Helen McCookerybook (The Chefs, Helen and the Horns) was a favourite of John Peel and the last time she played in the city, her ‘weirdo band’ shared the bill with The Housemartins at Spring Street Theatre. Tonight her support comes from another weird homegrown act, the zany, avant-garden that is Graham Graham Beck.
I note that the keyboard now reads Gramaha and not Spamaha. Halfway between a holiday camp lounge singer, and by his own admission, a children’s TV entertainer. A monkey in a clog tree… really? And now the lovable George George is wearing said clogs – who doesn’t want to own a George George after tonight? It’s a fig roll love-in with your favourite biscuit-fancying, gnome-bothering, piano-playing songsmith down at Furleys and Co.
Fingerless gloves, a musical teabag and an odd dancing partner called Alesha – who waltzs better than he. Musical numbers accompanied by an assortment of homemade props and accessories, including a hat you could piss in, Graham’s a man whose garden shed projects have taken over his life, reinventing his musical career.
6 Music has him on repeat, Tom Robinson loves the cut of his cloth, there’s no question that Graham Graham Beck is going places, trouble is nobody quite knows where that is. Last seen roaming hill and dale, negotiating medium-sized buildings in a single bound, disturbing the peace in village halls and community centres, across the East Riding.
Never have a relationship with a songwriter Helen McCookerybook declares as she launches into Lover when you leave me,’ which rolls along at a good lick. From a time after punk had imploded and artists who were punks and punks who were artists drifted towards rock a billy and country and, according to Helen, took quite a few pogoing punks with them.
The sound feels very English and pastoral, songs about psychedelic trips in Brighton sit side-by-side with sunny numbers Summer Days – recently remixed by Stuart Moxham Young Marble Giants – and Daisies. It’s not all sunshine and flowers ‘People are drowning in the Mediterranean… which I find very difficult,’ says Helen introducing her charity song The Sea. In a show of unity the fifty-plus crowd appreciate the sentiment and duly join in the chorus.
Floaty and fine, with the occasional shade of the Sonya Maddens vocally I thought, Helen entertains with her rich acoustic guitar sound. Tapping into some treasured memories held by the old punks in the room now long in tooth and short on hair, who sing out the half remembered lyrics… teenage make-up fun and something about being locked in a cage with a puff adder…
A splendid night by GM Music at Furleys with a community cabaret vibe that hark backs to an era that might just be making a comeback. My ale of choice was called Life’s a Beach – a local brew – and there was even a raffle with some thoughtful musical and edible prizes.