Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Coincidences of Geography and Time

A young singer-guitarist got in touch with me, via my landline, a few months ago: ‘Are you the Terry Fox who played Vox Continental with the Cops n’ Robbers in the sixties?’ The fella who made the call was Adam Coxon and, as that particular co-incidence of geography and time has had it, we live in the same area.

I imagine Adam, who is a big fan of 60s music, must have initially been prompted by simple curiosity perhaps just wondering if any of us had actually survived. The ‘Cops n’ Robbers’ (named after a Bo Diddley song as many rhythm and blues bands were then) enjoyed more excess than success – in terms, that is, of the gauges that are commonly used to measure success which are, I suppose, celebrity and money. Truth is the whole experience ended up permanently bending my brain somewhat, but I had a hell of a laugh along the way.

The ‘Cops’ did some of those young-dood things rock songs are made of and made and spent a whack of money, compared with factory wages, in the process. We recorded a couple of half-decent tracks, wrote a couple of half-decent songs, played some fantastic gigs, made a couple of lame TV appearances, hung out with, jammed with, supported, partied with, topped the bill with some now-legendary people and were the UK backing band for two of the greatest blues singers in the world: Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. We also launched the career of a then skinny little folk singer called Donovan.

Back to the present. The long and the short of that initial phone call is that Adam started coming along to StringFing gigs. So, last Sunday night, Lynda and I thought it was time we returned the compliment and went to one of Adam’s gigs. He was playing at Blakey’s CafĂ© Bar in Newcastle. And what a nice surprise, all-round, it proved to be. It happened it was St. Valentine’s night and the music was suitably lerv themed and could have been dodgy and sentimental, but oooooh nooooo, give the young man a big hand, every song was good and edgy and made his own through the strength of his performance.

Adam’s got a proper voice, you see. He’s one of those people fortunate enough to have been born with a good voice and has developed it further - utterly unlike me, of course: born with an ideal voice for a mime artist and a face for radio - and he’s a neat guitar player too.

He opened with Sam and Dave’s, Cupid (and hey, if you’re not acquainted with these two soul men, then be getting on to it. They were the model for the Blues Brothers, don’t you know?). Adam did Ella Fitzgerald’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a fabulous version of Willie Nelson’s Crazy (my favourite song of the night), Arthur Alexander’s Baby It’s You, and a stack of other good stuff. Terrific night. Nice venue too. We’re going to see him there again.

I’ve been feeling sad for Woody Guthrie lately. I have just read Joe Klein’s book about him. Woody got us all playing guitars and blowing mouth harps fixed to neck harnesses (I made mine from a wire coat hanger. Some doods had proper ones). I’m talking long about long before there was any awareness of Bob Dylan over here. He was such a brave man, Guthrie was. He suffered a cruel illness, Huntington’s Disease, that made him old too young and killed him at 55. He left a unique legacy to the world.

I have reworked the chorus to one of his most famous songs to make it more appropriate to us Brit. islanders:

This land is your land and this land is my land,
From Scotland’s high land to Cornwall’s low land;
From Milford Haven to the Norfolk waters;
This land was made for you and me.

I’m working on a couple of verses to go with it. I will be singing it next time out. Woody understood people and knew what they were going through and told it like it was.

Take it easy, but take it.