Feb 282011

I have always had a good memory for faces. Last night, while smoking a cigarette outside the Florida Theatre during the intermission of the Hot Tuna concert, I spotted a face that looked familiar. The man was balding and had well worn facial features.

“That’s the guy who came out of the audience and played bass at the Flo & Eddie concert,” I said to my wife. She was not so sure.

Well, there was only one way to find out. I walked across to the ash-tray and stubbed out my cigarette and as I came back, the man was half walking toward me.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Aren’t you the guy came out of the audience and played bass with Flo & Eddie?”

He looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on his face but confirmed my supposition. “You must have a good memory,” he said.

“I’ve always been good at remembering faces, ” I replied. “But I am not so good at remembering names.”

“I’m Jim Pons,” he said.

Jim Pons reunites with The Turtles

We chatted for a few minutes. Jim is retired now but told me he has formed a blues band and is getting it together. We both agreed that the beauty of music is that it is always with you.

He asked me if I played. I told him I played keyboards but poorly. I had piano lessons from the age of seven but gave them up at 11, a decision I have regretted all my life.

“I carried on playing the piano, buying Beatles sheet music,” I said. “I even bought the sheet music for So Happy Together.”

He smiled. Jim was the bass player for the Turtles and recorded that track.

I said that I wished I had continued with the lessons until I was 15 or 16 and then I would have been well set to become a decent keyboards player.

It turned out that Jim’s parents made him take piano lessons as a youngster and he gave them up.

I would have loved to have chatted longer and talked about Jim’s playing days with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention but it was time to head back inside the theatre for the second half of the show.

“You know, you could pass for George Harrison,” he said, as I held the door of the theatre open for him. “It was his birthday on Friday.”

“You are not the first person to have told me that,” I said. “I was in Las Vegas to get married when I first moved to the States and a guy across the street yelled, “George Harrison!””

Jim’s comment reinforced a similarity that goes back more than 50 years. When I first started at Hanley High School in 1964, which also coincided with me giving up the piano lessons, my classmates used to call me George because I resembled George Harrison, more so in those days when my hairstyle vaguely resembled a Beatle cut.

In the 1980s when I was photographing non-league football matches for The Reporter Group of Newspapers, the fans of Hyde United thought I resembled Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones. As I took up my position behind the goal, the fans would chant “Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman!”

I could never quite see the similarity myself but then again I hadn’t consumed three or four pints of Boddingtons.

Still, I can think of a lot worse people to resemble than Bill Wyman and George Harrison.

Feb 242011

They say things come in threes. I have just realized that Sunday night will present a trio of entertainment opportunities.

First, there is the Oscar Awards ceremony. Oh I know that it is an extravagance that takes itself far too seriously these days but I have always been one who has enjoyed mingling with the stars. Besides, this year should see success for the British in the shape of The King’s Speech.

For the past two weeks on Sunday night, I have been tuned into the PBS channel and Masterpiece Theatre. Any Human Heart based on the novel by William Boyce has proved entertaining fare. Sunday will see the concluding part being broadcast.

You can see instantly that I have a conflict of interests. And unlike the days of yesteryear, I cannot video one of the programmes while watching the other live. I no longer have a VCR and have not invested in a Tivio or DVD recorder.

But whether I watch the Oscar ceremony or Any Human Heart becomes academic in the light of my wife and I having two free tickets to see Hot Tuna at the Florida Theatre.

I have always been a big fan of the West Coast music of the 1960s and 1970s. The Grateful Dead is my all-time favourite band. Jefferson Airplane were up there alongside Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, Spirit and The Doors and so the opportunity to see former Jefferson Airplane band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen was not one to be missed.

Of course, at the time of acquiring the tickets, little did I realize this gig would face such competition. But when it comes to entertainment, nothing beats a live performance.

I can read about who won at the Oscars on Monday. PBS will more than likely show Any Human Heart again in the future. But there will only ever be one performance of Hot Tuna at the Florida Theatre on February 27. And Jorma Kaukonen is quite emphatic when it comes to preserving any performance for posterity or possible commercial gain.

The Hot Tuna web site contains the following information:

Jorma Kaukonen  does not allow audio / video recording of any of his shows by the audience or the front of house engineer. Front of house engineers are not permitted to record the show unless authorized by Jorma Kaukonen management. If authorized, then recording in whatever format is property of Jorma Kaukonen and no copy will be made or retained by front of house engineer, the venue, the promoter or anybody else affiliated with the Jorma Kaukonen engagement.

Jorma Kaukonen archives and records his own performance for his own usage with no fee to the venue or promoter.

Jorma Kaukonen does not allow flash photography at the shows. Professional cameras are not allowed in the venue unless the persons has valid press credentials or are ok’d prior to the performance by Jorma Kaukonen’s Management at least 48 hours prior to the show. Only the first three songs may be photographed.

Promoter/venue will stop audio /video taping, flash photographers as well as people walking up to the front of the stage and take photos with their phone.

Clearly Jorma, and the band’s management, do not keep pace with the developments in compact digital cameras. Take the Fuji F80 EXR , for example, with its 27-270mm zoom lens, performers on stage can be nicely framed from 20 or 30 rows back. And such is the advance in sensor technology that acceptable results can be obtained shooting at ISO 800 or even ISO 1600. The Sony HX5 and Casio EX-FH100 are other compact cameras that can easily circumvent these restrictions. Such is the progress of camera technology.

I wonder if in the future, theatre-goers and concert-goers will have to undergo the kind of searches in place at airports to ensure that no one enters the auditorium with any recording device, be it audio or visual.