Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rudie can't fail

I finished my last posting with the words 'strange days indeed', a phrase I often use when things get, for want of a better word, 'strange'. I've found myself using it a lot lately. It's unashamedly stolen from 'Nobody Told Me' by John Lennon (so far I've stopped short of saying 'most peculiar mama' but I guess that's just a matter of time) and was used last time to make a vaguely Fab Four-related attempt at referring to the frankly astonishing news that I was to visit Abbey Road Studios on Sunday afternoon. So what was a herbert like me doing on such hallowed turf? Simple - Dave Ruffy and Tom Edwards were participating in a recording session there, and the chance to drop in and see them was just too good to miss. As I came out of St. John's Wood tube station I became all too aware of the number of people intently looking at maps or mobile phones - I rounded the corner into Abbey
Hello from Studio 2!
Road itself to see 20 or so people either side of that zebra crossing (you know the one!) taking photos of each other and causing traffic chaos in the process; as I walked up the steps to the front door I thought of some of the people who would have walked up those same steps on their way to work. I buzzed the entry phone, mumbled something about visiting Studio 2 and opened the door into the reception area where the cheery but weary face of a security man invited me to sign the visitor's book. Next to it a handwritten envelope read 'F.A.O. PAUL McCARTNEY c/o ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS'. Here we go then... down the corridor, past the stairs, first door on the right - as I went to knock on said door Tom opened it and greeted me with a hug, I thought he'd been watching me on CCTV but no, he'd just been going out to get something. I walked into the control room to see Dave picking up his phone to see if I'd texted him to let him know that I'd arrived - I was supposed to but had forgotten. Nervous? Maybe... suddenly I'm walking down the stairs into what has to be the most famous recording studio in the World. And there it is, just like it is in all the photographs. Oo-er! 

I was only there for about 30 minutes - I didn't want to outstay my welcome, and anyway I had a gig to go to. But it was a great - make that great - 30 minutes. I can very easily get hopelessly over-romantic about things like this, and let's face it, I normally do - but that was a half an hour that a Beatles Bore such as myself will never forget. But there's been a few things lately that I'll never forget, not least Wednesday night's show at Koko. It was I suppose everything that we hoped that it would be, although it wasn't without it's problems. Last minute letdowns by various people (not mentioning any names...) meant some eleventh hour changes to proceedings, one of which resulted in me sitting in dressing room 4 with no lesser figure than Charlie Harper running through the arrangement of 'Tommy Gun' - now there's something that I never thought I'd do. Mind you I never thought I'd play 'Kick Out The Jams' with MC5 guitar hero Wayne Kramer but as this footage shows that really happened too. Everybody involved was on top form, with the short opening set from The Crunch getting things off to a splendid start before Chris Salewicz read a passage from his acclaimed Joe Strummer biography 'Redemption Song' then introduced the documentary film 'I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run' - sadly I missed most of this as I was getting ready for the gig but the bits that I did see were very interesting, making it a must-buy when it comes out on DVD from Cadiz Music later this year. As the credits rolled we took our places ready to start playing as soon as the screen was raised - as we began 'London Calling' with Mr. Kramer joining Dave, Tim, Tom and myself in the band and Paul from The Urban Voodoo Machine tackling the vocals head on it became clear that we were in for a memorable night. Everybody - Chris Bailey from The Saints, Tymon Dogg, Segs from Ruts D.C., Tara from The Duel and the afore-mentioned U.K. Subs legend Charlie Harper - gave their all, and by the time Wayne Kramer re-appeared for 'Jail Guitar Doors' excitement was at fever pitch. He sang well, sounded great - the loudest guitarist that I've ever stood on stage with! - and the two MC5 classics 'Looking At You' and 'Kick Out The Jams' bought a truly monumental evening to a unforgettable close. It really was an extraordinary thing to be part of - great stuff all round.

Two night's after (ahem!) blowing the roof off Koko I played at The Black Horse in Eastcote with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks. With Dave the drummer gigging elsewhere Rudi joined us for the first time (thereby giving me the chance to use the name of a Clash song as the hopefully all-encompassing title of this posting - I don't just throw this stuff together you know!) and made a great job of things. I often get asked how I play a (relatively) big gig one day and a small one the next - the truth is that when shows are as enjoyable as this one it doesn't matter if you're playing to a few people in a small pub or hundreds or even thousands in a bigger venue. It's all about the music, and if the music is good then the night is good too. And talking of good nights...
He's back!

Ruts D.C. played at Koko back in October 2013 - the headline act that night was a certain Wilko Johnson, who at that stage of the game was, as the saying goes, living on borrowed time. He'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the start of the year and given just a few months to live, but against all the odds was still playing live. Now a year-and-a-half later he's back in more ways than one, having had treatment for what was previously thought to have been an inoperable condition. I like many thought that the show we played with him would be his last, but having just seen the great man on Thursday night at The Albert Hall I can confirm that he's playing better than ever - with the familiar figures of Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums he stormed through a 30 minute set that got an audience reaction that many headline bands would have been proud of. He was supporting The Who, meaning that I got to see probably my two favourite guitarists ever on the same evening. I'd already seen The 'Orrible 'Oo at The O2 Arena on Sunday and Monday (that's where I was going after visiting Abbey Road Studios) playing two shows rescheduled from before Christmas, and while none of the shows were bad I think the R.A.H. gig just beat the other two in the 'best gig of the three' stakes. But not by much - it was great to hear 'Slip Kid' on Sunday, and the Monday show included a particularly good 'Eminence Front' among the usual highlights. 50 years on from their first record release they sound better than ever - you've got to love 'em haven't you? 

So there you have it, a memorable week in mad-guitar-land. And this week is looking pretty good too, with Ruts D.C.playing in Paris on Friday followed by two London shows the next night for your humble narrator - The London Sewage Company support The Men They Couldn't Hang at The Shepherd's Bush Empire (oh yes!) early in the evening while Neck play The Water Rats in King's Cross later in the day. Happy Easter y'all!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hey Ho, Let's Go!

And so it goes on - much of the last week was spent at The Music Complex in Deptford rehearsing for this coming Wednesday's Joe Strummer film show at Koko. Songs were learned then discarded, re-learned then re-discarded (does that last word exist? Answers on a postcard please, usual address...) and we're still not sure who's singing which song. It looks like it'll be an early start on Wednesday then... but the band is sounding good - joining myself and fellow Ruts D.C. member Dave Ruffy (that's how I got the job!) are Tim Slade on bass (he plays for Gary Numan among others) and Tom Edwards on guitar (he works with Adam Ant - I'm really do feel like a junior partner here!) and even though I say so myself we've made a good job of things. It goes without saying that I'm looking forward to Wednesday - but I've said it anyway!

I was supposed to be playing at a wedding last night but it got cancelled (our show that is, not the wedding. Well I don't think that got cancelled!) so rather than do my already-depped-out Big Al gig (I don't like that thing where band members 'take back' a gig because they become available - do you?) I went to see The Ramonas at The 100 Club. Support came from the always-worth-seeing Louise Distras who appeared with a band rather than as her usual solo self. For me her voice worked better in this format - it's sometimes a bit too much for me over just an acoustic guitar, but she sounded great here. Afterwards she told me that she's hoping to concentrate more on group shows rather than solo, so let's hope hope that it works out for her. And The Ramonas were great too - a 28 song set (I wasn't counting, Chloe Ramona said it at the end, honest!) that featured many of the best Ramones songs played at a suitably breakneck pace to a healthily-sized crowd, all of whom loved ever minute of it. A splendid evening.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the first Price show. 30 years! Doesn't time fly when you're having fun eh? Actually it flies whether you're having fun or not... we were hoping to play a show this weekend - sadly that fell through but hopefully we'll be performing somewhere soon. And what better way for me to celebrate this (ahem!) momentous occasion than by going to see The Who? So that's what I'm doing, as they're playing at The O2 Arena tonight - but first I'm off to Abbey Road Studios. Yes, that Abbey Road Studios. Strange days indeed...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Welcome to the house of fun

And the 'it's a busy week' theme continues, as rehearsals begin tomorrow for the Joe Strummer night at Koko next week. We've got a lot of work to do, compounded by the fact that we're not sure which songs we're going to be playing yet as we're still not sure who will be guesting with the band. I'm sure it'll all be ok in the end. Well, it'll have to be if you think about it!

On Thursday evening Ruts D.C. found themselves in Committee Room 15 at The House Of Commons. Now there's something that I never thought that I'd ever type... we were attending a launch event for 'Blacklisted', a book about blacklisting in the construction industry. You can find out more about the book here where you can also see a short film about it, the soundtrack of which is 'It Was Cold' by Ruts D.C.- let's hope the book gets the attention it deserves.

In the midst of learning umpteen Clash and Neck songs I also found time to attend two gigs, the first of which was on Friday evening at Tropic At Ruislip where Classic Clapton played a tribute show to (you've guessed it!) Eric Clapton. Some less-likely material featured next to the expected classics, and while it was often a bit laid back for my not-particularly laid back tastes they certainly made a very good job of things. And last night it was back to The 100 Club to see The Mick Ralphs Blues Band. Support came from Du Bellows who are managed by noted rock journalist Pete Makowski - I remember reading his work in 'Sounds' magazine all those years ago, and he's been in Balcony Shirts recently ordering among other things this t-shirt for his very famous mate... Du Bellows are an intriguing bunch, with a excellent young lady vocalist and many-an unlikely influence on display. The Mick Ralphs Blues Band played a great set of blues old and new, and I finally got to meet the man himself after depping for him several times over the past few years in The Repertoire Dogs. A splendid evening.

Right - there's just time to run through a few Neck songs just one more time before leaving for tonight's gig at The World's End in Camden Town. Busy busy busy... well as I said last time, I wanted to play the guitar didn't I?

Sunday, March 08, 2015

'Third verse, different from the first...'

It was a busy week last week. It looks like being a busy week this week. It's definitely going to be a busy week next week. Oh well - I wanted to play the guitar didn't I?

Thursday's Neck rehearsal went well despite a few technical hitches here and there - I was pleased with my recall of the seemingly countless number of songs (actually about 30) that I'd been playing along with for the previous few days, and while we didn't get time to run through everything I feel ok about the upcoming shows (The World's End in Camden Town this coming Sunday 15th and The 12 Bar Club in Holloway on Tuesday 17th, with more possibly being added) although I intend to be playing through the songs as much as I can over the next few days.

And then there's the Cadiz Music-promoted Joe Strummer film night at Koko - as the accompanying poster shows guests are being announced with more names to be added to the already impressive list. I'll be playing with Ruts D.C. and in the house band - I'm slightly concerned that we don't know which songs the guest singers are wanting to play yet (!) but hopefully that'll all get ironed out in the next few days. Rehearsals are due next week - it's exciting but I don't mind admitting that it's a bit daunting too.

As for the wedding gig on March 21st - well I haven't really had time to have a go at the projected songs for that one yet. I'd better find time this week though hadn't I? And as for The Price - who knows?!?

I did find time to visit Tropic At Ruislip on Friday to see Roadhouse, and I'mm gald that I did as they were very good. Support came from the previously-unknown-to-me Red Butler, who went down well enough with the audience and promoter to be offered a return gig immediately. They certainly did what they did very well, and although it was impossible not to say that they were a good band it was all a bit, for want of a better term, 'tutored' for my tastes. Blues without the blues, if you know what I mean. And on Saturday night Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Wishing Well in Watford - with Dave away gigging elsewhere Andy from Back To Zero (whatever happened to them eh?) depped on drums for two highly enjoyable sets. What with everything else that's going on it looks like my next shows with the band won't be until April, but as previously discussed there's plenty to keep me out of mischief in the meantime.

Right - Balcony Shirts tomorrow then a couple of days going through all these songs. Well, that's the plan anyway...

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

'Second verse, same as the first...'

Well much of my time since we last spoke has been spent attempting to learn some songs. Neck songs. Clash songs. Price songs. Other songs. Lots of songs. I wonder if I can remember any of them?

There's a Neck rehearsal on Thursday night in anticipation of a St. Patrick's Day show at The 12 Bar Club ; rehearsals for the Joe Strummer film gig have been scheduled for the week after next so I've got a bit more time with them, although perhaps predictably the set list is changing a lot at the moment as guest singers confirm and cancel accordingly. I'm sure it'll all be ok in the end... and then there's the prospect of a Price gig almost exactly 30 years since our first one - more news as and when I have it, but if it doesn't happen then there's a good chance of us playing at some time in the next few months so I thought I'd better have a look at some of our songs too. And I'm playing at a wedding in 3 weeks time - I received the proposed song list earlier this week, which among quite a few numbers that I've played before also includes (gulp!) some songs from this century. Oo-er! Whatever next?!?

Anyway having had no gigs of my own this week (not necessarily a bad thing for once!) I made it along to The 100 Club two nights running to catch some more punk rock. The latest Human Punk club night saw a rare London appearance from the legends that are Sham 69 - I don't mind admitting that I was never their biggest fan but listened to 30-odd years on it must be said that their best material has weathered well. With original members Jimmy Pursey, Dave Parsons and Dave Tregguna all present and correct their set mostly consisted of early material and was lapped up by the sold out crowd. For me it was great to hear Dave Parsons sounding so good, although I felt that his partner-in-crime Mr. Pursey looked rather vulnerable at times. The next night The Sex Pistols Experience played a suitably barnstorming show, ably supported by Lizzie And The Banshees. Rather like Sham 69 my knowledge of the Siouxsie And the Banshees catalogue is more-or-less limited to their singles, but I thought they made a very good job of what is often some very difficult material. The SPE gave a raucous performance, with Nathan's uncanny portrayal of Uncle Johnny as impressive as ever and the rest of the band matching him blow for (biggest) blow. And once again the show was sold out, which is a good thing to see in these troubled times.

Music Scene Investigation on Sunday evening was good fun as always, although I did have more than a little trouble with song number 3 as you can see if you watch the show here. And I met up with Ian from MSI at The Angel in Hayes last night where he runs a first-Monday-of-the-month jam night - I hadn't intended to play but ended up on bass for a few songs. And why not?

Right - back to The Clash. I mean Neck. I mean The Price. Er... oh well, one of them anyway. Or all of them. Or something.