Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Pier on fire photo

The Ballad of Hastings Pier

HOT columnist Sean O’Shea meets Hastings musician, singer and song writer, Stevie Stone who is lead singer and guitarist in a local band called Jiggerypokery. Sean talks with Stevie about the background to his song The Ballad of Hastings Pier. He also meets other band members and enquires about their musical influences, how the group was founded and their hopes for the future.

The Ballad of Hastings Pier

Spades and buckets and kiss-me-quick hats, postcards wishing that you were here
All just part of the fun we had on good old Hastings Pier.
Gritti Palaces’s tiny film shows, hippies flogging exotic gear
There weren’t much that you couldn’t get down good old Hastings Pier.

But came the fire of Twenty-ten we all sat crying into our beer
Felt like we’d all lost a good friend, couldn’t help but shed a tear ‘cos…
Twisted metal and burn-out memories lie polluting the atmosphere
Silent witnesses to a crime down good old Hastings Pier.

Well, maybe one of them rich rock stars what played there early in their career
Might stump up a nice few bob now what a jolly grand idea so…
If you happen to bump into him, have a word in Pete Townshend’s ear
Pinball wizardry’s what we need down good old Hastings pier.
Oi Pete! Pinball wizardry’s what we need.
‘Cos poor old Hastings really took a pasting
God save Hastings Pier!

Sean O’Shea: Do you want to give us some background to your song The Ballad of Hastings Pier?

Stevie Stone: It’s one of those happy little songs which (rarely for me) seemed to write itself in about 20 minutes, after a long and thoughtful sit on one of the seafront benches directly facing the pier, just a few days after the fire. Tune-wise, it seems to have absorbed some of the shanty-style influences I’ve picked up from sitting around at musical get-togethers in and around the old town (your own one included, of course!), but there was no conscious attempt to do that. This is one of the reasons I’m so fond of it and have resisted any temptation to fiddle around with it too much subsequently, another rarity in my case!

Sean O’Shea: Did the melody or words come first?

Stevie Stone: Usually, the melody comes first when I’m writing, and then a little snippet of wordage will attach itself naturally to whatever notes I’ve settled on. With any luck and a certain amount of dogged determination something singable eventually appears at the other end.

Sean O’Shea: Do you have any tips for the aspiring songwriter?

Stevie Stone: Around about the only useful tip I have for other aspiring writers is to not get too hung up on the words or the music, but to focus instead on why you’re writing and what mood you hope to create with it. If it starts to flow from that place within all of us which is not concerned with personal glory or enrichment, you’re probably mining at the motherlode! Sounds a bit highfalutin’, I know, but I really do believe that all the truly worthwhile music in the world exists to break down the walls between people and generally lift their spirits to a higher plane for a moment or two… that and the beer money, of course!

Sean O’Shea: Jiggerypokery is a catchy name, but few of the dictionary meanings seem particularly flattering. These include hanky panky,hocus pocus, skulduggery, trickery etc. I also note that there is a Scots variant joukery-pawkery which, I think, means to dodge or to duck something. Do you normally expect to have missiles hurled at you when you perform?

Stevie Stone: The band name Jiggerypokery only came about because when Aideen and I first started playing together, she introduced me to a whole bunch of Irish jigs and reels which got included in our set, and somehow the name got suggested in fun, and stuck for want of a better idea. Maybe in retrospect we should have consulted the dictionary a little more closely. As for the variety of different types of music we play, that just comes naturally from all the different genres we like. The three of us come from completely different backgrounds musically, so all kinds of stuff gets thrown into the mix, from classical to jazz, blues, folk, country and anything in between. The one test of it is whether we all enjoy playing it… if we don’t; it soon gets quietly put to the back of the songbook!

Sean O’Shea: You are all migrants to Hastings. What drew you here Stevie?

Stevie Stone: Like many other Hastings dwellers, I’m sure I never actually meant to move here… just came down to stay with a friend one summer, got a gig and never left! Maybe there is something to Crowley’s Curse after all, but I like to tell myself I stay because of the many great friends I’ve made, the many excellent venues that support live music in and around the town… plus of course the little-known fact that the amount of Ancient Hippies in Hastings is one of the highest per square yard in the entire British Isles. What’s not to love, eh Sean?

Meet the band

Sean O’Shea: How about other band members, what drew you to Hastings Stuart?

Stuart Alexander: I have very fond childhood memories of Hastings and the surrounding areas as this was a popular holiday destination, being not too far from my childhood home in Bexley, Kent. I have been involved in the folk music and Morris dancing scene since the age of six with Kent and East Sussex featuring heavily as I followed in my parents’ footsteps. When I met my wife Terry in 2007, and realising she lived in Hastings, I did not need much convincing to move there myself.

Sean O’Shea: What are your thoughts on the Hastings music scene?

Stuart Alexander: Hastings has an ever increasing variety of musical styles of which the key factor is live music. You can always guarantee that you are going to find something to suit every musical taste. There is such huge amount of talent in the area which continues to be a delight and inspiration for me.

Sean O’Shea: What have been some of your own musical influences?

Stuart Alexander: Initially I would have to say that my father, Ralph, inspired me and influenced the way I play. He is someone that I am very proud of. In terms of the styles of music I play, this varies from light classical, (usually special arrangements) by various composers, accordion legends such as Toralf Tollefsen and Pearl Fawcett and my love of big band music, and of course the many folk musicians such as Sharon Shannon, Ally Bain, Phil Cunningham, to name but a few. From an early age, I also loved listening to The Eagles, The Shadows, and The Beatles. It is only recently since playing with Stevie and Aideen that I have experimented with actually playing their music.

Sean O’Shea: Could you tell us a bit about your magical accordion that sounds like an orchestra?

Stuart Alexander: The best way to describe my accordion is to compare it with a Roland keyboard. It is that but much more. The design is in the same style as a conventional accordion with a piano keyboard on the right and bass/chord buttons on the left. However unlike a normal accordion where the bellows create air to blow reeds similar to a mouth organ, the Roland’s bellows create air flow to operate pressure switches that activate the electronics. There are no reeds inside and so it relies on batteries to produce a vast amount of effects. The electronics will emulate (re-create) the sounds and behaviour of over 40 styles of reeded instrument as well as many orchestral sounds to a very realistic standard. My personal favourite has to be the Double String Bass on the left hand.

Sean O’Shea: Aideen, you’re a founder member and the Irish spice to the band. You do vocals and some amazing things with the fiddle. Could you say a bit about your own musical influences and the music you enjoy playing?

Aideen O’ Hagan: I started playing the violin at the age of eight. My poor parents had four girls who all learnt to play so I’m sure it was difficult for them to hear the scratching noises of beginners as we were learning. I was classically trained and then went on to do my degree in music at Goldsmith’s College, London. What I enjoyed most about music making then and now is playing with other musicians and creating something special together. Coming from Ireland the culture and tradition of music is part of my bones, although interestingly I did not immerse myself in it until I went to London. I enjoy fiddling along to different types of music and that is particularly what I enjoy about playing with Jiggerypokery – the variety. The influences on me have been varied too from Joni Mitchell to Christy Moore and from Abba to De Dannan.

Sean O’Shea: What of the future? Stevie, do you see yourself developing your song writing and in what directions?

Stevie Stone: As for the future, always assuming we survive the ending of the Mayan calendar and sundry other prophecies of doom, I’ll settle for having fun on a human scale and bopping til I’ve found a suitably comfy place to drop… I’m not anticipating writing that all-elusive ‘pension song’ any time soon, and as for dreams of world tours and record deals, the fantasy so often turns out to be better than the reality that I think I’ll just settle back, close my eyes and start work on that interior itinerary right now – you never know,  I might even get a new song out of it…

Sean O’Shea: How about others in the band? What are your future hopes?

Aideen O’Hagan: I would like us to record in the spring and continue to work on new tunes and our own material if the muse is present. It would be a dream for me for us to play at a festival sometime in the future.

Stuart Alexander: I would like the band to produce a professional CD or two and would also love to perform at a festival, either here or abroad.

  • To find out more about Jiggerypokery or make a booking contact
  • For their future gigs see HOT listings
  • Hastings pier image credit:


Posted 18:43 Sunday, Dec 9, 2012 In: SOS

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