Yes I know.
But I’ve got an excuse. I’ve been busy with lots. I have, for one thing been playing the Pedal Steel Guitar A Lot. There have been evenings where I have pulled myself off of the piano stool i’m using in a cast-iron hunchback, right hand clawed and stiff and sweaty left hand glued to the steel. What an unattractive image. But it’s what I’ve vowed to do, regardless of damage to posture and health.
But in addition I have been working the day (and overnight) job, chasing all over the country and spending time in railway stations listening to the greatest and the latest PSG players as I ride the rails in search of rogues. Rail travel and country music go together like baked beans and brown sauce. I’ve been staring out of windows at hillsides, feeling lonely and hearing the sound of lonely hillsides squirted right back at me through headphones. No reserved seat? Fine by me. I’m listening to country. This stuff sounds even better when your sciatic bum is wedged into a bag rack. The more lonesome you make me, the better I like it because I am a pedal steel player dontchaknow, journeyman musician, gun for hire, never in a single band, the ultimate wolf in soft shoes, and this is how I hang, high and lonesome. I’d like a bottle of Doom Bar and a packet of cheese and onion and what time do we get into Wolverhampton, please?
However lonely it gets, I am very much enjoying online and in person, the fellowship of other players, who are generous and friendly to a fault. Perhaps nicheness creates niceness. My last thought, as you can read, was that it seemed that the Band of Steel Brothers was of a fairly unique vintage, to whom I appear as fresh blood at a juvenile 47 years old. Not so, it seems. Lookee here…
After one acquires a PSG one next needs a volume pedal under the right foot to make it waft in on a breeze like the cry of an eagle and hang there in the reverb-stained air. They aren’t cheap, but after a quick squint at eBay I found a good value used Goodrich L120 down in Dorset not far from where we were visiting for the weekend. I don’t like paying postage and Joe, the seller, was happy to have me come around and talk guitars for a bit.
A volume pedal yesterday.
I approached a nice detached house in a cul de sac, thinking ‘here we go, man of a certain age indulges country leanings’ and sure enough, was greeted by a charming couple in their golfing years. But then ‘Joe’s upstairs’ they said, and their son emerged from the loft.
Twenty flipping four.
1. I think we can agree that I could easily be mistaken for Joe’s younger brother.
2. What are the chances that two men, born 23 years apart, meeting one night for a random financial transaction, would BOTH BE WEARING T SHIRTS FOR CULT 70’S POWER POP COMBO BIG STAR??
Slim, I think you’ll agree. Or verging on XL in my case.
I’ll be honest, if arms dealers went around wearing Big Star shirts I would probably have a couple of missiles in the garage by now, so it should come as no surprise that I bought Joe’s pedal. But not before he showed me what three years of intensive study can do for you….
You’ll notice that Joe’s genuinely unassuming manner doesn’t permit him to finish a piece in full. He played three times, each time a stunning soup of swirling strings. And he possessed not one but two Mullen steel guitars, premier modern professional instruments – a d10 and an s10. Joe told me was already getting touring and recording gigs and that he was totally committed to it as a career. All I can say is
BRAVO JOE. BRAVO.
I don’t want to sound like a patronising old fart but how wonderful to see someone doing what i’m doing – following a sound they love to find out where it takes them, but working it out so much earlier in life and diving in head first. Wow. Imagine what he will sound like in another three years time! Amazing!
I have so much work to do.
But! Opportunity knocks hard and loud for the pedal steel player. Seriously, nobody knows what this thing is and yet sometimes it seems like everyone wants it.
When I was 17 I was briefly playing bass in a band called Sometimes Sartre, who were all a bit older than me. They were as close as Reading ever got to The Smiths, and the guitarist, Tom Crook, was as close as Reading ever got to Johnny Marr (pretty close).
After just a few months of my tenure, and in an unorthodox move Tom and the remaining two quarters of Sartre moved up to Newcastle to attempt to get signed by Kitchenware Records, the label/stable which nurtured late 80’s indie revelations Prefab Sprout. I had to stay behind to finish my A levels but would hear occasional stories drift back to Reading about life on the dole as a band, which seemed to involve a lot of funny adventures while living together in a flat and eating things out of tins. It sounded pretty much exactly like the Monkees TV show if The Monkees’ house was devoid of any form of domestic heating. The invite to move up there was also kindly extended to me. I think I even discussed it with my parents in one of the shortest and most explosive discussions it’s ever been my misfortune to take part in, and in that tally I’m including over 100 Rogue Traders confrontations, some with hardened, violent criminals.
After they returned South, Tom and I would meet regularly every decade, quite by chance, outside an exhaust centre or post office, to find out what we had missed from eachothers lives in the intervening years. He is a talented, genuine and warm fellow, for whom I would make time to stop and talk if I were holding on to a narrow lead in an Olympic marathon.
So anyway, due to the magic of social media, I’m back in touch with Tom. Over the last year or so I’ve become aware that he now has a band, Band Of Hope. They play Tom’s excellent country-leaning songs, and one day he drops me a line to let me know that a vacancy has just opened up….
…for a drummer!
So they get Sarah. You know Sarah? Great drummer. Lovely feel.
AND A STEEL PLAYER!!