Archive – My Live Career So Far…

One question that nobody has ever asked me is “how many times have you performed live?” Lets be realistic. How many artistes would know? Why would they care? Bill Wyman was often ridiculed about his nerdy knowledge about The Rolling Stones’ career thanks to the fact he took it upon himself to act as their unofficial “archivist”… well… if Wyman and I have anything in common, it’s that I too have been actively archiving my career since it began back in 1987. I have written a few pieces on this blog – click here – which has dipped into the archive containing many memories and nerdy information along with captures of memorabilia and video which attest to my archiving but it wasn’t until recent weeks that I thought to myself “actually, how many times have I performed live?”

To deduce the answer, I raided my digital archive which contains every existing sound and video recording I have made since 1987. Most of my performances were within “open mike” shows and many of my recordings of those stretch over 2 hours, containing a ton of the talents I’ve met along the way and my aim was to extract my parts. Easier said than done! These were all saved in a new folder logged with the date of the performance, the venue/event and how long I performed for. To complicate matters, whilst the vast majority were recorded in audio form either on basic cassette, 4 track multitrack or digital, some performances only exist in video form… so had to deal with those separately. Finally came the biggest conundrum… the “lost” performances. Due to lack of budget, a few performances were never recorded in any form at all and 2 or 3 were recorded but malfunctioned leaving me with nothing or a very brief snippet. Oh… I only happened to keep a detailed logbook as well as my diaries and journals. Each of those missing dates were added to the folder as basic text files, again logging the bare details for completeness’ sake.

Here’s the earliest bunch covering 1988 to 1999…

God… I feel OLD! The earliest performances were a pair from the school variety concert in April 1988 where irony of ironies, I played a bloody triangle on some cheesy instrumental piece played by my mates Carl, Chris and Derek. The irony being I couldn’t HEAR the damn triangle due to my crap hearing! Two recordings exist of us playing that piece done in October 1987, the second from October 9th being the earliest existing stereo recording in the archive. These live performances were not captured… early days and I didn’t consider capturing it for posterity (of course now I kick myself) yet a recording DOES exist from that second night 27th April 1988 which has me and my pals larking about backstage!

Christ… I could write a book detailing all these performances but hey, this is a cheesy blog, readers attention spans are not fantastic and I ain’t getting paid so to skim over quickly, you’ll notice 1993 is an odd year with 14 performances, 12 for the first open mike venture in the town where I was born and 2 for a cheesy seaside live karaoke type thing. What does exist is a brief audio fragment of my first performance which is simply me being introduced… the tape malfunctioned and nothing else came out of it and three performances on video which I can’t bear looking at as I was so amateurish and embarrassing… hey, I had to learn and I did learn a lot. One of those karaoke things was memorable as on 12th September 1993 I did a one off performance of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over” backed by a guitarist and a bassist… it was cacophonous and I gave a VERY lively rendition flinging myself all over the venue… I do wish I had a tape or video of that… ah, the days before MOBILE PHONES…

1995-1997 was The Brian Prebble Experience era. Not many gigs and 2 were busking sessions in Hull… Come on, who makes recordings of themselves BUSKING? I did… the final time on August 3rd 1996 was frightening as the three of us got surrounded and harrassed by a gang of chavs. Yes, that encounter was captured and even now gives me shivers listening to it as we came very VERY close to having our faces redesigned. Mind you, a more horrifying moment is on the 28th May 1996 busking tape as we had this temporary guitarist who suddenly played Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger” and the other guitarist joined in. The guy who began playing that piece of crap never played with us again as he was fired for that offence! The gigs Prebble DID do were mostly through the college with whom I was studying at the time… otherwise, nobody would book us or give us a chance because I stuck to my guns insisting we did original material only when everybody wanted damn covers of Oasis songs. Grrrr…

1998, I moved to Liverpool and stumbled into the poetry and music scene. By then, I was much more experienced and was getting well into my stride. It’s astonishing how regularly I was gigging by then. I snuck in 18 performances in 1998. In the cap above you can see the first 6 performances of 1999… here’s the rest, taking us up to the first performance of 2001…

51 performances in 1999 and every single one of them exists in audio form. Only three fragments exist on video which is tragic as 1999 was me at the height of my powers churning out a constant stream of invention and inspiration. Every single performance had me performing at least one exclusive piece, very often written that day and most were never performed again. It was a fantastic year and yes, you can see a pair of recordings from Glastonbury… long stories behind them but it did happen. I’ve not actually LISTENED to them since July 1999 as I felt so in awe of being there, my performances were below par and I cringe at the memory of listening back to them. Maybe one day I’ll pluck up the nerve to give ’em a listen… maybe they are better than I remember, but who cares anyway?

2000 sees everything grind to a halt with just 12 performances. Lets just say health issues and fatigue played their part and all the plans I had had to be abandoned and by the end of the year, I was burnt out.

2001 had just 5 gigs in January and February. The last on February 12th 2001 was a special one where I performed a musical fairytale and that was it as far as I was concerned. I declared I was retiring and I went into hibernation for 5 and a half years. 2006 I returned with 2 brief cameos thanks to which I got conned into joining a band with whom I did 4 gigs in 2007. There also exists around 40 hours of rehearsal recordings of that band, all of it recorded on my 4 track recorder. Most of the 4 track tapes were junked in early 2018 before I moved to Blackpool but all the mixdowns still exist and I preserved a handful of the rehearsal tapes along with all the live tapes.

2008-2009 sees just three gigs and they’re perhaps the rarest and oddest of all. 31st July 2008 saw me acting in some semi-improvised comedy drama with some temporary drama group, a cheesoid piece which had me as a scam coach driver fleecing a community group with a day out to… Blackpool. Yeah… I had to sing Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” in that! I made a sneaky mono audio recording of that… mostly unintelligible but it was captured. October 2008 was a performance with the I-Choir which I recorded on 4 track though one of the mikes malfunctioned so ended up being a messy 3 track recording. A 4 track recording I made the previous night of us rehearsing in St Brides Church is much better and more atmospheric! Oh, most of the choir rehearsals were captured on a crappy mono mp3 device and there’s about 50 hours of that stuff…

The sole 2009 entry was another choir performance which I recorded again on 4 track along with everybody else on this open mike affair during which I did a brief solo spot. I didn’t sing with the choir as a long absence meant I barely knew the numbers so opted out… my solo spot makes for sad listening as it’s clear I was a spent force, unable to stay in breath or hit the notes like I used to. Health issues and all that…

And that was it until 2018 when I relocated to Blackpool and so far there’s been 15 performances in all.

When you study the lists above it is worth bearing in mind that my recordings of over 90% of those shows also contain other artistes… this seriously is the tip of the iceberg as to what live tapes exist in my archive as I also recorded various shows which I had no involvement in. Some of those Liverpool era shows run for between 2 to 3 hours, the most epic being “The Final Night At Ropes” spanning the night of 23rd and 24th November 1999 where every moment barring intervals was captured and that runs for just over 4 and a half hours!

Did I mention there’s a LOT of stuff in that archive of mine?

Anyway… the grand answer is, I have performed 144 times between April 1988 and February 2020. That doesn’t feel like much in many ways until one bears in mind I was out of action for 15 years during that time!

I like to think the best is still to come… roll on number 145…

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