Review Rockabilly Rave #8 - 2004

Preparations for Rave number eight began in a new way in the Smoker household; searching for a baby sitter to look after Ella Maybelle. Fortunately, Mr & Mrs West up the road promised to look after her in an "extra special way". Nice couple, Fred and Rose. They are in the patio business.

Alighting from our dull rail journey at Rye station, we encountered a pair of rocking Finnish students. They shared a cab with ourselves and a brewery-full of booze to Pontins at Camber Sands, and we joined the lengthy queue for handcuffs/wristbands.

You know the routine yourselves. Back to the chalet. Jam the electric meter, throw clothes everywhere, switch on the rocking TV channel, turn it up loud. Open a bottle of something lively, drink it, open another one, repeat the process while we get tarted up. Feeling better than James Brown, we dart through the drizzle and up the stairs as Skinny Jim hands over to MARS ATTACKS. I have enjoyed their records in the past but the band is uninspiring tonight. Too many straight covers (‘You Arouse My Curiosity’, ‘I Wonder if you Wonder’) with nothing new added mean they sound just like hundreds of other rockabilly bands. Start on the pints of Nelson (rhyming slang: Nelson Mandela = Stella).

SONNY BURGESS looked older than when I had last seen him (hardly surprising) but he was slim and fit and sounded fabulous. He belted out all of his classic stuff, although I would have liked more brass in the band to capture the old Sun sound. Feeling a bit gassy, try out some alcopops.

A welcome reunion of the PLANET ROCKERS feature Tennessee’s own Sonny George on fruity vocals, Eddie (Los Straitjackets) Angel on git-fiddle, and the rhythm section from Smokestack Lightning. Bloody hell, they were just great, great, GREAT!! They did oodles of songs that they have made their own: ‘Trouble up the road’, ‘Running Man’, Billy Cannon’, ‘Bull by the Horns’, all perfectly suited to Sonny’s rich and fruity voice. They were helped by a top quality sound system, proving yet again that these organisers realise that penny-pinching on the PA system is a false economy. When Dutch guitar avatar Tjarko (Tin Stars) Jeen clambered up to join them for ‘Rampage’ I was so excited I nearly piddled myself. Well, I did a little bit. Must be all the electric soup. Switch to Arthur Daley’s favourite, VAT (vodka & tonic).
Our band of ne’er-do-wells wobbled unsteadily downstairs to let His Diabolic Majesty Dave Crozier perforate our eardrums with meritorious tuneage. Despite our being as tired as newts, DJs Tom Ingram and the magnificent Go kept us perky until the very end at 5am.

Awaken painfully early on Saturday, looking and smelling like I slept in a shop doorway. Place one shoulder under a cold, slightly dripping pipe and pretend that I have had a shower. Catch a bit of Tall Mark and Sylvie undeservedly playing to an empty hall. I decide that what will cure my hangover is an alcoholic version of Irn Bru that goes by the name of ‘Wankered’ (or something similar). After six of them I realise that my performance is peaking rather early in the day, a bad move when I am working later. To slow my drinking pace down I potter up to see my old mucker Rob (Chop Shop) Villareal and get my quiff re-arranged. While I am there, a film crew asks me some damn fool questions about hair, which I answer in the style of a drunken, fat twit. If the BBC ever show this interview, I was being ironic, honest, I am not as much of a berk as I appear. Am I? All this malarkey meant that I missed the GUITAR FORUM, worse luck.

SPO DEE O DEE from Germany were as excellent as I recalled, hot rockabilly reworkings of blues standards, a very cool style indeed. I DJed after their set, standing in for Bobby Trimble. I had fun playing lots of tunes from the darker reaches of the Bison Bop and White Label LP series, and was gratified to see plenty of dancing, unusual at that stage of the afternoon.

Dragged Kikka away from the clothes stalls to grab some food, then sped back for a dose of DALE ROCKA & THE VOLCANOES. This Italian combo have laid down some impressive waxings, but tonight their covers are not lighting my fire. I don’t think this was the band’s fault, I just had a high level of blood in my alcohol stream. Redress this by sampling the house whisky. Yuk! I am not sure whether I should drink it or rub it on my gout-ridden toes. Second and third one aren’t any better.

Fair Albion’s own CHARLIE THOMPSON were musically and technically faultless, but perhaps a touch over-polite for a Saturday night knees-up. The country numbers were certainly pretty but it was when the band rocked it up a little that they shone. Nope, no good, that fifth whisky is foul, wonder what the house white wine is like?

Oh my God, JACK EARLS was just fantastic! The best of all the 50s artists we saw this weekend. We may all make out that we are living the rocking lifestyle 100% but lets face it, Jack was the only genuine rockabilly in the room. The man was there at the heart of the rock’n’roll revolution, laying down blazing performances at 706 Union. And he hasn’t lost it one little bit. ‘Hey Jim / Slim’, ‘ Crawdad Hole’, ‘ Lets Bop’ , ‘Take Me to that Place’, classics every one and Mr Earls blasted each of them thrillingly. New material like ‘My Little Mama’ is just as exciting. Marvellous.

Sleek-scalped DEKE DICKERSON also excelled. A consummate professional, we can always count on Deke to put on a memorable show. EDDIE CLENDENNING proved to possess a powerful voice and a compelling stage presence. We can expect to see much more of this talented young lad.

We hie us to the pub, where a rare vinyl DJ session broadcast horrendously valuable 7-inchers to malodorous obscurity hunters and also to the camp at large via TV. Mark Lamborn brought us his excellent selection of 45s, Tall Mark had us all agog, and the other bloke (the handsome one with glasses) was spectacular too. The vinyl session is set to become a fixture at future Raves, keeping the weekender true to its roots as a top event for rocking fundamentalists.

A Swedish gentleman of my acquaintance kindly let me drink some of his smooth homemade beverage from a petrol can. It all gets a bit blurry after that. I can remember Daevil Crozier invoking demon boppers, and Ginger Eddie slurring to me his theory of, er, something to do with dancing Indians. Suddenly I am in the chalet, dried vomit on my chin. It is 7AM on Sunday morning. An earthquake is in progress, has nobody noticed? My bed stands up from the floor and nuts me hard with its pillow. Oblivion.

Just three hours later, I am aware that some bastard is snoring very loudly. Realise that it is me. Haul my sorry carcass to the Boot Sale but find I am far too bleary to focus on anything. Rodolphe from France is playing wonderful discs in the background, which makes the experience more bearable. I admit defeat and return to bed, sleeping a further six hours.

My chalet mates are returning to London this afternoon. I wave them a cheery goodbye and promise the wife I will take it easy on the sauce tonight. As the taxi recedes in the distance I run back to my empty chalet and gulp down every drop of booze I can find, along with some lighter fluid and the dregs of a bottle of Blue Stratos. Doing this means I miss Japanese band the PLANETS. Moral of this story: piss artists do not make good reviewers.

Swagger off to catch Germany’s SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING slurping from a mineral water bottle filled with gin. This band purveyed excellent 60s style country rock with a fast driving pace. ‘Soulbeat’ and ’Don’t Think Twice’ (yes, the Dylan song) were outstanding. That infamous scion of London, Mouse, sang Polk Salad Annie. I bought their splendid LP after the show, sad that the band had announced that this was the last ever Smokestack Lightning gig (until the next one at Dingwalls, that is). A brace of tequila slammers kept things ticking along nicely.

Californians RAMBLIN’ JAMES & THE BILLY BOPPERS were utterly spiffing, wizard and top-hole. James’ idiosyncratic voice is not to everyone’s taste but I love the traditional, highly energetic sound this band makes. James and guitarist Ashley ‘(Flyrite Boys) Kingman are both ex-pat Brits, so I feel a surge of jingoistic pride. If you don’t have their album then you are a sad-sack and a loser. And probably have halitosis, you tit-knob.

I was concentrating too hard on choosing which tincture to taste next to notice much about the RANCH GIRLS. Western music with some sweet harmonies, not hardcore rocking but nice all the same. I quite fancied one of them but I didn’t fancy yours much. What’s that purple bottle, barman? I’ll have a double of that. And what brandy do you have?

JIMMY LEE FAUTHEREE has had more pseudonyms than a Ukrainian conman. He is certainly a game old boy but a rock’n’roll show is hard work for someone in his prime, and Jimmy flagged noticeably at times. Still, I have never made a record as good as ‘Can’t Find the Doorknob’ and I never will, so I cheered immoderately when he did this and the sequel he has recorded with Deke, ‘I Found The Doorknob’ . I discovered later that Mr Fautheree had pneumonia on his return to the USA, and has started treatment for a serious illness. We all wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him out performing again soon.

Those badass hombres from south of the Watford border, CARLOS & THE BANDIDOS, moseyed on up the stage next. They seemed a little uncomfortable at first but soon settled into the set. This is a tight and exciting band with some spectacular self-penned material, some of which has been known to move people to tears. The Bandidos put on a fabulous show tonight, yet the audience appeared subdued. Perhaps they were all as tired as a fart, like me.

I buy a snakebite and black, as a nostalgia kick. One sip reminds me why I don’t drink it anymore; it tastes like drinking Marilyn Manson’s puke. A couple of sambuccas take the taste away.

That DJing Buddha of bop, Go, was terrific, the perfect accompaniment to a large absinthe martini.
Alex from Spain was my fave DJ at this Rave. He needs to conquer his nerves and his lack of technical confidence, but he has a fine ear for a boppable platter and consistently ran interesting selections under the stylus. In fact, I found all of the DJs to be of a very high standard indeed.

Except one.

There was a DJ on Sunday just before Cosmic Keith that didn't play any rocking records at all. Nada, zero, none, zilch, zip. No room for Carl Perkins or Mac Curtis because of all of the Kings of Leon, Hives and Undertones records. The closest it got was Johnny Cash-sings-Depeche Mode. Remember that this was billed as a ROCKABILLY weekender. The old warhorse DJ that played that set should be metaphorically led off to the glue factory. If a DJ becomes so jaded that he can't be arsed to play any rocking tunes at all, he should step down and give some eager young bucks a chance behind the decks. That hour was the only downer of the whole weekend, but it was like eating a gourmet meal and finding a dog-turd on the edge of my plate. There is far too much modern pop music and cruddy 60s/70s Elvis being played at British RNR weekenders these days. Until now the Rockabilly Rave has been a blissful retreat from this state of affairs, lets hope this doesn’t happen again.

The events of the next day are best glossed over. Vomiting, pain, self-recrimination, trying to look responsible when I picked Ella up from the nursery. My hangover was itself hungover, and remained that way for a fortnight. Big thanks to Trudi for driving my poor cadaver all the way home. Despite all of that, I had the most tremendous FUN!!

The Rockabilly Rave is a near-perfect weekender and the most fun way to damage ones liver that I know. Jerry has once again raised the quality bar for other weekenders to match. I can hardly wait for the next one. Roll on, March 2005!

Bill Smoker