Throughout this weekend and, indeed, every weekend elite groups of people all over Britain will be packing up instruments, loading cars and vans and making their way out to entertain the masses for one night only at avenue near you.Every city will produce dozens of these ‘weekend warriors ‘ all of them deluded enough to spend their leisure time packing, travelling, unpacking, sound checking, playing, packing, travelling and finally unpacking again. An average of 6 hours work for the privilege of playing to a handful of people and earning enough to pay for travel, beer, and maybe a set of guitar strings.
The recent tv series ‘Britain’s Best Part Time Band’ highlighted the very best of this dedicated group of people. There’s some great music out there but in reality most are playing tried and tested material, Classic Rock, Blues, Americana, Folk, Ska and so on, the sort of stuff that gets semi pissed punters tapping their feet and getting more pissed.
And it seems like that is the way it has always been but that’s not necessarily the case. Most of today’s pub punters are over 40, they grew up with the idea that you went to see a band live and that live music is a good thing and worth spending time and money on a Saturday night. In the early 70’s pubs was largely a different proposition. Beyond a pickled egg or a bag of pork scratchings food was often unobtainable. Most pubs were run by large corporate breweries, Watneys being the main culprit in Norwich where I lived so getting decent beer let alone wine was a challenge. They were generally populated by men and you could usually rely on a hard stare when you walked in the door.
There were exceptions but in Norwich, a town which allegedly had a pub for every day of the week I pretty much patronised a handful during my time there.
In the 70’s however ‘pub rock’ actually became a distinct kind of mini movement which was to provide a kind of parallel universe to mainstream activity and, in the long run was actually to prove quite influential.
There is even, in popular folk law, a beginning to pub rock. Some guys from America finding themselves washed up in north London decided to visit their local and ask for a gig. Nothing spectacular in that you might consider but his was a radical move in 1971. The pub was the Tally Ho in Kentish Town who had a jazz only policy. The band was Eggs Over Easy who being from the states were familiar with the concept of being a bar band and extended that to the grey pubs of Britain. The landlord was persuaded to give them the worst night of the week which the band took over and within a few weeks were packing the place out.
Musically the band were of little consequence, amiable country rock was the name of the game but they had the bar band mentality and musical ability to act as a virtual jukebox. This impressed many of the more uptight British musicians dropping into the pub and pointed to a way forward from the slog of touring.
And so, thanks to the miracle of YouTube there is even an Eggs over easy documentary and here it’s is. Don’t be fooled by the half arsed impersonation of The Band it’s not the music we are interested in at the moment it’s the movement, just for the time being bear with me on our journey towards the winter of punk.