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Second Wind Blues Band 13th May 2007 By Adrian Bold.
So just what is the Blues? The scope of the genre was certainly stretched by the “Second Wind” Blues Band who blew into the Borough Blues Club last Saturday night. It was clear “from the off” that this group deal in the unconventional. The headgear they were sporting as they carried their gear to the stage suggested they drew their fashion influences from TV shows like “Allo, Allo” and “the Untouchables” or, alternatively, from the pantomime “Aladdin”. However, for percussionist/vocalist John Todd (aka “Todd le Bonk”) and drummer Ed “Sticks” Haycocks it was possibly more about head coverage than chic! The guitar/vocals leader of the group, Alan Collier, had a passing resemblance to Balou from “the Jungle Book” and seemed to be inspired by a bear hanging from his microphone stand (not a real one, obviously – but entirely in keeping with the image!). The two younger members of the band Ian “Chunky” Baker on guitar and the recently-recruited bassist Leyton Doyle (who it seems has not been with “Second Wind” long enough to acquire a nickname) did not need any head wear and, compared to the elder members of the band, actually looked as if they were only getting their first wind!
The range of influences on the music the band was to play was indicated by their opening jazz-based instrumental “Big Noise from Winetka” which was followed by some very bluesy numbers such as Big Bill Broonzy’s “Wrong Woman” and “Pretty Girls” (Otis Spann) cut with country blues like Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudups “That’s all right” and some straightforward rock and R’n’B. My favourite was Muddy Waters “Just want a little bit” which I remember seeing The Undertakers perform at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1963 (I I was only seven – honest!)
The quirky instrumental medley which opened the second set contained themes from “Peter Gunn” (Duane Eddy), “the Pink Panther”, “Batman,” Hawaii 5-0” and
something from a Bond Movie. (Don’t pretend that you don’t remember!)
This was quickly followed by Robert Parker’s “Barefootin” which elicited a comment from nearby to the effect that the music was in a blues style, but not actually blues. Such purist worries were lost in the moment. The audience didn’t care; the nostalgia had really begun to bite. “I haven’t heard some of these for years - Fantastic!” was a typical response. By this time I was looking round for a Parka, some flared trousers (with a very wide belt) and a chrome-endowed Lambretta.
There was some good, more traditional blues though: Peter Green’s “Steady rolling man” was followed by an announcement that the lights had fused in the Gentlemen’s toilet (enough to make anyone blue – or distended) – and a rush to find some candles – with John Lee Hooker’s “In the mood” (though one would not have been surprised if this had been Glen Miller!) and “Mandie” making highlights.
The feeling in the room was very good. Alan Collier has been round the block (at least once!), and his obvious love of the music, his eyes-closed style of singing, his energy and his continuous infectious grin communicated itself to the audience, who were smiling themselves. The crisp drumming of “Sticks” Haycock and the solid bass of Leyton Doyle were reinforced very effectively by the tom-toms of Todd le Bonk to provide a superb platform for the soloists. Collier’s excellent, soft-blues guitar feel was supplemented by the rather stiffer style of Ian Baker – though, in general, the performance was more proficient than rousing, with appreciative ovation from the audience instead of ecstatic applause. As one watcher observed, “the hairs have not stood up on the back of my neck yet” (this was probably because his neck matched his head, where there were none!). But this did not bother the majority, who clearly enjoyed the variety and reminiscences of songs from their youth.
The popularity of “Second Wind” was indicated by the twenty or so of their regular followers who bought tickets and visited the Borough Blues Club with them, clearly enjoying every minute of the performance – but there were a few spaces around the tables that could have been filled by regular members who missed out on a great and totally different kind of blues night!
The band encored appropriately with Howlin’ Wolf’s “I’m leaving you”. That was wishful thinking as they were forced to yet one more number by the enthusiastic audience. Alan Collier was concerned that Ed the drummer’s “tablets are wearing off” – but he need not have worried – “Sticks” got through “Oh, you pretty thing” brilliantly to send the crowd home happy.
Another excellent Borough Blues gig! Plenty to talk about, plenty to enjoy and an added dimension to the blues idiom – but who cares! It does exactly what it says on the Tin Pan Alley! Don’t miss the next one!
Adrian Bold: with photos courtesy of Marc Smith and valuable artistic advice from Adrian Powell (who remembered most of the numbers from when they were first released – but tried to make out he knew them from a record collection he had inherited! Don’t believe him – he’s nearly as old as Keith “soon to be a drummin’ pensioner” Barwood!)