Monday, December 31, 2007

That was the year that was

This has been my first full year of blogging- I started in August 2006- so I thought it might be fun to do a mini-revue of the last 12 months, like they do in the papers and on the telly. So...

Best albums-
'Magic'- Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band
'02/01/1978'- Kris Dollimore
'Soundtrack To The Daily Grind'- Graham Day and The Gaolers
'Yours Truly, Angry Mob'- The Kaiser Chiefs

The Boss back with the band and on great form- 'Radio Nowhere' is probably my favourite song of 2007, and I'm told the instantly sold-out London shows were as euphoric as ever. Kris Dollimore's album was/is a revelation- always a great player, his re-invention as a bluesman made for a very pleasant surprise. Graham Day continues to do what he's always done- write and perform great songs to little or no acclaim from the mainstream music world, while The Kaiser Chiefs are about the only 'current' band to catch my ear at the moment.

Best DVDs-
'Amazing Journey'- The Who
'It's Alive!'- The Ramones
'Live at Monterey'- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
'Crossroads Festival 2007'- Eric Clapton & Co.

The Who documentary was a bit of a missed opportunity in some ways but is still worth it for the priceless live footage, much of it previously unseen. 'It's Alive!' presents one of the best live bands ever on variously sized stages throughout the world whilst the 40 year old Hendrix set continues to resonate through the electric guitar world like it only happened yesterday. The Crossroads collection has Eric and his mates on fine form with every act giving a great performance without it all turning into a mass ego-fest (well, not too often anyway!)

Best gigs-
The Sex Pistols- Brixton Academy
Iggy and The Stooges- Royal Festival Hall
The Who- Birmingham/London
Jeff Beck- Ronnie Scott's

The Pistols stuck 4 sets of 2 fingers up to the world in general and the journalistic profession in particular with performances that were both funny and frightening in their intensity and power whilst The Stooges continued their renaissance with a vengeance with an absolutely astounding show. The Who amazed all and sundry with the energy and power of their shows on the last tour, and speaking personally Pete Townshend is still the most inspiring player that I've ever seen or heard. Jeff Beck's performance was that of a master musician at the very peak of his powers- truly awesome stuff.

Worst band/gig-
The Ronnie Scott's All-Stars- you've guessed where they play haven't you?!?

This loftily-named bunch opened for Jeff Beck- the politest thing I can say about them is to quote my mate Danny who turned to me halfway through their performance and said 'I didn't know Ronnie Scott's was part of Bourne Leisure'. After starting with a couple of keyboard, bass and drums instrumentals (actually quite enjoyable in comparison to the absurdity that was to follow) they were joined on stage by a grinning buffoon of a sax player and a would-be rock god guitarist and proceeded to play an appalling set of end-of-the-pier nonsense that was so pathetically bad that it almost defies any sort of logical analysis. How these cretins have the brassneck to do what they did in public is beyond me. Death is too good for them- torture them as much as they tortured us, the poor audience who, upon realising that they were going to go on again after Jeff Beck, created a potentially life-threatening stampede towards the exit. The only reason that I can come up with for their existence is to make the main act look good- hardly necessary in Beck's case, or I suspect any of the other acts unfortunate enough to be on the same bill as them. Absolutely dreadful on every level and an embarrassment to the venue and all concerned with it, I hope I'm never in a room with any of them, singly or collectively, ever again- although I'm sure they're all self-important enough to not care about my opinion or indeed anybody who's unfortunate enough to be subjected to their antics. If it wasn't for the fact that we had to stay to keep our seats we'd have gone elsewhere until Mr. Beck came on, meaning that we were effectively imprisoned in their hideous little world until such time as they saw fit to set us free- a Nightmare on Frith Street indeed. If you're going to Ronnie Scott's and you see that they're on the bill PLEASE get there after they've finished, or if like us you have to arrive early to get a good seat then take some earplugs and a book. You have been warned...

Best re-issue-
'The Joshua Tree'- U2

I don't know about you but I often forget just how good U2 can be when they're on form. This excellent 2CD & DVD package goes a long way towards explaining how they went from being the band that made 'Boy' (still one of their best methinks) to being the band that are, as Bruce Springsteen brilliantly put it, the last band that we'll know all the members names in. The original album sounds as great as ever and the CD of b-sides and outtakes contains more than a few songs that would have been standout tracks on most people's best albums. The DVD of live and documentary footage show the band embracing stadium-straddling super-stardom with almost nonchalant ease.

My best gigs (!)
The Price- Glastonwick Festival, Southwick/The Duke of Wellington, Shoreham
The Chicago Blues Brothers- Theatre Royal, Windsor
Re:View- Beck Theatre, Hayes

Yes, I know it's self-indulgent to look at your own favourite performances- but it's self-indulgent doing this blogging lark at the best of times so why should this be any different?!? The Price shows were for me 2 of the most enjoyable the band has ever played (incidentally I'm referring to the July show in Shoreham not the one in December...) with Andy coming into his own on bass- he said to me after the D of W gig that it was the first time that he 'hadn't felt like Ronnie Wood'- and Paul's drumming continuing to astound. Malcolm and myself keep talking about new songs- time we got on with it methinks... The Windsor CBB show was one of 'those' nights where everything seemed to go right for us; we'd played in Switzerland 2 days earlier which had been a great show but this one surpassed even that. The people at the venue must have agreed- we've been booked for the whole of Easter week next year! The 'Re:View' show is something I'm very proud to have been a part of, a genuine one-off performance of incredible diversity and, I suspect, the only time I'll perform a Queen song alongside a dance troop...

The 'Did that really happen?' moment-
The Ruts'n'Rollins rehearsal

Well, it couldn't really be anything else could it? I still find it hard to believe that I ended up in a rehearsal room with Dave Ruffy and Segs from The Ruts and Henry Rollins of Black Flag (I saw both bands!) playing Ruts songs. But I did it. In many ways of course it's a shame that it happened at all- if Paul Fox had have been stronger he'd have been there himself- but if you'd have told me 25 years ago that I'd have ended up doing what I did then I'd probably have laughed my head off. Actually if you'd have said it practically any time before it actually happened then I'd have found it hard to keep a straight face... and to go on to stand in for Paul at 2 gigs in August was an extraordinary experience; in my last conversation with him he thanked me warmly for doing them which still means a lot to me. The obituaries that followed his passing show the respect that he and The Ruts still command from fans and fellow musicians alike- as no lesser figure than Captain Sensible put it, 'he was a lovely, really gentle bloke and a magnificent musician. If kids today ask me about playing music I say, go and listen to The Ruts.' I couldn't have put it better myself.

So- that was the year that was 2007.
I'll see you for some more in 2008- happy new year y'all...

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