Category Archives: Other stuff…

This part of the blog is for all kinds of posts relating to music, literature, art, current affairs and just about anything else that interests us, or we think matters.

Tom Waits (Edinburgh Playhouse – 28/07/2008)

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One of the most memorable gigs we ever attended – more to follow when time allows…

Here is one review of this phenomenal gig from Alexis Petridis

The Guardian, Tuesday 29 July 2008

Tom Waits stands before a backdrop of battered megaphones, not so much acknowledging the standing ovation as orchestrating it. And as yet he hasn’t even played a note. He wiggles his fingers to denote that he requires the applause to become more vociferous, pretends to be buffeted by the ensuing roar when it does, removes his bowler hat and bows low.

Shamelessly milking a crowd who’ve endured some pretty byzantine anti-touting measures (you’re required to turn up bearing not just your hugely expensive ticket but your passport and bank card), Waits has something of the fairground barker about him; which seems ironic, given his notoriously idiosyncratic attitude to self-promotion.

The last time he played Britain, Waits hadn’t been here in 17 years, and it was for one show only – and was heralded by an interview in which he announced that he had no intention of coming here again for the foreseeable future.

The two Edinburgh dates on his Glitter And Doom tour arrive fewer than four years later – and by Waits’ standards they must be positively hot on the heels – but they come in no less peculiar circumstances. He publicised them by posting a video on YouTube in which he claimed that the tour’s schedule had been decided by astrology and that those who cared to look might find an illuminating acronym in the first letters of the towns and cities he was visiting.

MUSICIANS & GIGS: Ian Siegal, and me!

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Written by Beryl Guru (11/04/2011)

My first inkling that there even was a person named Ian Siegal in the world came in 2007. I was trying to see who was playing at a blues festival called Blues on the Farm in Chichester, and when I googled it his name came up as someone who was playing there.

My reason for trying to find out the line-up for this festival, was due to  hearing a rumour that a girl we liked a lot called Imelda Clabby (now Imelda May), had stopped singing with Mike Sanchez and Blue Harlem in order to form her very own band, which would be making one of it’s first public appearances at the festival.

It was a long way to travel from Darlington to Chichester, which was as far South as you could drive without ending up in the sea, but we Gurus reckoned Imelda was worth it. We also knew that Mike Sanchez was going to be playing there too, plus the festival of speed was on at Goodwood at the same time, and we had several different groups of friends living in that area as well, so hey why not?

All I could find out from the BOTF website was that Ian Siegal was definitely booked. I didn’t know anything about him, but looked at the picture of him which was on the site, and thought ‘bet that was taken a while back, he’s bound to be one of those very good, but very tedious middle aged blues guys who do long drawn out guitar solo’s, and think they’re Eric Clapton (yawn)!!!’

How wrong could one woman be?

 We got to Chichester and stayed at The Vestry a five star B&B/pub which was very nice, as we got to drink into the early hours and eat bar snacks every night we were there…

We saw The Miller family who’d been my friends since the 1950’s. We also knew some people there that Mike Sanchez had connected us with via his MSN group, which he ran under the name of Zorro! 

A great time was had at Blues on the Farm on the Friday night, seeing and hearing Mike Sanchez and his band, and also getting to know some new friends (Jilly, Ange, Steve and Uwe).

In spite of torrential rain we enoyed The Festival of Speed during the day on the Saturday, and attended a lovely party at Charles and Liz Miller’s house on the night.

Then on the Sunday, when Imelda was due to play we returned to Pump Bottom, Farm where the blues music festival was taking place…

The weather was awful as it was still pouring with rain, and very muddy underfoot. In fact we were ankle deep in the stuff even inside the marquee where the music was being played. When Lisa Mills took to the stage she was almost electrocuted, due to water leaking in and coming into contact with her electrical equipment…

Anyway, the excellent organisers managed to stop the leak and the weather brightened up a bit, and this Ian Siegal band came on.

The band consisted of three people. Ian Siegal himself was slim, tattoo-ed, bare armed, and dressed in a battered straw cowboy hat, faded denim waistcoat and jeans, and snakeskin cowboy boots. I remember feeling relieved that he had no paunch and didn’t look at all like I’d expected him to look. The others were a tall rangy bass player who also looked interesting, and an older dark haired man on drums.

Then they started to play, and that was it for me. Ping!!!

I just stood there riveted as the realisation of how good they were hit me. It was one of those eureka moments when you know that you’re witnessing something incredible, and you’re going to want to go on repeating the experience forever if possible.

Our friend Steve Wilkins, realising how impressed we were with Ian, insisted after he’d done his set that he come over and sit down with us. Then Steve introduced Guru’s Col to Ian, and asked for permission to take a photo. Ian stood up and Col stood next to him, in order that this could happen. Other people who were around, then just started snapping away, as if this man was some sort of exhibit. I felt slightly uncomfortable with that, so before I joined in I asked him first if it was OK, and when he nodded “yes”, I took a picture of them both for Col to keep.

Ian mentioned he would soon be making a journey North to play at The Cluny, so I made a mental note not to miss that. As soon as we got back home I began to look out for any other Ian Siegal gigs too, as after just this one encounter we were all well and truly hooked.

I went there primarily to see the wonderful Imelda’s new band, and to catch up with Mike Sanchez again too (and wasn’t disappointed of course), but came away with a premonition that Ian Siegal (and the way he played music in just the way we liked it), was going to be a recurring factor in all our futures…

When we got back home I looked on Ian’s website and saw that even before the two consecutive gigs at The Cluny, he and his band were coming to Guisborough. Feeling very excited at the prospect I quickly booked tickets for that.

The night of the Guisborough gig arrived, and we (Michael, Col and I), found ourselves sitting in eager expectation in a room that looked like it had never altered since the 1970’s, which I thought was quite sweet.

The band were even more amazing than they had been at BOTF. In the interval when we were buying ‘Swagger’ (his latest CD), I asked Ian if we had missed the Tom Waits night I’d heard he was doing at The Black Gardenia, and he said unfortunately we had. We didn’t ask him to, but to our delight he performed some Waits in the second half of the gig, and said it was for someone he’d spoken to in the interval, and I had that premonition thing again about Ian being of some significance to us, and knew we’d be seeing him again and again.

I also remember thinking he looked worryingly wasted, and hoped he wasn’t going to make himself ill with whatever excesses he indulged in, and depart this world before I did.

I just realised that sounds a bit selfish, as if once I’d gone, he could do what damage he liked… 🙂

Next time we saw the band was at the now legendary two parter at The Cluny in Newcastle, and both these gigs were even better than the ones we had seen the band do before. On the Saturday night Ian strutted and preened, and the band did justice to the music exactly the way it should be done. He also drank excessively onstage. I drink far too much myself, but I’d never seen anything like this. The next part of this set of two gigs at the same venue, was on the Sunday lunchtime. This time when Ian arrived on-stage he mentioned he needed to sit down for the first couple of songs, as he was still recovering from a rough night. That didn’t prevent people from plying him with double and triple JD’s, and even giving him bottles of the stuff, one of which he all but totally consumed during the course of the gig. Even one of our biker friends who had come along with us to see what all the fuss was about said “Christ, he must be a coke-head, as that’s the only way he could stay sober enough to perform a gig after all that” then he added “are his audience trying to kill him?” I had to agree with our mate, and felt quite upset in case this Ian bloke I’d just found overdid it all, as that would be a tragic waste.

I absolutely LOVED the gigs (the one on the Saturday night, and the one on the Sunday lunchtime), both of which were entirely different, with no songs repeated…and we all wanted to follow the band down to Nottingham, where they were going to play again on the Sunday evening.

Of course we didn’t because we had to get back and prepare for work in the morning! As the band were leaving for Nottingham, I asked Ian how on earth he could manage to do yet another gig that day, after the weekend he had already had. His answer was “it’ll be more like a comedy routine I expect, but at least I can sleep in the back of the car on the way down”, and with that he was gone… 

Anyway that was an account of my/our first four encounters with Ian Siegal, and since then we have attended many phenomenal Ian Siegal shows, and could tell interesting stories (some of them life-changing), related to those memorable gigs!

There have also been times when we had great seats booked for other bands, then found out they clashed with an Ian gig, and so either just gave the other tickets away or wasted them in favour of seeing him, and his excellent band which was made up at that time, of bass player Andy Graham, and Drummer Nikolaj Bjerre.

I’ve felt ever more entertained and enlightened with each time we’ve seen Ian Siegal, whether with one of the bands he plays in (of which there are several), or solo etc.

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Bannatynes – Beryl and Colin’s joint birthday gig 2008

We have followed Ian all over the place since that first incredible gig, and in an inspired moment back in 2008 when I was coming up to sixty-five years of age, I booked Ian and his band, Imelda May and her fabulous band, and our talented friends Norman Beaker and John Price, to do a joint birthday gig for myself and Colin.

I wanted to stage this occasion more than anything else in the world, and OK it cost me all the money I could scrape up, but it was worth every penny.

That party remains unequalled for us Gurus, and many of our friends say the same.

Quite simply, it was our ultimate dream gig!

A brief history of Guru Boutique, “what a long, strange trip this has been” (Gerry Garcia)!

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There were a couple of short-lived attempts at starting an ‘alternative’ boutique, which my parents called respectively ‘Quaker Girl’ then ‘Santana’ back in early 1970’s.

Then in 1972 on a wing and a prayer, my late mam (Irene Maughan) and I started the now famous Guru Boutique.

We knew nothing about business, and at that time thought we would fail like the earlier attempts had, and envisaged lasting no more than a few weeks if we were lucky.

We had no definite plan when we made that leap of faith of going self-employed to see if we could run a ‘different’ kind of shop, but just felt it was the right thing for us to do. The present Gurus (myself, Tony Smith, Colin Harrison and Kelly McWilliams), with a lot of help from our friends and customers, are here running Guru well over forty years later, and that to me is a miracle…and in my case at least, I’m still trying to get the hang of it all!

It’s all the fault of a rock band called Mother’s Lament who my husband Ray used to manage. We started going to London with the band in the late 1960’s and loved nothing better than by day mooching around Kensington Market (forerunner of Camden Market), and going to music clubs and pubs such as the Marquee or Klooks Kleek at night.

Coming back to Darlington seemed like returning to another world. In those days we didn’t have the ease of communication we have now due to fast trains, the internet etc., so the culture and fashions were very different in London to those here in the North East at that time.

I loved the whole London thing, especially the music scene.

In the early 1970’s after hearing my stories about what I had seen in the capital city, my mam and dad ventured down to see for themselves. On my recommendation, they went to Kensington Market and found trade suppliers who sold them some Indian clothing and gifts, and opened ‘Quaker Girl’. This little shop which was in North Road didn’t last too long, as it was probably too far out of town. Dad then went to one of the small ex-mining towns nearby and rented a lock-up to try again. I advised him to call this attempt, ‘Santana’ and at first it attracted a lot of attention. Too much attention, however, as a few weeks after it opened the shop was broken into and poor dad lost all his stock as he wasn’t insured. After that blow, he totally lost interest.

After it closed my mam came to work with me in a leather shop in Post House Wynd.I had recently taken the job of manageress of this shop, even ‘though the Leeds based owner was honest with us made us aware that it was on its uppers and he was trying to sell it. Anyway the stock dwindled, and towards the end we had hardly anything left to display in the window, so if say we happened to have a few leather skirts to dress the mannequins in, but no tops to go with them, I would bring some of my own Indian tops, or some velvet garments left over from the now defunct Quaker Girl in to complete the outfit. This filled in the gaps ensuring that the shop window didn’t look too empty.

We soon realised that the customers were more interested in our Indian tunics, cheesecloth kurtas and velvet tops (decorated with mirror work and embroidery) than the leather skirts and jackets which the shop was supposed to sell.

SO, when the owner finally closed the leather shop and put mam and I on a small retainer wage for a few weeks, until he could find new owners to take over, we decided to fill in the idle time by trying our luck at retailing again. Within a few days we had found a place where we could try to do that.

On a temporary basis, mam and I took this shoe box of a unit in a rather scruffy shopping mall in town called Court Arcade. We got it for a very low rent so we took a huge chance and quickly gave our notice in at the leather shop to give them time to find new staff before it changed hands.

Immediately we opened to our surprise we attracted a LOT of interest.

Mam contacted an Indian gentleman from Bradford called Mati Mir who she had found whilst leafing through a trade magazine.We told him what we wanted to do, and he said he was prepared to give us £300 worth of goods on sale or return to stock the shop, and then take it from there…

The stock sold, and the rest is history. We were unique in our area and became one of the very first ‘ethnic’ shops in the North East.

We attracted some of the younger and/or more ‘alternative’ people of Darlington, and it was a common occurrence for a group of hippies to be found sitting around cross-legged on our tiny floor, filling the shop with the music they were playing on their guitars and flutes and drums…

We soon widened our appeal and gained a good following of all kinds of customers of varying ages and strata’s of society, who wanted something different…

The addition of quality greetings cards helped expand our clientele too.

As my mam used to say in wonderment “we get all walks”, which made me smile as she meant we attracted a good cross section of the public to our tiny establishment.

This led to us having to move into a bigger unit in the arcade to make room to display more clothes, cards and gifts, and then take an extra unit opposite for posters and records.

We became mega busy had to take on friends to help us (the most notable being Tony Smith who has became a vital part of Guru over the years), and we eventually ended up occupying three large units linked together in Court Arcade.

The arcade became a real alternative place to go. Units set up alongside us selling records, retro and American clothing, comics, exotic pets and pet supplies, wool, jewellery and even an American-style diner.

It was great up there – even if it was cold, didn’t have facilities like hot water and functioning toilets (we used to pop over to Binns Store to satisfy the calls of nature). It was just a big shed on a concrete floor really, with a roof lined with asbestos…

The Three Squares nearby was our favourite place to go and buy sausage, egg or bacon sarnies, plus frothy coffee for a takeaway lunch, and that place is still the same lovely no nonsense ‘greasy spoon’ café to this day, and I pray it will never change…

Eventually, the arcade began to leak, and not just a little as we had to hire an industrial machine to suck out the water every morning so that we could open for business. The local newsagents used to save us their old papers so that we could line our sodden floors. At the end of a rainy day, we used to be walking on something that resembled pulped up paper mache… We were losing too much stock to water damage, and we knew that the time had come when we reluctantly had to move.

There was a pretty little shop in Blackwellgate that mam and I had always liked. It had been standing empty for ages, and almost seemed to have been waiting for us to take it over, so that is what we did.

It was 1990 when we ended our lease with Darlington Borough Council who owned Court Arcade, and moved to our present location of 24, Blackwellgate, and it’s now over four decades since we so innocently first started out in ‘business’.

More staff was needed in the new shop, as it had four floors, so that is when our friend Colin Harrison joined Guru to look after the first floor rock merchandise and clothing department. Then a little later (on her return to Darlington from university), Kelly Mcwilliams completed our little Guru gang.

We have also had many great Saturday people helping us in the shop, and there is even a tradition of several sets of siblings following each other into the Guru fold!

We have stumbled on down the years, mainly using our instinct to survive. We may not have become rich but we have managed to do enough to keep going, also very importantly to us we have been decent in our dealings with people, and in the process of that gained many valued friends who we would never have even met if we had not accidentally created Guru.

The saga continues and we will look forward to being able to deal with whatever comes next, as to us Gurus this is our shared adventure…

In these times where big businesses tend to categorise customers as consumers rather than recognise them as unique people, and depend on statistics to try to channel people’s tastes towards what they want them to buy, I think there may be more need than ever for shops like Guru, where hanging on to individuality and a more human approach are the key!

We’ve expanded onto the internet now, so we are trying to keep the same spirit that we have always had in the physical shop alive and well online.

SO much more has happened throughout the years we have been around, that if I tried to put it all into this post we’d have to turn it into a book. Therefore if you want to know more about our history and our shop, watch out for separate stories which I’ll be posting about specific things which have popped up along the way.

Like Gerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead once said, “what a long strange trip this has been” and I have to add in our case, “long may it continue”!

Beryl Maughan Hankin (Beryl Guru)

MUSICIANS & GIGS: Imelda May at O2 arena, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (11/02/11)

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Article written by Beryl Guru – for inclusion in a great little music magazine called ‘Blues Matters’:

Almost ten years ago my friends and I walked into a Mike Sanchez gig and encountered for the first time the wonderful Imelda, who at that time was singing backing vocals for his excellent band. She was stunning even then dressed in a Chinese dress, wearing a flower in her piled up hair and singing in a smoky retro style that mesmerized us all. My friend Colin observed “that girl is brilliant, one day she will be a huge star in her own right!”

We are ecstatic to report that this prophecy has come true, and I don’t think anyone who has seen Imelda fronting her own band will disagree with us on that. She (and they), just go from strength to strength. These are real musicians playing real music, and they work their socks off. They have a strong sense of camaraderie and their own distinctive identity that shines through. Imelda handpicked these musicians and every one of them plays a vital part in this success story. Darrel Higham (Imelda May’s other title is Mrs Higham by the way), has a great authentic guitar sound. Steve ‘animal’ Rushton is awesome on drums and backing vocals. Dave Priseman makes such an impact on horns that it just wouldn’t be the same without his distinctive style of playing. The amazing Al Gare is mad, bad and cool as **** on bass, and chronicles the band’s antics in his hilarious and informative blog ‘Here, Gare and Everywhere’ which is definitely worth following if you are Imelda May fans. Imelda herself just sizzles with real talent and sex appeal from the top of her trademark kiss-curl quiff to the killer heels on her stylish shoes. This girl from Dublin never fails to rock the joint with her fabulous voice, mostly self-penned songs and exciting stage presence. Speaking of those songs it is eye opening to count up just how many hits and potential hits they have to their name. Love Tattoo, Big Bad Handsome Man, Sneaky Freak, Johnny Got a Boom Boom, Mayhem, Psycho, Kentish Town Waltz, Inside Out, and so on. She even makes the few covers she does such as ‘Tainted Love’ her own, and as for ‘Proud and Humble’ when she delivered that in Newcastle she just had us, and I suspect the rest of the crowd, in the palm of her exquisite little hand…

Every member of this band is vital. That is why Imelda chose them all, and that is why it works…

Imelda May’s band are: Imelda (vocals/bodhran, Darrel Higham (guitar), Steve (animal) Rushton (drums), Dave Priseman (trumpet, etc), Al Gare (double bass etc) – ALL fabulous musicians, and all top people to be around!

Here’s a pic (taken by Imelda at the end  of the night), of the fantabulous Al Gare (with the ecstatic audience in the background), which I think says it all!!!

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MUSICIANS & GIGS: First encounters of a musical kind…

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This is just a personal comment from me, about fascinating early encounters with music.

When I was a small girl back in the early 1940’s I used to try to peer into the radio whenever I heard singing or instruments being played, in an attempt to try and see if there were tiny magical beings in there making the inexplicable sounds I could hear. This sense of wonder has stayed with me right up to the present day, and good music of all kinds has been and always will be, a very important part of life…

MUSICIANS & GIGS: Beryl’s best birthday…

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To say we Gurus need a regular music fix is an understatement, and in this part of our blog we will revel in writing about some of our favourite musicians, and finest musical experiences. Some of the gigs we will feature will be ones we had the pleasure of attending, and others will be ones we enjoyed organising and promoting ourselves, like the unforgettable occasion advertised in the image below…

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L to R: Imelda May, Ian Siegal, Norman Beaker.