Keeping Up With The JonesesSeptember 11, 2010
Edgar Jones is a dude. Variously, he’s been a pipe-cleaner thin, bowl-headed 60s revivalist, Paul Weller’s bassman of choice, an Andrew Oldhamesque pop svengali, even a Merseyside Duke Ellington. He’ s had his long fingers in many a musical pie and I can guarantee you that anything he’s been involved in has been (and will be) boss, la.
20 or so years ago you would usually find me hanging about at Shabby Road Studios in Kilmarnock, home to chart non-botherers the Trash Can Sinatras (3 words in those days) and a handful of local bands with one half-cocked eye on the prize and no chance of getting it. The band I played in had a rehearsal room there and as I worked in Kilmarnock I was usually first to rehearsal. Often, I’d pop upstairs for a cup of tea and a chat with some of the Trash Cans and whoever else was about. Seemingly, Go! Discs advance had all been spent on the studio itself and some rattly old vintage Vox amps because they never, NEVER! had any milk for the tea. Over the course of my time as a (and I use this term loosely) musician I met a fair few coulda beens, shoulda beens and also rans, as well as the odd bona fide gin-u-wine chart success (Hello, Chas Smash) in the kitchen at Shabby Road and it was during one of these milkless tea breaks that I met Edgar Jones and his mop-topped, mono-obsessed band of merry men that comprised The Stairs.
The Stairs were recording some stuff for Go! Discs at Shabby Road. But rather than use the studio’s own desk, they had brought with them a handful of dusty old bits ‘ n bobs straight outta the 60s as well as their own 4 track recorder. From downstairs in my rehearsal room they sounded great. They were brilliant musicians. They only needed 3 chords and had a garage swagger that I was still to recognise as being Nuggety. One of them (the ginger one in the middle) had broken a guitar string and came into the kitchen looking for one, to no avail. “I’ve got one!” I said and ran downstairs to get it. I’m sure he’d have said something like “Ta la!” but I can’t remember. He was thankful though, for the next night he popped into the kitchen to give me a 7″ copy of the Weed Bus ep.
Borrowing the Bo Diddley beat from The Who’s Magic Bus and welding on the riff from the Stones The Last Time, Weed Bus sings of the joys of smoking on the top deck of the bus. And I don’t think they mean Silk Cut, if you know where I’m at. “It’s the 147 and you know you’re in hevuhn!” barks Edgar.
Second single Woman Gone And Say Goodbye came complete with a Stax house band riff, cowbells and the faint whiff of Hendrix. It‘s a belter. And in case you missed any of their wee reefer references, by the time the Mexican R’n'B album had came out, they were writing Glitter Band stomping songs like Mary Joanna “You are always on my mind“. It was so good they released it as their third single, to little fanfare anywhere other than my head. The 7″ even came with a free bit of sandpaper stickered with the legend ‘Stairtex Record Cleaner‘.
‘The use of new STAIRTEX provides an effective means of ensuring groove cleanliness essential to good reproduction. Its regular use will lengthen the life of the record and reduce the static charge. Destroys all compact discs. Available from (record) dealers. This side LPs. Other side CDs’
And then The Stairs disappeared. Their withdrawn 2nd LP finally saw the light of day only a couple of years ago. Edgar went on to various things (see first paragraph) and still operates on the periphery today. I last saw him at King Tuts about 3 years ago where he was playing (brilliant) bass in Candie Payne’s band – another of those shoulda been, coulda been acts. He’s the real deal, in music for all the right reasons. He’s worth looking up if you get the chance. In the meantime, enjoy the three slices of The Stairs that I’ve made available to you. And check your pennies then check eBay for the long out of print Mexican R’n'B album.
I once played football in the ‘garden’ at Shabby Road with Half Man Half Biscuit. But that’s another story.