Caught by the River

'Do It For Your Mum' at Port Eliot Festival.

15th July 2011

Roy Wilkinson presents, Do It For Your Mum.

On Saturday 23 July, together with friends, family and figures-heroic, your correspondent will be implementing an hour of light-to-medium entertainment at the Caught By The River tent at Port Eliot festival in Cornwall. The plan is to incorporate the Galloping Horseman of Lapland, the rock group British Sea Power, a homoerotic salute to the great French fly-half Thierry Lacroix and, who knows, maybe a little revelation on the record shop variously called ‘Meat Whiplash’ and ‘Bobby Gillespie’.

It’s a force-ten privilege to do something at the Caught By The River tent. This has come about because of a book I have coming out, called Do It For Your Mum, the first title on the new imprint Rough Trade Books. Our slot at Port Eliot is part of an afternoon themed around words-on-music, one that starts with a panel discussion including the much-loved music-industry sage Mick Houghton and the great Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records. Geoff signed the band British Sea Power who feature my youngest two brothers and who form the backdrop in my book. One couldn’t remotely hope to follow Mick and Geoff single-handed, so a Caldedonian rock Obi-Wan Kenobi has graciously agreed to lend a hand.

Jock Scot

Jock Scot is a legend which is sure to be magnified even now. A “questing poet” and an expert trail-master along the path-of-most-resistance, Jock has been impressed into service alongside musicians from Vivian Stanshall and The Clash to The Libertines and Belle & Sebastian. He is the self-proclaimed Voice of British Sea Power (meaning he did the voice-over for the two radio adverts that BSP have been allowed so far). While sticking true to his key poetic wisdom – “never fear the obvious rhyme” – Jock has composed such signature works as ‘A Cold Meat Pie’ and ‘Gay Paean To Thierry Lacroix’. Jock has been to Port Eliot before, while acting as stuntman/tour-manager for Rip, Rig + Panic at the Elephant Fayre festival in the early 1980s. But Jock has been everywhere. Lemmy declared him “unstoppable” and, on sighting him backstage at Newcastle City Hall, Ian Dury proclaimed, “You’re just the cat’s whiskers, we’ve got to have you on the firm.” Jock duly climbed aboard, and now you can too. Come one, come all, to hear Jock’s interactive CBTR reading. Listen for yourself to a voice like Sean Connery overseeing the late-night security at the newly opened 24-hour branch of Greggs pasties in The Mall, Falkirk

Jock has given decades of service to the rock form, but even Jock hasn’t knowingly served in a world war. Which brings us to the humanoid fulcrum of the book Do It For Your Mum. I managed British Sea Power from the late 1990s until 2005. My two youngest siblings, Neil and Scott (aka Yan), are the band’s two singers. So far so pleasant-enough for a tale of family-friendly indie-rock exploit. But the scene shifted when our dad, now 87, decided to become one of Britain’s oldest and most dedicated followers of the alternative-rock experience. Soon, Dad – an octogenarian Second World War anti-aircraft gunner from Sunderland – was reading biographies of anyone from Nick Cave and the Manic Street Preachers to Syd Barrett and Sonic Youth. He would quiz me on the technicalities of drum sounds on Nirvana records – and attend every BSP show he could, hectoring the mosh-pit with accusations of insufficient vigour. Soon, Dad had perfected a slogan with which to rouse my spirits when rock-managerial duties seemed overwhelming: “Do it for your mum! Do it for the Butthole Surfers!” Dad had read up on the Buttholes and, in his opinion, these drug-blasted Texan rock kamikaze pilots were the real thing, exposing 99 per cent of groups as pitiful part-timers.

The author and his Dad.

With Do It For Your Mum I’ve tried to do justice to what seemed like a pretty good story – intergenerational rock action developing against the backdrop of our family home on the edge of the English Lake District. Dad is present throughout, writing letters to Bono demanding that BSP be given support slots: “Everyone knows that U2 are charlatans, but it might be good exposure…” In my every-moment dreams, Do It For Your Mum is a blend of Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and Cockney Reject, the autobiography of Rejects frontman Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner – all mixed up with something of Wainwright’s guide to Borrowdale (written, of course, by Rufus Wainwright). But, what the heck, at the Port Eliot Caught By The River tent you will also get Jock Scot, slightly-surprise musical guests, a prize audio quiz, plus the most stunning setting known to rock science. And, following on as dark falls, a DJ set from Andrew Weatherall and, from British Sea Power, a full portion of what has been described as ‘high-church amplified rock music’.

For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the Caught By The River enclave at Port Eliot, it really is a glorious thing – wonderful sounds spilling out over the slow-shifting waters of the River Tiddy. Even the poor are eligible for admission these posh-est surroundings. In the nineteenth century the adjacent St German’s Quay was busy with fishing boats and cargoes of coal and limestone. Now the quayside is a scenic relic, home to the Quay Sailing Club. Is this what threatens to become of our native record industry? An intriguing vestige, superseded my new modes of production and new means of entertainment? If so – in the moment, down by the river – it won’t seem too much of a problem. What a way to go.

*The Do It For Your Mum jamwagon will arrive at the CBTR stage at 3pm on Saturday 23 July. Do It For Your Mum goes on sale on Monday 5 September.

**The Galloping Horseman of Lapland is, course, a vernacular name for the jack snipe – stemming from the loud ‘drumming’ noise made during courtship flights.