The day town crier Chris banned Bob Dylan from his own Glastonbury dressing room

Wimborne Militia and the town’s then Mayor watch Bob Geldof plant a rosemary bush in 2002. Photo: Hattie Miles

Oh the perils of being misunderstood on social media! It’s happened to all of us and usually it’s a minor matter and easily resolved.

But a couple of weeks back the harmless and well-meaning folk of the Wimborne Militia had their Facebook pages deleted after being inexplicably mistaken by an over-zealous algorithm for a bunch of alt-right thugs.

Nothing could be further from the truth of course. The Militia are a group of historic re-enactors who dress in 17th century military costume and are familiar sight at fetes, parades and festivals in the ancient Dorset market town.

It seems they became unwittingly caught up in Facebook’s creditable bid to root out far right extremists and conspiracy theorists operating militia groups mainly in America. Thankfully Facebook realised its error and the accounts were quickly reinstated. 

Militia leader, gently eccentric Wimborne Town Crier Chris Brown told the BBC:  “I wouldn’t want us to be associated with some of those violent people over there carrying round guns and talking about open rebellion – we talk about peace and community understanding.”

Indeed he always has. I remember Chris once telling me that back in the early 1970s he was far too much of a hippy to become a serious biker even though his Norton Dominator 650 SS was the envy of the local motorcycle gangs.

  “They loved looking at my bike but I used to wear crushed velvet jackets and I don’t think they could really deal with that. Anyway, I could never have been a Hells Angel or whatever. I hate aggression and I’m vegetarian so biting the head off a live chicken would be out of the question.” 

Peacenik Chris has also done his bit at a variety of very non aggressive music festivals appearing on stage with Texan psychedelic visionaries The Polyphonic Spree at Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading.

He also worked as a volunteer backstage marshal at Glastonbury for a number of years and has the dubious distinction of once trying to ban Bob Dylan from his own dressing room.

 “I was told that no one but Dylan was allowed in so when this strange looking bloke turned up and knocked on the door I told him to go away. He fixed me with this really weird stare and just said: ‘Do you know who I am?’

“ I said; ‘I haven’t got a clue mate but no one but Bob Dylan comes in here.’ “Then he just stared at me and I realised that he had an eight foot security man with him. I thought ‘Oh yeah, I know who you are.’ 

Dylan, he says, was rather distant and aloof.

Closer to home Chris has had a number of other rock ’n’ roll encounters. Not least the day when Bob Geldof, in town for a gig at the Tivoli Theatre, was ‘volunteered’ to conduct a planting ceremony at the then brand new Wimborne physic garden. As he planted a rosemary bush, Chris and the Militia fired a celebratory round of musket fire.

Chappo, Family and friends half a century on

Roger Chapman: Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne. Wednesday 29th January, 2020

Now here’s a thing. A little over 50 years ago my wife Hattie, then my new girlfriend, and I went to our first live gig together – a free all-nighter at The Lyceum in London. Heading the bill were Family and among the support acts was The Edgar Broughton Band. So, when we heard that Family front man Roger Chapman was playing the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne this week AND Edgar Broughton was the support we felt we had to be there.

The Lyceum Ballroom December 1969: The place reeked of hashish, patchouli oil and the naive hope that somehow we could make the world a better place.  The Tivoli Theatre January 2020: We’re sitting in a theatre full of our near contemporaries wondering what went wrong. There may be a slight smell of Werther’s Originals.  

Some of the audience are a little younger than us, some are older. Some  look comfortably well-heeled, others decidedly battered by life. There are several who appear to have been newly released after being trapped in a squat in Ladbroke Grove sometime in the early 1970s. For them nothing has changed. At least one was literally viewing the worked through rise-tinted granny glasses.

The great Roger Chapman is undoubtedly in fine voice. Backed by an exemplary six piece band featuring long time collaborators Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Paul Hirsch on keyboards, Nick Payn on sax, Poli Palmer on vibes and Gary Twigg and John Lingwood on bass and drums, the great Chappo looks good and sounds invincible….most of the time. However, at 77 years of age, the inimitable Chappo simply cannot compete with his younger self. The years have inevitably eroded the top and bottom of his considerable vocal register.

Though he can still deliver brilliant, beautiful songs in that astonishing, slightly gritty vibrato that set him apart from the pack back in the glory days of Family and Streetwalkers, there are some notes that he really can’t reach any more. For instance My Friend the Sun, dedicated to his old Family bandmate Charlie Whitney, just shuddered to a halt. No shame there of course and Chapman knows it. He simply shrugged, laughed and carried on.

He is far better with the jazzier, bluesy stuff or numbers that utilise his still massively impressive middle register. Songs like Who Pulled The Night Down, Moth to a Flame, Midnight Child, Habits of a Lifetime and the ever popular Short List were a joy to hear. But one-time crowd-pleasers like Burlesque and The Weaver’s Answer were far from vintage cuts. And there’s the rub.You have to do the favourites. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. 

Consider then the albatross that Edgar Broughton carries with him. Out Demons Out, his band’s signature chant from the 60s and 70s refuses to go away. Back in the day its sheer audience-swaying power made other bands fearful of following the mighty Broughtons on stage. Now, touring solo with just an acoustic guitar, Edgar clearly wishes it could be consigned to history. He’s halfway there. He didn’t play it but he did talk about it.

In fact he talked about a lot of things including fishing, the dental layout of the pike and the sad demise of his fallen friend, one-time counter-culture hero the late Mick Farren. Oh yes, and there were a couple of half decent songs in there too