Hello and welcome. I’m Silver – guitarist and singer with Lavender Hill, a British rock band made up of, er, veterans, I guess you could call us. That’s us above. And at the top of the page. The other original members are drummer extraordinaire Razz B and our rhythm guitarist Andrew Baird. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out there has been some going and coming in terms of personnel but that’s for later.
We formed in early 2016 and this post will cover the band’s first year. Maybe. And by the way, if anyone’s interested, I’m called Silver because of my hair colour rather than my bank balance. It was a chance remark that seems to have stuck!
Anyway, as I’m the one doing the writing, this story comes from my perspective. If I can actually coax one of the others to write something they can tell it their way. In any case I can’t bend the truth too far as Razz would have something to say about it and he’s bigger than me.
The story begins a little earlier, on a cold night in January 2015. I was in Moscow at the country house of a friend and associate, Vadim. As well as work and sailing, Vadim and I have another interest in common. Blues. Since my early teens I’ve been listening to John Mayall, the original Fleetwood Mac (the Peter Green version), John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters…. the real stuff. Vadim introduced me to Joe Bonamassa and we would spend hours in a store in the Garbushka shopping mall listening to brilliant guitar work and open-heart vocals. So on this evening, after an al fresco barbecue in sub-zero temperatures (this being Russia that’s not unusual) Vadim and I headed for his music room. Well this room is the size of a basketball court and the walls were covered with musical instruments, many of them seriously beautiful…. and expensive.
“Choose your instrument”, Vadim invited me and I reached for a gorgeous sea green 1992 Gibson Les Paul Custom. Vadim had been taking lessons and was seriously good. All I could do was follow, but we kept jamming until the early hours.
On my return to the UK I spent hours rhapsodising about it to my long-suffering partner (LSP for the purposes of this blog). After a shrug, and pointing out that the acoustic guitar she had given me 5 years before had only been used once in anger when we wrote and performed a song to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary, she suggested I get some lessons. I think this was a ploy to distract me from my passion for off-road motor-biking and get me involved in something less dangerous. In any case, she paid for my first ten lessons and off I went to Horley Guitars in the town’s High Street.
Dom, my teacher, was 21 years old – a lot younger than me. He plays lead guitar in a metal band called Dead Before Mourning. They are seriously good and very professional. But he is also one of those inspirational teachers who can communicate a love for a subject, or in his case an instrument. His first question was, “What do you want to get out of this?” That wasn’t the easiest of questions and I hadn’t really thought about it so my answer surprised me. “I want to play lead guitar”. I was hooked again before the end of the first hour and every week for the next year I sat down with Dom. Eventually he became a coach, helping me with lead breaks and advising me on riffs and chords for the songs I was writing.
Why did I want to play lead? Well after a lifetime of being a pretty adequate rhythm guitarist, which is ideal when you’re singing, I guess I was up for a challenge. And also, while I’ve fronted as a singer in a few bands, when I was prancing around at the front of a stage I always felt slightly disconnected. That’s down to me. Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury obviously never had that sense of isolation – maybe if they did it worked for them. I just decided I’d like to step up.
My good friend Andrew Baird owns a lot of stringed instruments. Maybe 30. His background is mostly in folk music but he’s one of those infuriating people who can play in any style. In any case, he suggested we get together on Saturday afternoons to jam. So we did. No pressure, no thoughts of forming a band. But then in late summer, Andrew decided to set in motion ‘Horley Unplugged’ , an open mic evening for acoustic performers. At the same time I asked the guys at Horley Guitars if they knew any bass players looking for a band. As a result I met Bob Kemp and he came and sat in with Andrew and I as we prepared for the opening evening of “…Unplugged.” We played 3 songs – ‘Fields of Gold’, ‘Maggie May’ and ‘Galway Girl’. Bob was marvellous. And we weren’t too shabby. I certainly wasn’t dispirited enough to give up.
So I asked Bob if he knew of any drummers, and a few weeks later as the nights started to get cold again, we first met Razz B at Barnstorm Studios in Outwood. To begin with, we rehearsed as a 3-piece, but then Andrew joined us. It took quite a few rehearsals for us to be good enough to play a 1-hour set but in May we made it to a band night at the Airfield Tavern in Horley. The audience was mostly made up of friends and family but we weren’t booed off the stage so I’ll take that as a plus.
I also started writing again. Apart from the one song I co-wrote in 2009 for my Mum and Dad’s anniversary with the LSP, I must have suffered from the longest bout of writers’ block in history. Before that I went through a period where inspiration came almost every waking moment. If you go on iTunes you’ll find a song from 1993 called “Moving Pictures” which is a duet with the late Tom Yom’s, a great Cameroonian musician. In any case, the songs started to come again.
How we played the most difficult open-air gig and made a triumphant return to the Airfield Tavern will have to wait for Part 2. Sorry to have gone on. Reading back, this seems to be all about me. I’ll rectify that in the next instalment. Thanks for sticking with it up to now. We do get better!