Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases...'

And so this is Christmas. Well, it was a few days ago - I spent much of it asleep thanks to re-occurring I-thought-I'd-shaken-it-off-by-now manflu, which I'm still trying to get rid of now. It's getting a bit... boring... still I've managed to keep gigging through the holiday (yes I know, that's probably why I'm still ill!) starting with a Christmas Eve show at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. I spent the morning at Balcony Shirts before joining the rest of the team in The Queen's Head a few doors down from the shop - I think I said the words 'oh alright, just one more but then I really will have to go' a couple of times more than perhaps was wise, but after a visit to a chip shop on the way home I was ready to rock. With keyboard wizard Chris away for Christmas it was down to Pete and myself to make up for his absence on two guitars - even though I say so myself we did a pretty good job, although from the studied indifference shown to our first set by the audience you wouldn't necessarily have known. Things picked up a bit in the second set with a fair amount of dancing and merriment although I'm sure that they'd all forgotten that we'd played a few minutes after we'd finished. A fairly typical Christmas Eve gig then! 

After a somewhat lost day on the 25th (as I say, I spent much of it asleep) it was time for The Upper Cut to play The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Boxing Day. We've played this date for the last few years at this splendid pub - easily one of the best in the area - and it's always a good gig; this one was no exception although the fact that I wasn't feeling too good made it something of an uphill struggle from my point of view, which was a shame since I'd been looking forward to the show. I also had to replace a valve in my amplifier - I must remember to buy some more after the holidays. Still it was a good gig and the band played well, so no complaints there.

The next night Pete and myself journeyed over to The Acre in Windsor to see Upper Cut drummer Roger playing in The Lee Ryder Blues Band. I've depped with them a few times but it had been ages since I'd seen them play, so the chance to see them with their regular guitarist Dzal Martin was too good to miss. I first saw Dzal in No Dice back in the late '70s (supporting Eddie And The Hot Rods and The Tom Robinson Band if I remember correctly) and it was excellent to see him playing at close quarters. All the band are great musicians, and while some might find there to be a few too many solos I for one think that with players of this standard it's a pleasure to hear them play. A good gig.

And it should be a good gig tomorrow night, when The London Sewage Company play The 12 Bar Club. I just wish that I felt a bit better... time for more paracetamol and another early night then...

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Oh Lordy, Oh Lordy...'

So - there is still little or no time to do anything but play the guitar (not all bad news then!) or help attempt to stem the Christmas tide in Balcony Shirts, and now I've managed to develop that most hideous of conditions - yes, I've got (gulp!) ManFlu. Oh gawd! I felt a bit rough last week but vast application of paracetamol coupled with what passes for a couple of early nights in my warped world seemed to have kept it at bay - but this morning I woke up feeling as though I'd done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime. Bugger! Oh well - time for more paracetamol and another early night then... maybe yesterday afternoon's Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back? It was certainly a good show and it was great to see the lads again, but I was out on my feet by the end of it. And I feel worse now. Bah! And if that wasn't bad enough, I didn't get to see The Who - mind you, no one did!

In the meantime it was a great gig with T.V. Smith at The 12 Bar Club last Friday - with Goldblade, Eastfield, The Anabollic Steroids and Viva Las Vegas also on the bill it was definitely a good value evening, which began with a four song set from Sarah Pink (covers of 'John, I'm Only Dancing' and 'Teenage Kicks' alongside two of her own songs) before I walked down Oxford Street to catch a bit of the Human Punk night at The 100 Club. As I got there I bumped in to co-promoter John King just as The Pukes began their set - they're always good fun and this show was no exception, after which Andy the D.J. played 'The Price You Pay' by The Price. Weird! As Infa Riot began their second number it was time for me to return to my own gig - walking across the club I couldn't help but notice that someone had collapsed in front of the merchandise stall, I told the security men on my way out but the didn't seem to be overly concerned so let's hope the chap was ok.
Back at The 12 Bar Club Eastfield were roaring through their splendid set, followed by a typically upfront Goldblade gig with John Robb giving it everything as usual and the packed audience loving every minute of it. Meanwhile T.V. and myself met at the bar to discuss tactics - I was using an electric guitar for the first time and don't mind admitting that I was feeling a bit nervous, but as always the sheer quality of T.V.'s songs meant that the gig went well, to such an extent that we're seriously considering repeating the T.V.-on-acoustic / Leigh-on-electric again at the earliest opportunity. Great stuff! There was time to catch a few songs from Viva Las Vegas before clubbing together for a cab home - after all, there was a long Saturday in prospect...

As the Ruts D.C. bus pulled up outside The Fleece in Bristol I realised that I'd managed to doze off for a while at least. It's a great venue and Ziggy and Jon of Death Or Glory Promotions work tirelessly to put on gigs all the year round. We had a few monitor problems in our soundcheck but as always Bob got us a great sound, and while support band Criminal Mind warmed up the rapidly arriving crowd the scene was set for a memorable performance. As we began with 'Whatever We Do' it was clear that the crowd were on our side, and by the time we got to the rarely-played 'Dope For Guns' things were really taking off. Despite a couple of plastic glasses being thrown the atmosphere remained good throughout, with plenty of banter and each song getting more and more of a reaction. We ended to deafening applause, and our encore of 'Something That I Said', 'H-Eyes' and 'Society' finished a truly brilliant gig. As I walk of stage a chap stops me to say that he'd cried during 'Babylon's Burning', another said that it was the best gig that he'd ever seen - all the money in the World can't buy you moments like that. 
Afterwards there's time for a few drinks before heading off to our hotel - we hope to visit the bar for one last end-of-tour drink but sadly it's closed. Oh well, you can't have everything can you? - after all, as John Cooper Clarke once brilliantly asked, where would you put it?  

Monday, December 15, 2014

'We should be on by now...'

Another busy, busy, BUSY few days - I'm not going to complain (for once!) but I am going to play the 'not much time for blogging' card. As previously mentioned January is looking rather quiet at the moment so maybe I'll catch up with all my scribbly notes then? In the meantime here's a brief summary of the last few days...

Ruts D.C. played two shows at the end of last week, at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes on Thursday and The Waterfront in Norwich the following night. The first show was good but was somewhat hard work - things got off to an odd start when the first thing we saw at the venue was a poster for the gig with a band photo from 1981 featuring Paul Fox. Perhaps this put us on edge a bit - either way we felt that the show wasn't as good as we'd have liked it to be. Friday's show on the other hand was one of the best of the current run of gigs, with everything falling into place and the audience with us from the first few notes to the last encore of 'H-Eyes'. And it was great to see Steve Ignorant who we played with in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. This Saturday it's our last show of the year, at The Fleece in Bristol - it should be a good one!

On Saturday night I depped with Department S, supporting The Members at The 229 Club near Great Portland Street station. I'd not been to the venue before - we were in the smaller room while the The Beat playing in the bigger auditorium. We'd had a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, and in the meantime I'd been working on their material on my own - our 50+ minute show was well-received by all concerned, including ourselves. It's a good band with excellent songs - what's not to like, as the youngsters (apparently) say? The Members were joined by ex - Vibrators mainman Knox for 'Baby Baby', and with guitarist Nigel Bennett nursing a broken leg (!) the band roared through their set with plenty of energy and more than a few gags about plaster casts. A fine evening.

And yesterday afternoon The Upper Cut played at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. Sometime in the last month or so (I'm not really sure when!) I bought myself a Gibson Les Paul Special, and this show and the night before seemed like two good chances to try it out - I'm pleased to say that it both felt and sounded great, to such an extent that I'm hoping to use it a fair bit over the next few weeks. Money well spent (for once!)

This week is busy too - I'm going to see The Who at The O2 Arena, am back in Colnbrook with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks on Sunday (if I'm back from Bristol in time!) and will be playing my first show for quite some time with T.V. Smith, at The 12 Bar Club on Friday night with Goldblade, Eastfield and more. Sadly it seems that the club will be closing early next year - words like 'tragedy' don't cover it. I'm sure that I and quite a few other people will be ranting about this in the weeks to come, but in the meantime Friday's show has all the makings of an absolute classic. Oh yes!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

'I am the DJ, I am what I play...'

Two master musicians left the building within 48 hours of each other this week, both of whom shared among other things the distinction of having played with The Rolling Stones at the same time. Bobby Keys is perhaps best known for his immortal saxophone solo on 'Brown Sugar' but he contributed much more that that to The Stones and indeed the music world in general - that's him on 'Whatever Gets You Through The Night' by John Lennon for instance. He also achieved the near-impossible task of being too wild to tour with Mick, Keef and the boys if the story involving a young lady and a bath full of champagne is to be believed, which is about as rock 'n'roll as you can get if you think about it. And keyboard king Ian McLagan played on some of the greatest records ever made with The Small Faces in The 60s and The Faces in The 70s - highlights are many and varied, but I for one can't really imagine rock music without, say, 'Tin Soldier' and 'Stay With Me'. Or 'All Or Nothing' and 'Cindy Incidentally'. Or 'Here Comes The Nice' and 'Pool Hall Richard' Or... or... or...
Both men leave the World a lesser place for their passing.

In the meantime your humble narrator made his DJ-ing debut on Friday evening, at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston. The night was a cancer research fund raiser organised by Idle Fret Records supremo Darren Brooker, and included performances from Johnny Moped, Ye Nuns and Fire Dept as well as a DJ set from Jowe Head. I don't mind admitting that I was quite nervous about the whole affair, but in the event it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Darren is himself a very good DJ, and he gave me a fair bit of much-needed advice along with an excellent tutorial on how to use the CD decks at the venue - although I had the odd 'what does this fader do?!?' moment overall I was pleased with my efforts.

What did I play? I thought you'd never ask...

'Shake Some Action' - The Flamin' Groovies
'Foxhole' - Television
'Blank Generation' - Richard Hell and The Void-Oids
'Beginning To See The Light' - The Velvet Underground
'Is Vic There?' - Department S
'I Can See For Miles' - The Who 
This was supposed to have been 'Tomahawk Cruise' by T.V. Smith's Explorers, but I, er, pushed the wrong button, or something...
Yes - it's really me!
'The Dreams Of Children' - The Jam
'Harmony In My Head' - The Buzzcocks
'Shot By Both Sides' - Magazine
'Tomahawk Cruise' - T.V. Smith's Explorers 
Ah, that's better...

- at which point Fire Dept took to the stage for a splendid set. Jowe Head then set the scene for Ye Nuns, an all girl band playing songs by garage legends The Monks (and very entertaining they were too) before it was my turn again...

'I Wanna Be Free' - The Rings
'Keys To Your Heart' - The 101'ers
'Citadel' - The Rolling Stones
'Looking At You' - The MC5
'1970' - The Stooges

The audience were then spared the fourth selection of my somewhat bizarre 'original versions of songs covered by The Damned' section of the evening (any guesses what the next song would have been? It was 'Ballroom Blitz' by The Sweet - 5 points if you got that one, and have another 5 points if you spotted the three tracks that were released on Chiswick Records, Johnny Moped's label back in the day...) as Jowe returned with 'Click Clack' by Captain Beefheart and I took up my place in the audience to await the mighty Johnny Moped. Well I thought that was what I was doing - I was minding my own business queueing up at the bar when Darren asked me if I'd draw the raffle. Well if someone asks you to do that the only possible answer has to be  along the lines of 'of course I will', not least because I'd never drawn a raffle before either! Excellent! And Johnny Moped were tremendous, with the man himself as unhinged as ever and the band sounding on top form. A highly enjoyable evening all round.

What with all this Ruts D.C. lark (we're in Milton Keynes on Thursday and Norwich on Friday this week) that's been going on lately I've missed a fair few Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gigs; my good friend Pete has been playing with them in my absence, and from what I've heard he's been doing a fine job. I returned to the band last night for a show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. It was great to see the boys in the band again, and the show itself was good fun with Al giving it everything and the audience lapping it up. I've another 'how-does-this-song-go-again?' gig this Sunday when The Upper Cut return to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook, and the night before that I'm depping with Department S supporting The Members at The 229 Club - better get back to learning some songs... again...