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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 

ALAN PRICE AND HIS BAND
The Bull’s Head, Barnes, London, April 9th 2009

I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of the English comedian Bobby Thompson, otherwise known as The Little Waster. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of you won’t have.

Bobby Thompson
Thompson was born and brought up in County Durham, Wearside, and throughout his career remained largely unknown outside the North, and particularly North-East, of the country. His dry and misogynistic humour ("Wu got off the train at Blackpool, the porter came up an' asked if 'e could carry me bag. I said 'Na, let 'er walk'.") was formed and fashioned by the poverty, unemployment and indebtedness that had historically defined so many working-class lives in the area (it was, of course, the home of the famous Jarrow marchers of 1936): "A man come to oor door. I says come in, tak a seat. He says 'I'm coming in to tak the lot.'". I remember people taking coaches from Lancaster to see him perform in the early 1970s, but his thick accent was as impenetrable to the majority in the South as the scenes he described, and success (unlike the Inland Revenue) eluded him.
Alan Price   Coincidentally, singer, organist, musical arranger of the Animals and composer of note, Alan Price, was also born in County Durham, in the village of Fatfield where Thompson was brought up. And although Price has lived in comfortable and uber-middle class Barnes on the banks of the Thames for many decades, his live show in the famous Bull’s Head (where he plays around once a month) has more than a echo of a dour and down-to-earth Thompson show, even if Price’s accent has been softened and modulated by years in the South.
Correctly assessing the average age of his audience at around sixty, Price begins with a truly sad story having recently attended the funeral of drummer Reg Isadore (famed for his work with, amongst others, Robin Trower), the victim of a massive heart-attack. “You see”, he said, like a grandfather sharing a cautionary tale with a group of wide-eyed innocents, “Reg wouldn’t take his pills. He should have known better but he wouldn’t take them. And then he went out for the weekend and – well, that was it. Heart attack – gone’. He lingers on the last word, eyes scanning the crowd like an Ancient Mariner, for the next one to go. In what follows there’s enough fiscal misery to delight the Little Waster - pensions advice (the diminishing value of pension funds being a hot topic amongst this particular tranche of the population at the moment), the falling value of savings and the dangers of romance with younger women (“you know in the end they’ll take all your money”). And there are also a few warm reminiscences of some of the myriad of distinguished people Price has worked with during his career, most of whom seem to have been ‘miserable’.
Alan Price Band
This impoverished running commentary almost became tedious – but it wasn’t enough to detract from Price’s performance, or that of his excellent band. Peter Grant was on bass, Martin Wild on drums, and on guitar and vocals the truly sensational Bobby Tench, whom I swear I last saw playing with Streetwalkers in Banbury way back in, well, you can guess. Together they made a sympathetic and at times surprisingly rocking background to Price’s timeless material and some well-chosen covers (including ‘the most miserable song in the world”, written by “that miserable git” Jackson Browne “as part of his divorce settlement”). Most of which was sung by Price in a voice that, like his sometime partner Georgie Fame, could have been plucked from three decades ago. In addition to some Animal highlights, notably ‘Please don’t let me be misunderstood’ the evening was stolen by Price’s compositions for the score of Lindsey Anderson’s (who according to Price had “a very myopic view of British society”) Oh Lucky Man.
Bobbt Tench
Bobby Tench, esq.
‘Sell sell’, ‘Changes’, ‘Poor people’ (dedicated, naturally, to the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Fred Goodwin), and ‘Oh lucky man’ are all outstanding examples of a truly English song-writing aesthetic, even if the influence of Randy Newman (composer of Price’s hit ‘Simon Smith and his amazing dancing bear’) looms large on some of them. And of course these were followed by his ‘Jarrow song’ (“I remember that people there used to drink tea out of jam jars”) which celebrated the famous Jarrow march and was a top five hit in the UK. All of which, of course, helped Mr Price take up residence in lovely Barnes. I wonder what the Little Waster would have said about that? - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)



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