Absolute Bowie, the Hairy Dog, 19th May, 2023

This was the third Bowie Tribute I have  seen in as many months providing a useful contemporaneous comparison, previously John Mainwaring’s Jean Genie, then Oliver Slee’s Bowie Experience.  I suspect that “better or worse” comes down to the setlist and how that resonate with your own favourite, but Absolute Bowie  are certainly different.

They are  by far the most lavishly costumed. I did not think that would make a difference, but it does, particularly for the first half when the Spiders are dressed as the Spiders. They play as a five piece, John O’Neill as Bowie, Andy Marr on lead guitar as Ronson/ Slick , Varo Sitsi as Wakeman/ Garson on Keys, Sam Ferrari on bass as Bolder, and Alex Face as Woody on drums. As far as I could tell there were no backing tracks, and mercifully no tacky pyrotechnics just a bit of dry ice.

What sets Absolute Bowie apart is the Bowie/ Ronson interplay. I had  forgotten how important that is visually, Marr resplendent in black sequins, platforms and blonde wig- and boy can he play guitar!

They opened with “Let’s Spend the Night Together” which I had never seen performed live before- it works brilliantly and O’Neill uses its refrain  skilfully to connect with the audience. “Ziggy Stardust” is magnificent, but “Moonage Daydream” blows the roof off followed by a rip roaring “Suffragette City” O’Neill establishes a one to one link with the fans as he wails “Keep your electric eye on me babe, put your ray gun to my head” whilst Marr stretches out the solo to provide the standout moment of the night. I am not a fan of swaying my hands in the air, that is best left to a Lionel Richie concert, but for “Dudes” I was swaying them with everyone else, a joyous “Starman” providing a further opportunity for a sing along. The first set closed with a “Life on Mars” which was just a shade bombastic for these ears, sometimes less is more, but was ecstatically received.

The second half opened with the band out of Ziggy Costumes, but with Marr as rock side man Slick and Setsi wearing a jacket as worn by Garson and blasting into “Blue Jean” a bold choice amongst an eclectic  second half set. I have never been a hugs fan of “Fame” live but Marr made it his own with some clever and inventive improvised licks. However the standout song of the second half, vying with “Moonage Daydream” for song of the night, was “ Ashes to Ashes” in which Setsi was given full rein to stretch out then duel at the end with Marr. It was sublime. Garson would have approved.

The second was enhanced by a barnstorming “Look back in Anger” , “China Girl” fell between the Bowie and Iggy versions, “Heroes” did what it needed to,  “ Space oddity “ curiously ended rather than opened the evening and a  400 odd crowd, many of whom had returned after their last Derby show, went home happy.

Absolutely Bowie are unquestionably different. O’Neill embraces Bowie’s sexiness and fey sexual ambivalence and channels Ziggy era Ziggy perfectly, the lavish and on point costumes are an integral part of that. They also visually, and through performance, feature Ronson as an integral part of the show. The same is true of Garson throughout.  Musically they are faultless.

The set list managed to offer some surprises and unpredictability. Anecdotally, many of the fans I spoke to  are fans of the image and hits, not the minutiae of his back catalogue. This traps any Bowie tribute act. With all their money coming from touring, it is the hits which bring the paying punters in, the glorious offbeat obscurities would be commercial suicide for the performing artist.

During “Moonage Daydream” I was transported back to Earls Court in 1973- thank you.

Posted in Behind the Arras Reviews | 2 Comments

Bowie Experience- Lichfield Garrick Theatre, 14/5/23

Two months after the originally scheduled show was postponed  at short notice due to illness,  the “Bowie Experience” appeared to a 500 seat sell out at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on a Sunday night.

I am a die hard Bowie fan and an enthusiastic consumer of tribute shows.  Tonight intrigued  me. Previously I had seen Laurence Knight fronting the show, who did very well, but for reasons which are not entirely clear to me Oliver Slee has now taken frontman duties. Laurence continues   to tour with a band badged  “The Bowie Experience”, a distinction which many will not identify in advance, and on the night the frequent wig and costume changes   mean that some in the audience may not even realise the frontman  replacement. But that does not matter, as Springsteen once proffered “You have to prove it all night, every night”. To these eyes the original band  seem to have remained in situ apart from a new rhythm guitarist for a cracking evening.

I recently saw John Mainwarings’ long established  “Jean Genie” show and am seeing “Absolute Bowie” in Derby on Friday. The market for Bowie tributes is a given, the challenge they face is becoming harder. The calibre of tribute acts for numerus artists  in terms of presentation, production, performance and musicianship is improving all the time, audience expectation is rising. The sceptre of Abba’s “Voyager” show has also changed everything. A virtual performance by a band captured in their heyday takes some beating.

Oliver Slee a Bournemouth actor and drama teacher, is 26 years old, the same age  as Ziggy era Bowie enjoying a similar lean physique and frontaas Bowie. “Space Oddity” is an apposite opener. Vocally it is not too stretching, but musically it gives  the band a chance to stretch their muscles. As it draws to a close, we all know that everything is going to be alright.

They do use some backing tracks, most notably on “Life on Mars” adding orchestration, but the eight piece ( Slee on vocals and occasional guitar), lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and two backing singes one of whom plays saxophone, the other a multi instrumentalist make a pretty hefty sound in their own right.

First half

Space Oddity

Queen Bitch


Life on Mars

Moonage daydream


Man Who Sold the World


John I’m Only dancing

Jean Genie

Suffragette CIty

Rebel Rebel

Second Half

Diamond Dogs

Cracked Actor

Station to Station

Young Americans

Sound n vision

Boys keep Swinging


Lets Dance

China girl

Under Pressure


All the Young Dudes

The first half is Ziggy era culminating in a rousing “Rebel Rebel” and the amusing sight of a predominantly sixty something audience enthusiastically yelling the chorus. It also reminds you how THAT riff, alongside “jumping Jack Flash”, “Sweet Home Alabama” ,”Don’t Fear the Reaper” “Whole lotta love and “Smoke on the water” is locked into our collective subconscious waiting to explode as soon as those chiming notes ring out.

The surprise highlight was a sublime slowed down waltz paced “Sorrow” segueing into an euphoric “John I’m Only Dancing” cheekily introduced  by borrowing Queen’s  Crazy little Thing called Love” intro. A song that on vinyl struggled to find a home on stage found just that with this spot.

Musical director and lead guitarist Tim Wedlake had a few more surprises up his sleeve too.

In the second half I am always wary of Station to Station being used in any other set position that is not opener. But here, a slightly edited version segues  magnificently into “Golden Years” as the second half. It worked brilliantly. “Ashes to Ashes” is given a reggae intro ( which begged for a “Don’t look Back” sample which didn’t come”), “Boys keep Swinging” goes full rock and “Under Pressure” a song I don’t like, becomes a show highlight with backing singer, and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Talbot, all glam in a black evening dress with mesh sleeves, taking centre stage for the duet, the song soars.

“China Girl”  performed by Iggy Pop is dark and dirty as envisioned by Nile Rodgers it is light and poppy. Wedlake reinvents it once again as a stretched out hybrid of the two, it was wonderfully realised.

The home straight of Heroes and “Dudes” was euphoric stuff with the crowd baying for more but Slee confessing they had nothing further rehearsed which was  a shame – it cried out for “Rock n Roll Suicide”. Ssaxophonist Westwood was a vital ingredient, her concession to costume change was to chnage from black pvc leggings into black tights for the second half!

With tribute shows it is easy to look for trouble, but the fact is that the band delivered a popular hits heavy set which the audience lapped up with arrangements which were skilful and much helped by five part vocal harmonies, saxophonist Emily Westwood dovetailing nicely with Talbot.

Posted in Behind the Arras Reviews | Leave a comment

John Mainwaring as “The Jean Genie” – the Flowerpot PH, Derby.

Tribute acts continue to be a contentious subject  on this site. I had seen The Jean Genie fifteen years ago and had enjoyed his show very much, but I was intrigued to discover what my reaction would be now in a tribute market which has been transformed in recent years.

Two things have changed . Firstly the quality of the show, calibre of the act, and performance, have improved immeasurably to the point where they are now touring  playing theatres ( and in the Australian Pink Floyds case Arenas). Secondly , Abba’s  virtual Voyage show has revolutionised what a Tribute show can be.

So, who is “The Jean Genie” ? He  was created by John Mainwaring  in 1993. An original recording artist in his own right, John Mainwaring had been signed by numerous record companies throughout his career – twice with Warner Bros. In the 1980s  Tony Visconti produced some of John’s songs when he was signed to WEA.

John has worked with  with Jarvis Cocker on his ‘Bad Cover Version’ single, singing and starring in the video, and recorded all the music for Beverley Callard’s (  aka Liz McDonald in Coronation St)  work-out fitness DVD entitled ‘Lasting Results’. As well as performing as David Bowie in Jean Genie, John is currently signed to Bucks Music Publishers. He wrote 3 songs for Tony Christie’s million selling album ‘The Definitive Collection’, plus numerous theme tunes for BBC radio.

In the late 1990s John was approached by  ‘The Spiders from Mars’  to tour with them, which he did. John remains to this day to be one of only a few tribute artists to tour and perform with that  original artist’s band.  He has been a regular fixture   with Trevor Chance’s  show of ‘Legends’ in Blackpool.

His credentials are fine, but how would he do in this celebrated, wonderfully cramped, sold out music venue in Derby on an Easter Saturday night ?

I had forgotten what a gregarious and friendly crowd Bowie fans are with pre gig drinks a whirl of reminiscences with new acquaintances.

As the house lights dimmed the band sauntered on stage to an electronic reworking of “Ode to Joy” , a nice nod to  Ziggy era Bowie shows. No costumes, no look  alikes, with John dressed in a dinner jacket the only concessions to razzmatazz  being a few puffs of dry ice and guitarist Steve Gardiners handsome  Gibson. They perform as a three piece, drums, bass, electric guitar and John on occasional acoustic guitar.

 There were some very discreet backing tracks with keyboards. This comes with advantages and disadvantages. The advantage  is that, particularly in the first hal,f the vibe of an early  Spiders show was conjured up very persuasively. The disadvantage is that  some songs sans overt keys suffered, as did the fullness of the sound. But in the real world, touring with another musician takes another chunk of  door revenue and they got away with it, just, mainly because of the musical dexterity  of the band.

The show was divided into two halves, the first half was resolutely Ziggy era Bowie plus the welcome addition of  a very good “Valentine’s Day”

Five years


The Man who sold the world

Space oddity

Queen bitch

Suffragette city

Valentines day

Moonage daydream


The second half was an eclectic  Bowie smorgasbord, bravely opening and closing with two of David’s most vocally demanding songs.

Wild is the Wind

Medley including Dancing in the street/ Sound n Vision/ Boys/ Fashion/ Ashes  various

Jean genie


Lets dance

Life on Mars


Rebel Rebel


Early on John declared that the show was simply about keeping Bowie’s music alive, and playing it properly. You could not fault the musicianship, and the clever arrangements to compensate for the limited on stage instrumentation were superb. That success was almost entirely due to the real star of the show, Steve Gardiner and his Gibson Les Paul Gold Top.

Steve looks every inch the classic rock star with his lithe frame and flowing long hair, the perfect Ronson doppelganger. A very accomplished guitarist, he switched effortlessly from Robert Fripp’s parts in Heroes, to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s in lets dance. He also squeezed every second of drama out of “Moonage Daydream” and a raucous “suffragette City”.

Presenting Bowie songs  is the greatest challenge for any Bowie tribute. David’s arrangements , vocal style and fashion changed over his forty years of live performance, it is an insurmountable task for any one person. John sings them pretty straight, with Gardiner and bassist Dan  Clark singing occasional harmony vocals. Frustratingly these were oddly absent during “Moonage Daydream”, ”Ashes to Ashes” and some others. John eschewed  David’s reflective original delivery  of “Heroes” opting boldly for the bombastic post 9/11 version.

A special mention is due bassist Dan Clark, who in the absence of a keyboard or electric rhythm guitarist had to work doubly hard to fill out the live sound- he did so admirably, to a rock steady drumbeat.

It would be true say that the medley section divided opinion in the crowd post gig. It enabled extra songs to be shoehorned into the set, but was a bizarre Jive Bunny/ Stars on45 hybrid, however I accepted John’s ill judged  affected take on “Dancing in the street”  as a price worth paying for a superbly reworked “Sound and Vision”.

Overall it was a hugely enjoyable evening, much appreciated by a knowledgeable, discerning and enthusiastic Saturday night crowd at a great live venue. . A touching and unexpected highlight was when the volume naturally dipped during “Ashes to ashes” enabling the entire crowd to be heard singing; “I’ve never done good things, I’ve never done bad things, I’ve never done anything out of the blue-whoa”. Live magic.

Posted in Classic Gigs | Leave a comment

Robin Hood & the Major Oak

Robin Hood & the Major Oak- Derby Theatre


A fine new Easter production for all the family written by Deb McAndrew who has rebooted the classic tale  for a 21st century audience in a seamlessly integrated BSL production, signed and captioned.

All the traditional elements are here for mums and dads but with plenty of child friendly ingredients, not least a powerful eco friendly message about the importance of trees and the environment. In an era when Boris Johnson , Emanuel Macron, and Benjamin Netanyahu have come under the spotlight for perceived abuses of power, the morality tale of the excesses of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne has lost none of it contemporaneous impact. And after a Liz Truss/ Kwasi Kwarteng government thought that it was a good idea to take from the poor to give to the rich, Robin Hood is back to offer his own more  egalitarian views on wealth redistribution ably assisted by Little John ( Oraine Johnson).

McAndrew made her name originally as Angie Freeman in 1990’s  television soap opera Coronation St, but has gone on to forge a distinguished career as a dramatist and playwright with several other productions appearing around the country this year. In April 2018, McAndrew was announced as Leeds Trinity University’s new Chancellor and has worked with  the Hull Truck theatre Company, Northern Broadsides and Claybody theatre.

Emily Bestow has created a lush set which effortlessly transforms from castle to  forest. Tim  Heywood’s costumes  are lavish and colourful. Musical stalwart Ivan  Stott has composed the score and plays with an onstage ensemble of musicians, along with lead singer Joanna Simpkins  as  Alana Dale who ensures that we all party like its 1499.

 A strong cast is notable for its character parts, with several traditionally male roles reimagined as female. Laura Golden is brilliant as a rumbustious Tuck, Abbey Bradbury dashing as Scarlett,  the angular, comic Becky Barry delivers withering apercus as Roger the Reeve.

A fast paced production ensures that proceedings are concluded within two and a quarter hours ensuring that the attention spans of younger audience members are not tested while amplified electric music segments inject zip and chutzpah into the narrative.

The dynamic of some of the character roles has shifted, Maid Marian ( Mia  Ward)  is less simpering female heroine and more Palace insider, Guy of Gisborne’s ( Dominic Rye)  dastardliness is  throttled back, while the Sheriff  ( Adam   Bassett) channels his inner Basil Fawlty as his plans are frustrated and a splinter in his backside  adds as much discomfort to him as Robin Hood does. The gross medicinal remedies offered to him delighted  the young audience. My two expert child theatre goers,  Sol aged nine, and May aged seven, loved it.

Craig Painting portrays a youthful, exuberant  Robin Hood with brio and energy, relishing the freedom of the forest in the second Act after the constraints  of his time as a prisoner in the castle in the first Act. Director Sarah Brigham and writer Deb McAndrew  never lose sight of the need to entertain in this brisk and lively family show which runs until Saturday 8th March

Gary Longden

Posted in Behind the Arras Reviews | Leave a comment

Like Some Cat from Japan

David Bowie’s love affair with  Japan,  and Japanese style, underpinned his early career. He sold 1,000,771 Albums in a country whose western tastes otherwise were dominated by Maria Carey and Michael Jackson. This feature is intended as a reminder that although London, Berlin,  New York and Los Angeles were important  cultural influences – so was Japan.

David  had a longstanding association with Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto , instantly assimilating the Japanese tradition of fusing fashion and music.

His signature fashion styling for Aladdin Sane featured  a costume by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto for which International make up artist Pierre la Roche borrowed from  Lindsay Kemp. Yamamoto designed for Bowie through both his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane eras. Among his most famous outfits for Bowie was Space Samurai, a black, red and blue outfit adapting the hakama, a type of loose trousers which samurais wore and which are still worn by martial arts practitioners.Yamamoto’s outlandish costumes became a central element of Bowie performances.

That association went back to the early 1970’s and manager Tony Defries’s far sighted decision to have Main Man offices in London, New York and Tokyo meaning that Bowie was the only international popstar to have representation in Japan itself. David’s  androgynous face and body, perfectly suited Kansai Yamamoto’s unisex style”.

Davids interest in Japanese theatre was ignited in the late 1960’s  when, he studied dance with Lindsay Kemp, a British performance and mime artist who was heavily influenced by the traditional kabuki style, with its exaggerated gestures, elaborate costumes, striking make-up, and “onnagata” actors – men playing female roles. That dramatic  make-up used by kabuki became part of the Ziggy Stardust look . He  learned  from celebrated  onnagata Tamasaburo Bando how to apply traditional kabuki make-up – its bold highlighted features on a white background, evident in the lightning bolt across the Ziggy face.

The quick change tradition of Japanese theatre fitted perfectly David’s needs for his stage show. The dramatic cape could be whipped away on stage mid-performance and he also wore a kimono-inspired cape with traditional Japanese characters on it which spelled  out his name phonetically. He  was also  the first  Western artist to employ the hayagawari – literally “quick change” – technique from kabuki,  with unseen stagehands ripping off the dramatic cape on stage to reveal another outfit.

The elaborate clash of prints on his  famous knitted bodysuit were also  a reference to yakuza (organised crime syndicates) tattoo patterns. It wasn’t just his appearance – references to Japan are scattered through Bowie’s music – his 1977 album “Heroes” features the track “Moss Garden” on which he plays a Japanese koto.

‘Crystal Japan’ was an instrumental recorded  during the sessions for the  Scary Monsters album with Tony Visconti, but the song itself was one of Bowie’s oldest, written when he was 16, and worked up from a contemporaneous demo. . It was  originally titled ‘Fujimoto San’, and was  intended to close the album, before Bowie  being replaced  by a  reprise of ‘It’s No Game’ which features Japanese spoken word guest vocals.

The synth layered  instrumental “Crystal Japan” is reminiscent of  of  “Low” and “Heroes”, possibly the reason for its ultimate omission from the album. It  was used as a   soundtrack  for a 1980 Japanese television advertisement for the Shōchū drink Crystal Jun Rock, a Japanese distilled spirit made by Takara Shuzo Co. Bowie appeared in at least three different commercials, all of which featured the song. A hugely successful product, the saturation coverage the advert provided, sometimes twenty times a day,  both reflected his historic and contemporary status in Japanese pop culture, it also cemeneted it long into the future. Sharp move. ‘Crystal Japan’ was released as a single in Japan in July 1980.

In “Move on” from lodger David references “Spent some nights in old Kyoto/Sleeping on the matted ground” Bowie’s determination  to champion Japanese culture  as distinct from a generic Eastern  vision endeared him enormously  to the Japanese . Kyoto was his favourite Japanese city which he visited frequently over a period of many years particularly: Tawaraya Ryokan, where he stayed with Iman on their honeymoon, David befriended another David, leading  U.S. Sinologist David Kidd,  who had a house in Kyoto called Togendo, as well as a school dedicated to teaching traditional Japanese arts. Bowie stayed at Togendo in 1979 for some weeks,  even contemplating moving there full time at one time. He played a gig at the City in 1983 as part of the “Serious Moonlight” tour.

 Japan embraced Bowie back, where he remains one of the best known western rock and pop figures. Leading Japanese  rock guitarist Hotei Tomayasu, who composed   the theme for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, cites David as an important influence and played with him onstage at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in 1996. Between 1978 ( isolar2) and 2004 ( Reality), David played the legendary Budokan arena in Tokyo  nine times.

 It is easy to forget that as Bowie’s career took off, World War 2 was only 25 years distant with memories of Japanese  ill treatment of Allied, and in particular British and Australian, prisoners of war, still fresh in the public’s mind with many survivors still living. Thus his leading role in the feature film “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” alongside Tom Conti  is even more extraordinary  as Maj Jack Celliers directed by the renowned Nagisa Oshima. It was controversy free instead winning plaudits as a vehicle for  Japanese and western reconciliation.

The film, set during World War Two in a Japanese  POW camp , pits Bowie’s character and another soldier against two Japanese officers, one of whom is played by the  musician Ryuichi Sakamoto who contributed the memorable film score.

Not a war film, but a film set in war time  Bowie’s character  tries to bridge the cultural divides between the  P.O.W. s and the Japanese camp commander in order to avoid blood-shed in a subtle synthesis of life and art. It is my favourite Bowie performance on film.

Although the Japanese dimension to Bowies life and career is relatively well known, it is only when you pull the strands together as I have attempted here, that its significant impact becomes apparent

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

The Kinks, Aston Villa Leisure Centre, Birmingham, England Mar 24th 1994

There are good times to  catch bands, bad times, and times when you are just grateful to have seen them at all. This gig falls into that  latter category, thirty years after their inception, this was their last full tour, played to a quarter full sports hall. That it should have  come to this…

The always volatile dynamic between  brothers Ray and Dave was never far from the surface, but Ray’s professionalism won through. On  some previous dates, Dave had done an opening solo set. Fortunately we were spared that tonight, the fans had come to hear the Kinks play together, not a rotating variety bill.  Acknowledging the poor turnout, around 400 in a 2000 capacity venue, Ray dedicated  the show to the faithful  who were there supporting them, the faithful were not disappointed with a sprawling set which took in  their entire career.

Many argue  the question, who was our greatest sixties band, the Beatles, or the Stones ?  I have  long felt that the Kinks should be part of that equation. Their best songs are a match for either. Jagger may have had the edge in showmanship, the Beatles in range of composition, but Ray Davies ‘ quintessentially English outlook and David’s growling guitar were some combination.

It was a night drenched in nostalgia, and Ray was happy to supply numerous illuminating   supporting anecdotes. As a young child I used to love “Apeman “and “Autumn Almanac” on Radio 1’s junior choice. “You Really Got me”, “All day and all of the Night”, “Til the end of the Day”  rocked, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Village Green Preservation Society” were as English as strawberries and cream or “fish  and chips,” “Lola” was the inevitable singalong, but “ Come Dancing” was the surprise standout,celebrating the golden era of the Davies’ parents youth and the Dance Halls.

As the band left the stage there was a valedictory air. They seemed relieved to have got through it, the fans were pleased to have been there, and there was a distinct sense that this was to be their last time.[

I saw Ray several times later doing solo shows which were not only superb affairs allowing Ray to be Ray, and demonstrably so, musically probably better and with more heart. But I had seen the Kinks play, and that was all that mattered.

A Well Respected Man

Autumn Almanac

The Ballad of Julie Finkle

Sunny Afternoon

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Do It Again

I go to Sleep

Till the End of the Day

Give the People What They Want

Village Green Preservation Society

Celluloid heroes

Low Budget



Too Much on My Mind

Death of a Clown

Missing Persons


Come Dancing


All Day and All of the Night

Welcome to Sleazy Town

Waterloo Sunset




You Really Got Me

Twist and Shout

 Ray Davies, Symphony Hall, Birmingham , England May 28th 2007

The contrast  with the AVLC gig could not have been greater. A packed out Symphony hall, acoustically superb, and from the minute that Ray bounded out it was clear that we were in for a very special night,rapturously received with  no less than three encores. The opening “Im not Like Everybody else” was extraordinary played with the vigour of a teenage

Ray Davies from The Kinks performs at the “Barclaycard British Summer Time Hyde Park”.

Set List

I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Where Have All the Good Times Gone

Till the End of the Day

After the Fall

A Well Respected Man

Autumn Almanac

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Celluloid Heroes

20th Century Man

No One Listen

Come Dancing

Village Green Preservation Society

Sunny Afternoon

Dead End Street

Tired of Waiting for You

Set Me Free

All Day and All of the Night


A Long Way From Home

The Getaway (Lonesome Train)



Encore 2:

Imaginary Man

Waterloo Sunset

Encore 3:

You Really Got Me

Ray Davies, Symphony Hall, Birmingham , England May 28th 2007

Set List

“Victoria” was the surprise highlight in another set of evergreen classics

You Really Got Me

I Need You


In a Moment

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Autumn Almanac

A Long Way From Home

Sunny Afternoon

Dead End Street

Morphine Song

Vietnam Cowboys

Till the End of the Day

All Day and All of the Night



Working Man’s Café

See My Friends

Village Green

Picture Book

Big Sky

Do You Remember Walter?

Johnny Thunder

Village Green Preservation Society

Postcard From London

Celluloid Heroes

Waterloo Sunset



All Day and All of the Night

Posted in Classic Gigs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Virtual Future for David Bowie?

The Abba Voyage revenues are jaw dropping. Average £70 a ticket, 3000 capacity, seven shows a week two dark days, two with matinees equals £1.47m a week before merchandise/ refreshments. That is £76.44m per annum.

Production costs, exclusive of live band/staff are estimated at around £140m. Start date May 2022, ticket sales currently to end Jan 2024 but will almost certainly run for the whole of 2024.

BUT, Abba also “own” the Abba dome which can be sold to a new host city with Dubai, Sydney , Kouga South Africa and Las Vegas all keen.

“Mama Mia” the film has grossed £3bn to date.

The stage musical has grossed £3.5bn

Queen are banking £22m a year from the stage musical “We will rock you”

The Rolling Stones are currently grossing £100m a year when they tour.

Abba also “own” the digital technology which could be a massive future earner. As can be seen, the origination costs are massive, and each new artists show will want to keep those down, not reinvent the wheel.

However, motion capture is far easier on live performers than dead. The number of performers who can virtually sell out a venue for a year is very small. Probably only Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones . David Bowie, the Doors, Buddy Holly, the Who, the Eagles Dolly Parton, Whitney, Madonna are a maybe. And what about a virtual Woodstock?

A big tourist destination with a turnover of visitors is essential. And if you can have shows running simultaneously in Dubai, Las vegas and London that would help.

In time, origination costs will come down, but as it evolves it could go up again!

As the golden age of rock and pop dies as its protagonists become too old, infirm or die too it is inevitable that those , and their estates, who can cash in will.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Mother Goose – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

What’s this? Panto in Wolverhampton at  the end of February?  Oh yes it is.

Having stormed the normal panto  season first in Brighton, then  the Duke of York’s Theatre in London, the audience response was too positive for  it to wither with the Christmas decorations, thus  it has continued on a short victory parade around the country taking in Wolverhampton this week with further dates thereafter.

Mother Goose is a Christmas stalwart as a story, and is often performed. What sets this production apart is the cast, specifically  Sir Ian McKellen of Lord of the Rings fame as  Mother Goose.  


The all important script is by Scouse novelist, playwright and satirist Jonathan Harvey who just happens to have  fellow  Liverpudlian John  Bishop as his comic hitman on stage. The recent political farce in government is a gift for satire, and Harvey dos not miss a trick in singling out the obvious targets, Boris Johnson, Suella Braverman, Camilla Parker Bowles and the energy companies amongst them. He has been a regular on the Coronation St scriptwriting team since 2004, his populist credentials and touch are a given.

This is a traditional show, affectionately delivered by  Director Cal McCrystal, narrative driven with no over reliance on special effects, still music hall rather than 3D cinema . However that does not preclude copious Tolkien references and a rather wonderful foray into a Shakespeare soliloquy. There is plenty of razzle and dazzle courtesy of  Lizzi Gee’s lively choreography, Prema Mehta’s colourful  pink and green lighting , and Ben Harrison’s sound with Lady Gaga’s “ Born this way”  a showstopper, closely followed by Anna-Jane Casey’s “Cilla” powerhouse : ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’

Although inevitably MCkellen and Bishop rightly dominate proceedings, the supporting company is strong and effective. Son Jack  ( Oscor Conlon- Morely)is exhaustingly frenetic, villainess  Malignia gloriously enjoyed by Karen Mavundukure, is suitably malign at every opportunity thankfully thwarted at every turn by good witch   soprano  Encanta ( Sharon Ballard), Anna Jane Casey is the goose that lays the golden egg, all of whom sing remarkably well.

The denouement is messy, Bishop is  very funny, Mckellan is a vision in a frou frou nightdress and delivers his apercus with consummate style.

The ensemble menagerie of  all singing, all dancing puppeteer  animals are terrific initially shivering in a closed  Debenhams store , Liz Ashcroft’s street set is stunning. The animals are very much part of the fun.  A  donkey that self  identifies as a llama,  Richard Leeming  flickers wonderfully  as  a bat, Genevieve Nicole as Puss wonders if she is in the right panto,  other animals are available!

This  wonderful comic  production runs at Wolverhampton until 25th February then continues on nationwide our at Liverpool, Oxford, Leicester, Cardiff, Dublin, Salford and Bristol.

Posted in Behind the Arras Reviews | Leave a comment

Shinrin- yoku

From Japan comes the Shinrin-yoku: the “forest bath” .

In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great planted  gardens in the middle  of cities in the Persian Empire   to improve  human health. In the 16th century ,  the Swiss philosopher  and physician Paraselsus wrote: “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.  But it was the Japanese who actively developed the idea with Shinrin-yoku.

You can do  Shinrin-yoku on your own- or turn to an experienced forest guide  too manage the (often very slow) pace and direct you to the best places. Unlike a simple walk, “forest bathing” invites you  to enjoy the moment not just with sight but with all five senses.  You are encouraged to live in the moment, to fully enjoy the place in which one find yourself f, to abandon technology to find a true relationship with nature.

What can be done in the Shinrin-yoku?

The centrepiece of forest bathing is undoubtedly meditation mindfullness, that is, being present with body and mind in the present moment, focusing on oneself and the natural world around. Other activities can be long, slow walks, meditation, breathing exercises and tree hugging.

The benefits of the Shinrin-yoku

The positive effects are innumerable, in a 2010 study  published at New York Times evidence was produced that it can stimulate natural immunity to diseases.. An increase in immune function is one of the most immediate benefits, but other benefits have also been noted, as reported in another study, “Shinrin-yoku: the Medicine of Being in the Forest”. In this article, decreased heart rate and blood pressure are reported, as well as decreased stress and cures for depression.

The premise is to really try: it is an active exercise.. The crux of the whole matter is that it is not enough to take a jaunt into a forest to feel immediate benefits. It is more of a mental exercise that one comes to with time, practice and concentration. You  need to make an effort to perceive all things with the five senses, you  must try to abandon thoughts of the city and technology. Immersing yourself in the forest is a conscious exercise that must be embraced in its entirety if it is to be effective.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Poems 2023

The Hat

No governess should be without,

A hat must whisper, it does not shout.

Sitting neat and prim and proper,

with its own special hook in her locker.

Below stairs girls  wear  pinafores  and bonnets,

But respectable heads need a statement on it.

A cut above the hoi polloi,

Looking classy, not sexy, demure and coy.

“gloves scarf and cloak”, bish bash bosh,

Finished off with  a neat blue cloche.

The Worm

Ever since I saw the bird pecking

With persistent dull thud

I have wondered

Are they really imitating the sound of rain?

Or do the worms think that it is a bird pretending precipitation again?

Do they think worms are stupid?

That they do not notice the absence of the fresh flow of water

Permeating the ground?

A perfect shower

Over their expectant dry bodies

Writhing, wriggling to its cool soft touch

Falling in love

This morning i fell in love with one sock

And realised that I was half way to finding the other

I discovered a partially consumed jar of home made marmalade

What love fomented its fermentation !

I found a feather

I should cherish it as it original owner had

I was bathed in sunlight, but shut it out

I should have relished its warmth and brightness

William Perry – Prizefighter

Heavyweight Champion of England

A knock kneed knock out

Six foot tall and sound

He defeated Tom paddock

Over twenty seven rounds

A useful navvy in London

But famed for his fives

Any daring to face him were risking their very lives

19 rounds for  a tenner, for your day in the sun

Was all that he wanted, But before he had taken  his fun

His opponents would flee, they would cut  and run

A brute rhino of a man , a formidable basher

As his opponents went on he run he became the Tipton Slasher

The Fountain inn at Dudley was where he earned his name

His pub, his turf, his undisputed domain

The neighbourhood lion

A fiery disposition and fists made of iron

And anyone who wanted to pass by to the adjacent lock gates

Would find that the Tipton Slasher for them lay in wait

For him they had to ask

Before they earned their pass

Symmetrical robust

With a herculean bust

he could turn and wheel, pivot-like, on that crooked pin

Feint to the left, feint to the right before he filled you in.

You could pay for your passage

Or challenge him for a purse

But the Tipton Slasher

Never came off worse.

In retirement he took over the bricklayers Arms

Ensuring no customer ever came to harm

A statue now stands on Coronation gardens

To one of Tipton’s own, their championship winning hardman.

Robert Plant

He stalked the stage

He sought the spots

He tossed his lions mane hair

Tousled teased preening

Impossibly so fair

His snake hips shimmied

His bare chest shone

He exploded like a supernova

He  walked  like Johnny depp  right into the sun

Then danced just like a Casanova

And all who heard would  see them there,

And all would  cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

A gift sent down from the skies above

Giving us all a whole lotta love

Inviting us in, nearer for a clinch

Closer than a yard,  or foot, nearer to an inch

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise

Not water, uncompromising, unyielding

Giving up no quarter

Knowing that there aren’t three but seven

Stairway steps to heaven

Posted in Poems | Leave a comment