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Apr 192018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fittie Fittie Bang Bang @ HM Theatre Aberdeen.

Broad Street may not quite be on a par with Broadway, but if this year’s Aberdeen Student Charities Campaign production of the brand new musical Fittie Fittie Bang Bang is anything to go by, then theatre-wise at least, the Granite City is well on the way to becoming the Manhattan of the north.

Previous productions have included titles such as ‘An American in Powis’, ‘A Midstocket Night’s Scream’ and of course last year’s musical extravaganza ‘Michty Mia!’.

However, this year’s production of ‘Fittie Fittie Bang Bang’ must surely take the biscuit.

Bond writer Ian Fleming was a keen follower of motor racing and the original Chitty tale evolved from stories involving a series of monstrous aero-engined cars funded by the richly eccentric ‘Bentley Boy’ speed-king Count Louis Zborowski in those far off roaring twenties.

In the subsequent Hollywood production, the Chitty story involved one of Zborowski’s racing cars being rescued from the scrapyard by a gang of cheerily red-faced middle-class school-children.

Fast forward to this week’s student production of Fittie Fittie Bang Bang and a dastardly plot involving the consignment of Aberdeen’s old folk to the scrapyard takes to the HMT stage.

With electoral fraud firmly to the fore, Trump look-alike Lord Provost Dean Fine plans to revive the ailing fortunes of the Granite City using a series of sinister measures intended to clear the streets of the elderly inhabitants of the city.

A suitably evil ‘Grunny Catcher’, ably played by Callum Anderson, is set loose and before long the city’s OAP’s begin to disappear. Provost Fine, played by Reece James Duncan, announces plans to build a border wall around Torry while in far off Fittie the search begins for the missing old folk of Aberdeen.

Enter Bradley Phillips as Dick Van Dyce, Becky Hossick as Provost’s daughter Effie Fine and Victoria Barvinko as the Provost’s trophy wife Nadine Fine.

Will the red-haired Lord Provost succeed in his dastardly scheme? Or can Dick and his merry gang rescue the imprisoned OAP’s from a fate worse than death in Aberdeen’s Marischal College Premier Retirement Home.

Add in a flying fish-van plus some splendid musical numbers and, judging by last nights full-house, last years total of £92k raised for local charities looks likely to be well on the way to being exceeded.

A 5 Star must see!

Musical direction is by Matthew Rose with choreography by Sophie Hamilton Pike and stage management by Graeme Shepherd.

The musical, Fittie Fittie Bang Bang plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 21 April 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © HMT Aberdeen

Apr 132018
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Three of the UK’s most highly tipped bands brought their unique talents to the Granite City as Manchester’s Cabbage, She Drew the Gun from Wirral, and Glasgow’s own Rascalton performed rapturous and well received sets to an appreciative crowd at The Tunnels.
Opening tonight’s triple bill were Rascalton.

The young Glaswegian’s performed a short, punky set that drew heavily from classic punk bands such as The Clash or the Sex Pistols but a post-Libertines indie aesthetic also shone through.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played The Tunnels before – previously playing there as support to Baby Strange – as well as playing a headlining set at Café Drummond just before Christmas.

Frontman Jack Wyles is engrossing – his chiselled features hidden behind an unkempt mop of hair, whilst the way he attacks his guitar makes him look not unlike Wilko Johnson in his prime.

He has angelic features but a devil’s stare that makes his barked vocals and the bands shouty choruses compelling to listen to and hard to forget.

The band are back North in June to support Idles at The Tunnels.

It is highly recommended that if you’re going to that then make sure you’re there early to see them.

She Drew the Gun are a different proposition. No less intense, but in a quieter, subtler way.

Singer and guitarist Louis Roach performs a mix of poetry and psych-pop that has brought her and her band Radio airplay – championed by no less than Steve Lamaq on Radio 6 – and accolades such as winner of the Emerging Talent Competition that saw play the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury on 2016.

Roach is front and centre on stage, glad in a blue, sparkly hoodie with the hood drawn up which gives her an aura of mystery that suits the music perfectly.

She is a compelling, virtuoso guitar player – picked solos break through the dreamy, fuzzy riffs that anchor the music whilst she half whispers, half sings the lyrics. The music is dark and swampy reminiscent of classic PJ Harvey.

There’s only one slip in an otherwise flawless set as Roach forgets the lyrics to ‘Poem’ half way through. But she recovers well, acknowledges the mistake and wins the audience on side at that moment.

Headliners Cabbage are on a roll just now.

New album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ has been released to critical acclaim and has made it to number 21 in the BBC Album Charts as well as no.1 on the Official Cassette Charts.

Live in concert, they are fantastic – energetic and exuberant, never staying still as they blast through their own unique post-punk sound.

Frontmen Joe Martin and Lee Broadbent control proceedings from the front of the stage with different styles – Martin is icily cool and more detached whilst Broadbent is more manic and deranged looking.

Their song titles are compelling and confounding in equal measurers – ‘Arms of Pleonexia’, ‘Molotov Alcopop’, ‘Postmodernist Caligula’ and ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’. Those alone will have you reaching for the dictionary.
Beneath the sometimes-perplexing titles, there’s political discourse and juvenile humour in equal measure in their lyrics – ‘Dinner Lady’ might sing about having a ‘w**k in the quiche’ but is also a comment on the class divide, in this case in a private school.

Closer ‘Necroflat In the Palace’ has the chorus that will be ringing in their ears as they head home – ‘I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS’. There’s no encore as the sweat drenched band collapse off stage after their exhilarating set, a gesture of punk defiance against pop crowd pleasing acts.

Three bands then and all, to quote the title of Cabbage’s collection of EPs, ‘Young, Dumb and Full of…’. Maybe not so dumb though and if they are full of anything it’s life, exuberance and lots of promise.

Apr 122018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em at HM Theatre Aberdeen

Originally broadcast on prime-time BBC television during the 1970’s, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em ran to 23 episodes over three series and attracted audiences of millions.

Originally starring Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, the story-lines featured the hapless Frank innocently stumbling his way through life whilst creating complete confusion amongst all who came into contact with him.

Catch phrases such as “Mmmm – nice” and references to the cat having “done a whoopsie” litter the scripts and Crawford’s portrayal of the accident-prone Frank generally embodies an element of camp-comic- innocence.

Somehow ‘Some Mothers’ has managed to dodge those often-wearying daytime television schedules which feature endless re-runs of Dads Army and On the Buses, which is probably the saving grace which makes Guy Unsworth’s stage adaptation palatable to a 21st century audience.

Suitably de-camped and replete with good old-fashioned double-entendres, this revival of the TV classic works well on the stage and should appeal widely.

Those of us familiar with the BBC original may find that Joe Pasquale’s interpretation of the Frank Spencer character takes a little bit of adjusting to. Yes, there is the familiar shrill Spencer tone and those infuriatingly spectacular miscommunications certainly fit the bill. But is this enough?

Fortunately, after only a very few minutes exposure to a more mature Frank a script replete with the familiarly iconic bungling awkwardness reveals that all is well in Spencer-land.

With the trademark blue beret and Bogart themed gaberdine trench coat firmly to the fore and a benign portrait of a young Humperdinck gracing the living-room wall, Pasquale excels in the role and it is soon clear that Frank is back with a vengeance.

The plot involves a good few misunderstandings regarding Frank’s impending fatherhood, a splendidly drunken mother-in-law played by Barbara Fisher and of course Frank’s thwarted ambitions to become a stage-magician.

A rapidly crumbling set, complete with indoor chicken shed come granny flat only adds to the hilarity as Frank’s DIY skillset is found to be somewhat wanting. Exploding electrics, faulty plumbing and dodgy banisters are only a small part of it all and by the final curtain the Spencer house is literally in ruins.

Frank’s long-suffering wife, Betty is played pretty much true to the original by Sarah Earnshaw but with a few splendidly new twists and David Shaw-Parker’s Father O’Hara Duelling Banjos sketch really has to be seen to be believed.

Add in some prune wine plus a couple of culinary disasters and even those unfamiliar with the original will be laughing out loud.

The slap-stick routines, the absurdities of a farcical storyline and the double entendres fly thick and fast throughout this production which begins somewhat appropriately with Frank’s iconic line “Hello Betty, I’m home”.

And indeed, he is.

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday April 14th
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © HMT Aberdeen

Apr 052018
 

Craig Chisholm looks ahead to this summer’s ‘Enjoy’ music festival.

After last year’s successful festival that saw storming sets from Primal Scream, Chase & Status, The Little Kicks and many more, Enjoy Music returns to Hazlehead Park in June with a stellar line of dance and rock acts on the bill.

Now expanded to a two day festival, the fourth Enjoy boasts some of the biggest names in music – from Glastonbury headliners to Britpop legends.

Held over the weekend of Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June, Aberdeen’s biggest outdoor music festival will see bands such as Starsailor, Cast, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 and Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain perform alongside DJ set from Faithless, Basement Jaxx, Sigma and James Zebeila.

Bluetones frontman Mark Morris and Dodgy singer Nigel Clark will also be attendance to provide crowd pleasing acoustic sets chock full of their Britpop classics.

Festival boss Russell Aitchison said:

“We’re delighted to have added these amazing acts, to make this our biggest line up ever. There’s a real range of music on offer over the weekend with something to suit all tastes.”

Marketing Director Mark Lenthall added:

“We’re here to give the North East a large-scale music festival we can all be proud of, and 2018 is shaping up to be just that. Tickets are selling fast and I am sure music lovers will want to be part of the Aberdeen’s biggest event this summer” 

But if you’re planning to attend then be quick – 2nd release tickets have already sold out and the third release of tickets in mid-March are already selling fast!

Tickets can be purchased at:

Apr 022018
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Stiff Little Fingers yearly St Patricks gigs at The Barrowlands in Glasgow are stuff of legend.

For 27 years they’ve played the iconic venue on the fabled night of Irish celebrations that has become a pilgrimage for their fans.

For fans in the North East, however, the Irish punk legends trip to the Granite City, around the same time of the year, has also become a regular pilgrimage as a sell out crowd tonight can testify.

This might have been the smallest of the three venues the band are playing in Scotland this tour but that didn’t stop them from giving a memorable show that pleased the energetic and loyal crowd.

Before the influential Irish punk legends hit the stage another bunch of influential punks step up to warm the crowd up.

Ruts DC have a long, and sometimes complicated, history that stretches back to the original punk days of 1977. But their music is more varied and eclectic than straight ahead rock with a strong reggae influence shining through in songs such as the mighty ‘Jah War’.

They run though a strong set of a dozen songs with punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’, ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ all going down a storm with the attentive crowd.

Headliners Stiff Little Fingers last couple of shows in Aberdeen have been at a different venue – The Garage – but they are no strangers to the Lemon Tree having played here numerous times to sell out crowds.

It’s a partisan audience that greet them as they walk out to the regular intro tape of ‘Go For It’. The crowd are a sea of SLF t-shirts and hoodies – and anyone not wearing one could have bought from the dozen or so on sale at their merchandise stall.

Singer and guitarist Jake Burns tells the crowd that this is going to be a set that explores more of the deep cuts from SLF’s ‘forgotten’ albums but that doesn’t stop them singing and pogoing along to tracks that cover all eras of the bands four decade career.

However, it’s the bands first three albums that made up the bulk of the set – ‘Tin Soldiers’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae’, ‘Safe as Houses’ and ‘Barbed Wire Love’ from that era are all given a blast.

As with Ruts DC, reggae is also an influence on the band and there’s a nod to that with cover versions of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ‘Johnny Was’ and ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ by The Specials.

Completing the night with a finale of ‘Alternate Ulster’ the band walk off to triumphant applause from an adoring crowd that will already be planning to see them again next year, whatever the venue.

Mar 202018
 

Piratefest 2018 @ The Garage, Aberdeen. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Lead singer Captain Yarrface (possibly not his real name) is front and centre on stage

In the myriad world of Heavy Metal sub-genres it might come as a surprise to learn that not only is Pirate Metal ‘a thing’ but that it can also sell out a venue in Aberdeen on an otherwise normal Tuesday night in February.

The Piratefest 2018 tour didn’t, unfortunately, sail into town on a Spanish galleon but rolled in on tour buses carrying three of the premier bands on the scene.

Scottish band Alestorm arrived in the company of San Diego’s The Dread Crew of Oddwood and, from the fishing village of Ocracoke, North Carolina, Rumahoy.

Rumahoy open Pireatefest with a short, but energetic and thrashy, set that includes songs such as ‘AHOY!’, ‘Hoffman The Pirate King’, and ‘The Triumph of Piracy’.

They’ve taken the theme to its extreme in not only song titles but in their look.

Dressed head to toe in pirate clothes is striking enough but the black masks that cover their faces make them even more scary and intimidating.

Lead singer Captain Yarrface (possibly not his real name) is front and centre on stage – a giant of a man, as tall as he is wide, as much NFL Line-backer as he is Caribbean Pirate or rock singer.

They are by far the heaviest of the three bands with a sound that owes much more to Slayer or Pantera than it does to the more traditional pirate sea shanties.

The next band on stage are a slightly less intimidating but no less intense proposition.

The Dread Crew of Odd Wood play – no surprise here – pirate themed heavy rock but, this time, on acoustic instruments. A style they refer to as ‘mahogany metal’.

Using accordions, stand-up bass, mandolins and bouzouki their music is a combination of folk music, traditional Celtic jigs and, of course, Heavy Metal.

Again, they are dressed for the part – looking like buccaneers that have just raided a port in the West Indies rather than a modern rock band.

Again, the songs are nautically themed with titles such as ‘Dead Man’s Medley’ and ‘When I Sail’d’.

Drinking is also a common lyrical theme through night with the Dread Crew’s contribution called ‘Raise Your Pints’.

And pints are raised for what is, by far, the most popular band of the evening – Perth’s very own Alestorm.

I’m not sure if the River Tay was ever a hotbed of swashbuckling and pillaging but even if not, Alestorm will make you believe it was.

The band romp through a mesmerising 18 song that never lets up in energy and enthusiasm.

The crowd go wild for them – from opener ‘Keelhauld’ to final encore, the dubiously titled ‘Fucked With an Anchor’ there’s a steady stream of crowd surfers being (keel-?) hauled over the barrier.

Many of them have dressed for the occasion too.

Who ever sells pirate clothing and paraphernalia in the Granite City must have a seen a jump in sales lately, judging by the number of pirate hats on show in the audience.

Alestorm themselves aren’t dressed as pirates – instead there’s a mix and match of styles on show with lead singer Christopher Bowes an arresting sight in Alestorm-branded kilt, baseball cap and a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘I Got Lost in The Gay Dolphin’.

Strangest of all is his instrument of choice – the much-maligned keytar, a keyboard that’s played like a guitar and more associated with 80s soft rock bands than on the high seas.

Visuals aside, the band, lyrically at least, don’t stray far from pirate theme’s – ‘No Grave but the Sea’, ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’, ‘Pegleg Potion’, ‘Shipwrecked’ and the magnificently named ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ (a song that ticks both pirate and alcohol themes) are given an airing tonight.

Pirate Metal may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s a triumph tonight as the sold-out crowd testify – it’s safe to say that inhibitions were lost, drinks were raised, and a good time was had by all that attended.

Mar 022018
 

Morrissey at Aberdeen BGHE Arena, 16 February 2018. Review and pictures by Craig Chisholm.

It may be hard to believe but the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre has actually a place in rock n’ roll folklore for both Morrissey and David Bowie fans.

It was here, over 20 years ago that the ex-Smiths frontman was due to support the late Thin White Duke on tour but, mysteriously, walked out mere minutes before he was due on stage leaving his band, Bowie and his fans in the lurch.

As to the whys and whats of this action we might never know but here, over two decades later, amends are finally made to fans as he eventually makes the AECC stage in triumphant, if not also intriguing, fashion.

There’s no chance of support bands doing a runner on this occasion as there isn’t one. Instead the 3000 strong crowd are treated to a half hour video of Morrisey’s favourite bands and old film footage.

In between the Morrissey favourites such as the New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Ramones and 60s girl groups is footage of Russian, faux-lesbian, Eurovision winners Tatu performing The Smiths classic ‘How Soon Is Now?’ on Top of The Tops. This is the sort of intriguing but contrary thing that his fans have come to expect of Morrissey over the years.

At the end of the video, at exactly 9pm, Morrissey and band walk onto the stage. Opening with a cover version of Elvis Presley’s ‘You’ll be Gone’ they then proceed to power through a 22 song set that lasts nearly 2 hours.

The stage is lit by lights in the shape of shields as the backdrop displays footage of recurring Morrisey themes – 60s B&W groups, old film stars, an erotic pulp fiction novel, a bullfighter during, obviously, ‘The Bullfighter Dies’, and footage of police brutality during ‘Who Will Protect Us From The Police?’ .

He delights his long time fans by playing a couple of tracks by his former band The Smiths – ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ is played early on, as is ‘How Soon Is Now?’.

But that’s all – five songs into the set and he has already abandoned any attempt at crowd pleasing and living off nostalgia.

Instead, latest album ‘Low In High School’ makes up the bulk of the show with no less than nine of its twelve tracks given an airing. Three of these tracks – ‘Israel’, ‘I Bury The Living’ and ‘The Girl From Tel Aviv’ are being performed for their first time ever to a live audience.

In another contrary Morrissey move he plays a cover version of The Pretenders’ ‘Back In The Chain Gang’.

The crowd are noticeably more subdued during some of the deeper cuts from ‘Low In High School’ but this gives everyone a chance to listen to Morrissey and to appreciate his voice – it has matured into a warm and luxurious sound, somewhat underrated in the pantheon of great rock vocalists.

Also, it’s a chance to listen to his band – tight and musically together throughout the set. Clad in white t-shirts that with ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’ emblazoned on them, it’s the sort of message that Morrissey revels in and pretty much defines his entire ethos.

More than an hour and a half after starting, the main set ends with the band walking off stage in a haze of smoke to rapturous applause.

They return for a triumphant encore of Morrissey solo classics ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ and ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’.

Overall, it’s an intriguing set that should have left the real fans happy. The lack of Smiths classics and early Morrissey singles may not have pleased the more casual fans but, ultimately, it’s never been his style to play to the crowd and take the easy option.

Jan 282018
 

Mike Shepherd reviews Duncan Harley’s ‘The A-Z Of Curious Aberdeenshire: Strange Stories of Mysteries, Crimes and Eccentrics’

Tucked out of the way in the far reaches of the land, behold Aberdeenshire, a place that can boast the forlorn reputation of being largely unknown to the population at large. Edinburgh yes; Glasgow yes; and lots of tourists nip up the west coast of Scotland, but Aberdeenshire?

If the area registers at all in the national consciousness, it’s a vague awareness of something to do with North Sea oil, whisky, farming and a bit of fishing.

Otherwise nothing much ever seems to have happened there.

Then along comes Duncan Harley’s new book to challenge these perceptions. Much in the way of odd and curious things did indeed take place in that north-eastern corner and the world hadn’t known about it until now.

The book follows an alphabetic format starting with A for Aberdeenshire Art and ending up with Z for Zeppelins. Now that last section I found the most curious. During the First World War a German bombing raid went astray as the Zeppelin got lost somewhere over Aberdeenshire.

As Duncan notes:

‘Wildly off course and completely disoriented, the L20’s  sixteen-strong crew flew inland, bombing Craig Castle at Lumsden before overflying Kintore, Old Rayne and Insch, where they dropped bombs and a flare on a field at Hill of Flinder Farm, Mill of Knockenbaird and nearby Freefield House were also targeted. Amazingly though, there were no casualties and next day, curious locals went in search of souvenirs in the form of bomb fragments.’

Crazy or what? – yet fairly typical of Duncan’s fascinating book. Here’s how it came about. Duncan was asked by the History Press to write the book.

They had been aware of his articles in Leopard magazine, now subsumed into the Scottish Field. Duncan is a known wordsmith having worked for a time on a newspaper before turning to freelance writing. He has also contributed to the Aberdeen Voice which as he writes in the introduction deserves special recognition for their support.

To whet your appetite here’s some more curiosities that you might want to read more about in Duncan’s book:

– Buffalo Bill’s trip to Peterhead and Fraserburgh with his Wild West Show.

– How the Beatles, then the Silver Beetles, were nearly wiped out in a car crash on the road to Fraserburgh.

– The German spies who landed at Crovie during the Second World War.

– The royal wee… Queen Victoria’s toilet at Ballater. And on a similar theme – how a German U-Boat was sunk by its toilet near Cruden Bay.

– The Stonehaven Railway Riot in 1848 during the construction of the line to Aberdeen when over 200 navvies rampaged around the town.

This and so much more – an alphabet soup for the curious. Highly recommended – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire is on sale in bookshops around Aberdeen and the Whisky Shop in Inverurie – where signed copies are to be had. Do have a look.

Mike Shepherd.

Dec 112017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Aladdin @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Following a thrilling, but ultimately unsuccessful, swordfight arch-villain Abanazar is thrown upon the mercy of the audience.

“What shall we do with him now?” cries Widow Twankey.
A young voice from the front stalls cries out “Kill him! Chop off his head.”

Quick as a flash, Twankey replies “We can do pretty much anything in Panto, but the one thing we can’t do is kill Jimmy Osmond.”

Indeed, the Christmas Pantomime at His Majesty’s Theatre delivers everything from death defying stunts to innuendo laden humour and, of course, gloriously costumed entertainment suitable for children of all ages.

As the undoubted star of the show, Jimmy Osmond’s Abanazar exudes a suitable mixture of evil and cunning as he schemes to steal Aladdin’s magic lamp before, in the second act, delivering a stunning medley of familiar Osmond 70’s classics. As the show progressed the US born star dipped a brave tongue into the Doric, endured several inevitable references to his ‘Long-haired lover from Liverpool’ 1972 hit and generally endeared himself to the audience.

There were flying carpets galore, an impressive Bush-of-Truth stunt, a flying Jordan Young and, perhaps surprisingly, an ethereal appearance – as the Voice of the Genie – by Elaine C. Smith.

Costumes of course are at the core of Panto and although Alan McHugh’s Dame Twankey outfits outshone most in that department, Emperor Ming’s jewel-laden headgear really took the biscuit for ponderosity. Indeed, it’s a wonder that Billy Riddoch’s head remained upon his shoulders throughout the performance.

Irreverent humour is of course the mainstay of any Aberdeen Panto and inevitably both Trump and the Scottish Parliament took a bashing. The Trump reference took the form of a not-so subtle ‘trouser cough’.

As for ‘Hollyrude’, well it would be unfair of me to give away the punch-line but let’s just say that it involves the Bush-of-Truth.

Special effects are to the fore in this production and the overall entertainment quotient is a massive 5 stars.

Add in Jordan Young’s Aladdin on the Ladder sketch and a few comedic references to Echt, Tillydrone, Mintlaw, Balnagask, Ellon, Buchan, Tarves and Oldmeldrum and you have a winning combination of belly-laughs and completely splendid entertainment. Indeed, at the end of the night, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and for all the right reasons.

I did wonder why Inverurie failed to get a mention though.

With the pupils of Aberdeen Academy of Dance, written by Alan McHugh and directed by Tony Cownie, Aladdin plays at HMT Aberdeen until January 7th.

Dec 082017
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

“Aaaah Grasshopper, you still have much to learn … you must first try to listen … and feeeel!”

Once upon a time there was a young man who fancied himself as the rebranded Anarcho Dennis The Menace.

Unfortunately, he did not have the means to put enough calories into his person in order to avoid being laughed and sneered at by the bespectacled Walter and his crew of ‘softies’.

So he developed a defiant, unflinching pose in order to look hard.

He got a punk band together and generally scared the crap out of folk … his relatives mostly,

Then he got a wee job doing sound for a band called Mabel Meldrums Ceilidh Band.

Working alongside his chum, and punk band colleague Frank Benzie, nephew of Mabels’ guitarist and vocalist, Ian F Benzie, the young man in question came to know and refer to the Benzies as ‘Frunk an’ Unc’ – which neither ever objected to.

But their influence on the stoic, stripey one was not only significant, but equal and opposite!

This brought about much confusion. Whilst Frunk would lead young Dennisesque astray, and goad him into strange and perilous situations, Unc would be much more a source of a calm and enlightenment – particularly with regard to the realm of music. 

Words of wisdom were dispensed freely:

“If the music is ‘at loud ye canna hear yersel think, then how d’ye ken yer actually listenin tae music?”

“The words ‘I love you’ should be spoken close up, and whispered ….. if ye scream them oot til there’s snotters comin oot yer mou’, yer likely tae get a blind date wi fower or six coppers wi big sticks in the back o’ a van”

“It’s nae jist the notes min, it’s the space in atween”

And ither such hippy stuff and fluff.

However, it sunk in eventually, to the point that young hardened cynic began to appreciate the understated and the subtle alongside the “in yer face wi a big slab ya ****” aspects of music and art.

But then, not long after, Ian F Benzie, along with Mabels’ bassist/banjo plucker Buzzby McMillan parted company with Sandie Wyles (fiddle/mando/vocs), Andrew MacDonald (keys/concertina/caller) and Ian Wilson (Bodhran/ percussion/whistle), and went on to form the notorious Old Blind Dogs.

Sandie continued playing with a new Mabel Meldrums line up with a very different approach and sound.

As for that defiant, unflinching, skinny, stoic, cynical, spikey, stripey, cartoon character wannabe, tribute act? Well that was me (still is I suppose) …. your Aberdeen Voice editor.

Which brings me to the purpose of this one off spontaneous and unusual Aberdeen Voice article.

In the last few hours, I discovered a forgotten, presumed lost (or borrowed and not returned) cassette tape which was recorded by myself and Frunkie B from the mixing desk we were charged with the task of operating … or at least, preventing teuchters from plonking/spilling their beer, or stubbing their fags out on.

And so, 30 odd years later, I decided, if I had gone to sleep when I should have … like about an hour before I found that ‘lost’ tape … it might become ‘lost’ again ….. maybe forever!

And so, instead, I lashed a load of wires and boxes together, and now have a digital copy of the whole gig, which I hope to share soon.

However, I felt, when listening to one particular track, which was not part of the band’s set, but performed ‘off the cuff’ while some technical problem was resolved, that there was a wee bit of magic which transcended the background noise and the tape hiss.

Therefore, I felt compelled to ‘splice’ it out, and with the bare minimum of processing, offer it here without any further delay. 

Westlin Winds by Ian F Benzie. Live at Premnay Hall, 86/7 … as part of Mabel Meldrums’ (ceilidh band) show.