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 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.

Friday, March 03, 2017

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' is released today!

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' comes out today on Westworld / Sosumi Records - it's certainly one of my favourite songs on 'Music Must Destroy' (incidentally Pete Sargeant has just published a splendid review of the album on Just Listen To This which you can read here - thanks Pete!) so I for one am well pleased that it's out in it's own right. And after what seems like an age of anticipation our tour with The Stranglers finally kicks off in Lincoln next Tuesday; it then winds it's way up and down England, Scotland and Wales (no Ireland sadly, but more about that in a minute) before finishing in Manchester on (gulp!) April 1st. It promises to be an absolute classic, and if you're coming along to a show then do please say hello. Blogging opportunities are likely to be few and far between but I will be attempting to update my Facebook page on a regular if not daily basis so if you're interested in following how it's all going that's the place to be.

And if you are interested in following how it's all going then you can find my Facebook page here. See you in Cyberspace!

As I say it's a great shame that we're not going to get over to Ireland this time - but we are playing with Stiff Little Fingers in Dublin on Friday 25th August before a very special show in Belfast the next night with SLF, The Stranglers and The Outcasts with Terri Hooley DJ-ing. Crikey! Did I really just type that? Yes, incredibly, I did. Hurrah! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Love Sculpture

As the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour grows ever nearer I seem to be spending rather a lot of my time changing strings, checking leads, working out how many stage clothes I need (where the hell am I going to keep my hats?!?) and of course making sure that I've got enough t-shirts, underpants and socks for our jaunt. It's all glamour this rock 'n' roll lark I can tell you... meanwhile the always - well - worth - reading Aural Sculptors blog has just published an interview with, of all people, me. Hilarious - I never for one minute thought that anyone would ever want to interview me. Me! You can find out what I think about, ooh, all sorts of things - it's even got a picture of me with hairMe me me it's all about me! You can have a read of it here if you like, and there are also some downloadable live recordings of a Price gig from way back in the 1980s and a show T.V. Smith and myself played at The 12 Bar Club in 2012 (get them here and here - go on, you know you want to!) for your (ahem!) listening pleasure. Great stuff - thanks Adrian!

Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played three shows last weekend, at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale, The Dashwood Arms near High Wycombe and The Riverside Club in Staines. The latter was notable for the fact that Al all but lost his voice in the first set which involved some fairly drastic rethinking of the set list although it all went well in the end. It was also notable for featuring the great John Sorrell AKA Johnny Squirrel on bass guitar as Dave was gigging elsewhere - it's always great to see Squirrel, and his playing was effortlessly excellent as ever. 

This week The Upper Cut return to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook on Sunday, which in hindsight I perhaps should have turned down as it's getting very close to tour - time. Ah well, I'm sure it'll all be ok - after all, you can only spend so much time counting t-shirts, underpants and socks...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

'I wanted to look like one of The Flamin' Groovies...'

The new Ruts DC single 'Kill The Pain' comes out on Westworld Records on March 3rd just in time for our tour with The Stranglers - it's from our album 'Music Must Destroy' and features Jake Burns and Kirk Brandon on backing vocals. You can see the Graham Trott - directed promo video on YouTube by clicking here - excellent!

In the meantime I am once again currently in the grip of the dreaded ManFlu. Bah! I seem to have had it rather a lot lately, or it certainly feels as though I have - maybe I've not got rid of it properly, if you know what I mean. It's certainly getting a bit boring... since last we spoke I've cheered up a (little) bit - there have been gigs with The Upper Cut in Reading and with Big Al and the boys in St Albans, Burnham and Colnbrook, all of which passed without too much incident; I'm out and about with Al and co. this weekend although if I feel like I do now I fear that I won't be going anywhere. Time for some paracetamol and an early night - give me something to kill the pain, as someone once sang...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Magic And Loss

Some of these blog pieces more-or-less write themselves, some take a bit of coaxing and some take a lot of work. A lot of work, as in a 'why am I doing this to myself?' - style lot of work. This one is quite hard to write because of the subject matter, which is strange as there should be a lot of positive things to say about friendship, kindred spirits, feeling part of a team... they're all good things, but you don't get something for nothing do you?

I was on my way home on Thursday night when my phone made the slightly annoying car horn - type noise that it makes when I receive a text message. I should change the sound, but I never seem to get around to it. Or something. Anyway I took the phone out of my pocket and read the message. Then I read the message again. And again. It was telling me that Tom Edwards had died. But he can't have. He's only young. And he's Tom, he can't have... 
I first meet Tom a couple of years of years ago, but he's one of those people that it's hard to remember a time that you didn't know them, if you know what I mean. I played the 'I Need A Dodge' gig at Koko with him in 2015, went to the Marshall factory with him, saw him play with Adam Ant, played the riff to 'Day Tripper' on his guitar in Abbey Road Studios... I still don't really know what to say about it all, other than that he was a fabulous musician and a lovely man. I'll miss him - and I know that I won't be the only one.

Harlow is perhaps not the most obvious place to provoke any real emotion, or so you might have thought - but if you'd have been there on Saturday night then you'd have known that 'emotion' was most definitely on the agenda, as after several false alarms The Square finally closed it's doors for the very last time. I first played there with The Price in 1986, and just over 30 years later I played three songs at the last ever gig there. But what a last ever gig it was my friends... 
First band on The Orphans feature Oliver son-of-Simon-from-The-Newtown-Neurotics Lomond on guitar (to be pedantic, on my guitar for most of their set as he broke a string on his) and roared through a breathless half hour set (guitar, drums and vocals - not a bass guitar in sight!) to the approval of the rapidly arriving audience. After saying a quick hello to Steve Lamacq - if I remember rightly he was involved in getting The Price our first gig at the venue - in the downstairs bar it was back upstairs to catch local heroes The Newtown Neurotics who bought the proverbial house down. To be fair they were on safe hometown ground but their excellent performance didn't rest on any laurels, with frontman / songwriter Steve Drewett in fine form throughout. And what can I say about Eddie And The Hot Rods that I haven't already said in these hallowed pages? They've always been one of my favourite bands, and this show was as good as any I have ever seen them play. But it was different, very different - from my point of view at least.
Back in December I went to see The John Otway Big Band at The Borderline; I'd have gone along anyway as they're always well worth seeing but I went up to meet Hot Rods guitar hero Richard Holgarth (who also plays for Otway and was the sound man at The Square when The Price used to play there) to discuss the possible purchase of a Gibson SG guitar that he was considering selling. During the evening the subject of the Square's imminent closure came up, and he invited me up to the gig. At some point I said something like 'I'd love to play at that' - at which point he suggested that I play with Eddie And The Hot Rods. I thought about his offer for, ooh, two or three milliseconds before saying yes...
As I fought my way through the sold out crowd towards the stage I reflected on the situation - no rehearsal, not even a run through at the soundcheck, although I did have a chance to try my guitar through the amplifier that I was borrowing for the occasion. We only decided which songs I was going to play with them in the pub opposite around 3 hours ago. I eventually got to the stage as Hot Rods singer Barrie introduced me  - I never thought that would ever happen I can tell you - and I picked up my guitar. 'Are you ok?' said Richard cheerily as I tried a couple of chords - yes I was ok, and I was even more ok when 'Hard Driving Man' started. And there I was, little old me playing with Eddie and his Hot Rods. If you'd have told me that I was going to do that 40 years ago... 'Gloria' was next before we were joined by Jim Jones (he was DJ-ing after the gig) for 'Born To Be Wild' - and all too soon it was over. The gig, my time in The Hot Rods, one of the great independent venues, everything. There were more than a few tears, with more than a few of them coming from me. It had  been a lousy few days. You don't know what you've got until it's gone do you?

Oh and in case you're wondering, I bought the SG. Of course I did. Well, something good had to come out of it all didn't it?    

Yeah I know this isn't very well written and is all a bit garbled - as I say, sometimes this is quite hard to write... sad times...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'At The Hop', A Step In The Right Direction', 'Toe The Line' etc etc

Saturday 21st January at midday, in seat 9F on Eurowings flight 4U9467 at Heathrow Airport awaiting take off 

Well. Here we are again. Indeed here we go again, this time to Dortmund via Dusseldorf Airport for a Ruts DC show at The Ruhrpott Ska Explosion Festival. No, I'm not too sure what we're doing at a ska festival either.
It seems strange to think of flying to gigs as 'routine' - which is why I don't think of it as that or anything like it. There's still something exciting about it, even though I've done it a fair few times over the years. I really must grow up one day - then again I've got this far, so maybe not? 
I broke a toe this week. Silly me. Then again I didn't do it deliberately... I guess that at this point there should be some crazy rock 'n' roll story attached to the incident ('there I was in a New York hotel having a drink with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood when Iggy Pop suggested that I swung from one of the chandeliers. I wouldn't have normally but gripped by the spirit of Keith Moon I though that I'd give it a go...') but no - I somehow caught my foot on a table leg in the front room. Gawd knows how - serves me right for not wearing shoes or indeed (gulp!) slippers eh? It hurt a lot when I did it on Thursday but it hurts a bit less now - then again I have taken some industrial strength Ibuprofen, as advised by the chemist that I hopped in to see not long after the frankly ridiculous table leg / toe equation took place. They also advised me to tape it to an adjacent toe (it's the one next to my little toe on my left foot) and to 'take it easy for a week or so'... as I limped my way towards gate A24 30-odd minutes ago I reflected upon how much we all take 'normality', or whatever 'normality' is in our world, for granted. Without wishing to tempt fate I, like most of us, am lucky enough to be reasonably healthy most of the time - and yet we all moan about the most trivial of things don't we? Well, we do don't we? 
I suppose that last night was a chance to 'take it easy' - so I of course went out to see a Led Zeppelin tribute band at Tropic At RuislipLed Zeppelin are revered both as a band and as individuals for a reason, and Hats Off To Led Zeppelin made a very good job of what is some notoriously difficult material - their two set show saw a good selection from the catalogue (finishing the main set with 'Wearing And Tearing' really was a moment for the diehards!) with the obvious classics getting the biggest audience reaction. A good night all round - I'd not been to the club for a while and it was splendid to see it continuing to thrive in these difficult times. 

Right - it looks as though it's take off time so I'm going to try to have a snooze. It's bloomin' tiring having a broken toe. Maybe I should have had a quiet night after all?

Sunday 22nd January at 2.25 pm, in seat 12D on Eurowings flight EW1466 at Dusseldorf Airport awaiting take off

Strange. Very Strange. Well, I think that it is. 
While I'm away doing these crazy jaunts around the rock 'n' roll world I usually take an iPod with me, along with a little battery operated device to play it through; this means that if I get my own room I can use it to play whatever peculiar song has somehow found it's way into my warped mind while I'm attempting to get some sleep. 

('But Leigh' - I hear you cry - 'what of the women? The drink? The drugs? The wilful destruction of hotel rooms? Whatever happened to the spirit of Keith Moon from earlier?' Good question...) 

Anyway last night - oh ok then, very early this morning - I thought I'd play a bit of, wait for it, Eddie and The Hot Rods. Oh it won't work. Flat battery. Very annoying, and strange since I charged it up yesterday. And for some reason it won't charge up now. Bugger!
That's the strange bit, but not the very strange bit. That's coming in a minute.
So I played a song or two on my phone before eventually getting tired enough to get to sleep. Good. After a while I woke up and, since it was dark I attempted to switch my phone on to check the time, like we all do these days. Well, we do don't we? It didn't work. Turn the bedside light on. Try again. Nothing.The battery was as dead as the proverbial dodo. But it was over 70% charged when I went to sleep. Weird. I was of course immediately wide awake, gripped with terror with the hideous realisation that there was obviously an enormous magnetic field (or something) in the hotel that was causing every battery in the building to go flat and so no one's alarm would go off and we'd all be there forever. Or something. A very strange moment- well that's how it felt at the time.

We'd arrived a Dortmund Airport after a pleasingly uneventful flight, and were met by Tony who drove us (at quite a speed, it must be said) to the venue where preparations for the evening were well under way. After checking the drums and amps we were all set to go to our hotel, but with our stage time less than two hours away we decided to stay at the venue. This proved to be a good move as it gave us chance to get something to eat and drink as well as to meet the other bands on the bill. 
Showtime was 7.15 - with things already running late (an unusual situation at events such as this) there was an unwelcome urgency in setting up which caused the odd fraught moment but we go there in the end.
Remember my broken toe? I'd almost forgotten about it too until a few songs into our show when I bought my foot down onto the stage just a little bit too hard - In a split second a heavy metal bolt of pain shot up my leg and out through the top of my head. I remembered it then. Absolute agony. The resulting, er, jazz chord hadn't appeared in 'Vox Teardrop' before, and I for one hope that it doesn't appear again - although a similar one turned up later in 'Psychic Attack' for the same reason. Argh! If you see these performances on YouTube then please cut me a little slack... having collectively wondered what on Earth we were doing at a ska festival we all reached the conclusion 'doing rather well' by the end of our set. A great gig, and it must be said a great evening all round. All the bands played well although I must give a special mention to The Valkarians who were simply brilliant. By the time headliner Roy Ellis hit the stage we were all flagging a bit (well I certainly was!) so we headed for our hotel during his set, but we all agreed that it had been a splendid event to be part of. 
With no more Ruts DC shows for a month or so it's now time to prepare for the Stranglers tour in March which should, to coin a phrase, be something to write home about - which if you think about it, is exactly what I'm likely to do here...    

Tuesday 24th January at 4.27 pm, back in Blighty and at home 

So there you have it - some great gigs and some (hopefully) interesting times. I thought that it might be fun to structure successive posts in a similar manner. There has been minimal editing - they really were written in the places and at the listed times, and this is reflected in the writing, which is sometimes scrappy but often oddly revealing. All good stuff!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ireland life, Ireland live

Friday 13th January at 10.10 am, in seat 22c on Aer Lingus flight E1233 not long after take off from Gatwick Airport

I don't think that I've been in a plane that's taken off through snow before. Hmm... no, I'd remember wouldn't I? It was a good deal bumpier than I would have liked, but we're up in blue skies now thank gawd.
I really liked this poster!

Neither The Ruts or Ruts DC ever played in Ireland back in the day so tonight's show at The Voodoo Lounge in Dublin is definitely something of an event. Well, it certainly is for me - I first went to Dublin in 2001 with Neck and have played there a fair few times since then although not for quite a while so it'll be good to play there tonight.
Since last we spoke there have been no gigs for your humble narrator, although since I've not been feeling 100% fit lately that for once hasn't been a particularly bad thing. That said I have been to see a few bands - I kinda think that if you're not out playing then it's good to be out watching some one who is, if only to support the venue that putting live music on. Does that sound self-righteous? It's not supposed to, although maybe it does, or indeed is... anyway The Bluerays played at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth last Friday, and very good they were too - with Chris Hunt on drums the band offered up a good selection of cover songs (some obvious, some not-so-straightforward) to the appreciation of the good-sized audience. And it was great to catch up with Chris and to see him behind the kit, I've played here and there with him over the years and he's always excellent.
The now-annual Resolution Festival has been happening at The 100 Club - I've been to less shows than I'd have liked this year but was very pleased to catch a blistering performance by T.V. Smith and The Bored Teenagers on Sunday (sadly a tube strike meant that there were less punters than predicted but 'twas nevertheless a fabulous show) and an excellent show by The Sex Pistols Experience on Tuesday. 
In the meantime Britain is falling apart due to cold temperatures and the afore-mentioned snow - isn't this sort of thing supposed to happen in winter? Ah well - at least we're good at falling apart... anyway it was an early start so it's time to attempt a snooze...

Saturday 14th January at 1.15 pm on the road between Dublin and Belfast

Did you see what I did there? 'On The Road'. I always wanted to say or indeed write that, I sound just like Jack Kerouac don't I? Either that or I sound like a sad and lonely middle-aged man desperately trying to make his life sound more interesting and indeed romantic than it actually is. 
Well it's difficult to think how last night's gig could have gone any better than it did, although when we abandoned our soundcheck as none of us could hear what any of us was playing in didn't necessarily look as though a good night was in prospect. 'Don't worry' said Bob our soundman, 'it'll sound fine when there's a few people in here'. I've heard that a few ti...

4.00 pm in Room 315 at The Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast which point my pen ran out. Bugger!

As I was saying - the 'it'll sound fine when...' clause gets used by soundmen the World over with varying degrees of success, either because nobody turns up to watch the gig or because loads of people turn up and it still sounds awful. Happily this time Bob was proved to be correct as the place was pretty much full when we went on and the sound did indeed dramatically improve. It's good when that happens... with an audience that could politely be described as 'enthusiastic' the show went from good to great in no time at all - as our new friend John put it after the show, '2017 started here tonight'. Support came from local heroes Paranoid Visions who were probably the best that I've ever seen them which made it a cracking night all round. Hopefully we're in for another good one tonight - promoter Seamie used to play drums in The Bankrobbers who I remember seeing way back in 1981 supporting, of all people, Ruts DC. And if that's not a good omen then I don't know what is!

Sunday 15th January at 9.42 am in the same hotel room

Ooo my 'ead 'urts. Still I've only got myself to blame. As always. Well, that and the drinking

Breakfast I think...

4.14 pm in seat 18C on Flight EZY844 not long after take off from Belfast Airport 

Worrying. Very worrying. Well I think that it is. Well, it is isn't it? How much better an alcoholic drink makes you feel sometimes, especially when you've had rather a lot of them the night before. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that here. Maybe I shouldn't be saying it at all. Ah well - I just have. 
It was a long, long night, but a good one. If I'm honest (and I always try to be - don't you?) I'd have to say that we might have played a bit better the night before but not by much, although the sound seemed to be a bit better in Dublin (which is rather ironic if you think about it given how our soundcheck had gone) which resulted in me missing a couple of cues and accents in songs. Excuses excuses... maybe I'm being a bit over-critical as the audience loved it but you have to keep standards up don't you? Well, I think that you do. The Black Box Theatre seems to put on a lot of very diverse entertainment, and it's great to see such a good venue doing so well - and it was great to see my old mate John Ford who now lives nearby, and I must mention that Stop Stop Start Again provided splendid support too. Another roaringly good evening or indeed weekend - and there's another in prospect next week when we play The Ruhrpott Ska Explosion Festival in Dortmund. Excellent. 
Time for another snooze...

Tuesday 17th January at 2.37 pm, back in Blighty and at home

Somehow - and I for one am not sure how, given how knackered I was - I went to see The Lurkers playing the last night of The Resolution Festival on the way home from the airport. Strange but true. And if you're interested both the Stop Stop Start Again and Ruts D.C. shows are now on YouTube and can be seen here by clicking on the band names in this sentence. See what you think!