Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rudie can't fail

I finished my last posting with the words 'strange days indeed', a phrase I often use when things get, for want of a better word, 'strange'. I've found myself using it a lot lately. It's unashamedly stolen from 'Nobody Told Me' by John Lennon (so far I've stopped short of saying 'most peculiar mama' but I guess that's just a matter of time) and was used last time to make a vaguely Fab Four-related attempt at referring to the frankly astonishing news that I was to visit Abbey Road Studios on Sunday afternoon. So what was a herbert like me doing on such hallowed turf? Simple - Dave Ruffy and Tom Edwards were participating in a recording session there, and the chance to drop in and see them was just too good to miss. As I came out of St. John's Wood tube station I became all too aware of the number of people intently looking at maps or mobile phones - I rounded the corner into Abbey
Hello from Studio 2!
Road itself to see 20 or so people either side of that zebra crossing (you know the one!) taking photos of each other and causing traffic chaos in the process; as I walked up the steps to the front door I thought of some of the people who would have walked up those same steps on their way to work. I buzzed the entry phone, mumbled something about visiting Studio 2 and opened the door into the reception area where the cheery but weary face of a security man invited me to sign the visitor's book. Next to it a handwritten envelope read 'F.A.O. PAUL McCARTNEY c/o ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS'. Here we go then... down the corridor, past the stairs, first door on the right - as I went to knock on said door Tom opened it and greeted me with a hug, I thought he'd been watching me on CCTV but no, he'd just been going out to get something. I walked into the control room to see Dave picking up his phone to see if I'd texted him to let him know that I'd arrived - I was supposed to but had forgotten. Nervous? Maybe... suddenly I'm walking down the stairs into what has to be the most famous recording studio in the World. And there it is, just like it is in all the photographs. Oo-er! 

I was only there for about 30 minutes - I didn't want to outstay my welcome, and anyway I had a gig to go to. But it was a great - make that great - 30 minutes. I can very easily get hopelessly over-romantic about things like this, and let's face it, I normally do - but that was a half an hour that a Beatles Bore such as myself will never forget. But there's been a few things lately that I'll never forget, not least Wednesday night's show at Koko. It was I suppose everything that we hoped that it would be, although it wasn't without it's problems. Last minute letdowns by various people (not mentioning any names...) meant some eleventh hour changes to proceedings, one of which resulted in me sitting in dressing room 4 with no lesser figure than Charlie Harper running through the arrangement of 'Tommy Gun' - now there's something that I never thought I'd do. Mind you I never thought I'd play 'Kick Out The Jams' with MC5 guitar hero Wayne Kramer but as this footage shows that really happened too. Everybody involved was on top form, with the short opening set from The Crunch getting things off to a splendid start before Chris Salewicz read a passage from his acclaimed Joe Strummer biography 'Redemption Song' then introduced the documentary film 'I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run' - sadly I missed most of this as I was getting ready for the gig but the bits that I did see were very interesting, making it a must-buy when it comes out on DVD from Cadiz Music later this year. As the credits rolled we took our places ready to start playing as soon as the screen was raised - as we began 'London Calling' with Mr. Kramer joining Dave, Tim, Tom and myself in the band and Paul from The Urban Voodoo Machine tackling the vocals head on it became clear that we were in for a memorable night. Everybody - Chris Bailey from The Saints, Tymon Dogg, Segs from Ruts D.C., Tara from The Duel and the afore-mentioned U.K. Subs legend Charlie Harper - gave their all, and by the time Wayne Kramer re-appeared for 'Jail Guitar Doors' excitement was at fever pitch. He sang well, sounded great - the loudest guitarist that I've ever stood on stage with! - and the two MC5 classics 'Looking At You' and 'Kick Out The Jams' bought a truly monumental evening to a unforgettable close. It really was an extraordinary thing to be part of - great stuff all round.

Two night's after (ahem!) blowing the roof off Koko I played at The Black Horse in Eastcote with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks. With Dave the drummer gigging elsewhere Rudi joined us for the first time (thereby giving me the chance to use the name of a Clash song as the hopefully all-encompassing title of this posting - I don't just throw this stuff together you know!) and made a great job of things. I often get asked how I play a (relatively) big gig one day and a small one the next - the truth is that when shows are as enjoyable as this one it doesn't matter if you're playing to a few people in a small pub or hundreds or even thousands in a bigger venue. It's all about the music, and if the music is good then the night is good too. And talking of good nights...
He's back!

Ruts D.C. played at Koko back in October 2013 - the headline act that night was a certain Wilko Johnson, who at that stage of the game was, as the saying goes, living on borrowed time. He'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the start of the year and given just a few months to live, but against all the odds was still playing live. Now a year-and-a-half later he's back in more ways than one, having had treatment for what was previously thought to have been an inoperable condition. I like many thought that the show we played with him would be his last, but having just seen the great man on Thursday night at The Albert Hall I can confirm that he's playing better than ever - with the familiar figures of Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums he stormed through a 30 minute set that got an audience reaction that many headline bands would have been proud of. He was supporting The Who, meaning that I got to see probably my two favourite guitarists ever on the same evening. I'd already seen The 'Orrible 'Oo at The O2 Arena on Sunday and Monday (that's where I was going after visiting Abbey Road Studios) playing two shows rescheduled from before Christmas, and while none of the shows were bad I think the R.A.H. gig just beat the other two in the 'best gig of the three' stakes. But not by much - it was great to hear 'Slip Kid' on Sunday, and the Monday show included a particularly good 'Eminence Front' among the usual highlights. 50 years on from their first record release they sound better than ever - you've got to love 'em haven't you? 

So there you have it, a memorable week in mad-guitar-land. And this week is looking pretty good too, with Ruts D.C.playing in Paris on Friday followed by two London shows the next night for your humble narrator - The London Sewage Company support The Men They Couldn't Hang at The Shepherd's Bush Empire (oh yes!) early in the evening while Neck play The Water Rats in King's Cross later in the day. Happy Easter y'all!

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