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Chas and Dave - more than just 'rockneying' all over the world

Cockney musical duo Chas and Dave are still going strong, and touring in the north west
Cockney musical duo Chas and Dave are still going strong, and touring in the north west
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As Chas and Dave return to Lancashire as part of their All Seasons 2018 tour, MALCOLM WYATT spoke to Dave Peacock about the past, present and future of the renowned ‘rockney’ duo

When Dave Peacock lost his wife Sue to cancer in 2009, it seemed to mark the end of the Chas and Dave story, after 34 years. But the pair announced a tour for 2011 and have carried on ever since, Dave reckoning they’re playing better than ever.

Living in Hertfordshire, having first moved out of London in his late 20s, he recently turned 73. How did he celebrate?

“I went around Chas’s and dug his allotment over. We live about 14 miles apart. He’s a very keen gardener and I give him a hand.”

Do you feel your age?

“I feel alright. Music keeps you young, as long as you keep playing. I love to play, and I play every day.”

From the start, there was also Mick Burt on drums, through to retirement in 2009. He died in 2014, but by then Chas’s son Nic was already established, ‘giving it some stick’.

“Nic’s always been the baby, being Chas’s boy, but grew up with music around him, and he’s a multi-instrumentalist – a great drummer, but also a good guitar and bass player. It’s great to have him. Mickey was his idol when he was growing up. He was familiar with his style, and it sort of rubbed off.”

This month, Chas and Dave’s All Seasons tour visits Blackburn’s King George’s Hall. When did they first perform in the North West?

“Years and years ago, I was in a country’n’western band that used to run around in the North, backing Slim Whitman, all them people, right up to Scotland. Then, when me and Chas got together, they were saying, ‘They won’t understand you up North,’ which was an absolute load of twaddle. We’ve got loads and loads of fans up north. I’d always done London songs, whatever band I happened to be in. And Chas was in Heads, Hands & Feet, and when they toured the States, he said he felt a fraud, singing in a false American accent. But you can turn it around, if you work at it, making it fit your own accent. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve kept our rock’n’roll, sort of boogie-woogie feel, but in our own way.”

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Beyond Blackburn, the pair return for a rescheduled Liverpool Empire date on September 23. And while there aren’t so many gigs these days, there’s clearly lots of love out there for Chas and Dave.

“We did the Royal Albert Hall recently, and a woman who’s worked there 30-odd years said she’d never seen a crowd behave like it. It’s great to be able to please that amount of people, have fun while you’re doing it.

“We still enjoy what we do, do all our hits, and we’re not fed up with them. We love doing ‘Rabbit’, ‘The Sideboard Song’, all those. We always say they’re our babies. We love ‘em.”

‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ proved their worth as songwriters, but that’s often lost on the public, perceiving them as a cockney ‘knees-up’ outfit.

“You’re dead right. There’s an element of that, but it’s not all like ‘down-the-old-pub’. People who haven’t seen us think that’s what it is. But it’s not.

“In Record Collector last week there was an article which said, ‘‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ is the best song never written or recorded by Fats Domino’. We take that as a real compliment. We love Fats.”

Dave’s chiefly known for bass and vocals, but is also a dab hand on other instruments, like piano …

“I play a little boogie-woogie. John Lennon said, ‘I don’t play finger-style guitar, but do something that makes people think I can.’ That’s me on

piano, whereas Chas plays ragtime and is the best rock’n’roll player

going. I also love banjo – I like a bit of bluegrass and clawhammer.

“I played ukelele when I was about six. An uncle showed me some chords. I’d get plastic ukuleles for 19/6d, which in old money was very dear. When I was a kid in the local pub, they’d put me on the table and I’d sing. I loved music. I just couldn’t stop playing, just strumming a ukulele and singing. Later, with Chas, we’d have fantastic parties. Chas’s Mum was a fabulous piano player. We’d get uncles and aunts, her, us strumming away. A lot of our songs were passed down orally through our families. They’d have been extinct if we hadn’t put them on those LPs.”

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While their story goes back to 1975, the pair had known each other for some time by then.

“We met in the early ‘60s. Chas was the famous bass player round our way, in The Outlaws. The guitar player I was with, we had a band called The Rolling Stones but changed that – we thought it was silly! That guitar player went to school with Chas, who was thumbing a lift one night. He’d be at his girlfriend’s until two, miss the last bus home. We’d pick him up, go back to his house and play records. We found out we liked the same sort of stuff. And once we started writing, the whole world opened up. We were packing out places, getting a following. We just kept working.”

Next year it’ll be 40 years since ‘Gertcha’ broke you.

“We were doing a session with Big Jim Sullivan, who played with Marty Wilde and Tom Jones. He was doing a vocal, saw me through the glass, and said, ‘Look at him with his bib and braces – gertcha!’ It became the word of the session. We then wrote that down in Wales just to make Jim laugh. We were playing it in a pub later and this advertising man said, ‘I’d like to do that for an ad.’ We weren’t busting ourselves to be famous. We just wanted to earn enough to pay the bills, get our music recognised. But it all sort of went off good.”