We are very proud that Mike Hatchard is a fan of our Beet It Sport shots. He’s a colourful character and brilliant musician who is embarking on a cycling challenge riding from Land’s End to John O’groats! Not only that but he’ll be towing a keyboard and perform along the route. Below is the first instalment giving an insight into Mike as a person and his training leading to his epic adventure. Watch our blog for more entries in the coming weeks.
For my forthcoming cycling/concert tour one of my sponsors is Beet It, a company that produces beetroot ‘shots’ to give you a boost. Unlike Gary Lineker who, I imagines, is forced to cross his fingers every time he champions the qualities of crisps (sure, a diet of reconstituted potato and fat shaped into thin wafers was the diet that turned him into a top athlete) I can actually put my hand on heart and say that I adore Beetroot Shots. They really do energise tired musicians who have a midlife-crisis-inspired need to pretend they’re bionic.
There is a slight downside, however. Taking beetroot does rather affect the colour of one’s …erm… shall we say one’s waste products,. I do not wish to be indelicate but were I not in the habit of pulling the chain (but like a lot of people I am, of course) then I suspect the water closet user subsequent to me would form the conclusion that I’d made some sort of weird lavatorial tribute to the artist formerly known as Prince.
Today was one of those days I shall talk about for years to come. All round splendid chap Ben Hamilton arrived to help me make a video to promote my tour, aided and abetted by a few esteemed colleagues we spent the morning strapping a piano onto a prototype trailer when a lady walked past with a very tall unicycle. ‘Would you like to be in a video’ my friend asked her, to which she simply replied ‘all right’ and went off to get her costume. It transpired she’s a performance artist who specialises in burlesque erotica. Consequently we shot a video where I cycle off into the wilderness with a piano and intentions of recording an album whilst a top-hatted unicycling dancer throws her clothes over me. The workmen on the scaffolding outside the next block were unusually enthusiastic about this process which surprised me a little as I never had them down as music lovers.
After all this I was very tired, so I went into the sea to rejuvenate myself. Still very cold, but getting better. A couple of days ago I had my first wild swim of the year in Ardingly reservoir. Then Herbie Flowers phoned to ask me if I could play Monti’s Czardas on the violin at the Speigeltent, Brighton, this coming Sunday, which means I’ve got to do some serious practise. Monti is one of those composers that nobody seems to know anything about – he just seems to have written the one piece of music at a time when being a ‘one hit wonder’ wasn’t fashionable. Research on the internet proves futile – after three quarters of an hour googling I eventually established he wasn’t the same Monty responsible for fighting desert battles in the war.
Saturday 28th May and I go to London to the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain’s AGM, which is at the Punch Tavern, Fleet Street. I take Nina and my daughter into London with me as they want to go shopping.
It’s lovely to meet up with many old friends, and we all parade into this marvellous room at the back that looks suitably Dickensian and the AGM begins; it sounds like it could be very boring but actually it’s fascinating. One of my favourite cartoonists Noel Ford has recently been made chairman. Noel is one of the most intelligent, perceptive people I know but watching the pleasure the poor simpleton gets from waving his new gavel around is a joy to behold.
Then I have to drive from Central London to Ascot, Pall Mall is closed and it’s a nightmare (Nina later informs me she tried to take a taxi and the cab drivers advised her to use the tube as it was so chaotic).
At Ascot I am working with the Vince Dunn orchestra; it’s not the most disciplined of bands in some ways but at times the groove is incredible, with an eighteen year old bass player called Will who doesn’t miss a trick. I meet Robin Jones, one of the best known percussionists in the business, now eighty two. I love meeting musicians of that vintage, it’s as if they have their competence engraved on their face, humility and pride etched in equal measure.
I meet Marlon, an amazing soul singer, one of those guys who doesn’t seem to need a band at all, if they sing unaccompanied there’s such a solid groove in their voice you still imagine the backing.
It reminds me of the time I met Stevie Wonder, which was bizarrely when I was hired to draw caricatures of underprivileged children from the midlands at the top of the Telecom Tower and the organiser asked if I wouldn’t mind staying on to draw their special guest. I said that I was sorry, pointing out that I’d already done an hour’s voluntary overtime and it was unreasonable to expect me to draw a ‘special guest’ and anyway, who was it. She said it was Stevie Wonder, so I said I’d think about it. But I lied, I didn’t think about it at all; I stayed behind.
An hour later when I was beginning to wonder if I was the victim of an elaborate scam Stevie came up in the lift and looked remarkably ordinary in real life and I wanted to say all sorts of gushing things to him like ‘I think you’re the most wonderful musician on the planet’ and ‘thank you for supplying the soundtrack of my youth’ but all I could say was ‘hello’ I was so awestruck. It was explained that I was to draw him, and having a license to actually scrutinise the features of somebody that famous at close quarters was very strange. When I’d finished he put his hands all over it and said ‘I can feel its vibrations.’ As it was his birthday they said they’d got a cake ready for him and he put his hands all over that too and realising it was in the shape of a piano he began to pretend to play, singing ‘I just called to say I love you.’ I was so close to him I could see his tonsils and just as I was thinking ‘wow, that sounds amazing, but not quite as amazing as I was expecting’ he broke into a vocal cadenza that was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever heard in my life. I almost passed out I was so impressed, and I remember thinking, it’s a good job I’m not Stevie Wonder because if I were I’d just spend every day singing vocal cadenzas just to make myself almost pass out, I’d be a fire hazard.
That must have been over twenty years ago.
Sunday 29th May I surprise myself by being out of bed by seven. My eyes and ears don’t appear to be working, but I still manage to practise the violin (perhaps it’s as well my ears aren’t working). Then to the Spiegeltent in Brighton, which is a magnificent structure, to play with Italian singer Rosa Antique who flew that morning from Barcelona (which isn’t actually in Italy but I don’t like to tell her.)
A friend in the audience approaches me after and comments on the fact that I’m playing at Eel Pie Island as part of my tour, mentioning that his uncle owns it.
After the gig I am completely exhausted but I have set myself the task of cycling home, some forty miles. Hard going at first, but after about five miles I settle into it. I’ve often found that’s the way with cycling, it’s the first mile that’s the hardest, unlike free fall parachuting. It’s a beautiful afternoon, very windy (annoyingly in the wrong direction) but what a ride, along the coast and over the downs. I stop at Waller Haven and have a wild swim. It’s early evening by now, I feel wonderfully serene and calm, I can smell the moist grass and the balmy breezes (actually balmy breezes is a bit of an understatement, it’s bloody windy) and suddenly my tranquillity is shattered by a jet plane flying remarkably close. I realise that in the field a half mile or so to the east, across the river, there is a model airplane display taking place – but this thing is definitely not a model. It loops the loop, it soars impossibly high, it comes down impossibly low and at one point it seems it’s only about thirty foot from me and I feel decidedly scared. I think about how awful it must be to the victim of a drone attack, and though I tell myself the chances of this thing a) crashing at all and b) if it did, hitting me must be about fourteen million to one. This comforts me for a short while until I recall I was once daft enough to buy a lottery ticket with equally small odds.
Back home, I’ve cycled forty miles and I’m pleased that although I’m not working that evening, if I were I feel I still have enough energy to do a concert. I listen to a video of the Czardas and it sounds dreadful to my ears; I try and convince myself this is due to the quality of the phone, but the reaction at the end is extraordinary.
The next morning finds me at Worth Abbey recording my new album, with Bobby Worth on drums and Paul Kimber on bass. Bobby has been voted jazz drummer of the year on many occasions and Paul has led the bass section in the LSO also on many occasions; the augustness of this company might have been enough to frighten me at one time, but I’m delighted and flattered that they’ve given up their time to record with me. The session goes fantastically well and by two thirty we’ve recorded about ten tracks all of which I’m very happy with; the Kawai concert grand piano is a joy to play, and I reflect I’ve now spent fifty years almost to the day sitting in front of a piano keyboard. It really is about time I found out what the black ones do.
Wednesday 1st June Still absolutely exhausted. I go to the gym and make myself cycle on the machine for two and a quarter hours, which is hell. Much harder than cycling on the road for the same amount of time. Desperate to kill the time I try reading, doing crosswords, none of it takes my mind off it sufficiently to stop it feeling like hell; for the first time in my life I wish I knew how to knit.
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