Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Next time, fight for a seat

FORMER Radio 1 Breakfast Show host MIKE READ was among the fans of Sixties pop legend

FORMER Radio 1 Breakfast Show host MIKE READ was among the fans of Sixties pop legend Georgie Fame who packed out the Kenton Theatre for a rapturously received concert on Thursday, October 22.

Here’s his take on proceedings:

THEY say change is inevitable... except from a vending machine. And so it is with many singers.

As certain as the sea flows to shore the high Cs recede with the passing years. Not so with Georgie Fame.

This man can still reach the notes he hit during his residency at the Flamingo Club in the early Sixties.

He delighted a packed Kenton Theatre with rock’n’roll tales woven into the hits and blues, soul and jazz-flavoured classics, such as the time he was upstaged by Roger Moore, how he got his name, and how he was introduced to a musical genre that was to become his passion.

Of course there are the hits, especially his three chart-toppers, which have taken him into the record books as being the only British artist to have had three number ones with his only three top 10 hits.

So as well as Yeh Yeh, Get Away and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde there were his takes on classics from the likes of Sam Cooke, Peggy Lee, Ray Charles and Booker T & the MG’s.

Georgie was joined by his sons, the hugely talented Tristan and James, on guitar and drums, with whom there was an obvious personal warmth and musical bond,

He reminisced about his time with such rock’n’roll legends as Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Joe Brown — and paid heartfelt tribute to one of his musical heroes, Mose Allison, with the excellent Was...

When I become was and we become were

Will there be any sign or a trace of the lovely contour of your face

And will there be someone around

With essentially my kinda sound

When am turns to was and now is back when

Will someone have moments like this...

It was great to hear Green Onions as this was the track that got Georgie hooked on the Hammond organ and his much-loved and much-travelled instrument that tells its own story via the dozens of stickers adorning it.

It was Georgie who first got me listening to Mose Allison via his version of the classic Parchman Farm — maybe a treat for his next Kenton gig? I would be surprised if there wasn’t a return gig in the spring.

Maybe I could also lobby for the inclusion of both sides of another of his hits for the next foray into the wilds of Henley — Sitting in the Park and the excellent B-side Many Happy Returns, the latter written by Hurricane Smith. Having tweeted it in my pre-gig musical expectations up front the other night, I was delighted that we were treated to Georgie’s timeless version of Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away.

Again, the Fame version was my introduction to the song. Another piece of Fame vinyl that I loved was In The Meantime, written by the late pianist John Burch, who also wrote Preach and Teach, the B-side of Georgie’s chart-topping Yeh Yeh. Having a chat after the gig, we discussed the lyrics of The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, as the writers Mitch Murray and Peter Callander once told me that the phrase “Bonnie loaded dollars into the julep bag” should really have been “into the burlap bag”, but with their scant knowledge of American terminology they got it wrong.

They intended it to be a woven fabric and they ended up with a cocktail! Georgie comes over very much as his own man musically and the audience are left in no doubt which songs are his passion and which are his meal ticket — or, in his words, “my pension plan”.

An unexpected highlight was the surprise appearance of Didcot-based guitarist, arranger and conductor Colin Green — one-time member of Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames, who Georgie credited with teaching him “at least 50 per cent” of everything he knew.

Colin was racing up and down the guitar frets for a living while Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were still dreaming about it.

I’m sure GF could have easily filled another hour or two with more classics and material from his period with Alan Price.

I’ll be first in the queue when the Kenton box office opens for Georgie’s return.

Candid conversation, wry and dry humour, excellent musicianship, hit songs, soul and blues classics and tales of life on the road.

Maybe next time we will also hear of his passionate support for the Countryside Alliance.

Georgie Fame is a class act. When he’s back in town, fight for a seat.

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