Sunday, October 15, 2017

'The skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave...'

So there I was, minding my own business on the main stage at Butlins in Skegness as Ruts D.C. were in the process of closing this year's Great British Alternative Music Festival - to my left Segs is flanked by Jake Burns and Kirk Brandon, behind me Dave Ruffy is on the drums and steering the ship in customary fashion while Stan Stammers is with me at my microphone; we're all singing 'if you're in a rut, you've gotta get out of it' - as the song ends Stan throws his arms around me and I shake hands with Kirk and Jake before the three of them leave the stage. We're about to slam into 'Babylon's Burning' when I allow myself a moment's thought - 'how the bloody hell did that just happen?' followed swiftly by 'and didn't Richard Jobson say that he was going to join in too?'
All in all it was a suitably surreal end to a wonderful run of Ruts D.C. shows. In the last month or so we've played all over Britain and Ireland and barring the odd mad moment or two it's been an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Our new friends Harry, Adam and Mike from Riverjuke have shown devotion above and beyond the call of duty (well I think that they have, they'd probably say that they're 'just doing their jobs') which has made the band's job immeasurably easier, and even though I say so myself we've played some really great shows. After a batch of gigs like these there's often one or two that stand out as being better or indeed worse that the rest, but I can honestly say that's not the case this time. Ok, maybe Aberdeen (where we were to say the least concerned that the P.A. system wasn't up to the job but which turned out to be a classic evening) and Cardiff (which saw my Marshall amp go wrong again meaning that I was in a less-than-cheery mood; thankfully the Riverjuke boys had thought to bring a spare and the show saw one of the best audience reactions of all) stand out, but not by much. Incidentally my amp's back at the factory for repair and I'm looking at buying the spare - there go the wages. Again. But maybe nothing tops the 'crikey, I'm on stage with members of Theatre Of Hate and Stiff Little Fingers' moment. Strange days Indeed. Most peculiar mama.

So - what now? Well Ruts D.C. return to the stage at the start of November so it was back to basics on Friday night when I rejoined Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks for a show at no lesser venue than Hayes Working Men's Club. Al was recovering from a minor operation on his left hand and so wasn't playing acoustic guitar (we usually start the evening with a few acoustic numbers) and so Pete and myself split the duties on his very nice Martin HD 28 - I really must get myself a good acoustic guitar one day... I'd spent a while revising the songs as I'd not played with the band for over a month and had restrung my Stratocaster accordingly - shame I'd neglected to try it through an amplifier as the volume pot had developed a fairly serious-sounding crackle when used. This sort of thing can happen when a guitar isn't played for a while, and hopefully will be cured with a squirt or two of switch cleaner when I get five minutes. (Thinking about it I should perhaps be doing that instead of typing this? Hmm...) And last night I went to The Hope And Anchor in Islington to see the debut performance by RiVeR who feature Matt on guitar - he writes the excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog and attends many of our gigs so it was good to go along and give him a bit of support. A highly enjoyable night saw your humble narrator chatting to quite a few people who had seen and indeed enjoyed Ruts D.C. on this tour, and one gentleman who recognised me as a member of Big Al's band. As I say, strange days indeed... but proof were it needed that you don't get something for nothing in this godforsaken life comes with the news that this coming Friday's Upper Cut gig at The Dolphin in Uxbridge looks like being the band's last ever show. Shame - but nothing lasts forever (sadly!) and we've had a good run so hopefully we'll go out on a high. What was that line that Michael Stipe said when REM split up? A lofty comparison perhaps, but a comparison nevertheless - let's we don't leave our dignity at the front door eh?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

70 not out

It doesn't seem that long ago that the name Wilko Johnson was everywhere. And it's not that long ago that it was, in relative terms at least, nowhere. Everywhere and nowhere baby... it's certainly been an unprecedented few years for the Canvey Island assassin, from his unforgettable appearance in the Dr. Feelgood documentary 'Oil City Confidential' and his subsequent 'who'd have thought it?' recruitment to the cast of 'Game Of Thrones' to his now-well-known diagnosis and subsequent cure from cancer it's been an extraordinary time. Last night he played a 70th birthday show at no lesser venue than The Royal Albert Hall. Strange days indeed. I went along with my good friend Pete Sargeant who was reviewing the night for 'Blues Matters' magazine - as we settled into our seats we reflected on how we - all of us - had got to where we were. Pete used to see The Feelgoods in the London pubs before they started making records whereas I missed the band with Wilko on guitar - I was a bit young, and anyway I didn't have any friends to go to see a band like them with. But however you look at it the band made an indelible impression on us both as they did with so many people.

Our evening starts by coming full circle (if that's not too much of a contradiction in terms) as Eight Rounds Rapid take to the stage. Simon 'son-of-Wilko' Johnson prowls around as Dave the singer tells us that his mate's a bit tight, but he's alright. They're a great band - see them in a pub or club and they'll blow your head off, but in The RAH they have trouble ruffling each other's hair. It's not their fault of course - this is simply the wrong venue for them, they're not loud enough and seem dwarfed by their surroundings. Mind you, who wouldn't be? After their set I bump into Cadiz Records supremo Richard England and Vive Le Rock editor Eugene Butcher. They're even more disappointed by what they just saw and are looking for a bar to drink away the memory in - there are enough of them to choose from but I can't help thinking that there isn't enough money in the world to get drunk here. 

Next up is Benjamin Tehoval, a one-man band who manages to operate an electric guitar, some bass pedals, a kick drum and his voice simultaneously and at the same time. He also manages to get much of the audience wondering what the hell he was doing there. When he was told that there was only time for one more song he played 'Like A Rolling Stone' - that's six minutes of our lives that none of us will ever get back again. Pete thought it was funny, I thought it was the sort of thing that only a hopeless hippie who was sufficiently self-obsessed as to not care about the rest of the evening would do. Oh well - it wouldn't do for us all to like the same thing now would it?

Next up ladeez 'n' gennelmen, The Bard Of Salford himself, Dr. John Cooper Clarke. As a long term fan of the great man I was naturally delighted by his presence whereas Pete took the opportunity to catch up some much-needed sleep. Well as I say, it wouldn't do for us all to like the same thing... among the unmissable moments he, er, missed was a previously unheard (by me at least) tale of our hero making enough money to hire a 'snooty butler' who he assumed would be available whenever his services were required; when he came in from a gig at 2 a.m. to find said butler wearing a 'wife-beater vest' and responding to his asking for 'a couple of rounds of Mickie Most and a mug of splosh' with the words 'your dietary requirements are no concerns of mine' he replaced him with a chimpanzee. Genius.

Interval time - looking around the venue it was all a bit... 'nice' if you know what I mean. Whilst it was impossible not to be impressed by our surroundings, having seen Wilko countless times over the last 40 (40!) years it was all a bit incongruous. For every rocker in t-shirt and jeans there seemed to be several people who looked as though they'd come straight from Harrods. Maybe they had? 

9.40 on the dot and it's time for the main event - Norman Watt-Roy looks out into the auditorium and mouths 'Wow!' as Wilko plugs in and 'All Right' crackles into life. 'If You Want Me, You've Got Me' follows before the always-excellent 'Dr. Dupree' slows things down a bit - but only a bit. There's already drops of sweat on the floor of Norman's side of the stage as they swing into 'Roxette' - and suddenly it's early 1975 and I'm calling my mum in from the kitchen as Dr. Feelgood roar through an unforgettable (for me at least) rendition of the song on 'The Geordie Scene', changing my life in the process. I didn't stop talking about it for days - to be honest I'm not sure that I've stopped talking about it much ever since. Here it gets the muted approval of the all-to-polite audience, as does the rest of the set - how often have the band played for over an hour to a fully-seated audience? It takes the final one-two sucker punch of 'Back In The Night'  and 'She Does It Right' to finally break the spell and get a few people onto their feet - the security staff who up until this point had been unsubtly stopping people from doing anything as anarchic as taking photos swung even more unsubtly into action, but at least there was a bit of atmosphere at last. As demands for an encore grew Simon's amplifier was set up and speculation as to who would be joining the band was rife - I doubt that few if any had expected that the special guest to be JCC playing Simon's barely audible Telecaster on 'Bye Bye Johnny', but that was what they got. As the crew readied themselves to take the gear off the stage the band returned once more, sending the security staff into meltdown in the process - 'Route 66' bombed out the last pockets of resistance, and everybody (except I suspect the afore-mentioned security staff) went home happy. 

Or did they? On the train home I reflected on what we'd all just seen. As previously stated I've been watching Wilko play live for four decades. I saw him on his first post-Feelgoods tour and I've watched him ever since through thick and thin, playing blistering, heart-stopping shows everywhere from  small, smoky, sweaty back rooms of pubs to large outdoor festivals and all points in between, in front of handfuls to hundreds to thousands of people - it's strange to see him now, after the trauma of the last few years, as a successful act playing bigger and bigger venues to so many people wearing his name on their chests. This wouldn't, indeed couldn't have happened at any other point in his career, and it's great that it's happened now - but has he lost something in the process? It was a great gig and an event to have been at, but I have a suspicion - indeed, a sneakin' suspicion - that he just might have...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scotland Calling

Time for a quick progress report from North Of The Border, written at the times and in the places indicated, a little garbled here and there but left unedited...

Thursday 14th, 10.56 am, Room 52 at The Bothwell Bridge Hotel in Glasgow.

I like Scotland. It's a great country isn't it? and it's always a great place to play. We've got five shows in five days here this week - excellent. 
We - Ruts D.C. (Dave, Segs and myself) with our sound man Bob and merch girl Rhiannon - travelled up to Glasgow yesterday on the 12.30 pm train from Euston Station while our 'new' driver Harry (I don't mean that he's never driven before, it's just the first time that we've worked with him!) had made the epic journey North in his bus with all our equipment, stopping off to see family and friends on the way. He'd also dropped my ailing amp off at the Marshall factory on the way - it stopped working a few songs into our performance at The Undercover Festival in Margate last Saturday. Bugger! I'm hopeful that there's not much wrong with it as the lights were still on but there was definitely no one home... thankfully there was a spare amp available so the show continued (rather well as it happens) but it's obviously something that has got to be sorted out. 
Last night's gig at The Audio sold out - not bad for a Wednesday night eh? Ok, it's not the biggest venue in the World, but a sell out is a sell out... although I'm currently hampered by a deaf right ear (Earwax! Bah!) I think we played well - tonight we're in Dundee where we've played a couple of times before. I remember the first time being a great night while the second one was a slightly odd evening which wasn't too well attended (not much promotion apparently) and the support band played 'Staring At The Rude Boys'. Strange. Let's see what happens this time.

Friday 15th, 11.10 am leaving Dundee.

'It's all glamour this rock 'n' roll lark' thought Leigh as he helped Harry carry a speaker cabinet up the seemingly endless flights of stairs. As he stumbled breathlessly through the double doors leading into the venue he thanked gawd that the cabinet was on wheels while The Lurkers looked down on him from the wall near the bar. My heart's in the shadow - well it feels as though it's going to burst through my shirt to be honest. It's great to be in show business... there's a statue of Desperate Dan a few hundred yards away in the town centre - we could perhaps do with him here now. 
Five-and-a-bit hours later my heart once again felt as though it might burst through my shirt, only this time for a very different reason. We'd just played an excellent (even though I say so myself!) set at a very appreciative audience and all was right with the world. We added 'Tears On Fire' to the set, a tricky song to play but I thought that we did it well - we'd ran through it during a sound check that also included 'Suffragette City' and a new song called 'Innocent' which isn't finished yet but is showing great promise. The Beat Generator turned out to be a great venue (it'd be even better if it had a bloomin' lift!) and the riskily - named Invercarse Hotel was a nice hotel. It would have been good to have spent a bit more time there but the road to Aberdeen beckons. Get in the van Leigh - it's all glamour, this rock 'n' roll lark...

Saturday 15th, 10.42 am Room 217 at The Douglas Hotel in Aberdeen.

Victory from the jaws of defeat. That's quite a saying isn't it? I wonder where it comes from? It was used more than a few times last night, and not without reason - Drummonds is a good venue for any number of reasons (not least the girls behind the bar) but sadly the P.A. system isn't one of them. Bob is something of a wizard in my not-so-humble-opinion, and he needed all of his magical powers last night - a fraught sound check nearly fell apart when Segs uttered the immortal words 'we might as well just all get pissed, I can't hear a thing'. Not the best thought to have. 
Fast forward three hours and the place is packed  - The Media Whores are on stage and the sound is... ok... much better than earlier anyway. That's a relief. I wonder how we'll get on? 
Two hours later I'm wringing my shirt out in the dressing room. A great gig. A really great gig. Audience fantastic. Band sounded great. Thank Christ for that. From the jaws of defeat indeed. 

Sunday 16th, 11.31 am Room 304 at The Holiday Inn in Edinburgh.


It's our last day and indeed night in Scotland. Shame. These have been great gigs, with some wonderful moments.If you'd have been at La Belle Angele last night you'd have seen a brave attempt at '20th Century Boy' (Marc Bolan had died 40 years ago to the day) during an eventful rendition of 'In A Rut' which also the stage being plunged into total (and I mean total) darkness when the stage lights failed. Apparently there was a problem with the lighting desk - they also went off during  'Love In Vain' which resulted in more than a few, erm, jazz chords from your humble narrator. Let's hope that never makes it onto YouTube... the sound check also featured an unexpected incident when Psychic Investor Mark (during the PledgeMusic campaign for 'Music Must Destroy' you could become a Psychic Investor which meant that you could come to sound checks) responded to Segs's question 'any requests?' with the words 'Out Of Order' - I reckon that song was last played sometime in 1980 when the band was still The Ruts. We had a go. That's all I'm saying! We also had another go at 'Innocent' which I'm hoping will turn out to be a really good song; it might even make it to the stage sometime in this batch of gigs. Then again it might not - we played an 18 song set with a 3 song encore so it might be more of a case of 'what do we leave out?' rather than 'when do we play it?' Still that's not a bad problem to have. Maybe it's not a problem at all? 
Tonight we play in Falkirk. I've never been there before. We leave at midday so I'd better get my gear together.

Monday 18th, 12.35 pm on the train home.

Well that was a funny old night. It was an odd show to end on - we played well but the audience seemed rather subdued resulting in us thinking that we weren't going down very well. However as so often happens this wasn't the case - when we spoke to people afterwards many said that it was the best show that they'd ever seen at The Warehouse. And one person went further, observing that 'this is Sunday night in Scotland - everybody's been drinking since Friday afternoon'. Oh and The Bay City Rollers were apparently also playing in Falkirk last night, although I for one am not sure how that effected things. But however you look at it, it's been a pleasure to be in Scotland - but as previously discussed, it usually is.

So - was the Falkirk show any good? Click here to find out!

Monday, August 28, 2017

No Sleep 'til Belfast

Well - there you have it. It's all too rare that something lives up to it's promise quite as much as the weekend just gone, but I'm very pleased to say that this one did. It's good when that happens isn't it? Two Ruts D.C. shows supporting Stiff Little Fingers would be an exciting enough prospect at the best of times, but these really were great events to be part of. Friday night we supported them at The Academy in Dublin where our breathless 40 minute support set saw an amazing if unexpected amount of audience participation - we regularly see audience members singing along with songs like 'In A Rut' and 'Babylon's Burning', but to see the people joining in with 'Music Must Destroy' and 'Kill The Pain' really was a sight to behold. It set us up for an extraordinary night in Belfast where SLF celebrated their 40th anniversary with an open air show in Custom House Square. The Stranglers and The Outcasts were also on the bill, and with Terri Hooley of Good Vibrations Records DJ-ing it was an unforgettable evening all round. Well I say unforgettable - with poteen on the menu and our good friends Paranoid Visions on hand to help us, erm, celebrate the occasion things got a little hazy by the end. Still judging by the conversations we had with people at the airport on the way home we definitely did something right. Several people went as far as to say that it was the best night of live music that they had ever attended, and from what I saw and indeed felt I'm certainly not going to tell them that they were wrong.

Having played mostly festivals and support shows in the last few months we now set out on a series of headline gigs starting in Exeter on Thursday and Bristol on Friday - more shows have been added since this poster was produced (and indeed are still being added) so keep your eye on the Ruts D.C. Facebook page for more information. Sadly the Islington Academy show on September 2nd has been postponed until next year (!) but there is still plenty to look forward to. Well I'm certainly looking forward to it - if you're coming to a show then please say hello, and as always I'll be updating my Facebook page as regularly as possible as we wend our merry way up, down and around the length and breadth of Britain. See you up there, as someone once said... 




Sunday, August 20, 2017

To Hull and back

Since last we spoke Ruts DC have played shows in Hull and North London - both good gigs, with more to come as we shall see. Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks have also been out and about at The Farmers Boy in St. Albans (I'd not been there before, a great little venue) The General Eliott in Uxbridge (a suitably raucous local gig which got so hot that Al had to go outside for some air halfway through the second set) and Ye Olde Swan in Burnham (with fellow six-stringer Pete elsewhere I had to play his parts - I didn't realise that I had so much skin on my teeth) all of which reminded me how much fun it is to play with the band.

Back to Ruts DC - the Hull show took place last Saturday in the wonderfully-named Zebedee's Yard, which I believe is a car park when it's not a venue. We travelled up by train and arrived to find everything ready for soundcheck. There was just time to say hello to The Stranglers before running through a few songs then heading back to our hotel for some much needed food. We returned to find The Black Delta Movement on stage and the venue filling up nicely despite the rain, which thankfully stopped just before we went on stage. With only 45 minutes to play with we stuck more-or-less to the set we'd been playing on the Stranglers tour, with the addition of 'Suffragette City' which we dedicated to for local legends The Spiders From Mars. Although the rain had stopped it was still quite windy meaning that the sound on stage was a bit variable - we weren't sure if we'd played well but thankfully the audience reaction suggested that we had. We saw about half of the Big Country show (I hadn't seen them since back in the day and they sounded great - mind you, they usually did) before deciding to take our instruments and gear back to the hotel - we'd intended to return to see The Stranglers but somehow ended up drinking in the bar until 2 am. Well - it had started raining again, and we were thirsty... talking of which, last night we played at Urban Voodoo Machine drummer Gary 50th birthday party at Bones And Pearl Studios (another great name!) in Seven Sisters. 'Twas an evening of great jollity as you might well imagine - indeed it might be better if I leave the details to your imagination... go on, try imagining what went on... you're probably correct... but we played well, and that's the main thing. It only ever is.

This week we travel to Ireland for two shows with Stiff Little Fingers - as a long time fan I've been looking forward to these gigs since they were first announced. We're in Dublin on Friday before travelling up to Belfast for an open air show to celebrate SLF's 40th anniversary; The Stranglers (yep, them again!) and The Outcasts are also on the bill and with Terri Hooley of Good Vibrations Records DJ-ing the scene is set for a classic event. And after that we set out to play some shows of our own - but more about that next time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Same as it ever was?

Monday 7th August, 3.17 pm

As I write this, in shaky Biro in a reporter's notebook in the back of the bus somewhere on the Southbound M40 there is much to reflect upon. The Rebellion Festival is invariably a great thing to be part of and this year has certainly been no exception, but somehow this gathering seemed to go further than most. Ruts D.C. played two shows - an all-guns-blazing Saturday night electric set and an emotional performance to close the acoustic stage last night as well as nipping across to Hebden Bridge on Friday evening for a gig at The Trades Club where we were joined by Baz Warne of The Stranglers for two songs. I also spent a fair bit of time behind the Cadiz Music merchandise stall with Richard and Blaise as well as catching some great performances from T.V. Smith and The Skids among others. There were the usual unwisely late night drinking sessions (it was getting light as I stumbled through Blackpool on the way back to my hotel on Saturday night / Sunday morning) but that's just about par for the course - all things considered I don't feel too bad (it feels as though I rarely got to eat anything more substantial than sandwiches) although I suspect that I'm heading for an uncommonly early night tonight.

Our Saturday show on the outdoor Casbah stage was preceded by a suitably energetic Neville Staple show and was followed by a wonderful performance from Misty In Roots - I'm sure that I wasn't the only person excited to see the words 'Ruts' and 'Misty' on the same bill again after all these years. Earlier in the day we were interviewed by a BBC film crew for an upcoming documentary on the festival - as always it was Dave and Segs that they really wanted to hear from but I managed a few words here and there. They also filmed a fair bit of our show - I wonder how much if any of it will make it into the finished programme? There were a few fraught moments here and there - I got locked out of our dressing room ten minutes before the show and only just made it to the stage in time having had to run up and down gawd knows how many flights of stairs to get the key and then get changed. Maybe this meant that I didn't have time to get nervous - either way our performance was, even though I say so myself, a stormer. We'd played well the night before but this one really took off, with the middle section of 'In A Rut' featuring the riff from 'Interstellar Overdrive', a cover of 'Suffragette City' (which began life as an impromptu run through at Monday's rehearsal and which then somehow made it onto the stage) and the final song 'Psychic Attack' provoking a near riot. In contrast last night's acoustic show in a very full bar (possibly dangerously so) took everything back to basics, with rarely performed songs from 'Music Must Destroy' rubbing shoulders with Ruts and Ruts D.C. classics and grown men being moved to tears on several occasions. And that was just on the stage.

This coming Saturday we're playing at the splendidly - named Zebedee's Yard in Hull with The Stranglers and Big Country - The Spiders From Mars were from there so maybe 'Suffragette City' will make it to the stage again. In the meantime there is much to reflect upon. I've always been somewhat over-romantic (some might say pretentious, and let's face it, they may well have a point!) about the power of music, how it brings people together, the emotions that it can evoke and how something as seemingly insignificant as a mere pop song can sometimes mean everything to the listener - well I've seen all of that and more proved time and time again over the past few days. I feel as though I've shook hundreds of hands and been in almost as many photographs with people who wanted to say how much they enjoyed the shows, what a song or songs means to them, even to ask how I get a particular guitar sound - we stopped at a service station a few minutes ago and a couple come over to say how much they liked the acoustic gig. You can't buy moments like that, even if you wanted to. Suddenly the road home feels more like the road back to the real world, whatever that is. It's an amazing feeling to be told that you make a difference (however small) to people's lives, maybe even that you contribute to making life a bit more bearable when it all gets too much. That's something to be proud of don't you think? Well, I think that it is. 

So - now what? More gigs, including some Irish shows with Stiff Little Fingers later this month. Oh, and we're talking about the next album. Of course we are. The road home goes on forever...

Tuesday 8th August, 7.52 pm 

Ah! The usual post - Rebellion ramblings that seem to say very little but that somehow say everything about the previous few days. I bet that I said almost the same thing last year, and the year before that, and the year before that...

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Blackpool beckons...

It's that time again... Ruts D.C. return to The Rebellion Festival this week - we're playing The Casbah on Saturday night, closing the Almost Acoustic stage on Sunday and will be absent with leave for a gig in Hebden Bridge on Friday night. I'll also be putting in a couple of stints on the Cadiz Music merchandise stall (and I suspect, behind our band's stall too!) as well as stumbling from venue to venue and indeed bar to bar for the rest of the festival so if you're going along I'll see you there. I'll also be attempting to update my Facebook page as regularly as possible so expect the usual blurry pictures and semi-incoherent rambling - a bit like this blog I guess. Which reminds me...

It was my birthday last Monday. Some people don't like birthdays but I'm rather fond of them... the day began with the journey home from Nottingham where the previous night we had given a spirited performance at the nearby Deerstock Festival amid scenes of muddy madness that wouldn't have been out of place at Glastonbury or indeed Woodstock. There was a hole in the roof right above my side of the stage - I know this because rainwater landed down the back of my shirt neck as I played the opening riff to 'No Time To Kill', which resulted in a, shall we say, less-than-accurate rendition. Let's hope that never makes it onto YouTube... back at the hotel the bar was closed but we had much of our rider to work our way through, although enough of it survived for Segs to hand me a paper cup full of Vodka and tonic at 11 o'clock the next morning. I wouldn't usually indulge that early in the day (honest!) but it would have been rude not too wouldn't it? At we neared Beaconsfield Services on the M40 someone (oh ok, me!) remembered that there was a pub on the site - The Hope And Champion serves White Riot pale ale and is highly recommended if you're not driving... details of the afternoon are at best sketchy, but in the evening I accompanied Big Al and Pete from the band to the jam night at The Three Wishes in Edgware - I'd not attended such an event for quite some time (I got somewhat disillusioned with many of the rather childish goings-on) but I don't mind admitting that I thoroughly enjoyed myself, although I'm not sure how or indeed why. As I say, I like birthdays... oh and The Upper Cut gig at The Dolphin in Uxbridge a few days earlier went well, which was something of a relief given that our recent performances have been a bit rough to say the least. All in all a very good weekend. I think.

Right - time to gather my things and go, as T.V. Smith once (almost) sang...



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Excuses excuses...

So there I was, minding my own business at RnR Studios in Uxbridge (The Upper Cut were rehearsing for this Friday's 'it's Leigh's birthday - in - a - day - or - so's - time' gig at The Dolphin) last night, when I ran into local noisy boys Vain Galen. I remember the lads from back in the early '90's when they were in bands like Need and Substance - after exchanging pleasantries and catching up on our respective band's accent to megastardom (well, something like that anyway!) Wayne the singer observed that I'd 'stopped writing' my blog and that he still checked it every day to see if I'd put anything new up. I mumbled a suitably pathetic excuse about 'not having much time these days' and attempted to change the subject as quickly as possible - but by the time I'd got home I'd realised that it had indeed been ages - ages! - since I'd so much as looked at my blog, let alone written anything here. And I'd said all those things in the last few postings about how I was going to make more of an effort, and to get back into writing regular postings... yeah, right. OK, so I have been busy working in Balcony Shirts as well as gigging with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks, Department S and more - but surely not so busy that I couldn't find time to write anything here for over six weeks. In my defence your honour I have been updating my Facebook page regularly but, well, that's not really the same is it? As my old English teacher used to put it - 'must try harder, C-'... so as I go back through all those very scribbly notes that I made during The Stranglers British tour and the German shows with Die Toten Hosen, I will once again say that I'm going to make much more of an effort to get some postings up here - after all The Rebellion Festival is on the horizon which is always a big event in my little calendar, and Ruts D.C. have plenty of shows coming up so there should be lots to write about. Well - there should be shouldn't there? In the meantime here's a photograph of some Ruts D.C. 'Kill The Pain' beer, courtesy of our fan and friend Mattais in Hamburg. And why not? It is my birthday on Monday after all. Cheers!


Friday, June 02, 2017

From Down Under to The Underworld

Much has happened since last we spoke...

Ruts D.C. played five shows in Germany - after an inauspicious start that involved what might politely be described as 'total chaos' at Gatwick Airport we arrived in Berlin to find that our baggage hadn't made it across and so played at SO36 using borrowed guitars (amazing work by all at Muttis in getting this all together) and even though I say so myself, played it rather well. Instruments arrived next morning along with my clothes and effects pedals although Segs's stuff was sadly still back in Blighty so after a bit of shopping on his behalf we carried on to Hannover and Hamburg before heading to Magdeburg and Flensburg for arena shows supporting Die Toten Hosen. These were every bit as extraordinary as we were hoping that they would be - as always the scribbly notes were made on the way round so more words on the subject will hopefully (possibly?!) appear here before too long, but in the meantime the band and indeed my Facebook pages were updated regularly so there's more of the story there if you're interested.

After arriving home on Wednesday afternoon it was straight back to basics for your humble narrator with a day in Balcony Shirts yesterday; I'll be with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks tonight at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth (we played in front of over 5,000 people on Tuesday night - I wonder how many will be there tonight?) before Ruts D.C. play The Camden Rocks Festival tomorrow night. We're on at The Underworld at 7.30 - that's a good spot isn't it?



And talking of good spots, we're supporting The Stranglers in Australia and New Zealand next February! Oh yes!



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shiny Happy People

If only my copy looked like this!
'God Save The Queen' by The Sex Pistols was released 40 years ago this week. I was 15 years old and, in that strange way that you want to be older when you're young, really wished that I was 16. I bought the single from the record shop (Crowley's?) in Windsor Street Uxbridge (which is now Nightfly Records, next to Balcony Shirts) more-or-less on the day that it was released, and since my Mum and Dad didn't want any of that punk rock lark in the house I had to smuggle it into my room when I got home. I also had to keep it secret from my little brother Terry who of course would have liked nothing better than to have outed me as an enemy sympathiser. This meant that I had to wait for the house to be empty before I dared to play it, which necessitated going home during my school lunch break. Listened to then (over and over again, sweaty from running, excited and nervous as I was half-expecting Mum, Dad and Terry to burst in with an eviction notice) it sounded like one of the greatest records - no, one of the greatest things - ever made; listened to now it sounds like, well, pretty much the same thing to me. It remains one of the great 'them and us' moments in music - it lost me some friends, gained me some more and in a weird sort of way helped to set the course for my little life. Can something as 'unimportant' as a pop record do that? This one could.

Ruts D.C. are off to Germany this coming weekend courtesy of our good friends at Muttis Booking Agency - we're playing shows in Berlin, Hannover (Hanover? Is that how you spell it?!) and Hamburg before supporting Die Toten Hosen in Magdeburg (The Price played there in 1990, our gig was attacked by right-wing skinheads - not good!) and Flensburg. We've been rehearsing today (and sounding rather good, even though I say so myself) and it's always great to play in Germany so hopefully these gigs will all live up to expectations - as with the Stranglers tour I'll be attempting to update my Facebook page as often as I can while we're there, and no doubt the usual tales of drunkenness and cruelty will appear here at some point in the not-too-distant future as I appear to have remembered how to write a blog piece. That's good isn't it? Now if you excuse me, it's time to play the Pistols album. Sometimes only the best will do - it's the only way to be, as someone once sang...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everybody Hurts

It has been a long time since I rock 'n' rolled... well maybe not rock 'n' rolled exactly, but it's been a month since I last wrote anything here. That is quite a long time isn't it?

After the 'my computer's at the menders for ages' saga sometime near the end of last year I mused in these hallowed pages as to whether I might have, for want of a better term, lost the blogging habit. I'm beginning to think that I just might have done just that although I guess that the fact that this posting exists rather contradicts that thought. I've kept my Facebook page updated, but that's 'easier' to do isn't it? Maybe I don't have very much to say for myself at the moment? Perhaps I'm busier than I used to be? It's probably a bit of both... or maybe it's the post-tour crash that I didn't think was going to happen? On the surface at least I didn't think that it had effected me too much - I felt much more obviously upset by the catastrophic Upper Cut performance referred to in the last posting for example - but maybe I was just delaying the inevitable.

It's been very busy in Balcony Shirts, to such an extent that I've just worked 7 days in a row and am likely to be in there for a fair bit of this week too. There's nothing that puts 19 shows with The Stranglers into perspective quite like this sort of conversation :- 

'So d'you print t-shirts in here then?' 
'Yes, yes we do - we're a t-shirt printing shop.' 
'So can you print me one then?' 
'Well we can have a go. What would you like on it?' 
'I dunno - what do you think?'

As you might well imagine at that moment I've got more than a few ideas as to what they should have written on their chest, but I've been known to say something like 'well I'd have a picture of The Who (or whoever - it literally makes no difference who...) from sometime in the 1960s (or whenever - it literally makes no difference when...) but I doubt that's the sort of thing you'd like'. After that anything can happen.

Ruts DC have played a couple of shows since last we spoke - our performance at The Grand in Clitheroe was thought by us to be below par although thankfully many were they who assured us that it wasn't (it's better that it's that way round don't you think?) while a boisterous gig at The Zikenstock Festival near Lille in France saw much stage diving (they like that sort of thing out there!) and general jollity all round. Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks have been out and about too - highlights include a show at The White Swan in St. Albans which was curtailed after only 2 songs of the second set to allow those present to watch the Joshua / Klitschko boxing World title fight, while last weekend's 40th birthday party gig had your humble narrator musing to himself as to whether or not there might be some nice-looking young ladies present, then realising with some amusement that considering 40 years old to be 'young' meant that he / I am now officially 'old'. And it that all wasn't weird enough I saw Bob Dylan at The Bournemouth International Centre in (you've guessed it!) Bournemouth - his Bobness rarely if ever does what might be expected of him, and a set where he either played grand piano (often standing up) or wielded a straight mic stand in the slightly-disturbing manner of a not-very-good Rod Stewart tribute act without touching a guitar once wasn't necessarily what I for one would have predicted. Add to that the fact that the set mostly consisted of jazz standards (I believe he's just released an album of them) like 'Autumn Leaves' and 'That Old Black Magic' with the odd Bob classic thrown in here and there (often radically re-arranged - many didn't seem to recognise 'Tangled Up In Blue' until the title line, and I don't think many got 'Blowin' In The Wind' until it was all but over, if at all) and you had a show that more than a few audience members were none too happy with. Me? I loved it. Of course I did - he's a contrary old bugger, but all the better for it in my not-so-humble opinion.

I wouldn't mind ending up like that. Maybe I have ended up like that? Oh well - more whining self pity and non-crises again another time. Maybe even sometime soon...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Losing My Religion

So - as the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour recedes into the dim and distant past it's back to 'real' life. But what is 'real' life exactly? Playing gigs with The Upper Cut and with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks? Working in Balcony Shirts? Looking forward to playing with Ruts DC this coming weekend and beyond? 
  
Well I guess it's all of these things and more. Some are more enjoyable than others (the gigs with Al and the boys have all been great, the solitary Upper Cut show sadly was not) but that's inevitable isn't it? The Neck gig supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington was something of a classic, and it's been busy in the shirt shop too. Oh and I went to see The Who give a great show in Birmingham, with PT on fine form and playing brilliantly (were they mini - humbuckers on his Stratocaster? Ooo!) throughout. Life - 'real' life - goes on. 

All well and good - but I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling a bit... er... lost. I suppose it was always going to be hard to come back from a tour like the last one and be able to slot straight back into things, and I will say that for the most part it's all been ok - but there's a nagging in my head. And it won't go away. 
I often get asked how I go from playing bigger shows to smaller pub gigs, often within a day or so of each other - I've realised over the years of doing it that they all basically amount to the same thing. There will be someone who attends a small gig with a covers band who enjoys themselves as much as people who go to the big shows and vice versa. A case in point - my first show back after the tour was at The Dolphin in Uxbridge with Al and the boys, and was a pleasure to play as was the Sunday afternoon appearance at The Horns in Watford a couple of days later. In between them was the afore-mentioned Neck show where we bought the proverbial house down. However as we all know you don't get something for nothing in life, and it must be said that all of this has made the near-catastrophic Upper Cut Dolphin show on Good Friday so hard for me to stomach - even though we play together relatively rarely these days we're usually a good tight band, but on this occasion (and despite having had a rehearsal on Tuesday evening) all of our collective ability appeared to desert us as we floundered our way through an excruciating show. I sat up much of the night pondering the band's future (my oh my it was a long day in the shop on Saturday!) and came to the extremely upsetting conclusion that we might not have one, which is a great shame. But nothing lasts forever does it? The next night's Buicks's gig at The Three Steps in Cowley went at least some way towards restoring my faith in my ability to play in a band (I'd seriously wondered about it around 4 am that day!) so maybe it'll all be alright in the end. Let's hope so anyway.

In the meantime Ruts DC are playing The Grand in Clitheroe as part of the Into The Valley festival this Saturday night. Oh there you go - I feel better just for typing that. It doesn't take much sometimes does it? Happy Easter y'all!

Yeah I know, it's all a bit garbled, too much whining self pity, non-crisis after non-crisis - but you should see what I've left out! Fear and self loathing in West London - back to 'real' life indeed...

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

'Whatever happened to..?'

So. That's that then.

Except of course, it's not. Not while any of us are lucky enough to have a memory anyway.

The Stranglers / Ruts D.C. tour was everything that I / we hoped that it would be i.e. a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. If I ever get time to decipher the barely - legible notes taken sporadically throughout the three-and-a-bit weeks of motion and music then a fuller version of the story will appear here but in the meantime I'll just say that it was definitely one of the best tours that I've ever been part of. Both bands played well every night, but as always that's only part of the story - The Stranglers were absolute gentlemen, their crew were fantastic, Bittersweet Catering provided some of the best food that I've ever been lucky enough to taste and I feel almost as though I've shaken the hands of every audience member at every show. Something like that anyway. Great stuff!

There are quite a few reviews of various shows appearing on blogs and beyond, Louder Than War and Retro Man among them - the Ruts D.C. Facebook page will no doubt have links to most if not all of them at some point in the not-too-distant future. There are plenty of YouTube clips too, although I wonder if 'Kill The Pain' from the Manchester show will ever appear - did Baz and JJ really invade our stage dressed as scantily - clad Victorian strongmen wielding inflatable dumbbells..?  

So - what now? Well Ruts D.C. return later this month but more about that then - in the meantime I've got gigs with both Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks and The Upper Cut as well as a guest appearance with my old mates Neck this Saturday supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington. It's also back to working in Balcony Shirts. Business as usual? Maybe. Until next time.