Tom Wilcox & Giles Smith in Colchester

Arriving early at Colchester’s Arts Centre, we immediately suspected someone had pulled a fast one. The cabbie dropped us at a dark church and even darker churchyard on a cold, misty evening and we wondered if he hadn’t liked the look of us. However, once the lights came on, the bar opened and the audience filed in, it turned out to be a brilliant venue, complete with stained-glass windows. Shame it wasn’t available when Maniac Squat and The Cleaners from Venus kicked off their careers.

Tom’s evening (part of the ongoing ‘Common Ground’ celebrations, sponsored by the Arts Council) brought back fans of the Squat and the Cleaners, plus a friendly bunch of young Goths – all shiny long hair, matt-black clothes and perfect make-up – who’d come to see Martin Newell, ex-Cleaners, poet, musician and storyteller.

Martin told stories about the music industry, which tasted like a big bite of lemon, determined at some point to offend everyone in the audience at least once. His final song on whisky and women was guaranteed to irritate at least 50% of those attending. His charm? His talent and the fact that he doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss.

Giles Smith told us a tale he’d written for the occasion about how he got his first break in journalism (now his main stock in trade). It’s not fair that he can be so funny and play the Postman Pat theme tune in the style of Count Basie. If you heard Tom Wilcox read the lyrics of Maniac Squat’s greatest hit at The Globe, you’ll want to hear it performed live by his new band, The Chavs. We’ll get it up on the website, just as soon as we’ve mastered the technology. In the meantime, you can see it onTom’s MySpace. In honour of Woody Woodmansey, Tom’s drummer who toured with Bowie for ten years during his wildest times, the band played ‘Jean Genie’.

The Londoners dragged themselves off to catch the last train back to Liverpool Street, hoping for a repeat performance somewhere within cab distance from their homes.

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