Sunday, January 17, 2016

'Oh no - don't say it's true...'

If I'm still alive on July 24th this year - and I really hope that I will be - I'll be 55 years old.

I can't remember President Kennedy's assassination; I remember Jimi Hendrix dying, and I've already written (here!) in these hallowed pages of the trouble I got in on the day John Lennon left the building. That was probably the biggest 'celebrity death' for me - Princess Diana's passing was a huge international event but I've never been a royalist, and I suppose Kurt Cobain's death was a big one for the generation below mine. My mum always used to say that something bad always happens around Christmas (I don't know why she used to say it, but she always did!) but 2015 had ended with Brad from The Specials and Lemmy dying so surely that was bad enough? So when I woke up on Monday morning to a text message that read 'I need hugs!' from my mate Dave I wasn't sure what to think; when a text then arrived from my friend Nicky that spoke of her feeling 'sick with sadness' I thought that I'd better check the TV news...

If you're my age (or indeed a few years older or younger than me) then David Bowie has, for want of a better term, always been there. Actually he's always been miles ahead of his many imitators and indeed all of the rest of us but you know what I mean I think. And he's still there now too isn't he? There has been so much said and written about him in the last week that I don't really feel as though I can add very much, other than to say that we were lucky, very lucky, to have been on Earth at the same time as he was. Musically my favourite part of his long and magnificent career remains those immortal recordings with The Spiders From Mars, but that's just me - fans everywhere will have a different memory of what a song means to them, of how they felt when they saw him and realised that they weren't alone anymore, or that it was ok to be different, or to feel like an outsider in a world that couldn't see them and didn't care anyway, or, or, or...
Who'll love Aladdin Sane?
By a twist of fate I found myself in Brixton (Bowie's birthplace) on Monday afternoon as myself and Segs were going to Jamm to work on the Ruts D.C. recordings that we began last month. As I walked up the stairs from the underground station it was impossible not to notice that there were rather more Bowie t-shirts around that there might normally be; across from the station a small crowd had gathered around the mural on the side of the Morleys department store, with people leaving flowers, pictures, messages and more - I'm not normally one for grieving over people that I'd never met but it was impossible not to be moved by the scenes. Meanwhile The Academy had 'DAVID BOWIE - FOREVER OUR HERO' in the place where it would normally advertise the evening's main attraction - and why not? Local boy makes good. Local boy makes very good indeed. About as good as it can get if you think about it. 
I like most people have been playing a fair bit of the great man's work in the last few days - I'd actually been listening to the Spiders stuff a fair bit lately anyway in an attempt to tune into Mick Ronson's guitar genius as one of the sources of inspiration for our recordings - and have been struck by just how bloody good Bowie was.
The Bowie Academy.
Well he was wasn't he? And it's easy to forget that - you don't accidentally get a 50+ year career at anything if you're not any good at it, or (as someone remarked to me while telling me that Bowie had been 'lucky' as he 'wasn't particularly talented'. Oh dear...) if all you do is rely on fashion, or gimmicks, or indeed anything other than making great music and giving brilliant performances. David Bowie did both of those things of course, but he also did so much more. I'm sure there'll be a backlash soon, where some jumped up two bit journalist or television presenter tries to make a name for themselves by starting a bit of controversy ('he wasn't that good', 'he stole all his best moves', 'he sacked all The Spiders' - you know the sort of thing) but that'll hardly matter - the last third of The 20th Century belonged to David Bowie, and there's a good chance that a fair bit of The 21st Century will be influenced by him and his work. And rightly so. It is unlikely that we will see his like again, but we should be thankful that we saw it at all. 

Somewhat inevitably the day at Jamm was tinged with sadness. Or was it? Greg the engineer said how proud he felt that Bowie had been from Brixton; I suspect he wasn't the only one in the area with that thought. Rob from The Alabama 3 was on hand, he said that we were there to make music and make music we would - his possibly rather controversial production methods (tins of Red Stripe, bottles of wine and, er, more besides...) coaxed some astonishing vocal performances out of Segs. Even though I say so myself the tracks are sounding great; there's a lot of work still to do and more tracks to record next month but I for one am very optimistic about how the album is shaping up.

After the session I walked back along Brixton Road to the tube station - there were hundreds of people at the mural singing, dancing and indeed crying, an amazing (and from my point of view absolutely unforgettable) outpouring of emotion. It really was quite a thing to see, but nothing less than the occasion deserved.

New boy band forms - 
see you on 'The X Factor'...
On Thursday evening Dave, Segs and myself had what I suppose could be thought of as a 'works outing' to see Henry Rollins at The Barbican. In addition to being a great fan of both The Ruts and Ruts D.C. he of course sang with the band at Paul Fox's last show - I first met him at a rehearsal for said show (you can read the story here if you'd like to) and have spoken to him several times since then, he's an absolutely extraordinary character who is completely unlike anyone else that I've ever met. His 150+ minute show saw him talk (and talk and talk and, er, talk...) about anything and everything that came to mind - although some parts were obviously scripted I spoke to people who had seen other shows on this tour which were apparently quite different in content. Incredible. He told me that he has to have a timer on stage with him otherwise he would 'go on all night'. I for one don't doubt that he could do exactly that.

Tropic At Ruislip hosted Who's Who on Friday evening - given my admiration (oh ok then, worship) for The Who it's always interesting to see a tribute band and Who's Who are probably the best that I've seen (not that I've seen that many!) They're more 'Live At Leeds' than Goldhawk Club, but they make a great job of honouring The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band In The World. And it was the first gig of 2016 for Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks last night, at The Dashwood Arms near High Wycombe. This was a new venue for the band and I must say that it's an excellent establishment with a good tradition of live music - with Terry elsewhere Dave did a great job on bass and the band began the year on high note.

This week there may well be more Ruts D.C. recording as well as another couple of Buicks gigs and probably more besides - but if you'll excuse me it's time to play 'The Jean Jenie' just one more time...

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