Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stand and deliver

Well it's been a long week. I've been working in Balcony Shirts every day since Tuesday and somewhere along the line have hurt my back and picked up a bit of a cold. Or is it the dreaded ManFlu? And although it wasn't a particularly late night at The Three Wishes in Edgware where Big Al and The Blistering Buicks played a sweaty show to the general appreciation of all concerned last night I've been asleep for much of today. I'm back in the shop tomorrow. I could really do with a day off. 

Of course none of this illness, tiredness and no doubt some other words ending with 'ness' has anything with The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool last weekend, where I played electric and acoustic shows with Ruts D.C., joined T.V. Smith for much of his set, played several songs with The Crows (during which I somehow managed to make the up-until-that-point excellent-sounding PA system dissolve into a wall of feedback - oops!) and finished the festival by playing three songs with Department S. Oh and I worked every day on the Cadiz Music merchandise stall too, and wasn't exactly early to bed every night. So it goes.

The shows were great. Really great. The T.V. and electric R.D.C. gigs took place in The Opera House, which is without doubt one of the best venues I've ever been lucky enough to perform in, while the Ruts D.C. acoustic show ended with an actual standing ovation, which is something that you don't see every day. 
Well, I certainly don't anyway… but if you'd like to see it click here! 
Department S were as excellent as ever and The Crows survived their encounter with your humble narrator with aplomb. I didn't get to see many bands play which was a shame in some ways but only to be expected considering my (over) commitments elsewhere. Still it was a terrific few days, and I'm sure that I'm not the only person looking forward to next year's festival already.

In other news Ruts D.C. release our new single 'Music Must Destroy' on September 9th, with the album of the same name coming out one week later. The song was played live for the first time in The Opera House last Saturday - we should be recording a promo video for it in the next week or so (the track features the mighty Henry Rollins, and hopefully he's going to feature in the video too) but in the meantime you can click here for the live version. See what you think...

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

'You disturb my natural emotions...'

Have you ever fallen in love with somebody the moment you first saw them? I was walking through a shopping centre once when I bumped into - literally bumped into - a young lady. She was an acquaintance of mine, I didn't know her well and I hadn't seen here for ages - but at that moment, as we stood awkwardly apologising to each other, I suddenly and abruptly thought she was the most beautiful woman, maybe the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. It was like being hit by the proverbial ton of bricks. I'm not sure that I've ever recovered. She doesn't know anything about it of course - unless she felt it too, although if she did then she hid it well… I sound shallow don't I? Maybe I am.
I was reminded of this moment last Friday evening when I was getting my guitar and amp set up for a gig with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Crock Of Gold in Ruislip. I'd been looking forward to the gig all day, as my old mate Johnny Squirrel was depping on bass and I hadn't seen him for ages. We hadn't played there before so we were working out how to position the various band members in the space allowed - I looked across to the bar where a woman was walking towards a table carrying two drinks. One was a pint of Guinness, the other a smaller glass of clear fizzy-looking liquid. She sat down at the table where her friend was waiting, they smiled cheerily and chatted - while doing so she picked up the pint of Guinness and drank a fair-sized gulp from it. 
'Al, Al!' I said excitedly to the big man, 'Al, that girl over there, she's got a pint of Guinness'. 
'Right' said Al half-interestedly. 
'I think I'm in love' I said, hardly believing that I'd just said it. 
Al laughed. I released how ridiculous it must have sounded. 
I carried on setting my gear up.

The next night The Upper Cut played at Dave's 70th birthday party at The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook. I managed to get through the evening with most if not all of my emotions intact, although I couldn't get the Guinness Girl out of my mind. Strange but true. Shallow but true.

It seems to me that it's time I had a holiday - which is just as well as it's The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool this week. Ruts D.C. are playing an electric set on Saturday night and are closing the acoustic stage the next evening; I'll also be playing a few songs on Thursday with the great T.V. Smith and joining Department S for a tune or two as well as working behind the Cadiz Music merchandise stall and attempting to catch as many bands as I can in the meantime. I'm all too aware that several days of punk rock doesn't sound like most people's idea of a holiday, but it'll do me just fine. If you're going I'll see you there, maybe even for a pint of Guinness. All together now - 'Ever Fallen In Love With Someone...'

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Theatre of the absurd

Well time has been even tighter in these here parts over the last couple of weeks, hence the complete lack of blogging. How on Earth did I ever have chance to do several posts a month? It's been hard enough to find a few minutes to update my Facebook page, let alone write this stuff… we're still busy in Balcony Shirts - this is my only day off this week, hence the chance to attempt a quick posting now - and I've been gigging with The Upper Cut (a particularly riotous night at The Dolphin a week-and-a-half ago) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks (at The Three Wishes in Harrow and The Horns in Watford the weekend before last) so it's perhaps not surprising that I feel as though I've done nothing but work these days. And Ruts D.C. appeared at The Know The Future Festival in Vienne, France on the Saturday just gone - we'd not played for a while but put in a good performance alongside the likes of The Damned, The U.K. Subs and The Vibrators. The event took place at The Theatre Antique, a Roman amphitheatre which had to be seen to be believed - I've certainly never played anywhere like it before. The slightly peculiar travel arrangements meant that we flew out from Luton Airport on Friday lunchtime and returned home to Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning - I got back home just in time to do an actual birthday gig (as opposed to The Upper Cut Uxbridge show the week before, which I played as an early birthday bash) with Big Al and the boys that afternoon at The White Horse near Staines. I'm still feeling tired now… more gigs this weekend, then it's off to The Rebellion Festival next week. No rest for the wicked, or indeed for me. 

Incidentally the always-excellent Aural Sculptors blog has just posted an audio recording of our set in Vienne, which you can download by clicking here. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2016

'Stab your back, stab your back...'

Well, who would have thought it - Boris Johnson knifes the entire country in the back then one of his so-called 'friends' does the same thing to him. Poetic justice? Maybe, and I'm sure that it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke - but I've a funny feeling that sadly we haven't seen the last of him. In the meantime I have once again been working a lot in Balcony Shirts, hence the lack of blog postings. That said, I've done a few other things as well… 

The Damned played their first gig on July 6th 1976 at The 100 Club supporting The Sex Pistols. Exactly 40 years later founder member and guitarist Brian James played at the same venue - I got the feeling that many people in attendance were expecting a set of early Damned songs, especially when Rat Scabies was spotted in the bar. If they were then they were to be disappointed, at least until the encore. The first few songs were from his solo albums, although 'Born To Kill' did make an early appearance. After that it was, as more than one person remarked to me, 'jazz odyssey' time until Dirty Strangers singer Alan Clayton joined the band for among other things a raucous version of 'The Last Time'. Ginger from The Wildhearts added his voice to the set closer 'Neat Neat Neat' before loud cheers (and it must be said, an almost audible collective sigh of relief) greeted Mr. Scabies as he took his place behind the drum kit. The intensity and indeed the volume went through the roof - there may have been tighter, more together performances of 'I Feel Alright' and 'New Rose' than the ones that followed, but few as energetic and powerful as this clip shows. A great ending to an, er, interesting gig. Support came from The Black Bombers who won themselves more than a few friends with a splendid set. We've played with them a couple of times - their garage-y roar is always good to hear, and their new album is well worth getting hold of.

In the meantime Big Al and The Blistering Buicks have been out and about - a show at The Sunningdale Lounge needed a few more people in the audience from the band's point of view although it was by no means a bad night, while the golf-club-do-near-Staines show at The White Horse in Longford saw a table of Thai ladies getting a fair bit of attention from the locals and much dancing and merriment all round. And last weekend's gigs at The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook and Hayes Working Men's Club both also went well, which was more good news. The Big Al roadshow continues this weekend in Harrow and Watford, and The Upper Cut are playing at The Dolphin in Uxbridge this coming Friday - it's my birthday this month and without wishing to sound too pretentious (for once!) it's always good fun to celebrate it at our nearest gig to it, so if you're in the area come on down. It'll be good to see you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

'There is no future in England's dreaming...'

So - we're leaving The European Union. Or are we? Forced to choose between the conceited opinions of podgy right-wing toff David Cameron and podgy right-wing toff Boris Johnson the Great British public chose the latter rather than the former, presumably because for some unfathomable reason they think that he's a 'character'. They even feel as though they can call refer to him by his first name. Why do people do that? It makes it sound as though he's their mate or something, and the last thing he is is their mate. Funny that. But there's nothing funny about what's happened since the referendum result was announced. It seems that all those promises made by the Vote Leave camp were not actually promises at all. Politicians lying? Who'd have thought it? All the people that voted for them and so presumably wanted to curb immigration, free up money for The National Health Service and whatever the hell else that they thought they were voting for weren't actually voting for those things at all. Anyone would think that it was all a load of - let's be polite here shall we? - nonsense wouldn't they? Why that 'nice' Mr. Farage (I assume the people that supported him thought that he was nice?) isn't even an MP is he? He like Johnson is often portrayed as a 'character' or even a figure of fun when in reality he's a part time politician and full time millionaire who somehow managed to galvanise the fears of millions of people into inadvertently voting for his cause and, since Cameron has taken the coward's way out and resigned, also voting for a new, presumably anti-EU Prime Minister. There's talk of another referendum, which would be unprecedented not least because the main reason given is that this one didn't go the way that some people think that it should have - but surely that makes a complete mockery of 'democracy'? As it happens I can think of quite a few General Elections that didn't go the way that I thought that they should have, but there was no talk of rerunning them… and if that wasn't bad enough the England football team has been knocked out of the European Championships by lowly Iceland. A bunch of multi millionaire prima donnas are beaten by a gang of unfancied part timers for the second time in a week. Oh dear.

Let's cheer up a bit shall we? GLM - the band formed by ex - Lurkers Pete Stride, Nigel Moore And Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes and now renamed The Lurkers GLM - have released their second album 'The Future's Calling' and it's a cracker. It's popper than their debut 'Chemical Landslide' but no less powerful, with everyone on top form throughout. Full details of how to obtain a copy are on the band's website along with videos, downloads and more. Great stuff!

The Upper Cut played two private parties - cue 'none for ages and then two come along at once' gags - on Friday and Saturday. The first was at Terry the singer's workplace in London - literally, we played in one of the offices - and the second was a birthday party at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. The first show included a very pleasant but rather drunk young lady asking to have a go on the drums with the words 'I don't know how to work them but I like dancing' - she was correct, she didn't, and she did - while Geoff Nicholls depped for Roger on drums at the second show where repeated requests for 'Simply The Best' saw us managing to stagger through one verse and multiple choruses to scenes of audience hysteria and mayhem that wouldn't have been out of place at an actual Tina Turner gig and which took even the hardiest members of the band by surprise. 

Two ex - Sex Pistols were on the same stage (although sadly not at the same time) on Thursday night when The Rich Kids and The Professionals co-headlined The O2 Academy in Islington. Both band released underrated singles and albums back in the day, and as all of said records are big favourites of mine the evening was pretty much unmissable from my point of view. With Tom Spencer taking the place of the sadly absent Steve Jones The Professionals were on first - opening with 'Just Another Dream' they sounded strong from the word go, and by the time they finished with 'Silly Thing' it was clear that we'd just seen a great band play a fine show. The Rich Kids were excellent too although I thought that they took a couple of songs to get going - that said it was definitely a case of 'all's well that ends well' with the encore of 'Rich Kids' all but taking the roof off. Paul Cook was always a great drummer and Glen Matlock's a brilliant bass player - who were those fools who said that they couldn't play? - and it really was something to see both of their post - Pistols bands together. A cracking evening, although it did take me over four hours to get home. Well, it had been raining, so all the trains were off and the roads were jammed. That didn't used to happen when we were in The EU did it? 

Oh, hang on...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

'Walking down the King's Road with some friends of mine...'

Back to the 'there's only time for a quick round-up of what's been happening in Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars' format...

- I went to 'Exhibitionism' at The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea
I like The Rolling Stones more than I sometimes realise, if you know what I mean. And I liked this exhibition too - well I must have liked it, as I managed to spend over three hours there stumbling from room to room. There's lots for a nerd like myself to enjoy, and plenty of stuff for normal people too - if you're thinking of going then get along there before it closes!  

- I saw Dead Men Walking at Dingwalls
From Chelsea it was a short tube train journey up to Camden Town where with the help of Adrian from Aural Sculptors and his wife Gunta I eventually found Dingwalls (it's all changed around there since I was a lad I can tell you!) just as the band were sound checking. On stage from left to right were Kirk Brandon, Dave Ruffy, Segs and Jake Burns - a formidable line-up be anybody's standards. And I'm pleased to say that they sounded as good as you'd hope that they would. Highlights of the evening were many and varied, although the moment that sticks in my mind was when myself, Segs and ex - U.K. Subs guitarist Jet were in The Elephant's Head shortly before the show half-seriously considering some sort of appearance at the the then - happening open mic night when a chap got on stage and performed 'Rasputin' on a stylophone. He followed it with 'Ace Of Spades'. We decided not to play. How do you follow that?

- I played two shows with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
With Pete still away I was on solo guitar duties in Greenford at The Black Horse on Saturday night; he then returned the next afternoon for a gig at Sally B's in Hoddesdon. The first show was good and the second was even better - things are definitely going in the right direction for Big Al and The Boys.

And hopefully things will be going in the right direction this week too, but more about that next time, when I've got time…

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reading, working, peddling, jamming...

Well the busy times at Balcony Shirts continue, although I'm 'only' working four days there this week. Part of me is a bit relived - after all at times it's been far too much like having a 'real' job - while the other part of me has enjoyed it immensely. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's been great to earn a bit of money too. In a heroic attempt to not squander it all on beer and jollity I've bought myself a reassuringly expensive Carl Martin Quattro multi-effect pedal, the idea being that it should function as both a spare unit for Ruts D.C. gigs as well as being something that should fit into my luggage easier than my existing pedal board does and so should be useful for shows that we fly to. It could also be something that I might be able to use at Big Al and The Blistering Buicks shows, and with this in mind I took it along to our gig at The Battle Of Britain Club in Uxbridge last Friday. With Pete away elsewhere I was the sole guitarist for the weekend's gigs, which in some ways was unfortunate as the onset of hay fever had left me with a left ear full of wax to go along with the inevitable bunged up nose. Perhaps using an unfamiliar piece of kit wasn't the cleverest idea but I did it anyway - under the circumstances I thought that it went well although I don't mind admitting that I stood on the wrong pedal more than a few times. Well that's my excuse for the dreadful mess I made of the 'Whiskey In The Jar' riff anyway… by the time the next night's show at The Misty Moon in Northwood came around my ear had cleared a bit although it was still far from being 100%, which combined with England throwing away their one goal lead against Russia in The European Championships meant that I for one started our show with no little trepidation. Happily this proved to be unfounded - after a few songs people were dancing and our national football team's latest impression of The Keystone Cops seemed to have been all but forgotten by the end of our show.

The next night Big Al and myself ventured across to The Plough in Tilehurst near Reading where Ann and Steve from the covers band Hot Legs run a jam night. They've been badgering Al to attend for a while now so this seemed as good a time as any - when we arrived we were both struck with how friendly everyone was. This is not always the case at these sort of gatherings - they can be very cliquey - but here it bode well for a good evening. I was asked to play on an original 12 bar blues song with a couple of young ladies, after which Al and myself joined the house band for 'Willie And The Hand Jive', 'Sweet Home Chicago' and 'Let's Stick Together', all of which went splendidly well. From there a very varied evening saw performances of material as diverse as 'Ace Of Spades' and 'I Know What I Like' before I was cajoled into joining a couple of young lads for their songs - I'd had a few drinks by then but with Al's words 'what could possibly go wrong?' ringing in my ears I stumbled towards the stage. The two lads were very good - maybe a few too many notes for my liking but they certainly knew what they were doing. I chugged along cheerily on a funky version of 'Rambling On My Mind' hoping not to be given a solo. The guitar man smiled as he pointed at me and nodded - I played a lot less notes than him but it seemed to go down well. (Let's face it, I wouldn't be writing about it here if it hadn't!) Then he asked if I knew 'Little Wing' - yes I do although I've never played it in front of anyone. Then again I'd not met these boys until about 10 minutes ago so… after them the evening ended with a peculiar (and let's face it, very drunk) fellow who for want of a better word, dismantled 'Mustang Sally' and 'Money For Nothing'. I wouldn't have recognised them if he hadn't slurred the titles several times indiscriminately during his frankly astonishing performance. Yes I was on guitar, although I'm not quite sure what I doing there. Judging by the faces of the other musicians they weren't sure what they were there either. A suitably bizarre ending to a very enjoyable evening.

And I completely forgot to mention that at some point in the last few weeks I visited Tropic At Ruislip where I witnessed Stranglers tribute band The Dead Ringers (a last minute substitute for Straighten Out who I believe had to pull out when one of their members injured a hand) roaring through a set of Guildford's finest's songs and in my opinion doing a very good job. But don't take my word for it - the always-worth-reading Elvis In The Clouds blog has written this review of the show, summing the night up well and somehow mentioning me in the process. Strange - but true!