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Jan
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Pete Atkin - First encounter
« : 15.12.04 at 13:07 »
Quote

One of the interesting features of the old Midnight Voices mailing list was when new people posted for the first time and told when and how they first heard of Pete Atkin and the Atkin/James songs.
We've seen a few new names lately and I'd love to hear from them but also from some of the established Voices.
When did Steve Birkill first realise the this interest wasn't just in passing? Is there anyone reading this who bought Beware of the Beautiful Stranger when it was first issued?
I know there is at least one person reading this who bought his first Pete Atkin LP in Dobells on Charing Cross Road as I did. I came across it by chance shortly after seeing Pete, Julie Covington and Russell Davies on The Party's Moving On on London Weekend TV. I think the first song I heard was Girl on the train - so long ago.
Jan
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #1: 15.12.04 at 13:45 »
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My first encounter was via a rave review of DTMA by Richard Williams in the Melody Maker. I made a mental note to keep an eye and ear open but never found a trace of Pete's stuff in any record shops. Then  returning to my digs one evening I switched on the radio and heard a song fading out and a DJ (Bob Harris? John Peel?) saying "Pete Atkin". I stuck around and sure enough he came back a little later and did "Thirty Year Man" and I was hooked. It's only relatively recently that I understood why I was hooked: here was an Englishman singing as he speaks, a song with words you want to listen to set to a tune you have to listen to. Now I'm going to drop in at Smash Flops to find the exact details of the show: if I were Proust I could eat a Madeleine biscuit and it would all come flooding back but it would have to be a pint of Boddington's in my case and that sort of thing is less easily obtainable here in Paris 2004 than it was in Crewe circa 1972.
 
Ian C
 
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #2: 15.12.04 at 14:01 »
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<<BBC Radio session - 6 Mar 1972
Studio: PH
Producer John Walters; Engineer/SM Bob Conduct
First Broadcast John Peel "Top Gear - Sounds of the Seventies" R1 2200, 14.3.72
PA (ac gtr (3), pno (1)(2)(4), voc)
   THIRTY YEAR MAN (1)
   A KING AT NIGHTFALL (2)
   UNCLE SEA-BIRD (3)
   THIEF IN THE NIGHT (4)>>
 
Now I definitely remember hearing TYM after another song which was why I stayed to listen but it seems Pete did TYM first. Unless this is a list of the songs as recorded and not as played. Can't ask John Walters or John Peel, alas...
 
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colin_boag
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #3: 16.12.04 at 16:19 »
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I think my first introduction to the music of PA / CJ was when seeing one of the odd psychedelic light show film clips on the Old Grey Whistle Test with DTMA as the music.  I loved it and bought everything after that...I also then bought second and third copies over the years when I saw them in record shops.  First live PA / CJ experience was at Nottingham University (can't remember which hall...I think it was Willoughby) which must have been in '74-'75.  Thanks to Steve's excellent work, I found this site and had the pleasure of booking PA for a 'folk' club I then ran in Winchester...all I need to do now is find a way of booking Michael Marra!
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #4: 18.12.04 at 15:51 »
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Colin - without wanting to be too clever about it ; I think you should try the stoneyport agency; http://www.stoneyport.demon.co.uk/contacts.html
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #5: 22.12.04 at 15:56 »
Quote

on 15.12.04 at 13:07, Jan wrote:
One of the interesting features of the old Midnight Voices mailing list was when new people posted for the first time and told when and how they first heard of Pete Atkin and the Atkin/James songs.
We've seen a few new names lately and I'd love to hear from them but also from some of the established Voices.
Is there anyone reading this who bought Beware of the Beautiful Stranger when it was first issued?
I know there is at least one person reading this who bought his first Pete Atkin LP in Dobells on Charing Cross Road as I did.

 
As a now (I hope) established Voice, I'm proud to say I "discovered" Pete for myself, without ever having heard of him or being told about him beforehand. I first saw him when he made an appearance as a floor singer at a folk club I used to frequent, in the upstairs room at the Three Horse Shoes pub in Heath Street, Hampstead, early in 1970. He and his songs made an immediate impression on me, and judging by the audience reaction, on the others present. It was one of those moments you never forget - in fact, he made such an impact that, now well over thirty years later, I can still clearly picture Pete there, but I can't for the life of me remember who it was I paid to see that night!
 
I mentioned this in my first message to the old MV mailing group, and Pete reckoned the date was probably either 27th January or 10th February, when he did floor spots with a view to getting booked for a gig there. Although he can't remember for sure who the star turns were on those occasions, he does remember seeing the Famous Jug Band there on one of his visits - I certainly saw this superb group there (and a few times elsewhere during those heady days when so many great artists were gigging in so many folk clubs) so it might well have been them topping the bill the night I saw Pete for the very first time.
 
I do remember he sang Girl On The Train, The Original Original Honky Tonk Night Train Blues, and Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger, although I can't at this distance recall the sequence. But the songs immediately grabbed my attention and signalled a major original talent - of course I now know that Clive can take a share of the credit!
 
From then on I kept an eye out for Pete's name in the music press or folk club posters, and after that first occasion I saw Pete a few times at various folk club gigs in the early 1970s - I used to go to a lot of London club and college gigs at that time - but I can't remember any details, apart from one gig at the Fox on Islington Green in 1971 which stands out in my mind. That was where I first heard Pete sing the yet-to-be-released Thief  In The Night, which knocked me out on first hearing. My memory is of this wonderful song being played in a slow, almost brooding arrangement that really seemed to suit the song, and I remember being disappointed on hearing the LP version later, which was played too fast for my taste.
 
During the interim I had scoured all the West End record shops - the normally reliable and now late lamented Dobell's included - for Pete's first album, without success, and I finally found what seemed like the only copy on sale in London, in a tiny branch of HMV (now long gone), round the corner from Leicester Square tube in Cranbourn Street. Having carried my prize home I became one of those tiresome folk who used to force anyone within earshot to listen to it, given the slightest excuse!
 
After the Fox gig mentioned above, I got chatting to Pete and we continued our conversation outside the pub after chucking out time. One thing I remember is that he was interested to know where I'd been able to find the album, as many people had told him they'd not been able to get their hands on a copy, in those pre-Hillside Music online shop days!
 
So, to answer your question Jan: yes, I did buy a copy of BOTBS when it was first issued - it took a bit of determined foot-slogging though! Your mention of Dobell's reminds me of the many folk LPs I bought there that I would otherwise not have been able to get hold of. I still have some of them, with the little Dobell's price stickers in the corner.
 
32/6 for a brand new LP?! Tell the kids that and they won't believe you. Aye, them was the days!
 
Cheers
 
Paul
 
p.s. a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #6: 22.12.04 at 20:59 »
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Hi there!
 
In MV 5901 (Remember them?) I wrote (on 25 March 2001):
 
I first met Pete Atkin in the early 1970s when he played Watford Technical
College Folk Club (9 November 1972 according to the gig list).  I went with
a guy called Paul Weir (aka:  Captain Weird) who was to review Pete's
performance for Melody Maker or NME or whoever he could sell it to as a
freelance writer.
 
As we both entered the club (late) a singer was singing.  "Sounds like he's
just getting started", said Paul.  "Wait until he gets onto the good stuff".
I waited.  The good stuff never came. I went off for a drink.  When I
returned there was another singer singing.  And HE was great.  Song after
song of wonderful words to wonderful music.  I began to hope that the main
artiste wouldn't come on again.  He didn't.  "That's it!" said the compere.
"Thanks for coming, see you next month".
 
In the car on the way home, I told Paul I didn't like his Pete Atkin and
asked why he hadn't come back for a second set.
Eventually he convinced me that the first guy was a floor singer.  And the
singer I thought was a floor singer was actually Pete Atkin singing!
Confused?  So was I!
 
That was many years ago now and I've been confused ever since.
 
Oh....and there's something else:
 
I was on the folk club circuit in the 1970s myself as a singer/songwriter.
After that night, I often ran into Pete although I'm sure he wouldn't remember me now.

 
Ah, those heady days.  Brings a tear to my eye even now....   Cry
 
Everything you wish yourself for Christmas and the New Year, gang.
May your future be filled with delightful surprises!

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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #7: 26.12.04 at 10:03 »
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Comedy was the key for me: I watched everything on TV that could even loosely described as funny. Thus I found Pete through "What Are You Doing After the Show", the pretty poor sketch show that was broken up by his songs. They were quirky and interesting, but I didn't immediately want to rush out and buy them.  
 
Some time later (probably over a year) I had a record token I needed to use before it expired and picked up Beware of The Beautiful Stranger - the album I really wanted (long forgotten) was 50p dearer and thus unobtainable. Once I got it home it rarely left the turntable - the music was so interesting, and the words were quite good too.
 
Some time later I realised that the grey/green rather anonymous album cover I kept skipping past in the record browser was the RCA version of Driving Through Mythical America and bought it. It remains to this day my favourite album, with a mind-blowing range of songs, every one a gem.  
 
The first time I actually saw Pete was when I went to see A & R at the Traverse Theatre during the Edinburgh Festival in 1977. I'm not sure of it was the same year or the following one that I also saw him play a gig at the Ed Fest. My main memory of that first concert was the shock I felt whenhe performed numbers on guitar that had been recorded on piano and vice versa. What talent, what versatility!
 
When I grow up I want to be just like Pete.....
 
Have a Happy Holiday Season.
 
Ian Sorensen
(Beautiful Changer, retd.)
 
[/i][i]
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #8: 26.12.04 at 14:54 »
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Ian S. wrote:
 
<<Have a Happy Holiday Season. >>
 
You, too.
 
<<Ian Sorensen  
(Beautiful Changer, retd.) >>
 
But why retire so young? Isn't it time for a reformation?
 
Ian C
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #9: 21.11.06 at 14:40 »
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This thread seems to be somewhat dormant. Is it OK to revive it?
 
I was interested to note that no-one else has mentioned the Kenny Everitt saturday morning show in 19....???  on what must have been Radio 1, I suppose, although it can't have been going very long then; anyway that's where I first came across Pete. My memory is of hearing "Master of the Revels", and possibly "Thief in the Night", and also a few other gems such as James Taylor's "Blossom", virtually every week, and I remember it particularly because I always used to have a bath on Saturday mornings; this was a novel experience for me, as we only got our bathroom in 1968, and my brother and I (who were both in our late teens then) sought (separately) to (a) make up for lost time and (b) emulate J.D.Salinger's hero in "Franny & Zooey" in taking interminable baths (though we never managed one that lasted for a whole (short) novel as Salinger did, because the water went cold ...)  (sorry for digression!)
 
I say that is my memory, but of course memory does play tricks. Perhaps someone will now appear with documentary evidence that "MOTR" was only ever played once (and also that Marie-Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake" ...), and "TITN" not at all; certainly I could possibly have discovered the latter when I met someone who had a copy of "Driving Through Mythical America" at university between 1970 and 1971; I recorded the LP (through a mike) and it was for many years (untill the "Birkill era" in fact, and a gig at Eastbourne in the early 90s) my only link with Pete & Clive. The tape had a sound at the end of it like a needle scratching across the record, but do not fear! It was actually the sound of me unzipping my sleeping bag to turn the damn thing off.
 
I don't actually remember any live performances, although I used to go to the odd folk club in those days (where have all the folk clubs gone?  Sad ) but my preference was for what was then known as "progressive" music - Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis, King Crimson etc.
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #10: 21.11.06 at 15:25 »
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on 21.11.06 at 14:40, Jim Grozier wrote:
I was interested to note that no-one else has mentioned the Kenny Everitt saturday morning show in 19....???  on what must have been Radio 1, I suppose, although it can't have been going very long then; anyway that's where I first came across Pete. My memory is of hearing "Master of the Revels", and possibly "Thief in the Night"

Jim
 
If you go to our audio clips page you'll find recordings of Ken playing MOTR. I remember him playing Girl On The Train, too. The page dates from the 1990s and the clips are in RealAudio format -- it's about time I swapped them for MP3s!
 
Steve
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #11: 21.11.06 at 15:55 »
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on 21.11.06 at 15:25, S J Birkill wrote:

Jim
 
If you go to our audio clips page you'll find recordings of Ken playing MOTR. I remember him playing Girl On The Train, too. The page dates from the 1990s and the clips are in RealAudio format -- it's about time I swapped them for MP3s!
 
Steve

 
Thanks Steve! I can almost feel that warm soapy water ...
 
Jim.
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #12: 22.11.06 at 11:48 »
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on 21.11.06 at 14:40, Jim Grozier wrote:
This thread seems to be somewhat dormant. Is it OK to revive it?
 
I was interested to note that no-one else has mentioned the Kenny Everitt saturday morning show in 19....???

 
I think this was mentioned, but probably in the old MV email group, although I'm ready to be shot down in flames if it never was.  Huh
 
(...snippage of interesting reminiscences...)
 
Quote:
I don't actually remember any live performances, although I used to go to the odd folk club in those days (where have all the folk clubs gone?  Sad ) but my preference was for what was then known as "progressive" music - Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis, King Crimson etc.

 
There are still plenty of folk clubs around - not as many as there were in the early 1970s though, I agree. If there weren't, people like me wouldn't get much of a look in...  Sad
 
It sounds as if I was a student around the same time as you - I used to see all those "progressive" bands at college gigs too, as well as frequenting numerous folk clubs. And why not? (as Barry Norman probably never said).  Grin
 
Cheers
 
Paul
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #13: 26.11.06 at 21:32 »
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Introduced by a friend in 1973(?).   Fell in live with a beautiful stranger and Pete's music   Grin
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #14: 26.11.06 at 21:42 »
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on 22.11.06 at 11:48, Secret Drinker wrote:

There are still plenty of folk clubs around - not as many as there were in the early 1970s though, I agree. If there weren't, people like me wouldn't get much of a look in...  Sad

 
Yes, but on the whole, I think they're what good old BR would have called "the wrong kind of folk clubs" - with the emphasis very much on traditional, finger-in-the-ear stuff. Apparently in some purist folk circles the 1970s are regarded as "the lost decade", when folk clubs were invaded by all those horrible people playing guitars and writing their own songs, and the unaccompanied 37-verse epics of 96-year-old Harry Cowpat from Lincolnshire got briefly brushed aside ... whereas for me it was very much a time when you could hear all sorts of stuff in them, and people like myself, who always preferred the Ralph McTell singer-songwriter types (including Pete of course) would tolerate and even enjoy the odd traditional song. Nowadays what clubs are left seem to cover a much narrower range of tastes.  Sad Or maybe I should move to your part of the country, Paul?
 
Of course the Lamb at Eastbourne is one of the exceptions, and is more like the ones I used to go to; when I last went there to see Pete, earlier this year (I think it was) there were all sorts of acts, including a local harmonica player and a skiffle band playing real authentic skiffle instruments, i.e. a washboard and tea chest!
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #15: 27.11.06 at 10:02 »
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on 26.11.06 at 21:42, Jim Grozier wrote:

 
Yes, but on the whole, I think they're what good old BR would have called "the wrong kind of folk clubs" - with the emphasis very much on traditional, finger-in-the-ear stuff. Apparently in some purist folk circles the 1970s are regarded as "the lost decade", when folk clubs were invaded by all those horrible people playing guitars and writing their own songs, and the unaccompanied 37-verse epics of 96-year-old Harry Cowpat from Lincolnshire got briefly brushed aside ... whereas for me it was very much a time when you could hear all sorts of stuff in them, and people like myself, who always preferred the Ralph McTell singer-songwriter types (including Pete of course) would tolerate and even enjoy the odd traditional song. Nowadays what clubs are left seem to cover a much narrower range of tastes.  Sad Or maybe I should move to your part of the country, Paul?
 
Of course the Lamb at Eastbourne is one of the exceptions, and is more like the ones I used to go to; when I last went there to see Pete, earlier this year (I think it was) there were all sorts of acts, including a local harmonica player and a skiffle band playing real authentic skiffle instruments, i.e. a washboard and tea chest!

 
I haven't been to the Lamb (regrettably I've missed all of Pete's performances there), but the clubs I've been to in the past few years do have a wide range of acts, who play anything from traditional folk songs (not necessarily with fingers in ears though!) to contemporary songs, with some artists doing a mix of both, and anything in between.
 
I'm sure there must be purist folk clubs still around, full of the stereotypical wizened bearded old folkies clad in Aran sweaters who frown upon anything that wasn't written by those two old stalwarts "Trad" and "Anon", but I haven't been to one of those in years.
 
A lot of the artists I've seen in folk clubs in recent years are like Pete in the sense that they can't really be called 'folk' in the old sense, but they perform on (mainly) acoustic instruments and often write their own songs, and folk clubs still seem to be the main venues where these artists are able to perform. In fact some big names still like to do gigs in small intimate venues, even though they are used to performing in theatres and at big festivals.
 
I don't know whereabouts you live, Jim, but I suggest you visit a few folk clubs in your area to see what they're like. With any luck you'll find one that suits you - they are all different. If you don't like them, you don't have to go back!
 
(Blatant plug: if you or any other MVs live anywhere near Baldock, Herts, I'll be performing as part of the band Tam Lin at the folk club there this Wednesday. No PA songs this time though, I'm afraid, as we're supporting a Scottish band Muckle, as part of a St Andrew's Eve do, so it will be all Scottish tunes and songs this time. But if any MVs come along please say hello Smiley )
 
Cheers
 
Paul
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #16: 27.11.06 at 10:29 »
Quote

on 27.11.06 at 10:02, Secret Drinker wrote:

 
I don't know whereabouts you live, Jim, but I suggest you visit a few folk clubs in your area to see what they're like.

 
Brighton. There aren't any here but there's the Royal Oak at Lewes - where admittedly I've seen some good people like Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson, and also Chris Wood and Andy Cutting, in the past. But the support stuff is nearly all traditional, and when you go in there is the distinct feeling of an outsider interrupting a church service.
 
I've been to the Seaford one too, but it's the same story there, although they did have Bill Jones once. My friend's wife was persuaded to come along, and sit in the front row with us, and then we had to endure the utterly cringeworthy experience of a duo singing "The Sun Has Got His Hat On"! Needless to say neither she nor I ever went back.  
 
There used to be several in Brighton I think, including one in the very street where I live, which met TWICE A WEEK and used to have performances by Allan Taylor before he went to the USA.
 
Quote:

I'll be performing as part of the band Tam Lin at the folk club there this Wednesday.

 
Ah! Tam Lin! Memories of Fairport Convention! (not that I ever understood the words but it was a nice sound).
 
Jim.  
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #17: 27.11.06 at 15:11 »
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on 26.11.06 at 21:42, Jim Grozier wrote:

 
Apparently in some purist folk circles the 1970s are regarded as "the lost decade", when folk clubs were invaded by all those horrible people playing guitars and writing their own songs, and the unaccompanied 37-verse epics of 96-year-old Harry Cowpat from Lincolnshire got briefly brushed aside ... whereas for me it was very much a time when you could hear all sorts of stuff in them, and people like myself, who always preferred the Ralph McTell singer-songwriter types (including Pete of course) would tolerate and even enjoy the odd traditional song.

 
Funnily enough, the seventies was when I had my encounter with the most purist folk club I ever went to.  In 1974 I was (briefly, and ignominiously) at Newcastle Poly (now Tyneside University), and my missus and I used to go to the Bridge Hotel folk club, where the High Level Ranters held court once a week.  Now, personally, when I'm in a folk club I'm prepared to listen to anything from finger-in-the-ear ethnicities to blues and singer-songwriter stuff, as long as it's done well; but this place's policy was really strict.  If you didn't do trad or the mining songs of Tommy Armstrong you didn't get to sing.  But the profile of the club was high, and the quality of the music was pretty damn good - the HLRs themselves would have been a star turn anywhere else.  One night when the booked guest couldn't make it, a singer who happened to be in the audience volunteered to stand in - Martin Carthy, no less!
 
I also vividly remember Allan Taylor from the same period, when we booked him into the Poly folk club, not only for his songs but for what a thoroughly nice bloke he was, very friendly and with no side at all.
 
Another memory of the Poly folk club is of the night we had Bob Pegg (remember Mr. Fox?), who comes from Leeds.  I was treasurer at the time, and when I came to pay him after the gig there was a Scottish bank note (they're often seen on Tyneside) in the money.  Mr. Pegg looked at it and said: "I've never seen one of these before."  To my embarrassment, a colleague of mine on the club committee, who came from Warrington and was filled with disgust at having his home town transferred from Lancashire to Cheshire in the 1974 county boundary shake-up, said loudly and scornfully to our distinguished guest: "What do you expect, coming from Yorkshire?"
 
By the way, I am also a keen fan of Ralph McTell.  I went to see him at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon (his home town) last year, and his songs and chat held me spellbound for nearly two hours with no interval.  A great night.
 
Oh dear, what an off-topic ramble!  
« Last Edit: 27.11.06 at 15:23 by Richard Bleksley » IP logged
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Singing PA songs a capella
« Reply #18: 27.11.06 at 16:08 »
Quote

on 27.11.06 at 15:11, Richard Bleksley wrote:

 
Funnily enough, the seventies was when I had my encounter with the most purist folk club I ever went to.  In 1974 I was (briefly, and ignominiously) at Newcastle Poly (now Tyneside University), and my missus and I used to go to the Bridge Hotel folk club, where the High Level Ranters held court once a week.  Now, personally, when I'm in a folk club I'm prepared to listen to anything from finger-in-the-ear ethnicities to blues and singer-songwriter stuff, as long as it's done well; but this place's policy was really strict.  If you didn't do trad or the mining songs of Tommy Armstrong you didn't get to sing.  But the profile of the club was high, and the quality of the music was pretty damn good - the HLRs themselves would have been a star turn anywhere else.  One night when the booked guest couldn't make it, a singer who happened to be in the audience volunteered to stand in - Martin Carthy, no less!

 
(Apologies to all for prolonging the off-topicness of this thread)
 
Richard, you may be interested to know that the Bridge club is still going strong and it sounds as if it hasn't changed much since you were there over 30 years ago. I spent a week in Newcastle this summer on business, and went to the Bridge on the Monday night. Not having been there before, I didn't know exactly what to expect, although I knew about the club's illustrious history. I arrived fairly early, and Dave the organiser asked if I sang. I replied yes, and he said I could do a floor spot. Having travelled by train, I had no guitar with me, but thought maybe one of the residents might be kind enough lend me one (as has happened before in similar circumstances).
 
But as the residents and other guests arrived, I realised there was no sign of any instruments at all. The main guest was a very traditional Geordie singer (whose name escapes me for the moment, I'm sorry to admit), and all the floor singers sang unaccompanied. So when it was my turn, I had to think of something to do. I was a bit overawed by the setting, and sang a capella the first song that came into my head, that I knew the words to (sadly not a PA song). I think the locals were a bit bemused by my performance, but they politely applauded anyway, and refrained from chucking me out onto the High Level railway line which runs past the window.
 
To get back on topic (sort of), I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about what PA songs would particularly lend themselves to a capella performance? Maybe this should be in another thread though.
 
Once again, apologies for the off-topicness.
 
Cheers
 
Paul
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Re: Pete Atkin - First encounter
« Reply #19: 27.11.06 at 20:43 »
Quote

Paw G. wrote:
 
<<So when it was my turn, I had to think of something to do. I was a bit overawed by the setting, and sang a capella the first song that came into my head, that I knew the words to (sadly not a PA song).>>
 
Uh, "Drink Up Thee Zider?" "Twice Daily?" "The Champion Dung Spreader?" "The Chew Magna Cha-Cha?" I think we should be told.  
 
Ian C
 
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