Edinburgh Festival: Jazz: A maestro in full bloom

HERBIE FLOWERS GRAFFITI

GUITAR LEGENDS come in various shapes and sizes. Some are out shopping on Wilshire Boulevard, some are just plain dead, and Herbie Flowers is making regular visits to the Edinburgh Festival with a routine that's part nostalgia trip, part stand-up.

His drily hilarious patter is reminiscent of the late Ronnie Scott. Herbie Flowers is 60 and still playing. "Some musos work at it but I play music."

He has just been recording a new album with George Harrison whose guitar collection is being renovated by a specialist. When Flowers opened his terminally wrecked guitar case the restorer fell upon the battered instrument with a wild cry: "A November 1959!" Flowers claims that his bass was virtually a prototype, so old it didn't even have the "Fender" transfer on the neck. "They say it's worth a lot of money but that's a load of rubbish."

He began his musical career as an RAF bandsman playing the tuba and the double bass. This nurtured his ability to sight-read anything thrown at him and later made him an ideal session musician - "In those days if they wanted 30 minutes of music you really recorded it in 30 minutes".

He earned what he regarded as a fortune playing for artists who were paid the earth. He illustrates his anecdotes with illustrative touches across the strings to form a running game of Name that Riff: "Thank You Very Much" (for The Scaffold), "It's Not Unusual" and "Delilah" (for Tom Jones), "Where do You Go to My Lovely" (for Peter Sarstedt) - "That song had 37 verses when he came in the studio".

The Scaffold job earned him pounds 6; David Bowie's "Major Tom" earned him a princely pounds 9. He was later to tour the States playing bass for Bowie. "I played for him, not with him - there's a difference".

As multi-track recording was introduced, journeymen musicians such as Flowers were used increasingly to replace the weak elements in famous groups. Flowers remembers standing behind the curtains at the Royal Variety Performance while the band out front mimed to his playing. "It's like conjuring really."

It becomes clear that Flowers is a pop musician by trade but a jazzman by nature - "sensible music" as he puts it. He still plays bass guitar with the same rubber-fingered facility and makes the Fender resonate like a Strad, but you can see that the two-note riff is way beneath him.

Best story of the night (night? what am I saying? It was lunch time; it just seemed like three in the morning) was his recollection of how he and Mick Ronson woke up this bloke who was lying asleep on the sofa. He wanted an A then an E then an A then an E. Flowers recreates exactly his sublime performance on "Perfect Day" and shrugs. "Two notes! It's supposed to be legendary but it's bollocks."

Herbie Flowers, Graffiti, 1.30pm-2.30pm, to 31 August.

Louise Levene

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones