The Word, December 2007

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The Word

UK & Ireland magazines


"Never play over water"

The Word

When the going gets rough, best get out "the lion tamer's chair and the whip"

How do you read the mood of an audience and how can you change lt?

If the audience approaches the stage brandishing homemade bows and arrows with their faces painted green and twigs in their hair, it's time to get out the lion tamer's whip and chair.

Who are the performers you've seen who you thought were inspirational?

Two performances that come to mind. The first is Al Green at The Venue in [London's] Victoria. This was not long after he had supposedly renounced secular material, but about half way through the set he threw off the jacket of his white suit and went into "Tired of Being Alone." The place was soon in uproar. A waitress actually bought me a drink, because she was so overcome by the moment. Lesson: You can always change your mind. The other was Bill Monroe at McCabe's Guitar Shop [in Santa Monica]. This was about six months before he died and yet he played with more abandon and focus than 19 punk bands put together. His singing and playing drove the band on. Near the end he went into a monologue that hushed the crowd. "I remember the old days," he said, and he paused as people leant forward to catch some sentimental reminiscence... "They're gone!" he concluded. Lesson: You know those "old days"? Well, they're gone.

Can you remember any shows of yours that were spectacularly good or bad?

It's not for me to say which were the good shows, However, I do remember a concert a few years ago which would have been a nearly perfect combination of songs if I'd played "Suit Of Lights" at the end — but then I'd have had to stop performing. This is why a show is preferable to records: any night may yield the best version of a song — that is, up until the next night. Needless to say, there were a number of occasions, back in the day, where one or other member of the band was either too tired or emotional to complete the show. I could name names but at the risk of reading like one of those tired old rehashes that are the stock-in-trade of a "rival publication," I will only mention this one evening when I was at fault. You did ask. Following a lunchtime stop in Folkestone at which half a case of wine was demolished, plus an afternoon "nap" and early evening "livener" of several pints of strong cider into which were dropped shot glasses of navy rum — for those of you who want to order one, it's called a "Depth Charge" — and God knows what else, I completely forgot the words of "Alison" and had to be led from a stage at the end of Hastings Pier, in 1980. I still refuse to play over water to this day.

Is there one lesson you've learnt?

Never play over water...

Tags: Hastings Pier, 1980Al GreenBill MonroeMcCabe's Guitar ShopSanta MonicaSuit Of LightsFolkestoneAlison

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The Word, No. 58, December 2007

The Word interviews Elvis Costello about performing; EC recalls the March 4, 1980 concert on Hastings Pier.


2007-12-00 The Word clipping.jpg

2007-12-00 The Word cover.jpg


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