Rockin' Around The Clock

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Junior Jump and The Bottom Line

A pub near you.

Actually, that's a lie, they aren't playing a pub near you, but you'll have to bear with me to find out what I'm talking about.

So there I was, on a wet Saturday night. Nothing to do. Bored. 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' on the TV. So my mind and feet turn to the pub at the bottom of the road. Close enough that I'm not going to get soaked to the skin but it's stil out. They have bands on most Fridays and Saturdays. They charge a fiver. What do you want for a fiver?

Actually, I'd known Junior Jump were playing for about a week, as I walk past the pub every day going to and from the train station, and they are old favourites in this neck of the woods. Time was when they held the bar taking records for at least three different pubs in my hometown, and several other places in Essex as well. It is a wet Saturday in November, with much of the country still gripped by Rugby fever. When I arrive it looks perilously as though the band will outnumber the audience (not as bad as it might seem - this is an eleven piece band), but numbers soon swell to a respectable 40 or so - enough so that the pub doesn't seem like an empty aircraft hanger in any event. The band themselves take this in good stead - it's part of the risk of playing this type of venue on a day like this. As Stevie B (baritone sax player) admits to me

'We did actually once play to three people, so it could be worse. And we're still having fun, so what the hell.'

After a brief flurry of activity (well, changing t-shirts for white and red ones as befits the day, the band take to the stage to the strains of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and then blast into the opening number, Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Lurve, during which guitarist Mark makes an impressive racket, and drummer Duncan does his best to raise the spirit of John Bonham. By the time vocalists Mal, Natalie and Heidi take the stage the whole band are grinning like idiots, as are most of the audience.

Can't Get Next To You is the first vocal number, and Mal has an impressive voice which handles the variable acoustics very well. This is no real criticism. Having helped mix sound for the band before now, I know what a hard trick it is to do sound for an eleven piece band in an enclosed space like a small pub, and if Natalie appeared to be having some trouble with the fold back, that nobody's fault and she accepts that with good grace and soldiers on with remarkable forcefulness.

What follows is two hours of hits from the sixties and seventies. Popular favourites, as always, are Al Green's Take Me to The River, the own energetic reading of Memphis Soul Stew, segued into Shotgun and River Deep, Mountain High. New items on the menu are a rather splendid reading of Preacher Man/Respect, featuring Natalie on vocals, and Lady Marmalade, during which Heidi is allowed to strut her stuff. As always the set ends with 'An old favourite of the Horn Section', Tom Jones' It's Not Unusual, which allows for a little audience participation - after all, why should the band have all the fun?

And fun it certainly is. As Stevie B remarked to me earlier;

'We're probably not as tight as we once were.'

But whilst that is certainly true, it does seem to me that the band are having more fun than they used to in the old days, and just possibly the more relaxed atmosphere about it all is even more fun for an audience – the odd fluffed horn cue or bum note isn't going to bother an audience having this much fun. Once upon a time, all these songs had their own little dance routines, carefully worked out and mimicked by members of the audience – no longer so. You can no longer spot an old hand at a Junior Jump gig because the whole thing has rather joyously turned into a bit of a shambolic mess. So thanks then to;

Mal, Natalie, and Heidi (vocals and, ahem, 'choreography'), Chris 'Mr Sticky Fingers' (Keyboards), Mark (guitar), Duncan (drums), Stevie G (Bass), Stevie B (baritone sax), Les (tenor sax), Phil (trumpet) and Mick (trombone) for a fun and thoroughly entertaining night out.

Now, Junior Jump might not be playing a pub near you anytime soon, but there are live music venues all over this land (despite attempts by the licensing authorities to do away with them). Bands of all shapes and sizes play them, from bands like Junior Jump to bands made up of geography teachers playing Genesis covers. It doesn't really matter. My point is that there is a cheap form of entertainment going on somewhere near you. Go try it out. Unless you are unlucky enough to get the night when those geography teachers are pretending to be Peter Gabriel, you'll probably have a better time than you thought, and it won't cost you a fortune1.

And lets be honest, even a bad night with live music has to be better than sitting in watching Chris Tarrant, surely?

And that's the Bottom Line, 'cos Blues Shark said so.

Because I can, this column is dedicated with respect to 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, who gave us the bottom line for 14 years and retired from professional wrestling last week.

Rockin' Around the Clock

Blues Shark

27.11.03 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1I can vouch for this having recently spent a very enjoyable Saturday evening in Den Haag watching Terry Teadreg play with his band 'Superman's Big Sister'... ed.

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