The highlight of a short and undistinguished musical career came more than 40 years ago when I appeared, third on the bill, at a concert staged in a draughty village hall somewhere in Somerset.
Efforts until that point had consisted of me “entertaining” people in pubs, so this could have been a big break and I did my very best. But it soon became pretty clear that they weren’t there to hear some long- haired pillock whine on about teenage angst and had come to see the headline act Adge Cutler and the Wurzels. And didn’t they put on a show. They were slick, professional and very funny. I gave up soon after.
Adge’s secret for success was simple. In a music industry full of pretension, egotism and faux American accents he was plain, simple and honest. Yes, his songs were comical but invariably involved telling the truth about proper people in proper situations. He was in tune with his audience of country people, knowing what they loved – and what they hated.
I’m not sure whether any of the current line-up of the Wurzels was on stage that night, but the group is still going strong releasing records, making live appearances and, more to the point, maintaining that extra ingredient of combining belly laughs with sincerity.
They have hit the nail firmly on the head with their latest offering, The Mendip Windfarm Song, a musical protest against the creeping menace of turbines right across the West Country.
The song tells of a rural community frustrated by what course to take as developers plan to surround them by the structures. “We spoke to all the village folk who made it very clear, they’re noisy and they’re ugly and nobody wants ’em here.” Once again, the ooh-aar boys are perfectly at one with their public. Almost without exception, listeners will nod in agreement with the sentiments expressed, and be quick in congratulating the group on their stance.
I know this from my own recent foray – journalistic rather than musical – into the subject. In one week I had been approached by half a dozen people begging me to write about their wind farm fears, and having done so, was amazed by the far greater numbers who came up to give me a hearty thank you.
Wherever I go the topic comes up again and again and the story is always the same. We don’t want the blessed things!
Why is it then that we are continually told by the wider media that something like 70 per cent of the UK population is in favour of onshore wind installations? The figure is quoted repeatedly but I defy anyone to go out at this very moment and find that proportion mirrored in those you are likely to bump into on your journey down the high street.
Polls and surveys are always good for a laugh and, at the very least, give folk like me something to drone on about on a slack news day, but they must always be taken with a healthy dose of cynicism.
If the study was funded by the Getrichkwik Turbine Corporation there’s a big clue already to the likely outcome as there is if the actual poser was “Would you prefer to see the odd wind farm here and there or would it be far better if you, your family and all you hold dear should fry alive in a holocaust of Armageddon proportions?”
You get the feeling too that researchers carrying clipboards are far more likely to be found on the pavement outside the London headquarters of Friends of the Earth than they are outside the average village shop in deepest Devon.
But the myth that most of us are in love with 500ft high windmills is perpetuated, mostly by those who are paid handsomely to wallow in climate change misery.
There has been one sure sign, however, that some powerful people out there reckon our old pals the Wurzels really are more in touch with popular feeling than the pollsters.
If you’ve kept them, take a look through all the party political pamphlets that have been coming through letterboxes in the lead up to this week’s European elections. They carry all the rubbish you would expect but not one contains a proud picture of a wind turbine. Even the Greens restrict themselves to a small snapshot of a solar panel.
Funny how politicians are happy to allow you and me to pay for these monstrous objects, but don’t want to sing about it.