The Watkins Watermark


The Watkins Watermark

April 21, 2023
Malcolm Mills

OK then, let’s call it Americana. There was a time when it was nameless…just the good stuff to those in the know and when Geraint Watkins first started playing in bands like Red Beans and Rice and Juice on the Loose, they were like transatlantic railroad trains loaded with it rolling around the country. He was never the blazing headlight on the front of the engine, but always on the footplate, powering it through the mirk of bland music of the era.

You’ve heard him at the soulful root of recordings and performances by some of the world’s finest purveyors of quality music. Their names are well documented elsewhere, but this isn’t about them. It’s about the man himself and how he now finds himself on the threshold of a new era as a performer in his own right.

Being in high demand as the sideman of choice for such an elite group of notable artists for over fifty years is the main reason his own date sheet was neglected for so long. Aside from being in the Balham Alligators, Geraint rarely performed with his own band because his main source of income with others filled the diary. He was grateful for it. It was only during his long tenure with Nick Lowe that Watkins and the rest of Nick’s band spent their spare time with soundman Neil Brockbank exploring his material in the studio and making a handful of great albums, including Watkins Bold As Love, Dial W for Watkins and In A Bad Mood.

Then, Neil moved Goldtop Studios to Tooting, which afforded the opportunity for Watkins, and the Mosquitoes of the day (Martin Winning, Oliver Darling, Bobby Irwin, Matt Radford) plus the occasional guest, to drag their gear over the road for some memorable Sunday afternoon tip-jar session in The Wheatsheaf pub on the opposite corner. Moustique was the resulting album of the period.

After the deaths of his cornermen Bobby and Neil in quick succession, these random gigs slowed to a halt and Watkins started working at home, recording his own material with different collaborators like Little George Sueref and Simon Ratcliffe for what would become 2019’s Rush of Blood album.

After emerging from the post-pandemic lockdown in 2022, Watkins averaged more than one show a month with the current Mosquitoes. It might not sound very much of a date sheet but it was a whole lot more than he had done under his own steam previously…and his fans loved it. And there’s good news. In 2023, he’s looking forward to doing many more - accordion and all.

In March 2023 The Last Music Company is releasing Geraint Watkins’ long overdue forty-one track (2CD) career retrospective. It is appropriately named AIDE-MÉMOIRE to draw attention to a generous cross-section of his own recordings that may just have passed people by in the last thirty years. When they are heard in this context, the scope of his talent as composer, arranger and performer is blindingly obvious.

He started to write his own material in the 1970s when he was looking for songs for the Geraint Watkins and the Dominators album. At the time of writing this blog, the PRS database has him credited as writer or co-writer of over one hundred and seventy songs. And he is still regularly coming up with new ideas. He is also blessed with a marvellous talent for arranging the work of others. Johnny B Goode and Heroes and Villains are two examples that are indelibly stamped with the Watkins watermark and they both remain in the set list to this day.

The live shows are becoming more frequent although dependent on the availability of the whole band and also, subject to the economic limitations of being a five-piece, but the main thing is, he is getting out there and giving a big chunk of Aide-mémoire (and some new ones) a good airing in front of happy fans.