People have begun to ask me ‘So where did you get the name Boogaloo?’!
In the very late 80’s I had a residency at The Dublin Castle in Camden, this was a significant pub to be playing in as the landlord ‘Conlon’ was an important figure in the careers’ of lots of bands. He gave Madness their first break, was instrumental in many acts from Specials to Arctic Monkeys and other bands getting going with their first live opportunity. In fact, the pub was known as a ‘gateway’ pub for live music in the 90’s. However, I like to think that I was the only act to have both Suggs AND Bill Wyman in the audience while I was playing! It really is something to have Bill Wyman in the audience! I remember looking at him a few times and thinking ‘Gee, I wonder what was going on when you first played ‘Dance Little Sister’ live, which was my favourite Rolling Stones track at that time. You can find it on the ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll’ album, by the way.
We did a Saturday lunchtime every month for a year and that type of show was like gold dust really, as we always had another show in the evening. The Croydon Cartoon or the Half Moon, Herne Hill or the Putney Half Moon. Being in Camden High Street, there never was a time when the pub was less than buzzing – even in the mornings. I loved walking in before midday and seeing all the tables full with pints, Gins & Tonics, glasses of wine and the Sun wasn’t even over the yard arm! There is something about the characters you find in pubs during the morning.
We used to turn up for soundcheck about 11.30am and get organised to play from 1pm to 4pm with a break in-between. The very first job would be to order a pint! I literally have no idea how I used to start drinking at 11.30 am and play two shows in a day. Of course on many weekends there would have been a Friday evening show too, so these weekends were often a swirl of effort and adventure.
The set in those days was a mixture of Blues standards and new Blues stuff that I had written. It was always a feature of a band I put together then, we would play some classic stuff by John Lee Hooker, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf etc. But the meat on the bone was new Blues material and it was what set me apart from other Blues musicians on that circuit and Conlon at The Dublin Castle loved it.
Soon as things were plugged in, we would soundcheck to the fabulous Ringo Starr hit Back Off Boogaloo, even if it was just the drummer and me, we always start off by playing the track and trying to nail its stupendous drum beat, groove and awesome guitar playing. It got Micky the drummer warmed up and I got a chance to not only heat my rhythm chops up but get the bottleneck out and my eye in on the notes.
Conlon loved that track too and after the second session there, whenever he saw me he would say in his velvety Irish tones ‘Watch out everyone, it’s Boogaloo Grey Cooper’!
Alo Conlon was such a lovely man, there is a great quote from Suggs of Madness about him “He asked us what we played and we said country and western, and jazz – we thought that would be the thing to say when going in to ask for a gig at an Irish pub.”
Maybe I should have said something similar, but being anointed as Boogaloo Grey Cooper was good enough for me.