This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
Wednesday 10th May
With further gigs on the way from Devon Allman, Martin Turner and Sari Schorr coming up, I'm gonna be spending quite a lot of time at the Beaverwood in Chislehurst. My series kicked off last night with Davey Knowles, a guitar hero who grew up in the Isle of Man before relocating to Chicago with his band Back Door Slam. I've a copy of the 2009 album 'Coming Up for Air' which I saw him promote with a gig at the Borderline though afterwards I lost track of the fella and, to be quite honest, forgot all about him. No wonder; it turns out Knowles hasn't toured here since those days, despite carving quite a reputation on the other side of the pond. Peter Frampton called him "the gunslinger guitarist of the 21st century," Joe Satriani: "My favourite modern bluesman."
Well, I don't exactly know about 'modern'. During an acoustic interlude, Knowles addressed the crowd: "It might not be a secret but one of my biggest heroes is..." "... Rory!" they laughed back. "Is it the flannel shirt?" Knowles grinned in acknowledgement. No, it's more than the shirt. During the show he wields a batterered-to-hell-and-back 1966 Telecaster and also a 1932 National Triolian that's just like Rory's, throwing in a mean version of Tony Joe White's 'As The Crow Flies' which was of course covered by the G-Man on 'Irish Tour '74'.
It's a cool show, and I'd definitely see Knowles again but maybe I need to pick up the most recent albums first. The slow, ponderous blues of 'Falling Apart' from latest disc 'Three Miles From Avalon' was particularly impressive, alongside the more familiar title track of 'Coming Up For Air', and Knowles has a great, tight and often funky backing band built around some significant interaction with keysman Andy Toombs.
I hope he spends a little more time in the UK in future.
Tuesday 9th May
This afternoon I had a great chat with ex-UFO bassist Sir Peter Of Way, talking about his autobiography, the impending solo album and of course lots and lots of footie chat ("I knew that Benteke would get goals for Palace!" says the staunch Villa-ite). Despite wearing a heart monitor that will hopefully come off tomorrow Pete says that he is enjoying good health. He sounded upbeat and was, by his standards, extremely lucid. Its final third is harrowing and it includes segments that are hard to read without crawling under a chair, but the book is great, by the way. Ghost writer Paul Rees (an old colleague of mine from the RAW magazine days) intersperses the anecdotes with testimonies from Way's brother Neill, Michael Schenker, Slash, Joe Elliott, Geddy Lee, 'Fast' Eddie Clarke, Ross Halfin and Pete Makowski, engineer Mike Clink and Way's drug dealer buddy Gary Lee. Needless to say, it contains all of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that can possibly be syringed into 261 pages.
I asked Pete why there is no input from Phil Mogg, Paul Raymond or any of the other current UFO members, likewise why Phil and Andy Parker are 'thanked', but the rest of his former band-mates - even Paul Raymond! - were overlooked. His response - "When I had my minor heart attack and prostate cancer, they didn't call me. Andy did, he's a good soul, but nobody else from the band asked how I was. Maybe Phil doesn't have my latest number, but then again I don't go out of my way to call them either" - was pretty revealing.
Monday 8th May
Just in: Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers confirmed for London BluesFest October 2017. How exciting!!!!
Sunday 7th May
Just picking things up for what should be the final day's transcript of the Wishbone Ash boxed set book with Steve Upton discussing the disastrous Tom Dowd-produced 'Locked In' album from 1976. "If someone were to write a school report on that one it would say, 'Must do better'." Luckily, of course, the band would more than redeem themselves that same year with the brilliant 'New England'. Anyway… I'm very glad that I stayed in last night, I'm in the mood to get this sucker finished.
Saturday 6th May
THANK YOU SUNDERLAND!!! Palace's televised 5-0 lunchtime battering at Man City was pretty hard to stomach. It was the club's heaviest defeat of the season, and to be honest we were lucky to get 'nil'. However, with the pressure off the already relegated Mackems did the Eagles a colossal favour by stuffing Hull 2-0 at the KCOM Stadium. Swansea's 1-0 defeat of Everton means that the Tigers drop into the dreaded bottom three. Palace and Hull go head to heed next Sunday. Sam's mean need to avoid defeat to stay up, for the visitors it's shit or bust. What an exciting and somewhat terrifying prospect, but as the cliché goes, it's all in our own hands.
Friday 5th May
Last night I went to a lunchtime launch party at the Borderline for the new Hawkwind album, 'Into The Woods'. The band played a few unplugged tunes, it was great fun. Afterwards I went back to the Crobar - maybe one drink. I betcha can guess what happened? Yep. Got home at 1.30am. Fecking hell. Tomorrow - sorry, today - is gonna be a bit tricky. At least it's a Friday.
During my mammoth Cro session I had a long and interesting chinwag with the band's newest member, bassist Haz Wheaton. The poor fella was supposed to be getting a 7pm train back down to the group's base in Devon, but of course that became 8pm, 9pm, 10pm and so forth. When I left to catch my midnight service from Charing Cross he was still sitting there with my pal Keith Barton. Those guys looked set for a few more hours yet!
Thursday 4th May
Uli Jon Roth's 'Tokyo Tapes Revisited' show last night at the Underworld... wow, just wow. My friend Harj and I pushed our way right to the front (Harj is a little geezer and wanted to see as much of the fast-fingered fret action as possible); this morning my ears are *seriously* ringing, but boy was it worth it?! Roth's band featured three guitarists including singer Nicklaus Thurman, also a keyboard player. Despite the volume, the tones were exquisite. Their 100-minute gig was based upon the Scorpions' legendary double-live album from 1978, plus a handful of Uli-era Scorps gems, including a quite brilliant 'Yellow Raven' from 'Virgin Killer'. We also got guest vocals from Nathan James of Inglorious on 'Sails Of Charon' and 'In Trance' and a couple of Hendrix re-workings during a lengthy encore. If this show comes to your town, DO NOT MISS IT!
Check out the set-list: 'All Night Long', 'Longing For Fire', 'Sails Of Charon', 'Sun In My Hand', 'We'll Burn The Sky', 'In Trance', 'Fly To The Rainbow', 'Pictured Life', 'Catch Your Train' and 'Dark Lady', followed by encores of 'Yellow Raven', 'All Along The Watchtower' and 'Little Wing'.
Tuesday 2nd May
This afternoon my heart sank – not for the first time I was summoned to the bank to transfer some money so that the mortgage payment wouldn't bounce. The mood dipped further still when the middle aged be-suited guy behind the desk proposed a meeting to discuss my finances and said mortgage, which in two months stops being a fixed payment. "How soon do you think you could do that?" I replied that time is short at the moment as I'm in the final stages of finishing a book. When the fella asked its subject I expected his eyes to glaze over. Instead there was a 180-degree attitude flip and he sat upright in the chair: "Wishbone Ash?! Oh my God, I'm from Devon, I grew up just down the road from those guys! 'Argus' is one of my favourite albums!"
I think it's gonna be okay… Hmmm, if I get the fella a signed photograph I wonder whether he might write off my overdraft?! Haha. If only…
Monday 1st May
I'm very, very disappointed that I didn't get to say goodbye to those pesky Black Spiders. Their London appearance was at Desertfest, which clashed with Saturday's game for the Palace. Yesterday my friend Andy Beare suggested a trip down to Southampton, but I was so rammed with work that I had to decline. I'd love to make the final show in Nottingham but for the same reason that's just gonna be impossible. And so, I must bid a fond adieu to the Spiders, a band with so much unfulfilled potential. I shall miss ya. Here's my favourite song of theirs. By the way, *everything* is Gene's fault. We all know, that, right?
Phew. Phew. And Phew again. When it comes to the Wishbone transcript marathon, I'm into the home straight at last. Those epic interviews with Andy P, Martin T and Laurie W are now fully transcribed. Ted and Steve are up next.
For those that care, the Playlist and YouTube pages have been updated.
Sunday 30th April
I'm now onto my second spin of a 'secret listening link' to an album that will surely rank among the very finest of 2017. It's called 'Second Nature'. What a comeback from Lionheart - it's as good as I'd hoped. #pomprockheaven
Saturday 29th April
I'm back at home and hitting the bottle after an awful day at Selhurst; really, really pissed off. Why have we let all of the shit teams turn us over this season, and how come we beat the giants? Today it was Burnley that overturned the form guide to stake a strong grip on remaining in the first flight. A 2-0 victory was their first away from home of *the entire season*. The Clarets arrived at Selhurst Park with the worst away record in the Premier League, having taken just four points from 17 matches, leaking 33 goals. A draw would have been enough to stave off relegation for the Eagles but we simply didn't turn up. With a trip to Man Shitty, a home six-pointer against hull and final day out at O*d Tr***ord to come, things are looking a little precarious.
The good news was that Eddie and I made it back to the Black Horse & Catford in Catford in time for the big fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, watched by 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium (including my pal Jerry Ewing). I'm not much of a boxing fan in all truth, but feck... what an incredible bout! When the British fighter Joshua knocked the Ukrainian to the canvas in the eleventh round the pub went ballistic. It was like the Rocky move come to life! And then I remembered the footie… gah!
Friday 28th April
Last night's trip to Reading for the launch of Lonely Robot's second album, 'The Big Dream', was a whole lot of fun. The record label, who had promised to "get the drinks in", provided a boozer cruiser to get us all there and back. That the collection point and return drop-off were a certain rock bar in Manette Street filled me with deep worry. Damian Wilson traveled down on the minibus with us, and stories, and drinks flowed though rock 'n' roll-based shenanigans were a little more scaled down than I had expected. That was probably a good thing.
John Mitchell was on fine form in the guise of his sci-fi alter ego the Lonely Robot (complete with NASA spacesuit). Given that 'The Big Dream' is only released today Mitchell was wise to stick to the songs that people knew. However, the three newies - 'Sigma', 'Everglow' and 'In Floral Green' - worked extremely well onstage. It was nice to see Kim Seviour join in with a sublime 'Oubliette' but, in keeping with the album's more stripped-down direction, guests were conspicuous by their absence. Mitchell's band, including a Frost* band-mate on the percussion stool, was first rate. After an octopus-like solo spot to commence the encore and a frenetic display during 'God Vs Man' Mitchell to announced: "Mr Craig Blundell on drums… he's not shit." He was quite right to do so. Shame about that Celine Dion T-shirt, mind. Back in London, I left the others in our gang to partake in a nightcap or three at the Crobar and was back home and tucked up in bed by 1.45am (ulp!) Let's save the hellraising for tomorrow's trip to Selhurst!
Thursday 27th April
Palace's on-loan centre-half Mamadou Sakho was stretchered off during last night's narrow 1-0 home defeat to Spurs and looks unlikely to play for the club again this season. I found at a little more upsetting than the game's somewhat inevitable result, if I'm truthful. Sakho has been brilliant for us sign signing from Liverpool, where he had been forced out of the club by manager Klopp. On the evidence of his performances in red and blue, that decision seems positively insane.
Palace were never expected to beat Spuz (then again, weren't Chelski, Arse and the Scousers also gonna clobber us?), but although the Eagles dominated the first half the game turned on a wonder strike and some truly abysmal refereeing. How on earth Wanyama didn't see red is just beyond me, and for a team of so-called artisan footballers the visitors played it rough yet somehow got the benefit of not just every 50-50 decision but also most of the 25-75s. It made me hopping mad, though it's something one must accept from officials in games against the bigger clubs. Anyway, Saturday is the biggie - take three points from Burnley and we are safe. Get well soon Mamadou, and hope to see you again next season.
Wednesday 26th April
Okay, if you're on Facebook you'll have seen the latest of those annoying lists to do the rounds: '10 bands that I've seen live, but one of them is a lie'. Here's mine. Guess which is the cuckoo in the nest:
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Tears For Fears
Monday 24th April
Dream Theater are a Marmite band, and of course I can see the reasons why they inspire such mixed emotions: the lengthy tunes, the solo spots, the singing of James LaBrie, etc etc. But the fact remains that within their chosen sphere the US-Candian quintet have absolutely no peers. Reminder of this fact was provided last night at Hammersmith, where they played an hour of catalogue cuts (including bassist John Myung's tribute to Jaco Pastorius), took an intermission and returned to celebrate their pièce de résistance, 'Images And Words', in its 25th anniversary year. Encoring with 'A Change Of Seasons', the eight-part, 23-minute epic that the label had demanded be cut from its running order, was an inspired move, and I loved the fact that LaBrie singled out Derek Oliver, who had played such a part in their rise, for some appreciation, demanding he stand up and take a round of applause. DT are out on their own.... they prove it time and time again.
Sunday 23rd April
Well, that was a first. Two songs into Eclipse's gig at the Borderline and Erik Mårtensson stepped up to the mic to announce: "I'm so sorry, we've just been told there's a fire alarm and everyone should leave. Honestly!" And so we shuffled out into Manette Street, drinks in hands, looked at one another in bafflement and 15 mins later passed firemen coming up the stairwell upon re-entering the venue. It's to Eclipse's great credit that despite the interruption the Swedes somehow pulled off an amazing gig. Few bands get the mix of Whitesnake-esque hard rock, pinpoint melody and metallic crunch just right... Eclipse do it every time.
And another lesson learned: when at the 'new-look' Borderline always stand stage right, even if the mixing desk is located on the other side. Regrettably, when it came to opening act One Desire, Jimmy Westerlund's lead guitar was low to non-existent in the mix until 15 mins from the end with the ballad 'This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins' when the fella behind the desk seemed to whack up the fader for the solo and forgot to turn it down again. Those who'd stood in the spot to which I relocated myself for the headliners said the sound had been crystal clear - dammit. The Finns were superb, though. Two killer bands, one great night. I know this statement is true because I just awoke on the sofa - at least this weekend it was my own! Luckily Eddie has made me some tea and toast. "Dad, haven't you got another gig tonite? You'd better sober up."
[Edit: It's 5pm and I'm in the Duke Of Cornwall, just around the corner from the Hammersmith Odeon, and I've been watching Palace's game at Liverpool. Big Ben has chimed twice! Jurgen Klopped (again)! Palace are nearly safe. A few feet away from me a couple of plastic, London-based Scousers, complete with replica shirts, are not happy - especially as the home side had taken the lead. It's time for a cider! We always beat Liverpool, and it's great! Payback for the 9-0!)
Saturday 22nd April
And so it continues: yet more Wishbone Ash interview transcript. If you're wondering why my copy of 'Number The Brave' is autographed by Trevor Bolder it's because I met Laurie and Trev in the crowd when WA supported Gillan at Wembley Arena. Trevor protested: "I didn't play on this one" but I insisted: "Please sign it anyway!" Amusingly, when we spoke recently Laurie didn't spot that he'd autographed it back in 1982 and did the honours a second time. Right, where was I? Play... stop... rewind... play...
Friday 21st April
Ohhh goodie, the new issue of Prog has arrived. It carries my interview with Ayreon's Arjen Lucassen, featuring photographs taken (by Kevin Nixon) during a fascinating exhibition on the history of robotics at London's Science Museum. Lucassen uses this theme to drive the concept of Ayreon's latest special guest-strewn opus 'The Source' and believes it can only be a matter of time before the boffins crack the secret of life. "I'm not afraid of machines and technology," he says, "only what people choose to do with the power."
And me? I won't use a self-service checkout, have yet to meet a robot that can make a decent cup of tea and still record my interviews on cassettes… but it was a pretty good conversation all the same! By the way, the self-service checkout thing is more idealistic than anything else. I believe that we should be making jobs for people, not taking them away for the sake of a quick and easy profit.
OMG, HOLD THE FRONT PAGE - there's a new album from Styx, their first of original music since 'Cyclorama' way back in 2003. Oh, now we're fucking talking!!! A conceptual piece, 'The Mission' is out on June 16. Just premiered over at the Billboard site its first single, 'Gone Gone Gone', is Leppard's 'Getcha Rocks Off' goes pomp-rock!!! You may have spotted, I'm a wee bit excited!
Thursday 20th April
At the desk at 9am for an interview with Ty Taylor from Vintage Trouble who was on the other side of the globe in Tokyo. Talk about going 'off-script'... I asked two of the seven questions I had planned, but instead we freewheeled to discuss art, philosophy and, er... getting fruity with Paloma Faith (!). What a great way to start the day!
As I type it's early afternoon and I'm just back from the gym where, strangely, they were in an 1980s pop retro mood - Human League, ABC, Wacko Jacko, etc. I literally burst into song whilst pounding the treadmill to the strains of 'Club Tropicana' by Wham! I love all of that stuff... if you think that's strange for somebody that (just about) makes a living through writing about rock music then that's your problem and not mine!
Wednesday 19th April
Well, that was fun! I've just got off the phone with the one and only John Otway. I bought this song as a 7" single as a kid and four decades afterwards what a joy it was to conduct a quick phone interview with the man who wears the mantle of 'rock's greatest failure' with an unusual amount of pride. A really funny and likable guy and his new album 'Monserrat', named after the Caribbean island on which it was recorded ('natch!), is really rather good. Hmmm, this could be interesting if, like me, you're a Palace fan. Chairman Steve Parish is the newest member of the entrepreneur-based TV show Dragon's Den. A step into reality television? I suppose I've no problem with it in principle... so long as the programme's producers swap the word 'dragon' for 'Eagles' and lose 'Den' (spit!) for 'nest'.
Sunday 16th April
Stop me if this sounds familiar: It's that awful, awful moment when you wake up on someone's sofa, with absolutely no clue where you are. You think you've lost your manbag but it's okay, it's over there in the corner of the room. Your alarm is ringing but you can't find your phone. You search under the sofa, move the cushions, check under the coffee table. You look in said manbag. It's fucking got to be somewhere, right? You venture cautiously out of the room and look around in the hall, and then in the toilet. And the fucking thing is in your back pocket all along.
On the way home dog walkers look at your dishevelled state in utter contempt and disgust (and of course there are 'essential works' on the train). Never, ever go drinking with Tyrina Gallagher and Julia Graham - especially after an important Crystal Palace game. Managed to make it back to Catford. Have we got any Easter eggs I can eat? Dad will be here for lunch in about 75 mins,. Feck. How am I going to get away with this?
Saturday 15th April
I'm just back from a park run and into a bit more Wishbone transcript before heading off to Selhurst for Palace-Leicester. Truth told I'm flagging after six consecutive nights of music and/or sport, but I've one further evening of energy left in me and I ain't gonna be missing Tytan at the Unicorn.
My Good Friday soiree was spent at Under The Bridge – lovely venue, awful geographical location – in the company of The Magpie Salute, a new band led by ex-Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson. With Marc Ford also on guitar and Sven Pipien on bass (their early line-up also featured another former Crowe, keysman Eddie Harsch, who sadly died), they're as close to the music and original spirit of the Crowes you are gonna get.
Basically, it's a ten-piece line-up: Three guitarists, a lead singer, bassist, drummer, keyboards and a trio of female backing singers (one of whom played searing blues harp, cowbell, xylophone and even a bit of voicebox). Dreadlocked Englishman John Hogg is just a brilliant find, and whatever addiction issues the bloke may have ensured in the past, Marc Ford played like an absolute bloody demon. This was TMS' third of four nights in London and at each show they played a unique, two-hour set. Being a Good Friday, it was only fair that the band would revise the classic song of the same name, and boy... did they play it well?
Introducing a joyous, super-funky farewell of 'Remedy', Robinson took the mic to express his thanks, introduce the newcomers and promise a more expansive return visit. "I'll come back if you guys bring two friends next time. With all of this zombie music that makes people stupid, now more than ever, we play rock 'n' roll - warts 'n' all. It's never out of fashion, and the more you guys come to the shows the more it stays alive. It's all about us still trying to do this and you guys supporting us." Amen to that.
Friday 14th April
Last night I saw a cool band called Mount Holly, featuring ex-Silvertide guitarist Nick Perri, at the Water Rats in King's Cross. They've a pleasing, slightly Zeppelin-ish vibe, some big riffs and a very charismatic singer in Jameson Burt. Perri and Burt had played the Water Rats as a duo last year. There was a fairly small yet very enthusiastic crowd for this electric, full-band gig, and when Mount Holly finally launched into their YouTube video track, 'Stride By Stride', the place went completely and utterly bonkers. On this evidence, the already-completed album (due in the summertime for Razor & Tie Records) is going to be very special.
Thursday 13th April
What was the hottest gig of the year so far? That would be DragonForce's intimate launch party for the new album, 'Reaching Into Infinity', in the top room of a Camden pub called the Black Heart.
"There are lots of reasons to celebrate tonight, firstly our fuckin' manager isn't here because he's sick," quipped Marc Hudson – not a very nice way to refer to my old mate Steve McTaggart, but the melodic power metallers were definitely off the leash, and this was more relaxed and informal than a regular gig, with plenty of interaction between those occupying the stage and the packed-in fans. It saw the band take multiple drinks breaks as trays of shots arrived; there were lounge jazz interludes and spontaneous interpretations of Manowar tunes, circle pits, lots of jokes about hairline issues (the crowd raucously demanded Sam Totman remove his beanie hat to confirm what they already suspected) and DF blazed thorough their metalised stomp through Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire'.
Of course there was also a preview of two very fine songs from the forthcoming LP ('Judgement Day' and 'Curse Of Darkness'). In the bar afterwards Herman Li satisfied my curiosity by confirming that 'The Edge Of The World', the album's 11-minute epic and DragonForce's longest ever song to date, will be heard on their October tour. And at the end, during 'Through The Fire And Flames', Hudson dove into the crowd and was carried above everyone's heads to the bar and back again. Titanic, triumphant stuff!
Wednesday 12th April
Having kicked things off with a few liveners at the Crobar, last night I had an enjoyable time at the 100 Club where Erja Lyytinen, the amiable and gifted pocket dynamo known as Finland's Queen Of The Slide Guitar, launched a new album. Lyytinen and her band played a sizeable chunk of 'Stolen Hearts', made in junction with Chris Kimsey of Rolling Stones, Marillion and Peter Frampton fame. Standouts included the title cut, 'Black Ocean' and the smooth, velvety '24 Angels'. An encore of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' set the seal on a fine evening and although I exited the 100 Club with Mark Taylor I'm somewhat relieved to report that we managed resist the gravitational pull of the Cro! And tonight: a bit of DragonForce! Now where did I put that plastic broadsword!!!
BTW, just to add my voice to the rest: I was extremely sad to hear of the passing of Eric Cook, former manager of Venom and along with brother Ged (of Atomkraft / Tysondog) a man behind Demolition Records. Regardless of one's view of Venom, it takes blood, sweat and tears to get such a band to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon. Could they have pushed on to become bigger with a more famous name? Amost certainly, but my understanding is that Venom stuck with Eric because they liked and respected him.
I always had lots and lots of fun in Eric's company, notably a vodka swamped trip to Poland in '88 to cover Atomkraft, Nasty Savage and Exhumer for Metal Hammer. Cook and Tony Bray (you know him as Abbadon) frequently appeared at gigs and events in The Smoke, dismissing the locals as "Shandy-drinking Southern pooftahs" and it was always a pleasure to spend time in their company. At Hard Rock Hell in Prestatyn 2008, Eric was there over the weekend with Tigertailz and a few other bands maybe. Black Label Society were the Saturday night headliners... not a bad band, but of course we ended up in Eric's room watching the Toon on MOTD with some vodka and tinnies instead.
Our paths would cross far less often, but the last time I saw Eric was at Download a few years back when we shared a cab from our hotel to the site. He was just the same guy; cracking jokes along the way and refusing contribution towards the fare.
Eric was 56 years old. Jeez, that's fuggin' scary.
Tuesday 11th April
It's 1.20am as I type this, but do I feel ready for bed? No I 'kin well do not. Being a football fan can be tough, especially when you're 100% hardcore. Beating the hated Arsenal by three clear goals to ease our relegation concerns - a first win over those smug North London c**ts in 23 years - with the Selhurst crowd chanting 'Olé' each time a Palace player touched the ball felt so, so sweet that I can hardly sum it up in words. Without a single shot on target Arse were completely feeble in the second half, there's no escaping that, but let's give some credit to the Eagles for making it so difficult for their opponents, who simply gave up after Cabaye's 63rd minute wondergoal to make it 2-0. My fave bit of the night was when the entire ground, baring one tiny, silent section, sang: "Oh, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay" as the Frenchman stared dourly towards the ground. What a stunning team performance, and well played to Hennessey, too... another couple of games like that and I shall be forced to eat my words.
[Edit: When you send a work-related email to an Arsenal supporting publicist and begin with the words: I'm not gonna mention the game, but... (thus, of course, mentioning it anyway!). What a great way to start the day!]
Monday 10th April
I'm feeling thoroughly ashamed. In 2016 a rather proud Mike Portnoy sent Jerry Ewing, Malcolm Dome and myself an email about the then newly completed Neal Morse Band album, 'The Similitude Of A Dream', upon which he had performed. "Guys, this is going to be a prog classic!" he promised, "I really do think it's in the Top 3 to 5 of anything in my entire catalogue." Well, many reviewers agreed with that assessment but my efforts to obtain a finished CD never came to anything and, sorry to say, its glories ended up passing me by. (I still don't do the download thing, it's physical or nothing - sorry). 11 months later, last night I was in the crowd at a rammed Islington Academy as the NMB performed 'TSOAD' in its entirety. Although I was unfamiliar with a single note of its two hour duration, it was impossible not to be swept along by the sheer passion of those up on the stage and among me in the crowd: most of my fellow attendees knew every word, every note, each uplifting word. With Morse acting out some of the parts beneath a video screen that conveyed its epic concept (a modern day twist upon the first segment of John Bunyan's 1678 book The Pilgrim's Progress), the show's presentation was nothing short of immaculate, the front-of-house-sound among the best I've heard at this venue. It was a jaw-dropping night and I'm happy to report that my copy of 'The Similitude Of A Dream' is at last on its way. I've some serious catching up to do. #humiliated
Sunday 9th April
Some of the occupants of Ling Towers are outside and enjoying the sunshine (I'm talking primarily of Bob The Dog here). Others, sadly, are stuck indoors and working on a Wishbone Ash coffee table book. By hook or by crook I will write another 10,000 words this weekend! We're up to 'There's The Rub'. Ted has just been replaced by Laurie and it's 1974. There's still a lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong way to go, but it feels like I'm making progress.
Saturday 8th April
Bernie Tormé, ah… Bernie Tormé. Undisputed king of the whammy bar. A big hero of mine in teenaged years with the mighty Gillan and the Electric Gypsies, and still making great music as a solo artist. Last night Bernie played the new-look Borderline, my first gig there since the venue's recent facelift. Getting used to the new look is gonna take some time, that's all I can say. Tormé played a stirring set, full of vintage gems (including 'Wild West', 'Turn Out The Lights', 'Star' and 'Possession'), cool-sounding tracks from the brand new album 'Dublin Cowboy' (among them the title cut and 'Hair Of The Dog', introduced as "song for my true love, alcohol!") and of course a nod to his Gillan past via 'No Easy' Way' and the band's covers of 'Trouble' and 'New Orleans'. Those glorious, squalling solos were the show's centrepiece, naturally, but the backing band was super-tight; how on earth did drummer Ian Harris perform in a long sleeved military tunic throughout? Bernie has never been the luckiest fella in the world and when it came to calling up a Pledger to sing 'Smoke On The Water' he managed to find the only bloke in the room who didn't know the words, coming in for the first verse during the riff and referring to crib sheet to check the lyrics – yes, really! It was an unintentionally comedic end to a really terrific evening!
I'm wading through the YouTube footage of last night's Rock And Roll Hall Of fame inductions. You've gotta love this clip of Yes performing 'Roundabout' with Geddy Lee on bass, it's heart-warming stuff. How lovely to see Geddy getting carried away with it all and playing air keyboards! The right man for the job... I suspect that Chris S would have approved.
It's a shame that Perry didn't sing again with Journey, but if the voice has depreciated to such an extent that a reunion is now impossible… well, that was probably the right call.
Friday 7th April
How encouraging to see a large crowd for last night's Chantel McGregor gig at the Beaverwood Club. Though the perception of McGregor is taking a while to sink in she is no longer a quote-unquote blues artist, having moved onto heavier pastures with 2015's second album 'Lose Control'.
Her set began with a couple of unaccompanied acoustic numbers before the band joined in for the 11-minute 'Inconsolable', which, sitting somewhere between unplugged and electric, was among the finest tunes of the evening. With a solitary throwback to her old style ('Nameless Blues'), Chantel has found her niche with the well channelled, propulsive hard rock of 'Burn Your Anger', 'Lose Control', 'Killing Time', 'Southern Belle' and a deserved encore of 'Take The Power'. And just when we thought we had McGregor pegged she throws in her epic untitled prog-rock piece, channelling a Steven Wilson obsession and named on this occasion as 'Strobe Lights In The Eyes Of The Damned' in honour of the failure of the Beaverwood's stage illumination. "Clever... but self-indulgent" reckoned the idiot in front of me who had insisted on talking through the quiet bits (there's always at least one of those, right?) Don't listen to a word from this disrespectful buffoon: It was a great night, Chantel's third album should be fascinating.
Thursday 6th April
Oh dear, yet another fatality and this one makes me very sad. I interviewed Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill several times for Classic Rock and for Prog, notably during a trip to Pittsburgh in 2009, and he was a fascinating character. Immensely quotable though prone to being long winded (on more than one occasion an extra cassette was required!), O'Neill was a huge Anglophile; from Yes, Crimson and Genesis to his personal hero Winston Churchill, he loved everything about this country of ours, and I know Paul was extremely proud to bring Trans-Siberian Orchestra to headline the Hammersmith Odeon in 2011.
In one of our best interviews he told me of TSO's formation, hatched in 1996 during a pow-wow with one of the industry's most famous names, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records.
"Ahmet told me, 'Paul, it's time you formed your own band'," he recalled. "I agreed, but only if it could be completely different to what was out there. I said, 'It has to be a full progressive rock band, with elements of hard rock and it must have 24 lead singers'. When he asked why, I explained there had to be no limits to what we could accomplish. Ahmet rolled his eyes but wrote a blank cheque."
Paul O'Neill: He didn't just think big, he wanted the stars. And now he's joined them. Check out there tribute here.
I must say that 'Do Hollywood' is one heck of a cool album, and I'm deffo planning to see its creators, The Lemon Twigs, when they return to these shores in November! Back in February Mike Portnoy hailed them as: "The Beatles meet Jellyfish meet Red Kross meet Badfinger with a member that somehow simultaneously has both Keith Moon and Pete Townshend's swagger and all looking like they are straight out of a Wes Anderson film!!" I can only agree, and Bob The Dog kinda likes 'em too!
Wednesday 5th April
I have sorted out my entertainment for next few nights:
Live stream of Southampton-Palace (tonight)
Chantel McGregor @ Beaverwood Club (tomorrow)
Bernie Torme @ Borderline (Friday)
Neal Morse Band @ Islington (Sunday)
[Edit at 7.15pm: I'm just back from the gym and a Tesco run. As I emerged from the shower with a bottle of wine, Arnie asked: "Dad, what's for tea?" "The fridge is loaded with food, matey - fill your boots. Tonight it's a liquid supper for me!" COYP!!!!]
[Edit #2: I've always hated Southampton. Palace throw away a goal lead to slump to a 3-1 defeat. FECK!!!!]
Sunday 2nd April
The skies above South London were very dark but my rain dance didn't work, so I almost decided to hide under the bed and switch off the mobile phone during yesterday's game at Chelski. And that move seemed advisable when the team that seems destined for the title took the lead just minutes into the game. However, a well-drilled Palace side scored two quick goals of their own and somehow, amazingly, managed to cling on until the final whistle. What a blood and thunder display, as opposed to thud and blunder earlier in the season! However, I've no time for hangovers this weekend, I'm stuck strictly in the Wishbone interview transcript zone and in the wake of such a stunning result I took off to the gym to take out my delight for a Saturday evening session on the treadmill.
I'm really sorry to hear the sad news of the death of Elyse Steinman. Raging Slab were an excellent, if ill named, band. [Edit: Wow, they still exist!!!] I was fortunate to see them play several times and their self-titled second album from 1989 still receives the occasional spin here at Ling Towers. Elyse was a bit of a fox, too. RIP...
Saturday 1st April
I've just stumbled upon this amazing photograph of myself and gig buddies Ian Mansell and Andy Adams somewhere in Europe 1983, following Twisted Sister on the 'You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll' tour in a vehicle that Dee Snider would later christen "the Bad News van". Besides just about all of the UK dates my pals and we saw them at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and then in Dortmund, Kaiserslautern and Nuremburg - the last three on a Monsters Of Rock bill with Thin Lizzy (their final tour with Lynott), Motörhead, Saxon and Blue Öyster Cult. Bloody great days, you've no idea how much I miss them...
Click on the links for this month's updates to the Playlist and YouTube pages.