Alan Price at Bulls Head, Barnes, London. 10th August 2017

Alan Price has steadily become one of my favourite song writers. For too long I was only aware of his arranging skills on the classic Animals recordings, such as, House of the Rising Sun. His natural charisma and sense of humour are apparent in the short screen time he got in the Bob Dylan documentary, Don’t Look Back. As far as songwriting goes, I’m ashamed to admit, I had him written off as a kind of, Randy Newman, cabaret, cover artist. Sometimes it’s great to be wrong!

Alan Price with Dylan in Don't look back.
Alan Price with Dylan in Don’t look back.

My curiosity was raised when I caught a clip from O Lucky Man! on YouTube. The song was Sell Sell Sell. From there I picked up hi 1974 LP Between Today and Yesterday, which I personally think is a masterpiece. Savaloy Dip, which was due for release in 1974, got pulled and was finally released in 2016. Had this been released fully at the time, I think Alan’s career would have received a welcome, and not insignificant, lift. So, while still enthused by the release of Savaloy Dip, I decided I wanted to see Alan perform live. A quick internet search revealed that he plays a regular spot, once a month, at the Bulls Head.

The Bulls Head is a riverside pub, built in 1684; it is one of the oldest pubs in the area. It has a rich history as a Jazz and Swing venue. The bar itself had a traditional, yet modern feel and served real ales and food. Although the food looked great, it was pricey (probably cheap for the Richmond area) and we were there to see music, not eat. Fortunately, right next door, was a little chippy which did a great curry and chips for just over a fiver. While we ate, we could see the band loading in.  We noticed that they were loading in to the building behind the pub. Apparently, that used to be stables and got converted into a venue.

We began to queue and as we did you could hear the band sound checking. The night was a sell-out, as it is every month. For this event, a sell-out equated to about 100 people. We got a seat on the second row just to the side of Alan’s keyboard. The average age of the folks in the audience was about 65, which is great, because that meant I could still feel like a kid.

 After not too much time, Alan took to the stage on his own and began playing. It was at this point I wish I’d brought some pen and paper, because I’m not entirely sure about the set list which followed. I thought he’d be using a Fender Rhodes sound, but instead, he had the most cheesy of all sounds; electric piano with string pads, combined. Nevertheless, it really works for him. His voice was powerful and bang in tune. After the first song he challenged an member of the audience who was standing up, filming, with his mobile phone. Alan said, “Right and you’re going to stop now aren’t you? Because it’s really bad manners.” With that business taken care of the rest of the band made their way on to the stage. The band consisted of Zoot Money on keys and vocals, Bobby Trench on Guitar and vocal, Peter Grant on Bass and Darby Todd on Drums.

Despite appearing to be rather grumpy, Alan does enjoy a natter on stage. Before he began he said that there is a point in most sets where the women will want to go to the bathroom. He continued, that he’d only won a BAFTA for this next section and they might get bored, so now was the time to go. “There’s no accounting for public taste is there?” he concluded. Fortunately no one moved; everyone was riveted. I didn’t expect to hear anything off that album, let alone a a handful. Alan lead the band the whole way with actions to control the tempo and volume. The sound was tight and funky where it needed to be and the musicians blended seamlessly.

Zoot Money
Zoot Money

Sometime Alan’s his dialogue was longer than some of the songs, which isn’t a bad thing since he has a strong stage presence and a good sense of humour. He made up a story about Zoot Money‘s childhood and there was plenty of banter relating to Zoot being well-off and spending his days at leisure and Alan being skint, and really having to work for a living. They did a jam of Nothin’ Shakin’ But The Bacon. Alan would grimace every time Zoot played a solo. He later moaned that everyone was was too loud (in good humour) and said now he wears ear plugs.

In another money themed anecdote, he talked about what it was like when his contract suddenly ended with the Animals and he had to return home, with no future plans and very little money. He couldn’t get the best seat in the restaurant, prestige cars and women. His career wasn’t down for long as he had a hit with his version of, I put a spell on you. He did a solo version of Who’s gonna drive you home, which was interesting. He followed it up with The Letter and Jarrow Song.

Jackson Browne got a mention as the unhappiest man in the business. Alan told a tale (fictional I think) about how his lawyers told him to get married because he had too much money and so set up a series of interviews to help him select a wife. Then the layers told him to get a divorce and that was the inspiration for Say it isn’t so. Alan followed it up by doing a version of the song. Bobby Trench did a great solo on it too. Alan joked that no one gives him credit for performing that track, instead people praise Bobby for his guitar work.

Other songs in the set included Dole song and Savaloy Dip. Towards the end of the set Alan played a few Animals hits; We gotta get out of this place, Please don’t let me be misunderstood and House of the rising sun.

Towards the end of the night Peter Grant on Bass and Darby Todd on Drums got to do solo spots.

I was really impressed by the performance. Considering Alan is 75 (at the time of writing) he’s incredibly mobile and his voice is untarnished; strong and operatic at times. He admitted, that because he can only play in the key of G, F and C he’s had to keep the songs in the same keys as he played them in the early days.

I was hoping to have a chat with him on the night. I offered to buy him a drink during the break, but he was getting a drink for someone else. He didn’t seem much in the mood to stand around and chat after the show so I didn’t get any photos or get him to sign my LP sleeve of Between Today and Yesterday. He  didn’t play Simon Smith and his amazing dancing bear, House that Jack built or Between Today and Yesterday. Nevermind, it was a great show and I was completely blow away at times, one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a long time. I would highly recommend you to go and see him.

He plays the Bulls Head every month check the website for details.