“They can get no time to press,
Because of all the distress that the society leads. What I’m a longing for is some happiness,”
Black Uhuru “Happiness.”
Frome’s Cheese & Grain today annouced the booking of The Counterfeit Beatles in November, which is all fine and dandy, but yesterday it sadly had to notify ticket holders for next month’s appearance of legendary reggae band Black Uhuru that the show had been cancelled.
In fact, after numerous postponements, the entite UK leg of the tour has been axed, due to a backlog in visas. The Cheese & Grain expressed their sorrow, explaining they’ve “been assured that the band and their representatives have tried everything in their power to make this work, but unfortunately there is now no option but to cancel this show.”
Kinda reminded me of my favourite upcoming ska band, Girls Go Ska, from Mexico, proudly posting their European tour dates on Facebook, without a single date on England’s green and pleasent land. I commented, “I wish you could come to England.” And though the South America ska scene developed separately from the retrospective niche of Two-Tone here, the girls are fully aware of our nation’s importance within the roots of international ska, and replied with sad emoji, “so do we.”
Now the tour is reality, all I get is fantastic looking video clips from Germany, of crowds enjoying the pinnacle of contemporary South American ska, when I’ve no hope in hell of ever seeing them live.
Not to moan too much about the divided issue, and as much as I enjoy a Beatles tribute, I have to ponder, is this what Brexit Britain has become? Barricaded in from outside influence, regurgitating archived moments of British achievements in the form of tribute acts, much less, extremely unlikely for upcoming UK artists to export their wares in the same method the flagwaving-idolised achievers of yore once did?
Ironic in considering if we had Brexit in the sixties, we wouldn’t have had The Beatles. Derry and the Seniors were doing well in Hamburg for booking agent, Allan Williams, whilst the young skiffle band on his books, who had recently rebranded from The Quarrymen were paltry amateurs, lost amidst the flooded market of the Merseybeat circuit. So Williams sent the young hopefuls on a similar path, to Hamburg, and what came out the other end was the greatest band ever; every gammon wave your union jack now.
Everything about the Beatles was honed and shaped in Germany, from their performance skills, their association with Brian Epstein, and even the famed hair-do. The ability for UK musicians to tour other countries, particularly in Europe was paramount in shaping pop music, and equally, from Buddy Holly to Kraftwerk, the influence of international acts touring the UK.
I have to tip my hat to Frome’s Cheese and Grain, how such an average sized Somerset town can attract the standard of act usually reserved for cities. On Beatles, the venue has built the kind of reputation whereby Paul McCartney will pitstop for an intimate gig on his way to Glastonbury. But for want of an influx of international artists seems reserved for megastars on the Springsteen level, of which you need a stadium-sized venue, and you’d need to morgage your home for a ticket.
Longleat hosted a Diana Ross concert, and a number of other household names this summer, in the kind of conservative thinktank arrangement which took an average three hundred notes off each punter then told them they couldn’t bring in a folding chair. As if anyone who had amassed that kind of wealth to wantingly throw three hundred quid at one gig, and who would be eager to see a heronie of 55 years past would be of a suitable age to stand like a teenager for four hours; you can bet your bottom dollar a few deckchair hire conpanies rubbed their hands together that night. The young get tetchy when being herded like cattle, I can only imagine the disappointment from their elders.
Live music is big business, I get that, the hospitality industry was bought to it’s knees through lockdown, I get that too, but relaying the deficit onto the punter will not bring a stream of genuine fans, it will only bring an inequality culture of those who can afford to will, those who can’t have to suck it up.
But it’s not just about way to go to whack up the price of a Womad ticket, but more about the missed opportunities for amateur and semi-professional artists to export their talent further afield. What’s the point of extending a reputation internationally online, if you cannot follow it up by appearing live without an unaffordable bill, a financial advisor and a year’s worth of paperwork to fill in just to take a tambourine on a continental flight?
And what do we get in return for this supposed will of the people? An oil rig dragged into Weston-super-Mud and decorated with taxpayer’s much needed banknotes to resemble a pathetic play on words, “See Monster.” Yes, I do see a monster, as I swig from my crown embossed pint margo, pointlessly waving my blue pissport; it’s stranded us on this island with a bunch of self-serving, ignorant bastards.
Best we can do right now, is support the little man, to show our love and support to the burgeoning DIY ethos promoting local live music. This is where fervour remains, in the enthusiasm of imending talent, and pray for a better day when the red tape of
welcoming international acts will be cut.