Itchy, Twonkey, Gasp and Stan

The Flying Tailor

Paul Vickers’ book debut (Itchy Grumble), his new CD (Gasp!), and his 2013 Twonkey show have now all been launched in one go at The White Rabbit. I’ll be covering all three soon, but not right now as I haven’t read the book yet, haven’t heard the CD (barring one track), and might as well wait till the Brighton Fringe this weekend to cover Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra. Having had some kind of exposure to all three though, it’s looking like another almighty triumph for the man they call ‘Paul, from Dawn of the Replicants’.

The evening went swimmingly. It has to be said though that Twonkey fans have timekeeping issues. With a minute to go till the launch there were only about a dozen present. A few minutes later, you couldn’t breathe out. Tardy bastards.

Stan

Anyway, there was no doubting what for me was the most anticipated moment of the show. Given last year’s amazing Lon Chaney, which I adored right from first listen at the Brighton Fringe, I was most excited about Stan Laurel. Twonkey’s latest song about a long gone Hollywood star, and another collaboration with the incredible Pierre. Could it possibly live up to expectation?

I didn’t know, of course, that it would be part of the show. Only a fraction of his songs make it there. But then about halfway through, Vickers started telling tales about Stan. I knew that Laurel had spent his teenage years just around the corner from where I spent mine (Rutherglen, Glasgow – a shithole). But I didn’t know that he went back to his home town in Cumbria every year for the pensioner’s fun run!

Vickers was losing his voice – even his speaking voice – by then. He didn’t manage to get through the entire song without stopping for a drink. But despite or perhaps because of that, he’d never sounded better live. Just like Lennon supposedly waiting till the end of a long day till his voice was truly buggered to get the right effect on Twist And Shout, so a struggling Vickers sounded more ragged and beautiful than ever. And then there was the song itself.

On first hearing, was Stan Laurel on a par with Lon Chaney? Not quite.

It was better.

The track itself is another Paul and Pierre masterwork. If Stan Laurel would have have wanted a jaunty number – and he would have fit right in to the chorus of Hot Beryl – he didn’t get it. The track sounds ominous from the get-go. Brassy synths and a melody that seems intent on smiling, but never manages it. Even the lyrics seem quite downbeat for the subject. Somehow, it works wonders. Lon Chaney, a horror movie star who died under tragic circumstances, got a breezy uplifting anthem in his honour. Stan Laurel, whose career was an untarnished success and who walked off laughing into the sunset, gets this haunted masterpiece. As Lorraine Peacock once said, ‘Go Figure’. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried before hearing the recorded version. You know, in case Vickers had decided to sing the track in the style of Kermit the Frog or something. But it sounds as great on CD as it did live. Phew!

There’s nothing quite like expecting the world from an artist (or artists in this case), only for them to blow your expectations out of the water. If it wasn’t for Mr Laurel, I’d have heard the whole album by now. But right now Stan, Paul and Pierre are on a loop. Gasp! will have to wait a few more days at least.

Paul and Pierre have done it again. A simply amazing piece of work. Thanks fellas.

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