Tuesday, June 28, 2016

'There is no future in England's dreaming...'

So - we're leaving The European Union. Or are we? Forced to choose between the conceited opinions of podgy right-wing toff David Cameron and podgy right-wing toff Boris Johnson the Great British public chose the latter rather than the former, presumably because for some unfathomable reason they think that he's a 'character'. They even feel as though they can call refer to him by his first name. Why do people do that? It makes it sound as though he's their mate or something, and the last thing he is is their mate. Funny that. But there's nothing funny about what's happened since the referendum result was announced. It seems that all those promises made by the Vote Leave camp were not actually promises at all. Politicians lying? Who'd have thought it? All the people that voted for them and so presumably wanted to curb immigration, free up money for The National Health Service and whatever the hell else that they thought they were voting for weren't actually voting for those things at all. Anyone would think that it was all a load of - let's be polite here shall we? - nonsense wouldn't they? Why that 'nice' Mr. Farage (I assume the people that supported him thought that he was nice?) isn't even an MP is he? He like Johnson is often portrayed as a 'character' or even a figure of fun when in reality he's a part time politician and full time millionaire who somehow managed to galvanise the fears of millions of people into inadvertently voting for his cause and, since Cameron has taken the coward's way out and resigned, also voting for a new, presumably anti-EU Prime Minister. There's talk of another referendum, which would be unprecedented not least because the main reason given is that this one didn't go the way that some people think that it should have - but surely that makes a complete mockery of 'democracy'? As it happens I can think of quite a few General Elections that didn't go the way that I thought that they should have, but there was no talk of rerunning them… and if that wasn't bad enough the England football team has been knocked out of the European Championships by lowly Iceland. A bunch of multi millionaire prima donnas are beaten by a gang of unfancied part timers for the second time in a week. Oh dear.

Let's cheer up a bit shall we? GLM - the band formed by ex - Lurkers Pete Stride, Nigel Moore And Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes and now renamed The Lurkers GLM - have released their second album 'The Future's Calling' and it's a cracker. It's popper than their debut 'Chemical Landslide' but no less powerful, with everyone on top form throughout. Full details of how to obtain a copy are on the band's website along with videos, downloads and more. Great stuff!

The Upper Cut played two private parties - cue 'none for ages and then two come along at once' gags - on Friday and Saturday. The first was at Terry the singer's workplace in London - literally, we played in one of the offices - and the second was a birthday party at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. The first show included a very pleasant but rather drunk young lady asking to have a go on the drums with the words 'I don't know how to work them but I like dancing' - she was correct, she didn't, and she did - while Geoff Nicholls depped for Roger on drums at the second show where repeated requests for 'Simply The Best' saw us managing to stagger through one verse and multiple choruses to scenes of audience hysteria and mayhem that wouldn't have been out of place at an actual Tina Turner gig and which took even the hardiest members of the band by surprise. 

Two ex - Sex Pistols were on the same stage (although sadly not at the same time) on Thursday night when The Rich Kids and The Professionals co-headlined The O2 Academy in Islington. Both band released underrated singles and albums back in the day, and as all of said records are big favourites of mine the evening was pretty much unmissable from my point of view. With Tom Spencer taking the place of the sadly absent Steve Jones The Professionals were on first - opening with 'Just Another Dream' they sounded strong from the word go, and by the time they finished with 'Silly Thing' it was clear that we'd just seen a great band play a fine show. The Rich Kids were excellent too although I thought that they took a couple of songs to get going - that said it was definitely a case of 'all's well that ends well' with the encore of 'Rich Kids' all but taking the roof off. Paul Cook was always a great drummer and Glen Matlock's a brilliant bass player - who were those fools who said that they couldn't play? - and it really was something to see both of their post - Pistols bands together. A cracking evening, although it did take me over four hours to get home. Well, it had been raining, so all the trains were off and the roads were jammed. That didn't used to happen when we were in The EU did it? 

Oh, hang on...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

'Walking down the King's Road with some friends of mine...'

Back to the 'there's only time for a quick round-up of what's been happening in Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars' format...

- I went to 'Exhibitionism' at The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea
I like The Rolling Stones more than I sometimes realise, if you know what I mean. And I liked this exhibition too - well I must have liked it, as I managed to spend over three hours there stumbling from room to room. There's lots for a nerd like myself to enjoy, and plenty of stuff for normal people too - if you're thinking of going then get along there before it closes!  

- I saw Dead Men Walking at Dingwalls
From Chelsea it was a short tube train journey up to Camden Town where with the help of Adrian from Aural Sculptors and his wife Gunta I eventually found Dingwalls (it's all changed around there since I was a lad I can tell you!) just as the band were sound checking. On stage from left to right were Kirk Brandon, Dave Ruffy, Segs and Jake Burns - a formidable line-up be anybody's standards. And I'm pleased to say that they sounded as good as you'd hope that they would. Highlights of the evening were many and varied, although the moment that sticks in my mind was when myself, Segs and ex - U.K. Subs guitarist Jet were in The Elephant's Head shortly before the show half-seriously considering some sort of appearance at the the then - happening open mic night when a chap got on stage and performed 'Rasputin' on a stylophone. He followed it with 'Ace Of Spades'. We decided not to play. How do you follow that?

- I played two shows with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
With Pete still away I was on solo guitar duties in Greenford at The Black Horse on Saturday night; he then returned the next afternoon for a gig at Sally B's in Hoddesdon. The first show was good and the second was even better - things are definitely going in the right direction for Big Al and The Boys.

And hopefully things will be going in the right direction this week too, but more about that next time, when I've got time…

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reading, working, peddling, jamming...

Well the busy times at Balcony Shirts continue, although I'm 'only' working four days there this week. Part of me is a bit relived - after all at times it's been far too much like having a 'real' job - while the other part of me has enjoyed it immensely. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's been great to earn a bit of money too. In a heroic attempt to not squander it all on beer and jollity I've bought myself a reassuringly expensive Carl Martin Quattro multi-effect pedal, the idea being that it should function as both a spare unit for Ruts D.C. gigs as well as being something that should fit into my luggage easier than my existing pedal board does and so should be useful for shows that we fly to. It could also be something that I might be able to use at Big Al and The Blistering Buicks shows, and with this in mind I took it along to our gig at The Battle Of Britain Club in Uxbridge last Friday. With Pete away elsewhere I was the sole guitarist for the weekend's gigs, which in some ways was unfortunate as the onset of hay fever had left me with a left ear full of wax to go along with the inevitable bunged up nose. Perhaps using an unfamiliar piece of kit wasn't the cleverest idea but I did it anyway - under the circumstances I thought that it went well although I don't mind admitting that I stood on the wrong pedal more than a few times. Well that's my excuse for the dreadful mess I made of the 'Whiskey In The Jar' riff anyway… by the time the next night's show at The Misty Moon in Northwood came around my ear had cleared a bit although it was still far from being 100%, which combined with England throwing away their one goal lead against Russia in The European Championships meant that I for one started our show with no little trepidation. Happily this proved to be unfounded - after a few songs people were dancing and our national football team's latest impression of The Keystone Cops seemed to have been all but forgotten by the end of our show.

The next night Big Al and myself ventured across to The Plough in Tilehurst near Reading where Ann and Steve from the covers band Hot Legs run a jam night. They've been badgering Al to attend for a while now so this seemed as good a time as any - when we arrived we were both struck with how friendly everyone was. This is not always the case at these sort of gatherings - they can be very cliquey - but here it bode well for a good evening. I was asked to play on an original 12 bar blues song with a couple of young ladies, after which Al and myself joined the house band for 'Willie And The Hand Jive', 'Sweet Home Chicago' and 'Let's Stick Together', all of which went splendidly well. From there a very varied evening saw performances of material as diverse as 'Ace Of Spades' and 'I Know What I Like' before I was cajoled into joining a couple of young lads for their songs - I'd had a few drinks by then but with Al's words 'what could possibly go wrong?' ringing in my ears I stumbled towards the stage. The two lads were very good - maybe a few too many notes for my liking but they certainly knew what they were doing. I chugged along cheerily on a funky version of 'Rambling On My Mind' hoping not to be given a solo. The guitar man smiled as he pointed at me and nodded - I played a lot less notes than him but it seemed to go down well. (Let's face it, I wouldn't be writing about it here if it hadn't!) Then he asked if I knew 'Little Wing' - yes I do although I've never played it in front of anyone. Then again I'd not met these boys until about 10 minutes ago so… after them the evening ended with a peculiar (and let's face it, very drunk) fellow who for want of a better word, dismantled 'Mustang Sally' and 'Money For Nothing'. I wouldn't have recognised them if he hadn't slurred the titles several times indiscriminately during his frankly astonishing performance. Yes I was on guitar, although I'm not quite sure what I doing there. Judging by the faces of the other musicians they weren't sure what they were there either. A suitably bizarre ending to a very enjoyable evening.

And I completely forgot to mention that at some point in the last few weeks I visited Tropic At Ruislip where I witnessed Stranglers tribute band The Dead Ringers (a last minute substitute for Straighten Out who I believe had to pull out when one of their members injured a hand) roaring through a set of Guildford's finest's songs and in my opinion doing a very good job. But don't take my word for it - the always-worth-reading Elvis In The Clouds blog has written this review of the show, summing the night up well and somehow mentioning me in the process. Strange - but true!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tougher than the rest

Well, you know how this is going to work by now don't you? I make some weak (increasingly weak to be honest!) excuses about having no time to do anything other than work in Balcony Shirts, then I bang on about the things that have happened to me when I haven't been working in Balcony Shirts. Simple eh? Except this time it deserves more… or is that just egotism on my part? After all, it doesn't really matter what I write here does it? Not compared the death of Muhammad Ali anyway. Mind you, not much matters next to that does it? Whatever your opinion of boxing it's impossible to deny that Ali was one of the great figures of the 20th Century, and given the reaction to the news of his passing it's surely difficult to think that he won't be one of the great figures of the 21st Century and beyond. For what my opinion is worth he was, is and always will be a truly remarkable figure in history who transcended sport, politics, race and religion to inspire countless people to achieve things in their lives that they never have otherwise been able to do. That goes beyond any analysis - put simply, the world has become a better place for him having lived on it.

Right - let's get onto the 'I haven't had much time this week…' stuff - 

- I saw Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade East.
The extraordinary renaissance of The Canvey Island Assassin continues with the publication of his autobiography 'Don't You Leave Me Here', and last Thursday's early evening event saw the man himself interviewed by Zoe Howe about the new book and more. Hang on a minute - didn't she write a book with him a while back? Well yes she did, which has prompted more than a few 'so what's in this book that wasn't in the other one then?' questions; sadly I've not had time to read the new one yet (obviously!) so I can't answer that potentially rather awkward query, but I can confirm that both were on good form during the admittedly often rather contrived inquisition. I managed a quick chat with Zoe and her husband Dylan afterwards as well as catching up with Wilko's son and Eight Rounds Rapid guitar man Simon, after which I hightailed it across town to Denmark Street

- I attended The WitchDoktors's album launch night at The Alley Cat Club.
…where I arrived just in time to catch a couple of songs by The Healthy Junkies before The WitchDoktors gave a blazing performance in support of their new release 'Voodoo Eye'. I've seen them a few times here and there - they always give a good show and this was no exception. Great stuff - and the album is excellent too.

- Roger Cotton died.
I played quite a few shows with Roger, and The Flying Squad recorded with him in his studio - he was a great bloke and and a fabulous musician who I'm very proud to have known and worked with. A very sad loss.

- I played a show in Rickmansworth with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
A lively evening at The Halfway House saw Big Al's two daughters winning friends and influencing people with their, erm, 'flamboyant' style of dancing. That's all I'm saying here, as I'd like to keep my job.

- I didn't play a show in Bethnal Green with The Upper Cut. 
Our run of bad luck at The Salmon And Ball continued when the PA system went wrong during our second number - despite repeated attempts at continuing we eventually gave it up as a bad job and went home. Bugger!

- I went to see Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium.
On June 5th 1981 I witnessed a (literally) life changing performance from The Boss and the boys (no ladies in the band in those days!) at The Wembley Arena. 35 years to the day later I saw him and The 'heart-stopping, pants-dropping, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary' E-Street Band put on a 3 1/2 hour show that might not have been quite as transcendent as the one that I saw all those years ago, but still left little if any doubt that they are indisputably one of the greatest bands of all time. Highlights were many and varied, but a mention has to be given to a devastating version of 'Candy's Room' - is there any greater moment in rock music than the first note of the guitar solo? - and 'Because The Night' which was as intense and powerful a performance as anything that I can remember seeing from him or indeed anybody else. Magnificent. 

And talking of magnificent, what better way to end this posting than with a quote from the late and undeniably great Muhammad Ali himself - 

'Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power that it takes to win when the match is even'.

There's nothing to add to that is there? Thanks Champ.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Time and the devil (cont…)

Well this is going to be another one of those 'there isn't much time for blogging as I'm so bloody busy' postings. I guess the main reason for this is that I've been working full time in Balcony Shirts as it's very busy in there at the moment - as a self-employed person I'm rarely if ever in a position to turn work down and so am very grateful for this opportunity to earn some money, as well as being able to help out. This of course means that I've only had the evenings to do anything for myself - how on earth do people with 'real' jobs ever manage to have a life outside of work?!? Or maybe I'm so used to doing everything at what would be seen as a leisurely pace by 'real' people..?

Anyway here's what's been happening in Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars over the last week-and-a-bit - 

- I saw The Damned at The Royal Albert Hall.
What a night - and what a great band The Damned are. I somehow managed to miss most of their first set through being (ahem!) caught in the bar with Segs and Steve Beatty of Plastic Head Distribution - they've just put out 'Psychic Attack' which was released on the day of the gig and so was the cause of much merriment and indeed celebration. This combined with the effects of continued merriment and celebration at the aftershow party (I got home sometime after 5 am having run the gauntlet of the night bus. Scary!) meant that the following day in the shirts shop was a long and complex one…

- I saw The U.K. Subs at The 100 Club.
…after which I somehow made it along to my third Subs gig in four weeks. With the venue packed to capacity Charlie and co. could do no wrong and a suitably blazing show ensued. Great stuff - although I did have to spend most of the next day asleep.

- I guested with Department S at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston with Ed Tudor-Pole.
Well they asked me to do it again and it would have been rude not too - the same 3 songs as last time ('Wonderful Day', 'Is Vic There?' and 'I Want' since you've asked) with the addition of 'Swords Of A Thousand Men' with Ed Tudor-Pole on vocals. The astonishingly-named Fighting Cocks turned out to be a great venue and opening act The Marksmen are well worth catching should you ever see their name on a poster. Another excellent night.

- I saw Iggy Pop at The Royal Albert Hall. 
Aided and abetted by Josh Homme and co. and playing a set of songs mostly from 'Post Pop Depression', 'The Idiot' and 'Lust For Life' the mighty Mr. Pop reminded us all why he has attained legendary status with a blistering performance that all but left the venue and indeed the audience in ruins. One of the best gigs I've seen in a very - make that VERY - long time. 

- I played two gigs with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
And as so often happens the two shows were very different from each other. The Manor Club in Shepperton was a new venue for the band, and while it was by no means the worst place we've has ever found ourselves in it was hampered by a neighbour who apparently complains every time there is a band or event on at the club. This resulted in us (a) being told after a few songs that we were too loud (we weren't, or at least I didn't think that we were) and (b) being told in the interval that we would have to finish at 11.15 and so could only play a short second set. This was a shame as we were playing well  - still, Bank Holiday Monday's 4 pm appearance at The Horns in Watford more than made up for any in-band disappointment about Saturday's show as we were on top form from the word go. Rather ironically I thought that we might have been a bit loud (no, really, I did!) although I'm told that it was fine out front. A great gig, although to be honest the previous one wasn't bad, just a bit weird - not least because Strawbs guitarist Brian Willoughby told me that he liked my guitar playing and sound. He then said he needed to go home as he'd been 'drinking all day' which rather ruined an otherwise triumphant moment.   

- And probably some other things as well.
As I say, it's hard to remember sometimes...

This week, more of the same - hopefully!