Sunday 17 April 2011

Almost there.........

Well, eleven months after collecting her from North Wales, 'Black Bettie' is nearly ready to hit the road!

Since getting the interior done (was it really 6 months ago?), things have been pretty quiet; not that the lack of progress really bothered me over the winter, but as summer approached I was starting to get a bit twitchy.

There had been some "issues" along the way. While the bloke I bought the car off seemed to have all good intentions and certainly didn't scrimp on the materials, some of his workmanship had turned out a bit suspect (I'm being polite). The brake lines had to be scrapped and re-run, body had to be taken off so some proper high tensile nuts and bolts could be used, ditto with the rear suspension.

The target date for having her ready was April 25th - Good Friday, for the first of the big car shows in the South, 'Wheels Day'. A week ago I wasn't too confident, although to be fair, Al kept saying it wouldn't be a problem. That was until last Tuesday, when the company who were supposed to be supplying the coil-over shocks owned up that they couldn't get them - a bit of a problem, seeing as they were needed for the MOT, booked for Friday. Luckily Al found another company up North who had some in stock and couriered them down, arriving on Thursday morning.

MOT was booked for Friday morning and Al had two cars to get done, my '32 and a '55 Chevy Bel Air. Both cars got through, but according to Al, my car got the MOT testers pawing all over it and getting pictures. On the way back from the test a fire engine and full fire crew slowed down, gave Al a blast with the siren and gave him the thumbs up. Despite what he says, I think it was Bettie, not Al, that they fancied!

On Saturday the pinstriper, Simon, was booked to come and lay down the finishing touches. Simon is AKA 'Nefarious Pinstriping UK' and although I hadn't seen any of his work, Al had heard of him and seen some of his designs and assured me he was a good one - and so it turned out.

I told Simon I wanted "traditional" styling in the Von Dutch style and showed him the area I wanted striped. He was also happy doing the thin pinstripe down the sides and also mentioned that he was adept at sign-writing as well - so I showed him the lettering style I had in mind for the boot and he said "no problem" and did the lot.

Four hours later and to say I'm pleased would be an understatement and I'm also in awe of how he could start off with a simple straight line and end up with a symetrical work of art. I went for the two colours - dark red and ivory, to match up with the overall colours. Once the boot had been pin-striped and the lettering was being sketched on with a white pencil, I was a bit unsure about the size and whether it was too big - as it turned out, it was just right, although I've decided against having the Bettie Page graphic as well; I think that would be too much and leave the back looking too busy. A few discrete lines were added to the dash - literally just a few to break up the black.

So, all done now. The engine's running a bit rich and needs a bit of tweaking on the carb' and there are some screws that need capping (or painting black). A couple of leather door straps to be fitted to stop the doors opening too wide. Al's going to drive the car to/from work for a couple of days to check everything's running right and to loosen it up a bit. The engine's running OK on tickover and the fluids are all getting around, water temp is getting to the 'N' level on the gauge. As we don't have a full build spec' for the engine, other than the obvious stuff and what came with the advert, there's going to be some trial and error, but there doesn't seem to be any issues.

Friday 11 February 2011

West Ham and the Olympic Stadium

It's been a year since West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium was first mooted by the new owners, and just over a year later, the OPLC gave the thumbs up to the joint West Ham/Newham Council bid. Contrary to popular tabloid belief, not every West ham fan is jumping with unrestrained joy.

OK, so the current ground has a lot going against it. The capacity is just over 35,000 and can't be extended further by more than 2-3,000; transport links are terrible - on the odd occasion the District Line is actually running on match days, the half mile queue that forms going in to the station isn't fun, especially when all you want to do is get home and forget another loss!

We're told, quite convincingly, that the move to Stratford will elevate the club to "big club" status. It will immediately propel us in to Champions League territory, with the world's top players queueing up to play in the claret & blue (all having admitted to a boyhood love for the club, of course). Supporters of the scheme get very excited, saying that in five years we'll be comparable to the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal.


It seems that in the year since the move was first mooted, views among West Ham fans have changed. Twelve months ago it was all about leaving Upton Park and going to a rented ground with a running track. The polls at the time suggested opinions pretty much split. Looking at the latest polls (KUMB), and the split is about 70% favouring the move. So what changed?

Well, for a start, twelve months ago the prospect of Tottenham getting the stadium wasn't on the horizon. A bit of a fast ball, that one. Tottenham, with their ancesterol home in North London looking to re-locate to E13? Were they mad? In one fell swoop, as if conjured up by the West Ham joint chairmen, Tottenham had become the common enemy; to a lot of supporters it was no longer about whether they wanted to go to Stratford, but about making sure that Spurs didn't.

While I couldn't believe the logic of Spurs moving to Stratford, I give them credit for their bid. It was honest in saying that Stratford wasn't a good football stadium and they planned to demolish it and build a purpose built football stadium, while refurbishing the National Athletics Centre at Crystal Palace. I wish our bid was theirs!

But Spurs didn't get it and I imagine that while many of their fans would have loved the thought of getting one over on West Ham (even though they usually do that twice a season anyway), I'd be surprised if the majority would have been in favour of relocation out of their heartland to the 'bandit country' of East London.

Just over a year ago the David's (Gold and Sullivan) came along and bought a 50% share in West Ham, leaving the Icelandic banks with the remaining share. Their reluctance to sell the whole is now much more apparent, with the opportunities that selling Upton Park and the commercial opportunities of the Olympic Stadium now becoming a reality. However, they are bankers, not entrepreneurs, and I wonder whether they share the same vision for West Ham as the David's. It's all well and good talking about West Ham being a "big club", it's another to make the investment needed to realise that ambition.

One thing's for sure, twelve months ago West Ham was valued at around £105m. I don't think you'd get the banks or the David's to accept anything like that figure now. Whether this will herald their exit strategy, perhaps in 3 or 4 years, is anyone's guess, but I think it's fair to say that the club I've supported since 1970 is going to undergo major changes in the next five years - and I'm not sure it's a change I'm looking forward to.

UPDATE 12th February.

Today's newspapers carry an interview with the West Ham Vice-Chair, Karen Brady, where she says that retractable seating to cover the running track for football is now an option under consideration. At £10m it isn't cheap, but it would make a big difference to how it's viewed, in more ways than one, and it maintains the principal of keeping the running track.

Wednesday 6 October 2010


Well, we're finally seeing things come together on 'Betty', with the interior now finished. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, especially the colour combination of 'Wild Cranberry' and black leather. The red piping on the seats looks good, and the headlining, which I hadn't been too sure about, looks great in the closely rolled tuck n roll.

Behind the seat the firewall has been covered in black leather/carpet and houses the stereo and speakers (stereo will be operated with a remote control). There;s even some storage tucked down at the bottom, hidden away from prying eyes and if you didn't know it was there you wouldn't see it.

The boot was kept pretty simple and the idea of having '32' etched in the centre of the carpet was ditched as there wasn't enough floorspace to get it to look right; might look for an original 'Ford' logo to put on there.....

So, what next? Lights, brake lines, coil-over shocks, electrics, pin-striping..........should be ready for the Christmas run!

Monday 23 August 2010

Results5 Virus

I've been pretty lucky when it comes to viruses, but a couple of weeks ago I managed to get infected with what's known as a 'browser hijacker'. Basically, that's a virus which diverts you from the web page you wanted to visit, to something else. What was curious about this one, was that it only affected Google search results; I'd click on a link (in Google) and get re-routed to a completely random site. This happened whether I used Firefox or IE8. Very annoying!

I searched around the interweb looking for solutions as none of my virus checkers (AVG and Adaware) had picked it up and it seems that it's fairly common, but with no easy fix which I could see. Some of the geeky forums would suggest editing registeries and doing other stuff which I wasn't keen on trying.

Anyway, I think I fixed it, but not sure which of the following did the trick.

1) did a DNS flush (cmd: ipconfig/dnsflush)
2) reset my router
3) Uninstalled Firefox
4) Installed Google Chrome

I don't think it was steps 1 or 2 which worked as I was still getting re-directed after both these steps.

After uninstalling Mozilla I closed everything down and re-booted, then used IE to download Google Chrome. Hey presto! No more re-directing......I don't like the layout of GC, so I then re-installed Firefox and pleased to say I'm still clear of results5.

What I can't understand is why the folks at Google can't find a solution. A cynic, which I am, wonders whether they're quite happy to see IE and Firefox getting dumped in favour of GC, making them less enthusiastic to find a fix. No, surely they wouldn't........would they?

Thursday 5 August 2010

Lotta Lovin'/In My Dreams

Over in the land of Facebook, I noticed Gene Summers posted a picture showing the demo of Lotta Lovin'. Gene described it as an ecetate, which as far as I know, is usually single sided (the true "master" copy of a recording). Due to the acetate being made of a different material, they usually degrade after just a few dozen plays.

I got in touch with Gene and asked him for some more information on it and at the same time dropped an e-mail and picture to my mate Derek Henderson to see if he knew anything about it, who in turn forwarded it to other Vincent buffs to see what they knew. Caused quite a stir, as nobody knew of the disc, whether it was the demo Gene recorded at home in early '57 (and which eventually appeared on the Lost Dallas Sessions CD), or was it actually a studio cut done at either Sellers Studios or WFAA? David Dennard in Texas (compiler of 'The Lost Dallas Sessions' CD) was able to confirm that Gene Summers had recorded his demo's at the Sellars Studios, but had them transferred to disc at WFAA, a different studio close by.

Well, sadly, the disc wasn't owned by Gene Summers; he had seen it for sale on flea-bay and as it was similar to his own demo from the same studio (Twixteen/Fancy Dan), he had copied the picture of the disc label, but hadn't bought it. There's another connection here between the two Gene's, as Lotta Lovin' was written by Bernice Bedwell who also wrote a couple for Gene Summers. It would be nice to find out who the new owner is and get him to put us out of our misery!

It seems most likely that the home recording Gene cut was transferred from tape to disc at WFAA. This was organised by Tom Fleeger (Gene Summers' manager at the time). Flip side of the demo/acetate is 'In My Dreams'. Gene took the demo to Ken Nelson at Capitol so he could check them out and Lotta Lovin' would go on to be a hit. The commercial release had the wonderful 'Wear My Ring' on the flip - a true double 'A' side.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Kat & The K9's

Went to one of my favourite clubs (Mytchett) a few weeks ago and saw Kat & The K9's - first time I'd seen them in ages, but they do seem to have gelled and it looked like they've benefited from some stability in the line-up.

I first met Kat at the now defunct Richmond Ex-Serviceman's Club weekly rock n roll club (run by the much missed Barry). At that time Kat used to occasionally get up and do a karaoke session of one or two songs towards the end of the night, so it was no surprise when she got herself some proper backing.

Kat and the boys did an excellent set, with Kat featuring a good range of songs, the pick of them (for me) being her version of the Eva Eastwood track '60291'. Talking to Kat later she tells me it will be on her next CD, but lucky ol' me, she had a demo copy with her.

Enjoy. Buy their new CD when it comes out and get along to see them when they play a club near you.

Oh, and Kat - don't forget to reprise the Bonnie Lou track 'No Heart At All' and while you're at it, see how you get on with her big one, 'Friction Heat'!

Sunday 18 July 2010

Where have all the people gone........?

Numbers at rockabilly gigs really are dwindling and it's difficult to see how some clubs will survive.

Three of my local(ish) clubs have had attendances of between 30 - 50 in the past 4 weeks or so; these are gigs with bands, not just a DJ, and with bands charging anything from £350 to turn up, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out the maths. At £7 a head the club will probably make a loss at anything less than 60 punters and the guys running these clubs are just your average folks - there's no Roman Abramovic type benefactors out there propping them up!

Is there an answer? Well, from a selfish point of view, I like that there are four or five clubs within a reasonable distance of me that generally have gigs which don't clash with the others. But on the other hand, there's no way I'm going to go to all of them and I find that I'm quite picky nowadays when it comes to seeing a live band, so I pick and choose, I read the gig guides, see who's playing where and when, then make a decision of which ones are on the "must see" list and which ones I can live without.

So are there too many clubs out there? Well, yes and no!

After a while the established clubs will have a very personal "feel" about them and irrespective of what band they have playing, the atmosphere will be pretty much the same. I don't like "jivey" clubs, full of people who have learnt all the latest dance moves in a 1-2-3 sequence, but who don't have any real feel for the music they are dancing too. They usually end up doing the same moves, at the same pace, whether they are dancing to Honey Don't or Bop-A-Lena!

I'm not knocking the clubs that attract them; at the end of the day, the people running the club have to recognise what people want, or at least, what those people who show up every month want. Ain't my cup of tea, or pint of Fosters for that matter, but hey ho! Each to their own.

I prefer clubs to have an atmosphere. A bit rowdy. Clubs where people don't just sit around looking like they are in a dentist's surgery waiting to be called in.

Some clubs I'll go to even if the band isn't great, just because of the atmosphere, but it has to be said, there are quite a lot of below average bands out there, while there's also a bit too much sticking to the same circuit as well, which inevitably mean that you see the same bands playing over and over - or you just don't bother. I think what tends to happen is that you see that one of these bands are playing, but it's no big deal if you miss them this week, because they'll be at another club in the next week or so. If on the other hand the band was one I'd never seen before, I'd be much more inclined to go.

I realise that's a risky statement and I might be in the minority; I know some people will only go to see established bands on their personal favourites list and I can't say I blame them. There's a recession on and a night out is going to cost at least £25 by the time you've factored in the admission, drink and petrol.

So it all seems like a vicious circle. Can't expect the bands to play for nowt and I wouldn't begrudge the average band member £75 for a day's work (even if it's in two 45 minute sets). Even if the clubs dropped admission by a couple of £, would that make much difference? I doubt it. Most clubs charge £7 entry, which means if they were to drop it to (say) £5, they would need to get at least another 25 people through the door to make the same money - bit risky, huh?

Whatever happens, I'd be really sorry to see any of my local clubs close. Yes, even the ones I don't get along to as often as I could. I don't see it, though and it's has hard as it's ever been to get a club started and become established. That, to me, is the key - getting the club well grounded in everyone's mind, so they will always check the "what's on" guides to see who is playing and on those occasions they aren't that fussed about the band, will go along anyway. These established clubs are better able to take a few hits on low attendances as long as they get at least an equal number of bumper nights. Fledgling clubs can't sustain those losses, plus it's more difficult for them because they are less likely to have been able to book the bands who always bring a following (because those bands will have booking 12 months in advance).

Final message then, support the clubs and the people running them who give up a lot of their own time to organise them, often with little thanks and with even less profit.

And if you're in the area, or if this has inspired you to get out and about, here's my list of favourite clubs. If you go and see me there, mine a pint of Fosters!

Memphis Belles - West Farnborough Social Club, 25 St Christophers Road, Farnborough, Hants

Crondall Rock n Roll Club - Crondall Village Hall, Croft Lane, Crondall, Nr. Farnham, Surrey.

Ace Cafe - Ace Corner, North Circular Road, Stonebridge, London

Guildford Hot Fifties Club - Fairlands Hall, Fairlands Avenue, Guildford, Surrey

The Rosecroft - St Mary Cray High Street & Chelsfield Road, Orpington, Kent BR5 4AR

And finally, if none of the above take your fancy, look at the Rock n Roll gig guide for inspiration -