Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Normal service has resumed...' - or has it?

So - how much do you think that you use a computer?

How much do you think that you need a computer?

Until the events of the past few weeks I probably would have answered along the lines of 'well, not that much really' and 'not at all, after all we did ok before they were invented didn't we?'

Oh dearie dearie me...

It turns out that - rather like most of us I suspect - I use a computer a lot more than I thought that I did. A hell of a lot more than I though that I did. Not all day every day (honest!) but there's always something to do isn't there? Do you order things from places like Amazon? I do. You do as well? That's tricky without a computer, or at the very least one of those new-fangled smartphones. But you kinda need a computer if you've got one of those don't you, for syncing (now there's a word that none of us used until comparatively recently) and all that other stuff... and do you pay your household bills online? Your car insurance? All those other bills and things that we pay for almost without realising it because you're not actually handing over money and therefore it doesn't feel as though you're actually spending anything? Yep, me too. So does that mean that I, or indeed you, 'need' a computer? Can we (gulp!) really not live without one?

Well let's put it this way - I'm typing this somewhat hesitantly on an iPad that I've rather wildly just bought myself as my ageing MacBook has had to go back to the menders after not quite doing what it's supposed to do... after years of being permanently bunged up with several days worth of noisy rock 'n' roll music the hard drive finally gave up the ghost at the start of November - I took it to my friendly neighbourhood computer repair people who have fitted a new hard drive and restored it to it's former glory. And that, as they say, was that. Except of course, it wasn't. Things are never quite that simple are they? Attempts by your humble narrator to 'restore the last backup' (the things that you hear yourself say these days eh?) have sadly proved fruitless so I've had to get a grown-up - or indeed, a young person - to help me. I feel like Fred Flintstone sometimes. 'Twas ever thus. 

In the meantime I've realised that I do indeed 'need' a computer (or at least something very like one) these days, hence the appearance of the iPad. It's been an interesting 3-or-so weeks - I've gigged with Ruts D.C., T.V. Smith, Department S, Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks and more, shared stages with the likes of The Damned, The Vapors and Eddie And The Hot Rods, worked a fair bit in Balcony Shirts, seen the David Bowie musical 'Lazarus', held a python and a tarantula in a haunted pub in Devon (oh yes!) and probably lots more besides (there's been updates etc on my Facebook page which you can see here if you're interested in such things) but somehow it's all taken place to a backdrop of me thinking things like 'I wonder if they've fixed my computer yet?'. Strange but true. And I still haven't got the bloody thing back...

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

'Normal service will resume shortly...'

My computer is broken. Bugger!

I shall return... soon... I hope...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

'Is she really going out with him?'

And no record looked like it either!
'New Rose' - the first single by The Damned - was released on Stiff Records on October 22nd 1976. I first heard it blaring... no, blasting... no, SCREAMING out of a transistor radio a few days after it's release. It sounding utterly unlike anything that I'd ever heard before. I'm not sure that I've heard anything like it since. It remains one of the greatest records ever made, a sub-three minute blitzkrieg of melody and noise that completely wiped the floor with all that had gone before it. I had no idea if I liked it or not, but I was desperate to hear it again. And when I did, it didn't disappoint. It's one of those very rare recordings that it soars above and beyond the sum of it's parts - although at this point it must be said that the performances of Brian James, Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies are all absolutely remarkable in pretty much every way, and Nick Lowe's still-astonishing production created a soundscape that captured every nuance of the band's blistering attack - to make something that almost stands outside of time. If it were released today it would still sound unique, and that's after 40 years of familiarity. I guess that's art isn't it? Well if it is 'New Rose' is important a piece of art as anything that's ever been created. I think that it is anyway. 

40 years to the day after BUY 6 hit the shops Ruts DC played at Norwich Arts Centre as part of the 'Punk In the East' celebrations. I'd not played or indeed ever been to the venue before but have seen it in gig guides for as long as I can remember - the list of bands and artists that have played there is endless, and it's also well-known as the place where Richey Edwards of The Manic Street Preachers cut '4 Real' into his arm in front of then-NME scribe Steve Lamacq. It's a great - no, make that great - venue, which seems to be well-supported locally as the show was sold out well in advance. This always bodes well for a good gig, and I'm pleased to say that it more than lived up to expectations. Ex - Jim Jones Revue guitar-slinger Rupert Orton joined us for part of the encore, and the whole evening was a pleasure to be part of from start to finish. But don't take my word for it - this review of the evening sums it all up and includes photos and footage from the show. Excellent!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to play 'Damned Damned Damned'...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

'Time keeps on slippin', slippin, slippin'... into the future...'

Well the busy times are back, hence the lack of blogging. Like an idiot I didn't take any notes over the past couple of weeks, so stories of Ruts D.C. at the North East Calling festival in Newcastle (we thought we were playing at 9 o'clock but were actually on 3 hours earlier - we arrived at the venue less than an hour before showtime) and gigging at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton (I loved the backward 'S' on the end of 'Rooms', Noddy and co. should be proud!) and The Brooklyn Bowl in The O2 Arena (a Vive Le Rock - sponsored event that also saw great sets The Newtown Neurotics, Giuda and The Cockney Rejects) have somewhat faded from my memory... I also saw Sharks at The Borderline (where I met Paul Cook for the first time and somehow promised Professionals singer / guitarist Tom that I'd play on their upcoming album - I wonder if that'll ever happen?!) and Paranoid Visions with Steve Ignorant at The 100 Club on the same night (ooh I was tired the next day!) and played gigs with The Upper Cut (at The Dolphin in Uxbridge - not our best ever performance, we really must have a rehearsal sometime) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks (where two young Polish girls's dancing at the Black Horse in Greenford enlivened proceedings no end) as well as working many-a day in the shop, to such an extent that this feels like my first day off for weeks. Surely that can't be the case? Mind you I've spent most of it asleep so maybe it is.

 More of the same this week, and next week, and the week after that...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

25 with a bullet

So there we were - Dave, Segs and myself - in Dave's car on our way to Southend Airport on Friday afternoon when his phone rang. Nothing too unusual there as it rings all the time - as he was driving he had it plumbed into one of those new-fangled hands-free speakerphone thingys that let you answer the phone while you're at the wheel. It was Steve Beatty, head honcho at Plastic Head Distribution and Westworld Records. 'D'you want the good news or the bad news?' asked he. 'The bad news' answered Ruts DC as one man. 'You've missed out being in the indie charts by one sale' Various derisive noises were emitted by all concerned before he asked if we'd like the good news. Of course we would. 'You're number 25 in the Rock And Metal Album Chart' said he cheerily - if he said anything else it was drowned out by our whooping and hollering and the inevitable 'time for a drink then' from your humble narrator. And as this photo shows, it was all true - there we are between Pink Floyd and Guns N' Roses. And we're a couple of places above Lordi - you remember, that mad mob that won The Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago dressed as giant lizards, or something. Hilarious! 

We were en route to France for an appearance at Fiesta La Mass in Rennes the next evening - for reasons unknown (possibly flight availability?) we were travelling out the night before which meant that we got to the festival site in time to see The Angelic Upstarts roar through their set before retiring to The Hotel Voltaire for some much needed sleep. Being there a day early meant that we had time to look around town the next morning with the help of Vincent the promoter's daughter Alice - I'd not been to Rennes before so it was good to get a bit of a feel for the place and indeed to have a splendid lunch before going back to the hotel for a couple of hours. After an interview with the Punks Not Dead radio station (shouldn't that have an apostrophe?!?) we headed
back to the festival site where things were in full swing with local heroes Banane Metalik going down a storm. We met the Italian band Klasse Kriminale backstage, they're all big Ruts fans and very nice chaps to boot. We were due on at midnight although an issue with Dave's monitor meant that we actually started our set a few minutes late. I thought we played well although the onstage sound was a bit, for want of a better word, nasal which meant that it hard to hear each other sometimes - and as we started late we got the almost inevitable 'ONE SONG' instruction sign when we had two left to play. Halfway through 'In A Rut' Segs stopped the band with the words 'we didn't come all this way not to play ''Babylon's Burning'' did we?' He was correct - we didn't so we played it! A good show but maybe not a great one, especially compared to the previous week's gig, but that happens from time to time. We're up in Newcastle for North East Calling this Saturday so let's see how that one goes. And I wonder where (or indeed if) we will be in the charts this week?    

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'We shall fight them on the peaches...'

The new Ruts DC album 'Music Must Destroy' was released last Friday on Sosumi / Westworld Records. To celebrate this (ahem!) momentous occasion we played a sold out show at The Underworld in Camden Town. Support came from our friends Department S who rather cheekily inserted the riff to 'Babylon's Burning' into their last song 'I Want' (in my day you stayed in after school for doing things like that!) and finished their show to an audience reaction that many-a headline band would have been proud of.

Our show was different for a number of reasons. We decided to play all of the songs from the album, three of which had not been played on stage before (since you've asked, 'Soft City Lights', 'Peacebomb' and 'Tears On Fire') while 'Golden Boy' had only featured in acoustic shows. After much deliberation we decided to use a click track on some songs which would allow us to use elements from the recorded versions on a backing track to augment the live instruments. We also invited David D'Andrade to join us for several songs - he plays guitar in The Razors with Dave, and in addition to being a great musician he's also annoyingly young and good looking with a full head of hair (I'm not bitter, honest!) so I made sure he was on the opposite side of the stage to me… add to this the for want of a better word 'pressure' of the occasion and we were set for a memorable evening. Of course as with so many things in life not everything went according to plan - Dave left his iPad at home ('thank gawd I backed it all up on my phone') so soundcheck took a little longer than it might although everything sounded good in the end, with the strings to 'Golden Boy' sounding particularly extraordinary through the PA. All well and good - except come showtime the phone decided not to work, meaning that all the work Dave had put in preparing the tracks and all the time that we'd spent rehearsing with them came to nothing. Bah! Oh well - at least we've got them for next time, whenever that may be… other than that the show went as well as any of us could have hoped for. An extraordinary, unforgettable event - but you don't have to take my word for it, as the always - excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog has published this review of proceedings which captures the story rather well - thanks Elvis!

Reaction to the album has generally been very positive, and I'm told that the initial pressing of CDs has sold out which is fantastic news. I saw the vinyl version for the first time on Saturday afternoon at All Ages Records in Camden where we participated in a signing session (which incidentally was really good fun!) and I must say that it looks tremendous. It's a couple disc set with the ten tracks spread over two 12" records so it should sound tremendous too. I'm off to sign 250 or so of them this afternoon to be sent out later this week to people who have bought them through PledgeMusic - exciting times! And talking of exciting times in addition to playing Fiesta La Mass in Rennes this weekend we've just been confirmed as the support band on The Stranglers 'Classic Collection' tour next year, which is splendid news. It also goes some way toward explaining the title of this blog posting, which I have shamelessly stolen from a review in '77 Sulphate Strip', Barry Cain's brilliant collection of writings from his time at 'Record Mirror' in 1977 and which I've been reading over the past few weeks. I first saw The Stranglers in that year - who'd have though that 40 years later I'd be in a band supporting them eh? 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Ruts D.C. 'Music Must Destroy' single is released today!

As the title of this posting suggests, the new Ruts D.C. single 'Music Must Destroy' is released today on SosumiWestworld Records. It features guest performances from Henry Rollins on vocals and Boz Boorer on guitar and is accompanied by a promo video directed by Graham Trott that features Segs, Dave Ruffy and myself in a cement dust-filled warehouse in The Bussey Building in deepest darkest Peckham and the mighty Mr. Rollins (aided and abetted by Segs) up in Edinburgh a couple of days earlier. You can watch the video by clicking here - if you look closely during the crowd scenes you might spot Mr. Spee from Dreadzone, Paul from King Kurt, Tara from The Duel and Bristol 'Death Or Glory' promoters Ziggy and Jon among others (assuming you know what they all look like of course…)

The album of the same name (which has already received this astonishing review - thank you Mr. Ringmaster whoever you may be!) is out next Friday 16th September, when we'll be playing a launch gig supported by Department S at The Underworld in Camden Town in conjunction with the always-worth-reading Vive Le Rock magazine. It should be a night to remember - so let's hope that it is!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Once Upon A Time

On 5th September 1966 filming began on 'The Prisoner' in the village of Portmeirion in North Wales. Fifty years on it still divides opinion - McGoohan's surreal masterpiece or overwrought nonsense? A brilliantly observed allegory or a clumsy mess? For what my opinion is worth you either get it or you don't - if you get it you'll argue it's excellence in the face of some of the most fervent criticism that something as seemingly trivial as a mere television show will ever receive, if you don't then you literally won't give it houseroom. Me? I think that if there's a better TV series then I've yet to see it - which reminds me, I must watch it again sometime soon. Many happy returns Number 6 - be seeing you... 

Anyway your humble narrator was a bit, erm, fragile yesterday… actually I was asleep for most of the afternoon. And before you ask - yes, I've still got a bit of a headache… but 'twas a splendid Saturday night at The 100 Club, a very special evening to cerebrate all round good bloke and man-with-lots-of-punk-tattoos Simon 'Coppo' Copson's 50th birthday. I joined Department S for their last three songs and had a bloomin' great time. And why not?

The previous evening Big Al and The Blistering Buicks played at The Sir John Gibson in Stanwell. It was a new gig for the band, and with my fellow six-stringer Pete away elsewhere I was obliged to cover some of his parts as well as my own. We played three short sets instead of our customary two hour-long spots - matters got decidedly weird in the first interval when a cheery chappie came over and interrupted myself and Dave the bass player's chat with the words 'alright lads? Sorry to interrupt…' (he quite clearly wasn't sorry) and then asked for 'some Madness, not the obvious stuff like 'Our House' and all that, I want a b-side or an album track - yeah?' The politest response I could think of was 'prepare yourself for a disappointment…' - to which he replied with 'oh yeah, and it's my mate's birthday' (people like him always have a mate with a birthday - strange but true) 'so if you could play him a Madness b-side or two' (how did I know that he was going to say that?!?) 'he'd be well happy'. Yes, I bet that he would. We played 'One Step Beyond' in our second set - I very much doubt that he even noticed.

There are three more BA and The BBs gigs this week (in Sunningdale, Burnham and High Wycombe since you've asked) as well as more days in Balcony Shirts so there's plenty to do. And on Friday the new Ruts D.C. single 'Music Must Destroy' is released on Westworld / Sosumi Records. The promo video is finished and looks great - Henry Rollins is as fearsome as ever, and even though I say so myself, we look pretty good too. That day in the cement-filled warehouse in Peckham was worthwhile after all - but more about that next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Electronic sound

So - the mystery of the thing-on-top-of-the-speaker-cabinet is solved thanks to Ruts DC fan / friend and electronics engineer Nigel who tells me that he's 'pretty sure it's an old-style electronic counter' and sent me this link to prove it. Thanks Nigel!

I've just watched a rough cut of the 'Music Must Destroy' video and I'm pleased to say that it's looking excellent - the single is out next Friday 9th September with the album released the following week so it should be finished and available for general viewing then. Exciting times!  

In the meantime it's been back to the bar gigs for your humble narrator, starting with a short notice Upper Cut show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge last Friday. Roger was elsewhere so Geoff Nicholls did his customarily excellent job depping on drums, and with a party of people down from Oop North for the Rugby League Cup Final the next day a suitably lively evening ensued. 
The next night Big Al and The Blistering Buicks journeyed to Broxbourne for an interesting show at The Rushymeade Club, a venue so obscure that most of the band got lost trying to find it because none of the locals that they asked for directions had ever heard of it. It was actually a clubhouse on a caravan park, and turned out to be a great little venue with very friendly people. It took a while to get going, but by our second set the dance floor was full and with a bit of luck we'll be back in Broxbourne again before too long. 
Sunday saw an early evening (7 pm start) gig at The Queens Arms in Colnbrook. Our friends Pimp My Jazz were playing an afternoon show down the road (literally!) at Ye Olde George so we got there early to catch a few songs before heading off to the venue to set up. Bank Holiday weekend shows are often a bit odd - you get people who go out early and leave early, people who go out early and stay out late and all points in between. This often results in an audience that can range in size from a few people to a packed room and back again within a couple of songs. This indeed was the case here, where we started playing to virtually no one and ended with a full and noisy room and a punky - looking chap with a mohican haircut dancing wildly to 'Suspicious Minds'. A good gig.

And yesterday myself, my brother and my Dad went to the Muhammad Ali exhibition at The O2 Arena in Greenwich. I've always been a big fan of the man as both a sportsman and a World figure and this event did nothing to change my mind - the term 'greatest' will never be more apt

This week among other things I'll be playing a few songs at The 100 Club with Department S on Saturday night. Now that's something to really look forward to!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Concrete and Clay

Let's face it - it could be anything...
Well we haven't had a quiz here for a while so here's your long-overdue starter for 10 - what is the function of the device sitting on top of the Semprini speaker cabinet with my old Gibson Les Paul Deluxe in the photo on the right? Any ideas? No? That's a shame, because I haven't got a clue. In fact the gentleman who lent it to us doesn't know either, which is a bit odd if you think about it. It looks great though doesn't it? And since we were using it in the promotional video for the new Ruts DC single 'Music Must Destroy' the look is considerably more important than it's function.
We - Ruts DC, director Graham Trott and assorted assistants - were filming in a warehouse in The Bussey Building in Peckham for much of last Friday; footage of guest vocalist Henry Rollins and guest guitarist Boz Boorer was (as I believe the film people say) already in the can. It was a long and at times difficult day - Graham was using a drone to film us but as the floor of the warehouse was covered in cement dust (or something - I tried not to think too deeply about what it might or might not have been!) every time it took off it stirred up clouds of the bloody stuff. Oh and the drone itself crashed into a light on one of it's first flights - there was a spare but the incident somehow seemed to sum up proceedings up until that point. Fortunately matters improved considerably as the day went on, and by the time various friends (including Mr. Spee from Dreadzone, Paul from King Kurt and Bristol promoters Ziggy and Jon) arrived to participate in the crowd scenes the atmosphere was better. Or maybe we'd just got used to the dust by then? Our day had begun with a photo shoot - suitably suited and booted we posed furiously for Graham's camera, and if the examples I saw were anything to go by both the pictures and video should be well worth the work. We'll all know soon enough - more news as and when I have it.
The somewhat less-than-pleasant fallout from our day in the dust was that I had an hour-long nosebleed when I got home, and another one in the morning when I felt how I'd imagine I'd feel if I'd been hit in the face by Muhammad Ali in his prime. See how I suffer for my art? This meant for a not-particularly enjoyable day in Balcony Shirts, although that was nothing compared to the potentially life-threatening Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks performance the next afternoon at The White Horse in Longford near Staines. We were playing under an gazebo in the pub garden, which was all well and good for the first sunny set but proved to be woefully inadequate when the rain arrived during our second set. It's never a good feeling to know that the only thing stopping the by-now deceptively heavy rain from landing on the plugboard that your amplifier is plugged into is a piece of soggy cardboard. Dave the drummer attempted to play with an umbrella wedged behind him as we all huddled increasing closely in search of shelter but when Dave's bass amp slid of the up-until-that-point stage table with a resounding crash enough was more than enough. This was a shame as we were playing well and people were enjoying it but it was simply too dangerous to carry on.
This week it's more days in the shop, more Big Al gigs, a short notice Upper Cut show and a Bank Holiday Monday at the start of next week. That's a day off isn't it? That'll be nice… now, has anybody got any idea what that thing on top of the speaker cabinet is?!?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stand and deliver

Well it's been a long week. I've been working in Balcony Shirts every day since Tuesday and somewhere along the line have hurt my back and picked up a bit of a cold. Or is it the dreaded ManFlu? And although it wasn't a particularly late night at The Three Wishes in Edgware where Big Al and The Blistering Buicks played a sweaty show to the general appreciation of all concerned last night I've been asleep for much of today. I'm back in the shop tomorrow. I could really do with a day off. 

Of course none of this illness, tiredness and no doubt some other words ending with 'ness' has anything with The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool last weekend, where I played electric and acoustic shows with Ruts D.C., joined T.V. Smith for much of his set, played several songs with The Crows (during which I somehow managed to make the up-until-that-point excellent-sounding PA system dissolve into a wall of feedback - oops!) and finished the festival by playing three songs with Department S. Oh and I worked every day on the Cadiz Music merchandise stall too, and wasn't exactly early to bed every night. So it goes.

The shows were great. Really great. The T.V. and electric R.D.C. gigs took place in The Opera House, which is without doubt one of the best venues I've ever been lucky enough to perform in, while the Ruts D.C. acoustic show ended with an actual standing ovation, which is something that you don't see every day. 
Well, I certainly don't anyway… but if you'd like to see it click here! 
Department S were as excellent as ever and The Crows survived their encounter with your humble narrator with aplomb. I didn't get to see many bands play which was a shame in some ways but only to be expected considering my (over) commitments elsewhere. Still it was a terrific few days, and I'm sure that I'm not the only person looking forward to next year's festival already.

In other news Ruts D.C. release our new single 'Music Must Destroy' on September 9th, with the album of the same name coming out one week later. The song was played live for the first time in The Opera House last Saturday - we should be recording a promo video for it in the next week or so (the track features the mighty Henry Rollins, and hopefully he's going to feature in the video too) but in the meantime you can click here for the live version. See what you think...

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

'You disturb my natural emotions...'

Have you ever fallen in love with somebody the moment you first saw them? I was walking through a shopping centre once when I bumped into - literally bumped into - a young lady. She was an acquaintance of mine, I didn't know her well and I hadn't seen here for ages - but at that moment, as we stood awkwardly apologising to each other, I suddenly and abruptly thought she was the most beautiful woman, maybe the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. It was like being hit by the proverbial ton of bricks. I'm not sure that I've ever recovered. She doesn't know anything about it of course - unless she felt it too, although if she did then she hid it well… I sound shallow don't I? Maybe I am.
I was reminded of this moment last Friday evening when I was getting my guitar and amp set up for a gig with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Crock Of Gold in Ruislip. I'd been looking forward to the gig all day, as my old mate Johnny Squirrel was depping on bass and I hadn't seen him for ages. We hadn't played there before so we were working out how to position the various band members in the space allowed - I looked across to the bar where a woman was walking towards a table carrying two drinks. One was a pint of Guinness, the other a smaller glass of clear fizzy-looking liquid. She sat down at the table where her friend was waiting, they smiled cheerily and chatted - while doing so she picked up the pint of Guinness and drank a fair-sized gulp from it. 
'Al, Al!' I said excitedly to the big man, 'Al, that girl over there, she's got a pint of Guinness'. 
'Right' said Al half-interestedly. 
'I think I'm in love' I said, hardly believing that I'd just said it. 
Al laughed. I released how ridiculous it must have sounded. 
I carried on setting my gear up.

The next night The Upper Cut played at Dave's 70th birthday party at The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook. I managed to get through the evening with most if not all of my emotions intact, although I couldn't get the Guinness Girl out of my mind. Strange but true. Shallow but true.

It seems to me that it's time I had a holiday - which is just as well as it's The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool this week. Ruts D.C. are playing an electric set on Saturday night and are closing the acoustic stage the next evening; I'll also be playing a few songs on Thursday with the great T.V. Smith and joining Department S for a tune or two as well as working behind the Cadiz Music merchandise stall and attempting to catch as many bands as I can in the meantime. I'm all too aware that several days of punk rock doesn't sound like most people's idea of a holiday, but it'll do me just fine. If you're going I'll see you there, maybe even for a pint of Guinness. All together now - 'Ever Fallen In Love With Someone...'

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Theatre of the absurd

Well time has been even tighter in these here parts over the last couple of weeks, hence the complete lack of blogging. How on Earth did I ever have chance to do several posts a month? It's been hard enough to find a few minutes to update my Facebook page, let alone write this stuff… we're still busy in Balcony Shirts - this is my only day off this week, hence the chance to attempt a quick posting now - and I've been gigging with The Upper Cut (a particularly riotous night at The Dolphin a week-and-a-half ago) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks (at The Three Wishes in Harrow and The Horns in Watford the weekend before last) so it's perhaps not surprising that I feel as though I've done nothing but work these days. And Ruts D.C. appeared at The Know The Future Festival in Vienne, France on the Saturday just gone - we'd not played for a while but put in a good performance alongside the likes of The Damned, The U.K. Subs and The Vibrators. The event took place at The Theatre Antique, a Roman amphitheatre which had to be seen to be believed - I've certainly never played anywhere like it before. The slightly peculiar travel arrangements meant that we flew out from Luton Airport on Friday lunchtime and returned home to Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning - I got back home just in time to do an actual birthday gig (as opposed to The Upper Cut Uxbridge show the week before, which I played as an early birthday bash) with Big Al and the boys that afternoon at The White Horse near Staines. I'm still feeling tired now… more gigs this weekend, then it's off to The Rebellion Festival next week. No rest for the wicked, or indeed for me. 

Incidentally the always-excellent Aural Sculptors blog has just posted an audio recording of our set in Vienne, which you can download by clicking here. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2016

'Stab your back, stab your back...'

Well, who would have thought it - Boris Johnson knifes the entire country in the back then one of his so-called 'friends' does the same thing to him. Poetic justice? Maybe, and I'm sure that it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke - but I've a funny feeling that sadly we haven't seen the last of him. In the meantime I have once again been working a lot in Balcony Shirts, hence the lack of blog postings. That said, I've done a few other things as well… 

The Damned played their first gig on July 6th 1976 at The 100 Club supporting The Sex Pistols. Exactly 40 years later founder member and guitarist Brian James played at the same venue - I got the feeling that many people in attendance were expecting a set of early Damned songs, especially when Rat Scabies was spotted in the bar. If they were then they were to be disappointed, at least until the encore. The first few songs were from his solo albums, although 'Born To Kill' did make an early appearance. After that it was, as more than one person remarked to me, 'jazz odyssey' time until Dirty Strangers singer Alan Clayton joined the band for among other things a raucous version of 'The Last Time'. Ginger from The Wildhearts added his voice to the set closer 'Neat Neat Neat' before loud cheers (and it must be said, an almost audible collective sigh of relief) greeted Mr. Scabies as he took his place behind the drum kit. The intensity and indeed the volume went through the roof - there may have been tighter, more together performances of 'I Feel Alright' and 'New Rose' than the ones that followed, but few as energetic and powerful as this clip shows. A great ending to an, er, interesting gig. Support came from The Black Bombers who won themselves more than a few friends with a splendid set. We've played with them a couple of times - their garage-y roar is always good to hear, and their new album is well worth getting hold of.

In the meantime Big Al and The Blistering Buicks have been out and about - a show at The Sunningdale Lounge needed a few more people in the audience from the band's point of view although it was by no means a bad night, while the golf-club-do-near-Staines show at The White Horse in Longford saw a table of Thai ladies getting a fair bit of attention from the locals and much dancing and merriment all round. And last weekend's gigs at The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook and Hayes Working Men's Club both also went well, which was more good news. The Big Al roadshow continues this weekend in Harrow and Watford, and The Upper Cut are playing at The Dolphin in Uxbridge this coming Friday - it's my birthday this month and without wishing to sound too pretentious (for once!) it's always good fun to celebrate it at our nearest gig to it, so if you're in the area come on down. It'll be good to see you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

'There is no future in England's dreaming...'

So - we're leaving The European Union. Or are we? Forced to choose between the conceited opinions of podgy right-wing toff David Cameron and podgy right-wing toff Boris Johnson the Great British public chose the latter rather than the former, presumably because for some unfathomable reason they think that he's a 'character'. They even feel as though they can call refer to him by his first name. Why do people do that? It makes it sound as though he's their mate or something, and the last thing he is is their mate. Funny that. But there's nothing funny about what's happened since the referendum result was announced. It seems that all those promises made by the Vote Leave camp were not actually promises at all. Politicians lying? Who'd have thought it? All the people that voted for them and so presumably wanted to curb immigration, free up money for The National Health Service and whatever the hell else that they thought they were voting for weren't actually voting for those things at all. Anyone would think that it was all a load of - let's be polite here shall we? - nonsense wouldn't they? Why that 'nice' Mr. Farage (I assume the people that supported him thought that he was nice?) isn't even an MP is he? He like Johnson is often portrayed as a 'character' or even a figure of fun when in reality he's a part time politician and full time millionaire who somehow managed to galvanise the fears of millions of people into inadvertently voting for his cause and, since Cameron has taken the coward's way out and resigned, also voting for a new, presumably anti-EU Prime Minister. There's talk of another referendum, which would be unprecedented not least because the main reason given is that this one didn't go the way that some people think that it should have - but surely that makes a complete mockery of 'democracy'? As it happens I can think of quite a few General Elections that didn't go the way that I thought that they should have, but there was no talk of rerunning them… and if that wasn't bad enough the England football team has been knocked out of the European Championships by lowly Iceland. A bunch of multi millionaire prima donnas are beaten by a gang of unfancied part timers for the second time in a week. Oh dear.

Let's cheer up a bit shall we? GLM - the band formed by ex - Lurkers Pete Stride, Nigel Moore And Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes and now renamed The Lurkers GLM - have released their second album 'The Future's Calling' and it's a cracker. It's popper than their debut 'Chemical Landslide' but no less powerful, with everyone on top form throughout. Full details of how to obtain a copy are on the band's website along with videos, downloads and more. Great stuff!

The Upper Cut played two private parties - cue 'none for ages and then two come along at once' gags - on Friday and Saturday. The first was at Terry the singer's workplace in London - literally, we played in one of the offices - and the second was a birthday party at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. The first show included a very pleasant but rather drunk young lady asking to have a go on the drums with the words 'I don't know how to work them but I like dancing' - she was correct, she didn't, and she did - while Geoff Nicholls depped for Roger on drums at the second show where repeated requests for 'Simply The Best' saw us managing to stagger through one verse and multiple choruses to scenes of audience hysteria and mayhem that wouldn't have been out of place at an actual Tina Turner gig and which took even the hardiest members of the band by surprise. 

Two ex - Sex Pistols were on the same stage (although sadly not at the same time) on Thursday night when The Rich Kids and The Professionals co-headlined The O2 Academy in Islington. Both band released underrated singles and albums back in the day, and as all of said records are big favourites of mine the evening was pretty much unmissable from my point of view. With Tom Spencer taking the place of the sadly absent Steve Jones The Professionals were on first - opening with 'Just Another Dream' they sounded strong from the word go, and by the time they finished with 'Silly Thing' it was clear that we'd just seen a great band play a fine show. The Rich Kids were excellent too although I thought that they took a couple of songs to get going - that said it was definitely a case of 'all's well that ends well' with the encore of 'Rich Kids' all but taking the roof off. Paul Cook was always a great drummer and Glen Matlock's a brilliant bass player - who were those fools who said that they couldn't play? - and it really was something to see both of their post - Pistols bands together. A cracking evening, although it did take me over four hours to get home. Well, it had been raining, so all the trains were off and the roads were jammed. That didn't used to happen when we were in The EU did it? 

Oh, hang on...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

'Walking down the King's Road with some friends of mine...'

Back to the 'there's only time for a quick round-up of what's been happening in Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars' format...

- I went to 'Exhibitionism' at The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea
I like The Rolling Stones more than I sometimes realise, if you know what I mean. And I liked this exhibition too - well I must have liked it, as I managed to spend over three hours there stumbling from room to room. There's lots for a nerd like myself to enjoy, and plenty of stuff for normal people too - if you're thinking of going then get along there before it closes!  

- I saw Dead Men Walking at Dingwalls
From Chelsea it was a short tube train journey up to Camden Town where with the help of Adrian from Aural Sculptors and his wife Gunta I eventually found Dingwalls (it's all changed around there since I was a lad I can tell you!) just as the band were sound checking. On stage from left to right were Kirk Brandon, Dave Ruffy, Segs and Jake Burns - a formidable line-up be anybody's standards. And I'm pleased to say that they sounded as good as you'd hope that they would. Highlights of the evening were many and varied, although the moment that sticks in my mind was when myself, Segs and ex - U.K. Subs guitarist Jet were in The Elephant's Head shortly before the show half-seriously considering some sort of appearance at the the then - happening open mic night when a chap got on stage and performed 'Rasputin' on a stylophone. He followed it with 'Ace Of Spades'. We decided not to play. How do you follow that?

- I played two shows with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
With Pete still away I was on solo guitar duties in Greenford at The Black Horse on Saturday night; he then returned the next afternoon for a gig at Sally B's in Hoddesdon. The first show was good and the second was even better - things are definitely going in the right direction for Big Al and The Boys.

And hopefully things will be going in the right direction this week too, but more about that next time, when I've got time…

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reading, working, peddling, jamming...

Well the busy times at Balcony Shirts continue, although I'm 'only' working four days there this week. Part of me is a bit relived - after all at times it's been far too much like having a 'real' job - while the other part of me has enjoyed it immensely. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's been great to earn a bit of money too. In a heroic attempt to not squander it all on beer and jollity I've bought myself a reassuringly expensive Carl Martin Quattro multi-effect pedal, the idea being that it should function as both a spare unit for Ruts D.C. gigs as well as being something that should fit into my luggage easier than my existing pedal board does and so should be useful for shows that we fly to. It could also be something that I might be able to use at Big Al and The Blistering Buicks shows, and with this in mind I took it along to our gig at The Battle Of Britain Club in Uxbridge last Friday. With Pete away elsewhere I was the sole guitarist for the weekend's gigs, which in some ways was unfortunate as the onset of hay fever had left me with a left ear full of wax to go along with the inevitable bunged up nose. Perhaps using an unfamiliar piece of kit wasn't the cleverest idea but I did it anyway - under the circumstances I thought that it went well although I don't mind admitting that I stood on the wrong pedal more than a few times. Well that's my excuse for the dreadful mess I made of the 'Whiskey In The Jar' riff anyway… by the time the next night's show at The Misty Moon in Northwood came around my ear had cleared a bit although it was still far from being 100%, which combined with England throwing away their one goal lead against Russia in The European Championships meant that I for one started our show with no little trepidation. Happily this proved to be unfounded - after a few songs people were dancing and our national football team's latest impression of The Keystone Cops seemed to have been all but forgotten by the end of our show.

The next night Big Al and myself ventured across to The Plough in Tilehurst near Reading where Ann and Steve from the covers band Hot Legs run a jam night. They've been badgering Al to attend for a while now so this seemed as good a time as any - when we arrived we were both struck with how friendly everyone was. This is not always the case at these sort of gatherings - they can be very cliquey - but here it bode well for a good evening. I was asked to play on an original 12 bar blues song with a couple of young ladies, after which Al and myself joined the house band for 'Willie And The Hand Jive', 'Sweet Home Chicago' and 'Let's Stick Together', all of which went splendidly well. From there a very varied evening saw performances of material as diverse as 'Ace Of Spades' and 'I Know What I Like' before I was cajoled into joining a couple of young lads for their songs - I'd had a few drinks by then but with Al's words 'what could possibly go wrong?' ringing in my ears I stumbled towards the stage. The two lads were very good - maybe a few too many notes for my liking but they certainly knew what they were doing. I chugged along cheerily on a funky version of 'Rambling On My Mind' hoping not to be given a solo. The guitar man smiled as he pointed at me and nodded - I played a lot less notes than him but it seemed to go down well. (Let's face it, I wouldn't be writing about it here if it hadn't!) Then he asked if I knew 'Little Wing' - yes I do although I've never played it in front of anyone. Then again I'd not met these boys until about 10 minutes ago so… after them the evening ended with a peculiar (and let's face it, very drunk) fellow who for want of a better word, dismantled 'Mustang Sally' and 'Money For Nothing'. I wouldn't have recognised them if he hadn't slurred the titles several times indiscriminately during his frankly astonishing performance. Yes I was on guitar, although I'm not quite sure what I doing there. Judging by the faces of the other musicians they weren't sure what they were there either. A suitably bizarre ending to a very enjoyable evening.

And I completely forgot to mention that at some point in the last few weeks I visited Tropic At Ruislip where I witnessed Stranglers tribute band The Dead Ringers (a last minute substitute for Straighten Out who I believe had to pull out when one of their members injured a hand) roaring through a set of Guildford's finest's songs and in my opinion doing a very good job. But don't take my word for it - the always-worth-reading Elvis In The Clouds blog has written this review of the show, summing the night up well and somehow mentioning me in the process. Strange - but true!