Chas 'n' Dave's rockney renaissance

EMMA LEE An extravaganza of entertainment is lined up for this weekend’s Lord Mayor’s Celebration in Norwich – including an appearance by rockney renaissance men Chas and Dave. EMMA LEE has a rabbit with Chas Hodges.

EMMA LEE

At the Glastonbury festival, there's always an act that it's really worthwhile elbowing your way into a sweaty big-top tent and craning your neck for. When 2005's must-sees arrived on stage, the crowd erupted - and sang along word-perfect until their throats were hoarse.

So far, not so unusual.

But at that particular mud-bath festival, it wasn't a cooler-than-thou NME-endorsed skinny-trouser-wearing, guitar-wielding indie band that you had to be there for.


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It was two bearded middle-aged cockney geezers having a good-time knees-up accompanied on the old Joanna - renaissance men Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock.

"At Glastonbury the crowd was wild," laughs Chas Hodges.

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In fact, they loved the Glasto vibe so much they braved the weather again and went back to Michael Eavis's Somerset farm last month, playing three times during the weekend.

"I think it's the mud that makes it," he adds.

The pair, who have known each other for decades, have recently picked up a new younger fan base thanks, in part, to another musical double-act.

Tabloid terror Pete Doherty and Carl Barat, who were in the now-defunct band the Libertines together, name-dropped them in interviews and invited them to support them at some of their shows.

And being admirers of their work, Chas and Dave said 'yes', prompting fans to raid their parents' record collections.

Thematically, the bands have a lot in common - they both have a romantic yet realistic view of modern English life.

American singer-songwriter Tori Amos is also a fan - and they've been sampled by the rapper Eminem. The riff on his breakthrough hit My Name Is came from a track that they played on while working as session musicians for Labi Siffre.

The pair headline the Chapelfield Gardens Music Festival tomorrow and play Cromer Pier a few days later. Listening to Chas, it's clear that they're having the time of their lives and enjoying their new-found cross-generational appeal.

Chas and Dave were both mainstays of the 1960s and 70s British rock scene before getting together and have both had extraordinary careers. Chas had worked with the legendary producer Joe Meek and had backed Jerry Lee Lewis, while Dave had had spells with the Tumbleweeds and Mick Greenwood.

Chas, who was a bassist before switching to the piano takes up the story, endearingly veering off at several tangents along the way.

"I'm not a morning person. When I was 12 I was in a skiffle band - and when I came off stage they'd give me a pound note. And I thought 'they pay you to make music? This is the life for me'. The two things that swung it for me was that you don't have to get up early in the morning, and you get to stay up late."

"When me and Dave got together, I was in bands singing and I'd sing in an American accent, and I remember going to America and touring and thinking it didn't feel right to be singing in an American accent. And I thought honesty would be the way forward. When I came back I talked to Dave about it. One of my ambitions was that there had never been a serious song sung in a cockney accent. And I achieved my aim with Ain't No Pleasing You.

"We were on stage with Geno Washington and he said 'your stuff is so honest'." He adds: "I love the Arctic Monkeys. They're honest as well. He [frontman Alex Turner] sings like he talks. I was talking to Dave about it - perhaps Chas and Dave were ahead of their time," he laughs.

Their debut album, One Fing n Anuvver was released in 1975 and earned critical acclaim from the likes of John Peel. Not fitting into a convenient pigeonhole, they combined the spirit of music hall artists with solid rock and roll and are probably best-known for their humorous ditties like Rabbit and Gertcha.

As well as continuing to tour, Chas has just released a new album recorded in Nashville and is about to film a cameo role in a big-screen biopic of Joe Meek.

Nick Moran is directing the film about the gifted producer whose life ended tragically when, after suffering depression, he murdered his landlady before turning the gun on himself.

"There's somebody playing me in it when I was 18 - Ralf Little, who was in the Royle Family. It's great - it's strange in a way. I'm playing a complaining neighbour. My wife, Joan, is in it too."

But he says that being up on stage is where he loves to be.

"I can never wait to get back on stage. I've got a couple of days off and I got up this morning and thought 'I wish I was gigging tonight'. Music keeps you young," he says.

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