Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases...'

And so this is Christmas. Well, it was a few days ago - I spent much of it asleep thanks to re-occurring I-thought-I'd-shaken-it-off-by-now manflu, which I'm still trying to get rid of now. It's getting a bit... boring... still I've managed to keep gigging through the holiday (yes I know, that's probably why I'm still ill!) starting with a Christmas Eve show at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. I spent the morning at Balcony Shirts before joining the rest of the team in The Queen's Head a few doors down from the shop - I think I said the words 'oh alright, just one more but then I really will have to go' a couple of times more than perhaps was wise, but after a visit to a chip shop on the way home I was ready to rock. With keyboard wizard Chris away for Christmas it was down to Pete and myself to make up for his absence on two guitars - even though I say so myself we did a pretty good job, although from the studied indifference shown to our first set by the audience you wouldn't necessarily have known. Things picked up a bit in the second set with a fair amount of dancing and merriment although I'm sure that they'd all forgotten that we'd played a few minutes after we'd finished. A fairly typical Christmas Eve gig then! 

After a somewhat lost day on the 25th (as I say, I spent much of it asleep) it was time for The Upper Cut to play The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Boxing Day. We've played this date for the last few years at this splendid pub - easily one of the best in the area - and it's always a good gig; this one was no exception although the fact that I wasn't feeling too good made it something of an uphill struggle from my point of view, which was a shame since I'd been looking forward to the show. I also had to replace a valve in my amplifier - I must remember to buy some more after the holidays. Still it was a good gig and the band played well, so no complaints there.

The next night Pete and myself journeyed over to The Acre in Windsor to see Upper Cut drummer Roger playing in The Lee Ryder Blues Band. I've depped with them a few times but it had been ages since I'd seen them play, so the chance to see them with their regular guitarist Dzal Martin was too good to miss. I first saw Dzal in No Dice back in the late '70s (supporting Eddie And The Hot Rods and The Tom Robinson Band if I remember correctly) and it was excellent to see him playing at close quarters. All the band are great musicians, and while some might find there to be a few too many solos I for one think that with players of this standard it's a pleasure to hear them play. A good gig.

And it should be a good gig tomorrow night, when The London Sewage Company play The 12 Bar Club. I just wish that I felt a bit better... time for more paracetamol and another early night then...

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Oh Lordy, Oh Lordy...'

So - there is still little or no time to do anything but play the guitar (not all bad news then!) or help attempt to stem the Christmas tide in Balcony Shirts, and now I've managed to develop that most hideous of conditions - yes, I've got (gulp!) ManFlu. Oh gawd! I felt a bit rough last week but vast application of paracetamol coupled with what passes for a couple of early nights in my warped world seemed to have kept it at bay - but this morning I woke up feeling as though I'd done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime. Bugger! Oh well - time for more paracetamol and another early night then... maybe yesterday afternoon's Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back? It was certainly a good show and it was great to see the lads again, but I was out on my feet by the end of it. And I feel worse now. Bah! And if that wasn't bad enough, I didn't get to see The Who - mind you, no one did!

In the meantime it was a great gig with T.V. Smith at The 12 Bar Club last Friday - with Goldblade, Eastfield, The Anabollic Steroids and Viva Las Vegas also on the bill it was definitely a good value evening, which began with a four song set from Sarah Pink (covers of 'John, I'm Only Dancing' and 'Teenage Kicks' alongside two of her own songs) before I walked down Oxford Street to catch a bit of the Human Punk night at The 100 Club. As I got there I bumped in to co-promoter John King just as The Pukes began their set - they're always good fun and this show was no exception, after which Andy the D.J. played 'The Price You Pay' by The Price. Weird! As Infa Riot began their second number it was time for me to return to my own gig - walking across the club I couldn't help but notice that someone had collapsed in front of the merchandise stall, I told the security men on my way out but the didn't seem to be overly concerned so let's hope the chap was ok.
Back at The 12 Bar Club Eastfield were roaring through their splendid set, followed by a typically upfront Goldblade gig with John Robb giving it everything as usual and the packed audience loving every minute of it. Meanwhile T.V. and myself met at the bar to discuss tactics - I was using an electric guitar for the first time and don't mind admitting that I was feeling a bit nervous, but as always the sheer quality of T.V.'s songs meant that the gig went well, to such an extent that we're seriously considering repeating the T.V.-on-acoustic / Leigh-on-electric again at the earliest opportunity. Great stuff! There was time to catch a few songs from Viva Las Vegas before clubbing together for a cab home - after all, there was a long Saturday in prospect...

As the Ruts D.C. bus pulled up outside The Fleece in Bristol I realised that I'd managed to doze off for a while at least. It's a great venue and Ziggy and Jon of Death Or Glory Promotions work tirelessly to put on gigs all the year round. We had a few monitor problems in our soundcheck but as always Bob got us a great sound, and while support band Criminal Mind warmed up the rapidly arriving crowd the scene was set for a memorable performance. As we began with 'Whatever We Do' it was clear that the crowd were on our side, and by the time we got to the rarely-played 'Dope For Guns' things were really taking off. Despite a couple of plastic glasses being thrown the atmosphere remained good throughout, with plenty of banter and each song getting more and more of a reaction. We ended to deafening applause, and our encore of 'Something That I Said', 'H-Eyes' and 'Society' finished a truly brilliant gig. As I walk of stage a chap stops me to say that he'd cried during 'Babylon's Burning', another said that it was the best gig that he'd ever seen - all the money in the World can't buy you moments like that. 
Afterwards there's time for a few drinks before heading off to our hotel - we hope to visit the bar for one last end-of-tour drink but sadly it's closed. Oh well, you can't have everything can you? - after all, as John Cooper Clarke once brilliantly asked, where would you put it?  

Monday, December 15, 2014

'We should be on by now...'

Another busy, busy, BUSY few days - I'm not going to complain (for once!) but I am going to play the 'not much time for blogging' card. As previously mentioned January is looking rather quiet at the moment so maybe I'll catch up with all my scribbly notes then? In the meantime here's a brief summary of the last few days...

Ruts D.C. played two shows at the end of last week, at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes on Thursday and The Waterfront in Norwich the following night. The first show was good but was somewhat hard work - things got off to an odd start when the first thing we saw at the venue was a poster for the gig with a band photo from 1981 featuring Paul Fox. Perhaps this put us on edge a bit - either way we felt that the show wasn't as good as we'd have liked it to be. Friday's show on the other hand was one of the best of the current run of gigs, with everything falling into place and the audience with us from the first few notes to the last encore of 'H-Eyes'. And it was great to see Steve Ignorant who we played with in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. This Saturday it's our last show of the year, at The Fleece in Bristol - it should be a good one!

On Saturday night I depped with Department S, supporting The Members at The 229 Club near Great Portland Street station. I'd not been to the venue before - we were in the smaller room while the The Beat playing in the bigger auditorium. We'd had a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, and in the meantime I'd been working on their material on my own - our 50+ minute show was well-received by all concerned, including ourselves. It's a good band with excellent songs - what's not to like, as the youngsters (apparently) say? The Members were joined by ex - Vibrators mainman Knox for 'Baby Baby', and with guitarist Nigel Bennett nursing a broken leg (!) the band roared through their set with plenty of energy and more than a few gags about plaster casts. A fine evening.

And yesterday afternoon The Upper Cut played at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. Sometime in the last month or so (I'm not really sure when!) I bought myself a Gibson Les Paul Special, and this show and the night before seemed like two good chances to try it out - I'm pleased to say that it both felt and sounded great, to such an extent that I'm hoping to use it a fair bit over the next few weeks. Money well spent (for once!)

This week is busy too - I'm going to see The Who at The O2 Arena, am back in Colnbrook with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks on Sunday (if I'm back from Bristol in time!) and will be playing my first show for quite some time with T.V. Smith, at The 12 Bar Club on Friday night with Goldblade, Eastfield and more. Sadly it seems that the club will be closing early next year - words like 'tragedy' don't cover it. I'm sure that I and quite a few other people will be ranting about this in the weeks to come, but in the meantime Friday's show has all the makings of an absolute classic. Oh yes!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

'I am the DJ, I am what I play...'

Two master musicians left the building within 48 hours of each other this week, both of whom shared among other things the distinction of having played with The Rolling Stones at the same time. Bobby Keys is perhaps best known for his immortal saxophone solo on 'Brown Sugar' but he contributed much more that that to The Stones and indeed the music world in general - that's him on 'Whatever Gets You Through The Night' by John Lennon for instance. He also achieved the near-impossible task of being too wild to tour with Mick, Keef and the boys if the story involving a young lady and a bath full of champagne is to be believed, which is about as rock 'n'roll as you can get if you think about it. And keyboard king Ian McLagan played on some of the greatest records ever made with The Small Faces in The 60s and The Faces in The 70s - highlights are many and varied, but I for one can't really imagine rock music without, say, 'Tin Soldier' and 'Stay With Me'. Or 'All Or Nothing' and 'Cindy Incidentally'. Or 'Here Comes The Nice' and 'Pool Hall Richard' Or... or... or...
Both men leave the World a lesser place for their passing.

In the meantime your humble narrator made his DJ-ing debut on Friday evening, at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston. The night was a cancer research fund raiser organised by Idle Fret Records supremo Darren Brooker, and included performances from Johnny Moped, Ye Nuns and Fire Dept as well as a DJ set from Jowe Head. I don't mind admitting that I was quite nervous about the whole affair, but in the event it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Darren is himself a very good DJ, and he gave me a fair bit of much-needed advice along with an excellent tutorial on how to use the CD decks at the venue - although I had the odd 'what does this fader do?!?' moment overall I was pleased with my efforts.

What did I play? I thought you'd never ask...

'Shake Some Action' - The Flamin' Groovies
'Foxhole' - Television
'Blank Generation' - Richard Hell and The Void-Oids
'Beginning To See The Light' - The Velvet Underground
'Is Vic There?' - Department S
'I Can See For Miles' - The Who 
This was supposed to have been 'Tomahawk Cruise' by T.V. Smith's Explorers, but I, er, pushed the wrong button, or something...
Yes - it's really me!
'The Dreams Of Children' - The Jam
'Harmony In My Head' - The Buzzcocks
'Shot By Both Sides' - Magazine
'Tomahawk Cruise' - T.V. Smith's Explorers 
Ah, that's better...

- at which point Fire Dept took to the stage for a splendid set. Jowe Head then set the scene for Ye Nuns, an all girl band playing songs by garage legends The Monks (and very entertaining they were too) before it was my turn again...

'I Wanna Be Free' - The Rings
'Keys To Your Heart' - The 101'ers
'Citadel' - The Rolling Stones
'Looking At You' - The MC5
'1970' - The Stooges

The audience were then spared the fourth selection of my somewhat bizarre 'original versions of songs covered by The Damned' section of the evening (any guesses what the next song would have been? It was 'Ballroom Blitz' by The Sweet - 5 points if you got that one, and have another 5 points if you spotted the three tracks that were released on Chiswick Records, Johnny Moped's label back in the day...) as Jowe returned with 'Click Clack' by Captain Beefheart and I took up my place in the audience to await the mighty Johnny Moped. Well I thought that was what I was doing - I was minding my own business queueing up at the bar when Darren asked me if I'd draw the raffle. Well if someone asks you to do that the only possible answer has to be  along the lines of 'of course I will', not least because I'd never drawn a raffle before either! Excellent! And Johnny Moped were tremendous, with the man himself as unhinged as ever and the band sounding on top form. A highly enjoyable evening all round.

What with all this Ruts D.C. lark (we're in Milton Keynes on Thursday and Norwich on Friday this week) that's been going on lately I've missed a fair few Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gigs; my good friend Pete has been playing with them in my absence, and from what I've heard he's been doing a fine job. I returned to the band last night for a show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. It was great to see the boys in the band again, and the show itself was good fun with Al giving it everything and the audience lapping it up. I've another 'how-does-this-song-go-again?' gig this Sunday when The Upper Cut return to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook, and the night before that I'm depping with Department S supporting The Members at The 229 Club - better get back to learning some songs... again...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Boys, boys, it's a sweet thing...'

Another weekend, another two great Ruts D.C. gigs (this time in Manchester and Buckley, both places that we played on last year's Damned tour and both great shows in excellent venues) and another few days that leave me little if any time for blogging. Ah well - maybe I will write an extended account of this tour at some point in the not-too-distant future, if only to give me chance to mention that we played with Steve Ignorant (who's last song was a splendid version of David Bowie's 'Sweet Thing'. Good choice!) at the Manchester show. Then again the way things are going maybe I won't - I spent today in a very busy Balcony Shirts and am due to be in there again tomorrow, Wednesday and Saturday; I'm rehearsing with Department S on Wednesday evening as I'm depping with them at The 229 Club in London next Saturday when they're on with The Members and tomorrow evening will be the only chance I've got to run through the songs before rehearsal. And this Friday I'm DJ-ing - yes, DJ-ing! - at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston this Friday when my mate Darren from Idle Fret Records is putting on the legend that is Johnny Moped. I've got little if any idea of how to do that DJ-ing lark so I'd better get learning! And on Saturday I've got my first gig for over a month with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks - it's at The Dolphin in Uxbridge so at least I'm on familiar ground. Still however you look at it I've not really got time to be sitting here typing so I'd better stop and play some Department S songs. Or revise some of Big Al's material. Or read up on the art of the disc jockey. Or something.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Donkey Derby

Another three memorable gigs this weekend, but with nowhere near enough time to write up a detailed account this is about the best that I can do at the moment...

If you had happened to find yourself in The Costa Coffee Shop next to the Kings Cross Premier Inn at around one o'clock on Thursday afternoon then you would have seen the various members of the Ruts D.C. touring party amassing in anticipation of three shows in the Midlands. Before very long we were wending our way to The Donkey in Leicester, a splendid establishment which we first encountered after we'd played a show with The Damned at the nearby Academy almost a year ago. Warren and Zoe run a great venue, and I for one was very pleased when we were booked to play there. Electric River were due to support but sadly they were unable to make it leaving us as the only band on the bill. After soundchecking I met up with my old mate Mac, who I first met the best part of 30 years ago when he used to book The Price at The Square in Harlow and who now plays bass with Roddy Radiation and The Skabilly Rebels. After having a drink in the pub next door (I can't remember the name but they serve really good Indian food!) we returned to the venue which by then was filling up nicely - by showtime the place was packed and we gave a suitably raucous performance to the general approval of all concerned. A great gig.

Talking of The Damned we also played The Assembly in Leamington Spa with them on last year's tour, and we returned there on Friday evening. I don't mind admitting that I was concerned that the venue was too big for us but in the event there was more than enough people there to make the evening work. When we arrived there was a Wishbone Ash setlist on the drum riser, an item which would play an unexpected part in the evening's proceedings, as Segs used it to perform a paper tearing version of 'Human Punk'. Strange but true - and if you don't believe me here is visual evidence... in the meantime band biographer Roland Link came to the show as did Captain Sensible's guitar tech and Abatis Studios supremo Jon Priestly, and we all took photos in Tammy Wynette's old touring caravan which is one of the many unlikely items in the backstage area. A highly enjoyable evening.

And on Saturday night we headlined the 'Skahumbug!' festival at The Hairy Dog in Derby. When we got there Random Hand were about to begin - they played an agreeably noisy and energetic set to the near-full room before we set about setting up; often all-day events in pubs aren't particularly great, especially if you're on near the end as the audience can be somewhat jaded by then - but not in this case, and we went on to play a storming set to the very enthusiastic audience and to bring our three-shows-in-the-Midlands to an excellent end.

I'd hoped to be back in time to play at The Horns in Watford with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks on Sunday afternoon but sadly travel chaos (why oh why does the whole bloody country fall apart when it rains?!?) meant that this wasn't possible - however I did make it along to Tropic At Ruislip in the evening to see Willie Nile. I'd missed him on several previous occasions due to having gigs elsewhere but I'm glad I got along this time as I really enjoyed the show. And with Christmas coming things are getting busy at Balcony Shirts so I'll be in there this week before heading to Manchester and Buckley at the weekend for two more Ruts D.C. shows. More is more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Farewell To Arms

First things first - the always-worth-reading Louder Than War website has reviewed the Ruts D.C. albums 'Live On Stage' and 'Rhythm Collision Volume 1'. You can read all about it here - thanks Ged!

Meanwhile Ruts D.C. have played four memorable shows in Scotland. I wrote a suitably over-verbose (and let's face it, overlong!) piece on proceedings in the bus on our epic journey home yesterday, but I haven't got time to type it up here before we leave for the next batch of shows on Thursday so it's gone into the same pile as all the other pieces that I write for these hallowed pages that never see the light of day. There isn't actually that many of them, but I thought that the last line sounded good... however this one and my account of our European tour back in September will hopefully get written up over the Christmas period or in the all-too-quiet-looking month of January. In the meantime Dave and Segs have been writing some excellent blogs which can be found on the band's website, and here are some heavily-edited highlights from my point of view :-

Thursday 13th - The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

A great venue and a great gig, with excellent support provided by The Fast Girls (splendid boy on guitar / girl on bass vocal harmonies) and Finger Halo who featured ex - Rezillos / Human League guitarist Jo Callis and who played 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' by The Kinks and 'The Supermen' by David Bowie, which has to be a good thing if you think about it. The Bow Bar a few doors along was the best post show drink for quite some time.

Friday 14th - Buskers, Dundee

Visited Hog's Head Records (after being invited there by Tim the boss who was at our gig the previous evening) and Guitar Guitar (in search of a Vox AC15 to try next to an AC30) in the morning before travelling to Dundee for a seemingly under-promoted but nevertheless very enjoyable show. As we arrived back from eating at the noisiest Wetherspoons pub that I've ever been in support band The Cherry Bombz played 'Staring At The Rude Boys' amongst their array of punk covers. Weird!

Saturday 15th - Audio, Glasgow

Saw my great mate John Barnson at the gig who presented me with a bottle of Valt Scottish vodka and a Government health warning. The Media Whores and Hateful provided superb support (the former being aided and abetted by an, er, exotic dancer and the latter finishing with a great version of the McGuinness Flint classic 'When I'm Dead And Gone') and Johnny the bagpipes player joined us for 'In A Rut'. Surreal! We attended The Alabama 3 aftershow party (they'd been playing at The ABC) with predictable results. Good job I hadn't opened the vodka.

Sunday 16th - The Moorings Bar, Aberdeen

Rapidly becoming one of our favourite venues, this was a suitably raucous end to our Scottish shows. On the way there we stopped at Ye May Gang Fair And Fare War, a fantastic service station like something from another time; before the show Segs used a fork to turn his broken glasses into a pair of what might best be described as 'punky - pince nez' (that's where the title of this posting comes from!) and we very didn't make it from the dressing room to the stage as we were laughing so much at each other's trombone impersonations. Really.

So there you have it - the full story another time. Probably. In the meantime we're in Leicester on Thursday, Leamington Spa on Friday and Derby on Saturday. See you there if you're going...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

North East Calling

I have just - just! - returned from the first three shows of the twelve that Ruts D.C. will be playing in the month of November, and I'm pleased to say that barring the odd technical hitch they all went very well. Heavy traffic (and indeed heavy rain) meant that we were an hour late arriving at The Wardrobe in Leeds for the first show on Thursday but our new driver / backline man Jon got us all there in one piece - after an excellent support set from The Expelaires (who reminded your humble narrator of early U2, which is never a bad thing in my book) we took to the stage at 9.15 for a splendid 75 minute set with sound man Bob getting everything sounding pretty near perfect. After the show Rhiannon does a roaring trade on the merchandise and we chat many-an audience member, all of whom seemed to enjoy the show which is always good news. And it was great to see Phil from Bug with his wife Annette and my old mate and fellow Chicago Blues Brothers escapee Matt too. From there it was back to the hotel for a drink (ok then, quite a few drinks!) before bringing a long day to a close.

The next morning we breakfasted amid stories of cannibalism on the television news (Dave - 'if you were going to eat someone you wouldn't start with their face would you?') we all agreed that it had been a great gig to start the tour with. With the rain continuing to fall we left for Newcastle not long after checking out at midday, arriving at The Cluny a little after 2pm. I'd not been there before although it's a very well-established venue which has been putting on live music for many years - we'd not been there long before Martin McAloon appears to say hello to Segs and Dave, he's the former bass player in Prefab Sprout, brother of Sprout singer / songwriter Paddy McAloon and an old friend of them both. After setting up and soundchecking there time for me to help Segs solder a couple of leads in one of his bass guitars before we have a meal in the venue bar then head off to The Vermont Hotel to check in and have an hour-and-a-bit off before returning to The Cluny just in time to catch the guitar / vocals / backing tracks duo The Symptoms. Perhaps inevitably they bring Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine to mind, which can't be bad can it? Our sound isn't quite as good as the previous night, with a couple of monitor problems and a microphone failure but none of this bothers the audience, most of whom go crazy from the word go. Once again there's time to speak to some of the crowd afterwards before retiring to our hotel for, you've guessed it, a drink or two. And why not?

Saturday morning's weather was a distinct improvement on the previous couple of days, and with only a relatively short drive in prospect there's a chance to spend a couple of hours in Newcastle before leaving for the next hotel. This can only mean one thing - a visit to Guitar Guitar is in order. Within no time myself and Bob were ensconced in one of the demonstration booths there with a Vox AC30 - I'd wanted to try one for a while as I'd heard great things about the latest model, and I must say that it sounded absolutely tremendous. I've also been told that the AC15 is worth a listen so I'm hoping to find one or those at either the Edinburgh or Glasgow shops this weekend. We also auditioned an Electro Harmonix B9 organ simulator pedal which sounded frankly astonishing - there go the wages I fear... from there it was the afore-mentioned drive up to Stockton-on-Tees where we're returning to The Georgian Theatre around a-year-and-a-half on from our first visit. Steve and Martin of Big Figure Promotions were very helpful, support bands The Iron Hearts and The Filth both played well and we gave a good show despite more microphone problems - in Bob's words, 'I took 'em all of the shelf in the warehouse, and that's where they're going back to!' 

Today it's been the long drive home, and I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling very tired now. Still there are four shows in Scotland on the horizon - now that's something to really look forward to! Mind you, that'll be an even longer drive home...

Sunday, November 02, 2014

'One last bout before the year is out? Thought you'd never ask...'

Following on from last weekend's Islington extravaganza Ruts D.C. have 12 gigs this month, starting in Leeds this Thursday - as the accompanying flyer shows we'll be covering a fair few miles, and it goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway!) that I'm really looking forward to getting out and about again. If you coming to a show then please say hello!

Meanwhile it's been three gigs in three days for your humble narrator, starting with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. It being the night before Halloween Al suggested that we play 'Monster Mash' - I remember the record well from when I was a lad (by the splendidly-named Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and The Crypt Kickers, although I believe The Misfits among others have covered it) and even though we hadn't had chance to rehearse it beforehand we played it well with the only downside to an otherwise good night for the band coming when somebody knocked Al's saxophone over. Fortunately it wasn't too badly damaged, but sadly the same thing happened the next night when the band played at The Black Horse in Eastcote. This time it was more serious as one of the keys got bent, to such an extent that we were obliged to leave several songs out of the show. Bah! Still I'm told that it's since been repaired, and once again 'Monster Mash' went well as indeed did the rest of the show. There are some pictures from the show on Al's Facebook page - as you can see I was too miserable to dress up for the occasion... ah well, maybe next year? And last night The Upper Cut played at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. We've not played together very often lately so there were a few dodgy moments - still judging by people's comments afterwards everyone there everyone there enjoyed our efforts, and we managed to play the Cream (yes I know that it's a Robert Johnson song, but most people heard it first by Cream or Eric Clapton didn't they?!?) classic 'Crossroads' for Jack Bruce which has got to be a good thing if you think about it.

Right - tomorrow it's a day in Balcony Shirts, Tuesday it's a Ruts D.C. rehearsal and Wednesday I'm back in the shop before the first batch of shows in Leeds, Newcastle and Stockton-on-Tees start on Thursday. Busy busy busy - the rest of today off methinks...   

Monday, October 27, 2014

'We're a garage band, we come from garageland...'

In a week that saw the extraordinary news that Wilko Johnson is 'free of cancer' the music world lost reggae singer extraordinaire John Holt, glam rock hero Alvin Stardust, Chas & Dave drummer Mick Burt, 'Baker Street' sax man Raphael Ravenscroft and Cream bass legend Jack Bruce. Talk about not getting something for nothing eh?

On Saturday night Ruts D.C. headlined The Garage in Islington. We gathered at The Music Complex in Deptford on Friday to rehearse for the show - our time together began in the cafe opposite for what Segs dubbed a 'bonding breakfast' and a tactical discussion. Sometime in the next few hours we also found time to visit a secondhand clothing shop (I bought a black jacket which I wore next night at the show) and a Vietnamese restaurant (sweet and sour tofu - excellent!) as well as putting together a 75 minute set which included 'Different View' for the first time since 1982. I remember seeing them play the song several times and have always thought it to be one of the band's best songs so it was great to see it on the setlist at last. Needless to say we then repaired to The Little Crown for a couple of pints of their always - wonderful Guinness, during which Segs and myself suddenly remembered that we'd had a conversation with U.K. Subs guitarist Jet a few weeks earlier when we'd discussed the idea of him playing with us at the gig; text messages were sent, phone calls were made and a plan came together...

4.30pm the next day and we've just soundchecked with the afore - mentioned 'Different View', it's sounding great and spirits are high. We've got Bob behind the mixing desk, Owen is stage managing the evening and we've finished well within our allotted time. But surely we've forgotten something... as if by magic another guitarist appears, plugs into my spare amplifier (a Fender Blues Junior in case you were wondering; I'm using my 'usual' Blues Deluxe) and within seconds we're blasting through 'In A Rut' and sounding, well, like we usually do but with Jet joining us on guitar - in other words, pretty good!  
After meeting up with various people at The Wig And Gown (an excellent punky pub just along the Holloway Road) it was back in time to catch most of the set from opening act The Duel, who sounded the best that I'd seen them for quite a while. Evil Blizzard were up next - with only 30 minutes to work with (I'm sure that they've got songs longer than that!) they got straight into things and left many - an audience member looking bewildered by the end of their first song. Surreal moment followed surreal moment - at one point they even had someone mopping up on the stage! - and I'm sure they had five bass players instead of the usual four at one point. Great stuff, and not an easy act to follow. We'd better get on with it then... and get on with it we did. Even though I say so myself we started well and got better as the show went on, with the only hiccup being a fault with Segs's bass during 'SUS' (Dave stated 'I bet you never thought you'd hear a drum solo at a Ruts show' then proceeded to play one!) Once that was fixed we carried on where we left off, with 'Different View' going down particularly well. In no time at all we're at the end of the set, and Jet joins us for a thunderous 'In A Rut' that brings the proverbial house down. We're on a curfew (there was a club night after our gig) but there's still time for an encore of 'Something That I Said' and 'Society' to finish a truly memorable show. Afterwards there time for a few drinks and to chat to quite a few people, after which we return to The Wig And Gown for, er, a few drinks and, er, to chat to quite a few people - which explains why I didn't get this written up yesterday. Well, I wasn't feeling too good...

But I felt better after reading this review from the always - excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog. Thank you Mr. Presley!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are you experienced?

Well it's been a relatively quiet week in mad-guitar-World, although given what's on the horizon (and indeed what's happening over the last few weeks) this may not be a bad thing. Still I managed to play a couple of gigs, the first of which was with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Three Mariners in Bagshot. It's a good little venue but it does have a very low ceiling with even lower beams, meaning that anyone approaching six feet in height has to watch themselves for fear of bumping their head. Well the clue is in the name - Big Al had more than a few near misses before eventually banging his forehead halfway through our first. 'I'd just took my hat off as well' said the man himself before putting said hat back on - but it was a good gig, as was last night when The London Sewage Company played at The 12 Bar Club. Considering that we've only played a few shows we're really starting to sound good, and with new songs being added all the time and recording being planned the band is developing well. Most of all it's good fun, which means a lot in these troubled times - talking of which it seems that the days are numbered for The 12 Bar Club as Denmark Street is due to be redeveloped in the near future. This is a terrible shame - the area has so much musical history, not to mention some of the best instrument shops that you're ever likely to visit. Knocking it all down seems like madness to me - mind you, there's a lot of that about sometimes isn't there?

On the subject of musical instrument shops myself and Big Al guitarist Pete (sometimes he deps for me, sometimes we play the show together, sometimes I do them on my own) found ourselves at Charlie Chandler's Guitar Experience in Hampton yesterday morning. Simon Bishop from The Good Old Boys works there teaching guitar and had recommended that we paid the shop a visit; I'm pleased to say that we weren't disappointed to the extent that we both said words to the effect of 'we'd better get out of here before we start buying things'. Mind you I suppose that's the idea of a shop... still it was great to see such an excellent selection of guitars and gear, and I have a feeling that we'll be there again before too long.
A busy Saturday also saw Flying Squad singer Andy celebrating his 50th birthday with a party at his place. Myself and Squad sticksman Andy went to see him late afternoon as we both had gigs in the evening (he was depping with Big Al and co!) and it was good to catch up with him. We all agreed that we really must get The Flying Squad back onto a stage as soon as possible. And we really must!

This week all roads lead to Islington, as Ruts D.C. are playing at The Garage this coming Saturday 25th October with Evil Blizzard and The Duel. To this end myself and Segs got together last Thursday to discuss tactics, and with rehearsals booked for this week it's looking like being a fine evening. Well, I'm certainly looking forward to it...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pictures at an exhibition

Bob Gruen is a name that is synonymous with rock music photography. Last Thursday evening I found myself at The Huntingdon Gallery in Shoreditch at an exhibition of said photos, and very good it was too. (Incidentally you may well be wondering how on Earth a herbert like myself got invited to a gathering such as this? Simple - Dave Ruffy was drumming in the band that played at the after show party. There is rarely mystery in life is there?) Myself and Segs (accompanied by Vivien of Holloway and her friends) arrived to find things in full swing and the walls adorned with some of the most iconic rock photos of them all. The man himself was in attendance (I managed a quick hello and got a nod in return) as were various other luminaries (including Martin Chambers and Jim Jones - oh yes!) and with a free bar the atmosphere was predictably jovial. Unsurprisingly people started to leave when the bar closed - most made their way around the corner to The Ace Hotel (although we found ourselves in the nearby Dragon Bar for a wee while) where Walter Lure led a band that also featured Neil from The Montecristos through a set of Johnny Thunders songs and rock 'n' roll standards. Their raucous rough-around-the-edges show (which featured a guest appearance by Marc Almond singing 'Brand New Cadillac') went down well with all concerned, after which I was obliged to leave at some speed to get a tube train home. As I made my way towards Liverpool Street Station I was accosted by a rough-looking chap asking for money 'to get some heroin, anything, even a few pence would help'. Such is life that I ran for it, albeit with 'Chinese Rocks' ringing in my ears. And did I really bump into Kate Moss on the stairs? Yes, incredibly, I did.

With no gig of my own on Friday night I found myself doing what I often do in this situation - going to watch another band play. And what better place to go than Tropic At Ruislip? It's always a good venue to support methinks, and it was excellent to see it so full when I arrived. ELO Again were the featured act, and I was intrigued to see how they would fare, as The Electric Light Orchestra material features some very complex arrangements. I'm pleased to say that they sounded very good indeed, and the sold out crowd loved them from the first song to the last. Personally I prefer the earlier songs ('Ma-Ma-Ma Belle' being a particular favourite) but there's no denying the excellence of Jeff Lynne's songwriting. And you forget just how many hits they had don't you? 

Two gigs from Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks this weekend, the first of which was at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth. I'd not played with the band for what felt like ages - it was actually less than a month, but as I say it seemed a lot longer - so I spent a bit of time revising the material, and I'm glad that I did as there are more than enough twists and turns in the songs to catch you out if you don't know them. It was a good gig although it's not the easiest place to play - there's not a lot of room, and you can't play too loud (never a good prospect!) but overall I think we didn't do a bad job, with the only downside being a drunk fella who kept wanting to try my hat on. Silly boy.
The next afternoon we returned to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook for a show that I for one thought was much better than the previous evening's effort - The Upper Cut are back there on Saturday 1st November which should hopefully also be a good night, as should this coming Saturday's 12 Bar Club gig by The London Sewage Company. Well, that should be good if last night's rehearsal is anything to go by... and then my friends, Ruts D.C. play in London - but more about that next time.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Jonesing for Jones

Post tour psychosis has all but worn off, so it's back to the real World - sort of...

'Twas an interesting evening on Wednesday, which began at The Islington in, er, Islington where Word In Your Ear presented a live show by Duncan Reid and The Big Heads and an interview with T.V. Smith. I remember The Word magazine being a good read so was interested to see how the evening would go - when I arrived T.V. was readying himself for his slot. He was interviewed by Alex Gold (who is also in DR and the BHs) and also read a couple of stories from 'Book Of The Year' his latest volume of tour diaries, and very entertaining it was too. After a short break Mr. Reid and co. took to the stage, and I must say that they were absolutely excellent. With two very good-looking young ladies on guitar and drums they blasted into their set with great energy and aplomb - such was their brilliance that I considered not leaving early to go to The 12 Bar Club, but in the end the lure of The Fallen Leaves proved too much. However I will be doing my best to catch Duncan Reid and The Big Heads again as soon as possible.
I arrived at The 12 Bar Club just as The Transients were finishing with 'Another Girl, Another Planet'; after catching up with club manager Mark (who of course is also the singer in The London Sewage Company - we're playing at the club on Saturday 18th October) it was time for The Fallen Leaves whose blazing performance might well be one of the best shows I've seen them play. A terrific night all round.

And it was a terrific night on Friday when The Upper Cut played at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. Sadly there haven't been too many shows for the band lately, which is a real shame as when we do get together it's pretty much always an enjoyable experience; with no time to rehearse we could have been a bit tighter here and there but that aside it was a fine gig with everyone on top form. Perhaps rehearsing would have ruined it?!?

Saturday night saw The Jim Jones Revue play their farewell show at The Forum in Kentish Town. I got there just as Walter Lure was taking to the stage with 'One Track Mind'. As the sole surviving member of Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers he waved the New York rock 'n' roll flag with great aplomb - and it was great to Darren from The Black Bombers up there on bass too. Next up was 'surprise guest' Nick Lowe who played a solo set on acoustic guitar - I've always been a big fan of Basher, and I'm pleased to say that he sounded as great as ever. An already excellent evening then took off into the stratosphere as The Jim Jones Revue gave an astonishing performance that served as both a masterclass in live rock rock 'n' roll and a fitting end to one of the great bands of the last few years. It's a shame that it's all over, but I for one will keeping an eye out for what the various members do next.
While The Jim Jones Revue were raising the roof in Kentish Town the first night of Polyfest II was happening at The Half Moon in Putney. Ruts D.C. headlined the second night on Sunday - we were due to play '3 or 4 songs' but in the end played 7, and a splendid time was had by all. With all proceeds going to The Teenage Cancer Trust it was I feel a fitting way to honour the memory of Poly Styrene - let's hope it happens every year.

And here is a review of the event courtesy of the excellent Elvis In The Clouds blog which pretty much sums up proceedings...

Last night the afore-mentioned London Sewage Company had a rehearsal in preparation for the afore-mentioned 12 Bar Club gig. With new songs to work on and old songs to revise everybody got on with the job in hand, and with another rehearsal booked for next Monday we should be in good shape for the show. In the meantime there are Big Al gigs to play and Ruts D.C. gigs to prepare for, so it's back to the real World - sort of... 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Euroman cometh home

Well, we did it. Nine gigs in nine days (with nein days off!) organised for us by The Muttis Booking Agency in Germany, Poland and Austria followed by a show with The Cockney Rejects at The Dogtown Streetpunk Weekend Festival in Oslo on Saturday. Highlights were many and varied, and since I wrote (well, scribbled some semi-readable notes as we were going over various bumpy roads) what feels like thousands of words while we were on our travels the full story will hopefully appear in these hallowed pages at some point in the not-too-distant-future. In the meantime Dave and Segs posted daily diary entries on the band's website and Facebook page, and I even managed to put a few bits and pieces on my Facebook page too. It really was a great tour - many thanks to Mutti and Katya for their never-ending help, to Vom who put us up after our Dusseldorf gig (we spent much of the night in his subterranean bar!) and to The Tips who played at the afore-mentioned Dusseldorf show (we did 4 shows with them last year, and it was great to catch up with them again) and who very kindly gave me a copy of their excellent new album 'Trippin'' and the t-shirt that I'm wearing as I type this. Great stuff all round.

Now it's back to Blighty and back to basics, with an Upper Cut gig at The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Friday, while Ruts D.C. play POLYFEST II at The Half Moon in Putney on Sunday. In between those two it's the 7th annual Paul Fox Social Club night at Wealdstone Football Club on Saturday night, and on Wednesday I'm hoping to be at The 12 Bar Club for The Fallen Leaves - as I say, it's back to Blighty and back to basics... but before I go here is a clip of Ruts D.C. in Torun a week ago - enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Euroman cometh

Well it's been a very - make that very - busy few days in Leigh's Mad World Of guitars, to such an extent that between gigging and working in Balcony Shirts I've not really had the time to write a 'proper' blog posting; this means that the full stories of shows by Ruts D.C. in Birmingham, (excellent support from Evil Blizzard and The Black Bombers, my borrowed guitar amp failing just as we were about to go on stage after I got mini-electric shocks from the vocal microphone during the soundcheck) The Upper Cut in Twickenham (cheery drunk girls making the evening all the more worthwhile by outnumbering the cheery drunk boys) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks in Sunningdale and Colnbrook (two more good gigs - and Al's already got more than 10 booked for next year!) along with the FFRUK night in Archway (which included a fine set from The Homosexuals) will go largely untold. Ah well.... still it's about to get even busier, as Ruts D.C. start a 10-gigs-in-10-days run of shows in Europe on Thursday. We'll be visiting Germany, Poland and Austria before finishing at The Dogtown Streetpunk Weekend in Oslo with The Cockney Rejects on Saturday 27th September. Full details can be found on the Muttis Booking Agency website - excellent!