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Monday, November 29, 2010

Showtime



Some time ago I was asked if I would sing a few songs at a local church. Having received the all-clear from the hospital I was anxious to get out and about playing my songs again. Who knows? I may have already played my last ever show, so each invite puts off the inevitable last show into the future.

To say the arrangements were haphazard is something of an understatement. My contact neglected to tell me where to turn up until I prompted him several times, and I was never really sure what the evening was in aid of until I arrived on the night. I was also told that the sound check would be between 5 and 5.30 (but wasn't told what time the concert would start).

Anyway I was late arriving. We pulled up at about 5.45 and parked in a side street. I saw a light and rang a bell. Someone came and opened the door. I asked where the concert was being held and I was given directions. When I arrived the soundman was busy wiring mikes. I'd met him before but a long time ago. It was a bit disconcerting that I had to shout to attract his attention- his wife said it was social deafness but I'm not so sure.
As I was the only act there I did my soundcheck. I'm very low maintenance. My mike and guitar settings are very straightforward. I'm so used to doing my own sound that I just set the kit up and leave it. I move in and out of the mike as required and control my guitar volume from the guitar. It should be so easy.

But no.

Then my friend turned up with his guitar. Silly me, I allowed him to use my DI box and therefore my guitar settings. Normally it would not be a problem, except that he keeps his guitar settings flat and relies on the soundman to eq the sound. No wonder my guitar (which sounded great in the soundcheck) sounded so awful and tinny during my spot. All my settings had been changed.

Then a woman who was so obviously a music teacher turned up with about ten teenage girls. This choir was to open the show. It was now about 6.30 and the show was to start at 7.00. She wafted in, said that the electric piano had to be moved as she couldn't direct her girls where it was and then disappeared. The soundman was on the balcony. Apparently there was a powerpoint presentation that he hadn't been told about. I enlisted some help and we moved the piano on to the stage, and I plugged it in and managed to attract the soundman's attention by shouting through the PA. I don't play piano so I pressed the "demo" key and made sure that I could hear it while sitting at the piano. I then went looking for the schoolmarm to ask her to soundcheck the piano. I found her out the back. She was warming up the singer's voices and said she'd check it afterwards. She never did.
She did however, try to commandeer my music stand and walked off with my guitar lead. It was only the intervention of my wife that saved the day.

Meanwhile I was introduced to a man who was to be the MC for the evening. He insisted on calling me David and introduced me to the audience as such. The only time I've been called David was when I was in trouble with my mother.I was past caring by now. He was given a radio lapel mike (but not soundchecked).

The audience were mostly in their seats and the first we knew the show was about to start was when we heard a burst of feedback and a muffled tinny voice calling us to order. I looked around for the source of the noise. It was the MC. Eventually the MC's mike was sorted and he introduced the choir.
Schoolmarm and her gels walked on to the stage, trampling the guitar DI box underfoot. She sat at the piano, not having touched it since she arrived. My wife and I looked at each other. What if it were too loud? Too quiet? The wrong setting?
Schoolmarm had no such worries as she kit the keys and led the choir through a selection of vaguely spiritual songs, including "Hallelujah", "Let it be", "Lean on me" and o joy of joys- "You lift me up"

O bliss.

Eventually it finished and the MC came on stage to introduce me as David Clemo- singer songwriter. It was by now 7.30 and I normally haven't left the house at this time, let alone started playing. In fact, the only places where the doors open this early are theatres and churches.
I started my first song. Now I admit I made a mistake by putting my music stand (which I keep very low down so as not to obstruct the view) on my right instead of on my left. I know all my own songs by heart, but I still have the words there just in case. I'm not alone in this. Perry Como was a huge star back in the 50s and 60s. He was renowned for his easy going and relaxed style. What wasn't common knowledge was that he had all the words to his songs written out on huge boards just out of shot. These days the stars use an autocue, a kind of celebrity karaoke but with a live band.
The first song was OK. And the second. I'd not sung the third song before. I'd been practising it all week, but I had a problem with the middle8, specifically the second line. That's when the words would have come in handy, but they weren't in my line of sight. From then on it was downhill, as far as I was concerned. I fluffed the lyrics to my final song as well, and I was glad to get off stage. Not my favourite performance. I struggled to get into the zone, and Sue said that my mike volume kept changing. I suspect that the soundman was fiddling, trying to anticipate me and constantly adjust the settings. Please- just don't OK?

I don't remember much more. My friend came on and played guitar while some people sang. The first song was apparently a reworking of an old hymn. I didn't know it, and neither did my friend the guitarist. The second song was apparently a new one. I couldn't tell you anything about it, except that it was a bit too long.
Then the speaker came on to the platform. I've done dozens of these type of event before. If you add in church services then it's hundreds.
Even so I was gobsmacked when the "speaker" started to sing to a backing track. And not just any backing track, but a real "Frank Sidebottom" effort, with drum machine and casio keyboard sounds.

I let out an audible groan. Sorry. Just- couldn't help it.

Anyway, we sat through the presentation. Then we were all invited to have a cup of tea and some refreshments. I packed away my guitar and followed the throng into another room. I was buttonholed by someone who insisted that if I sang with a couple of people that he knew it'd be really good. If you say so mate.

Sue and I exchanged glances and sneaked out and away when we thought no-one was looking.

I've played a lot of churches in my time. It probably wasn't the worst organised event we've been involved in, but it was pretty close.

Maybe I'll write about the worst gigs I've ever played.

Or maybe not. I'll probably get nightmares or die of embarrassment or both.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Islam and the West- my Facebook thread


I found this video recently courtesy of Cranmer


Cranmer begins his article like this ""When you're asked an awkward question, you can either distract and deflect as the politician does; you can ruminate and reflect as the philosopher does; you can equivocate and obfuscate as the diplomat does.Or you can answer the question explicitly and directly, as the soldier does."

A comment on Cranmer said "There are moderate Muslims but there is no such thing as moderate Islam".

A view I heartily endorse, so I posted it on Facebook. The replies came back over the next day or so, so here's the thread:

Mike started with
"Watching this video prompted me to consider the similarity between the Koran, Mein Kampf and Das Kapital. The authors of at least two of these were probably madmen, and all three authors presented a totalitarian system that can only exist i...n its own enviroment, making it an imperative to destroy any opposing system. The concept "hate the sin but love the sinner" is incomprehensible to such a system, which can only understand "hate the sin and destroy the sinner". The old adage "kill or be killed" presents a dilemma to the Christian, since if we choose to "love the sinner", the sinner will still try to kill us, so we are presented with a choice that challenges our ethics: do we pray or fight, or even do both? This calls for a great deal of wisdom and faith, and total trust in God. Is the cry of Jehoshaphat enough "we don't know what to do but our eyes are on You" ?"

My reply "Islam cannot exist without the West. Where else would the arabs go when they want to get drunk and go whoring? And they do, oh yes they do!"

Mike: "I know they go to Mecca every year, do you reckon they do more than just play bingo there, then?"

Richard chipped in with "Where's morality in the Bible though?!"

I replied "I'd be happy to sit and go through the Bible with you any day. I'm happy to point out all the inconsistencies and bits I don't agree with. I will however, also show you all the consistenies, the continuous narrative, the fulfilled prophesie...s, the bits I can't argue against, and the undeniable (to me) fact that it has the ring of truth.
Morality is an absolute. If it's not, if morality changes to suit the conditions, then it's not absolute, and it's not morality.
Which makes me a sinner in need of grace and salvation. Over to you."

Mike came back with "You could start with the 10 Commandments, Richard. And could I ask you where the immorality is in the Bible?"

Richard came back later with "I suppose you could start with "Stone disobedient children" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) and go from there really...Leviticus makes interesting reading as well. I'm no expect in these texts but I certainly don't consider the Koran to be any more immoral than the Bible."

Good point. Worthy of a response. Here it is.

"Touche. These laws belong to a different age, like "Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together" Deut 22:11. Everyone and anyone can point to the book of rules to justify their actions- look at council jobsworths for example. My beef with Islam is that there is no peace, no love, no forgiveness, and because Mohammed said so, no chance of ever changing it. The Old Testament pointed to the New- and you must study Isaiah to see where and how and why. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Jews believe that he wasn't, and the Messiah is still to come, but Islam gives no hope, because Mohammed is the final revelation, and therefore there is no hope, only chaos and violence.
When your book of laws allows you to keep slaves, to deny women any rights and to kill all unbelievers, it pretty much gives you carte blanche to do anything you like. It sickens me.
However, I will add that all organised religion sickens me, not because of the truth they claim for themselves, but on their insistence that everyone must live according to rules they set. The unassailable fact is that the first duty of any organisation is to ensure its own survival, and the first casualty will ever and always be truth.
Politicians lie to ensure the survival of their party, church leaders lie to ensure the survival of their denomination or faith. It's what they do. It's genetically inbred.
Jesus never set up any organisation. He never founded a church. He lives his life as an example to us all. He was arrested on a trumped up charge because he was seen as a threat to the established religion and the rulers of the day. And they murdered him. Everyone who accepts the corrupt practices of religion, or thinks that any evil thought word or deed that keeps an organisation in power is OK are guilty by association.
The difference between Islam and Jesus teaching is that under Islam we must all die, because there is no forgiveness, but Jesus promised that all who believe in him can be forgiven, because when he was murdered on the cross, all the sins of the world were paid for in a way that I don't understand, or have to, because all I have to do is to say I'm sorry and accept that Jesus death paid for my sins, and follow him.

It's when the church and state gets involved that it all goes wrong.
But back to your point. Because Mohammed "married" his 9 year old cousin and had sex with her, does that mean that paedos can claim that they were only following his teachings?"

I expect there will be more.....But for now, the fact that we are able to have this conversation speaks volumes about the freedom we currently enjoy. I suspect it will not last for long. We are rushing headlong towards a totalitarian society (wrong word, try world) where children are encouraged to spy on their parents, where everything is illegal unless it is permitted, and people like me will have the knock on the door in the middle of the night to look forward to.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing again

Last week I dragged myself out of my lethargy and went to one of the local Open Mike nights in nearby Rothwell. My friends Stevie Jones and Mark Gill run the evening, and they very kindly let me go on first. I wasn't sure how strong my voice would be after a long lay off, so my first song may have been a bit tentative. I sang one of my old songs "Another Crazy Day", which I wrote back in 1993, in the midst of the last recession. Somehow the words seemed appropriate.

Another Crazy Day,
The TV blares its message;
Anger and despair;
Recession and dismay.
A hurting world where
No one ever seems to care.
Feeling so empty;
Starving in a world of plenty.

Another weary day;
It’s rush around and hustle bustle,
Get nowhere.
No time to stop and say
The tender word that shows
Somebody that they care.
Tears fill our eyes;
Another day in paradise.

I’m standing on a precipice;
Staring into the abyss;
Hanging on to nothingness.
There’s got to be much more than this.
The pointlessness, the hopelessness,
Can someone tell me what it is?

Another lonely day.
How many million people
Live outside my door?
They all shrink away.
Too scared to love or
Build a friendship anymore.
We’re wasting away,
Starved of the one thing that can save us
© Dave Clemo 1993



I followed that with my version of "Hurt", as sung by Johnny Cash, and finished with "When you say nothing at all". Back in the summer Nicki Gillis played the Americana Festival in Newark. We were on during the afternoon, and the main evening act was Paul Overstreet. You may not know his name, but you've heard his songs, which include "Love will build a bridge" and "When you say nothing at all". It was lovely to sit in the evening sun, listening to Paul singing to a simple guitar accompaniment.


After I finished, I went into the bar and got chatting to some people. One asked me if I fancied rehearisng for an occasional country/rockabilly/americana band? So on Thursday I was out again, this time in Desborough, where I met Chris and his bass player and drummer. It's a bit early to say if it'll work out, but I'll go back again this week. I was asked if I could sing a song, and chose the Mavericks' "There goes my heart". I've never sung it in public before, and I changed the key to suit my voice. I'm definitely NOT Raul Malo!


Friday's work was a killer. It's not the work, but the walk around the town with the post, followed by traipsing around Morrison's to get the shopping. By the time I got home I was finished.


Saturday came around, and with it came my first proper advertised concert in over a year. I was supporting my good friend Paul Wheater at a local church. Chris came with me and sorted out the PA.


The great thing about playing churches is that they tend to start two hours before secular gigs. The doors opened at seven and we started at 7.30. (We were packed up and out by ten o'clock).


I opened with "Another Crazy Day" and also included "Hurt" in my set, along with several of my own songs. They seemed to go down well, and many friends commented that my voice has changed for the better. maybe I'm taking more care of it, or maybe the enforced rest has something to do with it, I don't know, but all compliments are graciously accepted.




Paul Wheater played his customary fine set. I love his voice and Paul is never lost for something to say! It would be great if we could put together a tour some time before we get too old. (Any bookers reading this?)






We finished off with "Amazing Grace". Paul started, I took over in the middle and we finished with everyone in the audience singing acapella. All too soon it was over. We packed up the kit and I drove Chris into town, as Chris wanted to watch the Haye v Harrison fight in a local pub. Alas, the van's battery is on its last legs, and we didn't arrive until the beginning of the fourth round. Except that there wasn't a fourth round. Haye stopped his opponent in the 3rd! Ah well.


I must make the effort to get out at least once a week and play a few songs. trouble is, the nights are cold and dark, and the house is warm and cosy. I must get motivated......



Friday, November 05, 2010

I ent bin nowhere by


Geoff Mack wrote "I've been everywhere" back in the 50s and it's been covered and adapted by almost everyone. Johnny Cash sang it, and I remember hearing it on BBC Saturday night TV back in the 60s by, I think, The Mudlarks.

Here's my take on it. It's in the local Northants dialect, now sadly dissappearing into Estuary English.


"I ent bin nowhere by"


I ent bin nowhere by
I ent bin nowhere by
Never had no care by
Never had the fare by
Just sat here in this chair by
I ent bin nowhere

I ent bin:
Cogenhoe, Wadenhoe, Flecknoe, Farthinghoe,
Scaldwell, Maidwell, Hollowell, or Sywell,
Walgrave, Hargrave, Sulgrave or Creaton,
Hinwick, Winwick, Blatherwyke, or Teeton,
Glapthorn. Tansor, Cotterstock, or Ashton
Lamport, Draughton, Loddington or Faxton!

I ent bin nowhere by

I ent bin:
Kings Cliffe, Bulwick, Blatherwyke, or Laxton,
Seaton, Lyddington, Barrowden, or Glaston,
Rushton, Newton, Geddington, or Stanion,
Dodford, Hackleton, Piddington, or Denton,
Knuston, Duston, Wollaston or Whiston,
Overstone, Boughton, Hanging Houghton,

I ent bin:
Brixworth, Holdenby, Chapel Brampton,
Norton, Horton, Flore or Weedon
Pytchley, Isham, Orlingbury, Harrowden,
Chelveston or Raunds or Keyston
Finedon, Addington, Woodford, Slipton,
Desbra, Rowell or N’thampton!


I ent bin nowhere by
I ent bin nowhere by
Never had no care by
Never had the fare by
Just sat here in this chair by
I ent bin nowhere

© Dave Clemo 2007 with apologies to Geoff Mack

UPDATE. I posted some of these lyrics on Facebook tonight and my friend and fellow musician Bob Howe posted a picture of him and Geoff Mack, now in his eighties and still going strong.