Wednesday 6 December 2023

Leisureland Tour part three - Hastings and beyond

Hastings seems like an age ago. It was bright, it was sunny, I felt warm, and even slightly fuzzy. Onstage I didn’t know quite what I was doing - I was still learning the new songs. Amy was with me. It was Autumn, warm on the south coast. We drove down early and checked into Shopfitters Paradise which is what I call the eccentric Premier Inn down there next to Sainsbury’s.

Tonight's venue, the Pig, is down on the seafront very near the White Rock Theatre where I did the sound for George Hamilton IV back in 1982. That was the night he put the capo on the wrong fret for Mull Of Kintyre and the band came in with the most glorious and disharmonic musical car crash. It took the entire song for the band to agree on a key signature and the drummer fell off his stool laughing. The audience was mostly older women with blue rinses who’d seen George on the telly. They didn’t notice the extreme disonance. As it clattered to a close one blue rinse turned to another - ‘Ooh! That was lovely!’

My disonnance was very noticeable at the Pig. Not just the occasional wrong chord - full sonic soundscapes. It’s a great sounding room and the sound engineer did a fine job. I can’t remember his name but I do remember that he came from Blackpool, though he didn’t seem very Blackpool to me.

I have to thank Jude Montague for organising the show. We did well - it was sold out and the vibe was quite wonderful. Jude also played in the opening band, Montague Armstrong. She played the organ, an original Jennings Vox Continental, They were good, mostly instrumental, and quite ethereal

The following day we met up with my daughter, Luci, and the three wonderful grandchildren for lunch. I love being around the grandkids. For the most part they seem to live in their own separate solar systems. Sometimes planets collide and and a fight ensues, but most of the time the solar systems dance and sing around each other in strange sibling harmony. The youngest explained herself to me recently: ‘They [the other kids] don’t know what’s in my head, you see Grandad, I’m weird.’ Wise words from a seven year old. I think she might be a genius.

We took Luci with us to Brighton. She used to work at the Prince Albert for the promoter and manager, Will Moore. Will is an old friend. He was very embarrassed at having to sack her. ‘I’m sorry’ he said, ‘I had to let her go - she just stopped turning up for work’. It’s known in our family as The Job That Faded Out. She made good later, worked as a carer - home visits, care homes, hospice care… She went to university and got a degree in psychiatric nursing. Now she’s a senior nurse in a psychiatric unit. I’m immeasurably proud of her.

Luci met up with a friend and then we met up with our old friend Annie Holland who used to play the bass in Elastica. I lost touch with Annie - she somehow fell off the map. I lost my address book, a succession of phones packed up and took my contacts with them. No one I knew had any idea where Annie was. Turned out she was there all the time, working as a gardener and looking after her partner Binky Baker, another dear friend who also fell off my map. I’m afraid Binky really did fall off the map - Annie gave me the sad news that he passed away during the pandemic.

I first met Binky in 1977 when he was married to Annie Nightingale. He described the owner of his local off-licence in such intricate detail, with an impersonation of such accuracy that it could only be the owner of the off-licence round the corner from my parents in Brighton. And that was how I discovered that Annie and Binky lived in the next street to my parents.

‘I need two bottles of wine’

‘Well, you’ve come to the right place, sir,’ (delivered with ill-concealed sarcasm,) 

‘Red? White? Rosé? What are you having for dinner?’

‘Er…probably a tin of sardines on toast, hadn’t really thought about it.’

‘Aah, the fish... yes, in that case I can recommend this very pertinent Sauvignon Blanc…’

Binky took a shine to my mum and dad, christened them Wreckless Frank and Wreckless Dorothy. He’d meet my dad in the street, drag him back to their place, ply him with sherry and send him home half cut.

‘Your dad likes sherry’ he’d say, with a twinkle in his eye.

Apart from being an actor of some repute he worked for The Who. He toured with them as their vibe man, their social secretary, valet and friend. In 1978 he made a record for Stiff - Toe Knee Black Burn, a questionable tribute to the Radio One DJ, Tony Blackburn. Tony Blackburn was anathema to people like us in 1978, the cheerful face (or voice) of mainstream daytime radio. I have to say I think Tony Blackburn is quite cool these days - he plays Philly Soul, he was always into that. Toe Knee Black Burn was a ridiculous and nonsensical mantra - Knee Toe Burn Black Toe Burn Black Knee Tony Knee Black Burn… Tony played it, he embraced, said he was flattered. He showed true class though we couldn’t perhaps see it at the time.

I’m very sad about Binky. I always knew he’d show up somewhere, that there’d be a warm and hilarious interlude in a bar I never knew existed. He gave up drinking - everyone assumed he was and alcoholic - a bottle of vodka a day would seem like a fair confirmation, but when a doctor told him it was going to kill him he stopped overnight with no ill-effects. I remember the softness in his eyes when he told me: ‘If it was going to kill me it wasn’t fun anymore.’ Binky Baker, a true hedonist, a poet and a spiritually generous man.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear about Binky. I do a vinyl night in Dallas monthly and "Toe Knee Black Burn" is one of our periodical 'go-to' never fails to bring a chuckle to all present.

    (Also, I had a hideous looking couch in the 80s which a friend nicknamed 'Tony Blackburn'-----I have no idea why.