An old gas-guzzling, dirty-white, 1974 Chevy Nova barrels down a homeless-ridden street on a sunny morning. In the front seat are two young fellas, one black with a tight afro and a square jaw and menacing eyes, the other white, with greasy shoulder-length black hair, a dimpled chin and drooping opiated-eyelids. The static whirring of a radio can be heard as a station is tuned, after some fiddling, ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool & The Gang bursts forth from the speakers. Both men wear cheap black suits with thin black ties over white shirts.
“So tell me again about the drinking laws.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Well, it’s legal to drink in the street there right?”
“Yeah it’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal. I mean you can’t just go up to a cop in the street and start guzzling beerbong after beerbong in front of him until you spew on his shoes. But you can drink in the street, outside pubs and in designated places.”
“And the hash is legal? They got hash bars?”
‘Nah, nah, it ain’t legal, it’s decriminalised though, it breaks down like this; it’s okay to grow it, on a small scale, it’s okay to be a casual cannabis user, it’s okay to carry it because, get this, if a cop stops you in Durham you won’t spend the night in jail for having a small amount of cannabis.”
“So up here in Scotland you can spend a night in jail for having dope or drinking in the street, down there, the cops can’t even arrest you for it!? That did it man, I’m fucking going, that’s all there is to it.”
“You’d dig it the most. But you know what the funniest thing about Durham is? It’s the little differences. A lotta’ the same shit we got here, they got there, but it’s a little different.”
“Well in Durham you can buy alcohol in a petrol station, and I don’t mean between ten in the morning and ten at night either, I mean twenty-four hours a day!”
“Alcohol! Twenty-four hours a day! In a petrol station!?!?!”
“Yup’, I seen it happen man, cold beer, three o’ clock in the morning, out of a goddamm petrol station! And you know what they call a roll in England?”
“They don’t call it a roll?”
“Nah man, the Geordie’s got some fucked up language down there, they don’t know what the fuck a roll is.”
“What do they call it?”
“A bun or a bap, and they don’t even got them fresh at the shop in the morning, you gotta’ go to a bakers for that shit, and you ask a person in a chip shop for a fish supper, or a roll n’ chips, n’ they look at you like you’re from fucking Mars man!”
“What do they call a roll n’ chips?”
“Chip Butty!? What do they call a pie?”
“A pie’s a pie, but they call a bridie a pasty, and they put corned beef and shit innem’!”
“A corned beef pasty!?!? What do they call a Big Mac?”
“I dunno’, I didn’t go into MacDonald’s. But you know what shape their sausages are instead of square?”
“Yep, I’ve seen em’ man, circular sausages, they roll around the plate, they’re not even the same shape as a slice of bread! And you know what they drink in England instead of Irn Bru?”
“They don’t drink Irn Bru?”
“Nah man, Coca-Cola, I seen em’ slurp that shit down by the gallon, hell, they even put that shit in their whiskey.”
I probably have my parents to thank for my musical knowledge (which is prodigious). They raised me, separately between them, on a diet of Pink Floyd, Queen, Ten Years After, Thin Lizzy, Rory Ghallager, and many other countless notables, a pretty good introduction to music then, for any aspiring muso, and since I was old enough to put a record on a turntable I’ve been living to, for, and in music. I’ve dedicated my whole life to music and it has rewarded me greatly.
My dad is himself, a masterful musician, “the master of the telecaster”. Fond memories from my childhood of waking up on a weekend morning to hear him playing the blues on his guitar downstairs. He is a blues musician first and foremost but his prowess on the guitar is unmatched (or only equalled) by anyone I’ve met throughout my life since (and that’s a really big cast of shit-hot guitarists!).
People are always asking me about my accent - my accent is a heterogenous mixture of many dialects and colloquialisms as I moved about with my mum since I was a small child, I went to dozens of schools and moved dozens of times more, I lived in Holland where I was fluent in Dutch before I was fluent in English, and I also lived in London, Nottingham, Durham, many parts of Ayrshire, Glasgow and even, in my later life, Spain. So my dialect is a peculiar mixture, and my original birthplace largely unknown, but I will reveal it here, it is Durham, in a small village called Witton Gilbert, in 1984, during the mining strikes. The eighth hour of the eighth day, of the eighth month, of the eighth decade I was born into the world, and ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was no.1 in the charts.
I’ve been circumforaneous my whole life and I don’t go back home often, but when I do, it’s good to see my dad is still rocking, well into his sixties, in his band Timecheck. I don’t review cover bands for obvious reasons, but I’ve made an exception for Timecheck, and not just because my dad is in them, swapping between lead and rhythm alongside Cliff (the frontman) and driving forces Paddy and Stevie on bass and guitar respectively, but because I was genuinely blown away by their performance on 26th March at The Market Tavern in Chester Le Street. With a combined musical experience of over 240 years, they are tight-sounding, well-seasoned, and mesh together nicely.
Not just knocking out covers, but mashing them up, as in their medley of Pato Banton/Eddie Grant, and not just playing carbon copies but amping them up as in their rock version of ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ by Dusty Springfield which lies somewhere between the original and the Me First & The Gimme Gimmes punk one. The band are local to the North East but we hope to see them up here to play a gig soon, or maybe get my dad into the NHC shop for a blue session.
It’s great to hang with sexagenarians (and one quinquagenarian) who are inspired in their golden years, and not just rolling over like Beethoven, but when they’re up there and hammering out the tunes you wouldn’t know they weren’t tricenarians, and with a set so eclectic it can veer from funk to rock, from blues to reggae, it’s an entertaining night, fuelled by alcohol, dancing, sing-alongs and great music.
Check out the band’s page here https://www.facebook.com/Timecheck-1487736418189745/ and they are available for hire around the Durham and Newcastle area email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07581138244.
Noo I’m ganna gan doon the shop an buy a pyapa then am gannin yem.*
*Only a Geordie will be able to decipher that.