Monday, January 27, 2014

'We're off to see the wizard...'

There's not been much blogging time over the last few days, and I'm tired so I'm going to bed soon. Poor little me... anyway, apologies if this all seems a bit garbled :-

Last Tuesday and Wednesday I joined Dave Ruffy and Segs at Jamm in Brixton for a couple of days of studio sessions - no playing or recording this time as we were going through some old material as well as listening to a show recorded in Bremen last year. I'm pleased to say that the live stuff sounded great, so much so that we're hoping to put it out as a live album later this year. And the old material was just fantastic - we've had lots of requests for a re-issue of 'Rhythm Collision Volume 1' which has been unavailable on CD for many years, and this seems like a good time for it re-appear. We also went through some BBC recordings made by The Ruts and Ruts D.C. in the late '70s and early '80s - I remember recording some of the sessions on cassette from The John Peel Show back in the day, and it really was fantastic to hear them again. There were also a fair few things that I'd not heard before, including a Ruts Kid Jensen session and a Ruts D.C. session for The Richard Skinner Show. Great stuff! The older material was all being remastered while the live recording from last year was being mixed - and at this point I must say that Greg the studio engineer was absolutely incredible; they call him 'Wizard', and it's not difficult to see why... and it was good to see Rob and Jake from The Alabama 3 who were there working in the other studio and who I'd not seen for quite a while. A very good couple of days work.

Talking of work (or what I rather euphemistically call work anyway! Mind you I've been in the shop in between all this music lark so no wonder I'm tired...) I had three gigs in three days over the weekend. With my good mate Pete depping for me with Big Al Reed and the Blistering Buicks somewhere in Harrow I found myself at Nettlebed Village Hall for a gig with The Repertoire Dogs. Their usual guitarist is Mick Ralphs (yes, that Mick Ralphs!) who wasn't playing the show but who I was told might be along to collect the money on the door. Sadly he didn't make it to the gig, a shame as I'd like to have met him if only to discover why I was playing instead of him... I played the same venue with the band back in July last year - that was a good night, but this one was even better with a bigger crowd and plenty of dancing and merriment. After the show a chap came up to me and asked if I still saw Richard Cole - he was somewhat disappointed when I explained who I was...

Saturday saw BAR and The BBs (ooh that's much easier to type!) return to The Chippenham in Maida Hill (where it was Christine's 50th birthday party) while on Sunday we made a 5pm appearance in Colnbrook at Ye Olde George Inn (didn't I play there last weekend?!?) Two great and very enjoyable shows - if ever there was a band that's getting better and better it's this one, and Al's already got 40-something gigs booked for this year with more coming in all the time. Excellent!

Right - time for some Ruts D.C. rehearsals. Acoustic tomorrow, electric on Thursday, the shop in between, busy busy busy...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'Back to the studio...'

Well with the German dates and The 12 Bar Club show in the horizon it was at last time for Ruts D.C. to get back into the rehearsal studio - but first a visit to Warwickshire was in order. On The Damned tour I spent a fair but of time with Captain Sensible's guitar tech and all round good bloke Jon Priestley, who revealed that in addition to working for the good Captain and playing guitar in Reign Of Fury also runs a recording studio in The Midlands. So it was then that Dave, Segs and myself made our way to Abatis Studios in Honiley (didn't Puff the Magic Dragon live there?) where we spent a very enjoyable few hours with Jon checking his studio out and even going so far as to making a test recording. What did we record? That would be telling...
Thursday saw the band make their first visit to The Music Complex in Deptford since before the afore-mentioned Damned tour. Segs and myself have been putting together some new song ideas over the last few months, and with three of them starting to sound more like songs than ideas it was time to get into the studio and see how they sound with the band. I'm pleased to say that the rehearsal went very well indeed, with the new ideas coming together well and everyone very optimistic about how things are going. After the session we adjourned to The Little Crown near the studio to meet up with Richard England from Cadiz Music - he promoted the show we played with Wilko Johnson at Koko back in October, and it was good to see him again.

Friday I returned to Tropic At Ruislip to see Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band Aynt Skynyrd. I must admit that I'm not the biggest Lynyryd Skynyrd fan in the world, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the band handled the (many) guitar parts in the band's songs. I must say that they made a very good job of it - that said I missed pretty much the whole of the first set as I was on the phone to Segs, who had called to discuss our studio days from earlier in the week. Exciting stuff!

I played my first gigs of the year this weekend - good! It's been nice to have a bit of a break but it was great to get back on the boards again. On Saturday night The Upper Cut returned to The Dolphin in Uxbridge for a night of no little jollity, not least as Noel the landlord had a fair number of family members over from Ireland. The exact details are sketchy as I was still in there drinking at 3am... and the next afternoon we made our first visit to Ye Olde George Inn in Colnbrook for many months (I'll be there again next Sunday with Big Al and co.) for a 5pm show that saw us play two energetic sets to a very appreciative audience. 

And last night it was back to The Three Wishes in Edgware for the Monday jam night. Hmm... maybe I am getting just a bit fed up with some of the ruder people there... ah well, no time to worry about that now, as I'm off to meet Dave and Segs at another recording studio. Maybe, just maybe, those silly little people last night really are jealous of me. Oh well... let's hope so! He he...

Friday, January 17, 2014

'Monday Monday, so good to me...'

Commercial time - following on from the successful club nights hosted at Madame Jojos last year the first night of a 13 week run of Reggae Punk Mondays takes place on the 10th February at The 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street London. In addition to performances from The Duel and Freedom Faction, Ruts D.C. will be playing our first British gig of 2014. It's a new departure for the band - an acoustic show. Dave Ruffy, Segs and myself will (hopefully!) be playing a new song or two in our set alongside older Ruts and Ruts D.C. material, Segs will be DJing throughout the evening and the whole thing kicks off at around 8pm. A fine evening is in prospect, and with the whole thing being streamed live on the Internet (details on how you can connect with this are at FFRUK - it's no good asking me how to do it I'm afraid!) you can watch it in the comfort of your own home if you can't make it along. Oh yes!

Monday, January 13, 2014

'Everything seems to be ready - are you ready?'

So here we are two weeks into January, and there have been no gigs yet this year for your humble narrator - not good frankly! Then again I did play 18 shows last month so I'm not going to complain too much... and it's been good to be out watching rather than playing (well, that's what I'm telling myself anyway!) as well as catching up on things at home and with people that I've not seen for a while. And anyway the gigs start again for me this weekend when The Upper Cut play The Dolphin (again!) in Uxbridge on Saturday night followed by a 5pm show the next day in Colnbrook at Ye Olde George Inn, so as I say it's not all bad news.

Monday night I made another visit to The Three Wishes in Edgware for the weekly jam night. There have been a few odd moments there for me lately (can people really be jealous of little old me? Surely not?) but it was odd for a different reason this week, when a not-been-there-for-a-while Big Al decided to try 'Dumas Walker' with the house band augmented by myself and Pete from The Blistering Buicks on guitars. We play it with The Buicks and it usually goes down well; however it's not an easy song to jam if the whole band don't know it but he wanted to try it anyway... three-and-a-bit minutes later and it was all too obvious that it wasn't an easy song to play if the whole band don't know it! Still we redeemed ourselves with 'Blues About You Baby' so it wasn't too bad in the end. And, as I keep saying here, I really must write a blog piece on jam nights one day... 

I actually started writing it (at last!) on Thursday during my tube train journeys to and from London where I was meeting up with Dave and Segs from Ruts D.C. for a few hours to talk about what we're hoping to achieve in 2014. Plans were planned, discussions were discussed and, yes, drinks were drunk... our first shows of the year are in Germany in February, and with this in mind we're having our first rehearsal since December's Damned dates next week - it'll be great to get back to it again. And I must read what I wrote on the train - the words written the way home could well prove to be a little, shall we say, spikier than the words written on the way there!

Friday night it was back to Tropic At Ruislip, this time to see The Rollin' Stoned. With the gig sold out the place was packed - and I mean packed - as promoter Philip introduced the band - except he didn't introduce the band, he introduced Chris Eborn. He has one of the biggest collection of Rolling Stones memorabilia in the World, and co-wrote 'Not Fade Away : The Rolling Stones Collection' with Geoffrey Giuliano which features much (though by no means not all) of his collection. I first met him in the early 1990s, he's a great character who's had more than his fair share of difficulties over the last few years so it was great to see him introducing the band and indeed to catch up with him after the show. The band took a while to get going - monitor problems plagued their set - but by the end the place was, as they say rocking. And why not? You sometimes forget how many great songs The Stones have written don't you?

Anyway must go - I've got a jam night to get to...

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The end of the year show

My last gig of last year saw your humble narrator depping with Mr. Tibbs at The Greyhound in Chalfont St. Peter. When I first got offered the gig Martin the singer said that I'd be 'standing in for Tony', which I didn't think too much about - until a perspective setlist arrived by email and it dawned on me that in addition to playing guitar Tony also plays keyboards on quite a few numbers, which of course meant that I'd have to play something that at least approximated to the keyboard rather than the guitar part on those songs. Confused? So was I! Add the fact that it being New Year's Eve we were playing something like 40 songs over three sets and I suddenly found myself with rather more work than I might at first have thought. Still it's better than sitting at home wishing that I had a gig... in the event it turned out to be a highly enjoyable affair - singer Martin and drummer Bruce used to be in The Cane Toads,  and with that band's guitarists Pete and Malcolm both attending the atmosphere was good from the word go. Chris the bass player made a very good job of some very tricky material ('Rio' anyone?) and new-ish guitarist Stuart played very well throughout. Me? I'd be lying if I said that I didn't put a foot wrong all night (there were a lot of songs, some of whom I was very unfamiliar with - well, that's my excuse anyway!) but overall I was pleased with my efforts, and it was certainly interesting trying to get some of the keyboard parts onto guitar. Audience-wise we began with studied indifference and the ill-advisedly-clad young ladies (surely they must be freezing?!?) asking for Amy Winehouse songs ('do we look like we can play any?' said Martin derisively) with sweary young chaps attempting to impress them by dancing wildly though not particularly well; we ended with a full dance floor, a girl asking if she could do a 'new year rap' (Martin let her do it, none of us could understand a word that she said) and proclamations that we were the best band ever. New Year's Eve eh?

I spent the first evening of 2014 with Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes at The 12 Bar Club in London. We arrived just in time to miss Black Juju - a shame since we both agreed that any band named after an Alice Cooper song would be well worth checking out - but were there in time to see The Transients, who I really enjoyed (let's face it, anybody that plays 'The Good's Gone' and 'See No Evil' has to have something going for them haven't they?) although I missed a fair bit of their set as I received a phone call from Segs telling me that he was due to be playing guitar at Ronnie Biggs's funeral on Friday. Weird! While I was talking to him Esso ran into rock photographer Paul Slattery who he last met back in the late-70s when Paul accompanied The Lurkers on a tour of Ireland - much jollity ensued with some very funny stories of those dim and distant times. Excellent. By now Special Branch were on playing Dr. Feelgood songs a-plenty among the older rhythm and blues classics. Hmmm... don't I play in a band like that?
On to the main event - The Fallen Leaves. I saw a few songs by them at the same venue several months ago and had been looking to catch a full gig since then; they feature original Subway Sect guitarist Rob Symmons and later Subway Sect singer Rob Green who has a fine line in onstage comments ('we play simple songs for complex people') as well as namechecking Leonard Sachs in 'The Good Old Days' and pouring himself a cup of tea from a thermos flask during guitar solos. I suppose they're best described as a garage band, but whatever label you choose to use I thought they sounded great, with loads of energy and the Symmons guitar sounding like the musical equivalent of a scythe. Great stuff all round.

Last night I made my first visit to Tropic At Ruislip for quite a while, to see Who tribute band Who's Who. It's easy to be cynical about tribute bands (and I sometimes am!) but arriving to find the venue nearly sold out can only be a good thing can't it? I've regularly referred to my enthusiasm for The Who on many occasions in these hallowed pages, and as such I find myself sometimes being over-critical of any Who tribute band - however in the case of Who's Who I can only say that they make a difficult job sound easy, and as with pretty much every other time that I've seen them play they sounded absolutely tremendous. But like I say, they usually do.

And tomorrow night I make my first appearance of the year on Music Scene Investigation, reviewing three songs that have been sent in for consideration by new artists. It's always an interesting show, so if you're anywhere near the Internet at 9pm then why not tune in? It'll be good to have you along.

So - 2014 then. Let's see what happens next...