is it not folk music?”
I had to explain that, yes, although Bright Phoebus was made by ostensibly folk musicians, its reach is far beyond genre – a bit like Odessey and Oracle or even Marquee Moon. Cosmic Humberside Music!

Bright Phoebus reissue Lal and Mike Waterson

Bright Phoebus was released in 1972 and effectively vanished. This was partly due to small and botched original pressing, so there were very few copies in existence, but also due to the album not matching the expectations of many of the people who did buy it.
The proper title of the record is Bright Phoebus Songs by Lal & Mike Waterson, which hints at the problem – the Folk Police were not ready for an album of originals from former members of The Watersons folk group.
The Watersons, from Hull, had been very big on the British folk scene from 1964, where the expectation in the clubs had been that performers would sing traditional songs from the area they were from in their natural accents. This became constricting and although The Watersons were doing well in that context, it became too hard work for too little reward and the group disbanded after a couple of years of scrabbling for a pittance.
Lal and Mike were writing songs for themselves though and in 1971 had a set of demos each, which old friend Martin Carthy heard on a visit to Hull with his new band, Steeleye Span. Ashley Hutchings agreed with him that the songs needed to be recorded and enlisted Dave Mattacks and Richard Thompson from the Fairport Convention mothership – Tim Hart and Maddy Prior from Steeleye Span were also in for the recordings, which started in May 1972, produced by Bill Leader.

Bright Phoebus Lal Waterson Mike Waterson

It took about a week to finish the recordings – on a few tracks, the Thompson/Carthy driven band is augmented with cello and woodwind, but the core sound is that of Thompson and Carthy interveaving their guitars to make one big, timeless accompaniment.
And the songs? Although, infamously, the fact they were composed by Mike and Lal (and sometimes with help from Lal’s friend Christine Collins) was a problem for many of The Watersons’ old fans, most of the time you wouldn’t know they are not songs from the old, weird England. The imagery is straight out of Childe ballads or The Golden Bough, although the subject matter is often more personal than mythically symbolic.
The mixture of the timeless style of the songs and the enthusiasm and skill of the players may well be why the record has endured.

Lal and Mike Waterson

But I say “endured”…there was a big hole in the middle between the release in 1972 and this reissue from 2017. I had certainly never heard of Bright Phoebus until a couple of years ago, when the Waterson and Carthy extended family performed some concerts of the material, with special guests including Richard Hawley. The writers, Lal and Mike Waterson died respectively in 1998 and 2011.

Mike Waterson Bright Phoebus

It appears that the original seeding of albums from 1972 spawned many cassette copies, which those in the know were swapping throughout the next decades – cassettes became CDRs in the noughties, then there was YouTube…

The Watersons

Last year the Domino label reissued Bright Phoebus in a remastered edition, which also included an extra CD of a selection of the 1971 demos – I didn’t get one immediately and for a few anxious weeks it looked as if the additional CD was not going to be re-pressed.
But I did get the demos CD and it was definitely worth the wait, if its intensity is a bit spooky – these are intimate recordings, obviously, and the clarity that the modern remastering gives them makes it sound as if the Waterson siblings are in the room.
But the parent album is a treat in itself and I’ve played it at least once most days since I got it in September.
This is Lal Waterson’s “Red Wine Promises” from Lal & Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus (I don’t know why YouTube has it as “Red Wine and Promises…”)
The guitar is by Martin Carthy and the vocal is by Norma Waterson – I love an album which has a track performed by neither of the album’s named creators!

Demolition · Music · Pubs

The Music Group…

The Music Group North Merchiston Church

 When I arrived back from the Christmas holidays, I was delighted to have received this CD from a dear friend.
North Merchiston Church was at the top of the street where I live now – I attended from childhood until my late teens. During and beyond that time, I played in The Music Group mentioned on the sleeve. We would play at Christmas and other festival services in the church, at old peoples’ homes and hospitals – it was fun and yet another example of the Church of Scotland’s role as social adhesive in the latter part of the 20th century.  Some of us had discovered pubs as well.
The musical performances herein are not as bad as I feared or remembered – they’re a lot better, in fact. The sound is pretty good given that they were all recorded on a 1960’s cassette recorder which would be planked on top of the church organ.
The church was demolished in 1988 – as happened with many Scottish churches, the size of the congregation had fallen so much that necessary repairs to the fabric of the building could no longer be afforded and North Merchiston church joined congregations with St Michael’s, about five minutes walk along the road.  Here’s a recent picture of the frankly imposing St Mike’s…

 St. Michael's Church Edinburgh

Predictably, I have loads of great photos of the demolition, which I must scan and add to this blog – in fact, I bought my first 35mm camera precisely for the purpose of taking these pictures. It is impossible to find any good pictures of the church on the Internet – the aerial picture on the front of the CD is as good as it gets.