As you know, I hate shopping. I buy most of what I can online and the rest in bad-tempered forays into the High Street at lunchtime. Sometimes if I’m desperate I’ll go shopping on a Saturday but I have to be absolutely desperate to take that step. Basically that means all the stuff I buy every month gets its box ticked on my ‘Sainsbury to you’ order and anything I don’t buy regularly I go without for months after one runs out and before I remember to search the ‘aisles and shelves’ function in the Sainsbury’s website for a replacement.
I’ve been out of cotton buds for a month. They’re so useful too – especially for me as my ability to hold a mascara wand against my eyelash but away from my face is not good. I remembered to buy some today and got this strange little knotty thrill in the pit of my stomach as I picked some up from the shelf in the High Street at lunchtime on one of my bad tempered shopping forays!
You see to me a Cotton Bud will eternally be a Q-Tip. And you see a Q-Tip isn’t simply a Cotton Bud. It’s a seven-piece band who spent the late-seventies and early-eighties touring incessantly around the UK (averaging 200 gigs per year or so) playing amazing covers of all the Stax and Atlantic soul classics.
The Q-Tips were, to put it quite simply, the best band I’ve ever seen. Oh and I saw them lots. I’m not sure how many times exactly but certainly dozens and probably hundreds of times. Now I can’t lay claim to having seen Sam Cooke singing ‘Having a Party’ or Arthur Conley singing ‘Sweet Soul Music’ or Soul Brothers Six singing ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’ or Otis Redding singing Respect. In fact Sam Cooke and Otis Redding had both been long dead when I first found out I loved this music with a passion. The wonderful Arthur Conley died last year of course. But what I can say, without fear of contradiction, is that the Q-Tips did those songs a beautiful justice that was as sweet as the original versions of the songs. They were delivered with passion by a band with a full-on brass section and a real Hammond Organ – bet you can’t remember the last time you saw someone play one of those.
They also had the lush Paul Young on vocals and if there was ever a man made to deliver pleasure to women, Paul was that man. I can tell you that when he sank to his knees in front of you and sang into your eyes that there isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t have laid down her life for him. Me too!
Their stage show was two hours of thrilling and sometimes heart-aching music, some written by them and some of the great classics of the late 50s early 60s soul scene. I can’t hear the opening bars of ‘Respect’ to this day without wanting to leap up and start singing my head off while madly dancing around the room. It’s a sure-fire way to rid me of the blues – just put on an Otis Redding album and I’m in heaven.
The trouble is though that a seven-piece band isn’t a profitable entity – even if they’d had chart success, which always just managed to elude them. They were best at the live stuff and commanded audiences of two thousand people sometimes but could never break into the singles chart. If they wanted to play a small pub venue in London, they’d play under the pseudonym ‘the cotton buds’. It was a tragedy for music when they split – it was a tragedy for me too because they’d asked me if they could use my live photos of them on the inner sleeve of their live album. Sadly for me, it got released ‘post-mortem’ on a shoestring budget and the inner sleeve was plain white – talk about the one that got away!!!
Paul was lured away from the Q-Tips with a big solo record contract and went on to become a mega-star still making soulful songs but with a twist. I love his version of ‘Oh Girl’ and ‘Wherever I lay My Hat’ as much, if not more than the originals…..and don’t tell me he butchered ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ I’ve heard all that before!
I’ve said before that I met Claz and Shazbop at a Q-Tips gig....and Claire introduced me to David later too – I had my camera with a big telephoto lens and Claire was next to me. She shoved a note in my hand asking if I would sell her copies of the pics and we became firm friends. She introduced me to Sharon as a third person who would love to tour the country watching them play and sharing the costs of the petrol for my 1.1 Fiesta (company car in my defence)!!!
Twenty three years later we are still friends and still love those days. So C&S – do you remember being in the top bar at the Venue in Victoria at 4am on Christmas morning, long after the place had shut, doing the conga along the top of the bar and chatting to PY in his string vest? Do you remember Manchester – French knickers on heads in the car on the way there and me being ‘cocktail waiter’ in the hotel bar that we’d broken into with the band because the owner of the hotel had gone to bed before we got back from the gig?
Those really were the days….. so when I picked up my box of cotton buds, you now see why I felt so good!