Billy Mitchell Solo Gig
Wooden Doll, North Shields - Sunday, 3rd September 2000
by Michael Bailey - additional comments by Suzie Mitchell
The Wooden Doll is a funny pub. In one respect, it's in the perfect place, high up on a bank overlooking North Shields fish quay, scene of the 'Window on the World' festival (which will always be 'the Fish Quay Festival' to me) and the first time I ever saw a Lindisfarne show. The problem is, it's location means that a substantial part of it is propped up on stilts. To the untrained eye it looks like it should slide down the hill and into the river, but as it's been there quite a few years now, I suppose it's safe
I'd gone down there with a couple of friends to see a gig featuring nowt but Billy Mitchell and an acoustic guitar. I've seen a few of these before, but not for quite a while so I was looking forward to a night of good songs interspersed with a bit of trademark Billy M. 'crack'.
I thought I'd got the wrong day when we walked in, as there was only about ten people in the room. More worryingly, there was also no sign of Mitch. Fortunately, after about half an hour or so (during which time the room became full, and I won the Jackpot on the bandit, so I'm not complaining!) he walked in with Ray. (Incidentally, while Mitch was setting everything up I managed to have a quick chat with Ray, who hinted that 'Buried Treasures 3' is going to have a fair few surprises on it..)
Once Billy was ready to go, he wasted no time in kicking off his set with an up-tempo (by Neil Young's standards, anyway) version of 'Long May You Run', complete with harmonica. It seemed clear from the start that tonight was going to be one big singalong (me included, and I'm normally quite a shy, retiring type), with every chorus having a supporting cast of at least seventy people.
The between-song banter was - unsurprisingly - razor-sharp (I learned my lesson a while ago, and don't heckle any more) and the jokes were a hoot, even though I can't remember any of them.
Even if you don't admire his jokes, you have to admire his choice of songs. Never one to play anything 'obvious', he pulled some crackers out the hat tonight, including a smattering of Everly Brothers classics, 'The Night they Drove…' by The Band, a few songs I sort-of-recognised, and a few songs I didn't recognise at all, even though everyone else seemed to. I enjoyed them all anyway.
This was never going to be a one-man Lindisfarne gig, but 'Ghost in Blue Suede Shoes' - which worked wonderfully with a stripped-down arrangement - and 'MMOTC' put in well-received appearances.
All in all, a great night was had by all. I just wish I could remember the jokes - or maybe not.
Set List (apologies for any inaccurate song titles **)
1st set 2nd set Long May You Run (Neil Young) Days (The Kinks) Darling Be Home Soon (Lovin' Spoonful) The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band) Sweet Baby James (James Taylor) I'm So Lonesome Every Day The Ghost in the Blue Suede Shoes (LF) Bye Bye Love /(Everyl Bros.) Some of Shelley's Blues (Mike Nesmith) Homeward Bound (Paul SImon) Crying in the Rain Give me the beat/Drift Away Short People (Randy Newman) The Games People Play (Joe South)
Meet Me On The Corner (LF) Runaway (Del Shannon) Honky Tonk Angel
** ok Michael, you didn't know all the correct titles, nor all the singers/composers? And so did I and asked BM. The first reply came from Suzie Mitchell (in absence of Mitch who was out having a wonderful day with Marty Craggs, playing Golf [his own words]. Well, it turned out that Suzie is an expert too. "I'm so lonesome every day" is actually called "Walk Right Back" and was originally done by the Everly Brothers in 1961 - as was "Crying Rain" in 1962. "Honky Tonk Angel" is actually another James Taylor song called "Bar Tender Blues", one of Mitch's standards. [ Mitch recorded this as well as "Shelley's Blues" for his solo album/cassette "Almost Grown" in 1993 (see below) RG]. Suzie has vivid memories of Mitch singing this at the very end of his set with Alan, Marty and Kenny (Ward), [btw, this is "the" Kenny from "Walk A Crooked Mile" , RG] doing the harmonies with the whole audience joining in.
Later in another mail, Billy added a bit more info since "Drift Away" was left out from Suzie's helpful comments. "Drift Away" was sung by Dobie Grey, a song he first heard done by Ray Jackson in the Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay when Charlie Harcourt was in the band.