SLIM CHANCE AT THE HALF MOON PUTNEY
THE HOUSE OF LOVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE
One of the blessed advantages of growing older is that of hearing. The glam old days were infinitely less about the music, so often lost to flirtatious exuberance and riotous debauchery. We lingered at the rear of the old Hammy Odeon most nights, backs to the wall. Gossiping, mischief-wrenching. We came, saw, listened. How much did we hear?
The rewind is the gift. The many fragments of dreams colliding. The little hauntings, the enlightenments. Rejuvenations. Evergreen in demeanour and musicality, our beloveds are stepping through autumn now. Yet they carry with them an inexorable aroma of spring.
The swarms buzz, polite at the bar. Mind how you go, want any help with that bottle? The womb-like cave of the Putney Half Moon fetches us. Born again. We're still in with a chance. A slim one, was the joke of Ronnie Lane, famed of the Small Faces and Faces, who created some of the most enduringly succinct songs of the Sixties and Seventies. The late East End troubadour was a pint-sized party. He and Steve Marriott were one of the most magical songwriting duos of all time. 'Itchycoo Park'? 'Lazy Sunday'? Come on. My favourite Ronnie songs are 'The Poacher' and his final hit, 'How Come'. The newly-reformed Slim Chance gifted us both at their album launch, as well as Townshend's 'Squeezebox' and even 'Goodnight, Irene', together with tracks from the excellent new collection, 'New Cross Road'. All that, and Geraint Watkins too. The livid Welshman from Abertridwr was on stupendous rock'n'roll/boogie woogie form, his voice a growl from the deepest colliery pits. A legend on account of all that toil with the greats - Van Morrison, Macca, Dave Edmunds, Status Quo, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings - Paul Sexton rated his best solo album 'In a Bad Mood' (typical Welshman) his number one album of 2008. Billy Nicholls was on pounding form. So good to hear him singing his own composition 'I Can't Stop Loving You', a top ten hit for Leo Sayer on Chrysalis back in '78, and for Phil Collins and the Outlaws since. I'd never heard Billy sing it live before. His rendition was fragile and spare. It is still haunting me.
Ronnie succumbed to MS. He continued to play and write until it claimed him, flanked by the greats, by Eric and Pete and the rest. Many A-listers were moved by his brilliance and his illness to raise money for MS sufferers worldwide in his name. the gig was all was about him. He will not be forgotten.
Hallucinations. We flag in the suburbs of our once central, sensational youth. Receding into the shadows, we peer over the abyss into inevitable darkness. Hang back, guys, we know where this is heading. Every now and then, a glimmer. The House of Love came out for the Thirtieth Anniversary of their debut album last Saturday, and stormed the Roundhouse. Oh what a circus, what a show. Alt-rock brilliance and shining on. It was spectacular. Guy Chadwick and the maverick Terry Bickers chiselled the band from ashes in the early Eighties. The debut single is a gem:
Rock journos raved about their intricate psychedelic blend, their singles 'Christine' and 'Destroy the Heart'. The band carved into America, and leapt for the stars. They fell apart before we could raise a bottle of Dom to their first decade. They slunk off to live normal lives. Didn't we. Kinda sorta. But God, what a comeback. A lesson to us all.