These Days You Just Can't Find An Anarchist

 by Neil Watson


But then there is always Elvis, Buddy, Dylan and Steve… Gibbons that is. I’m sorry that I couldn’t make it to Northampton last weekend for the second Freewheelin’ John Green memorial meeting. I would have loved to have been there again but work got in the way this time around. I do regret missing out on what I’m sure was a great day. Someone else who wasn’t there for this years bash was Steve Gibbons. Steve of course played solo sets at last years event. This year he was playing live the following night at the tiny Lady Meadow Restaurant here in the heart of Tamworth. So it wasn’t a wind-up after all? The venue is known as ‘The Acoustic Café’ with a capacity of only 70 people. When it was first announced that Steve Gibbons would play here my initial reaction was, it will never happen! The gig was organized and promoted by a local man, and old friend of mine, Ian Gibbons – his namesake. Unusual name that. Along with his good lady Tina McBain they persuaded Steve to play Tamworth. Ian has been involved in promoting the local music scene in the town for many, many years and some time back opened a small venue aimed at showcasing up and coming young bands calling it ‘The Rathole’. Ian’s early musical influences, on account of his age, were Punk Rock and New Wave. You know, Johnny Rotten and all that stuff. He was a big Sex Pistols man back in the seventies. I used to talk to him about Bob Dylan and what a great songwriter he was, but all he wanted to hear was ‘Anarchy In The UK’. Ian was later to become a big fan of a certain Mr Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats. (See Rathole) Ian looks uncannily like Sir Bob, at least to me he does! He even pulled off the amazing coop of persuading Geldof to play a couple of concerts in Tamworth on his last ‘solo’ tour early this year. Geldof played two concerts at the Assembly Rooms in the town back in mid-February of this year. The capacity at this venue is around 350.

Not since the ‘Beatles’ and the ‘Rolling Stones’ they said! Yes, the Beatles and the Stones both performed there back in early 1963. When the Beatles played Tamworth back then it was because they were under a signed contract to play the show. At that time they had just made the charts with their first hit single. Their management didn’t want them to perform the concert as bigger and more profitable venues were now beckoning. The concert as the reports goes, lasted 25 minutes and they were gone! I still look up at those old steel steps that run up the side of the building to the stage door. The Beatles once walked up those stairs! And was I at this famous concert on that memorable night? No, I was just 12 years old at the time! There were other famous bands that followed though. The Who, or the High Numbers as they were still known at the time. The Move also played there I believe.

Steve Gibbons opened the show at The Acoustic Café with ‘The Memphis Flash,’ his tribute song to Elvis. There was a bust of Elvis on the wall behind the stage. ‘I‘m proud to stand and perform in front of any effigy of Elvis’ says Steve. He moved right on into one of Elvis’ most famous early recordings with a great version of ‘Train, Train’. Next up a song about another of his early influences, Buddy Holly. My own first influence, and remains so to this day. Inevitably the next song was his homage to Bob Dylan. Steve told the story about the time he read a review about Dylan by a young writer who obviously didn’t like Bob. Steve thought about this writers remarks for a time and his song ‘Painted To The Mast’ was his respite. Steve Gibbons has a lot of influences, he’s been around a long time and has written a fair number of songs. He’s also a great stylist and storyteller. Yes, how we like storytellers.

Steve performed a couple of Dylan songs on the evening, these being ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Just Like A Woman’. They were as good as you would expect them to be. He plays a good harmonica too. Also in the set a couple of Chuck Berry numbers. One was the more unusual ‘Thunderbird And The Jaguar’. He squeezed in two songs about motorcycles. One about the old BSA, and to the other extreme Harley Davidson. These were okay, but nothing to compare to Richard Thompson's ultimate motorcycle song the Vincent Black Lightening 1952.

The first encore was a version of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ - complete with a Thownsend swinging arm. Steve had earlier performed an original song called ‘One Of The Boys’ which he said he had written for Roger Daltry’s first solo album after Daltry had asked him if he had a song for him when the Steve Gibbons Band supported The Who on tour in the mid-seventies. He finished the concert with a version of ‘My Funny Valantine’ a la Elvis – Costello that is!

The Steve Gibbons Band had a minor hit back in the seventies with the Chuck Berry song ‘Tulane’. Great song. Steve talked a lot about the seventies when he was most active recording with his band. The seventies seem a lifetime away now. Earls Court 1978. My first Dylan concerts! Never to be forgotten.

So where did the sixties go? And Who Knows Where The Time Goes? Another GREAT song.

Steve Gibbons
Steve Gibbons