Preamble: When I saw Bill Farrow at a gig recently (see my review #99), he told me that he was booked to play Haverfolk, at their new venue, The Golden Lion, Romford, the following week. As this is very local to me, I of course said I’d come along.
The Venue: Haverfolk have recently been forced out of their previous venue, The White Horse, Chadwell Heath (see my review #78 for a description of the club and the old venue); over a dispute with the pub’s new manager. So the club have returned to their erstwhile home The Golden Lion just off Romford Market. Now I’ve been to many gigs at this pub over the last four decades (yes, really, 40 years!); but funny enough, not since I started this website. It is possibly the oldest building in Romford, dating back to at least 1440 – when it was a coaching inn known as Le Lion – and was once owned by Sir Francis Bacon.
Open Foor: Bill played a two-part set preceded by two Open Floor sessions. But being as the place was very full – due to the popularity of Bill – there was only time for one song from each of those who wished to participate. As is usual in such Folk / Acoustic clubs, there was a great range of styles present, and quality was high. Mandy Tully started things off with a tribute to the recently deceased comedienne Victoria Wood – by singing her classic song ‘Let’s Do It’. Other highlights were: Peter Walters (of Haverfolk) who gave us a superb rendition of ‘The Star Of County Down’; Les and Sandra Potts (of the nearby Sail Loft Folk Club) – assisted by Wag Porter on fiddle – who played an impressive cover of Darius Rucker’s ‘Wagon Wheel’; and Dennis Homes (of 60’s Psychedelia band Synanthesia), who played one of his own songs, ‘A Battered Old Guitar’. (Dennis told me that he is currently working on a solo album, so that’s something to look out for). Several other people had a turn, and were all very good. I played my daft Cockney song ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’.
Bill’s Set: Its easy to say ‘You know what you’ll get with Bill’ – and in one sense that’s true, because you know you’ll get a great display of his own unique upbeat and amusing Cockney / Skiffle / Blues acoustic guitar songs, as well as some old classics – but he always surprises me by playing some stuff I haven’t heard him do before. And he taylors his set off the top of his head to suit the audience too. Add to that some funny banter between – and sometimes during – songs, and a fun time was had by all!
He played some of his old favourites; such as ‘Believe Me Woman’; ‘New Tracks Down An Road’; and ‘Canning Town Blues’. He also did some fine covers; including Josh White’s ‘Never Gonna Stop My Wanderin’; and as he is a Big Bill Broonzy fan, he of course covered his hero with an excellent rendition of ‘When Did You Leave Heaven?’
But Bill is not just about Skiffle’n’Blues. At one time he was a playwright and into Old Time Music Hall. From this period he gave us his clever and amusing song ‘Keep Yer ‘Air On!’ (From his album The French Can’t Make Mangles Like We Can). This is a funny song about a woman losing her rag at a fruit’n’veg stall (maybe Romford market!); and got plenty of laughs.
Towards the end of Bill’s second set, he invited some others to join him for a jam. Stepping up to the plate were Bill’s usual gig-mate Richie Milton (guitar); Wag Porter (fiddle); Les Potts (guitar), and Ray ‘Skill’ Skilton (also of The Sail Loft Club, on harmonica). They played ‘Lots Of Rain’; ‘Can’t Blame Me’; ‘Pullin’ All The Boozers Down’; ‘Odd Socks Boogie Blues’; and finishing with ‘Ain’t It Good’. Encore was demanded, and duly given in the form of ‘Number 23 Bus’.
There was time at the end for a chat with some of those mentioned, before I gave Bill a lift home…well I couldn’t leave him standing there waiting for that No.23 bus, could I? Its always a pleasure to see Bill play – and I have on numerous occasions, of course – but I think he was particularly on form this evening; maybe because he was in the company of so many good old friends (some of whom had driven a fair way just to be at the gig). Nice one, Bill! PTMQ
Check my Contents List for more articles on Bill Farrow and on Haverfolk.