So, did the Mike Gibbs 3CD set I mentioned last time come to be? Yes. It’s called Festival 69 (Turtle Records) and boasts two concerts from that year, one recorded at the Belfast Festival (deduced after a lot of period music press research and then confirmed by a visit to Belfast’s Newspaper Library), plus a substantial booklet essay from myself. It was great fun to be involved with and hopefully more releases from many more digitised reels from Mike’s collection will appear in due course, although at least one (for Market Square/Dusk Fire) looks likely to be a digital-only album, as the market for physical products in music continues to diminish.
I was also delighted to play a part, mostly in the background, in Turtle Records’ release this month of the 2CD set Honesty: The Unreleased 1963 Studio Session by the Fat John Sextet. A Facebook connection with former members Tony Roberts and Peter Lemer led to the release, and I supplied some period cuttings/adverts and audio from an out-of-copyright live LP the group appeared on in 1962 (their only released recordings before now). Simon Spillett wrote a typically fantastic essay for the set.
Did my ‘Smash the System’ protest anthem with punk legend Petesy Burns come to be? Yes. Did it make a difference? No. NI taxpayers continue to pay the salaries of 90 politicians not doing their jobs. The single, with splendid accompanying video by Mark Case, was released in October 2018 and gained around 12,000 views via Facebook and YouTube fairly quickly. I accompanied it with two tranches of press releases to every UK and Irish news outlet I could think of, but very little mainstream coverage was forthcoming. Emails to all 90 MLAs inviting them to give half their salary to charity, in lieu of the legislating they were not doing, resulted in six replies – most courteous, a couple piqued, none in agreement with me.
Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zXHEOqJ2DU
The best part of the whole process was the adventure with so many musical pals, who didn’t all know each other beforehand – Lonesome Chris Todd, Adele Ingram, Lyndsay Crothers, Petesy Burns, Donal McCann, Bruce McClements, Kyle Leitch, Ali MacKenzie. Indeed, I myself hadn’t met Petesy or Donal before the project. More for fun than anything else, we staged a one-off live performance of ‘Smash the System’ and a few other numbers associated with the ‘members’ of Colin Harper’s Bourgeois Fury at the Sunflower Pub in Belfast on 30 December 2018, alongside full sets by Petesy Burns’ ARSE and Rodney ‘Pieman’ Henry. Belfast’s uttermost king of rock Brian Houston joined us for it. A great time was had by all (except for the manager of the pub). Funnily enough, the only one of the six numbers we botched on the night was ‘Smash the System’ – the only one we’d all actually rehearsed. Several phone clips from the show can be found on YouTube.
Early in January 2019, hoboing troubadour Steve McCann invited me to take part in an event at the Black Box café under the Bert Jansch Foundation’s ‘Around the World in 80 Plays’ initiative (find out more here: https://80plays.bertjanschfoundation.org/). The muse tapped me on the shoulder and I wrote a new song directly inspired by Jansch, ‘Make Your Own World’. I performed it on the night along with ‘Blues for a Green Earth’ and Anne Briggs’ ‘The Time Has Come’ (with Anna Grindle). A studio version of ‘Make Your Own World’ is released as a download single by Market Square in a week or two, with the Harper & Jansch duo recording of ‘Blues for a Green Earth’ (previously released on Sunset Cavaliers (2016)) and a hitherto unreleased early version of ‘Rachelle’ as B-sides. A few hard-copy promo CDs with booklets will be sent to radio people. Might as well…
A few days after Steve’s concert – which was filmed by Mark Case and will doubtless appear online in various bits – Mark very kindly filmed me in a controlled environment (the Lamppost Café) talking about Bert’s influence and playing the new song and ‘Blues for a Green Earth’ using the guitar that had been supplied to Steve by the Foundation, before travelling on to someone else around the world. Posting video clips of this nature is part of the ‘Around the World…’ thing. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tszKR1rsUM
Forthcoming adventures include involvement in a couple of Jansch-related box sets: a prospective Bert Jansch at the BBC 5CD set for Earth Records and a 5CD or 6CD collection of John Renbourn/Dorris Henderson albums for Cherry Red. Lonesome Chris Todd’s debut solo released, the Dark Horses EP, is due in a couple of weeks – a digital release on Market Square with some hard-copy promos. My role was executive producer, and sounding board for the content selection and performances. Cormac O’Kane produced two of the four tracks and both he and Chris have delivered the goods, in my view.
I’m hoping to make much more progress this year on my projected Big Pete Deuchar book. Research continues when time allows – with two research trips to British Library and BBC archives in Yorkshire and Reading coming up – and I made a point of starting to actually write Chapter 1 in January. It can be hard to find the time for something like this – a sure-fire money-loser – in between proofreading for a living, smashing systems and suchlike, but hopefully things will progress.
Here are a couple of long pieces, recording reviews of a sort, on my long-time musical associates Janet Henry (previously Holmes) and Jules Maxwell, who each launched new albums last year – Janet in June and Jules in October:
In December, I went to a punk gig for the first time (unless one counts a Ward Park, Bangor, open-air show by ARSE last summer – at which I was accompanied by website maestro Uncle Spike), at the Black Box, Belfast, to see the Outcasts + Petesy Burns’ ARSE. Here’s a review:
And finally, here’s a memoir of the Sunflower Pub ‘Smash the System’ event with Bourgeois Fury: