Colin Dredd, bass player with The Newtown Neurotics, died last week. I saw The Neurotics (as they were also known) play many times and our group The Price shared the bill with them on quite a few occasions - their uncompromising left wing stance ensured that (a) they achieved virtually no mainstream recognition as the terror of the Thatcher years unfolded all around them and indeed us, and (b) people like me loved them. Colin (real surname Masters) was always friendly, approachable and ready to talk to anybody about anything - it always seemed to me that he simply adored everything about being in the band. He will be missed by everyone who knew him and - I'd like to think - remembered by everybody who ever met him.
And Mac Poole died after a long battle with cancer. He will it seems always be remembered as the man who turned down the job in Led Zeppelin, but he drummed with great distinction for many acts in the succeeding years. He depped with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks several times, and I'll remember him as a great character with a rock 'n' roll story for every occasion. He was a heck of a drummer as well.
Ruts D.C. played two gigs over the weekend, the first of which saw us visit Italy for the first time. Arriving at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 at the not-too-early (for once!) time of quarter to eight in the morning I met up with Dave and Segs, checked in and after a less-than-straightforward journey through security (shoes off, belts out of trousers, hand baggage unpacked) we launched ourselves enthusiastically at breakfast. We're playing at The Sottotetto Club in Bologna at an evening organised by Bologna City Rockers - I'd not played in Italy before so I'd been looking forward to this show for a while. Our first flight took us to Paris - no, I'm not sure why we didn't / couldn't get a direct flight either - where we renegotiated security (shoes off etc) before flying to Bologna where we were met by the Bologna City Rockers team who took us to The Hotel Astor. After checking in an abortive attempt at finding a coffee shop followed (it seems that they close during the afternoon) after which we headed to the venue where things were ready for soundcheck. I had an excellent Marshall JCM 900 half stack (oh yes!) while Segs had a not-quite-so-excellent Ampeg set-up - it sounded bad from the word go so while Dave struggled with a faulty hi-hat clutch some anxious-sounding phone calls were made... eventually a gentleman arrived with another clutch, and after fiddling with the bass amp he announced that it was set in stereo mode, flicked a switch and everything sounded great. After soundchecking we walked over to a nearby bar where we were interviewed for the Bologna City Rockers radio show (or to be more accurate Dave and Segs were interviewed as the questions were about the original band) after which Lorenz took us to the La Perla restaurant where a frankly mind-boggling amount of food was provided - I'd been told that Bologna's nickname 'La Grassa' means 'the fat one' and refers to the local cuisine, and on this showing it wasn't hard to see how it got it's name. (Incidentally I can't find a website for the restaurant but it's highly recommended, if only because it serves a 'Metro Pizza' which we're told is 1 metre wide! Maybe next time!) By now it was nearly 10 o'clock but since we weren't due on until after midnight we decided to go back to our hotel for some much-needed rest. Well, it was certainly much-needed in my case.
Lorenz got us back to the venue for around 11.15 - there were people everywhere, and with the front part of the club resembling a record fair with vinyl, CD and t-shirt stalls all doing a roaring trade it was clear that this was going to be quite a night. Klaxon took to the stage just as we got to the dressing room, their set included a fine version of The Clash's 'Garageland' which is never a bad sign. We start with 'Something That I Said' and with the venue packed with people the sound has changed which prompts Segs to ask me to turn up as he can't hear what I'm playing. His mic stand collapses during 'Mighty Soldier' which causes much amusement, not least from him; by the middle of our set things are well on course for a great gig with people singing along with both the old Ruts songs and some lesser-known Ruts DC material. 'West One (Shine On Me)' triggers a mini stage invasion, 'Love In Vain' gets an almost football crowd - style singalong and the new song 'Secondhand Child' is greeted like an old friend. 'Staring At the Rude Boys', 'Babylon's Burning' and 'In A Rut' clearly are old friends to all concerned and the final encore of 'H-Eyes' finishes a great - make that GREAT - show. Afterwards there are numerous record covers for Dave and Segs to sign while a man who in my imagination resembles a Roman Centurion has tears in his eyes as he tells me that he'd 'waited 35 years for this show'. Amazing.
Meanwhile the DJ is spinning old ska and rocksteady records (yes, records!) and no one is going home, we stay for a while before being reminded that we've got a plane to catch in a few hours...
My alarm goes off at 7am. Bugger. Three hours sleep didn't feel like nearly enough. Oh well. I have a shower then meet Dave at breakfast, there's no sign of Segs so Dave goes to knock on his door, he returns after no response so I suggest he calls his room from reception. Segs answers him with the news that he 'thought he'd heard some banging when he'd been in the shower'. Our taxi takes us to the airport where we attempt to pre-empt security by removing our shoes and belts first. It works - good. From there it's yesterday in reverse - there's time for a quick coffee at CDG before gate K53 takes us back to Heathrow where after a bit of 'how do we meet the bus?' shenanigans we hook up with Bob the soundman, Rhiannon the merch girl and James the new-to-us driver and set the controls for Cheadle Hulme where we're closing The Strummercamp Festival at Manchester Rugby Club. No, I'm not sure why we didn't fly to Manchester either... I guess ours is not to reason why sometimes?
We arrive in the Strummercamp backstage area just as Barnstormer are playing a, well, barnstorming set. Attila The Stockbroker dedicates a song to Colin from The Neurotics, they were old friends of course and he's got a picture of him taped to his mic stand which is a nice touch. Meanwhile we meet Phil and Mike from Bug who are lending us their guitar and bass amps for the gig, they played the day before and by all accounts got a great reception, to the extent that Phil has been stopped by people wanting to buy merch so many times that he's taken to walking around with a bag full of it! After finding out what time we need to be backstage to set up we take the only possible course of action under the circumstances and go to the bar, where it's clear that a lot of people are looking forward to our show. No pressure then... Dave and Segs go off to do another radio interview while I use my meal ticket to get a jacket potato - rock 'n' roll eh?
We return backstage in time to catch the last few songs by King Kurt who sound as great and indeed as mad as ever; the tent empties while we're setting up but fills up to capacity by the time 'S.T.I.S.' kicks things off once again. There's dancing from the word go and everybody is on top form - 'Secondhand Child' gets another good reception which as Dave says 'means a lot to us', and we encore with 'Brand New Cadillac' for Joe Strummer amid scenes of no little audience pandemonium. Afterwards the organisers go on stage to thank the audience for coming but it's us that should be thanking them - it was a real pleasure to be part of such a great festival.
These two gigs were bookended by two shows with Big Al and co., the first of which took place on Thursday at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. I'd been rehearsing all day with Ruts D.C. so felt quite tired by the time I got to the venue but it turned out to be an enjoyable show with several new-to-the-act songs (they're old numbers, we didn't write any of them!) alongside the usual crowd pleasers. But if I was 'quite tired' on Thursday then I'm not sure what word describes my condition during Bank Holiday Monday's 5pm show at The North Star in Iver. Let's go for 'out on my feet' shall we? I got home less than an hour before I had to leave for the show - I played the gig, but I'm not sure how. I don't think that I played too well, and I was pretty wound up, especially when some fat drunken oaf kept on saying that he wanted to get up to sing 'Mustang Sally' with us... I think the contrast between successive shows sometimes gets the better of me, or something... perhaps I should call everyone to apologise... in fact I might do that now... hmmm...