It’s fackin’ Lucifer!

So, this, obviously…

 

(and yes, even though it’s been said, possibly the most effective guitar break anywhere – although I’m very partial to Jan Savage’s clunky solo on Pushin’ Too Hard…)

Sad stuff, clearly, and it’s a shame that a chap’s passing makes you realise what a great talent he was. Great songwriter, beguiling frontman and by all accounts an all-round good bloke. It got me ruminating loosely on the idea that the good too often die young (although a genuinely younger feller would presumably spit out his pint in comedy fashion at the notion that 63 is anything like “young” – but, well, these days…)

In truth the idea had been bouncing around the hamster wheel that passes for my mind for a couple of weeks.

Jah Wobble came to the Guildhall a few weeks ago and yours truly was in attendance. I’ve not bothered posting about it because (well… do I have to do this?) but also in truth pretty much everything I said here when I saw him at the Fleece was pretty much how it was this time too. Wobble was witty, self-effacing and mischievous, with a number of laugh out loud moments (“It’s fackin’ Lucifer!”), and is of course one hell of a bass player – still the only guy I know, currently playing lead bass. It was another great evening and I was glad that the springy-floored splendour of the Guildhall and the gawping masses of my hometown had been witness to the Wobble grandeur.

I’ve been reading Nick Kent’s memoirs, “Apathy for the Devil” and have enjoyed it immensely, and as chance would have it a couple of days later I came to his account of the infamous chain-whipping he received at the 100 Club at the hands of Sid Vicious. I’m not sure Kent is the most reliable of witnesses for all sorts of reasons, but it is perhaps surprising that he doesn’t really seem to bare any grudge against Vicious (indeed he went on to share a good few mattresses and needles with him over the next year or so). He saves most of his anger for Malcolm Maclaren (whom he claims directed the attack) and for Jah Wobble:

“He held an open penknife and was waving it no more than two inches from my eyes. There was dried blood on the blade and a look of pure sadistic delight in his piggy eyes… Then he stepped back allowing Sid dead aim at my skull.”

It’s an unpleasant image, and it made me remember a couple of passages in Wobble’s own book which paint him in a pretty unflattering light. I remember reading the passage where he stands on top of an old and priceless recording desk and urinates all over it for a laugh, and thinking “this isn’t great, or funny – it’s just boorish …” And it all makes you realise that for all his older, more mature affability and humility, at one point in his wilder years, Wobble was actually a pretty abrasive character. I’m not sure, you’d have felt very comfortable around him (and in fairness, he’s said this himself).

And then you think, for all the fun and dexterity of later period Wobble (his term, not mine), has he done anything better than this?

 

How good do you have to be?

Drive to the forest in a Japanese car…

IMG_1387Well, last week it was Jacco Gardiner sprawling all over the car stereo, this week it’s been the Basement Tapes taking over the show and in a perfect world (or at least in a world where I worked a bit harder on this Blog) both these worthy, terrific records would merit a lengthy post (it was Gardiner’s wispy, ethereal recent release, Hypnophobia, that was going to be part of the Kevin Morby post, until I started rambling…) Maybe, I’ll get onto these, but currently exercising my spirits are the booming events of last weekend…

Jah Wobble, The Fleece

He came last year but I never quite got myself together to do it – pretty damn lazy, really, although it’s taken a year to realise this… (I did, in fact, send a few feelers out to friends at the time, via Twitter, to which the man himself replied “Yeah, I’m totally up for that!”)

It needs to be said that The Fleece seems to be having a really good run of gigs this year – I think the score is currently Thekla 0 Fleece 4, and that’s not including the Sonics gig I didn’t get to this week… – and I’m again struck by what a great little venue it is, sticky floors, tiny stage, pillars and the rest of it…

For the second or third time recently, we missed the beginning of the set, staying too long in the pub next door, and for this tardiness I can only apologise, although to be fair we were on our way over by 8:30 or so… Nonetheless, we could hear the thunderous sounds of a bass guitar as we turned into St Nicholas Street, and sure enough, the man was already on stage and at it as we came in.

With a band made up of a really nifty guitar, introduced as “Chungy”, a feller called George on keyboards, who was perhaps inevitably referred to as “Gorgeous George” throughout and a fondly-abused drummer (“I love him because of his faults”) and introduced only as “The Drummer”. There was another guy in the shadows, adding “texture” to some effect and of course Wobble himself, gabby, at ease and “top of the food chain” on that bass. The set wandered around capriciously, taking in jazz, spaghetti westerns, TV themes, some PIL, a lengthy dub interlude and some “middle period Wobble”.

He was an engaging, affable host, taking the mickey out of himself at every opportunity and genuinely funny. The band were tight (Wobble was at them frequently) and loose enough to follow their leader when he went off script (again, frequently).

His claim about halfway through (after a 15 minute version of Liquidator) that this band were “good, but not even out of fuckin’ second gear yet” (followed by a quick aside to the band “fuck’s sake, don’t let me down, now”), proved no idle boast, as everything got pretty hot and sticky, pretty quickly. What had at one stage looked like an only modestly-full Fleece, suddenly began to feel packed and bouncing, and certainly the recording deteriorates a little as at least one punter begins to lose his dignity somewhat.

Wobble moved between bass and occasional percussion duties, sang on a few tracks, used a few vocal overdubs on others, and in true King of the Jungle fashion, yawned and scratched himself a lot. It was all pretty damn good, and a 20 minute encore that included a really fine, light but still grim version of Poptones rounded off a cracking evening.

There was, as I’ve said, a certain amount of jigging about, but by and large the recordings are good:

Poptones

Visions of You

Java

(and, of course) Theme from “The Sweeney”

Why didn’t I go last year?