Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wrecking Crewe, Crewe Cut, We Are The Road Crewe etc etc

Ruts D.C. return to show business this week (fank gawd!) with what we hope will be an annual event - Kirk Brandon has been doing Westworld weekenders for a few years now, they feature his various bands with guest artists (we played it one year) and are excellent gatherings so we thought it was high time we did one too. We'll be playing both electric and acoustic sets, and the Saturday night show will feature the Ruts classic debut album 'The Crack' in it's entirety for the first time since our '40 Years Of The Crack' tour and indeed for the last time this year. Joining us at Langtry's in Crewe will be the afore-mentioned Mr. Brandon along with Auntie Pus, Tara Rez, Dealing With Damage and Criminal Mind - if you're going I'll see you there, and we'll see you at the bar!



Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Do Anything You Wanna Do

'The Crack' by The Ruts was released 40 years ago on September 28th 1979.

I bought it then - my copy still has the 'Pay No More Than £3.99' sticker on the cover - and I absolutely loved it. I still do. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion one of the greatest records of all time, and that means a lot around these here parts - I spent so many hours listening to it, and so many more hours playing along with it in an attempt to decipher the wondrous electric guitar playing of the mighty Paul Fox. Although I couldn't have known it then it wouldn't be that long before I myself would be able to ask him how to play the songs; even more unlikely is the fact that these days I find myself playing the songs on stage with original Ruts Dave and Segs. It's a funny old life sometimes isn't it? You never know what fate has in store for you... 

...for example, who would have predicted a Ruts D.C. Weekender in Crewe, during which we will play 'The Crack', an acoustic set and more? Well certainly not me, but I wouldn't have predicted a European Tour with The Stranglers and a just-before-Christmas show at The Brixton Academy with The Alabama 3 either - as I say, you never know what fate has in store for you... and there's more - we have a live album recorded on the last tour coming out in December, and gigs a-plenty are already coming in for next year - great stuff all round. 

And who would have predicted that your humble narrator would be asked to appear on noted website Everyone Loves Guitar? Segs was on last month - you can hear him here if you'd like to, and very interesting it is too - and I'm recording my appearance tomorrow. I've been sent some sample questions and they're very in depth - I was expecting things like 'what gauge plectrum do you use?', not 'what is your happiest childhood memory?'. This should be interesting - I'm really looking forward to it!

But as if to prove that you don't get something for nothing in life, October 2nd saw the
death of Eddie And the Hot Rods singer Barrie Masters. I can't pretend to have known him well, but every time I did speak to him he was always friendly and enthusiastic, which is more than you can say about many people that you meet. And The Hot Rods have always had a very special place in my musical mind... I saw them play at Brunel University in Uxbridge way back in 1977 (probably 19th October) supported by No Dice - this was the first vaguely 'punk' gig I attended and it remains one of the most exciting evenings I've ever been part of. Everything about it was brilliant - No Dice were excellent (I've got an old single by them but I really must search out some of their stuff one day) and The Hot Rods were absolutely phenomenal. They looked great, sounded greater and, maybe most importantly from my point of view, they might as well have had a bloody great sign saying YOU COULD DO THIS LEIGH above their heads. I was a cripplingly shy, very-young-for-my-age 16 year old, and although it took me a long time I can say without being pretentious (for once!) that I wouldn't be playing the guitar today if it wasn't for that show. I saw them play again on many occasions - this amazing clip of them playing 'The Beginning Of The End' on The Old Grey Whistle Test shows just how great they could be as a live band - and then, incredibly, was lucky enough to appear on stage with the last line up of the band a couple of times, the last of which was at The Islington Academy in April this year - I played 'I Might Be Lying' and Ignore Them' (the A and B side of my favourite Rods record in case you were wondering) and joined a cast of thousands for the last song 'Gloria'. After the song had finished and everyone made their way off stage I somehow found myself with Barrie in the middle of the stage - he looked exhausted but he'd made it through an epic show. I lifted his right arm aloft, as you do with a champion who had just won the toughest fight of their life, and the place went mad. A fantastic, unforgettable moment. 

I owe Barrie and people like him more than I'll ever be able to put into words. 

I think of it every time I play. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants - June 2019

With some more gigs for the band on the horizon it's time for a look back at the first Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants tour, which took place in June of this year - enjoy.

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Monday 3rd, 8.31 am leaving Euston Station 

Coach A Seat 25 here - it's early. Well it's not, but it feels it. 
Great poster don't you think?

Ruts D.C. played a storming set (even though I say so myself!) at The Underworld last night as part of this year's Camden Rocks Festival; I got home some time after midnight then was up not long after 5 a.m. to make sure of getting on this train. It's great being neurotic... on the tube train to Baker Street a disembodied voice (presumably belonging the driver, although I suppose you never know) rather ominously informed us that there was a 'Code Orange' and that 'all lines are suspended'. They came back on again a couple of minutes later - well, I'm assuming that they did, as I got here in time to catch my train. I'm off to meet Alvin and Jamie to rehearse for the first Disobedient Servants tour which starts tomorrow. There's nothing like leaving it until the last minute is there? I've got to get some sleep on the way though or this could all go badly wrong - I'm in what claims to be the Quiet Coach, although the announcements are loud enough to be heard in the next world. Ah well - on with the iPod and headphones then, even though according to the sign next to me you're not 'supposed' to use them in this coach. Ah well. It's all anarchy isn't it? 

Tuesday 4th, nearly 1 am, in my room somewhere in the North West of England


A good rehearsal today -  still a bit of work to do, but instead of doing that we've been down the pub. Of course we have. And The Beatles are playing on the iPod in the background, which is always a good sign in my world. 
More tomorrow, or to be pedantic, today. 

12.38 pm 

Crikey - this all appears to be going to plan... a splendid breakfast (vegetarian sausages, egg and beans since you were wondering) and we're rehearsing at one o'clock. If only that cretin Trump wasn't on the telly. What a nasty little man he is. At least Corbyn has got it right (for once! He's missed so many open goals hasn't he?) and is having nothing to do with him. Good man. 

Wednesday 5th, 4.31 pm leaving Manchester Birch Services on the M62 

Well. That was, erm, interesting... 

We - Alvin, Jamie, Abel from ace support band Criminal Mind and myself - were in Dale the driver's bus with Jon driving the rest of Criminal Mind in his van. A text comes through - 'it look like you've got a flat tyre'. We'd better stop at the next services then... it turned out that the right back tyre wasn't flat but that it had a noticeable bulge in it. Time to call The AA then. 

'Twas a good start to the tour last night, at The Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool. This was a new venue for me, and while it was by no means packed out - it rained heavily all evening - there were more than enough people in to make it work. Ian the guv'nor was very helpful, the previously-mentioned Criminal Mind were excellent and it's definitely looking good for these shows. We're at The Victoria Vaults in York tonight, which is another new venue for me - it's good to be out and about again. And as we're running a bit late so it's good to be back on the road now. After all - there's only so much time you can spend in a service station... 

Thursday 6th, 2.20 pm on the A64 

Encores are funny things aren't they? In many ways I've never really understood them. You play a show. You finish a show. Then you start again. Weird.
I told you he's good!

No encore last night. Why? Because no one asked for one. Well, no one asked for one until music came over the PA system, at which point people started cheering and demanding more - by which time the sound man was already putting the microphones away. Too little too late! But it had been a good, energetic performance with the band sounding better and better as the show went on. Earlier in the evening I'd spent a bit of time down the road in The Trafalgar Bay with Micky and Donna - it's strange how there's nothing like a sign saying NO SWEARING to make you involuntarily come out with all sorts of rude words isn't it? Micky is an extremely talented artist - check out his work here - who presented us with a wonderful caricature of the band. Amazing. We of course suggested that he print some up and put them on our merchandise stall immediately. We're in Manchester at The Star And Garter tonight - Dale tells me that during an apparently unrelated murder investigation (!) near the venue they once found a prostitute's head in a box . I am looking forward to tonight.

Friday 7th, 12.09 pm leaving the Travelodge 

Well I'm pleased to say that no prostitutes - headless or otherwise - were harmed during last night's performance (or if they were then I didn't see it happen) which was the best gig of the tour so far. A good sized crowd included Department S / Rezillos guitarist Phil Thompson, arch Damned fans Steve and Sheila, Ruts D.C. regulars Paul and Mandy and Richie Rocker among the familiar faces - after another splendid set from Criminal Mind we hit the ground running with 'Arterial Pressure' and 'Ghost Train' from Alvin' solo album followed by 'Bordeaux Red' and 'Drag Me Down' from The U.K. Subs's mighty back catalogue. It's interesting to see how the Subs songs in the set are going down - the ones that we're playing have all written by Alvin (and indeed sung by him on the albums) but have never been performed by the band. The Subs fans certainly seem to be really enjoying this side of our shows which is a great thing to see. We encored (see, we can do them!) with Ian Hunter's 'Once Bitten Twice Shy' (I've brought 'Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star' with me to read in the bus) and the Urban Dogs song 'A Bridge Too Far' before joining the audience in the downstairs bar where drinks were drunk, merch was sold and everyone went home happy. Well I certainly did, although I've got a bit of a thick head now. Ah well - off to another Harvester then. Who'd have thought that punk rock legends The U.K. Subs are often seen in such establishments? The things you learn here eh? 

Saturday 8th, 12.18 pm somewhere on the M42 

'Baba O'Riley'.You forget just how good The Who were and indeed are don't you? Well, I don't as it happens, but it's playing on the van stereo as I write this so it's a chance to mention it here. Teenage wasteland indeed. 

Birmingham is usually a good place to play, and last night was no exception. The Castle And Falcon was yet another new venue for me, and what an excellent little gig it is. An extremely enthusiastic and often very vocal audience saw us joined by Godfathers guitar hero Steve Crittall for a suitably noisy show which seemed to go down well with all concerned. Criminal Mind were once again excellent, local lads The Dregs played a good opening set and Captain Sensible's guitar tech Sean kept me entertained with stories from the latest Damned tour. A top evening all round. 

It's raining heavily today. It's been doing that a lot lately. We opened the van door and as Dale put it, the 'sideways rain' pretty much soaked all the seats in about 2 seconds. Bah! 

Sunday 9th, 1.34 pm leaving Nottingham 

Well - what a splendid lunch. If you're in Nottingham and you're hungry then go to The Golden Fleece

Another great night last night - this really is turning out to be a good tour. Ruts D.C. played The Rescue Rooms back in February as part of our '40 Years Of The Crack' tour, and Alberts was just a few doors down from there - it wasn't much fun carrying the gear upstairs but the venue was excellent so it was all worth it in the end. Headsticks opened the evening - we played with them at Strummercamp a few weeks ago, I like their stuff - and Criminal Mind were as good as ever; they really are a great little band, well worth catching if you ever see them advertised. We were back to one guitar which took a bit of getting used to, but the sound in the venue was good so we soon got going, and by the end of our set there was much dancing and jollity down the front. And after initial concerns the turnout was such that, as the afore-mentioned 'Orrible 'Oo once put it, even the promoter smiled. Good!

2.59 pm somewhere on the M42 

Guy Stevens, Ian Hunter, Abbey RoadDavid Bowie, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop... Alvin's got some great stories! 

Monday 10th, 1.22 pm on the road out of Bristol 

I've lost my watch. How annoying is that? And our gig in Nuneaton has been postponed, or cancelled, or something. Bah. 

I've just talked to my dad on the phone - he says that it's pouring down in London. We're at The 100 Club tonight so hopefully it'll have cleared up by the time we get there, or at least by the evening so as not to put people off from coming along. 

Right - that's enough moaning! Last night then - yet another new venue for your humble narrator and yet again The Louisiana in Bristol was a splendid place. Local heroes Criminal Mind took the place by storm and we had another good night, which sets things up nicely for tonight - once again Steve will be on guitar, and we also have Barry Francis from The Saints and Timo Caltio from Cheap And Nasty joining us for a song each (they both play on Alvin's album) so it's got the makings of a great evening. Oh, and I've got an interview for the Rebellion Festival programme. Lots to do... time for a sleep then... I wonder where my watch is...

Tuesday 11th, 10.49 am at home 

I've unpacked my bag and still haven't found my watch. I thought that I might, but I didn't. Bugger. Still, if the worse thing that happens to you is that you lose a watch then it's not a bad life is it? 

Last night's show at The 100 Club more than lived up to our expectations. It's good when that happens. Steve was great on guitar (he usually is!) as were Barry and Timo, there was a good crowd in - we were worried about the rain effecting things but thankfully that proved not to be the case - and were joined on stage for the legend that is Charlie Harper - I think you'll agree that sounds like a good evening?
The band heroically attempt to ignore
the stage invader in their midst...

So - what did Charlie sing with us? 
Good question - he sang a bit of the U.K. Subs classic 'Warhead'. 
Why did we only play a bit of 'Warhead'? 
Because we play it in the middle of 'In A Rut'. 
And who sings 'In A Rut'? 
I do. 
Yes, you read that bit correctly. I do. 

Nobody - nobody! - is more surprised than me. It even looks weird written down on paper. It took a lot of persuading to get me to do it, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I still feel a bit awkward... but it's been happening every night on this tour, and incredibly it's been going down well. Strange days indeed.

It's a shame that there's no gig tonight, but we're off to Poland on Friday. Excellent. 

Thursday 13th, 1.38 pm on a tube train into town 

I did nothing yesterday. Nothing. 

Well, that's not true. Of course it's not. I did my washing. I caught up on emails. I ran through some songs for the gigs I'm doing depping with The Good Old Boys in a couple of weeks time. I talked to their guitarist Simon about some of the songs. I watched Poirot on the telly. I phoned a couple of mates. I ate some food, drank some drinks - well, you get the idea. I did quite a lot, especially considering that I did nothing. 

I'm now on my way to meet Alvin at Liverpool Street Station. It's pouring down with rain. Again. We have to be at Stansted Airport at 9 am tomorrow so we're staying nearby tonight. Apparently it's over 90 degrees where we're going - that's too hot for me. 

The reaction to the gigs has been brilliant, which is a great thing to see. To be fair, we have been playing well, but it's a new band - albeit one with a pedigree - and it's been great to see such interest. As you would expect the set is built around Alvin's album 'Your Disobedient Servant' - we've missed a couple of tracks but they will no doubt feature in the future -  and reflected his time with Iggy Pop by playing '1969' and 'Down On The Street'. We've also - slightly oddly from my point of view - reflected my time with Ruts D.C... I've been telling a short story each night along the lines of 'back in 1979 I was trying to learn to play the guitar, and I would sit on the end of my bed playing along with records by people like The Ruts and The U.K. Subs - somehow, 40 years later, this can happen...'   we then play 'In A Rut' with a snippet of 'Warhead' in the middle as previously discussed. It's been going down really well - but it's amazing for me to think that, yes, I did sit on the end of my bed playing along with records by people like The Ruts and the U.K. Subs, and now I share the stage with them and play the songs that I used to play along with. As I say, strange days indeed. Most peculiar mama.

Saturday 15th, 3.21 pm ready for take-off at Lodz Airport 

'Warning! Very strong winds, hail and storms expected in the afternoon and at night (15/06) Do not seek shelter under trees. Where possible stay indoors.'

Hmmm. This is perhaps not the sort of text message that you want to receive at any time, but if it arrives as you're preparing to broad an aircraft it really does, shall we say, focus the mind... the stewardesses - I still call them that, don't you? - are busily demonstrating the safety features of this aircraft even as we speak. Maybe I should be paying a bit more attention?

It was a busy day yesterday, hence the lack of writing here - but the notebook is back out now, and in an effort to put the above text message out of my mind I'm attempting to remember what happened and in what order. So...

On Thursday Alvin and myself spent a very enjoyable evening - and a fair bit of money, especially in his case - in Bishops Stortford. My old friend Adrian (he writes the always - excellent Stranglers blog Aural Sculptors) lives nearby so I texted him to say that we were local to see if he was about but sadly he was away. Next time! Once checked in at The George (which I've since been told by Adrian and his family is haunted! Oo-er!) we decided to go out for a walk to see what was about - within an hour he'd bought a very nice watch (that's how he spent more money than me!) and we were ensconced in The Half Moon on the Moretti and discussing tactics. Pizza Express is always a good bet especially for poncey vegetarians such as myself, and it proved to be so in this case; we then heard that Jamie would be meeting us at the airport as his train had been cancelled so we rounded our evening off by watching the Australia / Brazil ladies football World Cup match amid more drinking and tactical discussions. What crazy punk rockers we are eh? 

Ooh - we're taking off. It's always a bit mad isn't it? A bit bumpy, a few kids screaming - not too bad though, certainly not as bad as that text suggested that it might be. Good! 

9 o'clock on Friday morning and we're in a cab to Stansted Airport; half an hour later we've met Jamie (own up - you weren't sure that he was going to show up were you? To be honest - nor were we!) and we're checked in and through security without a hitch and heading for the duty free shops. No, I've never bought anything there either, but I was tempted by a JBL Bluetooth speaker - after heroically resisting it we had some much-needed breakfast before deciding to have a look around. As we left the cafe we were confronted by some familiar faces... it's funny when you see someone out of context but can't quite work out who they are isn't it? 'Are you the chap who plays in The Ruts?' asked the cheery bespectacled chap whose face I knew but couldn't quite place. 'Yes, I'm Leigh' said I. The cheery bespectacled chap extended his hand towards me - 'Kevin Armstrong' came the reply. 'Yes, I know -we've not met before but I've seen you at work' said I, grinning like an idiot. And I had, with David Bowie among others. He now plays in Iggy Pop's band along with Seamus Beaghen who of course played in Ruts D.C. and who played with Iggy at the same time as Alvin. 'We've all had the plane lurgee' said my new best mate Kevin, 'Seamus is here somewhere but he's not too well, I'll see if I can find him... actually, let's take a picture and send it too him'. So we did - somewhere there's a picture of Kevin, Alvin and myself. I must get that someday mustn't I? They were all off to Santiago for an Iggy gig, we were off to Lodz - we went our separate ways vowing to keep in touch. I hope that we do! 

A lot of people - especially bands - won't fly Ryanair. There are any number of horror stories aren't there? 10 minutes into our flight I remembered why. Cramped to hell, screaming kids, a small fortune for pretend food - terrible. And that bloody fanfare when the plane lands. Is that really something to celebrate? It's supposed to land isn't it, in the same way that it's supposed to take off and indeed to fly? Still we got there in one piece, and I even managed a bit of sleep so I guess it wasn't too bad. 

Passport control took ages. Ages. I stood in the seemingly-endless queue shuffling forward from time to time, all the while thinking 'my Les Paul is somewhere the other side of those big doors. I do hope that it's ok'. When I eventually got through the big doors my guitar was nowhere to be seen. Hmm... where's the outsize baggage area? There doesn't seem to be one... after all other baggage had been collected it was time to pluck up courage and ask one of the scary security men where my guitar might or might not be. 'Wait!' said the scary security man firmly. Waiting commenced immediately. He spoke into a walkie-talkie. 'Here' he said, indicating the baggage belt, which obligingly whirred into life. No guitar though. More walkie talkie action. More waiting. More belt whirring. Still no guitar. Suddenly he spoke - 'I have good news for you. Your guitar is here. Wait'. Waiting once again continued, albeit with considerable relief. Eventually one of the bursts of belt whirring led to my guitar appearing on it. Fank gawd. 'What happened?' I asked. 'It got stuck' came the reply. Ah - that explains it. Sort of. 
You thought I'd made it up didn't you?

10 minutes later and we're all in Christof's car leaving the airport. 40 minutes or so later we're at the wonderfully-named Hotel Hades which thankfully turns out to be closer to heaven than hell - plates of pasta and bottles of lager appear, and all is right with the world at last. 

The festival site is a short walk away so we decide to stroll down and have a look. It's state funded - why don't we have things like that in so-called 'Great' Britain? - so the P.A. and stage are good, there's not too many people about but we're assured it'll get busier later. Alvin is presented with a very nice - looking Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass to use (maybe I should have asked to borrow a Les Paul?!?) which is great to play but the guitar strap is too short for him. Still that's easily fixed, and with everything looking good it's back to the hotel for a snooze. 

We return to the festival at 9.15 pm to find everything in full swing. We set up and get ready to play - there's no backstage toilet (or if there is then I can't find it!) so it's time to, erm, find a bush... 

We start, as we have at all the shows, with 'Arterial Pressure' - there are more than a few punky types about including several U.K. Subs t-shirts so it looks as though we could go down well. Things get better and better as our set progresses, and we finish with 'Back To Mayhem', 'Living Dead' and 'Black Power Salute' to a great reception. After an announcement from the compare the crowd start singing something - it's 'Happy Birthday' for Jamie who gets presented with a cake which we eat back at the hotel with beer and sandwiches. I like Poland. 

We were up at half past nine today as breakfast finished at 10; we left for the airport at midday where there wasn't much to do, although as I said earlier that text message certainly livened things up a bit. I'm tired now though so it's time for some music and a sleep. Hopefully.

6 pm on The Stansted Express going back to Liverpool Street Station 

What was I saying about not flying Ryanair? 

I've just filled in a damage report. But more about that in a minute. 

The flight itself wasn't too bad in the end - provided you could ignore the terrifying racket being made by the child who sounded as though he was being disemboweled for the last 30 minutes of so of proceedings. By the looks on quite a few people's faces they may actually have been considering doing just that, or at the very least administering a general anaesthetic to said child or indeed to themselves. But the real 'fun' started back at Stansted Airport. After going through passport control (which was much easier than yesterday) I waited at outsize baggage - belt A in case you were wondering - for my guitar. And I waited. And waited. After about 20 minutes I decided to enquire as to where it might be - the very helpful lady behind the desk at Ryanair Baggage Claims said that she'd make some calls then asked if I had been 'very early' for my flight. When I said we were there a couple of hours before take off she said that it'd probably be ok, any earlier and they might have forgotten to load it on. Oh, great... she came back with the news that there was no sign of it so I'll have to fill in a form and they'll courier it over to me when it arrives back in Blighty. Not good news, but it could be worse I suppose.

Hang on - they've found a guitar in the middle of the road.

Whaaaat? 

They've found a guitar in the middle of the road. What does mine look like? Well it's in a black case which - rather optimistically as it turns out - has a couple of red 'Fragile' stickers on it. Oh, this could be yours then, I'll get them to bring it over. 
OUCH!
A quarter of an hour later my new friend Jerry hands me my guitar. We both open the case. I pick it up. It's still in tune. That's encouraging. I think that it's ok Jerry... we put it back into the case - but the clasp at the bottom of the case won't close. Actually, the case doesn't go back together properly either. Ah - that'll be where it hit the ground after falling off the baggage truck. Thanks for telling me that Jerry - time I filled in a damage report then don't you think?
What feels like a lifetime later I'm finally on my way home.I've got a horrible nagging feeling that when I look again at my guitar it'll turn out to be damaged after all, but that's hopefully just me worrying. Tomorrow I've got to photograph the damage and send it in to the Ryanair website - I'm told that they will then contact me accordingly. So that's ok then. 

Except of course, it's not. What was that I saying about people, particularly musicians, refusing to fly with Ryanair? Why do you reckon that is then? I'm sitting here thinking about the staff - very helpful, almost nonchalant about possible damage or loss of processions. Is that because it happens on a regular basis? I certainly wasn't the only person filling out forms... I've heard far too many stories like mine, and sadly this one won't be the last. I'm telling myself that it's 'only' the case that's been damaged, and that's why you put valuable instruments in them in the first place - but that's not really the point is it? 

So I'm not saying 'DON'T FLY RYANAIR'. Except of course, I just did. Welcome home Leigh.

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So there you have it - our first tour, with hopefully many more to come. Derby, Birmingham and Lewes this weekend - excellent. And in case you thought I made all that stuff about 'In A Rut' up, here it is from The 100 Club show. Oh and in case you were wondering - I found my watch! Oh yes!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Remembering Rebellion 2019

It's time for another slightly blurred missive from a speeding locomotive travelling in a Southerly direction somewhere in England the morning after the night before... 

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Monday 5th August 1.44pm on a train from Manchester to London.

£5.50 for a meal deal. A cardboard sandwich, a chocolatey-nutty-thingy bar and some lukewarm water. And it had all been going so well...still, at least I got on this train - with only 10 minutes between arriving at Manchester Piccadilly from Blackpool North and leaving for Euston it was touch and go, but I made it, as did many others. First world problems eh? And the quiet coach is actually quiet for once. Maybe things aren't so bad after all. 

Actually things aren't bad at all. The Rebellion Festival at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool once again lived up to all expectations (which it must be said, were pretty high to begin with) and indeed might have been the best that I've ever attended. Mind you, it was bloomin' hot, especially in The Empress Ballroom. I don't remember ever being hotter on stage, or indeed in a venue. Surely they can fit some air conditioning? Or even open the doors? Or windows? Or something? 
Your humble narrator
at work with Ruts D.C.
The Empress Ballroom, Blackpool,
August 2nd 2019.

Gig-wise the Ruts D.C. show in the afore-mentioned ballroom was, even though  say so myself, an absolute stormer. We'd considered playing 'The Crack' in it's entirety but eventually we opted for some lesser-played songs from the album alongside some old favourites and, for the first and maybe only time, an excerpt from 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' during 'In A Rut'. We'd been rehearing on the previous Tuesday and Segs was saying how he'd just seen and enjoyed the film 'Sound City' - we jammed the Nirvana song for a couple of minutes and decided that it'd be interesting to include it in our show. It certainly seemed to catch people by surprise... and the following night's acoustic show in the hallowed confines of The Opera House was pretty special too. It's impossible - well it is for me anyway - to stand on the stage and not think of who has stood there in the past. From Charlie Chaplin to The Beatles and from Frank Sinatra to Jimi Hendrix and beyond, it really is an extraordinary place. And we were all absolutely astonished by how many people came to see us there - I'm told that they had to open the top balcony, which means that there were at least 1,500 people in there. Amazing. They saw a show which mixed familiar songs with less well-known material like 'Soft City Lights' and 'Walk Or Run' and we also used the strings from the album recording of 'Golden Boy' - well, it is an opera house after all. 

I was very familiar with that stage by the time we played on it, having joined T.V. Smith & Friends (including Pascal Briggs, Attila The Stockbroker, Jennie and Mandy from The Crows and Jamie Oliver) and played with Alvin GibbsThe Disobedient Servants immediately prior to our show. Three consecutive gigs on the same stage - I must have been mad... no I wasn't, I absolutely loved it! And I played 'Ignore Them' with Eddie And The Hot Rods on the same stage the previous evening - well, I was invited, and it would have been rude not to wouldn't it? 

I also saw The Damned, The Skids, The Stranglers, The Professionals - it's amazing how many punky bands have names that begin with 'the' isn't it? - in the ballroom, caught local (to me anyway) heroes Lead Shot Hazard on the Introducing Stage, Department S, Walter Lure and The Godfathers in The Opera House and many many more. Oh and I had too much too drink, not enough sleep, too much junk food - all in all it was something of a triumph. Same time (more or less) next year then. Hopefully.

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Do you know, it's strange - that all seems ages ago now... anyway Ruts D.C. will return in the not-too-distant future, but in the meantime it's time for some more gigs with Alvin and co. Great stuff!





Friday, July 26, 2019

Weekend warriors

What follows was indeed written when it says that it was written - it appears here unedited except for a bit of tidying up here and there, especially the bits where I couldn't read my handwriting...

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Hello from the 11.36 train from Glasgow to London. It's Sunday 7th July and I've got a headache. And I feel like going back to sleep. I won't though - not for a while anyway - as I'm going to write up my memories of the last two weekends of Ruts D.C. gigs for the blog page that I keep saying that I must get around to writing more for, but never actually do... here we go then - stop me if you've heard this one before...

Friday 28th June, Greenwich 

Hot in every sense of the word, both physically and emotionally. Like an idiot I decided to wear a jacket for the first couple of songs - when I tried to take it off I discovered that it had stuck to me. Ah well. I knew I'd be a fashion victim in the end. And nothing had prepared me for (a) seeing a t-shirt with my face on it (Dave and Segs are on it too, but I think you know what I mean) and (b) people not only buying it but wearing it too. 
The show itself was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 'Babylon's Burning' single being released - since we were unable to ascertain a definite date for this we chose one that it had been in the singles chart on four decades earlier. Any excuse eh? The Pelton Arms in Greenwich is a splendid pub, and it was suitably packed for our show which we streamed live on the band's Facebook page (ooh - for a minute there I sounded almost like I knew what I was talking about didn't I? Anyway here is the footage if you'd like to see it) and which went fantastically well. People travelled far and wide to see us, which was a very humbling experience from our point of view. We really must do an acoustic album one day mustn't we?

Saturday 29th June, Glasgow

Rain of near-biblical proportions held off right until the moment that we got out of our taxi from the train station and discovered that we were at the wrong entrance to the park. Bugger! As the world-weary security guard put it, 'welcome to Glasgow boys'. You have to love somewhere that they leave a traffic cone on the head of a statue over the weekend as 'there's no point in taking it off until Monday, they just put it back up there if we do' though don't you? Still the Kelvingrove Bandstand is a remarkable venue, and it was great to see the familiar faces of the Stranglers road crew as we arrived for our soundcheck. At showtime the rain had stopped, the sun was shining and all was right with the world - until Segs sang the words 'thunder and lightning' in 'Jah War' and the proverbial heavens opened. Poncey English people (like me!) ran for cover while every Scots person just carried on watching - as one chap put it to me afterwards, 'I was more worried about my beer getting watered down'. A great gig, and The Stranglers were pretty good too. Mind you, they usually are.
Homeward bound we changed trains at Crewe where we spotted a rainbow t-shirt-wearing  Cliff Richard boarding our London train. Within seconds we were all texting each other with unrepeatable variations of his hit single song titles. Well, we couldn't say them out loud…

Friday 5th July, Caerphilly

Well I'm lucky enough to do some pretty amazing things with an electric guitar in my
hand, and playing at Caerphilly Castle is definitely among them. Possibly the most stunning venue I've ever been lucky enough to play in, our dressing room was up a seemingly endless stone spiral staircase - the word 'room' doesn't do it justice, it was a stone hall with, among other things, a tapestry of a hanging on one of the walls. And if that wasn't enough, The Tommy Cooper Walk Of Fame was across the road. Earlier we had a meal in the Volare Italian restaurant, where in addition to the magnificent food we were given complimentary limoncellos (being the heathen that I am I'd not had one before. I guess I need to get out more?) while fans came in off the street to ask for photographs with us. Our gig was even better than the previous week's show, with plenty of Ruts t-shirts in the crowd and smiling faces all round. Afterwards I went up onto the viewing area above the right hand side of the stage, where the unexpected excitement of audience members waving caused me to give what might best be described as a rather peculiar impression of The Pope. They went completely mad when Dave and Segs appeared. The Stranglers were excellent once again, but as I said last time, they usually are.

Saturday 6th July, Dunoon

After the C.C. show we drove to The Britannia Hotel in Bromsgrove in an attempt to break the near-astronomical distance that we had to travel to the next gig. On arrival sometime around 2 a.m. we were sternly informed that breakfast didn't start until 8 a.m. - when we arrived at the allotted time it looked as though it had been open for ages and was packed out. First world problems eh? A few hours of fitful sleep in the bus followed (aided and abetted by Mott The Hoople and The Tom Robinson Band on the headphones) before we eventually arrived at the ferry port to Dunoon. Our journey across was enlivened no end by Segs's tales of his adventures sailing in the area, and when we arrived in Dunoon it was impossible not the think of The Wicker Man. Well, it was impossible for me not to think of it anyway. As we drove to The Queens Hall for our show as part of The Punk On The Peninsula Festival the picturesque tranquillity of the surrounding area contrasted with the assorted multi-coloured mohawks and punky t-shirts - when we arrived Fire Exit sounded good, Ian the promotor has provided a large bag of haggis-flavoured crisps (not for me thank you!) and Jennie from Rebellion and her pal Jo were cheery and friendly to all concerned. We played to an audience which sounded as though they'd been drinking all day or indeed all weekend - either that or they liked us (no one left as far as I could see) but they couldn't be bothered clapping. They treated The Cockney Rejects in much the same way, which I would imagine is something that their doctors wouldn't necessarily recommend - we missed the end of their set as we had to leave to catch the 10 o'clock ferry. This was a shame as we also just missed T.V. Smith who was arriving for his show the next morning, but it was still light and the bay and surrounding area looked absolutely amazing. From there it was back to Glasgow for much merriment and a bottle of red wine (or two) in Dave's room with Reservoir Dogs on in the background. At least that goes some way towards explaining this morning's headache.

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So there you have it - four great shows. And we're looking forward to more next week when we play both electric and acoustic shows at The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool where I'll also be appearing with Alvin Gibbs and The Disobedient Servants among others. I will be attempting regular posts from the festival on my Facebook page, and if you're going I'll see y'all there...


Saturday, June 01, 2019

Your Disobedient Servant writes...

Well. 

This is getting ridiculous.

Blame Facebook. Well, that's what I'm blaming anyway. After all, it can't possibly be my fault can it?

In the good old days - 'old' days are always 'good' aren't they? - if I'd wanted to bang on about myself in Cyberspace I would have to find a computer (usually in a house, maybe even the one that I lived in) before logging onto this here blog and spending ages humming and harring, writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing... whereas now it just takes a few seconds on a mobile phone or laptop and my self-centred ramblings are there for all to see. Progress? Maybe. Of a sort. 

When I last found my way onto these hallowed pages Ruts D.C. were about to embark on their '40 Years Of The Crack' Tour. That was three months - a quarter of a year - ago. It all went wonderfully well as I regularly reported on my Facebook page (see what I mean!) and we're currently gigging sporadically over the next couple of months including Camden Rocks tomorrow, The Rebellion Festival in August and more - full details can as always be found on, you've guessed it, the band's Facebook page. We're also putting together some new songs which will hopefully form the basis of a new album to be released next year, and planning several other outings before 2019 is over. Exciting times!


I've also been gigging with the excellent Punky Reggae Party (I bet you can guess they do, and indeed where this link takes you) as well as starting a new band with some old friends playing new wave covers - we're called The Slogans, there's no Facebook page yet (or if there is then I haven't seen it!) but you can bet your trousers that there will be...

And I'm pleased to say that I'm about go on tour with Alvin Gibbs And The Disobedient Servants. I was very pleased to be asked to play on two tracks on the U.K. Subs's bassman's debut solo album 'Your Disobedient Servant' which came out earlier this year to rave reviews, and I'm even more excited to be asked to play in the live band, which also features the Subs's drummer Jamie Oliver (yes, that really is his name!) and Godfathers guitar slinger Steve Crittall (he's not on all the gigs on this tour sadly but hopefully will be more involved long term) along with various other guest guitarists (all of whom play on the album) at some of the shows along the way. I will no doubt be reporting as often as I can on you-know-where, and if I've got any sense I'll keep some sort of tour diary which I'll write up here in due course. Just like I used to do in the good old days eh?

Let's hope so.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ruts D.C. '40 Years Of The Crack' Tour starts tomorrow!

The game is afoot - after what seems like an age (it was announced last summer!) the Ruts D.C. '40 Years Of The Crack' Tour is finally upon us. We're playing 17 shows with The Professionals are special guests, during which we intend to play the first Ruts album 'The Crack' in it's entirety alongside other material from the band's illustrious history - I don't want to sound big-headed, but it's got all the makings of a great tour. As always I'll be attempting to update my Facebook page as often as possible, and if you're coming to a show then please say hello - after all, without an audience it's just like a rehearsal, only louder...