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In between the time it took for new romantics to become old news and for house music to take over homes, it’s hard to believe that a duo brought skiffle back, reaching the top ends of the indie charts and receiving backing from John Peel and Morrissey amongst others. Armed with a double bass, a guitar and ribbon ties, Terry & Gerry’s blend of washboard beats and political poems proved to be a successful formula.
Almost three decades on from appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube, Terry & Gerry reunited for a John Peel memorial tour, and have since decided that the world is ready for skiffle once more. Lead vocalist Gerry Colvin is a hugely energetic character, clearly thrilled to be back on stage with his original partner in crime and reliving ’50s influenced ‘80s tracks to a crowd in the next century.
Covering the miner’s strike (‘Butter’s On The Bread’) and American politics (‘Kennedy Says’), these are serious songs delivered with a whimsical take on the issues, while ‘Joey’ documents the overdose of a troubled friend and is a genuinely touching track (“Gone like water through your hands, all of Joey’s hopes and plans”). ‘Clothes Shop’ closes their set (“This was our big hit,” declares Gerry) and will no doubt provide a highlight of their Glastonbury appearance in the Acoustic Tent this year. For something a little different but strangely familiar, make your way there if you’re lucky enough to have a ticket.
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First up are Terry and Gerry, Louder Than War’s favourite 80’s cow punk skiffle band complete with long black coats, shoestring ties, a washboard with one of those bits on it that sounds like the death rattle of your favourite clockwork railway engine and a ton of great little songs. Little being the operative word. Terry And Gerry seem to think that the phrase “three minute pop song” represents some kind of extreme upper limit on duration. I shoot the shortest three songs worth of pictures in history.
They’re masters of the art of creative anachronism, starting out in the early 80s (which wasn’t a skiffle boom period), appearing on The Tube and doing several Peel sessions back in the day when peel favourite was just a preparatory instruction in the post Grand National barbecue cookbook. Having been on hiatus for several years they reformed for a 2014 Peel celebration tour. They are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, apparently overwhelmed with their reception and the fact that people haven’t left by the end of their set, and seemingly on the verge of going into a full on Gwyneth Paltrow between songs.
Their exuberance certainly strikes a chord with the audience and their set provokes lashings of community singing, organised waving (some of it bimanual) and some great tunes, among them Kennedy Says, which features benedictions from a place in the sky above the White House and a posthumous pardon for the whole Bay Of Pigs thing, Clothes Shop, a hymn to the loneliness of sartorial elegance and teenage individualism.