Archive for April, 2008

Friends Reunited

Posted in Life, Music, Short Stories, Thoughts, Writing with tags , , , on April 29, 2008 by kevmoore

The Hit List decide that black is the

When you reach a certain point in your career in this business we call show, one’s obligations tend to fragment into different projects, be it either by accident or design.  This leads to a number of things, confusion being but one of them.  One week, you might be performing reggae in a solo show, the next, an in-your-face punk bash with a bunch of undesirables, followed by a pop extravaganza in post-communist Russia, it’s all very eclectic and enjoyable of course, but on occasion, leads to one being  gored on the horns of a dilemma.  Dates clash, and obligations are compromised. What to do?  Well, the same lengthy, well-networked and varied career that got you into this mess can also be your saviour. You call up old mates and arrange a “dep”. A dep, for the purposes of this article, is a reliable, musically proficient, and most importantly, play-by-the-seat-of-your-pants former musical cohort who you would bet the farm on.

And so it came to pass that an upcoming show in Scarborough, UK  required us to find a dep for both Mike on guitar and Pete on drums, both of whom had unavoidable prior commitments.  Within a few hours the services of Dave Sargent and Simon Kay were secured, and voila, it was basically my old band THE HIT LIST performing together again!

I’m extremely lucky to have a job that gives me a chance to catch up with my old mates and get paid for it at the same time!   Check out how THE HIT LIST used to sound in the sidebar of this blog.

Kev Moore


First bass No.4 – Aria on a budget

Posted in Art, Bass guitars, Entertainment, Life, Music, Short Stories, Thoughts, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by kevmoore

Kev is inevitably upstaged by the understated simplicity of the sleek black Aria

Somewhere in the North East of England, I’m guessing near Sunderland, I’m on stage, seemingly willing my bass to levitate. This picture is notable for several things. Firstly, note Simon Kay, Tubeless Hearts’ drummer, behind his highly collectable Ludwig Vistalite kit. He bought it with money he won at the Casino, and although he admittedly sold it so he could buy Phil Collins’ actual kit from the Genesis “Duke” album and tour, he was financially too embarrassed to hang on to this classic. Note also, my doomed John Birch from an earlier entry, now relegated to being propped up against the amp as a spare bass, and if you look really closely, you can see how I let some half-assed “luthier” (I use the word loosely)  install a Fender p-bass split pick up with a brushed aluminium plate, at the expense of the original John Birch pickup. What was I thinking? Obviously not a lot, as the John Birch soon left my hands in order to bolster my ailing bank account.

In retrospect, I suppose a guy who wears a sports headband in an ill-advised Dire Straits moment, and Aladdin Sane make-up 8 years after Bowie had discarded it is always going to be accused of bad judgement. So let this be a lesson to all of you…..

The bass around my neck, (if not actually in my hands) is an Aria Pro 2. I think the model is an 800b or something. It comes with a simple single pickup configuration, and a coil tap switch. it was quite simply, the heaviest b*stard in the world, and I’m pretty sure I can trace my recent visits to a chiropractor right back to this joker.
The upside was, I found it in a second-hand shop in Leeds  for 125 of your English pounds, in pristine condition, complete with hard case, and in fairness, it produced a lovely rich tone, which was not surprising, considering the wood had a density rivalling that of a white dwarf. (the star, not a small Caucasian person).

It became my constant companion for several years…

Next time; losing my head….

A Tale of two Cities

Posted in Entertainment, Life, Music, Short Stories, Thoughts, Travel, Writing with tags , , , , on April 28, 2008 by kevmoore

Last weekend presented me with a lightning tour of two of the U.K.’s most ancient and famous seaside towns, both situated on the singularly uninviting East Coast, their almost identical parades of sweet shops and slot machines standing defiant against the grey forbidding, seething mass that is the North Sea. The North Sea has been a graveyard for Vikings, intrepid fisherman, U boats et al, in equal measure. one does not bathe in it willingly. therefore people’s desire to holiday anywhere within its proximity is concept I find completely without merit.

Nevertheless, a deal is a deal, as they say, so I boarded my flight, and headed for Luton airport, there to be met by our lead guitarist, amiable Dane Michael Koch.Mike steals a trolley Our first port of call was Skegness, where the flatlands of Lincolnshire bravely kiss the North seashore, and usually receive a meteorological smack in the mouth for their impudence. This famous seaside town’s motto “Skegness is SO bracing” can be easily translated to mean “it’s so goddamn windy here, if you buy one of our stupidly inane “kiss me kwik” hats, you’d damn well better staple it to your head”. Clever marketing that. Tell the public that the weather is awful, but in a nice way. I didn’t buy it for a minute.

We were playing in a venue called The Skyline, which is best described as follows: Take about five large electricity pylons, and stick them in the ground at strange angles, then get one enormous white rubber sheet and stretch it over the whole shebang, making it look pointy and stuff. there you have it. Looks great. Acoustically good? Forget it. It’s like playing inside a giant tent. Come to think of it, it IS playing inside a giant tent.

Fortunately, we had Nathan, our hired sound engineer for the evening. With almost no time for a soundcheck, due to the fact that the management unhelpfully allow the place to be swarming with punters all day long, we feared the worst. But we needn’t have worried, everything was crystal clear, great monitor sounds, I could hear every syllable I uttered. I cannot over-emphasise the sheer unfettered joy when it comes together like this and your crew is as professional as the band. the guy on the desk has the power of life and death over you, whether you triumph or fail is ultimately in his hands. On this night, we all did our job, and we stormed it. One down, one to go!

I cannot, in all conscience however, leave Skegness without mentioning the management. The company that run these resorts is legendary for its unwillingness to “go the extra mile” for the bands that entertain its patrons. We were denied accommodation, and meals, told to go and eat where the holidaymakers eat. We were given a plate of sandwiches though…..

This “no room at the inn” policy resulted in us having to strip our backline and leave the gig immediately after the show and get on the road for the next jewel of the east coast; the surely ironically-named “Great” Yarmouth. This, after I’d been up since 5 a.m. U.K. time. So, after 21 hours, three long car journeys and a plane ride, my head finally hit the wafer thin pillow on the pelmet masquerading as a bed in our cozy caravan at Vauxhall Holiday Park. But I won’t have a word said against them, we were afforded TWO free nights accommodation, whilst performing only one. Are you listening, Skegness?

My frustration at missing The Blockheads show that evening was tempered by the knowledge that the following day would bring reunions with old friends from SAILOR and SMOKIE.

The morning surprised us with its clearly sunny intent, and morphed into the hottest day of the year so far. Mike and I, feeling particularly healthy, opted for a walk into town and breakfast in a greasy spoon cafe, where the knowledge of the walk back eased our guilt at the cholesterol-fest that was placed in front of us.

Mark and Pete opted for an exercise-free self-cooked cholesterol fest in the comfort of the caravan. Our “portakabin” residence was something of a dichotomy. Worth perhaps the equivalent of a bundle of firewood, it boasted state-of-the-art kitchen appliances, including a seriously expensive looking Aga-style cooking range. Given the fact that most of the punters were busy gorging themselves on fish and chips and hot dogs, culinary luxuries like this seemed a little excessive.

The afternoon brought the wonder that is the multi-band soundcheck, where everybody plugs in everything and plays at the same time. To be a sound engineer presiding over this cacophony must surely require patience of herculean proportions.

To add to the chaos, we all renew acquaintances and talk about old times instead of getting things done. I love it. Guitar lead in hand, I ignore my responsibilities, and ensure that Phil Pickett, of Sailor, does too, as we discuss the pros and cons of living abroad. Phil is responsible for the massive Culture Club hit “Karma Chameleon” and played on most of that band’s albums, after his own success with Sailor. Our conversation is fragmented as we struggle to do our jobs, and I move on to annoying Grant Serpell, their drummer, and a dear friend. He is more concerned with getting back home to tee-off the following day, and to this end is determined to borrow everybody else’s drums and not use his own. He is a master at this, and inevitably succeeds. I know this will lead to me searching for Pete’s drumstool at the end of the evening. I mention to Grant Miki’s passion for golf and her attempts to teach me. “Ah” he says in his cultured tones, “You need to read my golf self-help book” I look at him, puzzled. “it’s called How to play like a twat” he offers, helpfully.

Later that same evening, he accosts me as I leave the stage , resplendent in my new jacket that i had bought that very afternoon. “ah” he says “you’ve been reading my other book, How to DRESS like a twat.” I’ve missed these guys….

While Sailor invited the crowd to drink from their “Glass of champagne” I spent time backstage with Terry Uttley, original bass player with Smokie. We’d last got together in Essen years ago, and spent the whole aftershow in the hotel nightclub, emerging for breakfast at 6am. Needless to say, we were both taking it a little easier these days! Smokie’s second singer, Alan Barton was a friend and near-neighbour, when I used to live in Yorkshire, who tragically succumbed to injuries sustained in a motorway crash while travelling to a show we were due to perform together in Stuttgart. It became a tribute concert to him.

A chat with Terry is always good value, he has so many stories, ranging from his working in San Francisco with the legendary guitarist Pat Thrall, to playing in the Kremlin, summoned for a New Years Eve command performance by Vladimir Putin. One happy outcome of our chat is that I will be able to reconnect him with an old friend, the singer Peter Sarstedt, with whom he’d lost touch.

For our part, we played out of our skins for the second night in a row, and were blessed again by a great onstage sound, courtesy of another professional crew. These nameless people, frequently hairy, frequently unfeasibly large, and usually both, generally go unsung, but they are the glue that hold these shows together, they are the magicians that make your heroes really appear larger than life, and they deserve the thanks of both the audience and the artists.

We wandered out front to watch some of Smokie’s show, and of course BC Sweet and Smokie’s sets share a common bond, the songwriting genius of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Virtually every hit single both bands played that night were written by those two guys, an incredible achievement. A fitful sleep followed, as much a result of continued adrenaline levels as uncomfortable beds, but we were extremely satisfied with our job over two nights. It’s a constant challenge to step up to the plate and keep the standard high, usually against the odds, i.e. long flights, long waits, bad sound etc, but this week the pieces came together beautifully. Pete and I hit the road at 8 a.m. in order for me to get my fight from London Stansted back to Alicante, and with a rushed breakfast in the airport Starbucks to see me through the flight, I prepared to do it all again next week, only this time in Germany.

Text and photos by Kev Moore

First Bass no.3 – A Shapely Swede

Posted in Bass guitars, Entertainment, Life, Music, Thoughts, Travel, Writing with tags , , , , , , on April 23, 2008 by kevmoore

This is the only existing photo of my lovely Swedish-made Hagstrom semi-acoustic 4 string bass guitar. In sunburst with cream piping and a bridge and tailpiece, (the bass, not me) – I sit proudly cradling it by the swimming pool at “The Farm” in Spennymoor, County Durham, during the summer of 1981. The Farm was a musician’s dream, a retreat for travelling bands touring the North, it used to be a schoolhouse and boasted an outdoor pool and the legendary Rita who ran the place and provided us with enormous breakfasts. I’m sat with the two Trev’s; Midgley and Sargent, the guitarists from Tubeless Hearts original line-up. We are almost certainly working on “Telephone” – our first single, which would be released on Posh records some months later.

Kev cradles the Hagstrom

The Hagstrom is probably from the Concorde series, perhaps from around 1968, and they were popularly known as “The Viking Bass”. I bought it in Drammen, a small town in Norway just outside Oslo, whilst touring Scandinavia that previous winter.

The fate of this bass perfectly illustrates the plight of the perpetually cash-strapped musician, not to mention the ill-judged impetuosity of youth. These basses, quite rightly, are now highly sought after collector’s items, and I got rid of it because the more “80’s” bass I wanted wasn’t really affordable unless I did some selling. Stupid, stupid boy. I look at the photo now, and that beautiful bass sits there, nestled between my skinny legs, mocking me.

Kev Moore

Next time: second-hand, second thoughts….

An Audience, with Kev

Posted in Art, Life, Music, Short Stories, Thoughts, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2008 by kevmoore

audience raised handsI was asked in these hallowed pages what I thought the differences (if any) were, between audiences across the world.  I know I might be in danger of generalising here, but I feel there ARE differences.

They can vary from venue to venue, as well as country to country, but I must say, compared to the English audiences, the Germans are more up for a good night out. They turn the concerts int o a real event with beer tents dotted throughout the crowd, and stalls selling curious luminous “things to wave about” which has the effect of making the audience look magical when the lights go down.

My primary gig is playing in a band fro the 70’s, and I’ve noticed that in the UK, unless music is right up to the minute, there is a fear of being seen to like it. I hate this kind of bandwagon jumping, “Oh, Babyshambles must be great, they’re in the news all the time, because Pete Dohertys a junkie, so its like, really street cred.” Well, I’m sorry, they’re rubbish and he’s a loser. But people in England are so terrified of being scene to be out of date they clamber onboard the latest gaily coloured bandwagon before the paint has dried.

But in Germany, they will come, in their thousands to watch you for one reason, and one reason only. If the music is good. This means, we will play stadiums in Germany, where in previous weeks there will have been such diverse acts as Prince, Tony Christie and Kiss, all well-attended. The demographic of the crowd is also very different. Teenagers will accompany their parents to see bands like ourselves, Slade and T.Rex, and are not ashamed to be seen to do so. They are not behind the times. They like new music as well. They are just not blinkered to the past.

Americans are wildly enthusiastic, its child’s play to whip them up into a frenzy with a few well-placed yeahs! and woo’s! …yet I couldnt help noticing something a little “fake” in their punk attitude when I toured with The Gonads. Don’t get me wrong, non-violence is fine by me, but I know that a similar Brit punk crowd would have been a different kettle of fish altogether. How can I explain this…It’s as if I was in a movie about Punk rock, and the director was trying to capture a crowd scene of angry punks, snarling and raising their fists at the camera, but it was just an act. An example: We were playing in Long Beach, and an extremely large guy accidentally knocked the guitarists mike stand into his teeth. The guitarist booted the guy and he went down. I’m thinking “oh no….” but the guy got up, with a rueful look and said to the guitarist, “sorry, man”. I can assure you, no apologies would have been forthcoming in a UK punk gig!!

Another factor in Audience enjoyment is how grateful they are. When I was touring with Graham Oliver’s Saxon some years b ack, we were invited by a Scottish hotel owner to appear at his Hotel. Upon investigation, we found that it was situated out in the wilds, in a tiny village, so tiny the village was the hotel, a phone box, and three cottages! The hotel had a concert hall attached which could hold about 500. We decided it would be great publicity, and sure enough, we had a full page article in one of the National Dailys. The time of the gig came, and although the owner assured us we would have a crowd, we were skeptical. We needn’t have worried. Bikers and Rockers from the remotest areas of Scotland converged like Bees round a honey pot. The building seemed to jump in its foundations that night, sweat ran down the walls,and we rocked. It was one of the greatest gigs of my life. They were so happy we’d turned out for them.

The Russians also go bananas, they love a good night out. The Spanish, those I’ve played to, seem reserved, but it might not be typical.

But, back in the days when I wasn’t so successful, I used to have to earn my living in what I call “bread and butter gigs”. These were invariably on the Northern Club circuit in England. It is a graveyard for budding stars, and you can leave your ego at the door. It will mean nothing in these places. However, surprisingly, some were okay, but there is an area where the club circuit was so bad, our band actually forbade our agent to accept work there. It was Sheffield. Playing to a club audience in Sheffield was like staring Death in the face. I will never, ever, EVER play in one of those places again as long as I live, even if my life depended on it. I would have more self-respect busking in the streets.

When I walk out on the big stages in Europe, I am always grateful for the opportunity, and never ever forget those dark days when I was forced to play to people who looked on with bored indifference.

Kev Moore

First Bass No.2 – Beg, Steal, or Borrow, but NEVER sell your basses!!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2008 by kevmoore

Kev in unforgivable multiple hair and clothing fashion faux pas, playing his John Birch in Govik, Norway

A cautionary tale in my continuing series about my bass guitars.

Around the beginning of 1979, growing ever confident in my role as a bassist and inspired by the beautiful “blueburst” guitar our guitarist Fos Foster had commissioned from now legendary guitar builder John Birch (remember Dave Hill’s superyob guitar in Slade?) – I ordered one myself. This time, a Caramel sunburst Rickenbacker lookalike, with customised Birch biflux and superflux pickups, and a daunting array of controls bristling across the front. It had the most beautiful slim maple neck and was a dream to play. It served me well through two years with the band Apollo, touring Scandinavia, whom I joined in April 1979, finally turning fully professional. ( You can see me in unforgiveable satin in the photo, playing it at the Torvetten nightclub in Gjovik, Norway in 1980.) It stayed with me into the beginnings of Tubeless Hearts, but alas, like so many stupid kids before me, I messed with the bass, putting different pick ups in it, and eventually, disillusioned with the sound I sold it to a music shop. It was to be one of many basses I regretted parting with, as in the early days, i could only afford to by a new one by getting rid of another. Show me a guy who has a collection of guitars or basses, and he’s either sting, or semi-pro! I’ve always promised myself that if I ever saw this bass again, I’d buy it. It was a beauty!

Next time: Amidst the junk, a gem…

Kev Moore