The night started at the Riga music bar, Southend. 9pm – about twenty people there, a group of misshaped misfits for sure. The main stage was dark and shrouded with heavy curtains, a smaller stage at opposite end, both prepared with drums, amps and the usual rigging. It didn’t look like it was going to be busy… I couldn’t have been more wrong, as the musty, dank hall filled.
First up, on the smaller stage, were the ‘Dirty Strangers’ – unknown to me. Three rough and ready blokes from Shepherds Bush singing some hard hitting rock, its amazing what a couple of guitars and a set of drums can do. Some corny lines in some of those songs, such as ‘Gold Cortina’ – But, hey, so what, I liked the set, although the crowd didn’t seem to appreciate it much, perhaps it was to brash. The Strangers’ had almost to goad the crowd into playing an encore, which was a bit saddening. I found out a little more about the boys, Alan Clayton – guitar, vocals, and songwriter, friend of the stars (Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have played with the band, produced an album) has been around a long while, pumping out the rock and roll, R&B ilk all over the place. Good performance, raw and responsive.
Next up, what we had all come to see, Eddie and the Hot Rods. of course without Eddie – the dummy they used to kick around in their early performances. I was looking forward to this, the last time I saw this band was in the Marquee Club back in 1975 or 76, when they were signed up by the innovative Island records (for a while at least). Their music was tougher and faster than most other pub rock bands of the time, which gave them the credibility and balls to survive the transition into the punk era.
They opened with their first record to reach the UK singles chart in ’76 – that’s right – ‘Teenage Depression’ that woke the same crowd up that had half fallen asleep from the previous performance. It filled the hall with noise and the expectation spread as the pace of the music increased. ‘Better Without You’, then ‘Quit This Town’ preceded another favourite, ‘The Kids Are Alright’! Things were certainly livening up. The intensity continued from the stage, their no.9 hit from ’77, ‘Do Anything You Want To Do’ led effortlessly into ‘Love Love Love’, and that had the majority of the audience participating in the chants and chorus. I waited patiently for an hour until my all time favourite appeared, with its slow melodic intro – A cover of Van Morrison’s ’64 number, covered many times from Patti Smith to The Doors, even a rendition from Jimi Hendrix – yes! Gloria! The song was excellent; I would pay to see them play this one song. The set finished with ‘Born To Be Wild’ and the encore wasn’t a patch on the main event I’m afraid to say – perhaps the hurried nature of Riga bar had everyone out pretty soon after. Would I wait another 30 years to see them again? – Reckon I need to check them out before that! With Barrie Masters the only original member; even with his passion, so evident on the night, a lot less from my first sighting, when I’m sure I could remember him leaping high into the air whilst performing. The team now: Dipster on bass, Chris Taylor and Richard Holgarth on guitars with Simon Bowley on drums compliment Master’s style and their joint approach to entertainment works. Next appearance is at Butlins, Skegness. R&B weekend, Sat/Sun, 23/24th January 2009 - not to be missed, I’m sure.
Nick Allinson Dec 2008