(A Guest Posting……from Jacques the Kipper)

Pete Astor has always been a favorite of mine.  As far as I’m concerned much of what the Loft produced and most of the Weather Prophets‘ output was criminally under-rated at the time. Since then though I have to be honest and say that I’ve heard little of him or his music.  That’s not to say he hasn’t been issuing stuff, mind. Something I discovered when I noticed that coincidentally he was playing the Lexington when I was down in London for work.

Even better he was supporting John Moore, erstwhile of the Jesus and Mary Chain, John Moore and the Expressway, Black Box Recorder and Art Brut.   Again, a quick bit of research suggested that he hadn’t been resting on his musical laurels either, though possibly, if at all, he’s better known to non-indie fans for his role as a leading light during the 1990s importing what was at the time an almost fabled drink, absinthe, to the UK. Basically, absinthe had never actually been banned as was the accepted wisdom at the time. I’ll leave you to decide whether the country has been morally corrupted since its arrival.

Back to the gig. I turned up expecting a decent crowd of indie pensioners.   In fact, when I got to the bar downstairs us ‘civilians’ were outnumbered by the musical entertainment and their posse, more of whom later.   At least the bar bantering meant there was no chance of Pete hitting the stage upstairs without me knowing.

When he did take that stage, there were about 12 of us in the audience not obviously related to the musicians. Still criminally under-rated then.   Fair play, there were a pair of Japanese presumably C86 loving tourists there to pray at the Astor altar.  Perhaps they’d never forgiven John for leaving the Mary Chain or perhaps they preferred the Gillespie period. Maybe they’d been corrupted by absinthe. Whatever, they jumped ship after Pete’s set.

And what a set it was.  Did I recognise any of the songs?  No.   Were there any joyous proclamations of life?   No.  As he himself admitted, several times, miserable songs are where he’s at.   He also likes to include a name or three in his tunes.  Don’t let any of that put you off though.   He remains one of England’s finest songwriters, even if no-one (me included on recent evidence) is listening to his work.   I’ll happily (ironic smile) go see him again. And buy his recent stuff.   And you should too.

For those that want to track down his musical output, check in your local record shop under the Loft, the Weather Prophets, or Pete(r) Astor, or if you really must then there’s the internet. This page on Creation Records website gives you a flavour of what you might find from his earlier musical life.

You’ll find some recent musings here –

Just start with Dead Trumpets, lay back, enjoy. Then go purchase.

Back to the gig (2).

And then John Moore.  Sitting by him on a seat throughout was a ventriloquist’s dummy, who had his own ventriloquist’s dummy.  But this was no horror show.

John opened by throwing yet to be inflated balloons into the audience. There was no mention of why. He then started the show itself by reading from his book to be, Bad Light. You can help fund it through . On the basis of what we heard, it’s well worth a punt, and for those who follow the link – who could refuse the chance to visit John’s shed for as little as £10.

Discarding the book, he began the musical entertainment with Smoking on the Cancer Ward, from his album Floral Tributes. A truly brilliant start. His second song lasted a mere couple of verses before he got bored with it and stopped.  A couple more followed in full. Lo-fi lullabies indeed. Amongst the songs he extolled the virtues of Hampstead Heath and amazed us with a tale based on his namesake. He then treated us to a couple of poems. Before he dedicated a couple of songs to the demise of Soho and Madame Jojo’s in particular.

There was then some more banter with us audience. And who should be amongst that audience and part of that posse in the bar I mentioned earlier – in fact, who was the biggest heckler in the room – none other than Luke Haines. Not to mention Sarah Nixey. They joined John on stage to ‘reform’ Black Box Recorder for an astonishingly good England Made Me.

As Luke and Sarah returned to the audience, rather worryingly John got out his saw. Yes, a saw. Which he proceeded to play with a bow. His request for requests was met with ‘tunes’ that left a lot to the imagination. Though I doubt that God Save The Queen has ever sounded so good.

The audience, including Romeo Stodart of Magic Numbers and I think Louis Eliot (now of Louis Eliot and the Embers, but previously Kinky Machine), was now probably up to about 40 in total. For such a great show this was criminal.  Which was highly appropriate as John introduced us to his planned musical on the Kray Twins – the Blind Beggars Opera, I think.  He battered out a couple of songs which suggested that lyrically this particular musical won’t be the subject of any Lloyd Weber style find-a-lead-singer Saturday evening reality show. No holds barred, guvnor. (And rather bizarre to wake up the next day to hear that Frankie Fraser had died.)

He ended with a singular look back to his days of ridiculously big hair. Then a desperate attempt to get us to blow up those balloons to complement his last song. To be honest, it was chaos by now. It truly was like having a good pal round playing songs in your living room as everyone got merry. One encore and a rousing response from us to what had been a truly memorable night.

Speaking to him afterwards I said that he really needs to find someone who will put him on in the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s up for it if someone has the wherewithal. Honestly, an hour or so of entertainment from John Moore is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. Never a dull moment, and I suspect, never the same show twice. Brilliant.


JC adds

It was down to me to select the mp3s to do with this piece….I hope they do Jacques’ words justice:-

mp3 : Peter Astor and the Holy Road – Almost Falling In Love
mp3 : Peter Astor – Take This Longing

(the former from the LP Paradise while the latter is from a Leonard Cohen tribute LP)

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – England Made Me