Friday 29 June 2012

Retro Man Blog Night with TV Smith at The Railway Southend-on-Sea June 22nd

TV Smith by Paul Hughes
The second Retro Man Blog night in conjunction with Podrophenia and new joint-promoter Southend Punk web-site, at The Railway in Southend-on-Sea was, I'm pleased to report, another wildly successful, rowdy and fun-packed evening. It only ground to a halt well after 1am when the last orders bell was tolled and unwilling punters were politely asked to get down off the stage, remove pint glasses from tops of heads and stop dancing. Yes, it must have been a good one as joint promoter and Radio Podrophenia DJ, Dave Collins, was up to his usual party trick of balancing various alcoholic beverages on the top of his head! Following the great night with The Len Price 3  back in March, it was a real pleasure to be back at The Railway again and thanks to my local joint-promoters Dave Collins and Ian Pile, both from Radio Podrophenia and Southend Punk web-site's Steve Pegrum, there was a superb turn-out of what has proved to be the coolest and friendliest bunch of locals any pub and venue could wish for. Steve Pegrum had organized a great merchandise stall, not only displaying CD's and T-Shirts of the acts playing on the night, but also various local fanzines and CD's from his own band The Machines and record label Angels In Exile. We also had posters and postcards from Retro Man Blog's favourite designer, Sophie Lo, and subject of the latest Retrosonic Podcast, David Apps, with his excellent "East London Photography" book. Also in attendance was Gaye Black  (Advert), with her amazing jewellry, bottle top brooches and keyrings, which were eagerly snapped up very early into the procedings.

Photo by Paul Hughes
The Railway's owners, Fi Jacobs and Dave Dulake, have created a wonderful place, and they should be applauded for supporting a wide range of eclectic, mainly local, musical talent. They are constantly putting on a wide selection of gigs and events, film screenings and comedy show-cases, often free of charge. The excellent staff at The Railway serve some lovely, well-priced beers with a smile and I was suddenly reminded of those great beer adverts "Carlsberg don't do the perfect pub and music venue"...but if they did, The Railway would be it! Even local Southend legend, Wilko Johnson, has taken to turning up for impromptu jam sessions on the occasional lunch time. Much to the surprise of Dave Collins, who unexpectedly got roped in to accompany Wilko on bass while he was trying to finish up his lunch recently. You can read all about how this came about and see some photos of the jam session on Dave's excellent Planet Mondo Blog.

Andy J Gallagher by Paul Hughes
Andy J Gallagher kicked off the evening's entertainment with a three piece line-up featuring bassist Paul Hill and drummer Lee Andrews, who also plays for Bif Bam Pow! who supported The Len Price 3 at our previous Railway gig. Andy played a blistering set of his barbed and bittersweet songs with their catchy choruses and spiky guitar riffs. There's a touch of the Buzzcocks and Wedding Present in the slightly cynical, world weary despite-it-all romantic subject matter of Andy's lyrics and that is channelled perfectly into the music. The songs rattle along at breakneck speed, sometimes threatening to burst out of control. Songs such as "The Heretic" and "Something Else" are crammed full of melodic touches so it's a shame that The Railway's PA is not exactly the best, as some of the vocals were a bit muffled, but there is no doubting that Andy J Gallagher is a live act to watch out for. He plays a cover of Ramones "Judy Is A Punk" and a selection of great tracks from his Roman Jugg produced album "Helicopter Dolphin Submarine", one of the strongest debuts I have heard in a very long time.

The somewhat precarious PA actually fell over at the end of the set, unfortunately right on the back of someones head. Luckily, after a sit down, the guy was OK and, what's more, as if to cement the coolness of The Railway's clientele, he did manage to avoid spilling one drop of his pint, which was quite remarkable, all things considered!

Dick York by Paul Hughes
Next up is Dick York, another local musician now probably much better known on the Continent due to his German-based band Cryssis in which he is joined by another Southender, Vom Ritchie. Vom is probably better known to us in the UK as the drummer from Dr & The Medics, but he is now living in Germany and playing for hugely popular stadium Punks, Die Toten Hosen. Cryssis were formed by Dick and Vom to rekindle some songs they wrote together over twenty years ago and tonight, Dick treats us to an acoustic run through of some excellent tracks from their album "Simple Men". He also plays a couple of songs, "Fair Fight" and their debut single, "School Days", from his original Mod Revival band Sta-Prest which go down very well with the crowd. Dick's an engaging performer and gamely gets the audience to join in some call-and-response singing on his faultless, should be a classic, "Could It Be". It was good to see Dick playing these songs and hopefully he will come over to the UK with Cryssis in the near future. You can listen to Dick chatting to me in our latest special edition Retrosonic Podcast, where he talks about his career from Sta-Prest to the present day, including how he got back together with Vom to form Cryssis.

TV Smith by Eric Waring
Then it's the turn of TV Smith, the legendary voice of The Adverts, The Explorers and Cheap but now performing as a solo acoustic artist with a string of excellent albums to his name. The Adverts were one of the very first bands caught up in that early London Punk Rock explosion, playing the Roxy Club and releasing one of the greatest debut albums of all time, not just of the Punk period, in "Crossing The Red Sea with The Adverts". The band also appeared on Top Of The Pops with the anthemic single "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" but unfortunately split up following the shambolic situation surrounding their second, much maligned, album "Cast Of Thousands". After The Adverts, TV has forged a successful solo career inspired by the advice of his friend, the poet Attila The Stockbroker who suggested - following attempts to work in a band format with The Explorers and Cheap - to just head out on his own, alone with an acoustic guitar. So, that's how we see TV tonight at The Railway, armed with his trusty acoustic he launches into a great set peppered with songs from all areas of his career. He is now not afraid to embrace his Adverts material, despite once refusing to play any of the songs for over 10 years, so we get some hidden gems like "We Who Wait" to the rousing singalong classics such as "No Time To Be 21" which see the wildy appreciative crowd going crazy!

TV Smith by Paul Hughes
The depth of his solo material is apparent as he treats us to some delights such as my personal favourite "You Saved My Life Then Ruined It", a version of which can be heard on our very special edition Retrosonic Podcast interview and live session. Considering TV himself was already questioning the validity of the Punk Rock "movement" he saw around him as early as his debut album with songs like "Safety In Numbers", he has certainly taken Punk's more positive attributes to heart. The creative D.I.Y ideals and desire to communicate is apparent, as is his burning mistrust of the corporate and capitalist ways of the world of today. Songs such as "Clone Town" and "It's Expensive Being Poor" rail against the lack of social progress and injustices around him. However, the thing is with TV Smith is, it's not a po-faced diatribe - the songs are often joyous with witty and biting lyrics such as "Complaints Department" from latest album "Coming Into Land". He sings the songs with real power and emotion, eyes shut and sinews straining - but after each songs he breaks into a huge grin as the chords fade and the audience respond warmly to his positive and life-affirming message.  We get "Tomahawk Cruise" from The Explorers thanks to a hopeful request shouted out from the audience, and "Lord's Prayer" from his days in Cheap, but actually written for Lords Of The New Church. Then it's "One Chord Wonders" and of course "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" and it's over, leaving a very happy and enthusiastic audience. He even had someone stage-diving, apparently a first for him at a UK acoustic show! Hopefully, the recent Punk Britannia programmes on BBC4 along with Jamie Palmer's excellent documentary "We Who Wait" will inspire people to check out all of TV Smith's albums further, including a re-evaluation of that "difficult" second album "Cast of Thousands" maybe...

Radio Podrophenia's Piley & Mondo by Paul Hughes
Things don't stop there however, as Radio Podrophenia DJ's Mondo and Piley, crank up the gramophone and spin some wonderful tunes to get everyone dancing. They have a knack of incorporating some classic Soul stompers with Punk and Psychedelia to brilliant effect. An eclectic and totally original mix, especially with their little trademark of dropping in some long lost TV theme tune for good measure. It works, people dance, people laugh and The Railway rocks to their fine selection of  feel-good sounds.

I would sincerely like to thank Fi and Dave and staff at The Railway and my joint promoter pals Dave & Ian and Steve PegrumTV Smith, Dick York, Andy J Gallagher with Lee Andrews and Paul Hill for the superb music. Gaye, Sophie Lo, David Apps for helping to stock the merchandise stall with your quality works of Art. All the people who helped me out with promotions and support and all The Railway clientele and those that travelled to be there. Thanks to photographers Sophie Lo, Paul Hughes and Eric Waring and to Uli and Klaus from the TV Smith web-site.
Gaye Advert, "Iggy" and Steve Pegrum of Southend Punk web-site by Steve Worrall
A happy crowd by Paul Hughes
TV Smith tuning up by Sophie Lo
TV Smith meeting his public at the Merch Stall by Paul Hughes
Check out our special TV Smith Edition Retrosonic Podcast below. An hour long Episode where TV takes us through his career, from his pre-Adverts days in Sleaze to The Roxy and bang up to date with his new album "Coming Into Land". This also includes a four song exclusive live session.


You can see more of Paul Hughes' excellent photographs of the night at his Flickr site. Eric Waring's great photography can be found at his elspics web-site and check Sophie Lo's web-site for her superb designs, including a wonderful Adverts poster.

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