Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

Back to the Diary Archives

Sunday 30th August
A good time was had by all – including myself, Malcolm Dome and my brother-in-law Stuart – at the second sold-out night of Hawkwind’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Let me take this opportunity to echo the goodwill directed at Dave Brock, the rest of Hawkwind, the band’s manager Kris and all that strove to make the Porchester Hall shows so successful. I’m a big fan of Hawkwind, have been since the night in November 1980 that I saw them for the first time (complete with NWOBHM power-trio Vardis as support). Slightly off topic for a moment, but the drummer on that occasion was none other than Ginger Baker. The ex-Cream legend had played on the band’s masterful ‘Levitation’ album but would depart before too long. In fact, so legend has it Baker – self-proclaimed as “the best drummer in the world” – parted company with the Hawks following a gig in Liverpool. During an after-show confrontation, Ginger allegedly told Brock he was “the worst guitarist in the world”. If substantiated, Brock’s retort of “Well, the worst guitarist in the world just sacked the best drummer in the world!” is perhaps one of the ultimate put-downs in rock and roll history.
It’s perhaps this type of single-minded attitude that has kept Hawkwind afloat of four decades. But the same reason may also explain why the promised array of special guests, many of whom have aligned themselves to Nik Turner’s Hawklords, stayed away. There were rumours that David Gilmour was in the crowd on the Saturday night, though I didn’t see him. It’s an indisputable fact, however, that Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson had welcomed the group to the stage 24 hours earlier. The MC also read out some greetings from those that couldn’t make it. Alongside a more formal greeting from Eric Clapton, Girlschool sent a missive that read: “You lying bastards, you said you were 35”. Bob Kerr of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band Band, in whose basement Hawkwind’s earliest rehearsals had taken place, dropped by to play the horn on ‘Lighthouse’, and Huw Lloyd Langton performed an acoustic support set (intriguingly, Hawkwind also played unplugged earlier in the afternoon billed as The Elves Of Silbury Hill), but mostly the band just got with delivering a great night of classic space-rock that peaked with renditions of ‘Spirit Of The Age’ and ‘Silver Machine’ – the latter being especially rarely played these days. Here’s the full- set-list: ‘Warriors’, ‘Assault And Battery’, ‘The Golden Void’, ‘Where Are They Now’, ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Space Is Deep’, ‘Angels Of Death’, ‘Wraith’, ‘Green Machine’, ‘Spirit Of The Age’, ‘Silver Machine’, ‘Sentinel’, ‘Lord Of Light’, ‘Magnu’, ‘Brainbox Pollution’, ‘You’d Better Believe It’ and ‘Right To Decide’, with encores of ‘Hassan-I-Sabbah’ and ‘Fahrenheit 451’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 29th August
What a pleasant Guestbook message from somebody hiding behind the name of Spudgun.
Palace 0 (zero?) The Mighty Blues 2 (deux?). Kinda like Eddie Van Halen humouring the guitarist from the BulletBoys. “Yeah, cool man. Keep grafting.”
With none of the success and twice the talk, Manchester City are fast becoming as conceited as their neighbours ManUre. What Spudgun forgot to mention was that the starting line-up of his City team cost £162m to assemble. Palace’s is worth a mere £2m. So it didn’t take Einstein to predict the result. Doesn’t it go to show, money won’t necessarily buy you class?
Anyway, I’m in a fantastic mood. It’s a beautiful sunny day here in London and although I’ve a set of sleeve notes to complete over the Bank Holiday break I’m off to see Hawkwind tonight. On top of that, I’ve just received box full of goodies from Universal Records (many thanks Steve!), which includes the Deluxe Editions of Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’ and ‘Adrenalize’ albums, neither of which I’ve owned on CD before, plus the gatefold, heavyweight double vinyl versions of the first three Black Sabbath albums (each including a slew of bonus tracks). Absolutely. Bloody. Superb.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 28th August
Yes, Crystal Palace lost last night. Yes, I was there to see it. Yes, I’m **extremely** hung over. But, no, in this instance I’m not disappointed. One of the daily papers described our League Cup second round home tie with Manchester City as an “archetypal clash of paupers and princes”. Not content with outlandish bids for just about anybody with an ounce of talent, City – funded by oil-rich Arabs – have just splashed out almost £23 million on a Lego-headed defender to complete a £100M summer spree. The Eagles, on the other hand, didn’t spend a single penny during the summer break, pulling in free transfers, Bosmans and promoting youth players to the first team. Sitting in the pub before the match, gulping down booze to numb the pain, it was communally agreed that anything less than a 3-0 spanking could be regarded as a moral victory.
Having scored a last-ditch equaliser against Palace in our one and only FA Cup Final appearance, Mark Hughes will always be on my Shit List, but fair play – ‘Sparky’ fielded pretty much a full-strength City side, including said Lego-headed defender (Joleon Lescott). It was amusing to watch the disbelieving faces of those around me as the team sheet was announced: “Toure… Bridge… Wright-Phillips… Ireland… Barry… Robinho… Adebayor… Tevez”. The Selhurst crowd – including a pitiful turnout on behalf of the visitors – was on the edge of its metaphorical seat from the off. Tevez was, unsurprisingly, booed every time he touched the ball and inspired the night’s best chant of “Shit Maradonna/You’re just a shit Maradonna”. At one point, after a emitting a lusty cry of: “Fuck off, Tevez, you fat, short-arse, overrated, over-paid Argie cunt” I felt compelled to apologise for my bad language to the nice lady that sits next to me in the Holmesdale stand. As she smiled warmly in response, her hubbie added wisely: “That’s only necessary if you say something inaccurate.”
In fact, Palace acquitted themselves with honour, scrapping for every ball and keeping the scores level until just after half time. The game ended 0-2, capped by a goal from the “shit Maradonna”, which Shaun Derry might have prevented had he jumped – sadly, the captain’s battery was just about expired. Late on, the Eagles claimed for two penalties – the shout for handball looked definite – but ended up walking off with the most important prize of all, a cheque for £60,000 from Sky TV that will allay the club’s money worries… for now.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 27th August
What an absolute waste of a night, not to mention a Travelcard. For several months, the PR for a band called Invasion has been trying to get me along to one of their shows. No, despite the name they’re not a Magnum tribute group, hahaha! And having played the trio’s debut album, ‘The Master Alchemist’ (due on October 4 via This Is The Music), I was extremely keen to check them out. It’s big, groovy, fuzz-toned, doom-laden female-fronted metal; a little like Mother's Finest meeting Monster Magnet in an Amsterdam hash den. So last night I arrived at the Underworld only to find that not only were Invasion lined up to play at 11pm, and allotted just half an hour (perhaps not so surprising given that the dozen songs on ‘The Master Alchemist’ last for just 31 minutes), but that I hadn’t even been guestlisted. I made it in anyway and killed some time reading Lemmy’s autobiography. But by 11.25 there was **still** no sign of Invasion, so I cut my losses and headed off for my last train – very peeved indeed.
On a far less frustrating note, the third album from Transatlantic – the prog supergroup comprising members past ‘n’ present of Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Marillion and The Flower Kings – drops at last in October, with European touring commitments due to begin on Oct 23. Tantalisingly, Disc One contains the record’s title cut, a 77-minute piece of music called ‘The Whirlwind’. And on Disc Two, the band augment four original tunes with a variety of covers, including – OH MY GOD! – ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ by Genesis. I simply cannot wait…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 26th August
Three cheers #1 – The gig scene appears to be back in business after a fairly barren spell. Reports to follow.
Three cheers #2 – Following a few days of bills, leaflets and surly letters from the bank, the postie as just delivered a huge batch of mail. Diamond Head’s ‘The MCA Years’ is a three-CD box that finally makes the ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Canterbury’ albums available on CD at last (domestically speaking), plus a further 11 tracks sourced from the Reading Festival in ’82 and a BBC In Concert that same year. Nice packaging, too. The Deluxe Expanded Edition of Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ is now swelled by a DVD of the trio’s ‘Seven Dates Of Hell’ gig at Hammersmith in 1984, plus a smorgasbord of outtakes, B-sides and promo videos. Pretty bloody definitive, if you ask me. Fittingly, considering I will be attending one of the band’s 40th anniversary shows this coming weekend, I’ve also received the updated version of Carol Clerk’s book The Saga Of Hawkwind – it’s now almost as weighty as the telephone directory. The new issue of Fireworks magazine is also here and looks stuffed with plenty to read, with Dream Theater on the cover.
Three cheers #3 – A video of a brand new Mr Big song, ‘Next Time Around’, has been posted online. Eric Martin looks so darned young that he could be in the Partridge Family – I like it. Can’t wait for their London gig in just over two weeks.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 24th August
The Ashes are back in England's grasp once more. Faced with a copy deadline of tomorrow morning for a couple of important stories, I sat in my office attuned to the radio as the Aussies stubbornly kept England at bay until the dramatic run-out of captain Ricky Ponting turned the game on its head.
Having completed my work, I sat in front of the TV and became rather misty-eyed as England inched closer and closer to the finish line, the last five wickets falling for a mere 21 runs in 48 balls. Finally, at 12 minutes to six and with the umpteenth glass of cider in hand, England regained the Urn they had surrendered so abjectly in Australia three winters ago. Given how poorly they performed in the Fourth Test, it was something of a shock.
But despite their statistical superiority, the Aussies have looked distinctly mediocre for most of the series, with England managing to deliver when it most counted. I'd be the first say that the victory owed a little to Lady Luck - how many times did we win the toss; how many dodgy umpiring decisions were made? - but overall, Strauss' men were good value for money. Now back to reality...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 23rd August
Palace's 0-2 defeat to Newcastle wasn't entirely unexpected. The Eagles created enough chances to have taken something from the game but were never going to come back from conceding yet another stupid early goal against a team stuffed with internationals. Realistically, the Geordies deserved their
three points and look a very safe bet to return to the Prem at the first attempt.
Though events at Selhurst were entertaining it was hard not to have mentally drifted across south London to the Oval, where mobile phone reports continued to suggest that England's batsmen were piling on the runs and heaping misery upon the Aussies (not that I take any delight in such a statement, mind). Andrew Strauss having elected to declare at 545-9, the tourists now a run-chase that surpasses any other in the history of Test match cricket. Nevertheless, only a fool would write off the Aussies, and today will be bloody exciting.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 22nd August
Incredibly, England have seized the initiative in the cricket. Following a total of 322, the Aussies reached 73-0 and appeared to be cruising to victory. Then followed a quite extraordinary, exhilarating passage of play that saw 10 men depart for a mere 87 runs, with Stuart Broad seizing a five-wicket haul. Day Two ended with England on 58-3, ahead by 230 on a disintegrating wicket. Truly amazingly stuff. In a way (and I can’t believe I’m about to write this), I’m almost reluctant to head off to Selhurst for Palace’s game with the Geordies.
Following the sensational events at The Oval, a pint or two of liquid relief was in order. Fortuitously, a gig just happened to be taking place at The Anchor, a new music venue in Lewisham, just a short walk away from Ling Towers. How would Juicy Lucy fare without frontman Ray Owen, who left at the start of the year, leaving the band as a three-piece with no original members? Surprisingly well, I’d say. With guitarist Mr Fish now also fronting the show, they rock with a slightly harder edge than blues purists might expect, offering songs from band’s original incarnation (‘Mississippi Woman’), a chunk of 2006’s comeback disc ‘Do That And You’ll Lose It’ (‘Silver Bird’, ‘Species’, ‘Freedom’), a cover of the perennial ‘Cocaine’ and, of course, their biggest hit – a re-make of ‘Who Do You Love?’ Complaints? Well, I’m not even gonna get into the ethics of them persevering minus Owen (who currently fronts his own rival group), and I suppose Mr Fish is a functional singer and not a truly great one, but the band is incredibly tight and their show is a lot of fun. A willingness to perform for more than two hours, despite being in a half-empty pub, also represents exceptional VFM.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 21st August
Sorry to say, the Aussies have the upper hand in the final Test Match. Having won the toss and elected to bat, 400-plus seemed a realistic target for England to aim for. Given that the wicket was a little more unpredictable than it appeared a first day total of 307 is perhaps passable – but for the loss of eight sodding batsmen??!! With the script set for a Botham-like performance in his penultimate (now possibly final) test appearance, Flintoff was among those to give his wicket away inexcusably cheaply at the Oval. This is likely to be the most important day of the entire series. It’s all about how England bowl and the Aussies bat on a surface that will definitely throw up a few surprises.
Not too long ago Jeb Wright of the Classic Rock Revisited site asked whether I might contribute to a list of the Top 100 Most Influential Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Songs Of All Time. Well, the votes are in and during the next month, a week at a time, Wright will unveil the results. 76-100 can be viewed here.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 20th August
Gotta win the toss!
Gotta win the toss!
Gotta win the toss!
Gotta win the toss!
Well, the 2009 Ashes is set to reach its climax this morning as the Aussies arrive at the Oval. With the series tied at 1-1, the visitors require just a draw to retain The Urn, England must win. Last time around I was lucky enough to have been at the Oval when a classic innings from Pietersen (who, sadly, remains injured) helped to seal one of the most memorable and thrilling sporting triumphs of all time. The talismanic Flintoff is back, though his fitness remains uncertain. A good start from England is imperative… also, of course, a little luck.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 19th August
I'm basking in the afterglow of Crystal Palace's first win of the season, an apparently emphatic 3-1 victory at Ipswich. With two further goals to his name, Darren Ambrose has the makings of the playmaker/striker we've missed since Ben Watson's departure - thanks **so much** to the Clowns for supplying his services without a fee, hahaha. This was just the result, and indeed the performance, that the club needed before the visit of the Geordies (whose fire-sale has just continued with the sale of Damien Duff) on Saturday. The icing on the cake was that in their lower division, Shiteon were stuffed 7-1 - brilliant!
Hammer have sent me a real corker of an album to review. Enochian Theory are a young, UK-based progressive metal band with strong orchestral/symphonic-sounding tendencies whose independently released debut album, 'Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilo', has already elicited praise from such tastemakers as Bruce Dickinson and Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson. It's a dark, brooding and challenging piece of work that's best savoured in one fell swoop - preferably with the lights off.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 18th August
At lunchtime I sped down to Selhurst Park to reserve my season ticket seats for the CPFC-Man City League Cup game. Nice to get that outta the way. With Classic Rock about to go into deadline once again, I almost forgot we have an away game against the Tractor Boys of Ipswich and their Antichrist manager R*y Ke**e. So I’m sitting here perusing the net, fourth glass of white wine before me and the fantastic new album from a band called A.O.R. entitled ‘Journey To LA’ (Escape Music, August 28) seducing my lug-’oles. Waiting for the team news, I just stumbled upon a thread at the Palace discussion group titled ‘Ever Had Sex At Selhurst (Or Any Other Football Ground)?’ Hmmm… judging from the responses it seems I am in something of an elite club. Even broke the seat, if I recall (and indeed missed an Eagles goal). Um, maybe I should log off now…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 16th August
When is a goal not a goal? When it’s scored by Crystal Palace against Bristol City at Ashton Gate. Yes, my beloved Eagles were robbed when striker Freddie Sears fired past Dean Gerken to take the lead – only for hapless referee Rob Shoebridge to inexplicably rule that the ball had not gone into the net and award a goal-kick to City. Everyone else in the ground knew it had gone a yard inside the post, hit a stanchion and bounced back out again. Typically, Palace had dominated the game but couldn’t make their superiority pay, only to leak one in injury time. Witheringly, CPFC boss Neil Warnock says: “We can put a man on the moon, time serves of 100 miles per hour at Wimbledon, yet we cannot place a couple of sensors in a net to show when a goal has been scored.” I admire his restraint. Palace were also the victims of a similar ‘phantom goal’ scenario when a perfectly good Clive Allen goal was overruled in 1980. Methinks it’s time to introduce goal-line technology.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 15th August
The new issue of Classic Rock, featuring the 100 Greatest Guitarists, is here. To be honest, I tend to find such articles a bit lame. This time, however, the musicians concerned have been selected by fellow guitarists.
All the big names have chosen their faves; Beck, Page, Edward Van Halen, Angus Young, Iommi, May, Vai, Gilmour, Slash, Satriani, Hetfield and Hammett, Neil Young, Joe Perry... you get the drift. plus a few wildcards like Satchel from Steel Panther. My interviews with Francis Rossi, Bumblefoot, Leslie West, Steve Howe, Vinnie Moore, Steve Lukather, Paul Gilbert, Alex Skolnick, Mick Box, Andreas Kisser, Martin Barre, Brian Robertson, Chris Goss and Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks) are all included, though
you'll have to buy the magazine to find out the heroes of those concerned. As you'd imagine, there's a heavy UFO/MSG/Scorps presence, including a nice big colour pic of Uli Jon Roth, with Kirk Hammett saying lovely things about him. I laughed aloud at Luke Morley's contribution, a tribute to Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter. Morley recounts being in the lavatory of the Guitar centre in Los Angeles when the Steely Dan/Doobie Bros legend walked in. "I thought, 'Fuck, it's Skunk Baxter!' and promptly peed all over my leg," confides Luke, "So I decided I wouldn't shake his hand."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 14th August
Dammit, dammit, dammit – I hate it when that happens. There are so few appealing gigs on the horizon, I licked my lips at the announcement that Europe are to join Uriah Heep and Jack Bruce in playing a special show during the week of the Classic Rock Awards. “Fantastic, I must be at the Garage on November 1st,” I thought. Opening the page to etch it into the diary, I realised that a gig was already down for that date – Francis Dunnery’s ‘New’ It Bites at Bush Hall. Um… don’t suppose anyone has a time machine they could loan me?!?
Dave Lewis has kindly sent a copy of his book Then As It Was, Led Zeppelin At Knebworth: 30 Years Gone (order it here), an anniversary reflection upon a pair of now legendary gigs that I was I’d been able to attend. Looks like a thumping great read. I actually had a ticket for one of those Knebworth shows (can’t remember which), but with my folks considering I was too young to go, I ended up selling it to a school-friend. Even three decades later, it’s a subject that still eats away at me. Funnily enough, I wasn’t old enough to have made the trip; Ross Halfin was there taking pictures… funny, that. [For those that are unaware, when he’s not travelling the world or queuing for his pension, Ross takes great delight in calling me ‘old’ at his website diary].
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 13th August
I was appalled by the blasé attitude with which certain England ‘stars’ approached last night’s game with Holland in Amsterdam – also, in truth, by manager Fabio Capello’s laissez-fair post-match attitude to the lazy, schoolboy errors from Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry that gift-wrapped the opening two goals. Yes, we **know** it was only a friendly, Fabio. Of course it’s best to make such gaffes in non-competitive games. It was the pair’s attitude, the team’s body language, that was unforgiveable. I cannot abide Jermain Defoe, but his introduction saved the game as England first levelled, then deserved to steal an unlikely win with the final minutes ticking down. If players are still mentally on the golf course when the season begins, please… for f**k’s sake… let’s leave them there.
I awoke to the news that Palace have drawn Manchester City at home in the second round of the League Cup. Simon Jordan’s accountant will have been praying for such a windfall – a Sky TV payout and 26,309 fans at a floodlit Selhurst Park. Whether or not City bring their full range of overpaid first-teamers to SE25, they are unlikely to relish such a blood ‘n’ thunder (some might call it ‘thud ‘n’ blunder’) trip.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 12th August
Just 3,140 fans – myself and eldest lad Eddie among them – turned up at Selhurst to see Palace ease into the 2nd round of the Carling Cup, a brace from Darren Ambrose sealing a hard-fought but eventually comfortable 2-1 win. Warnock had fielded a strong side, though how we scored just twice having forced so much pressure, against a League 2 team, is pretty worrying. No matter – we are still in the hat. With Shiteon and the Clowns both crashing out of the competition (the latter humiliated by Hereford United), let’s have my second team Leyton Orient away in round two please.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 11th August
The new version of UFO’s ‘Headstone’ album just dropped onto my desk. Originally issued in August 1983, ‘Headstone’ was a rather odd ‘greatest hits’ and ‘friends and relatives’ collection that also featured material from Scorpions, Lone Star, MSG, Wild Horses and Whitesnake, plus five songs from a supposed ‘farewell’ show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. After unearthing six additional tracks in the archives, EMI have jettisoned the superfluous non-UFO material to re-title and re-package the album as ‘Headstone: Live At Hammersmith 1983’. It works quite well. The postbag also contained ‘Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon’, a potentially fascinating album by a group called Roswell Six that unites members past ‘n’ present of Dream Theater (James LaBrie), Saga (Michael Sadler), Asia (John Payne), IQ (Martin Orford), Kansas (David Ragsdale), Shadow Gallery (Gary Wehrkamp) and more with the duo of Lana Lane and Erik Norlander for a bout of deliciously pomp-infused prog-metal. Also… here’s another odd one… anyone remember the band Charlie, featuring eventual Bad Company/Fastway producer Terry Thomas? Amazingly, Thomas has put the band back together for its first album in almost a quarter-century. Available via Voiceprint, who will also be re-issuing the band’s back catalogue, ‘Kitchens Of Distinction’ gives Terry an platform to **really vent**, about wannabe celebs (“Her tits enhanced with silicone/Double Fs her gateway to the stars”, from ‘Get A Life’), the self explanatory ‘Shit TV’, rampant consumerism (‘It’s Not Enough’ and ‘Cars’), size zero waifs (‘West Coast Thing’) and, hilariously, those that allegedly attempt to conceal their sexuality (“He’s pictured with so many girls/Yet he’s still alone in this world/There question is there, it won’t go away/Is Robbie Williams gay?”).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 10th August
My Sunday was spent at the Cambridge Rock Festival, an event I’d not visited before. Previously known as the Rockin’ Beer Fest, it offered a decent array of bands and 12 different types of cider, most of which I believe I managed to sample, including a hot, spiced and rather potent one that fulfilled its job just before the commencement of Asia’s set – lovely!
The first band I witnessed were Godsacksman, a frighteningly young (16/17-year old!), local five-piece that has made great progress since recruiting a lively new singer. I was greatly impressed by Breathing Space, an offshoot of Mostly Autumn. Fronted by the delectable Olivia Sparnenn, whose unbelievably long legs and Lycra outfit made it looks as though she had stepped out of a Pussycat Dolls video, and with MA’s guitarist Bryan Josh complemented by two keyboard players, the band’s airy, smooth blend of prog-pop was just what the (rock) doctor ordered.
Next up were Airrace, who had made the long journey from… well, across two fields, where guitarist Laurie Mansworth happens to live. Though once again without Jason Bonham on drums, their set was tight, melodic and hugely impressive. With the event already running 90 minutes late, and wary of repeating the debacle of the previous night (which saw the Quireboys going on at 2am), the organisers reluctantly decided to remove a band from the bill, so bye-bye Karnataka (they at least got paid, though that was hardy the point). Promoting a new album called ‘Wintercoast’ that had been pressed into my hand backstage, the female-fronted Touchstone offered a delightful blend of prog, pomp and metal. Oddly enough the record, which was mixed by It Bites’ John Mitchell, also features a narration from actor Jeremy Irons… equally quirky, they ended with a romp through ‘Mad World’ by Tears For Fears, a band that are something of a guilty secret passion for yours truly.
I caught the end of Simon McBride’s set in the blues tent, which made me wish I’d seen more. Faced with watching Focus for the umpteenth time or having a peek at Sons Of Albion, the band fronted by Robert Plant’s son Logan, I pursued the latter to find myself in a tent occupied by around thirty people – ouch! Though the band’s music is darkly sombre and relies upon outbursts of bombast, wisely, SOB don’t sound anything like Led Zeppelin. I’d been warned that they have more in common with, say, Kings Of Leon. I probably won’t lose any sleep if our paths don’t cross a second time, but they are certainly good at what they do. Focus were just finishing as I checked off the last few ciders from my list. When they played ‘Hocus Pocus’, the place went absolutely barmy – and rightly so.
Asia, however, were hands-down the day’s best group. Faced with an 85-minute set, they wisely avoided solo sections and material from their other related acts (save for a version of ELP’s ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’) to include just two selections from current disc ‘Phoenix’, purring through various classics from the band’s first two CDs. There really are few better experiences than sipping politely at the 13th cider of the day as the original line-up of Asia – John Wetton, Steve Howe, Geoffrey Downes and Carl Palmer – soars majestically through ‘Here Comes The Feeling’. Here’s the full set-list: ‘Wildest Dreams’, ‘Only Time Will Tell’, ‘Time Again’, ‘An Extraordinary Life’, ‘My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want)’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’, ‘Here Comes The Feeling’, ‘Never Again’, ‘The Heat Goes On’, ‘Sole Survivor’ and encores of ‘Don’t Cry’ (played electrically, for once) and ‘Heat Of The Moment’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 9th August
The did-Scott-Ian-say-it-or-not saga rumbles on. Anthrax’s guitarist now claims **not** to have denied telling Dave Mustaine of Cliff Burton’s amazing claim that Metallica were plotting to sack Lars Ulrich in 1986 after all, which must leave Mustaine a relieved man. But the question remains: How on earth did Ian’s Twitterer have the authority to post such an important Tweet without his knowledge…? Hopefully it will bring closure to this story… the only reasonable conclusion to which I can reach is that Metallica actually did contemplate removing Ulrich from their midst at the conclusion of the ‘…Puppets’ tour. Wow – that’s pretty momentous.
And now over to the Sports Desk… Palace’s opening game of the season against Plymouth Are Gargoyles finished 1-1, Alan Lee having restored parity after the home side leaked a silly early goal. And, as I feared, Australia have humiliated England’s cricketers to level the Ashes series, taking just two and a half days to win by an innings and 80 runs. Jeez, that hurts. Once again, the contest will be decided at the Oval in 10 days. Somehow I doubt it will have the same joyous outcome as it did in 2005.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 8th August
Things don’t look good in the cricket (slight understatement). Yesterday morning, as Geoffrey Boycott so rightly stated during the radio commentary, saw England “throw away The Ashes”. Skittled out on what seemed like a flat wicket, having elected to bat, a dismal 102 was England’s lowest ever total at Headingly. At the start of day two the Aussies are 100-odd runs ahead with just four wickets down. Looks like the series will be level once more by its swansong at The Oval. Obviously, however, if the trashing that now looks likely comes to pass, momentum will be with the convicts, who would require just a draw to retain The Urn.
On a (marginally) more optimistic note, today is the first day of a brand new footie season. My beloved Crystal Palace begin the campaign with a home game against Plymouth Argyle blighted by a transfer embargo and reports of money worries. A contract is a contract, of course, but how players like James Scowcroft, who made 10 appearances with no goals and one red card, turning down the chance of several loan moves, can morally defend suing the club for their full wages is beyond me. Apparently we owe John Oster £47K – unbelievable. My head tells me that the 2009/’10 is unlikely to be a brilliant season, but my heart tells a different story. So… roll on 3pm. Let’s stick it up the Gargoyle, and wiggle it about a bit.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 7th August
Dave Mustaine is several different people, and the most interesting thing about interviewing him is that you never know which one you’ll meet. Or rather, that used to be the case. Megadeth’s mainman has mellowed in recent years. Yet even someone that’s crossed swords with Mustaine twenty times or more knows he’s to be approached with care and trepidation. Well, I met Dave again yesterday and left with a superb array of quotes. He gave me the lowdown on the now seemingly ended feud with Slayer (“I’m still open to being friends with Kerry King”), his frustration at Lars Ulrich ‘semi-inviting’ him to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (where he was told he could attend the ceremony but not be on the stage), the dichotomy between his new belief in God and the “witchcraft” he used to perform, the political nature of the band’s new album ‘Endgame’, his joy (and deep astonishment) at being No. 1 in Joel McIver’s recent book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, even how happy he is to have restored full credibility to the Megadeth name (“As my career nears its end, it’s finishing at the top”).
Several websites have also picked up on the fact that Mustaine – through gritted teeth; he **really** did not want to go there** – stood by his recent claim in Rolling Stone that Scott Ian had told him Metallica were planning to sack Lars Ulrich back in 1986 – something that the Anthrax man quickly refuted. The full transcript is out there on the net, but its gist was: “I was trying to help Scott promote his autobiography. I love Scott and would never do anything to hurt him – never. I wish I could just make the story go away. But I didn’t say it, [Scott] did.”
A few days earlier, Mustaine’s side of the story was echoed by a story from Geoff Barton at the Classic Rock website, which read: “Circa 1986, a few of us from Kerrang! went out for a drink with Scott Ian and [Anthrax drummer] Charlie Benante. We distinctly remember Ian pretty much telling us that Metallica were thinking of changing drummers, although not blatantly. So, we suspect Mustaine isn’t making this up…”. Sheesh, what a mess.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 6th August
Doesn’t it make all the difference when promoters bother to book a decent support act? As if I wasn’t already anticipating last night’s gig by Jack Bruce, Robin Trower & Gary Husband, the news that Joanne Shaw Taylor would open the show added an extra spring to my step. I’ve been a fan of Brummie-based singer, guitarist and songwriter JST (nothing to do with the similarly-named “Keep ‘em peeled” Police 5 presenter of the same name) since her ‘White Sugar’ album dropped onto my desk in January, but opportunities to see her live had thus far eluded me. I wasn’t disappointed. An initially standoffish Shepherd’s Bush Empire became more and more responsive as it realised that Joanne can really make that geetar howl, the highlight of a 40-minute set being the Stevie Ray Vaughan-esque ‘Blackest Day’. My friend and CR colleague Neil Jeffries had no hesitation in picking up a copy of ‘White Sugar’ to investigate at home, just like many people I saw on the tube afterwards.
To be brutally honest, much as I respect the talent of Jack Bruce, it was an appreciation of a fellow Catford old-boy – Mr Robin Leonard Trower – that **really** drew me to the show. But, wow… for a guy of 66 years old, Bruce still has a resilient set of pipes. Unsurprisingly, BT&H’s set was mostly drawn from the current album, ‘Seven Moons’ (I recognised the title cut, ‘Lives Of Clay’, ‘Distant Places Of The Heart’, ‘So Far To Yesterday’, ‘Just Another Day’, ‘The Last Door’, ‘A Bad Case Of Celebrity’ and ‘Come To Me’), with ‘Carmen’ from ‘BLT’ another notable inclusion. Inevitably, though, the place went maddest for a handful of Cream classics. ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ was extended – ‘Trower-ized’ might be a more accurate term – to 11-and-a-half minutes of pure Wah-Wah bliss, alongside the ‘Disraeli Gears’ album cut ‘We’re Going Wrong’, the perennial ‘White Room’ and an encore of ‘Politician’. A wonderful evening.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 5th August
I’ve just been playing the excellent new House Of Lords album, ‘Cartesian Dreams’ (Frontiers, September 21). Frontiers are accumulating a stellar roster of acts. The news that the Italian melodic rock label has signed Nelson – former Kerrang!-ites will remember the duo of Matthew and Gunnar (sons of rock ‘n’ roller Ricky) as being dubbed the Timotei Twins – for a back-to-their-roots album titled ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ is a welcome but unexpected recent development. Recalling that Nelson actually topped the US chart with the single ‘(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection’ in 1990 caused me to dig out their platinum-selling debut album ‘After The Rain’ for the first time in aeons. Amazingly, it sounded just as good as I hoped…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 4th August
I've finished reading Brian Manly's book on Brian Connolly. A passionately expressed account of the late, great lead singer of the Sweet's troubled early life, rise to international fame and subsequent crash-and-burn, The Man Who Sang Blockbuster (order it here) reads very much like a fan-penned tribute - which, of course it is. Manly is in such a hurry to expel his words, they spill onto the page littered with all manner of typos. Led Zeppelin, for instance, are called 'Lead' Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix becomes a more familiar 'Jim' and Suzi Quatro's name is consistently misspelled throughout as 'Quattro'. Meanwhile, Steve Priest is credited more than once as Sweet's 'base' guitarist. Nevertheless, the author's feel for his subject overrides such qualms. Within the first few pages Manly 'outs' himself as gay before relating a regrettable incident in a Watford nightclub in 1983. Upon meeting his hero for the first time, Connolly allegedly bursts Manly's bubble of joy by drunkenly propositioning him with the line: "I can give you one if you want, but it might take a while these days", before losing consciousness and being removed from the premises by security. Possibly benevolently, Manly theorizes that Connolly might have mistaken him for female, going onto explain how the singer remembered him the next time they met and apologised profusely for his behaviour.
Such tawdriness aside, The Man Who Sang Blockbuster focuses upon the timeless glory of Sweet's music and the backroom tensions that would eventually seal their downfall. The jealous rivalry between Connolly and guitarist Andy Scott is exposed, likewise the entire group's dissatisfaction at being ruled by the hit-making partnership of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. Justifiably, the author goes on to speculate what might have befallen Sweet had they not severed ties with the latter duo, who went on to compose 50-plus UK hits in 12 years for a small army of artists, quite so soon.
Ultimately, the book made me feel rather sad. Connolly had fallen so far in his post-Sweet years that I was unaware of his first two solo 45s, only discovering what I now recognise to be the third - 'Hypnotized', released via the 'German' label 'Carriere' Records (Carrere were actually a French company) in 1982 - shortly before seeing him sing for one of the final times with the short-lived group Connolly Encore, supporting Pat Benatar over two nights at London's Hammersmith Odeon in January of the following year. Check out this embarrassing photograph of myself outside the venue with several other confused-looking Sweeties, none of whom I'd met before.
P.S. Dammit - the Third Test petered out into a draw. But at least England still hold the advantage in the series with just two games to go.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 3rd August
Yah boo sucks to anyone that dares to call test match cricket a dull sport. With the Aussies resuming this morning on 88-2, still 25 behind England’s total and with Katich and Ponting already back in the hutch, all three results seem possible on the final day of the pivotal Third Test. Game on!!
I’m beginning to think that there are just two possible results of matches featuring Crystal Palace – draws and defeats. I was present yesterday at Selhurst Park as The Eagles were overturned by Gillingham (um… yes, Gillingham). Warnock had fielded a side that was dominated by fringe players and reserves, though I’m told the same was also true of the visitors, who triumphed courtesy of a solitary Jack Payne goal but could easily have scored two or three more. Worrying. Very worrying.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 2nd August
Better late than never – a full-length version of my Kansas feature from Classic Rock #80 is now available here. Sadly, with all of yesterday’s play at Edgbaston washed out, the Third Test is looking like a draw. So Glenn McGrath’s advance boast that the Aussies will win the series 5-0 is more hollow than ever.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 1st August
You’ll probably call me a male groupie but last night I attended another Airrace gig – my fourth since a reunion earlier this year. Sadly, Jason Bonham had unexpectedly flown home to America for “family reasons”, which considering the band were headlining and obliged to play a longer set than usual heaped extra pressure on his deputy, Simon Dawson. In fact, the show was superb. The Woughton Centre in Milton Keynes has a decent-sized stage and the sound was perfect. Frontman Keith Murrell was celebrating his birthday which also contributed to a really good, intimate vibe. With label boss Derek Oliver among the crowd, Murrell announced that Airrace’s one and only album, the Beau Hill-produced ‘Shaft Of Light’, is to be re-mastered and re-issued via Rock Candy Records in the coming months. So it made sense that they included everything from it except ‘Do You Want My Love’, once again filling things out via a selection of yet-to-be-recorded older numbers (‘Wrong Way Out’, ‘Keep On Going’, ‘One Step Ahead’ and ‘So Long’), tweaked arrangements and extended intros to ‘Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya’ and ‘Brief Encounter’ making things more interesting still. My friend Steve Way and I were grateful to have negotiated our way through MK’s sanity-defying maze of identical roundabouts and concrete cows to experience such a great night. Here’s the set-list: ‘Caught In The Game, ‘Not Really Me’, ‘Wrong Way Out, ‘First One Over The Line’, ‘Promised To Call’, ‘Keep On Going’, ‘Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya’, ‘One Step Ahead’, ‘So Long’, ‘All I’m Asking’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Brief Encounter’ and an encore – the band’s “first in 25 years!”, according to guitarist Laurie Mansworth – of ‘I Don’t Care’.
P.S. With the visitors bowled out for 263 and England having survived a nervy start – at one point they were 2-1 - the third day of the Third Test at Edgbaston is excitingly poised. As I’ve said all along, however, the weather will have a big bearing upon the outcome.