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The Cluny, Newcastle
26th April 2015

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

pink fairies

The Pink Fairies were part of the chaotic anarcho-hippy punk scene in London in the late sixties and early seventies. Born out of the demise of The Pretty Things they were compatriots of Hawkwind and even played gigs where the two bands merged and called themselves Pinkwind.

However while Hawkwind managed to get themselves accepted as a slightly lunatic part of the mainstream rock scene the Pink Fairies preferred to stay more on the outer edges and were as likely to be found playing outside a festival for free as inside on the bill.

Despite the anarchic edge, massive drug use and rebellious attitude the band managed to get signed to Polydor records and released three albums of heavy psychedelic blues and proto-punk which have become cult classics of the period to those in the know.

The band always had a fairly fluid line up and reappeared in various guises through the eighties and nineties but it was still a great surprise when the band reformed as a five piece outfit in 2014 including founding members Russell Hunter and Duncan Sanderson and started playing gigs. As one of those bands I never thought I'd get to see I had to take the chance of course.

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Opening with 'Right On, Fight On' from the 'What A Bunch Of Sweeties' album the reason they have recreated the original set up of having two drummers is obvious as the huge, pounding beats fill the hall. Hunter and more recent addition George Butler are perfectly synched and the bizarrely dressed lady on the stage, Jaki Windmill, adds some enthusiastic bongos to the mix. Bass player Sanderson adds yet more rhythm leaving guitarist Andy Colquhoun free to play some heavy jagged bluesy riffs over the top of it.

I was impressed how tight this all sounded for a band that don't play very often but then they threw themselves straight into a slightly shambolic version of one of their best known songs, the punky 'Do It'. This kind of threw the song away I thought. That set the tone for the night as sometimes they were super tight and really gave you an idea what all the fuss about heavy psychedelic music was back in the day and other times they were a little out of control and definitely came over as having a we don't care, we'll do what we like attitude to playing.

pink fairies

Russell Hunter came out from behind his drum kit to sing lead vocals on 'When The Fun Begins' from the classic 'Kings Of Oblivion' album. Strutting around the stage in shades and shouting most of the lyrics this version seemed to just about hang together while their cover of the Velvet Underground's 'I'm Waiting For The Man' was a tight, stomping tribute to Lou Reed.

Jaki Windmill got a shot at singing lead on a shuffling version of 'War Girl' while Andy Colquhoun led on a more recent eighties tune, 'Waiting For The Ice Cream To Melt', which also featured some terrific guitarwork from him. He did a terrific job of putting imaginative and sometimes searing guitar over the top of all the beats and percussion grooves coming from behind him.

pink fairies

I was surprised to get a couple of new songs from them and even more surprised that one of them 'Skeleton Army' was a good singalong blues rock number but what most people were waiting for was the closing heavy blues guitar workout of 'Uncle Harry's Last Freakout' from the 'Never Never Land' debut album and they weren't disappointed. Duncan Sanderson gave us the story behind the song of being busted having a public dope smoking party in a London park and then we got several minutes of huge rhythmic drums and fiery blues soloing book ended by the swirling riff.

The band shambled off stage and it took a while for people to realise the set had ended. The air of uncertainty continued through a final encore but the mumbling intros, shambolic planning and occasional lack of focus is part of the deal with this band. I like the fact that forty years on they are still anarchic albeit in a gentler way and while I would have liked to have heard more from the 'Kings Of Oblivion' album I really enjoyed this blast from the past. When they get it right they still make some fine, fine music.

Line up:
Russell Hunter- drums, percussion, vocals
Duncan Sanderson-bass, vocals
George Butler- drums
Andy Colquhoun- guitar, vocals
Jaki Windmill- vocals, percussion, keyboards




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