Friday, March 03, 2017

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' is released today!

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' comes out today on Westworld / Sosumi Records - it's certainly one of my favourite songs on 'Music Must Destroy' (incidentally Pete Sargeant has just published a splendid review of the album on Just Listen To This which you can read here - thanks Pete!) so I for one am well pleased that it's out in it's own right. And after what seems like an age of anticipation our tour with The Stranglers finally kicks off in Lincoln next Tuesday; it then winds it's way up and down England, Scotland and Wales (no Ireland sadly, but more about that in a minute) before finishing in Manchester on (gulp!) April 1st. It promises to be an absolute classic, and if you're coming along to a show then do please say hello. Blogging opportunities are likely to be few and far between but I will be attempting to update my Facebook page on a regular if not daily basis so if you're interested in following how it's all going that's the place to be.

And if you are interested in following how it's all going then you can find my Facebook page here. See you in Cyberspace!

As I say it's a great shame that we're not going to get over to Ireland this time - but we are playing with Stiff Little Fingers in Dublin on Friday 25th August before a very special show in Belfast the next night with SLF, The Stranglers and The Outcasts with Terri Hooley DJ-ing. Crikey! Did I really just type that? Yes, incredibly, I did. Hurrah! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Love Sculpture

As the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour grows ever nearer I seem to be spending rather a lot of my time changing strings, checking leads, working out how many stage clothes I need (where the hell am I going to keep my hats?!?) and of course making sure that I've got enough t-shirts, underpants and socks for our jaunt. It's all glamour this rock 'n' roll lark I can tell you... meanwhile the always - well - worth - reading Aural Sculptors blog has just published an interview with, of all people, me. Hilarious - I never for one minute thought that anyone would ever want to interview me. Me! You can find out what I think about, ooh, all sorts of things - it's even got a picture of me with hairMe me me it's all about me! You can have a read of it here if you like, and there are also some downloadable live recordings of a Price gig from way back in the 1980s and a show T.V. Smith and myself played at The 12 Bar Club in 2012 (get them here and here - go on, you know you want to!) for your (ahem!) listening pleasure. Great stuff - thanks Adrian!

Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played three shows last weekend, at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale, The Dashwood Arms near High Wycombe and The Riverside Club in Staines. The latter was notable for the fact that Al all but lost his voice in the first set which involved some fairly drastic rethinking of the set list although it all went well in the end. It was also notable for featuring the great John Sorrell AKA Johnny Squirrel on bass guitar as Dave was gigging elsewhere - it's always great to see Squirrel, and his playing was effortlessly excellent as ever. 

This week The Upper Cut return to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook on Sunday, which in hindsight I perhaps should have turned down as it's getting very close to tour - time. Ah well, I'm sure it'll all be ok - after all, you can only spend so much time counting t-shirts, underpants and socks...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

'I wanted to look like one of The Flamin' Groovies...'

The new Ruts DC single 'Kill The Pain' comes out on Westworld Records on March 3rd just in time for our tour with The Stranglers - it's from our album 'Music Must Destroy' and features Jake Burns and Kirk Brandon on backing vocals. You can see the Graham Trott - directed promo video on YouTube by clicking here - excellent!

In the meantime I am once again currently in the grip of the dreaded ManFlu. Bah! I seem to have had it rather a lot lately, or it certainly feels as though I have - maybe I've not got rid of it properly, if you know what I mean. It's certainly getting a bit boring... since last we spoke I've cheered up a (little) bit - there have been gigs with The Upper Cut in Reading and with Big Al and the boys in St Albans, Burnham and Colnbrook, all of which passed without too much incident; I'm out and about with Al and co. this weekend although if I feel like I do now I fear that I won't be going anywhere. Time for some paracetamol and an early night - give me something to kill the pain, as someone once sang...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Magic And Loss

Some of these blog pieces more-or-less write themselves, some take a bit of coaxing and some take a lot of work. A lot of work, as in a 'why am I doing this to myself?' - style lot of work. This one is quite hard to write because of the subject matter, which is strange as there should be a lot of positive things to say about friendship, kindred spirits, feeling part of a team... they're all good things, but you don't get something for nothing do you?

I was on my way home on Thursday night when my phone made the slightly annoying car horn - type noise that it makes when I receive a text message. I should change the sound, but I never seem to get around to it. Or something. Anyway I took the phone out of my pocket and read the message. Then I read the message again. And again. It was telling me that Tom Edwards had died. But he can't have. He's only young. And he's Tom, he can't have... 
I first meet Tom a couple of years of years ago, but he's one of those people that it's hard to remember a time that you didn't know them, if you know what I mean. I played the 'I Need A Dodge' gig at Koko with him in 2015, went to the Marshall factory with him, saw him play with Adam Ant, played the riff to 'Day Tripper' on his guitar in Abbey Road Studios... I still don't really know what to say about it all, other than that he was a fabulous musician and a lovely man. I'll miss him - and I know that I won't be the only one.

Harlow is perhaps not the most obvious place to provoke any real emotion, or so you might have thought - but if you'd have been there on Saturday night then you'd have known that 'emotion' was most definitely on the agenda, as after several false alarms The Square finally closed it's doors for the very last time. I first played there with The Price in 1986, and just over 30 years later I played three songs at the last ever gig there. But what a last ever gig it was my friends... 
First band on The Orphans feature Oliver son-of-Simon-from-The-Newtown-Neurotics Lomond on guitar (to be pedantic, on my guitar for most of their set as he broke a string on his) and roared through a breathless half hour set (guitar, drums and vocals - not a bass guitar in sight!) to the approval of the rapidly arriving audience. After saying a quick hello to Steve Lamacq - if I remember rightly he was involved in getting The Price our first gig at the venue - in the downstairs bar it was back upstairs to catch local heroes The Newtown Neurotics who bought the proverbial house down. To be fair they were on safe hometown ground but their excellent performance didn't rest on any laurels, with frontman / songwriter Steve Drewett in fine form throughout. And what can I say about Eddie And The Hot Rods that I haven't already said in these hallowed pages? They've always been one of my favourite bands, and this show was as good as any I have ever seen them play. But it was different, very different - from my point of view at least.
Back in December I went to see The John Otway Big Band at The Borderline; I'd have gone along anyway as they're always well worth seeing but I went up to meet Hot Rods guitar hero Richard Holgarth (who also plays for Otway and was the sound man at The Square when The Price used to play there) to discuss the possible purchase of a Gibson SG guitar that he was considering selling. During the evening the subject of the Square's imminent closure came up, and he invited me up to the gig. At some point I said something like 'I'd love to play at that' - at which point he suggested that I play with Eddie And The Hot Rods. I thought about his offer for, ooh, two or three milliseconds before saying yes...
As I fought my way through the sold out crowd towards the stage I reflected on the situation - no rehearsal, not even a run through at the soundcheck, although I did have a chance to try my guitar through the amplifier that I was borrowing for the occasion. We only decided which songs I was going to play with them in the pub opposite around 3 hours ago. I eventually got to the stage as Hot Rods singer Barrie introduced me  - I never thought that would ever happen I can tell you - and I picked up my guitar. 'Are you ok?' said Richard cheerily as I tried a couple of chords - yes I was ok, and I was even more ok when 'Hard Driving Man' started. And there I was, little old me playing with Eddie and his Hot Rods. If you'd have told me that I was going to do that 40 years ago... 'Gloria' was next before we were joined by Jim Jones (he was DJ-ing after the gig) for 'Born To Be Wild' - and all too soon it was over. The gig, my time in The Hot Rods, one of the great independent venues, everything. There were more than a few tears, with more than a few of them coming from me. It had  been a lousy few days. You don't know what you've got until it's gone do you?

Oh and in case you're wondering, I bought the SG. Of course I did. Well, something good had to come out of it all didn't it?    

Yeah I know this isn't very well written and is all a bit garbled - as I say, sometimes this is quite hard to write... sad times...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'At The Hop', A Step In The Right Direction', 'Toe The Line' etc etc

Saturday 21st January at midday, in seat 9F on Eurowings flight 4U9467 at Heathrow Airport awaiting take off 

Well. Here we are again. Indeed here we go again, this time to Dortmund via Dusseldorf Airport for a Ruts DC show at The Ruhrpott Ska Explosion Festival. No, I'm not too sure what we're doing at a ska festival either.
It seems strange to think of flying to gigs as 'routine' - which is why I don't think of it as that or anything like it. There's still something exciting about it, even though I've done it a fair few times over the years. I really must grow up one day - then again I've got this far, so maybe not? 
I broke a toe this week. Silly me. Then again I didn't do it deliberately... I guess that at this point there should be some crazy rock 'n' roll story attached to the incident ('there I was in a New York hotel having a drink with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood when Iggy Pop suggested that I swung from one of the chandeliers. I wouldn't have normally but gripped by the spirit of Keith Moon I though that I'd give it a go...') but no - I somehow caught my foot on a table leg in the front room. Gawd knows how - serves me right for not wearing shoes or indeed (gulp!) slippers eh? It hurt a lot when I did it on Thursday but it hurts a bit less now - then again I have taken some industrial strength Ibuprofen, as advised by the chemist that I hopped in to see not long after the frankly ridiculous table leg / toe equation took place. They also advised me to tape it to an adjacent toe (it's the one next to my little toe on my left foot) and to 'take it easy for a week or so'... as I limped my way towards gate A24 30-odd minutes ago I reflected upon how much we all take 'normality', or whatever 'normality' is in our world, for granted. Without wishing to tempt fate I, like most of us, am lucky enough to be reasonably healthy most of the time - and yet we all moan about the most trivial of things don't we? Well, we do don't we? 
I suppose that last night was a chance to 'take it easy' - so I of course went out to see a Led Zeppelin tribute band at Tropic At RuislipLed Zeppelin are revered both as a band and as individuals for a reason, and Hats Off To Led Zeppelin made a very good job of what is some notoriously difficult material - their two set show saw a good selection from the catalogue (finishing the main set with 'Wearing And Tearing' really was a moment for the diehards!) with the obvious classics getting the biggest audience reaction. A good night all round - I'd not been to the club for a while and it was splendid to see it continuing to thrive in these difficult times. 

Right - it looks as though it's take off time so I'm going to try to have a snooze. It's bloomin' tiring having a broken toe. Maybe I should have had a quiet night after all?

Sunday 22nd January at 2.25 pm, in seat 12D on Eurowings flight EW1466 at Dusseldorf Airport awaiting take off

Strange. Very Strange. Well, I think that it is. 
While I'm away doing these crazy jaunts around the rock 'n' roll world I usually take an iPod with me, along with a little battery operated device to play it through; this means that if I get my own room I can use it to play whatever peculiar song has somehow found it's way into my warped mind while I'm attempting to get some sleep. 

('But Leigh' - I hear you cry - 'what of the women? The drink? The drugs? The wilful destruction of hotel rooms? Whatever happened to the spirit of Keith Moon from earlier?' Good question...) 

Anyway last night - oh ok then, very early this morning - I thought I'd play a bit of, wait for it, Eddie and The Hot Rods. Oh it won't work. Flat battery. Very annoying, and strange since I charged it up yesterday. And for some reason it won't charge up now. Bugger!
That's the strange bit, but not the very strange bit. That's coming in a minute.
So I played a song or two on my phone before eventually getting tired enough to get to sleep. Good. After a while I woke up and, since it was dark I attempted to switch my phone on to check the time, like we all do these days. Well, we do don't we? It didn't work. Turn the bedside light on. Try again. Nothing.The battery was as dead as the proverbial dodo. But it was over 70% charged when I went to sleep. Weird. I was of course immediately wide awake, gripped with terror with the hideous realisation that there was obviously an enormous magnetic field (or something) in the hotel that was causing every battery in the building to go flat and so no one's alarm would go off and we'd all be there forever. Or something. A very strange moment- well that's how it felt at the time.

We'd arrived a Dortmund Airport after a pleasingly uneventful flight, and were met by Tony who drove us (at quite a speed, it must be said) to the venue where preparations for the evening were well under way. After checking the drums and amps we were all set to go to our hotel, but with our stage time less than two hours away we decided to stay at the venue. This proved to be a good move as it gave us chance to get something to eat and drink as well as to meet the other bands on the bill. 
Showtime was 7.15 - with things already running late (an unusual situation at events such as this) there was an unwelcome urgency in setting up which caused the odd fraught moment but we go there in the end.
Remember my broken toe? I'd almost forgotten about it too until a few songs into our show when I bought my foot down onto the stage just a little bit too hard - In a split second a heavy metal bolt of pain shot up my leg and out through the top of my head. I remembered it then. Absolute agony. The resulting, er, jazz chord hadn't appeared in 'Vox Teardrop' before, and I for one hope that it doesn't appear again - although a similar one turned up later in 'Psychic Attack' for the same reason. Argh! If you see these performances on YouTube then please cut me a little slack... having collectively wondered what on Earth we were doing at a ska festival we all reached the conclusion 'doing rather well' by the end of our set. A great gig, and it must be said a great evening all round. All the bands played well although I must give a special mention to The Valkarians who were simply brilliant. By the time headliner Roy Ellis hit the stage we were all flagging a bit (well I certainly was!) so we headed for our hotel during his set, but we all agreed that it had been a splendid event to be part of. 
With no more Ruts DC shows for a month or so it's now time to prepare for the Stranglers tour in March which should, to coin a phrase, be something to write home about - which if you think about it, is exactly what I'm likely to do here...    

Tuesday 24th January at 4.27 pm, back in Blighty and at home 

So there you have it - some great gigs and some (hopefully) interesting times. I thought that it might be fun to structure successive posts in a similar manner. There has been minimal editing - they really were written in the places and at the listed times, and this is reflected in the writing, which is sometimes scrappy but often oddly revealing. All good stuff!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ireland life, Ireland live

Friday 13th January at 10.10 am, in seat 22c on Aer Lingus flight E1233 not long after take off from Gatwick Airport

I don't think that I've been in a plane that's taken off through snow before. Hmm... no, I'd remember wouldn't I? It was a good deal bumpier than I would have liked, but we're up in blue skies now thank gawd.
I really liked this poster!

Neither The Ruts or Ruts DC ever played in Ireland back in the day so tonight's show at The Voodoo Lounge in Dublin is definitely something of an event. Well, it certainly is for me - I first went to Dublin in 2001 with Neck and have played there a fair few times since then although not for quite a while so it'll be good to play there tonight.
Since last we spoke there have been no gigs for your humble narrator, although since I've not been feeling 100% fit lately that for once hasn't been a particularly bad thing. That said I have been to see a few bands - I kinda think that if you're not out playing then it's good to be out watching some one who is, if only to support the venue that putting live music on. Does that sound self-righteous? It's not supposed to, although maybe it does, or indeed is... anyway The Bluerays played at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth last Friday, and very good they were too - with Chris Hunt on drums the band offered up a good selection of cover songs (some obvious, some not-so-straightforward) to the appreciation of the good-sized audience. And it was great to catch up with Chris and to see him behind the kit, I've played here and there with him over the years and he's always excellent.
The now-annual Resolution Festival has been happening at The 100 Club - I've been to less shows than I'd have liked this year but was very pleased to catch a blistering performance by T.V. Smith and The Bored Teenagers on Sunday (sadly a tube strike meant that there were less punters than predicted but 'twas nevertheless a fabulous show) and an excellent show by The Sex Pistols Experience on Tuesday. 
In the meantime Britain is falling apart due to cold temperatures and the afore-mentioned snow - isn't this sort of thing supposed to happen in winter? Ah well - at least we're good at falling apart... anyway it was an early start so it's time to attempt a snooze...

Saturday 14th January at 1.15 pm on the road between Dublin and Belfast

Did you see what I did there? 'On The Road'. I always wanted to say or indeed write that, I sound just like Jack Kerouac don't I? Either that or I sound like a sad and lonely middle-aged man desperately trying to make his life sound more interesting and indeed romantic than it actually is. 
Well it's difficult to think how last night's gig could have gone any better than it did, although when we abandoned our soundcheck as none of us could hear what any of us was playing in didn't necessarily look as though a good night was in prospect. 'Don't worry' said Bob our soundman, 'it'll sound fine when there's a few people in here'. I've heard that a few ti...

4.00 pm in Room 315 at The Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast which point my pen ran out. Bugger!

As I was saying - the 'it'll sound fine when...' clause gets used by soundmen the World over with varying degrees of success, either because nobody turns up to watch the gig or because loads of people turn up and it still sounds awful. Happily this time Bob was proved to be correct as the place was pretty much full when we went on and the sound did indeed dramatically improve. It's good when that happens... with an audience that could politely be described as 'enthusiastic' the show went from good to great in no time at all - as our new friend John put it after the show, '2017 started here tonight'. Support came from local heroes Paranoid Visions who were probably the best that I've ever seen them which made it a cracking night all round. Hopefully we're in for another good one tonight - promoter Seamie used to play drums in The Bankrobbers who I remember seeing way back in 1981 supporting, of all people, Ruts DC. And if that's not a good omen then I don't know what is!

Sunday 15th January at 9.42 am in the same hotel room

Ooo my 'ead 'urts. Still I've only got myself to blame. As always. Well, that and the drinking

Breakfast I think...

4.14 pm in seat 18C on Flight EZY844 not long after take off from Belfast Airport 

Worrying. Very worrying. Well I think that it is. Well, it is isn't it? How much better an alcoholic drink makes you feel sometimes, especially when you've had rather a lot of them the night before. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that here. Maybe I shouldn't be saying it at all. Ah well - I just have. 
It was a long, long night, but a good one. If I'm honest (and I always try to be - don't you?) I'd have to say that we might have played a bit better the night before but not by much, although the sound seemed to be a bit better in Dublin (which is rather ironic if you think about it given how our soundcheck had gone) which resulted in me missing a couple of cues and accents in songs. Excuses excuses... maybe I'm being a bit over-critical as the audience loved it but you have to keep standards up don't you? Well, I think that you do. The Black Box Theatre seems to put on a lot of very diverse entertainment, and it's great to see such a good venue doing so well - and it was great to see my old mate John Ford who now lives nearby, and I must mention that Stop Stop Start Again provided splendid support too. Another roaringly good evening or indeed weekend - and there's another in prospect next week when we play The Ruhrpott Ska Explosion Festival in Dortmund. Excellent. 
Time for another snooze...

Tuesday 17th January at 2.37 pm, back in Blighty and at home

Somehow - and I for one am not sure how, given how knackered I was - I went to see The Lurkers playing the last night of The Resolution Festival on the way home from the airport. Strange but true. And if you're interested both the Stop Stop Start Again and Ruts D.C. shows are now on YouTube and can be seen here by clicking on the band names in this sentence. See what you think!