INTERVIEW: Chas (& Dave) heads for Worthing

IF you ask Chas, of Chas & Dave, the one highlight of his career, it is not having chart hits, appearing on This is Your Life or even being invited to dinner with fan Princess Margaret.

All these things obviously mean a lot but the one moment that stands out is playing Glastonbury.

"I thought we were going to go down well and I turned up with my wife and there were about 600 people sitting around the stage," he said.

"We would get a couple of thousand by the time we were on, I thought.

But there were more than 30,000 who trekked right across the fields just to see us.

"It was amazing. They were chanting 'Chas and Dave' like a football crowd."

The Cockney duo found a new section of younger fans through the unlikely source of Pete Docherty and his band The Libertines.

"We've always had a mixed audience but a few years ago Pete Docherty was saying we were a big influence for them when they were young.

"We supported The Libertines at the Kentish Town Forum and The Brixton Academy and now we have the youngsters who are their fans as Chas & Dave fans. They follow you everywhere."

They played Glastonbury in 2005 and three times last year, among their busy tour schedule, which includes Worthing again this summer.

The first half of the show at the Pavilion Theatre changes every time, according to the audience.

It is your chance to ask questions of the pair. For instance, if someone asks what was the first song they wrote, they are likely to treat you to a rendition.

"That keeps the show up to date and fresh and then we save all the hits, and a few surprises, for the second half," said Chas.

"Everyone wants to hear the hits. We never work to a list and if we have forgotten one when we start to go off the stage, they will soon let us know."

As well as the likes of Rabbit, Margate and Ain't No Pleasing You, there are some more unusual pieces.

Chas plays on piano a rock 'n' roll version of a Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt. "It goes down a storm," he says. "It gets a standing ovation – it's great to know there's always something else you can learn.

"A year ago I wouldn't have thought I would be doing piano instrumentals."

In between shows, Chas has just finished a book called the Chas & Dave Story, which he was asked to do by the publisher of a book he wrote about his own life.

He has also fulfilled an ambition by putting together a solo album, which he wrote and played everything on himself, and a Chas & Dave Songbook is being published.

Chas started off playing guitar, although his mum wanted him to follow in her footsteps by learning piano and was proud when he made a success of it, seeing him play the Palladium.

"Mum brought us kids up playing instruments," he said. "Dad died when I was three and mum was playing the pubs and clubs around the north of London.

"She brought us up on the pop music of her day. I didn't want to know about the piano until she took me to see Jerry Lee Lewis when I was a kid.

"Later on I went on the road with him in 1963, playing bass guitar for him. I started to learn piano and worked with him many times since."

Chas was still playing bass when he met Dave. "I was thumbing a lift home with my girlfriend, now my wife, in the '60s.

"A friend stopped for us and Dave was in the back. We were both bass players and were friends for about five years before we decided to get together professionally. I decided give up the bass then.

"I wanted to start writing things about the places and people we knew and to sing in our own accents but to keep our rock and roll influence.

"I told Dave about the idea and told him I would give up bass and go on piano and we wrote songs in the daytime and in the evenings, we played the pubs and clubs. It seemed obvious to me.

"Now, all these years later, a lot of bands are doing the same. It's so real, so honest."

Their debut album, One Fing 'n' Another, was released in 1975, followed by Rockney in 1978.

Two years later they were spotted by an advertising exec at a pub gig playing Gertcha. They signed up to make ads for Courage beer and Gertcha became their first top 20 chart entry.

Since then, Rabbit reached number eight in the charts and Ain't No Pleasing You number two, with many other hits including Snooker Loopy and The Romford Gap.

Their songs have been covered by many artistes and they have been on TV shows and at festivals galore, including bringing out their most successful album to date to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995.

Hear Chas & Dave at Worthing on August 1 at 7.45pm. Tickets are 15.50 or 17.50 from the box office on 01903 206206 or click here


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