Tuesday, April 29, 2014

You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish

It was straight back to basics after the euphoria of Thursday night, with a short notice Upper Cut gig at Buckinghamshire Golf Club on Friday evening. We played at Grant's 40th birthday party last March - I received a call a few days ago from him asking if we'd be interested in playing on Friday at a party at the club, and with none of us gigging elsewhere the only possible answer was 'yes'... it turned out to be a most enjoyable evening, as did the next night when Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The King's Arms in Harefield. It's usually a lively night there, and this was no exception with the band playing well and Al on fine form as ever.

The Move have for me always been a criminally underrated band. I can just about remember them from back in the day although I was very young, but in the early '70s Wizzard and The Electric Light Orchestra made regular appearances on 'Top Of The Pops' and both big favourites of mine at the time. When I found that that Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne had both been in The Move I backtracked and (re)discovered such wonderful records as 'Fire Brigade' and 'Blackberry Way' alongside less well-known tracks like 'Kilroy Was Here' and 'Cherry Blossom Clinic'. Great stuff in my not-so-humble opinion, which was why the chance to see them play at Tropic At Ruislip on Sunday evening was definitely one  not to be missed. Support came from Mods And Sods, whose 40-odd minute set of '60s covers warmed the crowd up for the main event; opening with 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' The Move played a fine set that included 'Brontosaurus', 'Flowers In the Rain' and 'California Man' and reminded everyone present how many classic songs they recorded and released and just what a great band they were and indeed are. Original members Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton told some excellent stories and it was a great evening all round, which was only soured a bit for me by a rather odd moment that happened to me during Mods And Sods's set; their guitarist was tuning up (and having a bit of trouble doing so) when a 'friend' of mine (I use the term loosely - it's someone I've encountered here and there over the years and who finds himself at this particular venue on a regular basis) came over and said 'he's got the same approach to tuning as you - non-existent'. Because it was hard to hear him (well there was somebody tuning a guitar in the background!) I asked him to repeat it - when he said it again I realised that I basically had three choices :- 

(a) wallop him
(b) say something suitably rude and / or unpleasant and then wallop him
(c) ignore him and hope that he'd go away

As I decided that I had no real want to be banned from the venue for causing a punch up (after all, he might have hit me back! And on a more serious note, I also didn't want to risk injuring my hands...) I, for better or worse. went for (c) although typing this now at least part of me wishes that I'd gone for (a) or indeed (b). Ah well - there's always next time... but I've had a few odd comments lately, mostly sneaky putdowns (this isn't the first reference to me not being able to tune my guitar, for example) from people who really should know better. They wouldn't be jealous of little old me now would they? After all next Friday while my 'friend' will no doubt be all but suffocating in his own cynicism in Ruislip I'll be gigging in front of several thousand people with Ruts D.C. in Serbia... and as I came off stage at The 12 Bar Club last night after joining Segs to play 'Babylon's Burning' with The Duel at the last of the FFRUK Reggae Punk Monday nights and went back to talking to the very nice young lady that I'd just met at the bar I wondered how much better things might have gone for me if I'd learned how to tune up... 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Happy talk

Have you ever found that it's possible to look forward to something so much that it's all but inevitable that it's a disappointment when it actually happens? I know that I have... last night at The Forum in Kentish Town had all the makings of just such an occasion - but, thankfully it was no such thing. Captain Sensible's 60th Birthday Party was all that it promised to be and more. Everybody on the bill played a great show - T.V. Smith appeared with Vom on drums for the first time in The U.K. ('TVOM'!) and gave a typically energetic performance to begin the evening; the only annoyance from my point was that when I spoke to them both afterwards they said that if they'd been able to find me before the show then they'd have asked me to join them for a few numbers. Bah! (I of course was in The Assembly House mourning the loss of The Bull and Gate... mind you, have neither of them ever heard of mobile phones?!?) Next up was Johnny Moped, who I first saw supporting The Damned at The Marquee sometime last century - he was bonkers then and he's bonkers now, with 'Panic Button' remaining a neglected classic of the genre. Maybe one day I'll work out what genre it's part of... with the venue getting fuller and fuller (surely there was more people in than there should have been?) Ed Tudor-Pole went down a storm, although you could feel the anticipation for the main attraction building throughout his set. By the time The Damned appeared everybody was in party mood, and The Captain and co. rose to the occasion to give a mighty performance which ended with balloons and silly string everywhere. It couldn't really have ended any other way. All that remained was for Ruts D.C. to close the evening - we battled against collapsing microphone stands and what was probably the worst onstage sound that I've ever experienced (someone said that the monitor engineer was eating his dinner during our show - I don't think that they were joking...) to give what we thought was a below-par show but which everyone that any of us spoke to assured us was fine out front. That's a lot better than us thinking that it was great but that it actually wasn't don't you think? Afterwards there was time for a drink in the upstairs bar where Gaye Advert introduced me to her sister Wendy, I saw Sarah Pink for the first time in a while and Eugene from Vive Le Rock magazine kept asking me when we're going to play some new songs. They're on their way Eugene, they're on their way... and probably strangest of all, Captain Sensible asked me to sign his birthday book. Why is that strange? Well because I never thought that someone like him would ever ask me to do something like that for them. I'm supposed to ask them for autographs, not the other way round! A great night from start to finish. Happy Birthday Captain - here's to many more.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Burns night!

Now here's something that I (and indeed a lot of other people) have been looking forward to for quite some time - this Thursday 24th April sees Captain Sensible's 60th Birthday Party at The Forum in Kentish Town. The Damned will of course be playing, along with T.V. Smith, Johnny Moped, Ed Tudor-Pole and Ruts D.C. - I think that could politely be described as a good line-up don't you? See you down the front!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Soho A Go-Go

It's Easter Monday and I've got a day off. It's feels like a while since I had one of those. Perhaps it is? In fact I'm beginning to wonder if I ever actually have a day off - after all, I'm sitting here now doing this blogging lark, then I've got songs to learn this afternoon... mind you, it's not exactly hard compared to some work is it? You know like digging holes for a living? Hmmm... I'm rambling... maybe I really do need a day off...

More about that another day - Wednesday evening saw a charity night at Q Vardis in Cowley organised by John Jenkins who used to run the Sunday jam nights at The Swan in Iver. Big Al, Pete and myself performed a few songs with the house band in an evening with saw a partial reunion of Meal Ticket (with Steve Simpson sounding as great as ever) and much more besides. A most enjoyable evening raised several hundred pounds for cancer research, which can only be a good thing if you think about it.

Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played The Sunningdale Lounge in (you've guessed it!) Sunningdale on Thursday followed by a gig at The King's Club on Canvey Island the following evening. The first show was a short notice affair confirmed only a few days before, and with Dave busy elsewhere Mac Poole once again depped on drums. I thought that we played well although maybe not quite up to the standard of recent shows, but everyone there seemed to love it, and Graham the guv'nor rebooked the band immediately. It's good when that happens! The next night saw the band venture into cabaret territory for the first time, with Joe Longthorne as the headline act. Chris (keyboards) and Terry (bass) were late and didn't arrive until our allotted stage time of 8pm - a frantic set-up meant that we were playing by 8.15. I wasn't sure if the band would work well in this sort of environment but as so often happens Al won the crowd over and the dance floor was all but full by the end of our first set. Al then did 20 minutes of comedy after which Joe Longthorne took to the stage. Singing over backing tracks he seemed to me to be a bit uncomfortable with proceedings, holding the microphone a long way from his face when he wasn't singing meaning that his between song patter was all but inaudible; this lead to quite a few complaints from people who couldn't hear what he was saying and I felt he lost the audience somewhat as a result. Very strange... still when we returned for our second set the dancing resumed almost immediately, and after Bill the compare had joined us for 'Kansas City' he sang several songs to bring the evening to a close. An interesting night - I've not done much cabaret! - which couldn't have been more different to the day and night that followed...

Record Store Day has been running since 2007 - it's held on the third Saturday in April and I believe it's pretty much a Worldwide event these days. In London festivities centre around Berwick Street in The West End, and this year an open air concert featuring Ruts D.C. among others was held on the junction of Berwick Street and D'Arblay Street. I arrived just as Edwyn Collins was beginning his set - with two acoustic guitarists either side of him he sat stage centre and got a good reaction from the rapidly-arriving crowd, with his closing song 'A Girl Like You' inciting smiles all round. Sadly I missed most of the Augustines set as Pablo (who was helping us with our equipment and generally co-ordinating our efforts on the day) and myself attempted to gain entry to Sister Ray Records where we were due to store our equipment until it was time for our show. The queue to get in stretched around the corner and they were operating a 'one out, one in' door policy as there were so many people about - we eventually managed to get Phil the boss to come to the door who let us in and showed us to the basement where we could leave our gear until showtime. By now a large crowd had gathered in anticipation of Adam Ant's appearance, and he certainly didn't disappoint them. Performing as a duo with his guitarist he played 'Get It On', 'No Fun' and 'Shakin' All Over' to the raucous approval of all concerned, as well as several old Adam & The Ants songs ('Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face' sounded particularly good to me) and they left the stage to rapturous applauseSeptember Girls were up next, I saw a couple of songs before getting some food and meeting Segs at The Ship. From there we went to meet up with Dave at The Blue Posts where a green room was available for the bands; at 5.30 it was action stations with myself and Pablo retrieving our gear from Sister Ray, Nick making his way to the mixing desk and Segs, Dave and myself setting our gear up while DJ Andy Smith entertained the crowd with the help of some very good rock 'n' roll dancers on the front of the stage. As our 6pm stage time approached I looked out at the crowd - there were people everywhere. This was going to be brilliant. In my romantic (ok, over-romantic) way I mused on the area - The Marquee Club used to be just around the corner in Wardour Street, where everyone from Jimi Hendrix to The Who, Led Zeppelin to The Sex Pistols and indeed The Ruts played. They would all have walked along here, drank in The Ship and The Blue Posts - this was indeed going to be brilliant. And, my friends, I'm pleased to say that was indeed just that - brilliant. With Molara away elsewhere we'd mused long and loud on which songs would work best played as a three-piece but as we kicked off with 'Whatever We Do' I don't mind admitting that I had a moment of doubt - had we got it right? Thirty-odd minutes later and with deafening applause ringing in our ears we know - knew! - that we had. It was a great show, a real pleasure to play from start to finish. To use the same line that I used earlier, it's great when that happens... afterwards there are hands to shake, records for Dave and Segs to sign, photos to be in and more smiling faces that I can remember seeing for a very long time. We even signed a ten pound note for one person - strange but true. Great stuff!
After we'd but our gear back in the Sister Ray basement we all went to The Green Man for a drink or two - but the clock was ticking as we were due to go to The Hammersmith Odeon (or Apollo or whatever the hell it's called these days!) to see Adam And The Ants. Dave and co. left early, I hung on a while drinking and chatting - when I arrived at the venue the queue to get in seemed to go on forever. Surely they won't get everybody in before 9 o'clock? And sure enough they didn't - I walked through into the packed stalls just as 'Car Trouble' started and there were still a lot of very disgruntled people outside who would miss much of the 'Dirk Wears White Sox' section of the show. I thought the band sounded good (once again 'Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face' was something of a highlight - I must really like that song!) and the old punks around me seemed to agree. As the feel of the show changed and they moved onto the later poppier material the old punks began finding their way out to the foyer bar rather than watching the show - and that of course included me or else I wouldn't know just how full the bar had become... still the closing number 'You're So Physical' sounded brilliant to my ears, and I have to say that Mr. Ant is a great performer - people are rarely as successful as he's been by accident are they?

And the weekend didn't end there for your humble narrator - after listening to Liverpool beat Norwich on the radio (yes, I'm that old!) I journeyed back up to The West End where in contrast to the sunshine of the previous day it was pouring with rain. I trudged down Berwick Street to Sister Ray - it couldn't have looked more different to how it looked the last time I was there. What a difference a day makes eh? I collected my guitar and effect pedals and walked the short distance to The 100 Club where Back To Zero were appearing at The Groovy Easter Eggtravaganza with The Sha La La's, Chris Pope and The Legendary Groovymen. I arrived to find the front doors locked - a call to Andy the drummer revealed that we had to get in through the backdoor in Berners Place. I arrived just in time to hear the last minute or so of The LGM's soundcheck 'You Need Wheels' - as I said hello to the rest of the band I realised that I was absolutely soaked. Bah! Still we set up and soundchecked in no time, after which Johnny Squirrel and myself walked down to Eat to, er, eat (!) before returning to the venue 15 minutes early for our half past six stage time. I'd not had chance to rehearse with the band (they'd got together without me on Wednesday evening) so I'd revised the material on my own, and despite the odd wrong turning I got through our set reasonably unscathed. Once again, it's good when that happens... and all the other bands played well too, making it a good night all round - but I'm feeling tired today. Maybe I really do need a day off? Happy Easter indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

West One (Shine On Me)

Two gigs in two days within two hundred yards (-ish!) of each other in London's glittering West End - that's a pretty good way to spend the Easter weekend as far as i'm concerned :-

It's Record Store Day this coming Saturday, and Ruts D.C. are playing in Berwick Street at an outdoor event that also includes performances from Adam Ant, Edwyn Collins, Augustines, Tim Arnold The Soho Hobo, The September Girls and DJ Andy Smith. It all starts at midday and we're closing the event at 6pm.

On Sunday Back To Zero are opening proceedings at The Groovy Easter Eggstravaganza at The 100 Club alongside The Sha La La'sChris Pope and The Legendary Groovymen. We're on at half past six.

Excellent! Or maybe that should be eggs-cellent? Sorry...

Monday, April 14, 2014

To Helsinki and back (a.k.a. Oh Lordi!, Seven Deadly Fins etc etc)

Time for the first ever Ruts D.C. show in Finland, at a night celebrating the 25th anniversary of Stupido Records at The Circus in Helsinki.

Dave, Segs and myself met up at The Music Complex in Deptford at 11 o'clock on Thursday morning; after a three hour rehearsal we then made our way to Jamm in Brixton to resume work on our upcoming live album. Up until this point we had been listening to a show recorded last year in Bremen but we since we have just been provided with a multi-track recording of our gig at The Carlisle in Hastings from March earlier this year we decided to have a listen through that to see if anything could be considered for release. It was an energetic show if a little rough around the edges in places (it was our third show of the evening and they'd all been in pubs...) but even so a couple of songs stood out and so were earmarked for further consideration. Work then continued on Friday afternoon before I took the tube up to Angel Station to catch punk covers band No Lip supporting The Sex Pistols Experience at The Islington Academy. I've known No Lip guitarist Pete for many years - he used to play in a band with my brother Terry back in the day, and since their old bass player Steve was depping with the band it seemed like a good opportunity to both meet up with them and see how the band was getting on. They sounded good, better than when I saw them back in June last year, although I don't mind admitting that it was a bit odd to see them playing Ruts songs and dedicating them to me. Weird! I had only intended to stay for a few songs from The Sex Pistols Experience as I had an early start on Saturday morning, but they sounded so good that I ended up watching the whole show (and it must be said that a few beers from the No Lip lads were quite persuasive in this area too!) Somehow I found myself behind their merchandise table too - I'm really not sure how that happened, but it was good to spend a bit of time talking to Dave their drummer after the show. A good if possible ill-advised evening, as my alarm was set for 4am...

...which was exactly when it went off. I'd had a little under four hours sleep, and too much to drink at the gig. Not good frankly. Still no point in worrying about that now - there's a cab booked and I've got to be in it. And somehow I made it to Heathrow Airport in time for our intended meeting at the Finnair check-in - in no time at all we were through security and in The Bridge Bar getting breakfast (or in the case of Segs and Nick the soundman a pint of Guinness!) I managed to sleep for much of the flight despite the best efforts of some noisy children in the seats in front of me and some nasty turbulence; after collecting our luggage and guitars we met Ollie from Stupido Records who drove us to The Hotel Presidentti (narrowly avoiding a collision with a car just as we left the airport) where there was a certain amount of confusion over our reservations and indeed who was paying for our rooms. Fortunately it all got sorted out in the end.
Judging by the posters in and round the venue The Circus seems to be a thriving place, with the likes of Television, The Manic Street Preachers and Primal Scream all making appearances in the not-too distant future. When we arrived at our allotted time for setting up and soundchecking we found all the doors to be locked - after spending a couple of minutes attempting to call the promoter and to attract the attention of somebody inside we went to the restaurant next door for a coffee before someone from the venue eventually came in to find us. We were on with The Valkyrians, JMKE and the astonishingly-named Anal Thunder - remember this is the country that unleashed 'Hard Rock Hallelujah' by Lordi on the unsuspecting Eurovision Song Contest - I was using the latter band's Marshall JCM900 set-up which despite looking a bit tatty (I went to grab the handle in the side of the 4x12'' speaker cabinet and my hand went right inside as there was no handle there!) sounded excellent. Soundcheck went well, after which we met Stupido Records mainman Joose and went back to the restaurant for something to eat before walking back around the corner to our hotel.
I woke up around half past eight, which meant that I'd missed Anal Thunder. Bugger. (I realise that I haven't perhaps used the best word there, but you get the idea...) Still I did see a bit of their soundcheck and they sounded good, as did JMKE and The Valkyrians, who included a splendid version of Wire's 'I Am The Fly' in their set. We went on at midnight - there could have been more people there (apparently there was a punk festival on nearby) but there was more than enough of an audience to make it work, and it's a great show from start to finish. Afterwards there's a 3 litre box of vodka (Ooo!) in the dressing room and lots of people to talk to (including members of local band The Rude Boys who specialise in Ruts cover versions) before heading back to our hotel - the night club is still open, where the music is not particularly to our taste but we're still in there until gone 4 o'clock...

I woke up a little after midday. (Molara had very cleverly had the foresight to arrange for us to have the late check-out time of 2pm - excellent!) All things considered I didn't feel bad, although I'm not sure how. Still I've long missed breakfast so it's time for a shower and then to search for some coffee before meeting up with the rest of the troops and planning the rest of our day. We're not due at the airport until half past five so we put our bags and instruments into storage at the hotel and walk into town for a look around and something to eat. We then returned to the hotel and somewhat inevitably found ourselves in the bar. Nick and myself are following the Liverpool vs. Manchester City game on our phones until Nick has a brainwave and finds it on one of the computers in the lobby - we tune in just in time to see City's first goal. Bah!
At 5 o'clock Ollie arrives and takes us to the airport - we check in and go through security with no problems before waiting for what seems like an age in The Sports Bar, eventually we give up trying to get served (Nick attempted to catch the attention of a waiter who just said 'yeah yeah' and walked off!) and go to a cafe. Whatever happened to service with a smile eh? Still our flight home was pleasingly uneventful (no noisy children, no turbulence - hurrah!) and I got home just in time to see the Liverpool game on 'Match Of The Day'. Could they win the League?  Oooh I hope so...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The feelgood factor

Lee Brilleaux died on April 7th 1994, 20 years ago yesterday. He was one of the greatest rock 'n'roll frontmen of them all, as this fabulous live footage of Dr. Feelgood at The Southend Kursaal in 1975 amply demonstrates. A biography of the man himself is being written by Zoe Howe - click here to find out how you (yes, YOU! And for that matter, ME!) can help make it happen. Strange but true!

Having not been at the FFRUK Reggae Punk Monday nights at The 12 Bar Club for the last few weeks I've now found myself at said establishment three times in the last seven days...

Last Tuesday myself and Back To Zero drummer Andy attended a launch party for Chris Pope's great new album 'Peace Of Mind'. Pope (that's also the name of the band) took to the stage at the early hour of 7.40pm and delivered a blazing set of songs from the new release alongside Chords classics 'Now It's Gone' and 'Maybe Tomorrow' with 'Mutiny On The Thames' sounded particularly good to my ears. Back To Zero are playing with Pope at The 100 Club on Easter Sunday 20th April ('The Groovy Easter Eggstravaganza') alongside The Legendary Groovymen and The Sha La La's which should be a night to remember, especially if Pope play as well as they did here.
The next night it was time for The Fallen Leaves to host their latest 'first-Wednesday-of-every-month' club night - I arrived in time to catch The Transients who I've seen a couple of times on these evenings and who sounded splendidly garage-y with their cover of 'See No Evil' causing much mouthing along with the words from the enthusiastic audience. Actually come to think of it quite a few of their own songs received the same reaction, which can only be a good thing. The Fallen Leaves played as excellently as they always do, with frontman Rob Green looking  sharp and authoritative while Rob Symmons's guitar rampaged around the room in time-honoured fashion. Their 'long held belief' that 'a good idea played badly is better than a bad idea played well' always makes me smile, but it must be said that they have an abundance of good ideas played very well indeed. Funnily enough Back To Zero are appearing with them at The 100 Club (on Sunday 22nd June, with the wonderful Eight Rounds Rapid also on the bill) as well. Co-incidence? Yes!
And it was Reggae Punk Monday last night - Demon Smiles were roaring through their last few songs as I arrived, and very good they sounded too, although the guitar could have used a bit of bottom end on it in my not-so humble opinion... I caught a couple of minutes each of Spitune and Daughters Of God (both a bit scary-sounding for a wimp like me!) but missed The Duel as it was getting late and I had to leave for the last train home. I wonder if they will ever run tube trains all night..?

In the meantime it's been three-gigs-in-three-days for your humble narrator, starting with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Swan in Iver on Friday evening. We'd not played there for a while, and a fair-sized audience turned up to see a good show that didn't quite get into the 'great' category, although it came close a couple of times. The next night The Upper Cut returned to The Dolphin in Uxbridge - when I was there last month I spent far too much of the evening being violently sick, and while thankfully nothing quite so untoward happened this time it was still a bit of an odd evening. We began our first set to an unusually empty room; fortunately by the time the time for our second set came around the place had filled up and the show took an upward turn as a result. And with Dave away elsewhere Roger from The Upper Cut filled in on drums with Big Al and co. the next afternoon at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. With no rehearsal possible a suitably 'simple' set of songs was decided upon, and Roger did an absolutely excellent job throughout. Then again, he usually does.

This Saturday Ruts D.C. are playing at The Circus in Helsinki - no I've never been either - and I'm really looking forward to this, not least because one of the bands on the bill is called Anal Thunder. Oh yes! More news as and when I have it, as they (whoever 'they' are) say...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Quo vadis?

I'd made enough of a recovery from the dreaded food poisoning by Tuesday to journey to Guildford to see The Stranglers supported by Nine Below Zero at G-Live. Nine Below Zero sounded pretty much how they sounded when I saw them in Watford before Christmas i.e. excellent if a little slower than I remember them sounding back in the day. Dennis Greaves still plays the cheeky chappie persona well, and remains an underrated singer and guitarist. I don't think I can recall seeing him play a Telecaster before although it sounded good to me, and I was close enough to the stage to hear him telling the band off a couple of times when they made mistakes - clearly not a cheeky chappie all the time then! Meanwhile The Stranglers were celebrating their 40th year as a band with a two hour long set that (I'm told) included at least one song from each of their 17 albums and which featured a three song-long mid-set appearance from veteran drummer Jet Black, which I believe is a rare occurrence these days. The audience seemed somewhat subdued until he began 'Golden Brown'; after 'Always The Sun' and 'Genetix' he left the stage to tumultuous applause after which the audience then seemed to me at least to return to their subdued selves. Strange - mind you I don't think I was the only person there that found the four screens suspended above the band to be something of a distraction during some songs. Still by the time we got to 'Five Minutes' and 'Hanging Around' things were getting a bit more lively, and the final encore of 'Tank' bought the proverbial house down. A good evening.

Friday Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks returned to The Crown in Cowley for the first time since Christmas Eve. That was a suitably noisy evening, this was rather quieter both in terms of audience numbers and band volume. We'd heard that there had been a few complaints from neighbours so both Pete and myself decided to take smaller amplifiers in an attempt to keep the noise down, and it certainly seemed to work as there were no complaints this time. Well, not to our faces anyway! When you play quieter than usual it can sometimes lead to a scrappy performance due to people not being able to play 'properly', and while there was the odd wrong turning here and there overall it was a good gig. We could have done with a few more people there though - I'm told that when the band played without me the next night several hundred yards down the road at The Three Steps it was an altogether more raucous affair. I was at The Brunswick in Hove playing a Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show with Back To Zero. We arrived just in time to miss Robby Allen And the Kite Collectors - a shame since I really enjoyed them when we played with them in Stoke back in February although I did manage to by their (excellent) album 'Mildred's Room'; I did manage to catch most of The Hiwatts's set of mod and mod-related covers before going off in search of food. The Legendary Groovymen, The Loop, The SuperMinx70 and The Past Tense all delivered strong sets, but sadly by the time we went on things were running a bit late and we were obliged to not only cut our set down but also finish before we were due to play 'Your Side Of Heaven', a situation which left some audience members somewhat disgruntled. I must admit it was all a bit frustrating in the end from our point of view, but hopefully they managed to raise some money for a very worthwhile cause. 

On Sunday afternoon I accompanied Big Al Reed in his 1959 Cadillac (!) to The Sportsman in Croxley Green for a jam session that featured among others High Voltage, some Swedish friends of Good Old Boys guitarist Pete Parks - I believe he goes out there and plays several times a year and organises shows over here for them in return. When we arrived High Voltage were roaring through an AC/DC song or two, and sounding very good indeed; later Al and I joined Pete on guitar, Bill on bass and the drummer from High Voltage (I can't remember his name! Sorry!) to play 'Peter Gunn' and 'Why Why Me', and jolly good fun it was too. 

If you're my age you've got to like Status Quo, or at the very least have a soft spot for them. Well I think that you have - I can remember seeing them on 'Top Of The Pops' when I was a lad playing songs like 'Caroline' and 'Down Down' and thinking that this rock 'n' roll lark looked like a pretty good thing to be involved in. Even my mum and dad liked them. With this in mind a chance to see the original line-up (the so-called 'Frantic Four') at The Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever the hell it's called these days!) seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, not least because the mighty Wilko Johnson was supporting. He sounded as great as ever - actually he sounded even greater than ever, with his 45 minute set going down so well that he could perhaps have played an encore. Everyone seems to love Wilko these days - as we all know his profile has been higher than ever since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and let's hope he continues to play for a very long time yet. And what can I say about Status Quo that hasn't already been said? Terms like 'industry standard' don't cover it - they sounded, well, exactly like Status Quo should sound, with Rick Parfitt's rhythm playing remaining one of the touchstones of British rock'n'roll guitar and the band reminding everyone present why they liked them in the first place. There could have been a few more hits (I believe the set was based around the 'Live!' album) but I think the current line-up plays them so I guess this was a night for diehards and old fans rather than followers of the chart material. But however you look at it they sounded great - and I imagine that they always did. There are some things in life that you can rely upon, and I'd say that Status Quo are one of them. And that's alright don't you think?