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Tim Chipping

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

I’ve seen Nic Jones perform live ten times. That’s quite a lot considering he didn’t get back on stage until 2010. And I was a child in 1982, when his life on the road came to an end (almost literally). There are people who’ve not been to ten gigs in their entire lives, let alone by the same ridiculous, miraculous man. So I count myself whatever people who don’t believe in fate substitute for lucky.

But I can’t call myself a Nic Jones fan. Not any more. Since I saw him and his son Joe play the last date of their tour in Lewes, I now know I’m not fit to be a Jonester. Or are we Penguinettes? I forget.

In the queue at the All Saints Arts Centre (just in front of Shirley Collins, another avid fan) were Sean and Pat O’Riordan, an affable couple who’d travelled some distance to be there. This was going to be their sixth Nic Jones concert since his return. It was good to meet kindred enthusiasts for bewildering anecdotes about how potatoes get smaller when you pick them, occasionally punctuated by some of the best sung and played arrangements of folk songs you’re ever likely to hear. But I also felt a fuzz of satisfaction that I’d been to more gigs than they had.

“So,” said Pat, “that makes 72 in total for us. We saw him 66 times before the accident.” My eyes widened. I think I said “Blimey!” but it was drowned out by the sound of an imaginary piano crashing down my internal stairs. 72 Nic Jones gigs? I don’t know if I’ve had that many hot dinners. But then I mostly live on Monster Munch sandwiches.

If rumours are to be believed, Lewes may well have been the last Nic Jones gig any of us will see. But it’s impossible to tell what the future will bring with Nic as he insists on living in the now (he’ll tell you all about it if you give him half a chance. And even if you don’t.) But despite the possible significance of the occasion, my mind nagged me throughout to think of an artist I’d seen 72 times. And I couldn’t. It made me feel a bit sick.

Since 1989 I’ve not gone a year without seeing Nick Cave (the name is, I think, a coincidence). Often I’ve been to two or three gigs a year, with or without his Bad Seeds. But it can’t add up to more than 35 times. So even if he and I can keep this up for another 25 years I’ll still not have made it to 72 shows. I’m inadequate. Although I didn’t ask for a reason, Sean and Pat explained their dedication anyway. “We just like him,” they said. And that’s really all there is to it.

A psychotherapist might want me (and them) to probe buried memories to find the root cause of this need to repeat pleasurable events. But the reason ­doesn’t matter. Watching someone whose music I like is where I’m happiest. But more than happy. I make sense there. When that music is physically transmitted by the geniuses, chancers and lunatics who make it, and I’m in its path, I don’t want for anything else.

Like eating a Monster Munch sandwich, why wouldn’t you do that every day if you could?

Tim Chipping


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