Alfred is the ghostly mascot of our band. Invisible to audiences, his presence yet underpins
and colours every gig. Sometimes I think I catch glimpses of him at the back end of the bar, angled across the pool table. Or drumming his fingers on the round table in the corner, his forearm tattooed with the guitar tab for Purple Haze.
Alfred is essential. Alfred comes with the territory. Alfred is the sine qua non. Especially at those moments when volunteers bob up and ask us if they can take part in a number – like Tommy who once stepped forward clutching a tambourine and sporting a bicycle chain wrapped so tightly around his neck to threaten asphyxiation before verse two. Or Ed, the saxophonist, who started creatively but then contracted with the devil and fog-horned across vocals and guitar solo. Or Doug, the predatory pianist, who has perfected the technique of hovering with hands in the air, already shaping a jazzy E 7th chord to deposit on the keyboards the moment vigilance is lost.
Alfred has much more finesse. Though I imagine him painting in his spare time – giant rugged canvases for love, kitchens for money - he is first and foremost a consummate musician, wild-eyed on a flute, slinky on a five-string bass, haunting on a violin, ballistic on a Les Paul. Vocally he is smoothed gravel, his pitch as perfect as his teeth. He is ramshackle-cool. He is inspiration and aspiration.
We’re proud that our band is called for him. And whereas, on the odd occasion, our audiences may have wanted to tinker with our name – Shut Up Alfred or Sod Off Alfred – for us it’s always been a case of Stand Up Alfred, Get Your Ass Over Here Alfred, Take a Bow Alfred.