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While the name may suggest a Russian secret police force, NRBQ actually stands for New Rhythm & Blues Quartet, a criminally-underrated East Coast band who are Robbie Mclntosh's musical passion. To say that Robbie likes NRBQ is like saying that the Pope is fond of God. I have a serious suspicion that Robbie can't even get out of bed without a shot of NRBQ, and if you ever spend any time with him you'll discover that most of that time is spent trawling record stores in which Robbie will scour every rack - looking under N, R, B and Q - for any of their tapes that he doesn't possess among his collection of 36,703 albums.
In fact, if you ever want to please Robbie just give him a rare NRBQ tape. He'd volunteer to have your baby for that.
What else can I tell you? He started playing guitar at the age of ten; when he first heard the Beatles he thought that they were actually inside the record, singing, and that's how the sound came out; and he lives in the country with Flo, Hannah, Holly and the recently-arrived Rowan, where he home-grows his herd of Newfoundland dogs.
He's also shy, but frank. He's very sociable but likes to be left alone. He's a shrewd judge of character but thinks that I'm mad [shouldn't that "but" be "so"? - ed.], he likes to please but won't be pushed around, he's highly-rated as the guitarist's guitarist but modestly won't acknowledge that he's among the best.
And, oh yeah, I almost forgot - I happen to believe that in the years to come, when an inquisition is held to find out exactly who it was that invented Rap and Rave - so that their names can henceforth be cursed forever - and when R&B is once again recognised as God's greatest musical gift, Robbie McIntosh's guitar playing will be hailed as one of the wonder's of the late 20th century.
I have several proofs of this belief.
One came in the basement of a Dorset pub, where Robbie, backed by a motley band of mates, got up to do his own set, including that classic Macca rocker 'I'm Down'. I was so sick with envy I really wanted to stay in bed for a whole month after that.
I've seen him play like that, doing his own thang, in little clubs all around the world; from the Bridport Arts Centre local talent contest - where he got so nervous he kept lingering at the bar and wouldn't go on stage for ages, worried that the local teenage competition was a bit good - to Chicago blues clubs and the Tokyo Cavern Club. (That was one of the best nights of all.)
The point about Robbie playing all over the place is that his compulsion to play is very rock and roll. It doesn't matter where, it's the doing that matters.
There's a good quote on this from Keith Richards - who Robbie increasingly reminds me of if you slice 13 years off the Stone's age and don't peer too closely at the face.
He said, "It [performing] is the whole point of rock and roll. That feeling, that zing you get from playing to an audience is the reason why you join a band in the first place. If you don't do it, if you don't perform, you just wind up like a session musician -highly paid but your reasons get lousier and lousier."
And I think Robbie's like that: he's compelled to play.
Another example of his stature came recently when I was trying to scrounge free tickets for a couple of people to see blues legend Ry Cooder perform at the Royal Albert Hall.
The gig was sold out so I tried the old pals act. "Sorry," said the record company, "no seats left. Unless, that is, you're Jesus Christ."
I rang back. "Hi," I wisecracked, "this is Jesus Christ."
"Sorry," they said again, "no room."
"They told my Mum that," I snapped, seasonally, slamming down the phone.
So I called the promoter. "No chance," he said. I rang the Albert Hall management office. "Forget it." I dropped names. No way, I dropped ENORMOUS names. Uh-uh. I even offered money. Nope.
Finally I got through to Ry's management. "Look," I said, "I've got this mate and he'd really like to see the show."
"Sorry, there really isn't any room. We've been saying 'no' for a week now."
I made to sound like someone had just run over my pet dog.
"What's your mate called?" asked the management voice.
"Robbie McIntosh," I said. "He plays with Pau..."
"OH!" said the management, "that gentleman! That gentleman can come see us any time he wants. Mighty fine guitar player, that boy."
[This is true, Rob.]