Cregan & Co – Jim, Ben Mills, Harry James, Pat Davey and Sam Tanner.
On a full moon autumn night as you alight at West Sutton railway station in the leafy London suburb you find yourself a mere few yards from the home of “The U’s” (sorry but I cannot bring myself to mention their true name).
For someone like me this is a spine chilling experience that requires outstanding bravery – no I’m not haunted by that Thriller video, but to some it’s perhaps seen as pure treachery given the vicinity I find myself.
But for once I have to put local rivalry aside and fill the pockets of the old enemy with a small amount of my hard earnt cash. It would all appear “foolish behaviour” to snub the man who is accredited with helping with the inspiration required on penning the fabulous UK number 1 album Time.
So I find myself in the somewhat puzzling named club attached to “the football ground of my borough” – not of my home town I hasten to add.
My warped childish mind considers, was it named so because placed here by the railway lines the urban foxes with their bushy tails are often frequenting the area? Boom, Boom, ha, ha, ha Mr Derek, still makes me smile. The impressionable years of your life – between 1969 and 1973 the BBC not only gave me the Old Grey Whistle Test and Top Of the Pops – but a little amusement with the Basil Brush show, the glove puppet fox and his unforgettable “catchphrase” alongside Derek Fowlds. If this strikes a cord with you – google it, don’t force me to ramble on about the shows contents as we would be here for pages of stupidity. A classic comedy that between the ages of 13 and 17 are likely to leave a lasting impression in the same vein as a certain vocalist did back then.
As the musical acts at the Boom Boom club are all part of Pete Feenstra’s promotions and there was never a “Mr Pete” as Basil’s aid, maybe it’s time to put aside my cunning fox connections to this clubs naming and get back to the venue and event.
Well to start with having given Pete a call a good two weeks in advance (far better to pay “the U’s” £12 rather than £15 just turning up on the night). I get the e-mail confirmation telling me he has reserved 3 tickets for Colin Blunstone on Saturday 12th !!! – Certainly would not get such slap dash organisation down “the Robins social” would you…
That said the error was quickly corrected – maybe my prompt of “Say You Don’t Mind” changing that booking from Colin Blunstone to Cregan & Co was appreciated as a humorous way of pointing out their error.
So performance build up over, let’s focus on the venue itself now I’m in and settled down to what we have come here for, or would that be to simple for one of my reviews? The Boom, Boom would be best described as a slightly larger than the average scout hut with the all important “Times Square Lounge bar” at the end of your entry into the hall and the even more important stage at the other end. You could be in a southern wheeltappers and shunters club (another bit of TV classic from the 1970’s) if you can remember watching those shows brought to us by Granda TV, although those northern folk used all sit down (a bit like a Rod concert in the corporate seats these days..) and watch a comedian and often a musician – thankfully no Bernard Manning look a like appeared tonight, plus a testament to dismiss that “taboo” of southern softies.
Well to make her happy…we arrived exactly at 7:30, as my wife said she would like to sit down until Jim and the boys come on, which the last time was not until 9. As we walked in Jim was just finishing off tuning up, unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to say hello as I was dispatched to the bar as my wife and my sister-in-law went in search for an unreserved seat, which proved a mission – but 2 found just by the entrance saying “artists only on the door”.
It was to prove that we were to have an hour and a half to kill, but the music was pure 70’s rock classics with the southern comedy act being Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” reminding you of the days of vinyl when the scratch on your record made it jump back and play over, and over, and over again – either that or Pete bought the 48 inch version!
A few familiar faces entered the hall with “SMILER” badges on, plus of course that famous tartan hat. A after that the local “Smiler boy” entered the auditorium which as he had not text me to say he was coming, should go chastise him or simply stick my nose in the air and ignore him? Well as anti-social as I might appear to some, a greetings was the order of the night and small talk filled another time zone leading up to the main event.
By 10 to 9 it was time to take your spot on the dance floor, because this was not going to be a seated occasion, as the heat in the hall seemed to pour off and the floor filled to just about enough room to shake your hips, enter the band and Jim waving and shouting “evening, evening all, thank you for coming” – then they launched into Baby Jane and I quickly was reminded of just how good and raw Ben Mills voice really is, the set list had a few expected numbers, but again many added gems, I won’t be able to tell you them all in order plus I miss out one or two, if my memory serves me well, Hot Legs was to follow and Forever Young after that. Jim makes sure recognition is given to all his band members, makes regular comments about times spent with Rod – of which some I will attempt to repeat. They are a truly great band to go and see. Plus they are loud and always got a smile on their face.
You’re In My Heart was followed by Jim saying that the next record was written by an old friend that used to play in the group but sadly was very unwell at this moment in time and asked us all to give a thought to Gary Grainger before the sound of I Was Only Joking was played. Young Turks, Wild Side Of Life, I Don’t Wanna Talk About It, all met with plenty of community singing that the band really appreciated – I think Sutton proved that we still hold the value of when Rod brought the Faces to our town in 1973 and my love affair was sealed forever.
Jim made a classic comment when he said, “What a voice Ben Mills, he could be Rod’s forgotten love child”, Ben retorted “Well I’ve certainly got the nose for it”, which Jim replied “Rod would be proud to just have your nose”. I believe there was a further reference to the fact that comments of always being in Rod’s shadow was due to the size of Rod’s nose… how cruel was that!
The type of additional gems we were treated to though were Blondes Have More Fun and that other wonderful classic from the same album, Is That The Thanks I Get. The final part had to be Maggie May and a bonus of Stay With Me, Losing You, Twisting the Night Away and Sweet Little Rock ‘n Roller.
But the special part came in the middle when Jim said, “Some months ago now I received a call from an old friend who said do you fancy coming over for Sunday lunch, and I guess you might as well bring your guitar, and from that encounter we wrote this one together” – We were delivered a wonderful version of Brighton Beach – what a bonus.
Alas it was now 11 and having tried to knock down as many ceiling tiles as he could jumping up and down, it was time to leave the stage.
If our singing reminded Jim of an appearance at Wembley, the way the band mimic the way Phil Chen, Billy Peek, Gary and Jim used to swing their guitars and dance on stage did the same to me – yes I could have been back to being about 20 years old again. Thanks lads for a great night, can I really not turn up again when you return on 30 December?
If they are in your area they are a must go see – trust me, but as we were advised might be a good idea to have some soft ear plugs in – or suffer deafness still 18 hours later.
Review by Colin Baker
Photo by Yve Paige