FOR anyone looking for an antidote to the manufactured pop of X Factor, there’s a Christmas treat in store.
“It’s about people who can really sing and really play,” says Spike Edney of this year’s upcoming SAS (Spike’s All Stars) Band show.
The former keyboard player with Queen has been putting on a seasonal show for years, using his contacts throughout the music industry to gather an ever-changing stellar line-up.
This year’s megaband will include Jack Bruce from Cream, Midge Ure from Ultravox, Chris Thompson from Manfred Mann’s Earthband, We Will Rock You star Brenda Edwards, and Patti Russo who has duetted with everyone from Meatloaf to Cher.
Spike says each star will sing songs they’re famous for plus a personal favourite, which might be an obscure album track or a cover version – and there will be several big song showpieces with everyone joining in.
“Music should be by people who can sing performing with people who can play and creating an empathy with the audience,” he adds.
“It will be an antidote to all the processed music you get these days.
“You don’t know if people can sing or not with the technology that’s available now. There was a time when you had to have a degree of talent and be able to go out and perform live to be able to make it.
“I can never see that returning so I’m spearheading a dying breed of people whose ability is there on show. The show will be for music fans who like to hear people performing live.”
However, Spike refuses to rail against X Factor too much.
“It’s the way it is,” he says. X Factor is really TV entertainment and it’s about producing something that’s disposable.
“One or two of them manage to do well and keep going but there are loads who don’t even get their one Christmas hit out of it.
“If you say you came fifth on X Factor 10 years ago, it’s not going to get you very far.
“But what chance have you got if you’re starting out in music now? There’s been a systematic reduction in the number of venues people can play.
“I picked up my first guitar in the 60s when I heard the Beatles and when I played in my first band we could play four nights a week.
“When I was 20 I could play seven nights a week and make a living out of it without being famous.
“Venues put on three shows a day. That sounds impossible now.
“There are less and less places for live musicians to work and learn their craft and even gifted singers need to learn their craft.
“Years ago I worked with Edwin Starr and Ben E King and learned so much from them – these guys had been doing it forever and knew so much about working an audience, and I was like a sponge soaking it all up.”
The annual SAS Band shows have gathered a huge following across Surrey and beyond since Spike started them at Chiddingfold village hall in the 1990s.
“The social club there had fabulous acoustics – so good that local musicians like Eric Clapton and Mike Rutherford used to use it for
rehearsals,” he recalls.
“We used to do a Christmas gig there in the late 90s and it grew and grew until we were doing four or five nights there every December.
“It was exhausting so we moved to the rifle club at Bisley and did about three or four years there.
“But still we had people who couldn’t get in so we moved again, to G Live last year.
“I was a big fan of the old Guildford Civic Hall and played there with several bands. It had a great atmosphere and I was sad when they pulled it down, so it was good to go to G Live and I like that too.
“Apparently we hold the record for the audience who drank the most during a gig – either our fans like to enjoy themselves or we drive them to it…”
The SAS Band will play at G Live, Guildford, on Saturday, December 1. Support will come from Paul Young and Los Pacaminos, plus Steve