Saturday, January 26, 2008

Darting About

Just got back from a day in Salisbury where I met up with Griff Fender and Den Hegarty from 70s Doo-Wop band Darts for a very extensive career overview; no specific home for that one yet but it’s likely it’ll get used across a couple of magazines over the summer. Actually, had a really good time on this one; Griff and Den can talk for England and are both really engaging and enthusiastic characters. They’re completely different from one another but they have a real bond and have known each other since they were fourteen and I think on this occasion enjoyed meeting up and shooting the breeze on old times as much as I liked talking to them. Loads of good material on the formation of Darts, the pub-rock scene of the mid-70s, bringing doo-wop to the unwashed masses, dealing with racism from the Teds and the NF and other things. They were a great little band (little? Nine members?) who were perhaps grudgingly embraced by the punks and who did a lot to bring more obscure doo-wop records to the British record-buying public’s attention with their choice of covers. And it has to be said they wrote some pretty good songs themselves, to the point at which when you listen to the first couple of albums you have to stop and think which are the covers and which the newly minted material. Very under-rated, I think. A good day – pity about the cost of getting into the cathedral though, I’ll save that one for when I’ve a crisp fiver to spare and plenty of time to have a good look around.

So it’s been a pretty hectic start to 2008. Not only have I done more days than originally scheduled in the 9-5, the Free Festivals book has really got going, the rewrites for the second edition of the Waterboys have been completed, Space Rock Reviews updated and plenty of ideas have been pitched around. I spent an afternoon in St Teath, up in North Cornwall, talking festivals with Swordfish and Wayne from the Magic Mushroom Band (and currently Astralasia). Swordfish had also been kind enough to invite along Pete Pracownik, who supplied not only the cover for Hawkwind – Sonic Assassins but also generously donated the fantastic full-page photograph of himself and Nik Turner that’s in one of the early chapters of the book. Pete’s a really excellent fellow, one of life’s gentlemen. He resides in Tintagel where he’s a noted fantasy artist and these days also spends a lot of time working on his guitar playing and running a shop in the town. Busy chap – so it was extra special to get him along for the interview and all the better for having him there.

Driving up with precious little time to spare, I took the wrong left turn (thanks, AA Routemap!) and ended up in the village of St Teath itself where family rumour has suggested my Great Grandfather is buried. I’d like to have had a look around the churchyard and seen if I could find his grave, always assuming it’s a marked one in the first place and, indeed, that he is actually interned there. He survived the first World War only to die following an accident in the Delabole Slate Quarry; we always understood that he’d been killed outright as a result of a fall or explosion or some such thing. When my dear old Grampie (his son) was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him some ten years back he started talking about the experience. It transpired that not only was he not killed outright as we believed, he’d actually survived a number of days at until succumbing to his injuries at home with his second wife (my Great Grandmother having died some years earlier at no great age herself). Strange how family stories held true for years turn-out to be somewhat different than the truth. I’d like to pin down where the old boy lies and make a visit as I was particularly close to my Grampie, a big influence in my life, and it would be really something to be able to make a visit.

On the festivals book, Bridget and I (particularly Bridget as she’s been really busy with the book’s Myspace page and generating contacts) have been really heartened with the amount of good vibes and interest we’ve been getting, including some really good questionnaires returned. I also did an excellent interview during last week with David Stokes who’s a painter whose work is mainly informed by what he saw of the festival scene, the buses, the characters, the landscapes etc.

Drove up to Bristol last weekend to see Bristol RFC comprehensively trounced in the Heineken cup by Cardiff, to whom they had no response losing 17-0. Of course, the huge advantage of going to see a match where neither side is one that you particularly support or have a tie to is that you can change allegiance on the turn of the game. So, given there’s a Celtic connection, by half time it was ‘Come on Cardiff’, ‘Bread of Heaven’, ‘Did you spill my pint, boyo’ and the rest! I mean, we didn't drive 180 miles to support the loosing side, and, as we comforted ourselves with, probably the lovely Eve Myles from Torchwood supports them as well…

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