Friday 22 December 2023

Friday Fun - Xmas is nearly upon us!

 Ok, as its Friday, in the time honoured tradition of the Barnet Bloggers, we start with a joke and once more I'm endebted to the rather wonderful Mr Robert Wilkinson.

This particularly made me laugh, as I went to see Black Grape recently. Clare got some cheap tickets for the gig and asked some friends. They go to a lot of gigs with us, and although they hadn't heard the band, trusted our judgement. A few days before the gig, they decided to gen up. They went on youtube and not quite remembering the bands name, spent the evening learning the words to Agadoo so they could join in. They got a bit of a surprise, to say the least!

How's your week been? For me, Xmas officially started yesterday. I always say Xmas starts with The Pogues. As they are no longer around (RIP Shane), we have been going to The Pogue Traders Xmas gig instead. Last night it was at a packed Dingwalls. I saw the Pogues a few times in the early days. I must admit that recalling those gigs, it would be hard top believe that The Pogues would become a massive part of the way the world celebrates Xmas. 

I think I first saw them at this gig >>>>>>>

My mate Boz Boorer and his missus Lyn were in the Shillelagh Sisters. I always try and get along to watch mates bands and Boz mentioned that "Shane O'Hooligan's" (as he was known at the time) new band were playing with them. I mostly knew of Shane via the tabloid fury that surrounded the incident where his ear was bitten off at the Roxy by his girlfriend. I'd quite liked his band "The Nips" and their single "King of the Bop", but although they'd been going for about a year at that point, the Pogues weren't on my radar. There were a lot of bands around at that point, in truth we were spoiled for choice. Not only that, it was relatively cheap as well, to get in and the drinks were also reasonably priced at most venues.

My band, The False Dots were in a very active stage, with the brilliant Venessa Sagoe on vocals. We had a gig coming up at Dingwalls, so I was going to as many gigs as I could to rustle up support from my mates (no mobile phone or Facebook then). I'd make up a stack of flyers (on the photocopier at work when no one was around) and hand them out.  I think you can see from the listing on the left from the week we played just how spoiled we were, Dr John, Ruby Turner, Katrina and the Waves, The Shilleleaghs, Back Roots all played the same week. If you arrived before 8pm at Dingwalls, booze was half price, so it was dead cheap!  You'd also get to rub shoulders with Lemmy, who propped up the bar and was always amenable to a chat if you bought him a drink!

Anyway, I digress. I went down to watch the Shellelaghs, who were generating a fair bit of interest at the time.  I didn't really get what the Pogues were doing. In my mind, Irish music was what you heard on drunken nights at the Burnt Oak Catholic club, with old men playing it. I loved up beat Irish music, like the Wild Rover, but hated the slow, maudling ballads such as Danny Boy. I watched the Pogues and I felt that Shane had let the side down a bit by abandoning his punk roots. I thought they were enjoyable, but sort of assumed that Shane had decided he could make more money putting together an Irish showband. I don't really remember any of the songs they did, mostly because I rarely was sober at gigs back then. I had no idea that forty years later, I'd be one of their biggest fans. In truth it took me a few years to really get it. I bought Rum, Sodomy and The Lash in 1985, mainly because I wanted to play "The Band Played Waltsing Matilda" to my Dad, as it was about The Anzacs and Gallipoli, something my Dad had an interest in, as an Aussie and ex military man. I played it to him, but he told me he preferred cheerful music. He explained that during the war, he wanted music that was cheeful and took his mind off the fact that death was all around. I was a bit disappointed, but got into the album. 

The next album featured Fairytale of New York, which brought the Pogues to the masses, it is ironic that having opened the door to a massive audience, the subesquent albums didn't really measure up to the first three. What they did do was open up the world to Celtic music. I suspect that the music of the Pogues will endure far more than just about any other popular genre, artist and band. 

Christmas gigs are a big thing for me. The first one I went to, I was still at Finchley Catholic High School. Eddie and The Hot Rods played at The Roundhouse in 1977. They had topped the charts with Do Anything You Wanna Do. The support were The Only Ones and The Stukas. The Rods were amazing, but at the end, they had big fans and to celebrate Xmas put a load of expanded polystyrene balls in front to simulate snow. It was going in everyone noses and mouths and it nearly suffocated the audience. Since then, I think I've done an Xmas gig or two every year. 

This December, as well as Black Grape and The Pogue Traders, we've seen the BBC Elstree Concert Band, Shalamar, The Dub Pistols, Madness and The Lightening Seeds. All have been great nights. We particularly enjoyed Madness in Brighton, we stayed down for the night, it was a proper mini holiday. Madness are a great band at this time of the year especially as everyone was in a brilliant mood!

My band, The False Dots have a big tradition of doing an Xmas gig. In recent years, this was at The Midland Hotel, but post Covid it closed. This year, we are delighted to be playing at The Dublin Castle in Camden. It should be a brilliant night, so please try and come along. If you've never visited the venue, it is without doubt London's best music pub.

Music has given me everything. I met my wife at the False Dots Xmas gig in 1985 at The Three Hammers in Mill Hill. It has given me a business and my friends. I like to think I've put something back! 

The band has a new single out, that we think it is rather good!


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