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Over Hitchin Tonight!
review of The Wurzels' gig at The Cricketers in Hitchin,
Hertfordshire, on Thursday 3rd June 1999 by Paul Gunningham
| Set List | Gallery | Postscript
night of 3rd June 1999 will long be remembered in the sleepy
North Herts town of Hitchin as the night the Wurzels
hit town. The Cricketers pub played host to a taste of the
Wild West Country seldom seen around these parts, where scrumpy
drinking and dung spreading are, relatively speaking,
minority interests - at least, they were before now!
Even mine hosts Kevin and Kim were unprepared for
the astonishing spectacle as hordes of Wurzels fans descended on
the garden and car park behind the pub, where the band were booked
to appear on stage under a marquee. The lucky 200 or so who were
able to get tickets for this extremely rare event witnessed unprecedented
scenes as Wurzelmania! swept through the crowds. For those
who thought Wurzelmania was just a passing sixties and seventies
phenomenon, the Wurzels had a message: Wurzelmania
is not back - it's never been away. And it's here to stay!
From the minute the band stepped up onto the stage and launched
into the first number The Blackbird, it was clear that the
magic of the Farmyard Four was as strong as - if not stronger
than - ever. Twenty-five or thirty years just melted away as the
band - who started back in the swinging sixties in the "beet
group" era, progressed through the scrumpy-induced so-called
"cyderdelic" period (culminating in the celebrated "Summer
of Scrumpy" in 1967) then progressed on to become the 1970s
chart-topping supergroup - put on an unforgettable performance as
good as you'll see anywhere.
The hits kept on coming - I Am A Cider Drinker, Combine
Harvester, Farmer Bill's Cowman, Morning Glory
- as well as some of the old Adge Cutler classics, including
Champion Dung Spreader; and perhaps lesser-known but nevertheless
excellent gems such as Tommy's rendition of Keep Yer 'And
On Yer 'A'penny. The band were sharper than ever and the performance
was polished. The powerhouse rhythm provided by John, the
young drummer of 76 years, and Dave on bass, allowed Tommy
on accordion and Pete on banjo and guitar free rein to strut
their stuff. And that's exactly what they did, to the delight of
the fans - some of whom, incidentally, must have been a mere twinkle
in the milkman's eye when the lads were belting out Combine Harvester
on Top Of The Pops back in the heady days of the 1970s. These
young 'uns were dancing in the aisles - well, in the car park! -
as the boys worked their way through a sparkling set of about an
hour. The banter between Tommy and Pete was effortlessly funny,
and Pete's voice can still knock over a pint of cider at fifty yards.
The single set closed with the song that started it all back in
1967 - Drink Up Thy Zider. The lads received a standing ovation
(well, there weren't any seats!) and fought their way back through
the crowds into the pub just before closing time for a well-deserved
pint. Now that North Herts has had a taste of Wurzelmania let's
hope we don't have to wait very long before they return!
on banjo/guitar and lead vocals unless otherwise stated;
Tommy on accordion on all numbers except where indicated
John on drums and Dave on bass on all numbers
Champion Dung Spreader
Keep Yer 'And On Yer 'A'penny - Tommy on lead vocal
I Wish I Was Back On The Farm
Twice Daily - Tommy took a beer break during this number
Somerset Trouser Shakedown - Pete's turn for a beer break!
Instrumental by Tommy on accordion
(Happy Birthday to Mrs Dove in the audience!)
Farmer Bill's Cowman
I Am A Cider Drinker
Malt And Barley Blues - just a few bars of this
Drink Up Thy Zider
I got an idea they played You Don't Get Drunk On A Saturday Night
but I can't remember for sure - anyone else out there remember?
Must be the beer...
Thanks to Kim and Kevin for making it all happen
- and of course to Pete, Tommy, Dave and John
for a fantastic show!
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on me vest an' underpants 'e scored a direct 'it!"
The band get going: (L-R) Pete Budd (banjo), Tommy
John Morgan (drums, behind Tommy), Dave Winter
Yer 'And On Yer 'A'penny"
Tommy gives the audience some good advice - John
like Eric Clapton-in-Gordano to I..."
Pete Budd on the electronical gutter
two pints over 'ere, Kevin!"
Pete and Tommy get their order in
Tommy Banner plays the Somerset Trouser Shakedown
(or summat like that)
the beer in, Pete!"
Tommy on accordion with John on drums and Dave
on bass, while Pete takes a break
Banner and Pete Budd with Wurzelmania! founder
Wurzels with Wurzelmania! founder Paul Gunningham
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Wurzels Banned From Hitchin Pub
a sad postscript to the above review, I'm sorry to report that a
planned return to the Cricketers in Hitchin by the
Wurzels has had to be cancelled following complaints about
noise from the pub's neighbours.
Return Gig Scuppered
the great success of the Wurzels' gig in June 1999, landlord
Kevin Butler immediately booked the band again for a repeat
show in early October. However, the gig had to be cancelled when
the North Herts District Council revoked the pub's entertainment
licence after complaints by local residents about noise.
Of Many Ruined By Few
sad story is told in an article headed 'Loud' Pub to drop Wurzels
in the local paper Hertfordshire On Sunday, 12 September
1999. Kevin and landlady Kim pointed out that the pub is on the
busy A600 Bedford Road and faces the Butts Close site of regular
noisy funfairs throughout the year, so the residents are hardly
used to a life of silence. Said Kevin: "We got a couple of complaints
from neighbours but they have ruined the enjoyment of hundreds of
people. One strike and we were out - no one from the council came
round to get us to turn the sound down so we didn't know we were
doing anything wrong. No one is stopping the funfair. If the council
would come and help us set the right noise levels, we would be happy
to do it".
seems strange that people living near such a long-established pub
should expect freedom from noise at all times. Concerts by the Wurzels
and other artists were always over by 11pm so it is difficult to
see why such complaints should be upheld in this draconian way.
The pub now faces an uncertain future as without its entertainments
licence its viability is in question.
Loss To Herts Fans
seems a great shame that the Wurzels will never be able to
appear at the pub again after such a great show. Wurzels sightings
are rare enough in Herts as it is, and it looks as if local residents,
many of whom have become firm Wurzels fans thanks to Kevin and Kim,
will now have to travel further afield to get their regular Wurzels
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