The Dog and Gun, Etherley Saturday 8th September 2001
THE HAPPY CATS
The Dog and Gun, Etherley Saturday 8th September 2001
by Tony Middleton
As there were no posters advertising the gig outside of the pub, it was the usual Saturday night regulars that were in for the gig. (apart from myself and some friends and a few stray bikers from a nearby rally.) Singers and entertainers are a usual fixture of a Saturday nights at the dog and gun but after watching The Happy Cats in action somebody (the landlady, I think) said 'Saturday nights are never going to be the same again' and this was agreed by all around. I feel sorry for whoever follows this particular classy act.
Basically, three excellent musicians played a superb selection of songs and the whole pub sang, clapped and even danced. In slightly more detail, the lads opened with 'P'ricco' (that's maybe an abbreviation on the set list that I blagged off Marty, which I believe is now the traditional thing to do for these reviews) and the tone was succesfully set for the evening. A slightly faster version of 'Driftin' through' followed with Marty alternating between harmonica and accordian, using the latter for the 'fadeout' section. 'All fall down' followed as a fitting tribute to "one of the great songwriters- Alan Hull" (Marty), it was also a great showcase for three musicians working well together, although I'm sure Marty could find a more conventional way of warming his whistle!! 'Looking for the heart of Saturday night' (The Saw doctors I think) and 'You've got me on the Run' preceeded an excellent version of Shania Twain's 'Still the one' which saw Brian move to behind the keyboard and the first and very welcome appearance of Marty's sax. 'Je Suis Desole' which I hadn't heard before came next and then it was 'The Beatles go cajun' with 'Help'. A supremely cool version of the Four Tops' 'Don't walk away Renee' followed with Martys soulful vocals doing full justice and more to the effective slower tempo. At some point, and I think it was here, the lads broke from the set list and did the traditional song 'water of tyne' and if you ask me, it should stay in the set. Rounding off the first set was a rousing version of the Pogues (with Kirsty McColl) 'Fairytale of New York' and then it was off to the back for some milk and chicken in jelly whiskas.
'The keel row' opened the second half followed by 'Dirty old town' which had everyone singing. A song about a "female scallywag" 'Lily of the west' came next followed by an excellent 'Speed of Loneliness' (covered by Nanci Griffiths) and then 'Sixties Still' which may be another Saw Doctors song. 'Can't help falling in love' again had everyone singing and the volume went up further for 'Meet me on the Corner'. The Mavericks 'dance the night away' and Van Morrisons 'Brown Eyed girl' had most people dancing and in serious party mode. 'Bring me Down' was announced as the last song, although we were told that if we shouted for more we'd get a further two songs. We didn't need to be asked and the encore was inevitable and we were treated to "the truckers anthem" 'Willin' by Lowell George and the Rolling Stones 'The Last Time'.
However, a crowd hungry for more started to shout for 'Fog on the Tyne' and eventually, even though they hadn't rehearsed it the lads gave in and did it. Alledgedly stuck for the words Marty asked some drunken individual at the front to do one of the verses. Whether or not I can now ever go back into the Dog and Gun remains to be seen... As soon as they had finished, the management were in a rush to re-book them and the buzz continued in the bar for a while afterwards. The band are extremely approachable and genuinely seem to be three blokes that are just enjoying themselves, it shows in the performance and is very infectious.
If you haven't seen the Happy Cats yet, then make sure you do. If you have,then you'll be back...
Thanks lads, it was a great night.
The Barrels Alehouse, Berwick, July 20th 2001/The Wooden Doll, North Shields, July 27th 2001
Having read the reviews about Barrels there is really not so much to add. Billy was just as good and humorous as I remembered from last year. To understand all the jokes I had to start reading English tabloids though. When I stepped off the ferry on Friday the 20th of July, I had never heard the name Jeffery Archer, at least not that I can remember. Then several singers were referring to him, dedicating songs to him, joking about him. I had to find out who this peculiar fellow could be. So I did some quick research (The Mirror and The Sun). "Walking the dog" (or "Woking the dog") should be recorded. Has Billy made any CDs on his own? Otherwise it has to be one of the tracks of a BT4 to come. Preferably recorded live at a place like Barrels.
I went to see The Happy Cats because of the Lindisfarne connection. I was not disappointed. In Sweden most pub bands play covers of The Rolling Stones and other blues/rock artists. The Happy Cats can make the music swing just as much with a very different set of instruments. They have a very good mix of song you can sing along with and also wonderful songs that you don't hear very often elsewhere. One of the highlights in my view was "The lily of the west".
I went to see them the following Friday at the Wooden Doll in North Shields. That made me understand more why Barrels is such a good place for live music. The Wooden Doll is a lovely place on a warm late July Friday evening; you can have your beer outdoors and watch the sunset. But when it comes to music Barrels is way ahead. The Happy Cats made a good job and managed to work up an atmosphere at The Wooden Doll. At Barrels the atmosphere was there from start, you knew instantly that people had come for the music just as much as for the beer.
The Barrels was really a night to remember. The people working at Barrels have a great sense of hospitality. Before I went to bed that night they provided me with an "early breakfast" (guess what time?)
Hope to see you again.
The Barrels Alehouse, Berwick - Friday, 20th July 2001
A Double Bill of Pure Entertainment
Billy Mitchell/The Happy Cats
The Barrels Alehouse, Berwick
Friday, 20th July 2001
by Jillian Whiting from The Berwickshire Advertiser
It is tempting to try and analyse music too much, to concentrate on a tricky chord sequence or on vocal range, to get lost in a guitar solo or use of poignant lyrics. But sometimes you get all of the above and it falls under the category of pure entertainment. Friday nights double bill of Lindisfarne's Billy Mitchell/The Happy Cats, was just one of those rare events. The highest praise is that we simply didn't want the music to stop or for the evening to be over.
Billy Mitchell kicked the evening off in fine style with Come Home Soon, his combination of humour, harmonica and acoustic guitar had us alternately hysterical and awe struck. I'd love to include all of Billy's jokes and anecdotes but that would take a separate review. Suffice to say that his version of Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry and his Governor of Hong Kong inspired Walking the Dog, were hilarious high spots. And yet when the laughter stopped and Billy started to sing we were transfixed by his voice and sheer ability to control an audience. It was impossible to look away, indeed there were several songs where I feared emotion would get the better of me and judging by the thunderous applause, the rest of Barrels felt the same way. An anecdote about a pub in south Shields ('The Flying Stool') was juxtaposed with the gorgeous Rod Clements song Can't Do Right For Doing Wrong. To have us roaring with laughter and then so quiet that we could hear ourselves breathing is a rare ability.
It was easy to spot a Lindisfarne song, the Billy Mitchell fans (of which there were many) would join in with every word. But it was an evening which thrived on audience participation, both Billy Mitchell and The Happy Cats positively encouraged it. High points of the night included Together Forever a Rab Noakes song from the Fog On The Tyne album, Born At The Right Time written by Billy himself, and his own version of You've Got A Friend which he made humorous and enormously moving at the same time. When his set ended we demanded an encore and were rewarded with Cat Stevens' Wild World, complete with very passable Sting impersonation.. "Thank you" he said when we finally let him go "If you've enjoyed tonight my name is Billy Mitchell, if you haven't it's Rod Clements". To keep you Lindisfarne fans up to date Billy informs me that they will be touring from October and releasing a new album in March.
Marty Craggs, lead vocalist and man of many instruments with The Happy Cats, was a member of Lindisfarne for seventeen years. After an amicable split he formed The Happy Cats with Les Dodd (vocals/guitar) and Brian Duffy (vocals/accordion), and they have been gigging now for a couple of months. Marty told me that band was all about "having a good time". This was certainly transmitted to the audience. How to describe The Happy Cats style? I'll leave that to the recipe for success which Marty outlined to me "A drop of the Irish, a hot spoonful of salsa, a twist of Tamla, shake it all up with thirty years of Rock and Roll experience and garnish with good humour". Perfectly put!
Their ebullient style and obvious enthusiasm had us dancing, clapping and singing from start to finish. There would appear to be no instrument that Marty Craggs cannot play! He brought out a whistle for the Alan Hull song All Fall Down, a saxophone during a brilliant version of The Saw Doctors Living In The Sixties Still, then there was a flute for Fairytale of New York. Not to mention accordion, harmonica and maracas which featured throughout the set. The vocals were superb, Les and Marty complementing each other wonderfully during Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night and Marty's voice echoing hauntingly through Barrels on Just Walk Away René. Brian Duffy particularly excelled himself on the accordion during a version of The Beatle's Help, and it was at this point that Marty asked "Do you fancy a bit of a sing?". But in fact we couldn't stop ourselves, we were part of the performance, singing, clapping and smiling - and that was just what The Happy Cats wanted. A guitar solo by Les led us into a John Prine song Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness, this together with You've Got Me On The Run another Saw Doctors song were my own personal highlights - but there were so many. The Happy Cats ended appropriately enough with The Rolling Stones classic The Last Time, promising us that it would not be "the last time they play in Barrels". I fervently hope that this is a promise they will keep.
Photo archive 3
The very first Happy Cats gig!!
Were you there that night?
Photo archive 2
The Bell and Bucket June 2001 - second(?) gig by The Happy Cats
This was my first time at a Happy Cats gig, and my lack of familiarity with much of their material only added to the charm of the occasion. First song was a Cajun sounding effort called Pizzericco, immediately followed by Driftin' Through. Marty later told me that Brian and Les wanted to leave this one - Marty's greatest hit - out, but he had insisted. I'm very glad that he did, as I would have been disappointed if I hadn't heard it. This song was always out and away my favourite track off of Welcome To The Neighbourhood, and it was the prospect of hearing it performed live again which tempted me to venture south. The song's instrumental fade-out was performed on duelling accordions, and as I recall, it ended suddenly.
There followed the inevitable tribute to Alan Hull, in the shape of All Fall Down, which was always one of my favourites from Alan's wide repertoire. After that, a song I didn't recognise, something about ‘tearing down the boulevard'. According to the set list which I cadged off of Marty, it's called Looking For The Heart of Saturday Night. Then one of the evening's true highlights, which I for one can readily identify with, Sixties Still. Marty brought out his sax for this one. ‘My Heart is Living in the Sixties Still' - well, speaking for myself, I just about made it into the first half of 1973, but that was only with considerable assistance from a band called Lindisfarne. Which probably goes a long way to explaining my total lack of familiarity with most of this set. Next up, a song I DID recognise, Fairytale of New York, which ended with a highly effective Irish jig arrangement. Next came Je Suis Desolé, which sounded to me a bit like a sort of Jacques Brel meets the Pogues. The sixties time-warp continued, with the Beatles's Help! and Walk Away Renée played back to back. Wonderful!
Then came an excursion into folk, with an all too brief version of The Keel Row, complete with an imaginative reggae intro. Dirty Old Town followed. For lovers of trivia, there had already been a couple of tacit references to Kirsty McColl (can you spot them?) in the course of the evening, and this one was written by her dad. Then came an instrumental, which left me rather confused. It is down on the set-list as Speed. The intro, played on accordion, sounded like the chorus of Meet Me on the Corner, and after that, a lengthy acoustic guitar solo by Les ensued. It sounded fine, but left me feeling disorientated. Two more songs I didn't know, On The Run, and Brown Eyed Girl. Then, Lily of the West, here sung in the manner of an Irish folk song, which I know as the opening track on Dylan's A Fool Such As I. Then Willin', and an encore of the Rolling Stones' The Last Time, though as Marty says, he hopes it won't be, and so do I. A thoroughly enjoyable set, and maybe next time I will have a clearer idea of what is going on.
Marty was on brilliant form, and the new set-up serves as a great showcase for his multi- instrumental talents. Les stuck to acoustic guitar throughout, and Brian to his accordion. Marty sang lead vocals, introducing harmonicas, sax, tin whistle, accordion, maracas and whatever else one after the other. Now we know where his mind was at in those last days with Lindisfarne, when he stood there shaking a jif lemon and looking bored. This was an eclectic performance indeed, drawing on a formidable array of sources and inspirations. Marty cites the common Celtic connection for his convincing rendition of Irish music, and taken all in all he comes over as a Zelig complex set to music. I am happy and relieved that Lindisfarne's stray cat has found such a good home, and it is reassuring to find that Walker was not after all the end of the line. I'm sure that I'll catch up with Marty and his felicitous felines again, somewhere down the road.
There was a rather surreal moment after the show, when I had a brief chat with Brian. I made reference to his accordion playing on Another Fine Mess, but neither he nor Marty seemed to have any idea what I was talking about. No doubt they struggled with my accent, which is considerably more ‘northern' than theirs.
Surreal moment number two had come a short while before when I realised that there was a lady present who was engaging in the same bizarre pattern of behaviour as myself, ie scribbling away in a note-book, while everyone else was busy enjoying themselves. She turned out to be Jillian Whiting from the Berwickshire Advertiser, and I am very happy to be able to state that she has reviewed this wonderful event in far more lucid, articulate and informed terms than myself.
Just the same, it was a great night, you should have been there. There has been a great feeling in the Barrels both times I've been there. It really is a brilliant venue. A little way down the street, there is a record shop, with cd's by Rod Clements and Steve Daggett in the window, accompanied by a notice ‘You've seen them at the Barrels, now hear them at home'. It's that kind of place, and a Lindisfarne enthusiast feels instantly at home. Steve, incidentally, was among those present, and once again he was a most able master of ceremonies. It was a pleasure to have him check my ticket.
Every Friday night should be like this!
The Wooden Doll Pub - Wednesday, 20th June 2001
The Wooden Doll Pub, North Shields
Wednesday, 20th June 2001
by Liz Ogden
Summer's here at last! After a sunny drive up the A19, we finally arrived at the Wooden Doll, after only a slight detour via the previously named Old Wooden Dolly on the Quayside!! Another first. The pub was almost half full already, but luckily the table at the front was empty. Only three of us tonight, as Norman was at home suffering a severe case of alcohol poisoning!! Brian greeted us as we went in, apparently Marty and Les had gone for their Whiskas. Anyway, by 9 o'clock they had returned and the pub was pretty full, ready for a good night.
The set opened with Pizzericco, with Marty playing maracas.It's a good one to warm up to and sets the tone for the rest of the evening. This was followed by Marty's own composition, Driftin' Through. I noticed he put his whistle in the back pocket of his jeans, presumably to keep it warm and spare us the performance at the previous gig in the Bell and Bucket!! Then, the Happy Cats' tribute to Mr. Hull - All Fall Down. The next two numbers were in reverse order to the set list - You've Got Me On The Run, followed by Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night.
Je Suis Desolé came next, which is one of my favourite numbers in the set and then Shania Twain's Still The One. I really love that one too. I was actually at the bar for most of it. It's no secret that I've really missed hearing the saxophone, sounded great on this one. Marty had a "senior moment" during the next number, which was Help, the old Beatles song, losing the plot slightly on the lyrics but fortunately there were a few folks ready to help him out. Who says nostalgia's not what it was?! Now the Four Tops were never my favourite Motown group, (it may have had something to do with the dancing dolls routines!), but I do enjoy the Happy Cats' version of Walk Away Renée. The first set then concluded with Fairytale Of New York....very seasonal!!
So then it was off for 3 saucers of milk and a trip to the litter tray.... for the Cats that is. The rest of us had to make do with beer, shame (or, in my case soda water.. driving!)
The second half of the evening kicked off with a mainly instrumental version of Keel Row, with Marty singing one chorus, followed by Dirty Old Town, Mark Knopfler's Lilly Of The West and Nancy Griffiths' Speed Of Loneliness. Sixties Still always seems to strike a chord with the audience. I can't think why. Love that sax!! Everybody joined in with next number, Falling In Love With You, as they did with Meet Me On The Corner. "Vintage Lindisfarne" as Marty describes it. MMOTC, that is, not FILWY, which we all know was sung by Andy Williams!! (Elvis who?) .
Two more Mavericks' numbers, Dance The Night Away and Bring Me Down, with Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl in between, closed the set. Except for the encore of course, which comprised Willin' and the classic Rolling Stones' The Last Time. And that was the end of another great night.
Having got a few gigs under their belts now, The Happy Cats seem very relaxed and having fun. If you haven't seen them yet, then you've missed a treat. See you in Berwick in July.
The Bell and Bucket, North Shields, June 1st 2001
The Happy Cats in Concert
The Bell and Bucket, North Shields, June 1st 2001
This was the second time we had seen The Happy Cats, so we knew the sort of thing to expect. However, the venue couldn't have been more different - a small pub, with the band in the bar, just in front of the window, in a room which got steadily more crowded as the evening wore on. The landlord eventually persuaded them to start sooner rather than later, and they were off. (After the concert I asked Marty to let me know the names of the songs that were new to me, along with the original artistes, which makes this review much easier to write).
They started off with Pizzericco, by the Mavericks, a good lively one to get the proceedings going, then on to the wonderful Driftin' Through, with both Brian and Marty on the accordion, swiftly followed by All Fall Down. Then onto new stuff for me - and for them, as they said it was the first time they'd played it - Looking for The Heart of Saturday Night by Tom Waites. During this song the landlord brought out a patio table and umbrella to put in the middle of the bar as it was so crowded and there was nowhere for anyone to sit! Marty asked them if they felt like they were on holiday - it was certainly hot enough!
Next was a song by the SawDoctors, You Got Me On The Run, with Marty playing the tin whistle, then Brian moved onto the keyboard for Shania Twain's Still the One, and Marty did a sax solo in the middle. I couldn't have imagined anyone else singing this, but they do it beautifully! Back to accordion for Brian and the lemons(!) for Marty, and they went into Je Suis Desolé by Mark Knopfler, which is a real Cajun-sounding number. Marty then checked that we knew just how lucky we were (!) before going into Help. Walk Away Renée came next, with Brian back on the keyboard, and the first half was finished off with Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) - slightly surreal being wished Happy Christmas in June! This finished with a storming instrumental, with the flute being used very effectively - wonderful! They then went off to have 3 saucers of milk, so they said, but personally I don't believe them as I don't really think it mixes very well with beer, does it?
The second half started with a short instrumental, The Keel Row, with the audience encouraged to join in, going straight into Dirty Old Town. Marty threw in a couple of personalised lyrics, including "Happy Cats are prowlin' on the beat". He then proceeded to warm up his whistle by putting it down the front of his trousers - there's apparently nothing worse than a cold whistle!! He used it in another Mark Knopfler song next, Lilly of the West. I'm fast becoming a SawDoctors fan as a result of these concerts - the next one was Sixties Still, which everyone seemed to love, not just me. The sax made another appearance at the end of this song, too. Next followed a song which I'm beginning to really enjoy, Speed of Loneliness, by Nancy Griffiths.
Marty then inquired as to our singing voices, and Les started the introduction on the guitar, followed by Brian on the accordion, to Can't Help Falling In Love, and it seemed as if the whole pub was joining in even before Marty started singing! It was absolutely wonderful, with harmonies at the end - left Elvis' and Andy Williams' versions standing! Then came "a bit of daftness" - another one everyone knew and joined in with - Meet Me On The Corner. As Marty said at the end, "Vintage Lindisfarne - I love it!!" Don't we all!
Dance the Night Away, from the Mavericks came next, and I'm sure if there'd been any room we would all have been dancing by now. Another of my favourites next, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, and the last song was another Mavericks number, Bring Me Down.
They quickly came back for an encore and sang Willin', by Little Feat, and the real last song was, appropriately enough, The Last Time, by the Stones. They had to get back through their cat flaps, otherwise there'd be no fish in the morning for them. However, the audience weren't satisfied, and demanded more - the landlord came back - twice - telling us it was last orders and we had to go and spend some more money. He begged the band to do some more, and asked the audience to throw money on the stage as he was still twenty pounds short cos he'd been buying them food and drink all night and needed them to come back on stage! Les was protesting that they hadn't practised any others! - and it looks like he wasn't kidding as they came back and did a repeat of Je Suis Desolé which went down even better the second time.
As with the last concert, they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, as much as the audience if that's possible. I certainly intend to pester local landlords on Teesside to book them - I suggest you do the same wherever you live - and get up to The Barrels on the 20th July if at all possible to join the rest of the cyber crew!
The first ever Happy Cats gig at The Grand Hotel Tynemouth May 2001
The Happy Cats
The Grand Hotel, Tynemouth, Friday, 18th May 2001
by Judith Watson
Having been to see Marty guesting with Rick Payne a month previously, and been amongst a very small, select audience, I wasn't sure what size of audience to expect with his new band - but we needn't have worried. By the time we arrived we could still get a table, but it was almost the last one, at the back (leading to the poor sound quality on the attached video clips). By the time the band came on stage the place was heaving and everyone was prepared to have a good time!
The band consisted of Marty on lead vocals and playing his usual instruments - sax, accordion, a selection of harmonicas, flute and a new one on me - the bodhran, Les Dodd on acoustic guitars and vocals and Brian Duffy on accordion, piano and vocals. They sang a vast range of songs, some we didn't know and some very familiar. The Lindisfarne-related songs were Driftin' Through (of course!), All Fall Down and MMOTC. There was Still The One, Fairytale of New York, Just Walk Away Renee, Can't Help Falling In Love, Brown Eyed Girl, Just Want To Dance The Night Away, The Last Time, Dirty Old Town - and many more that I can't remember. As the evening went on, more and more people got up to dance - the music made it difficult not to!
During the interval who should arrive but Dave Hill's stag party contingent - where else to go but your mate's debut gig? Ray, Billy, Louise (it wasn't an entirely male party!) and the rest of them all seemed to enjoy the music as much as everyone else.
I would thoroughly recommend going to see the Happy Cats if you get the chance - you'll miss a treat if you don't. The only Lindisfarne addicts I came across were Michael and Rachel - although of course the place could've been full of people I didn't recognise! - but I suggest you give them a chance and have a lot of fun at the same time which Marty is certainly doing!