Only one set
at this last minute performance. John apparently turned up the
previous day, haranguing the organisers until they finally gave in and
told him to turn up the following afternoon with his keyboard. This
was especially pleasing for me, as I’d seen dates for John’s shows
advertised in Classic Rock magazine but been unable to make any of them.
I was intrigued as to the Asia references that were mentioned in these
listings. My assumption had been that he was the John from latter
incarnations of the group of which I had one CD (Aqua) to which I’d
not really warmed.
Before arriving in the afternoon we had no idea that John was playing; Tracy and I had come to see Haze play an acoustic set having enjoyed their electric one the previous evening. Thankfully they were running late (due to a night of excessive drinking) so we caught their enjoyable set. As we entered I noticed John Young on the bill too – due to play later on at around 3.30pm. This would not normally be a problem except for the fact that I was due to run a quiz in Tadley at 5pm - at least a 30 minute drive away.
During the Haze set people were still arriving, including one guy dressed in jeans, T-shirt and lumberjack shirt, who had brought his dog. He smiled at us (as Tracy smiled at the dog) and seemed to enjoy the music. He left before John Young took the stage and Tracy remarked that “it was sweet that he brought his dog along”.
During the break before John Young’s set the same guy reappeared, minus dog, and began checking the equipment on stage. Guess what – it was John Young!
The compere for the festival,
who had a way with words (and a penchant for advertising the sponsors
of the festival at every opportunity – Herrenhauser beer in case you
wondered) introduced John with,
With this he launched
straight into All Grown Up a slow haunting track (originally
used by Max Bacon on his “The Higher You Climb” CD) which acts as
a gentle introduction to both John’s music and his softer side. The
track was back introduced as “A song about growing up in an orphanage
– which I know nothing about.”
John introduced Palmistry
by telling us that he’d been “in Hastings the other day and Palmistry
is obviously big business there as every second place you went past
said ‘Have Your palm read here’, …. have your money taken here!.”
A touch of cynicism – I like this man already I thought! He went on
to say that he didn’t know what we felt about it but the song relates
to it. He also mentioned that the tracks he’d played (and Palmistry
too) were all on the CD which was for sale after the performance.
I guess a bit of explanation on how John performs is in order here – otherwise you’ll be wondering how one man can play keyboards, sing and drum at the same time. Much of the music is played back from John’s faithful Acorn (?) computer. It takes a bit of messing about with between tracks (to select the next track) but is less hassle than a joking drummer. This is not to say that John lacks talent – he played most of the music on the Acorn in the first place – and it’s just the backing track from the Life Underground CD. He sings and adds keyboards live over the backing and it all works very well. At least he’s honest about it – admitting that he’d like to work in a band situation – he just can’t afford the band!
then “pressed on with a couple more” before “launching into a couple
of progressive tunes”. First up was a new one for him “hence the notes”
(lyrics). He added that he did record it with a chap called Max Bacon
(I’d heard the name before from GTR and Bronz so at least I was familiar
with who the tracks had come from – if not the tracks themselves).
John made no mention of the fact that he’d written the tracks as well
as recording them – extremely modest. When I Was Young started
with drums and a slightly faster tempo. I think it was around this
point that I though, despite the show being not at all what
I expected, that the music was great and that I had to see John perform
again. This feeling just kept building through his forty minute
set. The last of the slow ones was dedicated “to anyone who may be
a little sad at the moment.” Also mentioned was that “My band may
need a change of program before the next ones”. Ivory Tower was
“written about a love affair that went horribly wrong.” A slight
problem with ‘the band’ lightened the atmosphere with some cheery
banter with a couple of the crowd who said “sack the band!”
A bit of a wait for the next track as John tries to get his ‘band’ to accept something it sometimes doesn’t want to – a different sound card! Whilst he fights with technology he tells us the story behind the track, Childhood’s End. This was the progressive track, though the audience didn’t show a massive amount of enthusiasm until John asked “if they actually wanted to hear anything Progressive?”. The response was an overwhelming “Yes!” During the “3 minutes” he reckoned it would take to ‘ready the band’ John explained that on the last night of your seventeenth year everyone goes to visit a place for one last time to play with their toys before ‘growing up’, that place being Childhood’s End.
Immediately this track began I was struck again by the thought that this had been an extremely fortuitous ad-hoc gig to stumble upon. Childhood’s End was indeed a progressive tune of mega proportions – tempo changes, interesting lyrical theme and extremely catchy music. Here was one guy I had to see perform again and Childhood’s End was the clincher – not that I really needed one. The quiz was calling – but there was no way I was leaving before the set had finished. The initial zippiness of the track subsided as the story led towards waking up as an adult, but not before a final bit of musical fun. This, of all the tracks performed, was the one which stood out head and shoulders above the rest. This is not to denigrate the previous tracks – they were all great too – but Childhood’s End really was the icing on the cake. It wasn’t just me either – the whole audience showed their appreciation with the loudest round of applause of the afternoon as the song finished.
Unfortunately time had beaten John and we never got the second ‘proggy’ track – but I don’t think that anyone left the hall unhappy – they’d all experienced a superb show by a great musician who will hopefully give us a full show at next years festival.
We had to leave as soon as the show was over and enjoyed the thrill of a mad race from Whitchurch to Tadley through some of the heaviest rain I’ve had the displeasure of driving in. Poor campers I thought. Still, we made it with 5 minutes to spare – though I think Robin had a few hairs less in his head by the time we arrived.
We were back later that evening to see the Moody Marsden band and picked up a back issue of ‘Wondrous Stories’, the magazine of the Classic Rock society. It happened to have an interview with John and a list of forthcoming tour dates.
Excellent – a chance to see a full performance in the near future and close to home. It turned out that John lived half a dozen miles from where I worked (and had lived until a week or two before) and played a fair number of shows in the area. The closest happened to coincide with a date I’d be in Scotland, so Aldershot it would have to be.
10/9/99 John YOUNG : The Wheatsheaf, Aldershot (Cancelled)
Unfortunately, when I phoned the pub on the afternoon of the show the barman knew nothing of the show - a common occurrence in the pub gig trail. For more details on the difficult path John has to follow in his quest to bring the populace some great music have a look at this page.
Just the JY/Qango pages: The whole site: