Sunday, August 31, 2014

'Let me tell you how it will be, it's one for you nineteen for me...'

First things first - the always-excellent Aural Sculptors blog has posted a review of the forthcoming Ruts D.C. album 'Live On Stage', which you can read here. Thanks Adrian - that's another drink I owe you!

Anyway it's Sunday afternoon and as I sit here typing I can still detect the faint but unmistakable smell of soldering... I was minding my own business on Friday night during a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks show at The Brushwood Inn in Hillingdon when my trusty Telecaster (well it had been trusty up until that point!) suddenly and very abruptly stopped working. Fortunately I had a spare guitar with me (a Stratocaster in case you were wondering) so I finished the show with that; today has been the first chance I've had to open it up and see if anything obviously wrong, and as I lifted the control panel up it was obvious that a couple of wires had become detached from the pick-up selector switch. I've re-soldered them and it's working again but it's making a rather worrying buzzing - maybe it's not earthed or something? A job for Stuart the guitar repairman methinks... 

Meanwhile in the midst of the past posting's death - fest (!) I omitted to mention that I'd been to a couple of gigs last week. 

On Thursday The Good Old Boys played at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale. I always find it interesting to see someone else play at a venue that I have played a few times (yes, I know, I should get out more, or make some friends, or something!) and this time was no exception - it being near to the Bank Holiday weekend there were less people about than perhaps there might have been, but the boys still put on a good show. Mind you, they normally do... Nick Simper greeted me with the words 'I thought of you the other day' (now there's something that I never thought that I'd hear a former member of Deep Purple say!) and went on to say that he'd recently guested with The Rapiers at a Johnny Kidd tribute event. He thought that they'd made a good job of things, and as these two clips show, he was correct!

The next night Simon and Hud from The GOBs joined bassist Bill in The Ali Mac Band at The Red Lion in Feltham. I'd not seen them play for what seems like ages, and they sounded good particularly vocally with some excellent harmonies from everybody in the band. I believe that The Red Lion has just started putting live music on, which has got to be a good sign in these days of venues disappearing left right and centre. Let's hope it's a successful venture. 

And for the second weekend running I saw Dave Ruffy depping in a band, this time with The Montecristos at The Islington in (you've guessed it!) Islington last night. With Sigue Sigue Sputnik guitarist Neal X at the helm they roared through a very enjoyable hour or so of rockabilly-charged rocking and rolling, with the young ladies on double bass, trumpet and saxophone drawing many-an admiring look from all concerned. And I hadn't been to The Islington before but will certainly look out for gigs there in the future, as it's an excellent little (with the emphasis on the word 'little'!) venue.

Right - a quiet-ish week this week, with just an Upper Cut private party show on Saturday. Time I got that bloody tax return finished then...

Monday, August 25, 2014

'You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.'

We've been an obituary - free zone here in Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars for a while, so...

Billy Rath, the bassist in Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers left us last Saturday - his place in rock 'n'roll history is assured thanks to him playing on the legendary 'L.A.M.F' album (the story of which is long and tortuous and has given rise to various different versions being released over the last 30-odd years; the amount of time people have been prepared to spend working on the album is perhaps the best testament to it's greatness - for example you can find two 'fan produced' versions of the record here and here...) and of course his participation in the band's live shows. His death leaves Walter Lure as the only surviving member of the classic Heartbreakers line-up - but 'L.A.M.F.' will be with us forever.

Richard Attenborough died yesterday - his performance as Pinkie in 'Brighton Rock' is rightly hailed as one of his best but I'm not sure that I've ever seen else that's as downright creepy as his portrayal of mass murderer John Christie in '10 Rillington Place'. And where would we be without 'The Great Escape'? Just because we've all seen it so many times, it doesn't mean that it's not a great film. I'm sure it'll be on again at Christmas...

And it seems ages since the sad news of Robin Williams committing suicide. If all he'd done was provide us with the quote that I've stolen to head this blog posting then his loss would be a sad one, but it's always a shame when someone loses their fight. Well, I think that it is anyway.

Meanwhile as I type this it's early on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, and I should be getting ready to go to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook for a 5pm show with The Upper Cut - but I'm not. Our singer Terry has an ear infection (ouch!) and so had to pull out of the gig on Saturday morning - at which point the baton was passed to Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks, who were given the gig sometime on Saturday afternoon... until we were told yesterday that the show had been cancelled. Bugger! Oh well - I suppose that you don't miss what you never had? Still Saturday night's show at The Paddington Packet Boat in Cowley went well, with Andy from Back To Zero doing a fine job depping for Dave on drums; he returned for yesterday afternoon's show at Sally B's in Hoddesdon which ended with the club guv'nor taking to the microphone to say that we were the best band that had ever played there. Mind you he then said 'next week we've got a band that I've never heard of' before leaving the stage to general hilarity. I liked him... on the way home most of the band stopped off at The Feathers in Rickmansworth to catch the second set from The Razors, who among other luminaries feature Dave Ruffy on drums. Great was the drinking and cavorting from the assembled multitude, and rightly so as the band sounded great.

Right - since I've got an unexpected afternoon off it's time to finish filling in that tax return that's been annoying me for the last week or so. Oh hang on, I'm still waiting on those bank statements that I ordered last week. Bah! I wonder how easy it is to change bank these days?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Stairway to Devon (sorry!)

...and with post - Rebellion euphoria still rattling around my warped mind I found myself on stage at The 12 Bar Club with The London Sewage Company less than 24 hours after Ruts D.C. had blitzed the building in Blackpool. We were supporting the Australian band The Go Set who sounded pretty good to me, although by the time they came on I don't mind admitting that I was flagging a bit; all things considered our gig went well - and have we really been offered a gig with The Men They Couldn't Hang at The Shepherd's Bush Empire next April? Yes, incredibly, we have! 

And it looks as though I'm not the early person suffering from post - Rebellion euphoria, as Louder Than War have posted this review of our appearances at the festival. Thanks Phil!

In the meantime I've spent far too much time attempting to fill in a tax return, and in doing so have spent far too much time on the phone to my bank attempting to order copies of some bank statements that I've somehow managed to lose. Doesn't anyone answer the phone anymore? Well they don't seem to at my bank. Bah!

Big Al and The Blistering Buicks made their first appearance at The Black Horse in Eastcote on Friday evening. With Dave away Roger from The Upper Cut depped on drums for a most enjoyable 3-set show; the band also played at The 3 Steps in Cowley the next night but I rather wildly decided to give myself the night off to go to see The Damned at The Forum in Kentish Town - and I'm glad that I did as they were in fine form, with Dave Vanian in his best rock 'n' roll undertaker outfit and Captain Sensible as crazy as ever. 'Nasty' was played for Rik Mayall, 'Disco Man' sounded ever bit as good as when I first heard it all those years ago, and the final encore of 'Smash It Up' bought the proverbial house down. Great stuff all round.

It was an early start on Sunday, as Ruts D.C. journeyed down to Devon to play at The Beautiful Days festival. The bus came around for me at 8.15am, and a splendidly - straightforward journey meant that we were all checked in at The Thistle Hotel in Exeter not long after midday. From there it was a somewhat less - than -straightforward journey to the festival site, with sat. nav. chaos and swearing a-plenty. Eventually Nick (our soundman, and for this journey our driver) pulled the bus up next to a rather dilapidated - looking van that was parked just off the road. He then got out of the bus with the words 'if you want to know the way to a festival, ask a hippy' - within minutes of his return we were on the right road at last. Beautiful Days is run by The Levellers, and I must say that it was one of the best and most well - organised gatherings that I've ever been part of. As I got to our dressing room I was greeted by the smiling face of Ian Bond, who I first met when he was soundman for The Chicago Blues Brothers; I'd not seen him for ages and it was good to catch up with him again, he's about to spend several weeks in America with King Crimson so things certainly seem to be going well for him. Our set was scheduled for a quarter to five - such was the efficiency of the stage crew we were on 5 minutes early which is a very rare occurrence. John Robb introduced our set, and with Molara back in the band our set went down well with the very enthusiastic crowd. We managed to see some of Reverend And The Makers and Jimmy Cliff (both of whom were very good) but it had been a long day so we decided to leave before The Levellers played - a shame as I'd really like to have seen them play. Ah well - maybe next time... back at the hotel it's time for beer and pizza all round, and we all agreed that it had been a good day. And we were right - it had.

Right - that's all from Ruts D.C. until next month - this weekend it's back to basics with The Upper Cut and Big Al and the boys...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In the name of love

This piece has taken quite a while to write, which is probably not that obvious from reading it. I'm not entirely sure that it's any good, or if it covers all or even most of my feelings about the extraordinary weekend that I've just experienced, but for better or worse here it is...

So there we are then, The 2014 Rebellion Festival. And what a wonderful event it was - well, I had a good time anyway! I spent a fair amount of it working behind the Cadiz Music merchandising stall with label supremo Richard England and his assistant Blaise, and although it was hard work (yes ok, not as hard as digging a hole or something like that, but you know what I mean!) it was generally really good fun. In addition to various Ruts and Ruts D.C. items (including the re-issue of 'Rhythm Collision Volume 1' and our new live album 'Live On Stage') we had albums and t-shirts from Wilko Johnson, The Cockney Rejects, Electric River, Eight Rounds Rapid and more, and over the course of the four days of the festival we met and spoke to literally hundreds of people; yes there was the odd nutter but overall it was something that was a real pleasure to be part of. 

It was good to catch up with various people too, many of whom I hadn't seen since last year's gathering while some like John King I'd arranged to meet at the festival. Somewhat inevitably this involved late nights and lots of drinking - well, why not eh? It's only once a year after all... 

However the real reason that I was there was of course to play with Ruts D.C.; following our performance at The 12 Bar Club back in February we were invited to play an acoustic show on Saturday evening as well as headlining The Pavilion Stage (formally known as The Bizarre Bazaar) the following night. In addition to these two gigs Segs and Dave were interviewed by Garry Bushell on The Literary Stage on Sunday afternoon, which was an amusing and lively session ostensibly to discuss the upcoming book on the band ('Love In Vain - The Story Of The Ruts and Ruts D.C.' which should be out in October) but which ended up covering all sorts of unrelated topics featuring much banter between all concerned. All good entertaining stuff, as was Bushell's interview with Pete Haynes earlier in the day, where Pete spoke of his new book 'Cool Water' and even gave your humble narrator a name check for encouraging him to pursue his gift for writing all those years ago. Well - I did!
The acoustic show took place at 9.20 pm on Saturday evening in the bar - throughout the preceding days I'd been aware that while many visiting the stall were looking forward to Sunday's electric set it was the acoustic show that had really caught people's imagination. 'What are you going to play?' was a common question, as indeed was 'how are you going to play it?' In an attempt to answer these and many other queries Dave, Segs and myself gathered in Segs's hotel room at half past three in the afternoon - well, there's nothing like leaving it until the last minute is there? As we were setting up before the show it became that we were going to be playing to a full house, to such an extent that by the time we kicked off the show with 'Something That I Said' there were so many people in the room that a visit from the local fire department would have surely resulted in the show being closed down. Given the unusual nature of the gig we chose some less likely songs from the band's back catalogue (including 'Dangerous Minds' and 'Despondency' from 'Animal Now') as well as giving the first-ever public performance of a new song 'Second Hand Child' - as the set progressed I for one was aware of the growing intensity of the show, and by the time we got to 'Babylon's Burning' things were at fever pitch with our last song 'In A Rut' instigating the sort of standing ovation that people like me can usually only dream about. Amazing. But things didn't end there, as next up was the mighty T.V. Smith. He began his set as a solo act but then invited me to join him and bassman Jonathan from his band The Bored Teenagers for a couple of songs before getting the rest of the band up to finish the show with three Adverts songs. You can see how it all ended by clicking here - yes, that is Attila The Stockbroker joining me at the microphone near the end, and yes, the drummer really is playing a cardboard box!

But if that was a good gig then the electric set the next evening took things to another dimension entirely. I wrote last time about how we were following Glen Matlock whose band was to feature Earl Slick on guitar - I'd hoped to meet him and so was well pleased when I bumped into him (literally - he came through a door as I was about to walk through it in the other direction!) and he turned out to be a very nice chap, as did drummer Slim Jim Phantom who was also playing with Glen. I missed most of their set as we were getting changed and working out a set list - as I walked towards the stage to get ready for our show I saw Mr. Slick again (I'm starting to sound like a stalker now aren't I?!?) who's comment 'all black - that's the way to go man!' has all but guaranteed that I'll never wear any other colour clothing on stage again. Well I will, but you know what I mean!
We were introduced on stage by Irvine Welsh, who is a friend of Segs's and who had also appeared on The Literary Stage earlier in the day; as he wrote 'Trainspotting' there was of course only one possible opening song... we usually open with a reggae - style song so starting with 'H-Eyes' caught everyone by surprise. Once again some less-than-obvious songs featured in the set, not least 'Demolition Dancing' which has always been a big favourite of mine - judging by the audience reaction quite a few other people like it too... without wishing to sound too big-headed there are some shows that you just know are going to be special, that are just that little bit better than usual, and as we neared the end it was clear that this was going to be one to remember. Despite being told that there was a curfew and that we couldn't come back for an encore the audience simply refused to leave, even when the crew began dismantling the drum kit. We eventually returned for a blazing romp through 'Society' which ended what was a truly unforgettable performance and - dare I say it - one of the best things that I've ever been part of.

Gatherings such as this seem to contain so many high points, and yet I've found that there's often a defining moment which somehow focuses the overall feeling into a few words or a single statement - this time the one that sticks with me occurred in the backstage bar in the early hours of Sunday morning after our acoustic show. Segs and I were talking to Doug, who knew Malcolm Owen when he (Doug) was in his early teens. I said something about how it must have been an extraordinary experience - Doug just smiled and said 'he taught me dignity, and he taught me pride'

His words hung in the air. I can still hear him saying them now. I hope that I hear them forever. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Jet Boys, Joyriders and a jaunt to the seaside...

Well it's been a relatively quiet weekend here in mad-guitar-land - although given what's on the horizon this coming weekend that may not have been a bad thing, as Ruts D.C. are playing at The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. We're playing an acoustic show at 9.30pm on Saturday and a 'regular' electric show on Sunday at 11.30pm - I'll also be working behind the Cadiz Music merchandising stall at various times throughout the festival which runs from Thursday to Sunday - to say that I'm looking forward to the whole thing is, as they say, the understatement of the year, not least as we're playing before Glen Matlock and The Philistines on the Sunday evening. I spoke to Glen at last month's Sylvain Sylvain show at The 100 Club when he cheerily advised me to make our show a good one as he would have Earl Slick in his band. 'So...' I thought to myself, 'that means I'm going on after the bloke that I've seen playing in The New York Dolls and David Bowie's band...' 

It looks as though we had better make it a good one hadn't we?!?

I may have just said that it's been a quiet weekend but it certainly wasn't particularly quiet on Friday night, when I returned to the afore-mentioned 100 Club to see Guitar Wolf. The show was promoted by Rupert Orton of The Jim Jones Revue, who I met at last month's Ruts D.C. gig in Brighton - he invited the band along to the show, and to this end myself and Dave (Segs sadly couldn't make it) met in The Champion before the show, where we bumped into Gary and Martin from The Bermondsey Joyriders. Much jollity followed, to such an extent that by the time we got to the club Guitar Wolf were a couple of songs into their set. They describe themselves as 'jet rock 'n' roll' which as mad as it may sound isn't a bad description as this clip from the show shows - as Dave put it, 'I don't really have a reference point for this'. Well said! Still I thought they were good fun, and with the packed crowd behind them all the way a suitably raucous performance ended with singer Seiji being joined by The Mutants for a blazing rendition of 'Dead Beat Generation'. Afterwards there was time for a quick chat with Rat Scabies (he and Dave are old mates) before the inevitable 'on-no-we'd-better-go-as-it's-nearly-time-for-the-last-train-home' moment. A fine evening all round.

And it was a fine evening all round last night, when Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks made their debut appearance at The Red Lion in Isleworth. With Dave elsewhere Roger from The Upper Cut depped on drums and made an excellent job of things - mind you, he usually does... with Al on fine form our show went very well indeed, and with a return visit planned I for one will certainly be looking forward to it as it's a great pub which lives up to it's reputation as one of the best venues on the circuit. And it was great to see Charlie who used to run The Globe all those years ago too - another splendid evening. Maybe it wasn't such a quiet weekend after all? 

And, as previously discussed, it's unlikely to be quiet next weekend either - 

- excellent!