Have you ever had one of those surreal experiences when you wonder whether what you are witnessing is real or is some sort of elaborate joke played by a scheming comic genius? I had one last Saturday evening when Greenfield Band hosted their 20th Anniversary concert with the Klosermansfelder band, who Greenfield band have a cultural link.
Klosermansfelder is a small copper mining town in, what was, communist East Germany and as if to make them feel at home, Uppermill Civic Hall had a beer keller feel to it from the off, with the tables arranged longitudinally towards the stage, and from an early point in the evening, many, many foaming steins visible along them - well alright then, pints of mild and bitter. Greenfield Band performed the first set of the evening with a selection of traditional brass band marches and a couple of songs from the musicals. They then came to their last number and suddenly the spector of Basil Fawlty loomed large on my horizon - and I hope I don't have to be too explicit about my recollection of that particular episode of Fawlty Towers - as they announced their last piece The Battle of Britain March. A number of us snorted into our beer but, as if we hadn't got the - unintended - joke, an older woman stage whispered to her, presumably deaf, neighbour "Didn't we beat them at that?...". The turn came for the German band to perform and what an excellent performance they gave, whipping the crowd into a true beer kellar, larger swilling, cheese-fest of tradional German umpah music.
Then came the middle bit.
Do you remember James Last; the way he sanitised pop music into something fit for playing only in elevators; how he managed to make beige a lifestyle choice rather than a colour and the way in which he hypnotised my parents generation and sold millions of albums of pop hits, sanitized until they took on a pleasantly harmless feel. He could have made the Sex Pistols sound like Val Doonican. The band's middle section must have been planned as a Last homage: a medeley of 1970s hits centred on the classic Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, by Middle of the Road - it could only have been improved by them segueing into the Birdy Song.
But the thing was, we loved it: dancing, drinking and singing; swaying, rocking and swooning; and, as if to emphasise the fromagesque quality of the event, the band had a look of Tutonic seriousness - grim even throughout their whole set. It was great.
Finally the time for the last number came. It was announced as a rendition of the Klosermanfelder town song: a song that summed up the culture and heritage of the town; a song that brought a tear to the eye of every Klostermanfelderian as they sung it in bars and taverns across the town; a song that translated as: Good Luck Down the Mine, The Foreman's Coming. Later I felt guilty at my reaction to the title of that song which, after all is a poignant reminder of the years of oppressive poverty and sheer hard labour - as if mining wasn't hard enough anyway - imposed by the by the Communist East German regime.
Now here comes the real Royston Vasey moment. Today, looking for a suitable picture for this post I searched for Klosermanfelder in Google hoping for a picture of the town square or even a copper mine shot. But all that was returned by the biggest search engine of them all was one hit; and that was the article in the Oldham Evening Chronicle promoting the concert. I searched further and further: not a German sausage: not a single picture, article or blog post. Ever. It's like the place never existed...
Anyway, not wanting to leave you without some sort of image or interactive involvement with the occasion I have selected, as you will see above, a fine picture of Greenfield Band; and here is an irresistible rendition of that Middle of the Road classic: Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep: and I defy you not to walk into work singing it tomorrow.