… SINGING TWO SONGS FOR US, WE HAVE…
by Norman Warwick
We have editorialized well over five hundred press releases on Sidetracks and Detours since we launched three years ago. All were inviting our readers to what sounded really exciting events, to see great art, hear great music and meet great artists and musicians.
Those exciting events have included chasing Romeo And Juliet down the narrow Street Of Blood in Villa De Teguise, the great art has been shown in galleries, churches, community rooms and an underwater theatre built in a cave., the great music has been provided by jazz outfits, choirs, string players, jazz sax, and the plaintive voices of local folk musicians. We have met people like Larry Yaskiel talking about Jimi Hendrix and Peter Frampton and the best of sixties rock music.
The press release that has arrived in our in-box today offers no promise of artistic expertise, makes no grand claims of intellectualism or of anything in any way arty-farty. The invitation is couched, instead, in a conversational tone that suggests another option. Let´s Talk About Sex, it whispers, and we reproduce it below for your enlightenment.
We will then add some notes of our own to answer any questions that might remain.
Fed up of all the doom and gloom?
Has your humour gland has shrivelled up?
Got arthritis in your funny bone?
Don’t like what you see in the mirror?
Feel the need to detox?
Why pay expensive gym fees when a few belly laughs are all that is needed to shake off the excess?
Don’t reach for the Botox to remove those laughter lines. Embrace them.
OPEN MIC: the sit-com is a romp between musical sheets. An autobiographical fiction! A podcast, written and directed by Colin Lever, recorded and produced by Wilson Nash. The pilot episode has been supported by ArtHouseJersey. The whole project, from cast to cover design is a genuine Jersey creation.
SERIES SYNOPSIS: Open-Mic tells the story of one woman’s journey to find her voice. Having stumbled into a local bar, Daph discovers that OPEN-MIC nights are nothing like the folk scene she remembers so fondly. Her exploits take her through the vagaries of the open-mic music scene, and the many crazy characters she meets along the way. All seeking that elusive gig. Will Daph beat them to it, or will her husband, Reg, scupper her dreams?. It is a Rom-Com in reverse. Whether you are a seasoned musician, or plain tone deaf, Daph’s quest for independence is sure to strike a chord and keep you laughing
Episode 1: LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: Escaping Reg’s clutches, Daph gets more than she bargained for when she stumbles into the Open-Mic music scene.
Like many unexpected arrivals, Open-Mic was conceived during lockdown. It’s development has been one of fun and frolics from the beginning. It is sure to tickle your fancy. It contains adult themes so is not for innocent ears.
The podcast will be launched at The Victoria Tavern (by Minden Place) on the island of Jersey on 20th Nov. It will be aired as part of an actual open-mic night. All are welcome. However there is a limit of sixty due to room restrictions, so if you are coming be sure to get there early.
If you can’t make it, the evening will be filmed and aired on Facebook (Open-Mic, the Sit-Com, page). It will be released on Apple, Spotify and Google. It will also be available to listen to on You Tube.
The Open-Mic Facebook group, is full of tasty clips, cartoons and updates. You can listen to a trailer on the You-Tube channel right now. So please come and join us.
This and all other episodes are free to listen to. However, I am looking for sponsorship, so that all can join Daph on her journey and see how it all ends. There is a crowd-funding page at Indiegogo, if you would like to contribute, with lots of gifts to tempt you. If you would like to sponsor an episode or the whole series, please get in touch
Meanwhile, Sidetracks And Detours´ Norman Warwick tells you the
who, what, when, where, why
Who were Lendanear and who is Colin Lever? might be your first questions.
We are sure his various social media platforms will all paint their own different picture of a former career as a highly respected educator and writer. I know him though as a devoted teacher, and family-man of wife and two children, who took those responsibilities very seriously. He was also my good neighbour and our wives were good friends.
What experience does Colin have of open mic nights?
Well, Lendanear, and I will tell you a story. Colin, even while teaching and tending his family was on the open mic scene, He and I were a folk music duo, playing our own songs on the folk circuit, sometimes as the night´s headline act at a small folk club or sometimes as an floor spot (open mic) act at a big folk club. So I can tell you Colin had the experience of coming out of an open mic club one night, after we had delivered a couple of songs, to discover my car had been broken into and somebody had taken about twenty tapes of all my favourite artists. Police went looking for a music lover but we thought they should have gone looking for a music critic, as the car thief had left just one cassette on the passenger seat,….Moonbeam Dancing by Lendanear, our debut album.
When did this all happen?
Every night of the week really, There were, honestly, folk clubs every night of the week, holding open mic nights within a ten mile radius of where Colin and and I were neighbours.
Pretty much, from the mid seventies really. In the 60s and 70s, folk music was huge, when folk singers sang about freedom, justice, love, and life itself. The folk music of the 60s and 70s sang about the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, equality, and change. Colin and I were up for all that, social comment and stuff, but right as we climbed on board, the folk bus changed direction and went off to have a lovely time on the day they went to Bangor to dance All Around My Hat. So, with impeccable timing Colin and I stepped into a folk world that had been seeing slowly dwindling audiences for a while but that then saw audiences dwindle much more quickly once we were on the scene.
While punk was Sex Pistolling across the country, and strikers and scabs and government and police were re-enacting the Battle Of Hastings, Lendanear were singing in empty pubs, usually as first act after the raffle when people, having collected their prize of free entry to next week´s open mic started to go home. following all those who had already torn up their raffle tickets and, prizeless, had departed in high dudgeon.
Where was this?
Most of this took place in our town centre at The Kings Head in Heywood, near Manchester. Some nights we´d travel three miles miles into Middleton, (The Ring O Bells where Mike Harding first played), four miles into Crumpsall, where my car was broken into, or five miles into Rochdale or even another mile on to Hollingworth Lake,……..our favourite club was perhaps The Gallows in Milnrow where an eccentric banjo playing Australian ran the show, or maybe the Kings in Heywood where we ran the show. At most of these night at all of these Greater Manchester venues there was usually far more musicians than paying customers, and sometimes we musicians even paid to get in to listen to others who had paid to get in to sing a couple of their songs and listen to a couple of ours on nights when no paying audience had turned up.
Why has Colin written this now?
I don´t know. I still don´t whether to laugh or cry at all my memories.
Open mic nights begat karaoke begat a new kind of open mic night, that seems to attract characters like Daph to give herself a second chance, another bite of the apple. But Colin Lever has a sharp eye and he perfectly captures the faux support system wrapped in caustic comments disguised as compliment. Unlike Daph, and certainly unlike the hapless Reg, Colin never sings a bum note. I feel like I´m being dragged back into failing sound systems that even when they hum and buzz and crackle and explode are still singing more in tune than I am. I´m heading back to that horrible realisation that everybody else in the room is ten times better at this than I am, and even they are getting absolutely bloody nowhere. I´m back to miming in case anybody hears my disharmony when the room bursts into a chorus of Dirty Old Town, even as we sit there in the town the song was written in and about. But maybe I should cheer up and accept the inevitable.
What was it that Dusty Springfield used to sing?
thinking young and growing older is no sin
And I can play the game of life to win
Still, I´ll be tuning in on November 20th to listen to those at The Victoria Tavern on Jersey present a perfect Open Mic Night, and go on to become big stars.
And in two years time I´ll be sitting silently and morosely nursing a pint until one of the open-micers who made it starts singing out of the juke box and I will telling a uninterested bar man that ´ít shoulda been me!
So do all you can to make your dreams come true, listen in as Daph follows her own dreams.
Otherwise you might end up sitting next to me, wondering why we never got a break !
We should let Colin, though, tell us what the project is allabout.
writer of Open-Mic, talks to Sidetracks And Detours
Colin Lever come from ‘Up North’. No, not Trinity but Bolton, in Lancashire. In his 1934 publication, JB Priestly described his journey between Bolton and Manchester as; “the ugliness is so complete that it is almost exhilarating. It challenges you to live there.” These days people from Bolton don’t have rickets but they do have funny bones. Check out Peter Kay (Phoenix Nights and Car Share): Diane Morgan (Cunk) Paddy Mc Guinness (Top Gear), Sophie Willan (Alma’s Not Normal), Sarah Cox (Radio Two DJ), Vernon Kay (TV host). Perhaps its in the waters?I’m married (45 years and counting), with two sons and two beautiful grand-daughters.
Expect music and laughter a plenty if you come to the launch of Open-Mic, the podcast. We will be airing the podcast in between a night of music (from folk to jazz and all stops in between) with random gags thrown in. God knows we need something to raise our spirits at the moment! It all starts at 7.30pm. If you can’t make it, the evening will be recorded live on my Facebook page.
There are nine members of this wonderfully talented and funny cast; Mia Mannion (Daph), Arthur Parkes (Reg), Janet Jacques (Screech), Glynis O’Connor (Dolores), John McNichol (Joe and taxi-driver), Chris Rive (CT and Geezus) Lorna Hopley (Little Mo), Lesley Hill (Zeetuay and Landlady) and yours truly (Pisspot). Whilst none of us are over the hill, some are teetering on the edge. Getting on but not ready to fall off, yet! I have written and directed this pilot episode, which has been supported by AHJ. Without them it might have remained as the scribblings of a deranged wannabe. Special mention has to go to Wilson Nash (recording and production). Wils has raised the quality of this podcast way beyond expectations. Described by one critic as BBC quality, it is a multi-layered creation, full of comical sound effects and background ambience, a triumph of sound engineering. (see our cover and top of page photograph of the cast convening in the recording studio).
Like so many illegitimate offspring , it was conceived during lockdown, first as a self-published novel and then transposed into audio as a sit-com. I describe the script as being based on real events. Most of the sketches are. I like the description ‘autobiographical fiction’! The key difference between the book and the podcast is the A mis-spent youth was spent meandering the streets where it was filmed. juxtaposition of the two main protagonists. Open-Mic, the podcast is very much one woman’s journey to find her voice.
This episode is a pilot which will hopefully, lead on to completing the series of five/six. I want to try and maintain the high quality and this will require funding as well as production. I am actively seeking sponsors and have also set up a crowd-funding page on Indiegogo. It is a not-for -profit project. As a result, it will be a few months before the rest are available to listen to. Mind you, we are considering doing at least one live recording. Watch this space! All episodes will be available on most platforms, including You-Tube.
It was relatively easy to transpose from novel to script. However, I was warned that trying to write audio comedy is difficult, and the advisers were not wrong. We are used to visual gags and so converting them to audio was quite a challenge. The key, I believe, is in the delivery, the timing of the gags, scene creation, using special effects and, of course, comic timing. It has been a steep learning curve, for all involved. Throw in covid, broken bones and the other obstacles thrown in our way, it is a relief to see the finishing line. We had milk teeth when we started, now we share false ones.
Lendanear used to be one half of a comedy duo (more like a third.. no, I said a third). As Lendanear, (with wotsisname who posts blogs at sidetracks and detours these days) we toured the folk clubs around the North West, striving to get gigs. We performed musical theatre, involving audience participation, songs, poetry. It scared the hell out of most traditional finger in the ear folkies. But we had fun, even if the bearded brigade sought sanctuary in their real ales. I have run open-mic nights and songwriter sessions, here on the island of Jersey. I wrote a panto-style musical for Durrell called ‘Stayin-Alive’ (70’s disco aligned with lots of gags and slapstick). It was performed at Haute Valleé back in the day and more recently at the Arts Centre by Jodie Lee Performing Arts Academy.
Humour is so subjective but my taste is quite eclectic.
Historically, The Navy Lark (showing my age now!), the Goons and ‘Til Death Us Do Part. Peter Kay (obviously). Phoenix Nights and Car Share are comedy gold (pardon the cliché). Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Open-Mic is the love child of Fleabag and Phoenix Nights. Sophie Willan (Alma’s Not Normal, is a must watch) and Nida Manzoor (We Are Lady Parts, so non-pc). Eric Idle (One Foot in the Grave). Billy Connolly. Ricky Gervais’ ‘Extras’. Crickey the list is endless.
What links most of them is the writer’s skill in contextualising culture and making it funny without causing offence.
If I must pick only one…hmmm…bear with me… I would plump for Phoenix Nights. It resonates with that gritty northern humour, so aptly described by JB Priestly in 1934. Self-deprecating and affectionately mocking.