Saturday, July 30, 2022


 Again, for me a no-brainer, if again bringing back to these pages a fella I have championed before. But with good reason, like Difford and Tillbrook last week, he has a canon of as quintessentially English songs as has anyone. Which, considering his home has been in the U.S. for most of the last 30 years is quite something. A touch of the "Home thoughts from abroad" tucked away in there, methinks, to which end he resembles that another quintessentially English songwriter, a certain Richard Thompson. (Again, sorry Jordan.....) Whose name will pop up again, here, as you will read, having, at one time, offered gainful employ to Gregson. But first, the song, a glorious song that defines that cliche of home being where you want it to be. It isn't stated whether the protagonist is leaving England or returning there from afar and, indeed, it doesn't matter. The feel of what that home might mean is underlaid by the wonderful brass arrangement, french horn (awkwardly), that mainstay and staple of the brass and silver bands of the north of England, with their rich and evocative tones. Shorthand for old England, the last century, and particularly, the 1950s, as the makers of Hovis bread knew so well.

Gregson has had an interesting time of it, somehow retaining the same slightly bemused air of how did I get here, whether playing to a packed hall with his briefly one to watch band, Any Trouble, to huge acclaim on the folk(ier) circuit in his much loved duo with Christine Collister, or to a handful of punters in his latter-day solo iteration, playing small venues, arts centres and coffee houses. Oddly, it seems in the last he seems most at ease, guaranteed an intent and enthusiastic audience for his vast compendium of songs and self-deprecating patter. But he has seemingly hung up his capos and retired. No huge song and dance about it, a solo farewell tour sufficing. OK, and the special release of no less than 8 albums, month by month, during 2020. Covering the many and varied bases of his output, each of the 8 is themed in way way or another, allowing you to pick and choose the Gregson you prefer. His website explains it better.

RT I mentioned above, this being one of the more inspired moments of the long and illustrious career of the ex-Fairporter. I may even have told this tale before, but, as an early adopter of Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, buying their initial release, a cassette, only available from the pair directly, I had been delighted to learn they would be playing support to Mr Thompson and his band, at a much anticipated pre-Christmas concert at the Birmingham (UK) Odeon, a cinema that doubled as a music venue, and then the best night out in the city. My first capture of Gregson since the demise of Any Trouble, the two put on a great show, captivating the audience with their acoustic charm, however much prompted they were for the more electric oeuvre of the main event. So, imagine my surprise when, after the interval, on trooped the RT band, resplendent with both Gregson and Collister, she on backing vocals and he on second guitar and occasional keyboards. Wow and indeed wow! (No less than Steve Gibbons, also in attendance, was overheard to comment how this wasn't his usual bag, but how astonishing he found it.) I have probably seen Richard Thompson more than about any other performer over my years, as an electric band and also solo, but that band was possibly his strongest, yes, even more so than the arc grade wallop of his current trio. But something happened, at some stage, between Gregson and his employer. After a few years of playing live and appearing on a run of records, their ways seemed to abruptly part. The first I knew of it was a somewhat coruscating review, I think in Q magazine, by Gregson of Thompson's Mirror Blue. Which did not feature him. But the song, 'Put It There, Pal', which was a scathing demolition of an erstwhile friend, on the later You Me Us, may have. In the lyrics. I have always wondered. Collister, by the way, stayed with Richard Thompson, and will often crop up, even now, as a special guest at his shows, perhaps less so now he has married again, and has a wife who can be his vocal foil.)

Rather than linger on this episode, let me concentrate again on the subsequent years, which take in this century. This has seen the rebirth of Any Trouble, on a couple of occasions and a pair of albums, it looking for a time that an annual re-union show might be on the cards. He has toured alone, almost incessantly, or so it seemed, with also a pleasing return to a male/female duo, teaming up for a tour and an album with Liz Simcock. I always hoped it was desire rather than financial necessity that kept him on the road. In truth, probably a bit of both, but, as a Nashville domiciled songwriter for hire, I hope his royalties are, at the least, worthy of his talent. 

As I researched this piece I remembered he had also, for a time, been a member of Nanci Griffith's band, as well as, later, a member of Plainsong. Later still he was  the musical director for Dennis LaCorriere, the voice of Dr Hook, which makes for a varied set of skills. I haven't mentioned, either, his phenomenal technique on guitar, acoustic and electric, his competitive soloing perhaps another factor in his ejection from Thompson's band. Their extended duelling on Tear Stained Letter was always nothing short of incandescent.

I don't know quite where Gregson's current home is. Or heart for that matter, but hope they are in the same place and that retirement is kind to him. So, thanks, Clive, for all you have given to my pleasure. 

Below is the other version of Home, by the CG/CC duo.

And a (slightly) more recent live version:

One more? (With guess who.....)

Clive Gregson selected discography.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Home: Yankee, Go Home

Richard Thompson: Yankee, Go Home

This song has nothing to do with baseball, but regular readers of my writing know that I’m a huge Mets fan. Seriously, though.  And like most Mets fans, I hate the Yankees. Not just because of their long history of winning (as compared to the Mets’ shorter, but still long, history of mostly not winning), but because they, and many of their fans, are annoyingly arrogant about it. This season, the Mets appeared to have their strongest team in years, and despite some critical injuries, still are having one of their best seasons. 

And the Yankees are having a better season. 

So, when the two teams met earlier this week for a brief two game “Subway Series,” the psychological stakes were pretty high (and the competitive stakes for the Mets, who are not running away with their division like the Yankees are, were very high because they need to keep winning to hold off the Braves). The stands were packed with fans of both teams, and you could tell from the TV that CitiField was rocking. Both games were exciting, and while not perfectly played, there were big hits, great fielding, and clutch pitching. And lots of drama. 

And the Mets won both games. 

So, Yankee(s), Go Home. 

The teams will meet again in August for two games in the Bronx, and maybe my excitement will be tempered (although the worst case scenario now is a split of the season series), but when both New York teams are playing well, these games can be fun. 

The song, by Richard Thompson, of course has nothing to do with baseball at all. I believe that RT lives in New Jersey these days, so, if he follows local baseball, he could be a Mets or Yankees fan (or possibly even a Phillies fan, depending on where in Jersey he is), but I suspect that he’s more of a football fan (in the British sense of the word). Here’s an article from 2014 in which he claims to have become a Chelsea supporter (boooo!). He also mentions coaching his son, and I actually remember seeing his name in the AYSO coaching database back in my volunteering days. 

Instead, the song is an angry attack on American imperialism. Although it was released in 1988 on his excellent album Amnesia, the song is filled with dated references about American soldiers giving out silk stockings and chewing gum, and meeting girls in dance halls, but I don’t think that it is only about World War II, considering its references to burning effigies and gringos. Instead, it’s just a call for Americans to leave other countries alone. For the Yankees to go home.