Dave Pegg 60th Birthday Bash: Journey back to The Ugly`s with dropouts (2007)

In 2007 Dave Pegg Beck, who played with Steve Gibbons on The Ugly`s and then continued his career at the Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, celebrates his 60th birthday. Like ten years before, he did so at a concert with old comrades at Birmingham Town Hall. There were a number of musicians who were less well known outside the UK, but also Ralph McTell , the Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull.

Unlike at the concert for Dave Pegg’s fiftieth birthday, Steve Gibbons was able to be there. Much to the delight of Dave Pegg, who writes in his autobiography:

„I couldn’t have celebrated sixty years without a man who’s part so much of it.

The event is documented on the double CD „60th Birthday bash“.  Despite the extensive and illustrious environment, Steve Gibbons managed to remain in special memory with his performance, which is the only bonus video track on the CD.

One of the highlights of the evening came right at the beginning: The premiere of the „Peggy`s Birthday Song“ by David Hughes, who , which was introduced as „great guitar player, wonderful songwriter and a great smoker“. The song, which was written especially for this occasion., runs through the biography of Dave Pegg at fast train speed. At the beginning in states:

He (Dave Pegg) was playing „Yellow Ribbon“/with little Steve Gibbon(s)/ he was going to be a rocking man/…/he became a Ugly/he wanted to be better than the rest of them together/so he learnt to play the bass on one day.

This already marked the most important turning point in Dave Pegg’s career: The switch from lead guitar to bass, initiated by Steve Gibbons, without which Pegg would not have been able to become a member of The Ugly`s and later of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull.

And also the appearance of Steve Gibbons later in the event became a time travel back to the musical beginnings of the jubilee.

Steve Gibbons was namely supported by Dave Pegg and Roger Hill, who at that time got the coveted job on the guitar at The Ugly`s, for which Dave Pegg had also applied.

Dave Pegg writes about this gig in his accompanying text on the CD:

What I really wanted on it was Steve Gibbons, Roger Hill and EVENTUALLY performing „The Uglys Blues“/This has become the computer playable video clip which ends this set.

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The performance of the three aged men starts accordingly sentimental. Dave Pegg greets his fellow musicians warmly, tells the story again how he failed his audition as guitarist and was then asked by Steve if he would like to take over the position of bass player. Pegg explains to the audience:

This is the wonderful Roger Hill.

Roger … was the reason that I started playing the bass and stopped playing the guitar. Because years ago when I was about nineteen, I went for an audition with a group called The Ugly`s who were very popular in Birmingham. And Australia, in fact, which is a good combination. They were auditing for a lead guitarist and I went along. R

Roger was in front of me in the queue and I knew that I hadn`t got a chance getting the gig, cause Roger obviousely got it because he is fab

He also tells again how he bought his first bass from John Hustwaye for 80 £. Than he ends with the praise:

So I owe Steve and Roger an awful lot, but I am not gonna give them any money for coming tonight.

They joke, they take each other in the arm. Already now you feel that these three musicians enjoy already the fact that they share the stage again.

The song they intend to play is the B-side of the single „Wake Up Mind“, which was very successful in Australia at that time: The „Ugly-Blues“. Despite its name, it is not a blues but a country number. Lyrically, however, it is rather a dubious thing. It is a mocking song about the ugliest woman in the world. In the first verse, for example, the singer reports that he failed his driving test because he was distracted when he saw a woman in the street with supposedly two heads. But when he looked again, he found that what he thought was a second head was the nose.

A borderline story, then, if one were to apply the standards of political correctness. The audience, however, does not do this and enjoys it just as much as the three elderly  gentlemen who sing in three voices during the chorus.

From the second verse on, things run less smoothly: Steve Gibbons has forgotten the lyrics! He takes off his guitar, broods visibly, massages his forehead with both hands. Roger Hill fills the acoustic gaps with little solos. Dave Pegg smiles amused. He says about it later in his autobiography „Off The Pegg“ which he wrote supported by Nigel Schofield:

Steve`s amazing: in The Dylan Project he`s do epic songs like „Sad Eyes Lady Of The Lowlands“ and word-for-word recreations of intros … The „Ugly Blues“ is a song he wrote, but on the night it eluded him, slipped right out of his memories. It was hilarious.
Steve is amazing: On the Dylan Project he makes epic songs like „Sad Eyes Lady Of The Lowlands“ and literal repetitions of intros … The „Ugly Blues“ is a song he wrote himself, but that night the lyrics were erased from his memory. It was hilarious.

Gibbons stages the search for the lyrics with expansive gestures and improvises lyrics like „Lord, Give Me My Memory back“ and nonsense lyrics with allusions to Bob Dylan.

it`s coming/the exhaust is blowing/so is the wind/there is no answer to that

He also publicly practices self-hypnosis and speaks to himself:

just think of something gentle and peaceful and it will come back

Because that doesn’t work either, he takes a step towards Roger Hill, who feeds him with the next verse. Gibbons takes his time singing it. First he gets a laughing fit with full body. Dave Pegg, who does not necessarily have to go to the limits of his skills on bass in this song, fills the gap, steps up to the microphone and notes:

Have You seen, they never ever ask the bass player for the words?

Watching this you ask yourself: Is this perfect improvisation theater and stand-up slapstick or are these rehearsed gags?

Anyway, it’s entertaining. Gibbons, who has meanwhile put on his guitar again, gets laughing fits in the middle of singing. He wasn’t the only one. Again Dave Pegg from his autobiography:

He’d kept trying and loosing it. He`d ad lib. He’d tell Roger to play a solo. We all git giggles.

But not everyone could be so relaxed. Dave Pegg continues in his biography:

Everyone else panicked because what should have been a short song was getting longer and longer. The schedule for the show was tight and so much was packed in: people were limited to one song and asked not to make speeches or long intros. And now the spot with Steve lasted about ten minutes. Backstage, Simon Care, who was in charge of managing what happened on stage, tore his hair out.

Steve Gibbons also seemed to be aware that he was just about to let the event get out of hand, but he couldn’t help himself either. When the next verse is due, he falls back into his narrative style. He takes a glance at his wristwatch, the dial of which he always wears on the inside of his forearm at concerts, so that he can easily read the time while playing guitar, an chats:

There is one more verse, we won’t keep you much longer. This is the best verse.if it would only come back to me, it would bring the place down.

Pegg adds confirmativly:

Like fireworks

Steve then sings the first verse again and Roger closes with a fast final chord.

„Whew! Saved,“ you might say.

But what does Steve do? He exhorts Roger to carry on, because he wants to finish the song properly.

Dave Pegg took it with a sense of humor:

…you have to see it to appreciate it. The whole gig went well. The audience loved it. …. For me thought, the highlight was the three of us getting back together, the way we were in 1966, in the middle of all these legends of rock and folk, and the whole thing falling apart around us.

Then it closes:

It was priceless. The best birthday present ever.

And the moral of the story is: Professionalism on stage is not only shown when everything is going well, but especially when something is stuck. In particular when you’re the source of the disturbance yourself – and still get things done in an entertaining way.

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