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Strawbs Xmas Party 2008

Strawbs Xmas Party 2008

I counted them out and I counted them all back again !

To borrow Brian Hanrahan's phrase, this time refering to my organising the transport for the "Travel Lodge gang" - despite delayed arrivals, unexpected additions, and a motley collection of "Fools" plus equipment to be transported, I managed eventually to get everyone safely to the NPL and back again. Thanks to our "taxi drivers" Paul, Jane, Lindsay and Mike.

With a Blues Brothers theme this year, scope for fancy dress was somewhat limited. I decided to go for the only obvious female character " Sister Mary Stigmata " expecting to be one of many. As it happens I was the only one who opted to get in the habit, so to speak. Despite being extremely hot, I was determined to keep the outfit on for the whole evening, only changing back into civies on arrival back at the Travelodge.
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It appears that certain members of the Fools had a strict Catholic education, and for them, my costume proved somewhat of a memory jerker. I also discovered that the sight of a Nun can have strange effects on a surprisingly large number of the male of the species - I don't think I should go into details here though !!
(Picture by Kate)
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As for a review of the party itself, I've cheated once again and taken the text lower down the page from my regular correspondents, Pete Bradley and Lindsay Sorrell.

The "after party party" as usual, took over the cafe / bar at the Travelodge, with a bulk order of alcohol to set us up for the night before they closed the bar and a couple of boxes of chocolate biscuits, we were all set. In keeping with tradition, the assembled musicians ( and I use that word in the loosest possible way ) played a variety of instruments - out of tune guitars, kazoo and even more out of tune voices ( including mine ) to try and bring a little Strawbs culture to the wilds of Feltham.

I'm not entirely sure we succeeded, as the increasing quantity of drink consumed had an inverse effect on the amount of right notes and correct words produced, but we certainly had fun trying !!  Participant umbers began to dwindle as the hours passed, with the last few hardy souls finally departing for bed at 5am - after all, we'd paid for rooms, it seemed a shame not to use them for an hour or two !

You can see my photos of the official party and the Travelodge party afterwards here
Review by Pete Bradley

DC, wearing his bright orange jacket, introduced the Xmas festivities by apologising for not having had time to prepare any fancy dress. Sadly he had been too busy recently. This was, of course a ruse. Our Master of Ceremonies had a little plan in store.

He opened the show by introducing Wychwood, a folk duo who come from Banbury, in the Midlands. They comprise Lyndsay Hemphill, and Kevin West. Kevin has always been a Strawbs fan, particularly the more folkier songs back in the Sandy Denny days, but Lyndsay, was not brought up in the UK, and knew nothing of Britisk folk, so Became a convert recently. The first folk song Kevin taught her was "Who Knows Where The Time Goes".

They played two songs, one of their own, called Icons and Imagery, (you can hear it on their Myspace ) and, of course, "Who Knows Where The Time Goes". Lyndsay has a remarkable ability to hold a note. The last "goes" she hung on to for a full twenty seconds.

After that, DC announced the Strawberry Fools. Apparently they had been big back in the seventies, but had split up and had only recently, and unwisely, made the decision to reform. I'd chatted to the guys beforehand, and they had all been very nervous. Surprisingly I had never met Pete, Ralph or DC II, before. Really odd as we have all been to so many concerts over the years. If there's anyone else out that who hasn't yet met them, have to report that they are all really nice guys.. Dick and Les too, though I have met them many a time before.

Their nerves were unfounded. Their performance was brilliant. The odd tuning glitch was brushed over with humour. Dick, Dave and Ralph were sitting in the front of the stage, with Les slightly behind on stage left, and Pete slightly behind on stage right. Sadly, from where I was sitting I couldn't see Les, and I think Ali, who was on the other side of the stage probably didn't have too good a view of Pete. Hopefully Sue could see all of the band. We all recorded the performance and will pass the film to Dick who hopefully will be able to edit some of it together to get something on Youtube.

Dick introduced the band, "so that you know that we're not a naff tribute band", and admitted that he'd stolen that joke from Dave Cousins.

Their set list was:

Nothing Else Will Do
When You Were A Child
Here It Comes
Tell Me What You See in Me

Dick and Dave shared lead vocals and guitar, with Ralph taking the lead guitar, Pete on keyboards, and Les on bass. Not sure whether Dick's microphone got accidentally turned down, or off, or whether Dick was a little too far from it, but, particularly on Tell me, thought that Dick was a bit too quiet. No other criticisms, though. My favourite was When You Were a Child, with some beautiful slide guitar from Ralph.

Chas, dressed in white shirt and black suit and tie, then took over as Master of Ceremonies and thanked the Fools, and announced that they needed a few minutes to sort the stage out but that there was plenty more music to follow. Good to see Chas taking centre stage, but we all wondered what on earth DC was up to. Being Master of Ceremonies is in his blood, right back to the White Bear days. What on earth could he be up to that he couldn't come out and take the microphone?

Chas and Ian Cutler (also black suit and tie), took the stage ready for the next act, and announced that they were to be joined on stage by none other than Ray Charles.

Where on earth do I start. OK, he was weraing a straw hat, probably what is known as a fedora, but fashion was never my strong point. To emphasise the fact that Ray Charles was blind, he was wearing spectacle frames, comprising a light pipe full of blue fashing LEDs. And to top off the effect, his hands and face were boot-blacked!  DC can hardly be accused of being Politically Correct. Although Chas and Ian knew what to expect they were still cracking up.

Because Ray was blind, DC blundered about the stage eventually stopping with his back to the audience, before being helped to the microphone.

Saw Cousins, Cronk and Cutler before at Chatham. I remember it as being for more of a laid back acoustic affair. This time there was a lot more high energy. Yes, they played some softer quieter numbers, but "Call to Action" and "On a Night Like This" were much heavier. Pretty sure that this was only the second time that CCC have played as a trio, and amazingly, more than half of the songs they played had not been played in their last gig.

Set list this time was:

On a Night Like This,
Grace Darling
The Shepherd's Song
Song of a Sad Young Girl
Call to Action.

Next up was Dave Lambert, solo, (hair swept back in a pony tail, and dark glasses). He started by saying that he was going to do something he hadn't done for thirty years, play a brand new track. He started by playing "If the Lord Don't Get You the Devil Will", a great blues track. I've searched on Witchwood, and can't find any record of Dave playing this track solo since February 1972. Hopefully it will be played again a lot sooner than another 36 years.

Dave's new song was based on two events: A fan letter he received from a guy from Nairobi back in the 70's and a story that John Hawken told of a drummer who wouldn't leave Grimsby. As DL said, a bit of a challenge for a song writer. Musically, this track was beautiful, I could hear overtones of Stairway to Heaven, but lyrically, I think I'd need to hear it a few times for it to grow on me.

Dave had only planned on playing two songs, so he unplugged his Blue Dean and prepared to leave the stage, but the audience refused to let him.  A Dave Lambert solo is a rare thing, so there was no way he was going to be allowed to get away with just two songs. His encore was, in my opinion, the highlight of the evening. Dave felt a bit of audience participation was called for, so he played "The Wild Rover".

Set list was:

If The Lord Don't Get You Then The Devil Will
The Man Who Wouldn't Leave Grimsby
The Wild Rover.

Those of you who have attended one of the Strawbs Xmas parties before will remember Tony Grimmer's legendary snacks. Sadly, since his departure, the fare wasn't quite up to his standard, but it was a tough act to follow. We had all been spoilt.  But still, whenyou think about it, there aren't many bands or venues that you can go to where there's food included in the price of the ticket. Had hoped that Tony might turn up at the NPL to see his old haunts, and to finally get a chance to see the band rather than just hearing them from the bar, but he was working that night, so the prognosis didn't look good.

The evening closed with The Good Old Boys. I have to confess that Rock 'n' Roll isn't my thing. I can't really tell one song from another and all of the instruments seem to blend together into a monotony. I started trying to take a set list, but I'm afraid I failed. Not every song was introduced, and the sound wasn't good enough to always distinguish the words when there was an introduction. I don't think it was a problem with the microphone, because when Dave Lambert joined them for a number, I could hear every word he sang with crystal precision. I just think it's "rock 'n' roll" to play as loud and distorted as possible.

Although I didn't really enjoy the Good Old Boys, there were a couple of highlights, both of them blues rather than rock 'n' roll. Highlight one was when DL joined them to sing (and play harmonica) for Hoochie Coochie man, and highlight two was when Dave Cousins (thoroughly scrubbed clean of boot-black, but still looking well tanned) joined them for Hellfire Blues.

Amongst the songs they played that I did know, or could hear were "Lucille", "Shaking All Over" and Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well".  (Despite myself I did really enjoy "Oh Well"). They played two encores, and during the first I noticed that outside, peering in through the window was Tony Grimmer. Like Hans Christian Anderson's little match girl, he was outside in the cold, whist everyone else was partying in the warm, trying desperately to warm himself from the heat of  his last few matches - oh, OK he was having a cigarette. Afterwards, Tony joined everyone in the bar. Really good to see him again.

Brilliant evening, despite the fact that there was a little too much rock 'n' roll, and not enough Strawbs. All in all though, a triumph for the Strawberry Fools.

Seems to me that Dave would have seen more through his pyrotechnic glasses if he had taken the UV rating sticker off the lens !!
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Review by Lindsay Sorrell

Another year, another Strawbs Christmas party...and what fun it was too. First up were Wychwood, who warmed up the strawberry crowd nicely with a song of their own followed by "Who Knows Where The Time Goes"
sung beautifully by Lyndsey. Next up, The Strawberry Fools, who confessed to being a tad nervous before their debut appearance, but it didn't show and they went down a storm. Apart from the songs which they performed beautifully the major highlight for me was between songs when David Fool looked over at Pete Fool, who had turned to look at his monitor screen which was next to him and facing out into the audience, and quipped "oh he's on Ebay now". Completely cracked me up!

Tons of highlights, Cousins, Cronk and Cutler brought tears to the eyes in the best possible way - the sounds they created were stunningly beautiful. Chas and Ian's playing complemented DC to perfection. For "Song of a Sad Little Girl" Nigel and I were standing with Hud in between us, and he joined in on the "she wakes up, like a
bird, and she feels fiiiiiiine" harmonies just as on the original recording, which was a magic moment. "The Shepherd's Song" was delectable. Pete B. has already described DC's get-up which was amazing - I cracked up once more when he sang "you have shone your brightest lights" in Grace Darling (all will be revealed in time with
photos, I'm sure!).

Dave Lambert, up next, absolutely excelled himself and again as Pete B. has beaten me to saying, the crowd were not going to let him go without a third song. His new song, which ties together "Lucky" - the fan who wrote to him years ago from the most unlikely of places, a place far from the nearest city in darkest Africa, and the drummer who wouldn't leave Grimsby, is terrific. I remember Dave once telling me about Lucky's letter in the past - obviously a moving experience which has proved excellent inspiration for a song. Great choice of encore
too, perfect party fodder.

The Good Old Boys (the name of a Country and Western band in The Blues Brothers' film, by the way) definitely rocked. Again, like Pete, rock and roll isn't really my thing but it's nigh on impossible with a band
rocking as well as they do not to get into the spirit of things. Back at the Travelodge the general consensus of everyone I spoke to was of how impressed they'd been by them, and how they'd like to see them again. Highlights of their set for me are always the bluesy numbers, so of course seeing DL perform "Hoochie Coochie Man" and DC "Hellfire Blues" with them was brilliant.

And that was all a nice warm up for the debauchery which followed later at the Travelodge, but I'm afraid I haven't got time to write about that. I will just say how nice it was to meet Jody, and also Dirk and Angelica over from Germany again along with most of the usual bunch of sleazy suspects.


updated: 12 years ago