Thursday, March 26, 2020

'Nobody told me there'd be days like these...'

Well I don't know about you (obviously!) but I seem to have rather more time on my hands than I was expecting to have at the moment. Maybe you have too? So what better time to (a) write one of those blog postings that I keep saying that I must get around to writing, and (b) play a game of Spot The Difference. Well, why not eh?

Here are two posters - the one on the left is for the first ever acoustic tour by (ahem!) up-and-coming young London dub rock band Ruts D.C., while the one on the right is for The Punk Rock Bowling Festival, which takes place every May in no lesser location than Las Vegas, USA. 

Now here are two more posters - the one on the left is once again for the first ever acoustic tour by (ahem!) up-and-coming young London dub rock band Ruts D.C., while the one on the right is once again for The Punk Rock Bowling Festival, which takes place every May in no lesser location than Las Vegas, USA.

So can you - yes, YOU! - spot the difference between them? Tricky isn't it?

Actually it's not very tricky at all is it? I must make the next competition more difficult...

I first started this blog all those years ago as an attempt to become more computer literate, to improve my typing skills - which if I remember rightly were pretty much non-existent at the time - and because I thought that it might be an interesting thing to do, not least as it gave me a way of documenting my increasingly unusual (and often rather obscure) attempts to play the guitar for a living. I gave it the impulsive title 'Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars' without very much thought; I've often wondered if I should change it - maybe one day I will - but it's been hard enough to find the time and if I'm honest the inclination to contribute to it over the last few years, let alone to wonder whether it's name should change. As previously discussed I tend to use Facebook for music-related stuff these days, and as a result the blog feels a little bit like something from another time in my life - which I suppose in many ways it is. Looking back through it I don't really know how I found the time to write as much as I did in the early days, although maybe a more interesting question is to consider what I used to do with all those thoughts before I started writing them down here... but if ever there was a Mad World it's the one that we have 'suddenly' found ourselves in now.

Coronavirus. Was there ever a time when it wasn't the most used word in the English language? It's hard to remember isn't it? And how about terms like 'self-isolating' and 'social distancing'? From people saying things like 'I don't know what all the fuss is about, it's only a cold' to the same folk crossing the road with a look of abject terror on their face if they see anyone within several yards of them has taken a few weeks, but it's certainly happened. As I write this all restaurants, pubs and clubs are closed and gatherings are limited to two people - that's certainly something that I never thought that I'd ever type! All but non-essential shops are closed, the streets are as empty as they are on Christmas Day - well, they certainly are around these parts - and with many people working from home the World seems a very different place to the one we all now only dimly remember from just a couple of weeks or so ago. Supermarket shelves are empty, people are fighting over bottles of hand sanitiser and toilet rolls are suddenly the rarest thing on Earth. I was in the Post Office around the corner from me the other day, and when one of the lads behind the counter mentioned that they would be receiving a delivery later in the day I heard a voice from behind me say 'I'll 'ave 200 of 'em'. It was a giant, not-particularly friendly-looking man, and he wasn't smiling - now that's an upset stomach... all this panic buying has of course resulted in shortages of all sorts of things, which isn't too clever from the point of view of, say, an NHS worker who can only visit shops at a certain time of day due to shift commitments, or an unemployed or elderly person with limited financial resources at certain times of the month. Still, I'm sure that doesn't bother Mr. 200 Toilet Rolls, or indeed any of the other blockheads who work on a similarly self-centred level to him.

As for me - all gigs are fairly obviously postponed or in some cases cancelled altogether, my work at Balcony Shirts is on hold and as a self-employed person I've long since stopped joking about bankruptcy. I began the last blog posting with the words 'as Ruts D.C. ready themselves for a return to showbusiness' - well, that seems a very long time ago now too. We've got things to do - there's a live album from last year's '40 Years Of The Crack' tour coming out soon, there are songs to write for a projected 2021 release (I do like a bit of unashamed optimism, don't you?!) and more, but who knows when we'll next be able to get together? We're looking at sending song ideas to each other via The Internet - time I finally learned how to work GarageBand properly then... we were due to be playing a Rock Against Racism show in Brighton this coming weekend with another one in Brixton early next month so these are now being rescheduled as are quite a few other shows. And we're once again accompanying The Stranglers around Britain on their 'Final Full U.K. Tour' in October and November - tickets are selling well, and surely we'll all be back to 'normal' by then? There are also dates for Alvin GibbsThe Disobedient Servants and The Slogans that need changing - but when do we reschedule anything for? How long is our new Mad World going to be around for? And how much madder is it going to get? 

Hmm... the answers aren't there, but the questions most certainly are. 

Wherever you are, stay safe and stay cool. We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when - but I know we'll meet again, some sunny day...

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Ruts D.C. European Tour, November / December 2019

As Ruts D.C. ready themselves for a return to showbusiness here's a look back at last year's November / December European tour... 

The stage is set - Das Bet, Frankfurt, November 29th 2019

Friday 29th November, 10.30 am, Room 21 of the Goethe Hotel, Frankfurt

'She said... I know what it's like to be dead...' I like The Beatles. I really like The Beatles. I mean I really like The Beatles. Sometimes I don't listen to very much else, and this is definitely one of those times. And today I really really like 'Revolver'. I've got something I can laugh about. Good day, sunshine.
Actually it's quite a grey day outside, but at least it's not raining. It was raining last night when we arrived at Das Bett in Frankfurt to load our gear in for our gig there, and it was still raining when we left there 7 or so hours later. At least that didn't stop a very enthusiastic audience coming to the show, but more about that in a minute. 
We - Ruts D.C. - are on tour in Europe. 12 shows in 12 days, 7 of them supporting The Stranglers in some very impressive venues, the rest club shows with us headlining. It's good to be back on the road (maaan!) although the road is long, with many-a winding turn - well, it certainly was yesterday as we travelled the 360-odd miles from Paris to Frankfurt, and it's the best part of 500 miles from Stuttgart to Bologna tomorrow. A long and winding road indeed.

But enough of the increasingly awkward quotes from not-particularly cool songs - how did we get here?

'Made it Ma,
top of the World...'
On Thursday evening we - tour manager Liam, Duds the driver and Dave, Segs and myself - stayed in the St. Albans B & B in Dover; this set us up for the 8.45 am ferry to Calais and the subsequent drive to gay Paris where the rain did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm at seeing our name (literally) up in lights at The Olympia. It's impossible not to be aware of the heritage of the place - from Edith Piaf to Jimi Hendrix and from Jacques Brel to David Bowie via Iggy Pop and indeed The Beatles, they've all graced the stage. And what a fantastic venue it is, from the drive-in backstage area to the astonishing foyer it lived up to it's legend with ease. Our breathless 45 minute support set started with 'Something That I Said', ended with 'Psychic Attack' and went down well with all concerned, although nothing quite prepares you for a shirtless Jean-Jacques Burnel coming into the dressing room to ask how the show went. 'Great' replied Segs cheerily, 'everyone said that I have a better physique than you'. 'Well, they would' smiled JJ. A good start to the tour.

And last night, the first of our 'solo' shows - a 90 minute roar through most of 'The Crack', a fair bit of 'Music Must Destroy' and all points in between. Das Bett is a excellent club, the audience was up for it from the first song - great stuff all round. 

Right - it's Stuttgart tonight so it's time for a shower now - on the road again...    

Monday 2nd December, 12.07 pm, carriage 5 seat 33 on the 11.45 am train from Rome to Turin 

Well. You never know do you? It goes to show you never can tell.

So there we were, less than 10 minutes away from The Orion, looking forward to another gig with The Stranglers and bemoaning the fact that we were on the Rome ring road rather than passing by The Colosseum when a previously unheard and not-even-vaguely nice sound came from somewhere beneath the bus. It was a kind of grinding noise. And as if by magic we stopped moving, and didn't start again. Bugger. I'd just replied to a message from Jim the Stranglers's drummer asking where we were and if we were ok by saying something like 'see y'all in 10 minutes' - as I say, you never can tell can you? 
backstage at Goldmarks. Weird 

There are no good places to break down are there? This one could have been worse, but not much - as vehicles careered past us (and, strangely, the odd pedestrian - what on Earth were they doing there?) Duds had a hi-vis vest on and a red warning triangle out in no time while Liam went into a not-inconsiderable amount of mobile phone action. To cut a long-ish story short-ish, a very nice chap called Maximilian made three journeys to get the band, Liam and all our gear to the venue while the ever-heroic Duds stayed with the broken bus - he and it eventually got towed to the venue around 10 pm. We just about got set up and soundchecked before the doors opened at half past seven; we roared through our set as Liam made phone calls, sent emails and generally worked his magic on what until that point was looking like a distinctly unmagical situation while we played our show. We ended up staying on the outskirts of Rome (still nowhere near Colosseum - bah!) and we're now on the afore-mentioned train while Duds and Liam are in a hired van hoping to get our gear and baggage to Turin in time for tonight's show. Crazy times - and it had all been going so well... a great night for us at Goldmarks in Stuttgart - where we played a slightly different set to the previous night as there were people attending both shows) and a splendid support show in Bologna (where it was great to catch up with Marz from The Valentines and his lady Angela) had set us up for a good night in Rome. We played well - perhaps very well given the circumstances - but it was a very fraught time. In a effort to clear my head and to have a break from the backstage wheeling and dealing I went out to watch some of The Stranglers's set where I met some people from Coventry who had come all the way over to Italy to see us and who didn't actually know that The Stranglers were playing. Amazing. As I say, you never can tell - let's see what tonight brings...

Wednesday 4th December, 11.10 am leaving for Cologne

It's misty. Oh. ok, it's foggy. Actually that's a point - when does mist become fog? For that matter when does fog become mist? Hmm...

So here we are in our 'new' van, and very nice it is too. I believe that it comes courtesy of The Rumjacks via our friend Mark Sabin who, when he saw various Facebook posts detailing our plight in Rome contacted various people on our behalf. What a splendid chap - I really must get him a drink next time I see him.

When last we spoke Dave, Segs and myself were on a train bound for Turin. I spent much of my journey hemmed into my window seat by a (presumably) Italian goddess asleep in the aisle seat next to me. I don't think that she looked at me once during the journey - actually thinking about it she probably looked at me once and then decided not to look at me again. Ah well.

After arriving in Turin we took a taxi to The Hotel Galant where we managed 30-odd minutes of relative calm before taking another taxi to The Teatro Della Concordia just after 6 o'clock - after grabbing a bite to eat the call came through that our gear would be arriving any minute. Sure enough as the clock struck seven times the indefatigable Duds and the ever-exuberant Liam arrived, giving us 30 minutes to get the gear in, set up and soundchecked before the doors opened. Once again all hands were on deck, once again we somehow got it all done. It's amazing what you can do when you have to isn't it?
Live at Lucerne - thanks Martin!

When we started our show at 8.15 there must have been, ooh, 30-odd people in a venue that must hold at least 20 times that amount; when we finished 45 minutes later there were probably a couple of hundred more. They saw a show that for the second night running could very easily have not happened at all but which once again turned out to be better than it perhaps had any right to be. And last night we played Sedal in Lucerne - Martin and his team made us all very welcome (he designs the most wonderful posters as you can see here) and we played a very good show to a very enthusiastic audience. I do wish that they wouldn't let people smoke in venues though - they did ask people to stop while we played and put the air conditioning on but I suppose we've all got used to playing in clearer rooms these days. Sadly our stage fans had to be left in Rome due to lack of space in the van so it was bloomin' hot on stage - hopefully we'll be able to buy some more today. First World Problems eh?

Tonight we're in Cologne with The Backyard Band - we played with them last year and I really liked them so I'm looking forward to seeing them again tonight. We then rejoin The Stranglers for gigs in Amsterdam and Hamburg before journeying North for our own show in Husum - no, I don't know it either - then finish the tour in Berlin on Sunday. This means that we're now over halfway through our '12-shows-in-12-days' stint - I feel tired but not exhausted, and given the madness that has befallen us on the way everyone is in high spirits and pretty good shape. Let's hope that things stay that way.

Friday 6th December, 10.43 am, on the Amsterdam ring road

'Headache? Tense nervous headache? Take Anadin.'

Do you remember that advert? It's funny what comes into your mind sometimes isn't it? Well, it's funny what comes into my mind... 

Stage passes for the tour.
I could probably get a
few bob for these couldn't I?
I've got a headache at the moment, although not necessarily of the tense, nervous kind. It may be at least in part attributable to drinking until 2 am in Dan Murphy's Irish Bar near the venue. Or maybe I've just got a headache. In which case nothing acts faster than Anadin. Or something. Still 'twas a great night last night - The Milkweg is a classic venue, and with the show a sellout it was full when we started at 8 o'clock and even fuller (is that good English? It's not is it?) when we finished 40 minutes later. It was absolutely packed for The Stranglers, or it certainly was for the last part of their set, when I found myself wedged against the bar at the back of the hall - not the worst place to find yourself, although it did get a bit pricey... back to our show where, to continue the 'First World Problems' theme, both Segs and myself had odd moments with plectrums. I dropped mine during our first song ('Something That I Said' - we've started all the Stranglers support shows with this song, a good choice I think) and only just managed to get one out of my back pocket in time for the guitar solo (as I say, first world problems...) whereas Segs somehow cut his thumb opening a can of beer near the end of our set - as often happens if you cut your hand it bled profusely, although as he put it, 'it helped my plectrum stay on my hand'. On seeing it after the show JJ just calmly asked him 'did you hit someone?' A fair question I suppose. or certainly a fair question if you're Jean-Jacques Burnel. As I say, a splendid evening all round - unlike the previous evening at Helios 37 in Cologne where my amplifier decided not to work. Well that's not strictly true - it was fine during our soundcheck, to such an extent that our new friend Chris the sound engineer complemented me on how good it sounded ('at last, someone who knows how to work an amplifier'. What a nice chap!) And it sounded great after the show, when I decided rather nervously to try some trouble-shooting and it worked with no problem whatsoever. It was during the gig that it didn't play the game - total silence is never a good start to a show. Fortunately we had a spare, but it took me a few songs to get going - overall not a bad gig, but our standards are high, and we felt that we'd dropped back a bit from the previous night in Lucerne. Still we were definitely back on form last night, and we're in Hamburg tonight which is usually a good one for us. Oh and before I forget, The Backyard Band were excellent. Check 'em out, you won't be disappointed!

Right - time for a sleep to get rid of this headache. Hopefully.

Sunday 8th December, 10.29 am, leaving Husum
The obligatory 'on the road' photo -
going from Italy into Switzerland

Well as I said earlier I hadn't heard of Husum before, but what a great place. We arrived early afternoon yesterday and so had a bit of time to look around, which of course involved the triumphant sighting of a Guinness sign (oh yes!) and a meal in an Italian restaurant (implausibly attractive waitresses!) before heading out of town to The Paulsen Hotel where I managed an afternoon nap - rock 'n'roll eh? We returned to The Speicher to set up around 6 pm - it's a great club with friendly people, which set the scene for a top evening. Perhaps surprisingly it took a while to get going; maybe there was a bit of a language barrier or possibly it was one of those venues that people go to whether the know the band who's playing or not - for example Segs saying that it was Malcolm Owen's birthday was met by almost total indifference and indeed silence. Still things picked up and with much dancing and merriment it was very much a case of 'all's well that ends well'. And there were more first world problems to contend with, this time for your humble narrator when my mobile phone went dead. As in 'dead' i.e. not working, black screen, the lot. It turned out that the battery went from around half charge to 0% in a few seconds - when you get these things they don't tell you that they don't actually work do they?

The previous night we supported The Stranglers at Fabrik in Hamburg - no delay in getting going there, as we left the stage to a reception that many headline bands would have been happy with. Great stuff - and talking of headline bands, The Stranglers were excellent, although as I have observed on a number of occasions in these hallowed pages, they usually are.

So - Berlin tonight, the last night of the tour. I really must work out how many miles we've travelled. I must also work out what on Earth I'm going to do with myself when all of this is over.

Tuesday 12th December, 10.49 am at home

It's always weird, coming home after a tour.

You feel tired... empty... or something.

I've just worked that we travelled over 3,500 miles in the buses which, leaving out the 600 mile flight home, means that we averaged over 250 miles a day. No wonder I feel a bit... something or other...
Great photo eh? Thanks Rikki!

But what a show to end on - Huxleys in Berlin used to be Neue Welt, which saw appearances from The Clash, Jimi Hendrix and (gulp!) Adolf Hitler among many others. And since Hendrix also played at The Paris Olympia it means that we began and ended the tour on a stage previously graced by The Experience. That's a nice thing to be able to type... 'twas a great gig to end on, with 'H-Eyes' making it's first and therefore only appearance on the tour - it was a requested by Rikki from The Stranglers road crew, who took some excellent pictures of us throughout the tour. The Stranglers were brilliant, Vom and Andi from Die Toten Hosen came along as did Mutti and Monica from Muttis Bookings, and quite a few of us ended up in The Franken Bar until the small hours drinking far too much - as I say, a great gig to end on. 

Hopefully there will be many more shows with The Stranglers - it's a great double bill that works so well on many levels for both the band and the audience -but in the meantime Ruts D.C. have got work to do. We've got a live album to put together and songs to write for a projected new release - but first I've got to do two weeks worth of washing. More First World Problems eh? When are we back on tour?!?

Ruts Dc, Husum, Germany, December 7th 2019

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Guns Of Brixton

Well it wasn't without the odd mad moment - breaking down on the Rome ring road will stay with me for a while! - but overall the Ruts D.C. European jaunt was a great, maybe even unqualified success. The shows with The Stranglers were uniformly excellent (as indeed were The Stranglers) and our solo shows all went well - highlights were many and varied, but playing The Paris Olympia was fabulous as was the last show of the tour in Huxley's in Berlin (incidentally both of these venues were once played by The Jimi Hendrix Experience - excellent!) where it was great to catch up with Mutti and Monica from Muttis Booking, Andi and Vom from Die Toten Hosen and many more. I made the usual scribbly notes as we went along which will hopefully see the light of day here at some time in the not-too-distant future, and reported as it all happened on FacebookI'd be lying if I didn't say that 12 shows in 12 days was a long haul, but as we all admitted afterwards, we could all have carried on for more... probably... anyway no time to worry about that now as we finish 2019 with a show at The Brixton Academy this coming Saturday 21st December supporting The Alabama 3. The Woodentops are also on the bill (remember them? They were good!) and with The Alabama 3 playing the whole of their classic first album 'Exile On Coldharbour Lane' it promises to be a fine end to what overall has been a great year for the band. Oh yes!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Days In Europa

Well none of us knew what to expect, but the Ruts D.C. Crewe Weekender turned out to be an absolutely fabulous event. Great performances from Criminal Mind, Tara Rez, Dealing With Damage and Kirk Brandon, the punk rock legend that is Auntie Pus compering and three Ruts D.C. sets - great stuff all round. And it was good to have time to meet people and, it must be said, have rather a lot to drink with them - no wonder I was totally knackered when I got home on Sunday afternoon. Still, no time to worry about that now as we're about to set off on a two week jaunt around Europe (while we still can!) playing support sets to The Stranglers and some club dates of our own courtesy of our good friends at Muttis Booking. There are some near-astronomical distances to travel, and 12 shows in 12 days is a heavy schedule, but I can't bloomin' wait. See you on the road, or indeed das Autobahn...

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.


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.


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. 
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.


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!