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Updated: 3 Dec 2005

  • Some magic lantern shots from a bygone age by Dick Greener's great grandfather and a clipping from the London Times, 28 November 1895
  • Pictures from Sue Holton
  • They Played Superbly - Just As They Always Do - Review by Paul Brazier
  • Bursting At The Seams With Talent - Review by Pete Bradley
  • Party Of The Union - Review and pix by Lindsay Sorrell
  • Fantastic Entertainment - Review by Nigel Bennett
  • An American In London - Review and pix by Laura Wiggers
  • Unearthed from Dave Cousins' scrapbook - his grandfather's band playing the 1895 Christmas show
    More magic lantern slides by Dick Greener's great-grandfather!

    Extract from The London Times, 28 November, 1895

    "Saturday 26 November 1895 saw an all too brief performance from those strolling players the Acoustick Strawbs, in Full Fancy Dress, performing sundry of the classicks at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex. Notable members of the Audience had also attended in Fancy Dress and have been captured in magic lantern slides elsewhere in this edition. An American Visitor, Ms Laura Wiggers, was present and declared herself most amused.

    Mr. David Lambert's kilt had but to be seen to be admired, displaying a Full Calf and Impressive Suspenders. We are told (but cannot verify) that he had dressed Scottish for the occasion - perhaps the Yoong Lady seated at the front of the stage could confirm.

    Mr. Chas Cronk affected the garb of a confederate soldier, and delivered bass and 12-string with Good Cheer and Affability.

    Mr. David Cousins, alarmingly mustachioed, was attired for the Racetrack rather than the genteel Parlour, but was nevertheless in Good Voice for the proceedings, announcing the Turns with his customary flair.

    Flamenco guitarist from Andalucia, Mr Juan Martin played a short concert, a Dazzling Display of flamenco fingering which had the ladies swooning. Mr. Cousins joined him on stage for a spellbinding rendering of his own ditty "The Shepherd's Song". All who heard it agreed that this perfomance should be committed to wax cylinder for posterity without delay.

    And finally, Mr. Rodney Coombes, dapper as ever, drumsticks at the ready, joined Messrs Cronk and Lambert for a right royal knees-up of rock'n'roll classics.

    Mr. Tony Grimmer (proprietor) is to be sincerely thanked for his Hard Work and efforts (along with diverse others who assisted him in ther Decoration of the Hall and the preparation of the Victuals)."

    Pictures from Sue Holton

    More pictures from Sue Holton on her excellent site


    What's this? I've been home an hour, and no one has filed a review yet. Oh, well, I suppose I'd better have a go.

    I arrived at about half past seven to find Dave Lambert resplendent in a kilt complete with sporran and Chas Cronk kitted out as a corporal in the US Confederate army. Dick Greener looked very fine in his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and cape. Lindsey turned up looking very much like the flower girl out of Pygmalion, Lambert's girlfriend looked wonderful in her upstairs maid outfit, and Geraldine was stunning in a purple evening gown with much crinoline. But topping all these efforts Dave Cousins wore a very fetching Max Miller outfit – a window pane check suit with a super bowler hat and a classic clip on droopy moustache. Many pictures were taken of the assembled revellers, and then the music began.

    It is proving very difficult not to be blasι about the Acoustic Strawbs, who opened the evening, because they played superbly but just as they always do. Dave Cousins struck terror into our hearts by saying some of these songs would be disappearing from the set to make way for new ones, but didn't reveal which. I don't have a set list and my memory isn't all that good, but they began with "Oh How She Changed" [actually I thought they started with "Ghosts" - DG] , ended with "Lay Down", and in between they played "If". It was a comparatively short set, but, as usual, super.

    A brief interval followed while they rearranged the stage, then Juan Martin, a flamenco guitarist, was introduced by DC, who said JM was rated one of the top three guitarists in the world, along with Eric Clapton and Steve Vai. DC told us they had met at the BBC and that JM had recorded some tracks with other members of the band. He then left the stage to JM, who stunned us with some fabulous playing. When he had finished, DC joined him on stage and said that as the others had played with JM, he would like to as well, and they had rehearsed a song for five minutes just before the show. They then stunned us all with a wonderful reading of "The Shepherd's Song". It is hard to convey how perfectly JM's flamenco breaks infilled the langourous drama of Cousins' song, and it is only to be hoped that they will commit this one to CD in the very near future.

    It was now time to retire to the provided buffet, where we all ate many kinds of sesami, mini pizzas and sausage rolls.

    Once the food was consumed, a clip from the video of last year's electric Strawbs show at Teddington was shown, then it was back to the auditorium where Chas Cronk, Rod Coombes and Dave Lambert gave us a set of ear-splitting rock and roll – my ears are still ringing three hours later. It is odd to see a man in a kilt performing guitar histrionics.

    [Great quote, recalled by Adrian - Paul was heard to comment "my ears have gone blind" at the end of this set. - DG]

    Finally, DC returned to the stage to thanks us all for coming. He said it has been the most successful year so far but they are all tired and they are looking forward to a well-earned rest.

    Then it was out to the bar to buy a copy of Painted Sky and sit around talking until all the drunken idiots were off the road, when I set off home, where I now sit typing this. My apologies for the skimpy information and for getting stuff wrong if I have. No doubt there are many people who will correct me. It's something to look forward to. I like soap on a rope. [Witchwood joke - and not one I'm going to explain - DG]

    Photo from Laura Wiggers

    BURSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH TALENT - Review by Pete Bradley

    All employees at the NPL dream that the work they do will one day lead to a breakthrough in Physics, but did any of them realise that when it came it would be the dedication and hardwork of Tony from the Sports and Social Club that led to the first practical demonstration of time travel.

    Ah, but the clues have always been there. The thirteen people in the picture in the bar of the 1981 Cricket XI demonstrates that a quarter of a century ago the NPL Sports and Social Club had redefined the rules of mathematics, so it was clear that the breakthrough in time travel was overdue.

    To demonstrate successful mastery over time, the plan was to travel back to the late 1960's, to the days of the White Bear, but to further complicate the experiment, a Victorian theme was introduced.

    The demonstration in time travel was a complete success. Chas Cronk came dressed from the American War of Independence, Dave Lambert wore a kilt, and Dave Cousins wore a suit that had to be seen to be believed. His claim that Robbie Williams had expressed an interest in the suit was clearly factual. Many of the audience had risen to the challenge and had also dressed for the part. I'd like to say that Geraldine looked stunning.

    The first set was standard Accoustics Strawbs fare. Heartbroken to think that that might be the last time that they play "If". Adored the e-bow on "Midnight Sun".

    Having travelled back in time we were then treated to the future. You've heard of the Electric Strawbs, and the Accoustics Strawbs. In the future that we visited, we were introduced to the Flamenco Strawbs. Dave Cousins, and Juan Martin played "The Shepherd's Song". This has to be recorded for posterity. There has to be a Cousins and Martin album of this and other Strawbs tracks played flamenco style. It isn't fair to the rest of the Strawbs fans that we lucky few are the only ones who heard this rendition. Dave claimed, and I believed him, that he and Juan had only practicised for five minutes prior to the performing it. Sheer brilliance.

    But just in case we began to think that DC was the only talented Strawb, we were treated to a third set. As all science fiction fans know, if you try to experiment in time travel, you can alter the past and affect the future, and boy were we in an alternative timeline now. Not only were we treated to the Flamenco Strawbs, but here was yet another Strawb incarnation: The Hard Rock Strawbs. Who would ever have suspected that you would hear a drum solo and an electric base solo at an Accoustic Strawb concert? Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk and Rod Coombes finished the evening off with some electrifying covers of heavy pure rock and blues songs like "Johnny Be Good" and "Hey Joe". (Strange that the only time I've ever heard the Strawbs do a cover Dave Lambert happened to be so un-covered). The audience loved it, and it was clear that the band did too. There has to be another album in the making there as well.

    I do not believe that there has ever been another band with a new album about to be released who take the risk of hosting a concert where not only did they not push the new album, but they created not one but two new musical directions. The Strawbs are Bursting at the Seams with talent. 2006 should be a good year.

    PARTY OF THE UNION - Review and pix by Lindsay Sorrell

    Photos from Lindsay Sorrell - more pix from Lindsay

    I shall briefly attempt to convey what a night the Christmas Party was – the atmosphere, the ambience, the attire, the `am sandwiches, everything was to perfection. Oh yes even the music! Dick very kindly saved a seat for me right at the front with his own little party, next to Laura, who'd come over from New York and it was lovely to meet, Sue and Mike, himself and several others of the male Witchwood contingent who stood all around. I was about 2 feet away from where Chas was playing I should think, though we were separated by a lovely Christmassy tub of holly and berries which has featured nicely in most of my photos, no Chas, but lovely holly, and I'm sure those sitting in front of the other side of the stage had a pleasant view of Dave Lambert sitting in his kilt (as I pointed out to him in the interval – he said he wondered why the woman in front of him had been grinning all through the set). The stage had been decorated beautifully too, really gave it the Christmas feel, and we're all very grateful to Tony Grimmer for his hard work.

    Acoustic Strawbs played a wonderful, spellbinding set as usual, wish it could have been longer, but this being a special night meant something had to give. After a short break we were treated to Juan Martin – to sit and watch him playing his flamenco guitarra from a few feet away was an amazing experience. I spent a fair bit of time in Southern Spain in my teens and developed a love of flamenco, always found myself in awe as to how so many Spanish waiters seemed to be able to do such amazing things just naturally with a guitar and though I never quite developed the dancing skills personally I adore watching and listening to the passion of flamenco. I later chatted with Nigel (who looked exceedingly dashing, I must say), Paul B. and a couple of others in the queue for the sumptuous buffet, and spotted Juan Martin tucking in. I plucked up courage to grab him by the vol-au-vents - he was lovely to speak to and I dredged up my schoolgirl Spanish, telling him that Paco Penas was once booked to play at my school, which seemed to intrigue him. Juan still lives in Andalucia apparently, and is definitely the real McCoy, no wonder he's been voted 3rd best guitarist in the world.

    I think it was then I sat with Nigel to watch a clip from the new dvd as we munched together – some interesting photography, very close up shots and its a definite must-buy, don't know when it's due to be released but I can't wait to get a copy. I bought "Painted Sky" by the way but unfortunately haven't had a chance to play it yet – love the cover.

    Next up was Dave Cousins and Juan Martin performing "The Shepherd's Song" I think - I can never remember the order of events - close to an out-of-body experience as far as I'm concerned, it was absolutely incredible. "TSS" was one of the first Strawbs' tracks I ever heard and has always held a really special place in my heart, and to hear it played like that was an emotional moment. I can't describe how utterly exquisite it sounded but I know I'll never forget hearing it played like that.

    I think it was Dave Lambert, Chas and Rod up next, a stonking blues, rock and roll, rock, bit of everything, set. "Hey Joe" was my fave I think, I'd seen DL play it solo once before, the three of them did it amazing justice together. Have to mention Rod's drum solo too – brilliant stuff.

    It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many Witchwood friends, just sorry I didn't seem to get long enough to chat with several of you, there was so much going on. Really sorry that some couldn't make it due to illness or work commitments (Carole, I have to report there were NO Tuc biscuits at the buffet so you didn't miss much after all). History books must have been rewritten since my schooldays if everyone was Victorian themed but no matter - the band all looked resplendent in their outfits, tons of photos will go on the website I should think judging by the amount of flashes which seemed to be coming from all directions throughout the evening. Geraldine looked incredibly beautiful, as though she'd waltzed off the pages of a Jane Austen novel, and Gill looked very much the part with a prim and proper Florence Nightingale look.

    The couple who very kindly put me up for the night booked a cab which arrived early (have to say it's the first time I've spent the night with a man dressed as a giant bug. Ok, I confess his wife was there too, dressed as a clown, so it was nothing unusual really) - unfortunately I didn't get to say goodbye properly to a lot of friends so I'll say it now, "Bye". (Hasta luego to Juan Martin) xx.

    Photo from Lindsay Sorrell - more pix from Lindsay

    FANTASTIC ENTERTAINMENT - Review by Nigel Bennett

    Given the hour in the UK this is going to be a snippet (sorry perhaps that should be splash) of an aperitif of last nights events at NPL.

    Dave, Dave and Chas opened proceedings to the gathered throng, some of which were looking rather different than usual, others still much the same.

    The set included amongst others "Ghosts", "Lay Down", "If" , "New World", "Midnight Sun" , "Out........" oh that came later

    This was followed by a 10 minute "re-fill" break.

    Special guest Juan Martin then played a virtuoso set of flamenco guitar that had the audience screaming for more. Just as well, because DC then joined him on stage and the duo performed "The Shepherd's Song". Astonishing and brilliant.

    Had another refill break after this, including a sumptuous buffet, thanks to Tony Grimmer for that and also we saw what I think was a first public screening of the DVD shot at the same venue at the end of the Electric Tour in June. Time restrictions mean't just a couple of tracks but it sounded great ("Out In The Cold/Round And Round")

    Stage was then ready for Dave L, Chas and Rod to perform 45 minute of good old rock and roll. Probably woke the neighbours up, but did we care. Fantastic entertainment.

    All to soon it was over, but we did see DL on stage in his promised kilt sat on the high stool and Chas a bit like a hero from the Civil war (American) and lots of other things that I can't possibly describe so you have to wait for the photos. What are bugs that size doing out at this time of the year , complete with its enormous strawberry, only time will tell ??

    Photo from Lindsay Sorrell

    AN AMERICAN IN LONDON - Review and pix by Laura Wiggers

    An unusual chain of events led to my traveling from NY to London for the "End of Tour - Fancy Dress - Christmas Party" held at the NPL, Teddington on the eve of Nov 26, 2005. These events included my declaring I would make an effort to have a fabulous vacation if I won that night's football pool at work, winning the pool and then attending a Strawbs gig at the Stephen Talkhouse a few days later where Dave C expressed the wish that we could all come to see them in England sometime! How many more signs did I need!

    I met up with Dick G that Saturday afternoon to pick up his costume and come up with mine and we proceeded to the Lions Gate, transported ourselves back in time and arrived at the NPL in 1895. I made the acquaintance of many excellent people who welcomed me warmly and made me feel right at home. The costumes were splendid - I especially enjoyed Geraldine's gown, Sherlock and of course Dave L (more on that later).

    The first set was vintage Acoustic Strawbs with wonderful renditions of "Ghosts", "Oh How She Changed", "If", "Lay Down", "Cold Steel", "Midnight Sun", "New World" among others. The second set was a huge treat with Juan Martin playing wonderful flamenco music (I could swear he had ten fingers on each hand) and then the "gem" of the evening - a duet with Dave on "Shepherd's Song". It was obviously a treat for Dave C as well - he looked like a kid on Christmas morning!

    The final set was yet another dazzling surprise - Dave L, Chas and Rod went forward in time to play the music that would be known as "Rock and Roll" in America some 70 years hence. "Johnny B Goode", "Oh Boy", "Hey Joe" and "Summertime Blues" were played exuberantly. And I must say, it was fascinating to see how Rock and Roll began, it looked quite natural played by a band in Fancy Dress, especially Dave in the kilt.

    Let's hear it for Dave L in a kilt - he should always play in one - it was a sight to behold and I wished I were sitting in a position to "scarcely believe all the pleasures inside". (naughty, naughty)

    Afterwards I purchased Painted Sky and had all present sign - it is a momento I will cherish always. Hope to see you all again in March, especially those who could not make the festivities.

    Lots more photos from Laura Wiggers

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