By Joy Bells
First impressions…Well, The Beehive’s a small backstreet pub and the sound check is like take-off at Houston. Instruments piled up like presents round a rich kids Christmas tree block the top end of the bar and a guy who later that night I come to revere as the Lawrence Olivier of rock flounces around tossing his white locks like some Druidic magician. This is Alan Clayson and he’s performing with his incredibly talented band of Argonauts.
They’ve experience near mob-lynching’s, punch ups and car chases as well as women AND men jumping on stage to tear off their clothes. They’ve headlined at The Marquee, the 100 Club, the Roundhouse and Amsterdam’s Melkveg, so I wonder what they’ll make of the Beehive audience. There are men on the stairs wearing more makeup than Alan, and the dance floor (the walk through from the bar to the toilet) sees a good deal of close up gyration as the night unfolds. For Argonauts everywhere the Beehive is a port in the storm.
The opening salvo is the song ‘Superman’. A voiceover announces ‘Germany Calling’ while a siren blares and music indicative of impending attack ensures no one nips to the loo. Into the furore of battle steps the lead player in this theatrical bombardment, – Mr Alan Clayson, all Freddie Mercury stance mixed with wistful Elvis hip thrust, Frankie Howard expressions and Shirley Bassey gesticulation. On top of which we quickly realise he isn’t fronting the band because he can sing in tune, – but he holds the trump card; he has CHARISMA as well as something pertinent to say about practically everything! I scan the audience as he performs…no one can take their eyes off of him.
Effusive lyrics are narratives of other times and places, like the battle for the skies in World War 2 where ‘every passing plane is whispering your name’. I shiver as Young England/The Landlocked Sailor progresses. It sounds like the 60’s and I almost expect a few droogs to march in the door, order pints of milk and demand Beethoven! It combusts into a hornpipe and suddenly we’re all singing along to the chorus of ‘rock and roll me over’.
The influence of Roger Waters seeps through the story telling, the progressive key changes and trampolining tempos, the stops and starts, the fast and slows. As if to confirm their allegiance they play Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd’s 1967 hit, which turns into a psychedelic discord fest that reassembles into robust rock. We’re also treated to a swing version of the ‘50’s hit ‘On the Street Where you live’, and experience some of Alan’s harmonica hocus-pocus in ‘Sol Nova’ – it’s all over – not the most optimistic of The Argonauts repertoire, but lugubriously atmospheric.
The Argonauts are tighter than a fat girl’s girdle. The saxophone integrates then stands alone, reaching in and out of the compositions, and keyboard, guitars and drums all move around Alan’s songs like the well-oiled articulated joints of a fully wound automaton. I loved the backing vocals in Pagan Mercia, which he likes to call ‘The Anglo Saxon Blues’, – see what this guy does? He dips into any subject and colours it with musical subtleties and the colours are violets and azures, not your plain old primaries.
Clayson leads his Argonauts holistically, familiar phrases are turned inside out, (‘what a difference a ‘decade’ makes’), interweaving wisdom with hammy, artifice with truth and serving up poignant plates of powerful imagery and folk-like balladry as in ‘Days in Old Rotterdam.’
Would I see this band again? Hell yes, and hire a coach to take my mates. This was multi-layered entertainment and I couldn’t believe it was all for free! Any songwriter who has one of his songs sung by the winner of the Indonesian version of Pop idol has to know something about universal appeal. What was I saying about Druidic Magician?
If you want to find out more about this loaded gun of fun theatricals then go to