Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Back to life, back to reality...'

The Damned at The Corn Exchange in Cambridge, December 5th 2013
'Information is not knowledge, 
Knowledge is not wisdom, 
Wisdom is not truth, 
Truth is not beauty, 
Beauty is not love, 
Love is not music, 
Music is THE BEST'

                           - from 'Packard Goose' by Frank Zappa

So. How do I even begin to sum up the last 2 1/2 weeks in a few hundred words? I suppose that the short ideologically unsound answer is - I don't. there are so many magical moments that I will remember forever (and quite a few that sadly I won't - what on Earth did I say to that oh-so-beautiful girl in The Red Squirrel after our Edinburgh show?!?) but unfortunately I don't think that I have the writing skills to convey them here. Suffice to say that while I'm not going to say outright that it's the best musical adventure that I've ever been involved in, the fact that I've even considered saying it probably tells you all that you need to know. Still, let's see what comes out next...
Ooh look -
it's the size of a door!

Firstly, the shows. Without exception they were all very enjoyable from a playing point of view, and in some cases were absolutely extraordinary. Wolverhampton was a mid-tour highlight - there just something about that area, which has given us so much wonderful music over the years (Led Zeppelin, The Move, Slade, Black Sabbath, The Wonder Stuff, The Idle Race and many many more) that always seems to be conducive to a good show. We seemed to fly from the very first moments of the very first song (possibly fuelled by Ruts D.C. - branded Werther's Original - infused vodka that our good friends Annette and Phil presented us with before the show) and things just got better and better, with the last few songs seeing scenes of audience hysteria that wouldn't have been out of place in 'A Hard Day's Night'. Then again thinking about it pretty much the same thing happened the next night in Edinburgh (without the vodka, that had all gone by then!) and at quite a few other shows. Amazing.
And then there was The Roundhouse. My day began with a trip to Denmark Street to buy a replacement valve for my amplifier (one blew the previous night - I got through the show but felt like I was on tiptoes throughout, if you know what I mean) and ended with my dad meeting Dave Vanian. Strange days indeed. In the meantime we played one of the best shows that I can ever remember being part of - and then the next night in Manchester was if anything even better. And did we really finish the last show of the tour in Northampton by both bands together playing 'Merry Christmas Everybody'? Yes, incredibly, we did. Me playing guitar with The Damned? Who'd have thought it eh?

The Damned crew -
a fine body of men,
with very strange hands.

And talking of The Damned - what an absolutely amazing band. I've always been a fan (except perhaps for their mid-'80s non-Captain Sensible phase where it all got a bit too Goth for my not-particularly Goth tastes) and these shows have reminded me just how great they really are. Yes they had a shaky start in Bristol (in-ear monitor problems I'm told) but they rarely if ever slipped up for the rest of the tour. Dave Vanian remains The Prince Of Darkness, one of the great frontmen of the punk or indeed any other era; Captain Sensible is a woefully underrated musician and songwriter who kept up a consistently high standard of playing ever night, and with Monty, Stu and Pinch matching them every step of the way I've come away from this tour with even more respect for them as players and people than I started it with - and that's saying something. And their crew (from left to right in the accompanying photo)guitar tech Jon, sound man Martin, lighting wizard Todd and drum tech Alex, not forgetting Chris the tour manager - are some of the friendliest, most helpful people that I've ever encountered in the wild 'n' wacky world of rock 'n' roll. They're good to drink with too...
This is Jed.
Be afraid -
be VERY afraid...

...which brings me on to the audiences. I've shaken so many hands, heard so many tales, been in so many photographs (I never ever thought that people would want to have their picture taken with me - amazing!) and shared so many laughs that I'm really not sure how to make sense of it all. Maybe I should stop trying to find some sort of higher meaning to it all (I'm really not sure that I am, but you know hopelessly emotional I get about this stuff!) and just say again what I said earlier - that this tour has given me so many magical moments, whether it's the looks that I saw on people's faces as I looked out from the stage, speaking to fans from behind the merchandise stall (and at this point I must say a very big thank you to Jed, the high priestess of The Damned's merchandising, for all her help - if I don't she'll probably wallop me! - and to Mayumi who does the good Captain's merch) or having many-a drink with people in the venue bar or a local hostelry. I guess I'll always be a fan at heart, and so will never tire of hearing people's stories of when the first heard the band on The John Peel Show, or when they saw them first time around with Malcolm and Paul, right through to their thoughts on what the band is doing now. I've always said that I'm very lucky to be able to play music of any kind, and I'll keep saying it for as long as I'm able to say anything at all.

So what next for Ruts D.C.? Well we've got some German shows coming up in February, and before that there are new songs to work on. Excellent. And for me - my next gig is with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks this coming Saturday at The Three Mariners in Bagshot, and I'm really looking forward to it. No, really, I am. It may not be playing in front of thousands of people at The Roundhouse, but there will be people there who want to be entertained, and we will be doing our best to send them all home happy. And I want to go home happy myself, and hopefully I will - because music is good. Oh yes my friends, music is good.

And in case you thought that I made it up, here is 'Merry Christmas Everybody' from the Northampton show - that's me on guitar on the very far left. Enjoy!

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