I have been meaning to check out a gig at Backstage at the Green Hotel for ages. I was gutted when legendary guitarist Albert Lee sold out before I could buy tickets, and I was working when Gary Tallent took time off his day job as the bassist in the E-Street Band to play a show there. So, when I finally do get there it has been a long time coming. I’d just got back from a weekend away in Liverpool and the memorabilia and signed pictures on the wall at Backstage could really give The Cavern a run for its money. I’d brought my friend Callum along, and as we take our seats we see a framed patch of carpet with text underneath explaining that it has been stood on by musical luminaries such as Robert Plant, Albert Lee, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Frampton. It is flanked on one side by a P-Bass scratch guard signed by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones and a drum skin signed by Bee Bevan of ELO and Black Sabbath on the other. This place really is the place to be for people who dig good music!
drummer Roberts lays down a Muddy Waters beat so rock solid, I could have rested my pint on it.
We were here to see ace guitarist and singer Bobby Cochran. If that surname seems familiar to you, that’s because Bobby is the nephew of rockabilly icon and Rock n’ Roll pioneer Eddie Cochran. However, Bobby is a master musician in his own right who has played lead guitar with some of the greatest acts in the world, including Steppenwolf, The Flying Burrito Bros, Leon Russell and Bob Weir, and has also recorded solo albums of his own material. With such an illustrious history, I was eager to see what sort of material he would play tonight.
Bobby and his young band, bassist Irfand Ali and drummer Sam Roberts, get off to a flying start with a Freddie King blues instrumental (‘Hideaway’) with Cochran really showing off his guitar chops right out of the gate. This is followed by the first Eddie Cochran song of the evening, cool rocker ‘Something Else’ which finds Bobby in fine voice. At this point Cochran realises that he has forgot to bring his Eddie Cochran signature Gretsch up on stage with him. “We’ve had a long cold drive up, and to tell you the truth we’re not quite ready” he says with a laugh. Sam obliges by quickly unpacking the guitar and placing it on the stage. “When Gretsch delivered this I just sat it on the couch in the living room and said to the wife and kid’s ‘don’t touch it!’ It was so beautiful that I just wanted to look at it for a couple of days before I even played it. The kids were like ‘dad’s weird’ ”
Bobby is a huge Chuck Berry Fan and his version of ‘Route 66’ was the first of a trio of rock n’ roll belters, followed later in the show by ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and ‘No Particular Place to Go'. I really like what Bobby has done with the main riff, and he plays the blistering solo like a man possessed. It’s almost like that bit in ‘Back to the Future’ where Marty McFly goes crazy playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’! Other highlights of the first half include a beautifully jazzy rendition of Willie Nelson’s ‘Nightlife’ with a plaintive vocal and a great version of ‘Milk Cow Blues’ on which drummer Roberts lays down a Muddy Waters beat so rock solid, I could have rested my pint on it.
During the second half Bobby reveals that he has only been playing with this band for two days, “I schooled them on the material as we drove between gigs, filling them in on all the chord changes. They’re getting a real education.” Cochran is full of praise for the pair during the show and it’s entirely warranted, it’s amazing to think that they have so quickly learned ninety minutes of material which they play with real conviction, never putting a foot wrong. Bobby’s positivity is so infectious, he’s just loving life and music, and why not? “I wish all of you could get applause when you’re at work. It really is awesome”.
This love for his work spills over into the set list in the second half, including an amped up and rocking version of Hank William’s ‘Hey Good Looking’. As Bobby says “I don’t think Hank pictured it like this!” As Bobby gears up to play the next song, my friend Callum recognises a riff: “That’s Duane Eddy’s ‘Rebel Rouser’, it inspired Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’. It turns out that guitarist Duane Eddy also influenced the whole surf rock genre as well, and Bobby gives us a bit of a potted history before playing ‘Pipeline’, ‘Wipeout’ and best of all Dick Dales ‘Misirilou’. We also get a little taste of Steppenwolf and The Flying Burrito Brothers when ‘Born To Be Wild’ and ‘Oh Lonesome Me’ get an airing. Bobby’s leaving the stage after a rousing sing-a-long version of ‘C’Mon Everybody’. "He didn’t play his Gretsch" I say to Callum, "you think he forgot or he’s saving it for an encore?" Turns out he just totally forgot and he comes running back to rectify matters, bringing a great evening to an end with ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’
After the show we meet Bobby for a quick picture and a chat about music, including a story about his spell with Steppenwolf, when he stayed up 36 hours straight recording all the guitar tracks for their 1976 album ‘Skullduggery’. After a good nights sleep he came back into the studio to find singer John Kay, inadvertently deleting all his hard work to free up space to record his vocals!
We even had some banter about misheard lyrics, Willie Nelson, The Everley Brothers and Chet Atkins. All the while, Bobby was playing riffs and songs to us on his Gretsch. On the way out promoter David Mundell gives us a quick tour of the bar area that has even more memorabilia covering every square inch of the walls. It really is a great venue that’s well worth checking out, I’d recommend coming a little bit early so you have plenty of time to check out all the signed musical goodies.
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