The Smyths, Graham and Bruno Mars – a look at the wonderful world of music

I’m told that there are only 12 notes in Western music so it always seems amazing to me that with all the tunes already written, new ones continue to be churned out that can seem fresh and have the power to surprise and delight. Yet old favourites remain just that and should you hear one, the same memory that as you lay in bed, refuses to confirm to you whether or not you locked the front door, can instantly recall every lyric from a song you have not heard in over thirty years. The last few weeks has brought home to me the wonderful range of pop there is in the world with three musical experiences of vastly different make up..
the smyths
The first was one of two tribute bands, The Smyths at the hot and throbby 100 Club in Oxford Street. London. It’s a proper venue, with obscene graffiti and sticky floors in the loos. I am proud that Charlotte, my 20 year-old daughter  has kept up the family tradition and is as much as a fan of the Smiths as I was at her age. I loved them. Morrissey spoke to me as I hunched, self-exiled in my bedroom as he did to all other misfits and introverts of my generation. If we’d had a single social skill between us, we would have corrected the non-shoplifters of the world and declared once and for all that the Smiths were not a woebegone band of misanthropes, despite popular opinion from the popular kids at the time. OK, so the misanthrope

Charlotte and I. The 100 Club

bit might be true, but us fans inside our cocoons of angst looking out, knew their lyrics to be both romantic and joyous. I suppose singing of the desire to be killed by the crash of a double decker bus, the belief that your sweetness should be bludgeoned in their bed and the times you could have strangled your girlfriend before she fell into a coma, could be construed by the uninitiated to be morbid, if not downright convictable, but Smiths fans know these achingly romantic lines come from some of the most beautiful love songs ever written.

One fact that will ever put me in the greatest of esteem with Charlotte is that I saw the Smiths play at the National Ballroom, Kilburn at their zenith in 1986. I took some mighty blows in the human game of Battling Tops that was dancing in the Mozza mosh pit while plastic beaker after plastic beaker of beer were thrown at Morrissey and co as they blasted out the background to our lives.

Photo-0012These days, Morrissey is presented by the media as a twat. Maybe he brings this on himself, maybe he doesn’t, but either way I could not justify the mad price of tickets to see him live at the Royal Albert Hall, so off to see tribute band, The Smyths we went. It’s the third time I’ve seen them. The lead singer looks more like Joe Lycett than Morrissey despite quiff and Harrington jacket, Johnny Marr’s avatar is a dead ringer for the offspring of Jacko from Brushstrokes and Baldrick, and I’m not sure if Andy Rourke’s original bass playing ever generated sufficient sweat to stick his plectrum to his forehead as his modern-day counterpart delights in doing. But they are still fab and if you are at all a fan, and if you are not, you should go see if you have the chance. Audiences may be more gentrified now – I got home without sores, bruises or Red Stripe-sticky hair and there were women present, some even of the non-terrifying sort. So what if Charlotte reduced the average age of the crowd by 20 years by herself, it was warming to be reminded of hang-ups and fears of decades ago among a crowd who also sang along to every single word of every song.

This gig also demonstrated the inadequacies of my ancient un-smart mobile as a camera. My excuse for not entering the current century is that being a gardener, my phone not only has to be me-proof, but also resistant to mud, flood and blood. I empathise with you over the quality of the photos I’ve included in this post, but then again it will not me at your next gig blocking the view of the stage pointlessly filming a live act.

The following Saturday was race day at Newbury Racetrack. Our good friend and piano teacher, Graham Warriner not only got us a ticket upgrade

Jo, The Captain and maestro Graham

from a friend to a tip-top meal at the Racegoers Restaurant with perfect views of my selected horses failing in all 8 races, he brought his massive organ to our garden party afterwards, and with help from my wife Jo and TV’s own Captain Beany – curator of the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence (Trip Adviser’s number one attraction for Port Talbot, South Wales), belted out the following playlist:

– The theme from ‘Blockbusters’
– Sweet Caroline
– Imagine
– My Way

Sadly, the rigors of plentiful alcohol during the races soon reduced Graham’s voice to a pained screech and failed him completely before further lubrication had to be provided by way of more beer, but as each song ended to raucous calling and hoots from our guests, I was left feeling how two such diverse musical experiences in recent days could bring such similar joy in such different ways.

Jump ahead 2 weeks, and Jo and I were presented with 2 free tickets for that night’s carvery and music night at Blanco’s in Port Talbot where a Bruno Mars tribute is to play. We arrived at 7pm, post afternoon pub, knowing no one. I had no idea of any of Bruno


Mars’ canon, and was indeed surprised to be told that he and Ollie Murs, and I will break this to you gently, are in fact two different people in their own rights. Who knew?
As the dining/dance hall atmosphere started to build up, we were served our preference of mediocre turkey or lacklustre beef, and helped ourselves to veg and enormous bread rolls. Frankly, I did not consider this plate of ballast as the prefect pre-dancing meal but went with it, spurning the subsequent chance of cheesecake in order to receive chocolate profiteroles. The rather slow reaction to Bruno when he finally came on, may well have been due to the audiences struggle in digesting this incommodious meal, but could also have been due to the fact that he wasn’t very good and I suspect he have previously availed himself to rather a lot of roast potatoes. I say this as a person who you know, has never heard a single one of his singles let alone tracked his other tracks – I just sensed it. However, the tunes were good – I may even buy a greatest hits CD if such a thing exists – and gradually a few girls came up to the dance floor allowing their menfolk to retire downstairs where Manchester United v Leicester was on the tele. The mood lifted and people

Bruno – Blanco’s style

determined to have a good night out had just that. With the friendship of strangers we only and always find in Wales, Jo and I had a great night with the 8 people on our table culminating in her being invited on their girls holiday in Benidorm next May, and a possible tenant for our flat being put forward. Evening over, we were swooshed back to our hotel in a Jaguar taxi to begin our hangovers promptly.

Isn’t music a wonderful thing? Anyone with any talent has more talent than me and whether its songs you’ve loved all of your life, drunken ditties or new music you’ve never heard, whether in your car, bedroom or in the company of friends or strangers, it has the power to lift and make things better.

Next gigs attending: Ian McNabb (he of the Icicle Works), Big Country, Echo & the Bunnymen and Hazel O’Connor (you drink your coffee and I sip my tea)


Last CDs purchased: Colin Hay (remember Men at Work), Fierce Mercy, and Goat Girl’s Goat Girl (look up Cracker Drool for a powerful song with fun and beat)


2 Comments Add yours

  1. amydwestphal says:

    What great summer! Full of live music. It is very satisfying when your children like the same music as you. My girls are little, but when they sing Journey songs in the backseat I feel pride. And… I would have walked out of Bruno Mars with a tray of profiteroles as payment.


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