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One Bit of Magic

I’ve seen the news that Jack Ely has died. He’s singing on this

I guess it’s so good because they’re not very good. It is a classic isn’t it? Somewhere I have a CD album of Louie Louie versions and related songs, including the Richard Berry original which is really good – but there is something wonderful about this one

RIP Jack


If you’re not part of the solution …

… you’re part of the problem – as the old Counter Culture slogan went.

I’ve played at the Cellars a few times and I’ve been there as a punter a few times but I’m certainly one of the people who might have been more of a regular and wasn’t. On Pompey Pop Facebook Malc has said

“Problem is not enough punters. I’ve been there when even a well know name was on and probably 10 to a dozen people watching. Maggie Bell for example. Same as with pubs, no good complaining they are all closing if you don’t go. Number of times bands play to just a handful of customers. Amazes me how they can pay the bands.”

I think he’s entirely right and I understand Oscar’s deep disappointment because he was a regular, loyal customer and folks like him deserve better

But I’m part of the problem. People often ask me ‘am I going/did I go’ to see XYZ and I usually say no. My days as a punter are almost over and I can’t ever quite explain why. I guess it’s partly that I’ve done so many gigs over the past 50 (ish) years that to a large extent ‘the thrill is gone’ – is that just typical of an old ‘muso’?

It’s also partly that I’ve seen so many utterly awesome acts in my life that very little measures up (although I’m less ‘open’ than Oscar to new stuff) but at 65 I’ve probably turned into my dad – loveliest of blokes but didn’t drink and never went out evenings if he could help it.

Is it just me? Why don’t we go in numbers that keep these things going? Can we blame the kids? Should they be going?


Another One – a BIG one – Gone

From Facebook- passed on by ‘Fossy’

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the closure, for good, of The Cellars at Eastney, as a music, comedy and theatre venue, on Saturday 1st August 2015.

Despite changes of ownership, The Cellars has been run largely by the same team for nearly 18 years. The current landlord has been amazingly supportive and without him, the venue would certainly have closed in 2011 when, then owner, Enterprise Inns were selling the freehold for development. However, he is simply no longer in a position to subsidise our rent, as he has done for some considerable time and the business is just not in a position to pay the rent in full. He is as gutted as we are that there is no viable way for the venue to continue …


Born or Raised

Philip Haines tells us in the previous post that Mick Fleetwood was born on Hayling Island

Who are the high achievers among local Pompey Popsters then?

The Shulman Brothers? (but Derek and Phil were born in Glasgow)

Joe Jackson? (born somewhere near Stoke)

Paul Jones? (left at 18 and never came back)

It’s probably more important where they grew up and learned to play in which case Joe and the Shulmans are Pompey, but Jones is much less so.

I think …


On the Road

On Friday evening, BBC4 did a show called “New Tales from the Tour Bus” about rock & roll life on the road. It was presented by Rick Wakeman which did not thrill me with anticipation. He’s a bit of a clown but I take it back. I really enjoyed it and I guess it’s still on Iplayer. It’s worth a look


40 Years and counting

My buddy Denis and I are off to launch our new band today at a private ‘dress rehearsal’ party before our public debut next Thursday

Today is also the 40th Anniversary of one of our great nights. We were students at Milton’s College of Knowledge and had a seven-piece country blues/skiffle/jug band Skys Is Cryin’. We entered a nationwide ‘Tartan Bitter’ student Talent Competition on the offer of free beer at every gig and on this day/tomorrow (?) in 1975 we appeared in the Final at Hammersmith Odeon (support to Steeleye Span) and won the whole thing with a prize of £750 – serious money in those days.

One of the judges was Alan Bown, the MC was Bob Harris and somewhere I’ve still got the recording. It was a rather magical day! The photo is from one of the earlier rounds which were at Worthing, Thames Poly and Reading University but I can’t remember which one.

Skys is Cryin' 1975 (with Dave right)

Steeleye Span

hammersmith envelope


Cold Jazz?

Last night my buddy Denis and I, plus Mrs A and Mrs RB went to the Guildhall to see the national Youth Jazz Orchestra (all under 25) – and a very fine performance they gave too


The modest audience was almost a straight mix of young people from schools and colleges, many of whom had attended a workshop in the afternoon (and are probably studying music) and old jazz fans – our party in their mid-60s was at the ‘youthful’ end of that group, with many familiar faces from Portsmouth Jazz Society gigs

But there were very few people in their 30s/40s/50s. That led me to thinking about the original Pompey Pop project and the way it has developed with the post-1975 history at the Guildhall and on the new Facebook site

What’s happened – and it may well reflect what really did happen – is that styles of rock music and the electric guitar have come to dominate, to the exclusion of the far richer mix of the 1960s. We could argue for ever about whether the ’60s were really ‘better’ but in one respect – from my experience at least – I reckon they win hands down.

In the 1960s I went regularly to folk clubs, jazz concerts/gigs, R&B and blues gigs, there was soul and ska at the Birdcage and ‘pop’ was everywhere (youth clubs, pirate radio etc). The variety was fantastic, both live and on the radio. It seems to me that these days the roots of popular music are in rock and pop and pop and rock plus for a minority, electro or Hip Hop. But the variety is far less apparent. Jazz is there if you want it, but I’m not sure that younger generations do want it very much.


A Question

From a pal of mine (Geoff Allman) in Manchester:

“Have you come across a guy called John Barker in Pompey. He’s supposed to be a blues guitarist amongst other things. Does the name ring a bell with you?”
My answer was no – anyone know anything?


Today’s Quiz

Another intriguing pic

Nigel's quiz 3

“Here’s another photo from Celia Jeffrey’s collection. It shows her getting the autograph of a well known local musician from the Klimaks. With the metal fire escape in the background the location looks a bit like the back of the Savoy with the flats next door but if the backs of the houses were in Alhambra Road I think they would have been higher. Anyone know where the photo was taken, and who is the smooth guy in the reefer jacket?”

I’m not sure where, but the face looks familiar. Those vans were tiny back then – not mush room inside …


Bruce ‘Fish’ Barthol in Pompey

Bruce Barthol – from Country Joe & the Fish will be playing in the back room of The R.M.A. Tavern in Cromwell Road, Eastney on Wednesday 29th April – on acoustic guitar rather than his usual bass

Bruce Barthol was the bass player in the original and best ever Country Joe & The Fish line up, and appeared on their classic Country Joe & The Fish albums, “Electric Music For The Mind And Body”, “Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die” & “Together”. Without his bass guitar, tracks such as “Bass Strings” just wouldn’t have been the same. Country Joe & The Fish played the Monterey Festival in California, the first of the big open air festivals . This three-day event held in 1967, attracted an estimated attendance of 90,000. It featured the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix and The Who, and also the first major public performance of Janis Joplin, with her band Big Brother & The Holding Company. Country Joe & The Fish and Big Brother & The Holding Company also played at the 1969’s Woodstock Festival.

In 2004 The Country Joe Band was formed – Country Joe & The Fish without Barry “the Fish” Melton. Fronted by Country Joe McDonald (guitar/vocals), Bruce was on bass & vocals, David Bennett Cohen on keyboards/guitar and Chicken Hirsh on drums. 

They toured the U.K in 2004 and 2005, and headlined The Isle Of Wight Roots Festival in 2004, and in 2005 headlined Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Convention, in front of 25,000 people. 

After The Country Joe Band folded at the end of 2005, Bruce and David formed the supergroup The Former Members, with Roy Blumenfeld on drums, a founder member of Al Kooper’s Blues Project , and Greg Douglass , lead guitarist from the Steve Miller Band, Hot Tuna and Van Morrisons’ band. 

After successful Former Members gigs in the U.S.A , two U.K tours and a critically acclaimed CD, the band got together with guitarist Sam Andrew- founder and current member of Big Brother & The Holding Company. . The award winning U.K blues singer Bex Marshall joined them as “the voice Of Janis Joplin”. Their 2014 U.K tour was an unqualified success. 

As well Country Joe & The Fish, Bruce was also a founding member of the wonderful Formerly Fat Harry, and has also played Bruce has played with some of the best including Pete Seeger, Roy Harper, Ralph McTell, and many others, though his most enduring musical activity was as musical director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe for over 30 years. 

He’s written over 300 songs, and released a solo album, “The Decline & Fall Of Everything”. As would befit anyone who came out of that whole early 60s civil rights era, Bruce’s material oozes with razor sharp insight, social concern, deadpan humour and a cool anger, qualities absent from just about any other record you’re likely to hear in 2015. Anyone who’s caught The Country Joe Band live will instantly recognise ‘Cakewalk To Baghdad’ a satirical ode written specifically about the stupidity of the Iraq war, one he wrote after he heard some idiot talk about “it’s going to be a cakewalk.”

Doors open 8 p.m for 9 p.m, and tickets are just a fiver.