A-Z of Dead Man Singing: G

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: G

118 days ago

G is for gigs. Dead Man Singing begins with Dave Masters taking the stage for a gig at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford, a far cry from the sell-out runs at Hammersmith Odeon which he enjoyed in his 70s heyday. Subsequently, the action criss-crosses the country at a series of gigs where Dave is variously performer and audience member.

I grew up in the suburban outskirts of London, putting a host of great venues within easy reach by train and tube. Some of the venues mentioned in Dead Man Signing were only exotic names on the back of tour shirts to me, while others hold treasured personal memories.

Memorable gigs: countless Richard Thompson shows, both solo acoustic and with his band, starting with a band show at Hammersmith Palais in 1986. You can hear some recordings from that show on the excellent Richard Thompson Live at the BBC box set. I saw his wonderful 1000 Years of Popular Music show as well. More recently, I was at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 for his 70th birthday show with a host of guest performers,including Richard’s surviving Fairport Convention bandmates, various musical members of the Thompson family (along with no-relation but still peerless Danny Thompson), Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy (who was brilliant), Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap (performing ‘She Put the Bitch in Obituary’). Oh, and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, just for good measure. One of the many highlights was Thompson wholeheartedly shredding to Bob Mould’s rocked-out version of ‘Turning of the Tide’, the song which lends its title to part one of Dead Man Singing.

Talking of the Royal Albert Hall: I saw Eric Clapton there three times in three years in the late 80s, each one offering something different from the last. The first time, it was exciting enough that we were seeing Eric Clapton, even without the fact that his backing group included Mark Knopfler and Phil Collins. The second time had a similar line-up, but with the very welcome addition of percussion legend Ray Cooper and the fact that our seats were dead centre of the first row of the stalls. The third time was a blues night, with Robert Cray on second guitar and the legendary Johnnie Johnson – Chuck Berry’s pianist – on keyboards.

I saw Peter Gabriel a few times in a variety of venues, starting with Earls Court in 1987. Of all the acts I’ve seen, he's possibly the one whose music gains the most from a live setting. He’s a fantastic front man who channels his theatricality into connecting with an audience more effectively than any other performer I’ve witnessed. Seeing him perform Solsbury Hill live is a consistently euphoric delight.

There have been big stadium shows at Wembley – Queen, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen – but by and large I prefer smaller, more intimate venues. The day that several of my friends saw U2 at Wembley on the Joshua Tree tour, I was watching Blues 'n’ Trouble at the Marquee Club. One of my favourite gigs from the late 80s was Clive Gregson and Christine Collister at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, with support from the excellent Panic Brothers. Any similarity between Clive Gregson and the producer working with Dave in chapter 2 of Dead Man Singing is not entirely coincidental.

Hammersmith Odeon was always something of a favourite, and probably the venue I’ve visited most often. Here’s a handful of the many artists I saw there: John Lee Hooker, Marillion, Ry Cooder and David Lindley, 10,000 Maniacs, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lyle Lovett and John Martyn. In 1984 I went there to see the Alarm, only to end up in the video of their subsequent single ‘Spirit of 76’. I say I’m in the video; you can see a long-haired silhouette jumping up and down when the camera on the balcony shoots past the crowd to the band on stage. That’s me! My mate Chris, the biggest Alarm fan I’ve ever met and certainly a bigger one than me, was beyond excited that his elbow made its way into the frame. I’ve always felt it was a huge injustice that a relative lightweight Alarm fan like me got the full silhouette treatment while he just had an elbow. That’s showbiz, Chris.

Which gigs from your past live the longest in your memory? Who surprised you with how good they were?


The only record I am on is the truth five live. A ep recorded at the fan loo club. My local venues lea cliff hall is my fave. Best indie hole was new cross venue. I always hated wembley.fit for football not gig. My oden gigs rem pogues. Love Hammersmith palis. Seen pogues most from a pub in Camden to wembley.

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