Robert Henderson has hosted some excellent house gigs and I have been fortunate enough to attend all of them, so there was no way I was going to miss this one, even if that did mean I would have to miss my morning bootcamp session with Regiment Fitness. I went for a run instead so I could be guilt-free while eating some of Robert’s excellent biscuits. This house gig was going to be a special one because not only did it feature Simon Godfrey (of Tinyfish and Shineback fame), but he was being joined by Robert Ramsay (and anyone who was at Celebr8.2 knows just how good that combination is – you can read about it here) and there would also be contributions from Leon Camfield. My journey via the M25 and the M4 could not have been better and I got to the secret venue in good time, to find some very familiar faces already there. I know if I try to list them I will forget someone, so just take a look at the photographs to get the guest list.
“Hello ! My name is Robert Ramsay,” says Simon Godfrey, to which Robert Ramsay retorts, “Aren’t you supposed to say ‘hello Wembley’ ?” and we are off and running with Tearing Up The Room, a song they used to play back in the day to open their sets, and which is also on Simon’s new solo album, Motherland.
“I am playing this entire gig in slippers,” Simon informs us before they begin, with Robert on harmonica. Simon is playing some almost staccato guitar as he sings and there are some harmonica bursts from Robert as the song shuffles along with a nice beat to start things off. Then we are back to 1980s and “the only Freefall track that I can play” and Simon correctly reckons there is only one person in the room who saw them, and that would be Sarah Ashley. And now she will have to read this blog because she gets a mention. The song is Summerhouse, which Simon wrote for his sister, who is sadly no longer with us. It eases away melodic as he strums and sings, and then it grows and settles down before rising into some lovely harmonica, everything producing a wonderfully gentle sounding song. “We thought we’d get the comedy numbers out of the way early,” says Simon, before continuing, “You can judge a man by the size of his guitar,” as he gets ready for the next song with his smaller guitar, to which some wit in the audience says, “It’s barely larger than a ukelele !”
After Freefall, Simon did not want to be a drummer so he learnt how to play the guitar, and this led into the band Men Are Dead. The next song in the set is called She’s All I Want, and is one of theirs. It also appeared on the Curious Things cd from Tinyfish. “We’re going to slow it right down to make it sound deeper than it is,” Simon says, and they get going with it. They really do get going with it because with an “It’s Robert Ramsay” they are playing at each other across the bongos.
“A lot of these songs are about me not getting any, but this is about me getting too much.” It is Wrecking Ball, which Tinyfish played as part of a lunchtime gig at The Peel, which you can read about here. “Can I just say, this was written years before Miley Cyrus,” although I am not convinced that comment in itself warrants a reenactment of the video with Robert. And they played the song, which almost seems irrelevant after that. “This is one of my favourite songs,” says Simon, to which Leon retorts, “You remember how to play it then.” “It is a song about inches and it’s called Inches. It is an epic. You can guess how it goes.” 30 seconds later we have heard Inches. Boatrace Day is about ugly people who want to sleep with good looking people. Simon strums in hard and it pushes along until the harmonica comes in. “Thems were the Men Are Dead years, when Rob and I would turn up to every toilet in London with Paul Worwood, and would be joined on stage by others from the audience, including Frank the Farting Flautist in the acoustic floor spot scene. We decided to do something else so I sent an email to Jim Sanders about forming a Prog band. We recorded the album and people liked it. Jim said he knew a drummer, and that he has a drumkit and a car.” It is at this point that Leon suggests that Jim was lying and that he was introduced to Jim by a friend. As he recalls, he first heard from Jim through MySpace. “It was just some greying bald guy in a cap on MySpace. Reject friend request !” Simon announces that Leon Cam(p)field will play on this one. “Welcome, boys and girls, to Prog.” “Is he doing his…?” asks Leon, “Yes, he is,” replies Simon, and we can see that Robert has on his hat and shades.
His spoken word leads us into Motorville, the Tinyfish number, with Leon on bongos. “It feels like we’ve never been away. Nice,” says Simon as Leon does his thing. “Sounds like Tom and Jerry running,” is a highlight of the band commentary on what they are doing. “So, yeah, that’s Tinyfish,” says Simon. “This was my audition piece,” says Leon. Simon sings in as he picks the tune to God Eat God, Leon adds light bongo, and causes laughter when he plays around. “Leave it on a suspended chord so it sounds deep,” says Simon, to bring it to a deep finish. As we move on to The June Jar, Leon treats us to a story, “We went to RoSfest and this song is in 6/8. I don’t count in 6/8, I just feel it, and I went for this fill and I thought of Henry Rogers telling me to go for it and I overshot the 6.” With Leon being the drummer at the back of the stage, “everyone turned round to look.” “The rhythm went out and we all got a thousand yard stare, and Ditchfield was on stage and was one of those who turned round.” They begin The June Jar, but then they stop and start over. “Why didn’t you do this at RoSfest and stop me looking such a wanker ?!” demands Leon. It races away, and Simon changes some of the lyrics to reference Robert Ramsay. Next up is Eat The Ashes, which causes Leon to comment, “you always say it is about when you burnt down your school.” “I didn’t,” Simon responds, “it was a friend of mine.” It is a nice little run through. “Speaking about lying…Rob was living in Munich and we left my bag on the train. I played this to song Rob and he knew immediately what it would be about, and he actually named it. We disagree what it is about – Rob says it is not about an argument.” We should take a moment to remember that Rob wrote the lyrics and named the song, and it definitely sounds like an argument. Anyway, Driving All Night sounds great considering it has not been through a rehearsal. “This is a song I deliberately wrote about nothing,” Simon tells us as they continue with Why VHF ? Leon is still on the bongos, and Rob is playing harmonica, dealing with Simon extending a part. “I was just doing that to see how long before he ran out of breath.” It rolls into a storming finish and the interval.
Simon returns from the interval in salesman mode. “These slippers are for sale.” “I’m going to play some songs from Motherland. This is my thank you for living here so long and not dying. The only reason I am going to the USA is because there is sex for me there.” Leon had gone out during the interval and now he comes back into the main room and announces, “it turned into more than a piss.” as he walks back in front of the musicians. “This one is about leaving life behind,” and Nine Times Everything strums in steady as Simon sings to a quicker tempo. For me, it does have a touch of Wide Awake At Midnight about it, which is no bad thing. “I was very surprised how well Shineback was received. Two dogs bought it. There is one song I could do live, which is Faultlines with Rob on harmonica.” It is a voice and an acoustic guitar really, and it is sublime. “I should write some happy songs. I support the Phillies and wanted to write a song because they’re shit.” We’re Not Angels taps away upbeat with a high sound and bounces along. “Let’s do another depressing one.” Simon is looking down at his notes. “This brings home why I need glasses or contact lenses, or a small telescope.” Sally Won’t Remember is about a friend’s mother with alzheimers, and the rounded melodic sound grows so well. Well, it did until “Oh, shit,” and he fumbles around, “oh, I’ve got that completely wrong.” He eases out of that and it fades to finish. “There comes a time in every man’s life when he must invite Leon back to the stage.”
Now we move to some songs from The Big Red Spark, and The Refugee turns into their homage to The Goon Show with Leon, supposedly on bongos, actually running through the room to play them as he passes by while Rob does his level best to keep the narrative going. Simon rubs against the bongos and the words suddenly take on a completely different meaning and become way too funny. Then it’s The Big Red Spark running away. “It’s all fifths from here !” and they go into a big finish. “I can’t believe you remembered it !” says Simon to Leon. I dread to remember how we got on to Flanagan and Allen and the audience breaking into a rendition of Underneath The Arches, but so much worse than that was Leon getting on to a discussion of pubes, and in particular grey or ginger pubes. On the basis that he has neither, it appears that Leon wins. “This is the last song we will play, but it goes on for days.” Leon does not have a falsetto any more and he can chart his losing it against this song.
So we have All Hands Lost, played for the last time, a fourth time, and not for the last time. Leon does not have his jingles but clearly has his eye on Rob’s jangles. The crowd sing along to the chorus. Robert Ramsay speaks, they nod together for all time. And it kicks away with big bongos. “Anything could happen in the next half hour,” says Simon. It halts. “I don’t really do anything at this point,” says Leon, but we all know that Jim Sanders usually does. “I’m going to try it. You can laugh at me – no grey pubes !” Leon makes some sounds, promptin Simon to say, “Jim Sanders, ladies and gentlemen.” It flows away melodic and the crowd sing along, growing louder as it continues. “My name’s Simon Godfrey, this is Leon Camfield, and that is Robert Ramsay. Now go away or I will taunt you a second time.”
You can go along and see Simon for yourself on Saturday 19 April at The Good Intent in Petersfield, Hampshire playing an evening of acoustic prog with Tom Slatter.
Or you can see him on Thursday 24 April at The Bedford in Balham supporting Oliver Wakeman and Gordon Giltrap.
You can hear some music from Motherland here.
You can see more of my photographs from the afternoon here.