Friday, December 23, 2011

David Studdert's Mumbo Jumbo

So, once upon a time this guy with an Aussie accent phoned me up asking for guitar lessons. We arranged a time and he turns up with a beautiful Gretsch guitar and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I thought he'd be into Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams but it turns out he's into Arthur Lee's Love and heavy dub. We get along. After a few lessons he asks me if I'd like to play guitar on his record. "Yeah, sure", I think but I say Yes. I go to this studio in Southall (almost exclusively Asian district in London suburb) and try to follow his eccentric instructions. I remember playing louder than I'd ever played in my life (before or since) on a song about a "Dirty Drug Deal" and, lo and behold, the album gets made and its great. He gets a dodgy manager on the back of a dodgy record deal with a dodgy record executive back in Oz and the band is up and running and doing gigs. There's a tiny Aussie lady saxophonist with a huge sound who's permanently stoned ("Bobby Keyes" Louise), there's a cynical South London cockney diamond geezer on the drums who's in recovery from cancer and playing with Shakin' Stevens for many years. There's a naive gentle giant Welshman on bass, there's a neurotic dipsomaniac keyboard player who should've been born in New Orleans who tells terrible jokes and eats terrible food. There's a detached session trumpet player who's maybe slumming it a bit. And there's me and Dave. We are undoubtedly the hippest and best band on the planet but London isn't ready for our exotic blend of jazz, blues, reggae and "rock noir" - all set to Dave's extraordinary Raymond Chandler-esque lyric tales of seamy city underbelly life and love. Undeterred, we found a club: The Conspiracy Club, where we play, firstly above a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown in Soho, then at the Marquee cafe (also in Soho). There is a "Biting Booth" where Giselle, a painfully hip American will bite you to order, there is a big bully of an MC, various supporting players, an obnoxious "poet" with "behavioural issues", Lorraine Bowen whose musical and comedic talent almost upstages us every time, and there's us. First gig Dave instructs me to roll joints with a lump of hash he has thoughtfully provided and dispense them amongst the crowd. This is possibly the most flagrantly illegal thing I have ever done and, amazingly, we get away with it. The juvenile delinquents (Dave's students) who had come to heckle are suitably pacified and, indeed, impressed. Perhaps the best comment made about us was from a drunken American singer who said: "You guys really play music, it's not just bullshit."
We made a supposedly "commercial" single at great expense that did nothing, but the acoustic version that Dave and I cut in about 10 minutes for the "B" side was possibly the best thing we ever did together. We made another album, live in the studio, we went to Australia for two gigs (!) The band split up. It was a wonderful experience and I'm very proud to have been part of it. Maybe one day the world will be ready for the great records that we made... 

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