It was very good of MARTIN TURNER to invite me round for a chat before his gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex; and of DAVE KITTERIDGE of the club for sorting it all out. My boy James and I turned up early at the venue; and after promoter Dave greeted us; we soon got chatting with a couple of fans in the bar, while we waited for the nod from MT for an interview. We also had a chat with the very informative DARREN WISDOM on the merch desk too; and I bought MT’s new album The Garden Party. As we waited, we had a few words with long-term MTWA guitarist RAY HATFIELD who was on stage making some fine adjustments to his FX set-up. We talked about his solo albums, and he said he’d written a song that was to be played by MTWA tonight – ‘Mystify Me’. No, its not a cover of the old RONNIE WOOD song, but a totally original piece. This led us to talk of ROLLING STONES guitarists; and Ray said he was a big fan of MICK TAYLOR, a most underrated musician – and I must agree with that.
Before long, we got the invite back-stage where we were greeted by MT and his other long-serving axe-man, DANNY WILLSON. Martin was relaxed and we were soon speaking about his friends in the band BLUE BISHOPS (see my blog entry #21), who he jams with at times. I wasn’t sure if he would want to speak about the recent controversy between himself and ANDY POWELL (see my blog entry #5), but he did so very freely. However, those issues are outside the scope of this review – suffice to say that the whole unfortunate business still rankles him deeply; and I’m not surprised. He was, shall we say, less than complimentary about AP! Enough said.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that my favourite album of all time, is the Wishbone epic, Argus; and it has been since I first heard it back in the 70s. So inevitably I brought up the subject. MT avidly discussed the themes of the album in some length and detail (it being, after all, his magnum opus), but his comments on this deserve to be the subject of a dedicated future article on my blog. (Watch this space). He also told the story of his lost Rickenbacker 4001 Bass guitar, which he used on the album.
I asked also, about new material. MT said that four tracks have been recorded; with another two – possibly four – in the pipeline. The whole band apparently, are currently collaborating in the song-writing; and ‘Mystify Me’ (a song by Ray Hatfield – as stated above) being one of two newbies planned for that night. Then my son James (who is actually a sports journalist) asked Martin if there is a theme to the new album. This was a good question, as it led our host to wax philosophical. The new song ‘Written In The Stars’ (due to be the opening number at the gig) apparently encompasses his view of a pre-ordained Universe. He believes in re-incarnation, and I asked if he was a Buddhist. No, he’s not; but he is interested in the Hindu religion; and feels that he has, in the past, fallen foul of the goddess Kali. Now you may, or may not believe this; but you cannot deny that it influences his admirable song-writing. James also asked if his new music has branched out. Martin thought so. He mentioned his love for various musical genres other than rock and blues – classical; jazz; and Hindu music, which he says ‘are bound to’ influence him. Of course.
Now, I know the official name of the band has recently been changed to MARTIN TURNER PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WISHBONE ASH (actually, to me it will always be MTWA!); but what I wanted to know was, who will the new album be credited to? It can’t be labelled as MT PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WA, because WA never played it in the first place. MT says that this is undecided at the moment; but that the artist’s name will probably include the name ‘WA’ in it somehow – as long as it doesn’t contravene the recent court ruling which found in favour of Andy Powell’s use of the name. I also asked why a simple MARTIN TURNER BAND, or similar wasn’t used. He answered that WA would be incorporated in the advertising for gigs etc anyway, so why not include it in the title? Fair enough.
By the time we returned to the auditorium, it was packed with MTWA fans eagerly awaiting the show. We didn’t have to wait long before Master Of Ceremonies BRIAN SANGWIN introduced the band. Soon the lads were on-stage belting out the new tune that we’d just discussed back-stage: ‘Written In The Stars’. Its a great song and proved to be a good opener. Old Argus favourite ‘Warrior’ followed; and was performed in an exemplary fashion. Its as near as you will ever get these days to the original album version. As on the album, this was immediately followed – and counter-balanced – by ‘Throw Down The Sword’. Again, we were transported back to ’72! We witnessed a beautiful harmonised twin solo from Hatfield and Willson; with MT as usual, faultless on his Gibson Thunderbird bass.
Another of my WA favourites followed: ‘Goodbye Baby, Hello Friend’, originally penned by ex-WA guitarist LAURIE WISEFIELD for the ’77 album, Front Page News. MT quipped that Ray H would sing it – as he was the one who most resembled Laurie! The instrumental ‘Lullaby’ from Pilgrimage followed; with Danny W, highly competent on 12-string. The progressive and bluesy ‘Persephone’ was up next. The whole band impressing with their musicality. Heavy rocker ‘Living Proof’ hit us without further ado; new drummer TIM BROWN impressing us with his skin-beating.
Martin then announced that the band would have a short break after one more song. At this point I was most surprised to hear the iconic Argus track ‘Blowin’ Free’; as it is usually reserved for the encore. But then why not? It was a superb rendition as you’d expect; and ended the first half of the set on a high.
After the break (involving beer and chat!); Martin and his boys returned to the stage and began Part Two with another Argus classic: ‘Some-Time World’. I love this song. Its strummed, vocalised intro soon gives way to Turner’s iconic, busy bass-line – in fact, a busier bassist you’ll not see outside of the jazz world! Hatfield and Willson did a fantastic job on it too; as did Tim on the skins.
Next was the eagerly anticipated, Hatfield penned, ‘Mystify Me’. It did not disappoint. It is highly compatible with classic WA material. It went down well with the crowd. I liked it a lot. And I’d like to hear the studio version (along with the other new one; the opener ‘Written In The Stars’). Another old favourite ‘Lorelei’ (from New England, ’76), was played next; followed by TED TURNER’s song ‘Keeper Of The Light’ ably sung by Danny W.
Another instrumental, ‘Outward Bound’ (also from New England) was followed by an impromptu joke, told by MT in his stand-up comedian mode! It was about astronauts and Red Indians. A more serious theme was explored in the lyric of ‘Lifeline’. Then Martin said they’d do a song from the very first WA album ‘..that was 1907’ he quipped! It was of course the old fans favourite, ‘Phoenix’ (1970). And thus ended the main set to rapturous applause.
The question now was: Did we want them back for encore? ‘Let’s here it for Martin and the band with no name!’ called Brian Sangwin. And we cheered loudly until ‘the band with no name’ returned. After a few bars of the ancient song ‘Greensleeves’, they launched themselves into the unmistakable intro of ‘The King Will Come’. It was the fifth song from Argus, and another sublime rendition! The wah-wah solo from Ray was excellent. Rocker ‘Blind Eye’ followed, and ended with MT teasing his fans by coining the phrase ‘Zimmer-Rock!’ The finale – if not ‘Blowin’ Free’ – had to be, of course, the live favourite: ‘Jailbait’. (Martin had talked to us earlier about the inspiration for this song). Then he thanked the band who each did their solo; and all staff – both his and the club’s; before exiting the stage to wails of approval.
It was one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. Thanks to Martin and the band for a fantastic show; and taking the time to talk to James and myself. And to Dave Kitteridge and his Mrs; and all the staff at the Touchline for all their hard work in making a memorable evening. Cheers, PTMQ