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Jim Bob – Driving Jarvis Ham – Before, During and After The Watershed

June 15, 2012

Ahoy Ahoy!

Long time no blog. I have been a busy aardvark recently with my paws in a number of different anthills, not least of which has seen me begin writing a novel. It’s been fun, rewarding and stimulating, but a process that is equally daunting and somewhat terrifying. The reason I mention this is that last week, a small group of us went to see Jim Bob at The Watershed.

JimBob was one half of the 80s/90s band, Carter: The Unstoppable Sex Machine. The vocal half. Not the half that actually rugby tackled Philip Schofield live on stage and televised for the entire nation’s viewing pleasure at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party in 1991. Incidentally, the track which they had just (nearly) finished performing at the time was After The Watershed, from which Newport Pagnell’s finest and dirtiest little art hole of a venue derived its name. Anyway, I digress.

Jim (Jim Bob) Morrison is a talented so-and-so. Carter USM’s songs were always, for me at least, more about the lyrics than the music. Two blokes with guitars and a drum machine were never going to win too many Ivor Novellos, but lyrically they always had something relevant to say and it was always delivered with a scathing, often scything and acerbic wit. These days, Jim’s work is just as pointedly ‘on point’, only now he has another outlet; he has become an author.

Driving Jarvis Ham is his third book and second novel. I’m not going to do a book review here because, I must confess, I haven’t yet read it. However, listening to the man himself read excerpts that flowed effortlessly from the page, it is now on my burgeoning to do list. I suppose it helps that the book is set in the South Hams, a particularly beautiful and rural part of South Devon, near Plymouth, where I grew up, and which forms the narrow corridor that separates Dartmoor from the English Channel. I suppose it helps that the villages that are referred to in the book, Yealmpton, Noss Mayo, Brixton, Kingsbridge and so on, are as familiar to me as Lambeth, Camberwell and New Cross are to a south Londoner. And I suppose it helps that, being of a roughly similar age to Jim and, given that the book alludes to growing up in this  ‘rural idyll’, my nostalgia buttons are going to pressed frequently when I finally do get around to immersing myself in Driving Jarvis Ham. You can hear Jim’s voice whilst he reads. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sentence might sound, but there is a flow to his writing, honed no doubt by his songwriting, that is fluid and conversational. I detect a slight nervousness in his delivery, one which he himself seems aware of and almost apologises for, however, far from detracting from the recitation, it adds an authenticity, in exactly the sort of way that Stephen Fry reading JK Rowling couldn’t. Yet this is The Watershed, not Hay-on-Wye and there is only so much reading the audience will accept. He has, after all, nearly a quarter of a century’s back catalogue of music to play with.

Photo courtesy of BT Photography

It’s clear that the music, delivered by the man himself with just an acoustic guitar, is still held in great affection and near reverence by the capacity crowd. But then Jim is amongst friends here. Raffle tickets are distributed amongst the crowd before the gig. No money changes hands, but the prize is a memorable one as, when the tickets are drawn by Jim and his sidekick, Mr Spoons, complete with chef’s hat, the winners get to choose the next song from a Specials board. (Culinary or cafe theme in the book methinks.) No one seems disappointed that there are no songs by The Specials on the board. I don’t win, but heigh ho! I have to confess that Jim Bob and CarterUSM have slipped off my radar since the mid-nineties. I wouldn’t have known what to pick even if I had won, but I am genuinely impressed with the set. The slightly nervous delivery of the two excerpt readings from Driving Jarvis Ham, merge into a slightly less nervous, yet still endearing ‘stand up’ introduction to the songs, which are full of passion, consummate performance skills and no trace of nerves.

Speaking to Jim after the show, he comes across as slightly nervous, yet unassuming and at ease with where his career has taken him. We chat about the area of the country where the book is set – I grew up in South Devon and have an intimate knowledge of all of the small villages Jarvis Ham gets driven through. His next project, he tells me will be another book. I ask if he has always seen himself as a writer as opposed to a singer, musician or performer. Candidly he responds with, “I just wanted to be famous.” A breathtakingly honest reply and I admire him all the more for saying it.

He hangs around in the bar downstairs for some considerable time after the show. The fans are true fans – all pushing or having  passed 40 now – loyal and eager to speak to the man himself and he seems more than happy to oblige. I hear one punter profess that Carter USM changed his life. That must be a weight to bear, but Jim is grateful and appreciative without being either arrogant or self-deprecating. Our small party includes my music buddy, Dirk and his wife. Unconfirmed reports suggest she has a Carter tattoo on an intimate region, for indeed, she is that big a fan. Jim is happy to come over and pose for photos. What a lovely chap!

If, like me, Carter has become something of a distant memory, have a hunt around the net for Sheriff Fatman, The Only Living Boy In New Cross or After The Watershed. Look up Jim Bob’s solo work; there are some absolute gems including,  Prince In A Pauper’s Grave and Angelstrike! to name but two.

And I understand from a tweet @mrjimBob sent, that there is a copy of Driving Jarvis Ham in section B of the Waterstones in Midsummer Place, Milton Keynes. I’ll race you to it!



From → devilsaardvark, Music

    • Why thank you Dear Boy! I have a fair bit of catching up to do, but I always look forward to reading your work.

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