a.k.a. Frequently Unasked Questions
Name: Dave Ling (there’s a middle name but I ain’t tellin’!)
Age: That and a bit.
Lives: In Catford, South London.
Any children? Two wonderful sons, Eddie and Arnie.
Educated: Poorly, but adequately. I preferred tomfoolery to lessons.
How did you get into the music business?
A friend of the family had a Union Card that enabled me to get a job in the post room at IPC Magazines. From there it was a case of becoming an office junior and crawling up the ladder. An invitation to be a part of a new UK edition of Metal Hammer, then owned and run by a German company, was a significant moment.
It must have been fun to be involved in a project like that from the ground up:
It involved a monthly trip to Germany where the typesetter didn't speak English and taught me so many invaluable lessons - mainly what not to do in just about any given situation.
Any advice to someone who wants to work for rock magazines?
Don't work for Germans. Seriously. When the entire staff walk up and leave - as we did to put together RAW magazine in 1988 - then something has to be wrong. But seriously, if you believe you've got the talent, stick with it. Keep submitting reviews of gigs you saw or an album that moved you. You'd be surprised how little patience people have. If the first couple don't make it into print (and they rarely do), or if they're not interviewing Plant or Blackmore within a month, they throw in the towel.
Would you recommend working on a fanzine?
Yes, definitely. Though there's no money to be made, it's a great way of learning the ropes, meeting bands and getting to know how they function. I had a (very) backseat role in a basic photocopied ’zine called White Lightning during the early 1980s, it taught me a heck of lot.
First album bought: ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ by The Sweet
Favourite all-time band: The Sweet
Favourite band that still exist: Iron Maiden
First concert witnessed: Status Quo at Wembley Arena, 10.5.79.
Favourite concerts witnessed (besides the above):
Rush at Toronto Varsity Stadium, 2.9.79
Whitesnake at Hammersmith Odeon 28.10.79
AC/DC at Hammersmith Odeon, 17.12.79
Queen at Lewisham Odeon, 20.12.79
Def Leppard and Witchfynde at the Marquee, 27.1.80
Iron Maiden and the Tygers Of Pan Tang at the Marquee, 2.4.80
Thin Lizzy at Hammersmith Odeon, 29.5.80
Styx and Saga at Hammersmith Odeon, 21.6.80
Motörhead, Saxon, Girlschool, Angel Witch, Vardis and Mythra at Stafford Bingley Hall, 26.7.80
Ted Nugent at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 1.8.80
Kiss/Girl at Wembley Arena, 8.9.80
Scorpions/Blackfoot at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 28.10.80
UFO at the Marquee, 15 and 16.11.80
Uriah Heep at the Lyceum in London, 3.12.80
The Sweet at the Lyceum, 4.1.81
Black Sabbath at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 20.1.81
Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Triumph, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Riot and Vardis at Port Vale FC, 1.8.81
Rose Tattoo at the Marquee, 3.10.81
Judas Priest and Accept at Hammersmith, 21.11.81
Rory Gallagher at Queen Mary College in London, 2.12.81
Y & T at the Marquee, 2.6.82
Twisted Sister at the Marquee, 2.8.82 – and about a zillion times more!
Genesis at the Marquee (as The Garden Wall), 27.9.82
Genesis at Milton Keynes Bowl 2.10.82 (Six Of The Best gig)
Thin Lizzy at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, 12.3.83 (with guests Brian Robertson, Gary Moore and Eric Bell)
Mercyful Fate at Hammersmith Clarendon in London, 19.3.83
Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 29.4.83
ZZ Top at Marquee in London, 16.10.83
Robert Plant at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 13.12.83 (Jimmy Page on encore)
Judas Priest and Ted Nugent at Espace Balard in Paris, 11.2.84
Mötley Crüe at the Dominion Theatre, 19.11.84
Ramones at the Lyceum in London, 24.2.85
Savatage at the Marquee in London, 7.1.86
Queen/Status Quo at St James’ Park in Newcastle, 9.7.86
Metallica/Anthrax at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 21.9.86
David Lee Roth/Tesla at Lakelands Civic Centre in Florida, 18.2.87
The Georgia Satellites at the Marquee Club in London, 7.5.87
Metallica at the 100 Club in London, 20.8.87 (secret Donington warm-up)
Queensrÿche at the Town & Country Club, 9.11.88
Thunder at the Opera On The Green in London, 17.7.89
Metallica/The Cult at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, 23.7.89
Mötley Crüe/White Lion/Skid Row at Wembley Arena in London, 1.11.89
Alice Cooper at the Marquee in London, 23.11.89
It Bites at Hammersmith Odeon in London, 23.12.89
Status Quo at Butlins in Minehead, 10.10.90
Megadeth/Slayer/Testament/Suicidal Tendencies at Wembley Arena, 14.10.90 (Clash Of The Titans)
Death/Carcass at the International II in Manchester, 4.2.92
Asia at the Town & Country Club, 2.7.92
Black Sabbath at Orpheum Theatre in Boston, 9.8.92
Emerson Lake & Palmer at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 3.10.92
Kyuss at London’s Underworld, 26.9.94
Pink Floyd at Earl’s Court in London, 21.10.94
Dream Theater at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, 31.1.95
The Allman Brothers at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, 7.5.95
The Eagles at Wembley Stadium, 3.8.96
Black Sabbath at the Birmingham NEC, 5.12.97
Porcupine Tree at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, 10.5.99
Emperor at the LA2 in London, 14.6.99
Lynyrd Skynyrd/Marshall Tucker Band at the Proving Ground, Aberdeen, Maryland 17.7.99 - [How long have you got? Can you believe I actually kept lists in those days?!]
C’mon, what about this century?!
Dream Theater/Spock's Beard at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, 4.4.00
The Who at London’s Wembley Arena, 16.11.00
Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche and Halford at New York’s Madison Square Garden, 5.8.00
Kansas/Asia at the Hugnottenhalle in Berlin, 10.4.01
Transatlantic at the Astoria in London, 10.11.01
The Who at London’s Wembley Arena, 16.11.00
Opeth/Katatonia at the Underworld in London, 4.12.01
Bad Company at the Grove Of Anaheim in California, 30.1.02 (with special guests Neal Schon & Slash)
Santana at Crystal Palace Sport Centre in London, 9.6.02
Status Quo on the HMS Ark Royal, 30.7.02
Nektar at Town Hall in New York 4.10.02
Caravan at the Astoria in London, 28.11.02
Arch Enemy at Underworld in London, 8.12.02
Yes at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, 14.7.03
Camel at the Astoria in London, 28.10.03
UFO at the Elysee Monmartre in Paris, 28.3.04
Nightwish at the Mean Fiddler in London, 31.8.04
Twisted Sister (with special guest Brian Johnson!!) at the Rock & Blues Custom Show, 31.7.04
Van Der Graaf Generator at Royal Festival Hall in London, 6.5.05
New York Dolls at the Forum in London, 22.10.06
Roger Waters at Earl's Court in London, 11.5.07
The Mars Volta at Brixton Academy in London, 14.3.08
The Wildhearts at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, 20.9.08
Jeff Beck at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 4.7.09 (with guest appearance from David Gilmour)
Gong/Steve Hillage at Lounge On The Farm Festival in Canterbury, 10.7.09
Mott The Hoople/Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz at Hammersmith Apollo in London, 6.10.09
Bigelf at the Camden Barfly in London, 16.10.09
Saint Vitus at Islington Academy in London, 3.1.10
Opeth at Royal Albert Hall in London, 5.4.10
Transatlantic at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, 21.5.10
The Enid at the Cambridge Rock Festival, 8.8.10
Porcupine Tree at the Royal Albert Hall in London 14.10.10
[Ah, that’s enough lists!!]
Least favourite concerts witnessed:
I had the enormous misfortune to see a show by the US jam band Widespread Panic in London in 1999. It was toe-curlingly awful. I bet that friggin’ drum solo’s still going on…
Desert Island Discs: ‘Hello’ and ‘Live!’ by Status Quo, The Sweet’s ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’, UFO’s ‘Obsession’, ‘Seconds Out’ by Genesis, the Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Motörhead’s ‘Overkill’, ‘Highway To Hell’ by AC/DC, Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ and just about anything by Judas Priest. Let’s go for ‘Stained Class’, or the live ‘Unleashed In The East’. ‘Blackout’ by the Scorpions, Uriah Heep’s ‘Abominog’ or ‘Head First’. Toto’s ‘IV’. Molly Hatchet’s first album. Anything by the mighty FM. Ted Nugent’s ‘Double Live Gonzo’. ‘Reign In Blood’ by Slayer. Rainbow ‘Rising’. That’ll do for starters.
Songs you’d rather have your toenails pulled out and force-fed with than ever hear again:
‘I Hate Everything About You’ by Ugly Kid Joe, ‘Manhunt’ by Wolfsbane, anything by REM or The Police.
Graham Bonnet, circa his ‘Line-Up’ album in 1981. What a nice geezer he was. I hate to think how things might have turned out for me otherwise.
First concert reviewed:
Diamond Head at the Saxon Tavern in Catford, 26.2.82 (appeared in Kerrang! #12)
Favourite artists to interview:
The late, great Ronnie James Dio, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Fish, Lemmy (Motörhead), Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of The Quo, Paul Stanley (Kiss), Angus Young (AC/DC), Burke Shelley (Budgie), Pete Way and Phil Mogg (UFO), Lee Kerslake and Mick Box (Uriah Heep), Ken Hensley, Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin (Magnum), Dee Snider and Jay Jay French (Twisted Sister), Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Joey Tempest (Europe), John Waite, Yngwie Malmsteen and Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine (Scorpions).
Least favourite artists to interview:
Ted Nugent and Jon Anderson (Yes).
Favourite interview of your own:
Maybe the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Street Survivors’ album that appeared in Classic Rock last July. Hearing Billy Powell tell me that "it was a relief" that Ronnie Van Zant had perished in the band’s plane crash is something that’ll stay with me always. It brought up goosebumps as he said it. Ronnie had a reputation as a bully, but I had no idea things were so bad. "Thank God it’s over – I don’t have to get beaten up anymore," was his exact quote.
Least favourite interview of your own:
I once had to do a questionnaire-style piece with Tyla of the Dogs D’Amour. He was so unhelpful that afterwards I threw the tape in a canal. Maybe I got him on a bad day, he seems a completely different bloke these days.
How would you describe your style of writing? 'Quote-driven' might perhaps the best way of summing it up. My job is to ask as many of the relevant questions as possible and let the subject get on with digging their own grave. The reader has little interest in knowing where the interview took place, what colour the curtains were, or what I might've had for breakfast.
Your favourite bitchy comment from a review? Critiquing 'For Each Other', an extremely poor solo album from Verden Allen of Mott The Hoople fame, released back in 1999, I wrote: "Believe me, Verden couldn't carry a tune in a children's paddling pool with the aid of eight navvies". Sadly, it was no exaggeration.
Favourite rock ‘n’ roll story (musician):
There’s an apocryphal one about Phil Mogg. I’m not sure whether or not it’s true, but so the legend goes, UFO were recording in Wales or somewhere equally remote. It could have been from the Atomik Tommy M era. Anyway, Phil likes to leave the writing of his lyrics till the very last minute. It got to the stage where the band had completed the instrumental parts and still he hadn’t finished the words. So Mogg was despatched with pen and paper to the bottom of the studio’s garden. The rest of the group watched him out of the window for a while till he scratched his head, bent over the sheet of paper and began to write. Happy he was making progress, they went off for a game of pool. When somebody came back a while later to check his progress, the chair was empty and there was no sign of Phil Mogg. They went out to the table to find his sheet of paper was still there. On it was written the words: ‘Buy Special Brew’. The silly old sod had made a shopping list, and then in his haste to quench his thirst had only gone and left it behind! (Correction by the webmistress (you should be so lucky!) ... That was no shopping list, it actually WAS a lyric from Misdemeanour - from Night Run. The opening line should have been "Love me tender, love me true, ooooh baby, buy some Special Brew').
Favourite rock ‘n’ roll story (journalist):
There are a couple of those. The German guy who didn't fancy attending the gig he'd been commissioned to write about, so stayed at home and made up a review of what he thought would have taken place springs to mind. He came unstuck when the show was cancelled and the carefully worded critique of a show that never took place was published.
More recently, who else could it possibly be but my Classic Rock chum Jerry Ewing? He went up to Metallica's show at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1999 and proceeded to quaff Jagermeister at a backstage after-show party. It's lethal stuff, so much so that Jerry passed out onto a table full of vol-au-vents - much to the amusement of James Hetfield. Not content with being ejected from the party onto a pile of refuse sacks, where he promptly wet his trousers during his sleep, Jerry repeated his 'human waterfall' trick in the photographer's car on the way home, and then on a friend's sofa. When said friend came down into his living room in the morning, he experienced the rather disturbing sight of a naked Ewing - he'd pissed himself again during the night and thrown the sodden sweatpants he'd been loaned across the room - draped upon his furniture. The worst part was that Jerry was proud of his exploits, and regaled everybody he met for months afterwards with their lurid details.
Have you ever roadied for a band?
Just the once. Back in October 1985, I was out on the road with my mates Chariot - don't ask why, they always invited me along to check the beer was cold enough - who were the opening act on a tour with headliners Venom and special guests Exodus. We ended up staying in many of the same hotels as Exodus, who on a couple of occasions challenged us to drinking competitions, only to realise the suicidal error of their ways. On one memorable morning they all trooped down for breakfast and were totally gobsmacked to find the Chariot crew still hanging off the bar from the night before. What's that got to do with me becoming a roadie? Well, you know what poofs Americans are when it comes to beer? One night, their drum roadie having gone home sick, somebody from Exodus asked if I knew anything about teching. Being somewhat refreshed myself I replied that I didn't, but would give it a go. I was sacked just three days into the tour. My dismissal apparently had something to do with failing to attach the snare drum properly (not my fault, nobody told me how to do it), being the only person with a drum key and hiding away in the dressing room guzzling beer when the darned thing fell off. I didn't have the heart to take 'em to a tribunal.
Got any more good journo tales?
Loads. Back in 1986, there was an infamous coach trip to see Dio (and support band Keel) at a Harp Lager-sponsored Birmingham NEC gig. Dio's publicist PR filled a bus with booze, then disembarked with the immortal words: "I'm having nothing more to do with this". One writer, whose identity I will protect, guzzled down copious amounts of fire-water and was what you might call 'suitably refreshed' upon arrival the the NEC, yet still made his way to the Harp hospitality room (perhaps a hospital would've been more apt?). Said hack was later spotted with notebook and pen in hand attempting to jot down notes for reviewing purposes but was actually facing away from the stage, wondering aloud: "Where's the bloody band gone?!"
Do you have an all-time favourite review?
My good pal Malcolm Dome was responsible for one that I consider to be among the funniest. It appeared in RAW magazine back in January 1990. Presumably named after the Procol Harum album, Salty Dog were a band from the United States that to the best of my knowledge managed a solitary album (though bassist Michael Hannon went on to form American Dog). In my youth, when I was a lot more sad, I used to be able to recite chunks of Malc's critique word for word. It fascinated me. Who on earth was the "all-encompassing, sweet 'n' sour Mama blueswailer"? And why had the band been licking "from the moisture of her thighs"? And if Salty Dog were really worthy of such verbose praise, why did 'Every Dog Have Its Day' merit just three stars? Perhaps more succinctly, what drugs had Mr Dome been on that day? Answers on a postcard...
Is it true that all you rock-journalist-types like a few shandies?
Used to. Used to like to like so many I'd sometimes pass out. These days, we've all gotta be proffeshunal (there, I can't even spell it).
What's the best present a rock star has given you?
A signed guitar from Zakk Wylde. I got it framed and it now occupies pride of place on our living wall.
Have you ever written a book?
An official biography of Uriah Heep, Wizards And Demons, was published by Classic Rock Productions (not affiliated to the magazine of the same name) in 2002. I also wrote the final chapter in an updated version of Iron Maiden's official biography, Run To The Hills, the year before. And in 2003 I wrote several entries for The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Music (Flame Tree Publishing). I also wrote a few entries in Michael Heatley's Behind The Song:The Stories Of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics (Blandford Books, 1998).
The Heep project was the first one with my name on it. Hopefully it won't be the last. I set out to tell the highs and lows of the band's career with as much honesty as possible. Some people are guilty of forgetting just how enormous a group they were during the 1970s, and of course the whole drugs and jealousy thing makes it such a fascinating tale. I loved the story of the band member who, about to have his collar felt for drinking and driving under the influence, refused to remove himself from his vehicle till the arresting officer put his hand on his shoulder and said, "You're nicked, me beauty". Lee Kerslake agreeing to forget his differences with Ken Hensley was a nice, post-9/11 twist.
Do you write sleeve notes?
I certainly do, and it's one of the elements of my job that I most love. Click here for a list; it's not definitive, though it provides an idea of the projects I'm honoured to have been involved with.
Favourite song lyric of all time:
“Bend up and smell my anal vapour/Your face is my toilet paper”. The Mentors, from ‘Golden Showers’, the ‘You Axed For It’ album, 1985. There’s also an absurd little ditty called ‘Fanatical Fascists’ from Gary Moore’s 1979 album ‘Back On The Streets’. It goes: “Fanatical fascists with Italian mustaches/Just don’t care, they just don’t care/They’ll beat your brains in so stop your complainin’/Just don’t care, they just don’t care”. Its composer Philip Lynott should be hanging his head in shame, don’t you think?
Favourite song title:
It's a toss-up between Edguy's 'Lavatory Love Machine', 'Meet Me At The Pawnbroker And Kiss Me Under The Balls' by The Redbeards From Texas or 'Swarming Vulgar Mass Of Infected Virulency' by the mighty Carcass.
Favourite TV programmes:
Match Of The Day, The Fall And Rise Of Reggie Perrin, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Fast Show, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Thunderbirds, 24, Dexter, Big Bang Theory, True Blood, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, The Wire, Damages, The Apprentice, The IT Crowd, My Name Is Earl, The Newsroom, American Horror Story, Lillehammer, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and most of the soaps.
Who are your non-musical heroes?
Steve Coppell, FA Cup Final captain Geoff Thomas, Iain Dowie, Neil Shipperley, Attilio Lombardo, Ian Wright (prior to the shirt-kissing incident), Mark Bright, Ray Houghton, Dougie Freedman, Nigel Martyn, Chris Armstrong, Jim Cannon, Peter Taylor, Vince Hilaire, Eric 'The Ninja', Andrew Johnson, Darren Ambrose, Julian Speroni, actor Timothy Spall, comedian David Mitchell – all gods among men.
And who in a non-musical capacity do you despise?
T***y Ve***les. Oh, and Kurt Cobain.
If you won £49 Trillion on the Intergalactic Lottery, what would you do?
Easy. I’d buy ManUre’s ground Old Trafford, send in the demolition mob, steamroller the place flat and convert it into a car park. Then the club’s ‘fans’ from Torquay could stay at home every fortnight, or failing that follow their local teams instead. I’d probably get a knighthood for services to the environment.
Name one rule that would be passed if you were elected President Of The World:
I would make it illegal to play ‘Smoke On The Water’. Again. Ever. By punishment of death.
Favourite things in life:
My family and friends. Travelling to gigs. A cold glass of cider. Br**ghton & H**e Albion and Scumwall both taking a good stuffing – at home.