Monday, July 28, 2014

'In a bar Johnny drinks, Johnny drinks Johnnie Walker...'

Jon 'Fat' Beast has died. I first met him when he gave The Price a gig at one of the Timebox nights that he was running at The Bull And Gate in Kentish Town - he liked our band and even offered to release a single by us on Timebox Records. We saw him at many gigs over the next few years, maybe the most memorable of which was when we supported Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine at The Guildhall in Gloucester back in 1991. They recorded the promo film for 'Bloodsport For All' that night - he's not in that but he's certainly in this clip of 'Surfin' USM' recorded the same year. All together now - 'you fat bastid, you fat bastid...'

In the meantime, that was the birthday that was... actually on the day itself (Thursday in case you were wondering) I did, well, nothing much. I spent much of my time listening to The Who (always a good move don't you think?) and playing guitar, and didn't leave the house until I went to the local Indian takeaway where I bought myself a vegetable Biriani. Decadent Days eh?!? By the time the evening's gig came around I was half asleep, bored and desperate for something to do - they say that the most tiring thing in the world is doing nothing don't they? Well they - whoever 'they' are - just might be right on that one... the evening's show with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Sunningdale Lounge went well, even if it was a somewhat unlikely setting for your humble narrator to spend his birthday evening at. Still at was back to more familiar territory the next night, when The Upper Cut played The Dolphin in Uxbridge. A raucous performance began a little after 9.30pm with 'Substitute' and finished well after midnight with 'Stay With Me' (we had an interval, we didn't play all the way through!) and since we've played there on or around July 24th for the last couple of years I'll be doing my best to book the band in there again next year. Afterwards drinks were drunk and I got home sometime around 3 o'clock in the morning amid some confusion. A splendid evening - and did myself and Huggy really plot some 30th-years-since-our-first-show Price gigs next year? Yes, I believe that we did... 

Given the previous evening's antics it was something of a miracle that I made it to Balcony Shirts just as Dave was opening the front door at 9am. Vast application of coffee and fried eggs sandwiches followed, and all things considered I made it through a fairly busy day reasonably unscathed. From there it was off to The Swan in Iver, where Big Al and the band played an outdoor show as part of the annual family fun day. We were on at half past six - as our set progressed it felt as though rain could be a possibility, which as we were playing in the garden with no roof above us could have been something of a dangerous situation for us to be in. Thankfully the weather stayed good and our show went ahead with no problems, after which we saw a few songs by local duo 2Tone before heading off to Go Sing in West Drayton for far too much Chinese food. Excellent!

And last night I saw Television at The Shepherds Bush Empire. To describe their debut album 'Marquee Moon' as 'a classic' barely does it justice - it is quite simply one of the best albums of all time. But more about them in a minute - support came from Louise Distras, who seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment. Her set was well received by the assembled multitude, and her last song 'The Hand You Hold' had more than a few people singing along, a sure sign that she's getting through. And Television were absolutely terrific, with Tom Verlaine as unconventional as ever (I don't remember the last time that I saw a frontman ask for less light on stage!) and the band sounding great from start to finish. 'Marquee Moon' was featured in it's entirety and sounded as timelessly brilliant as ever as did their first single 'Little Johnny Jewel', while the final encore of 'Psychotic Reaction' reminded us all of where all this stuff came from in the first place. A fine evening - and not a bad birthday present to myself don't you think?!

Monday, July 21, 2014

'To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness...'

Well, that was a very - make that very - busy few days in mad-guitar world. I wrote about it all when I got home in the early hours of this morning after playing with Ruts D.C. at Guilfest - to be honest with you, it was a bit of a rant. I was tired but I wanted to get my thoughts down, and while that's sometimes a good idea (if nothing else it helps to clear your head of whatever is rattling around in it at the time) it was somewhat coloured by the fact that I was still annoyed about our set earlier in the evening being cut short due to overrunning. Not good frankly. Not good at all. I've thought about reproducing it here but to be honest it doesn't read very well - it's very disjointed and it must be said not particularly pleasant to the band who were on before us who after introducing their 'last number' then proceeded to play three songs. The nicest thing I call them is 'hippie tosspots' - it then goes downhill from there, ending with a quote from a song that I played on Saturday evening. It's quite funny in places (even though I say so myself!) but I'm not sure that anything would be served by it being here.

Things had all been going so well up until that point. Thursday - which I don't mind saying seems like a lifetime ago after a weekend such as this - had seen a splendidly-enjoyable Ruts D.C. rehearsal (the studio had air conditioning which with temperatures outside in the 80s made it a very pleasant place to be!) after which your humble narrator appeared at The 100 Club with The London Sewage Company. We played well, and with The Morgellons and Menace also on good form it was a suitably energetic start to this run of shows.

Friday was a long - maybe that should be l-o-n-g - day. Vern the driver arrived in the bus to pick me up just after midday - by the time we'd collected everybody else (including meeting Cadiz Music supremo Richard England in a petrol station where he was with Jay and Paul from The Urban Voodoo Machine - surreal!) and journeyed to Southend it was 6pm. But the mood was good, and soundcheck at Chinnerys took no time at all. With a bit of time before the first band I walked up to The Railway Hotel - when I arrived landlord Dave Dulake was testing a Theremin that was sitting on top of the piano in the bar. I did several gigs with him a few years ago, and it was good to catch up with him again. The food there is good too! I got back to the club in time to see The Dogtown Rebels who began proceedings well; after them Eight Rounds Rapid were as excellent as ever, but with the temperature in the club soaring (oh for the previous day's air conditioning!) I went outside for a bit of air and was greeted with the sight of heavy rain and forked lightning across the sea. Scary! Our set went very well until water began leaking in from above Segs's head - someone gave him a comically small bucket (I think it was the sort that you build sandcastles with!) which provoked much merriment from all concerned, although it goes without saying that this could have been a very dangerous situation indeed. In the meantime Segs told some very funny stories about his time living in Southend, and despite the risk on electrocution our show went down well with band and audience alike.
Marc Whiles takes a well-earned
breather after having been
driven insane by Ruts D.C.'s
outrageous backstage demands.

Last week I'd received a call from Sex Pistols Experience drummer and manager Dave asking if I'd be available to dep with them at Guilfest on Saturday evening. Given the fact that I was already playing at The Penn Festival with Ruts D.C. that afternoon and that we were also playing Guilfest on Sunday a sensible answer might have been 'no' - but where's the fun in that? As we were on at 1.30pm the shows didn't clash, but there was the problem of getting me from Penn to Guildford. At this point my good friend Andy Miller (a.k.a. Big Andy) exhibited the same problem I had with the word 'no' and offered to drive me from gig to gig - when we arrived at the festival he was already in attendance and raring to go. With Marc Whiles stage managing (he's worked with us as a driver / tour manager on several occasions, and it was good to see him again) everything went according to plan, and we were on stage at exactly half past one. With more than a few Ruts and Ruts D.C. t-shirts in the crowd we had a better reaction than I for one originally thought that we might (we were on after Whigfield - really!) and all pronounced ourselves to be pleased with the show. After watching The Selecter (who were excellent) Big Andy set the controls for Guildford - after some confusion upon arrival we eventually we given wristbands and a car pass and were able to make our way to the Vive Le Rock stage where we met up with the rest of The Sex Pistols Experience and saw a few songs from The Bermondsey Joyriders and Imperial Leisure. It's showtime at seven o'clock - with five minutes to go there's no sign of Big Andy (he told me later that there were so many people in the tent that he literally couldn't get through to the backstage area!) and I can't get into his car to get the Steve Jones t-shirt that I'd planned to wear during the show so I have to go on in the striped shirt that I've been wearing all day. It had been a while since I last played with the band but everything fell into place straight away, and our 30-odd minute show went by in no time with (as this clip shows) the audience in the packed tent going crazy throughout. The only downside was that a lady was injured when some clown decided that it would be a good idea to crowd surf - she was taken away in an ambulance but was apparently well enough to leave hospital the next day. The Urban Voodoo Machine were up next, I hadn't seen them play for a while but they were as entertaining as ever although their last number didn't quite go according to plan. A scantily-clad young lady came on fire-eating - it was part of the act but clearly nobody had told the security man who ran past me and attempted to manhandle her from the stage. Singer Paul tried to stop him and things descended into chaos... by now things were over-running, and headline act The Buzzcocks were obliged to cut their set down, but with Pete Shelley sporting a beard and Steve Diggle as crazy as ever they didn't disappoint. Well, they certainly didn't disappoint me.
Big Andy and Dave Ruffy
 - sharp dressed men.

Big Andy and myself arrived back on site at five o'clock the next afternoon. I'd spoken to Dave earlier in the day when among other things we agreed that surely they wouldn't allow things to run late again - would they? Surely not? Oh well, we'd all know soon enough... I saw three-and-a-bit songs from Electric River (and very good they were too) before the rest of our band arrived and much jollity ensued. With The Ramonas roaring through their set we all agreed that the scene was set for a classic show. The Skints were on before us and the place was packed - this was indeed going to be a classic - and it was (including this version of 'Love In Vain' which I'd say is among the best versions that we've ever played) right up until the moment that Richard informed us that he'd been asked to tell us that we only had 8 minutes left. What?!? But we've still got 4 songs left to play... what followed was one of the strangest incidents that I've ever been part of on a stage, where we played a verse each from 'Staring At The Rude Boys' and 'West One (Shine On Me)' before finishing with a crazed 'Babylon's Burning' which ended with all the lights being switched off. Big Andy filmed it, and here it all is as it happened - strange but true. Afterwards there is much anger - why was this allowed to happen? Was nothing learned from the previous evening? Apparently not. But it had been a great weekend - and in case you were wondering which song I quoted in my scribbly spleen-vent scrawl when I got home this morning it was this one. Can you guess which line it was? Of course you can...

Enough of this wilfully obscure nonsense - it's my birthday this week and those loveable funsters The Upper Cut are playing at The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Friday so why not come along and see if I can still play guitar after that frankly unwise amount of lager. And if that wasn't enough Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks are playing at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale on Thursday (my 'actual' birthday) and The Swan in Iver on Saturday - see you at the bar!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden of serenity

Tommy Ramone, the last surviving original member of The Ramones, has died. It may well be something of a cliche but I'm going to say it anyway - The Ramones's first album changed everything. Well, it did for me and others like me. I remember hearing the 'Blitzkrieg Bop' single for the first time and I can honestly say that I'd never heard anything like it before. (I had a similar experience with 'New Rose' by The Damned a few months later) I'm certainly not one to say that all mid-70s rock music was tired and uninspired, but as I recall there were far too many badly-dressed people singing half-hour long songs about goblins - the time was right for change, and The Ramones were definitely at the forefront of that change. For many they remain the definitive punk rock band, with their extraordinary stripped-down approach inspiring a lot of bands and musicians to take a similar view on how rock music could and indeed should be played. Have a look at this magnificent footage recorded at London's Rainbow Theatre on New Year's Eve 1977, the night their seminal 'It's Alive!' album was recorded - that, my friends, is actual rock 'n' roll. R.I.P. Tommy Ramone - Hey Ho, Let's Go, to heaven...

In the meantime I played two gigs with two different bands this weekend, both at private partiesAt events such as these I always remind myself that the guests are not there to see a band but to see their friends and family, and as such it can often appear as though they're all but ignoring the musical entertainment. Mind you sometimes they are! On Friday night The Repertoire Dogs played at a 60th birthday party at Mapledurham Golf Club. I was depping for regular guitarist Mick Ralphs who was away in America with Bad Company (talk about getting a better offer!) and since it was a warm night the club had all the bar doors open. When we went on for our first set at 9.15 most people were outside on the patio, and many of them stayed there although a few came in to listen and to watch. With bacon sandwiches and chips on offer more were in for our second set, and by the end pretty much all the guests were up and dancing. Not so the following
The Blistering Buicks equipment,
sneering at the threat of rain
from the safety of the gazebo.
evening, when Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played a garden party (apparently there was no event, they just fancied a party) near Woking. Initial confusion as to which side of the swimming pool we were to set up on gave way to discussions along the lines of 'it looks like it could rain so shouldn't we perhaps be under that gazebo over there?' After all, we wouldn't be too close to the inflatable beach volleyball court, and we'd be nowhere near the bungee run... eventually we set up under said gazebo and played two sets to initial curiosity, general indifference and, somewhat inevitably, complaints at the end that we weren't playing an encore even though no one had actually asked for one. Still it wasn't a bad performance (and it didn't rain!) although having not played in the band for the best part of a month I forgot a few too many cues than I would have liked. Time for some revision before our next gig methinks.

And talking of next gigs, mine couldn't be a greater contrast to these two, as it's with The London Sewage Company this Thursday at The 100 Club supporting Menace and The Morgellons; after that it's three shows with Ruts D.C., details of which can be found here on the band's Facebook page as well as a last minute appearance (I only got the call yesterday!) depping with The Sex Pistols Experience at Guilfest on Saturday. Great stuff!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

'If you see Sid, tell him...'

Another week, and I still can't hear properly thanks to earwax. Bah! June going into July is not a good time of year for us hay fever sufferers... still there have been some good musical goings-on in the last few days, not least the latest 'first-Wednesday-of-every-month' Fallen Leaves show at The 12 Bar Club. Support this time came from Sid Sings who I thought were absolutely excellent, to such an extent that I thought that The Fallen Leaves might have a bit of trouble following them. However halfway through their first number it was clear that they were on top form, with Rob's guitar sounding as mighty as ever and the band with him every step of the way. A fine evening.

Last July I saw Sylvain Sylvain supported by The Duel and The Bears at The 100 Club. This July I saw Sylvain Sylvain supported by The Duel and The Bears at The 100 Club. Both were highly entertaining evenings but this year things had changed... Sylvain appeared in a trio last year whereas this time he played a solo show on acoustic guitar - his triumphant 'hello London!' as he arrived on stage was somewhat tempered by his realisation that he has forgotten it and would therefore have to go back to the dressing room to collect it! Last year I joined The Duel on stage to play 'Babylon's Burning' - no Ruts songs were performed this time (although Segs was DJ-ing between the bands, and making a very fine job of it I must say) and the band played to backing tracks (I never did find out where Pumpy the drummer had got to) which made for a very different show from the band. Indeed the only thing unchanged on both evenings was The Bears, and they may even have played the same set both times. And why not? 
On Saturday night The Upper Cut played their first show at The Salmon And Ball in Bethnal Green. We used to play down the road (literally!) at The Misty Moon, and while there was nothing particularly wrong with that venue I must say that I very much preferred playing here, although I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn't a Cannon And Ball theme bar; thinking about it I suppose that if it was it would have been called The Cannon And Ball rather than The Salmon And Ball... 

I made my second appearance of the year on Music Scene Investigation on Sunday evening, participating in an excellent show with Rich, Ian and Tom. You can watch it here if you like - there were some very good songs sent in this time weren't there?

And last night it was time for a London Sewage Company rehearsal - we're playing at The 100 Club next week, which isn't bad for a band that formed to play at a birthday party back in May. And I must say that we're sounding good - we're getting together again before next Thursday's show, after which it's time for some more Ruts D.C. gigs. Busy times... oh yes!