Tony was my best man at my first wedding - Chris Dark had turned me down - and his taste in music was still developing in parallel with his self-regard. At this stage, he had moved on from Carol King’s Tapestry, his regular listening while the rest of us were focused on the Dead, and the Airplane, and Bob, and the Velvets; but his obsession with punk and rave was more opportunistic than instinctive. (One would never use the word ‘genuine’ in the same sentence as ‘Tony Wilson’.)
Anyway, the one thing that was constant in Tony's life was his hatred of jazz in all its manifestations. And this mega-American band who were costing Tony (or rather, New Order) “mega-bucks”, took to the stage more stoned than the audience, and played ... jazz! Tony told me he was so disgusted that he pulled the plug on them, though he doesn't mention this in the book.
The point of all this is that we had an analogous situation in Wilde's on Sunday night, the occasion being the 37th birthday of the bar. Several months ago, my wonderfully generous friend John Myers had arranged for “Mick n Keef” from the cover band Stones to perform a greatest hits set appropriate for the Wilde's demographic. It his birthday present to Wilde's - and it was keenly anticipated, to say the least.
Except that ten minutes before we were due to open, John called to say that they were not coming. No reason. They had just decided not to come.
Shanade Morrow, singer, song-writer and waitress extraordinaire, went to work on the phones. Within half an hour, the best and the brightest of the Leamington music scene, including Clayton Denwood who played with The Band in Woodstock and Thom Kirkpatrick, who has played with everyone else, were on their way.
Meanwhile, Geof, the embarrassed manager of the Stones, had also been on the phone. And, unbeknown to us and at short notice, he managed to acquire the services of a crooner of a certain age who marketed himself as a Billy Fury sound-alike. What's more, Billy Fury arrived first and set up his karaoke machine of backing tracks and proceeded to belt out a Herman's Hermits song. Which was kinda fun. Until the next one and the next one and the next one.
With a dozen musicians (defined for these purposes as people who play their own instruments and write original material) hanging around having given up their evening to help us, it rapidly became something of an issue. Some people left, many complained, and others, including myself, took to drink and, for the first time in months, tobacco. It took Jill - who is less timid than am I – to take action and request that he cut his act short to give others a chance.
The others took their chance. They jammed, sang and played a series of excellent sets which kept a hundred of us on the dance floor and in awe.
This is not musical snobbery. ’Billy Fury’ knows what he is doing and does it well. But it is not what Wilde's is about. It is the very antithesis of the live music which Wilde's wishes to promote.
Fortunately, the last few hours of the evening developed in the right spirit with some superb acoustic guitar work from Jason and Clayton, plus some great vocals, some great sax from Ono, and - at the end - some brilliant Stones covers from Thom Kirkpatrick, the 21st century one-man-band.
So us oldies eventually got our Stones. As well as our Dead, our Dylan, and our Herman's Hermits!
You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.
Our thanks to all the musicians, to Myers, to Geof, to Shanade, to Ollie and Rachel, and to Richard for his canapés. And to all those who came out on a school night to help us celebrate, especially Pinky and James for their great card.