Jim Bob at The Watershed, Newport Pagnell, June 6 2012
OK, so I’m going to have to put a few disclaimers in here. Ostensibly, Mr Jim Bob’s appearance at The Watershed and, presumably the rest of the tour, was to promote his second novel, Driving Jarvis Ham. I haven’t done a book review in my life and, not having read the aforementioned literary work yet, I would be in a less than perfect place to start now. So this being a music-based site (the clue’s in the name folks), I shall try to limit my waxing lyrical and prosaic ramblings to the music. Which might not be easy.
The erstwhile singer and one half of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine is a natural storyteller. You only have to listen to the lyrics of any of the larger-than-you-probably-thought back catalogue to be reminded of the razor sharp observation, down-to-earth relevance and gritty wit that the band were famous for back in 1992.
He stands astride the stage bedecked in a sharp, metallic blue mod suit, black DMs, white shirt and Ben Sherman tie with the RAF roundel motif. With his dark, tousled hair, Jim Bob bears more than a feint resemblance to a young Phil Daniels.
It’s clear that the music, delivered by the man himself with just an acoustic guitar, is still held in great affection by the crowd. But then Jim is amongst friends here. Raffle tickets are distributed amongst the audience before the gig. The prize is a memorable one as, when the tickets are drawn by Jim and his sidekick Mr Spoons, the winners get to choose the next song from a ‘Specials’ board. I don’t win, but I have to confess that Jim Bob and Carter USM have slipped off my radar. I wouldn’t have known what to pick even if I had won, but I am genuinely impressed with the set. The slightly nervous delivery of the two excerpt readings from Driving Jarvis Ham merge into a ‘stand up’ introduction to the songs, which are full of passion, consummate performance skills and no trace of nerves.
Speaking to Jim after the show, he comes across as unassuming and at ease with where his career has taken him. We chat about the area of the country where the book is set – I grew up in South Devon and have an intimate knowledge of all of the small villages Jarvis Ham gets driven through. His next project, he tells me, will be another book. I ask if he has always seen himself as a writer as opposed to a singer, musician or performer. Candidly he responds with, “I just wanted to be famous”. A breathtakingly honest reply and I admire him all the more for saying it.
I will read Driving Jarvis Ham (soon) and will (probably) attempt a review. However, in the meantime, I have about 20 years of Carter and Jim Bob’s back catalogue to catch up with – ‘Angelstrike!’ is stunning. And for the record, if Jim was to do a Specials cover, it would be ‘Do Nothing’. Good call, Mr Bob.