Monday, April 25, 2016

Rebellion continues

So - Prince dies on the Queen's birthday. Weird. Mind you so much that is associated with Prince is 'weird' isn't it? I can't pretend to have been his biggest fan or even to have known much of his work - I've got a compilation album that I bought for a couple of pounds in a sale, I doubt that I've played it more than half a dozen times - but there's no denying that he was a very talented man. And there have been far too many well-known people leaving the building this year haven't there? And we're only (gulp!) a third of the way through 2016...

Anyway this will be a fairly short post as there is much to do - Ruts D.C. return to the stage next Saturday at The 'Scotland Calling' Festival in Glasgow so we're rehearsing for that this week as well as filming a promotional video for our upcoming 'Psychic Attack' single and continuing work on the 'Music Must Destroy' album. Exciting times - and I'm pleased to say that we've been added to this year's Rebellion Festival line-up which is more good news. In the meantime The Upper Cut played what is becoming an annual show for us at Buckinghamshire Golf Club on Friday night - we'd been in a room just off from the bar in previous years but this time we'd graduated to what might best be described as a bloomin' great marquee near the main building. Our first set saw repeated requests for 'Johnny B. Goode' - the dance floor was completely empty until we played it when it instantly filled up. Am I the only person who thinks that Chuck Berry wrote many better songs? Oh well - it certainly did the trick as our second set saw dancing and cavorting on a serious scale. A good gig.

The next night night I journeyed up to The Lexington in King's Cross to catch a splendid evening of punk rock that featured Johnny Moped supported by T.V. Smith and The Bored Teenagers. I arrived just in time to miss first-band-on The Weird Things - a shame since I heard good reports about their show so I must catch them in the future. T.V. and co went on just before 9 o'clock - playing a set mostly consisting of old Adverts songs they bought the proverbial house down with a show that was as good as anything that I will see this year. And Johnny Moped were terrific too, with the man himself as unhinged as ever and the new material sitting well next to the old classics. A top evening all round. 

Right - a quiet night tonight methinks. It's going to be a long week...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rebels with a cause

You know how every so often you get one of those 'did that really happen?' moments? I had one of them on Sunday evening. And it was good!

But more about that in a minute. With your humble narrator's famous finger nearly back up to full strength (whatever 'full strength' is for a finger) things have thankfully been getting much easier, both on guitar and in everyday life generally. It's amazing what problems a little cut can cause isn't it? Anyway hopefully that's more-or-less the last we'll hear of it (thank gawd!) so it's on to bigger and better things - and not a moment too soon, as Ruts D.C. return to the stage next Saturday (April 30th if you're counting) at The 'Scotland Calling' Festival in Glasgow. Rehearsals will occur next week, and maybe some other things as well. It'll be great to get back into things - the 'Psychic Attack' single comes out next month and there's still work to do on our 'Music Must Destroy' album so I'm very relieved that my finger seems to be better at last.
Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks were out and about the weekend just gone, on Friday at The Black Horse in Eastcote and at The Halfway House in Barnes on Saturday. We've played both venues several times before, and since there's not much room at either Al decided not to play electric guitar, thereby saving stage space (or to be pedantic floor space as neither pubs have a stage) normally taken up by his amplifier. He still played acoustic guitar and saxophone (although not at the same time!) but it meant that we had to rethink things a bit - some songs featured acoustic rather than electric strumming (and dare I say it sounded all the better for it) while others were dropped altogether. A recently-purchased alto sax (he usually plays tenor) featured on the new-to-the-band 'Baker Street' and both shows saw much dancing and cavorting from various audience members so I guess we must have been doing something right. Two good shows - but neither prepared us for the goings-on at The Battle Of Britain Club in Uxbridge on Sunday… 
Chas & Dave at
The Battle Of Britain Club
in Uxbridge. Really!
Sid Phillips played saxophone for a great many artists and bands over the years, not least Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers back in the day. He sadly died last year, and Sunday's gathering was something of a celebration of his life and work. Big Al had been asked to provide the PA as well as playing a few songs, and the news that ex-Rebel Rousers Chas and Dave were also to be appearing went down well with all concerned. The first set of the day started at around 4 pm and featured Cliff Bennett with a makeshift Rebel Rousers line-up with Geoff Nicholls on drums and guest appearances from Searchers bass man Frank Allen and Good Old Boys singer Alan Barratt. It was unrehearsed and therefore a bit shaky in places but that hardly seemed to matter given the circumstances. We were next up - our six songs flew past in no time at all, which is generally the sign of a good performance; given the fact that we were offered two gigs on the back of it I suppose you can say that it was! I managed to miss a short set from Roy Young as I was in the nearby chip shop (a big mistake - but I was hungry!) but I'm reliably informed that he was excellent. By now Chas and Dave were in the bar and the scene was set for a memorable performance. Aided and abetted by five saxophone players (referred to as 'The Sid Ensemble' by Chas during the show) they were simply brilliant - I first saw them supporting Led Zeppelin at Knebworth in 1979 and they remain a band that it's pretty much impossible to dislike. Well I think that they are - I can't pretend to have followed their career intently but they are great musicians and, as is evidenced by their presence at an event such as this, decent blokes. As they finished with 'Ain't No Pleasing You' (lump in the throat time for your humble narrator as it was one of my mum's favourite songs) drinks were raised and the waltz was waltzed - it didn't take much imagination to think that a similar scene might have occurred 70 or so years earlier in The Battle Of Britain Club, albeit under rather different circumstances. As I say, it was lump in the throat time for me, and I wasn't alone.

Did that really happen?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cockney Rebel

Paul Fox would have been 65 years old today. I miss him as both a fabulous musician and as a lovely bloke - here he is in 1979 with The Ruts in the promo video for 'Something That I Said'. Great stuff!

With the ever-improving finger ever-improving gigs are thankfully getting a bit easier to get through - Thursday with Big Al and co. at The Sunningdale Lounge and Friday's Upper Cut show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge were both much more enjoyable from my point of view than last week's pain-powered performances so hopefully things will continue to get even better this week. I was due to play with The Buicks in Northwood on Saturday night but I rather extravagantly decided to take the night off (if you ever hear me moaning about not having any money feel free to poke me in the eye!) to go to see The Cockney Rejects at The 100 Club. I went with my brother Terry who has long been a big fan of the band - he used to play 'Greatest Hits Vol. 1' and 'Vol. 2' so often when they first came out that I think I know them even better than he does… we met up with Cadiz Music supremo Richard England at The Ship in Wardour Street around 7.15 and made it down to the venue as Geoffrey Oi!Cott were roaring through their set - it was all a little bit one dimensional for me (or I guess to be precise a bit two dimensional, as their songs are mostly about Yorkshire and / or cricket) but they certainly went down well with all concerned, especially the comedy compere who at the end of their set asked them to repeat 'Robin Hood Was A Yorkshireman'; it transpired that that they hadn't played it at all. Oops! Next up were The Heavy Metal Kids who in their first incarnation were just a bit before my time; I'm very glad to have caught them this time around though - 'They should have been as big as AC/DC' bellowed Manic Esso as their set thundered to a close, and I'm bound to say that on this showing I'd have to agree with him. And what can I say about The Cockney Rejects that hasn't already been said? They hammered through an hour or so of classic punk rock, driving the assembled multitude into a veritable frenzy in the process. Terrific stuff - and after having been a fan of the band for over 30 years my little brother finally got to meet his heroes after the show. Excellent!

More Big Al gigs this weekend. Don't point your finger at the guitar man, as previously discussed…

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

'Keep your head high, and your middle finger higher...'

Well I don't want to tempt fate - after all, who does? - but I'm pleased to report that the famous finger seems to be getting better at last. At least I think that it is - the original cut is still pretty painful, and it generally doesn't look how it should look but hopefully it'll improve further over the next few days. You know it's strange - it was just a silly little scratch from a piece of cardboard…

Proof that things are going in the right direction comes with the fact that I played three gigs in three days over the weekend, starting with a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks show at Ye Olde Swan in Burnham. I'd not been to the venue before but the band had gigged there in my absence and had all said things like 'they like it rocky there' - in the event we played a good show to an appreciative crowd although I don't recall it being any more 'rocky' than any other gig, or indeed the following night's show at The Three Wishes in Edgware. I'd been at said establishment only a few days earlier for the Easter Monday jam night - I used to go along to these gatherings fairly regularly (they have a regular jam night on Mondays) but I got fed up with various people making sarcastic comments along the lines of 'oh aren't you too famous to come along here now?' It's amazing how far things like jealousy, bitterness and spite will get you isn't it? Well they certainly got them a long way… anyway Big Al and Pete from The Buicks were going and invited me to go with them, and with the likes of Gary Sandford, Dzal Martin and Pete Parks all in attendance it turned out to be something of a guitar-fest. Maybe I should go along more often? Then again, maybe not - there were still more than enough sneers to remind me why I stopped going along in the first place… there was a sneer or two from one of the same people on Saturday night too, but that didn't stop it from being a good gig. And why should it? They were having a bad night, not me.
I was supposed to have been playing with The Upper Cut at The Salmon And Ball in Bethnal Green on Saturday night, but the gig was cancelled a few days earlier when we were given the slightly peculiar news that all the pubs in the area were closing at 10 pm as there was to be a Chess Boxing match at the nearby York Hall (and no, I'd not heard of Chess Boxing before either, but it looks mad doesn't it?!) We did however play an afternoon show the next day at The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook, where my 'I'd better be careful in case I hurt my hand' restraint of the previous couple of nights was abandoned in favour of 'oh bugger it, I'm just going to play' - yes, you've guessed it, I took some of the 'new' skin off my finger and generally managed to hurt myself more than I should have just by windmilling and being silly. Good fun though! 

This week, more of the same with Big Al and the boys in Sunningdale and Northwood and The Upper Cut in Uxbridge, along with some time in Balcony Shirts and murmurings of activity from the Ruts D.C. camp. As I say, things are going in the right direction… hopefully...