Way back in 1939 Winston Churchill described the Russians as being “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I can’t help thinking this is also an apt description of Ginger Wildheart‘s Songs and Words show.
It’s not a gig, It’s not stand-up comedy. It’s not theatre. It’s not literature. It’s not any of those things but somehow it manages to be all of them at the same time. Occasionally it could even be described as a talking therapy session for Mr. Wildheart with the audience as (avid) listeners. It’s basically a story, the story of Ginger’s life in music between the formation of the Wildhearts in late 1989 and the completion of his 555% pledge campaign in 2012. Over the years there have been so many rumours, stories and lies that Ginger decided the best way to put the record straight was to go out and tell it like it was himself.
Set in a shabby-chic, quirky, historic all-seated venue the stage is almost bare. Two acoustic guitars and two microphone stands wait to be used. There is one table to stage left belonging to Jase Edwards containing beer and a laptop and one stage right belonging to Ginger with water, beer, brandy and a fully made-up polystyrene wig head. These are all the props required.
The lights dim, the big-screen backdrop is filled with the cover of “Mondo Akimbo A-go-go” (the first Wildhearts EP), Jase pushes a button on the laptop to start a backing track and the duo launch into a seamless acoustic medley of bits of “Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes” and “Turning American” – both tracks having been first aired on said EP.
Ginger, looking for all the world like a slightly manic stereotyped farmer in his tweed cap and jacket, then takes the mic and starts to talk. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the content of the show as I don’t want to chuck in too many spoilers for those who have yet to see it (as the hip kids say these days), but the story starts with the oft-told tale of how Ginger was sacked from the Quireboys by none other than Sharon Osbourne, and how whilst falling down the steps of Seven Sisters tube station still clutching the empty bottle of Jack Daniels he had just downed he played a kind of heads or tails in his head. Bottle breaks – no future, use the shards to slit his wrists and end it all there and then. Bottle stays intact – dust himself off, go out and find another band and crack on with what he loves. Thank you for the quality of your bottles Mr Daniels, without them one of Britain’s most prolific and under-rated musicians could have been taken from us way too soon! So with Ms Osbourne’s sage advice “don’t be an arsehole Ginger, anyone can be an areshole” still resounding in his head The Wildhearts were born.
The next 3 hours (with a short 15-minute interval so Ginger can use the bog and grab a drink from the bar, as can we) are a stream-of-consciousness babble from Ginger about where he went from there, interspersed with medleys of songs from most of the albums and projects he has been involved in over the years along with backdrop changes to show the covers of those albums as he gets to their place in the tale.
We learn why Ginger hates the corporate music business and record companies. That in the early days he longed to be thrown off a support tour for being too good and was obliged by Izzy Staddlin from Guns & Roses. That he no longer believes in ghosts, and why. We know how he feels about most of the other musicians who he has worked with over those years, good and bad. What his dad thought of his Top of The Pops appearances. We even find out that he has the power to repel attacking monkeys with nothing more than his accent and a couple of choice swear words! We hear how he met his current partner when she saved him from a night of passion with an internet date who turned out to be a balding pensioner. His narration is honest, funny, occasionally angry, often sad. He tells us of his drug abuse, his mental breakdown, his recovery from various traumas in his life, and how, throughout it all, there was always the music and the interaction with fans to keep him going.
All of this was of course interspersed with that music. Even stripped down to bare basics Ginger’s songs are still the work of genius. From the first bars of “TV Tan” off the seminal “Earth vs” album all the way to “Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow” from 555%, via both Wildhearts and solo stuff, the music is the glue that binds all the anecdotes together, helps to shape them, brings them to life. We are allowed, nay encouraged, to sing along and that is exactly what we do. These may be excerpts, bits of songs, they may segue together in unexpected ways but they are the heart of this show and by extension the heart of Mr Wildheart. That heart looks to be in pretty good shape at the moment!
There are, I believe, plans afoot to add more Songs & Words dates in the future, so if you have a small all-seated theatre with a bit of history attached to it near you do let Ginger know via his website, facebook page or twitter. If you want to know more about the “Songs and Words” project (there will be a book and DVD release later this year, there are also tshirts and various other items available to buy) you can access Ginger’s pledge page at the following link: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/gingerwildheartsongsandwords
Performers: Ginger Wildheart, Jase Edwards
Songs included (I may have missed a couple!): Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes, Turning American, TV Tan, News Of the World, Miles Away Girl, Jonesing for Jones, I Wanna Go Where The People Go, Schizophonic, Sick of Drugs, Geordie In Wonderland, Message to Geri, Always Someone More Fucked Up Than You, Inside Out, Rock n Roll Girls, Monkey Zoo, Only Love, Top of the World, This Is Only A Problem, Keep It Cool, Paramour, Only Lonely, Say It With Herpes, 5 Million Ways to Kill Your Baby, You Took The Sunshine From New York, Lover It’ll All Work Out, Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow.