I have decided, in my fiftieth year, to continue my regular account of the events of the past twelve months in the first person singular. I see - as I look back - that this was the year of Butlins and fiftieth birthday parties amongst many of my friends. The latter events (not sure about the former) were very good for the spirit but generally taxing on the constitution. But Butlins first.
Lee Thompson - saxophone player and general body language specialist - of Madness had formed a band to play cover versions of songs we liked (Ian Dury, The Police, Amy Winehouse, Madness etc.) variously called The Camden Cowboys and Damaged Goods. I had never been to Butlins and all Lee told me, with a furtive and knowing glance, was that it was 'an eye opener'.
My first gig (the previous keyboard player resigned 'on religious grounds' which should have told me something) was on the fifteenth of March in Skegness. Rarely have I seen anywhere as wet, windswept and bleak as Butlins in Skegness. It reminded me of an industrial estate with coloured lights. And it was populated by thousands of desperately drunk revelers who were there for the weekend to drink whilst dressed up in school uniforms (and be sick). I remember our driver looking at the crowds, shaking his head and marveling: "It's like Hades ". The view from the stage was one of delirious chaos. Then afterwards a couple of drinks and a tramp through banks of mist, sheets of rain and gale-force winds to find our chalet and bed down for the night to the accompaniment of all night revelers singing "Butlins 08, We're 'avin' a laugh, Butlins 08, We're 'avin' a laugh". The weather and the scenes were identical in our trips to Minehead, and Bognor. Shock, horror and hilarity in almost equal measure.
In February I did a session for Clive Langer who was producing The Blues Kings and in March played on Graham Coxons new album which sounded fantastic with guests like Danny Thompson on Double Bass and Robyn Hitchcock. Both Stephen Street and Mike Pelanconi produced which seemed to work really well. Then I played the Isle of Wight Jazz Festival on my own account, which was a success though, there were well publicized (Radio 4 no less) problems with payment. I finally had to resort to legal threats before a cheque arrived in August which was a real shame. In May The Nutty Boys convened in Brighton to do a rare 'come-back' gig and I spent the night at Chrissy-Boy Foremans house so was able to catch up with him. He is renting a house in Hove whilst the deal goes through on his new home. I remarked that this must be expensive. With a furtive sip of wine and the weight of the world on his shoulders he said 'Don't ask'.
'Down the Line' won a Sony Award for Best Radio Comedy. So I am the holder of a 1/20th share of this which is thrilling. Also my call regarding 'Owls and The Maple Leaf Rag' was featured on Pick of the Week on Radio 4. Also thrilling was to have a track played on Radio 3's Jazz Record Request: "Rich pickings on 'Easy Street' courtesy of Louis Vause on piano." was Geoffrey Smiths comment at the end.
Dave Graney and Clare Moore visited London for a few gigs from Australia - they did a couple of appearances with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds; great to see them again and resolved once more to revisit Australia as soon as finances permit.
The first major party was in Salento in Southern Italy: Charlie Higson's fiftieth. I spent a week there. Highlights included meeting the great and wonderful Helen Mirren. I told her that, "... me and my next door neighbour, Bernard, went to see 'Oh Lucky Man' when we were sixteen and neither of us had seen anyone as remotely beautiful as you." She signed my diary: 'Oh Lucky Man,.. and Woman!' - Helen Mirren'. I then swam three lengths in Charlie's pool under a starlit sky without taking my trilby off to the sound of gypsies singing and playing round the trestle tables in the Orchard. Star studded or what? Paul Whitehouse, Suggs, Arabella Weir, Simon Day etc. etc. and lots of wonderful friends some of whom I hadn't seen for ages. Fantastic fun!
The Final exam for the Diploma of Music was in October which turned my brain to mush. Then Paris for my traditional day of celebration at the end of a course. Simultaneously I started a course in Creative Writing as a rest from Academic subjects: four more courses for the BA. Also enrolled in Words and Music scheduled to start in February '09.
On the 20th October I shot a pilot for the BBC for a projected TV version of 'Down the Line'. Very difficult acting naturally without a script (a script would ruin the documentary concept) but it was a good experience to be a Pearly King piano player in a 'Typical East End Pub' with Simon Day. The pub was actually on a bleak housing estate in Mill Hill. The magic of television.
Then Ray Vaughen invited me to the Music Industry Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel on the 3rd November. Interesting to see that Simon Cowell is much shorter than Chris Evans; it looks the other way round on the television. Had a great conversation with Kenny Lynch who regaled me with a story about dancing with Gloria Swanson in a disco in New York as a bet with 'Peter'(O'Toole) and 'Albert' (Finney). Very strange all this star stuff! Rays 50th the following week featured Pete Saunders' 'burlesque' show. A wild party at his 'local' in Berkshire. Again brilliant to see old friends ... can't exactly remember how I got home the following day however.
Two shocks in December: the death of two wonderful people: Pat Kavanagh who I spent many happy hours teaching whilst being supplied with exquisite biscuits by her husband, Julian Barnes>. And Davey Graham; probably the most influential guitarist of the 1960's (The White Album would be very different had he not taught Donovan the finger picking style he in turn taught The Beatles when they were in India after the death of Brian Epstein).
However I received the results of the Music Diploma in time for Christmas: I was one of six people to get a 'Distinction' ... so if you hear the sound of a distant trumpet blowing you can rest assured that it's mine...