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)

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Sunday 31st December
Yesterday saw Crystal Palace registering another draw in their busy holiday programme, five points from a possible nine. When Cardiff beat us 2-1 at Selhurst back in November, their in-bred supporters treated the home fans with the utter smugness and derisive contempt of a side that believed its promotion was inevitable. "That's why we're top of the league," they sang in response to the winning goal. Such presumption now seems rather premature, and I'm loving it. 0-0 at their place, which I know through experience is a hostile one to visit, was a rather impressive result. And we might even have won had Clinton Morrison not had what Peter Taylor considered a perfectly good second half goal ruled out for offside.
Here's some good news for fellow Heepsters. I've known about this for quite some time, but at last it's official: the band have signed to Sanctuary Records, who of course own the rights to most of their back catalogue. Hooked up with producer Mike Paxman, they begin recording the successor to 1998's 'Sonic Origami' - their 21st studio album in all - in March, with a release date slated for next summer. Best known for his work with Judie Tzuke and Status Quo, Paxman apparently witnessed the very first gig played under the name of Uriah Heep at Salisbury Technical College on March 20th, 1970, so to say the very least should have a decent handle on where they're coming from. As Mick Box would say, 'Appy new year... and 'Appy days!
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Saturday 30th December
No bones about it, I'm a Simon Jordan fan. Palace's controversial chairman has some outspoken opinions, but it's amazing how many fans of other clubs say they admire him. SJ voices the things that others merely think, especially in his crusades against football agents and penpushers at the FA. I loved it when he corrected himself for calling Charlton fans morons. "Of course I regretted that," Jordan told a reporter back in 2004, "imbeciles would have been more appropriate." In a latest interview, promoting a new ITV show called Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway that kicks off on Tuesday, Simon claims to be "probably the highest-profile club chairman in the country", adding: "Whether it's because I'm young or I fight causes or I have a big mouth or I date silly girls, I don't know." He lambasts the walking ego that is José Mourinho ("he's a figment of his own imagination and I'm getting tired of hearing what he has to say"), even taking a (hopefully) light-hearted pop at football fans, "because in what other business can you serve up crap and have people come back for more?"
Ultimately, though, Simon Jordan has brought a hurricane of fresh air to Selhurst Park. I'm off there shortly to hand over a sizeable cheque to cover my next five seasons of topsy-turvy entertainment. How many other chairmen would be bold enough to promise extending that to six with a free season of football if/when Palace return to the Premier League within the ticket's timeframe? [Alright, we'll probably go straight back down again, but that's hardly the point!].
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Friday 29th December
Today finds Ling Towers slightly more subdued than usual. For the past few years we've invited neighbours and friends around to help polish off a few bottles, cans and snacks; not exactly a party, but what you might term a mini-gathering of festively-minded souls. After yesterday's 'at home' event (Jeez, that makes it sound like one of Hyacinth Bucket's candlelight suppers - I can assure you it was anything but), the last thing I feel like doing today is work, but... onwards and upwards...
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Thursday 28th December
"You feeling hungover from Christmas? Good. Shake your head, jump up and down, get it out of your system and get pissed again." These sage-like words of advice were roared by The Almighty's Ricky Warwick last night. The Shepherds Bush Empire wasn't anywhere near as full as it could've been - shows at this time of year rarely are - but those who tore themselves away from leftover turkey suppers must be congratulating themselves on a decision well made this morning. All-female special guests McQueen warmed up the Empire with a vigorous and feisty half-hour set, easily overcoming the twin handicaps of hailing from Br***ton and having to use a fill-in bassist. I'll definitely be seeing them again. The Almighty simply ruled. Ahead of a double-disc collection called 'Anth'f**ing'ology' (for which I was pleased to be asked to write the sleeve essay), which arrives in February, the band battered the audience with 17 of their very finest songs. Could've done with hearing 'All Sussed Out' and 'Lay Down The Law' as well, but what the heck. 'Little Lost Sometimes', a rarely performed ballad from 1991's Soul Destruction' album, was a rare moment of mid-show subtlety in a ferocious yet hummable 90-minute performance that included: 'Destroyed', 'Do You Understand?', 'Resurrection Mutha', 'Addiction', 'The Unreal Thing', 'Sin Against The Light', 'Power', '360', 'Jonestown Mind', 'Wrench', 'Crucify' (the band's not-so-subtle re-write of the Van Halen classic 'Hot For Teacher'), 'Over The Edge', 'Full Force Lovin' Machine', 'Free 'N' Easy', 'Wild & Wonderful' and the brilliant 'Jesus Loves You... But I Don't'. They also played two covers, namely 'Into The Valley' by The Skids and the Sex Pistols' 'Bodies'. This was my last concert of 2006, and what a way to end the year.
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Wednesday 27th December
After unshackling the manacles to the PC for the whole of Christmas Day, it was back to the grindstone yesterday. A large checklist of all the things that must be done before the masses return to work in early January now adorns the fridge. 'Metal Will Stand Tall', a rather splendid album by The Poodles, has been a big help in blowing away the post-festive cobwebs. As some of Sweden's most seasoned musicians, these fellas are definitely not house-trained and the hooks to songs like 'Metal Will Stand Tall' and 'Night Of Passion' will attach themselves to your consciousness like limpets.
A quick word of recommendation, too, for a pair of fascinating official bootlegs from enduring Welsh rockers Man. Just made available at www.mickyjones.co.uk, 'Live At Hebden Bridge Trades Club 2004' documents one of the final shows from guitarist Jones before illness forced him to retire.
The other, 'Live At The Keystone, Berkeley, 9th August 1976', is a wonderful double set that stars the late Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cippolina on four songs. Both are more than just token additions to the collection.
To my enormous relief, Jobi McAnuff's equaliser brought Palace a valuable away point in yesterday's Boxing day fixture. Pitted against Southampton, a promotion chasing side, I'd have taken a point had it been offered before the kick-off. There will be no glorious return to the Premiership for the Eagles in 2007; let's just pick up enough points to survive. Sigh...
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Sunday 24th December
Thoroughly enjoyed Iron Maiden's gig at Earls Court last night. The band's decision to play their new album 'A Matter Of Life And Death' in its entirety wasn't received with unanimous good cheer, especially on the tour's American leg, but it worked well enough for me (incidentally, the set was rounded out by 'Fear Of The Dark', 'Iron Maiden', '2 Minutes To Midnight', 'The Evil That Men Do' and 'Hallowed By Thy Name'). People tend to forget that Maiden were weaned on acts like Genesis, Jethro Tull, The Who and Yes, who thought nothing of confounding critics and fans by running through complete albums like 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', 'Thick As A Brick', 'Quadrophenia' or 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'. And talking of Yes, Chris Squire was among the revellers at the after show party. When he finished chatting with Steve Harris, I took the opportunity to take a snap of these two incredible bass players together - then stepped into the frame myself. What a great moment! Here are a few other shots with Bruce Dickinson and Janick Gers. Gosh, sometimes I hate my job!!
The evening also marked guitarist Dave Murray's 50th birthday. It's pretty incredible to think that the last time I saw Dave play a gig on December 23 was at the Ruskin Arms, way back in 1981. Looks like we'll be seeing a lot of Maiden in 2007, as Bruce asked the crowd from the stage: "Do all of you have a set of wellies? Next summer, if you want to see Iron Maiden, you might be needing them". If that hint wasn't broad enough, he added: "Castle Donington is not just an airfield."
For obvious reasons, I'm unlikely to be logging on tomorrow. So let me take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, unless you're a member of Hawkwind (in which case, insert the word 'Solstice' instead) or you happen to be Martin Walkyier of Skyclad (who recently got quite irate at the Astoria, insisting: "It's not fucking Christmas, it's Yule!"). Whatever you like to call this time of year, have fun and stay safe. Right... the sun's over the yard-arm, there's a glass of cherry brandy with my name on it.
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Saturday 23rd December
As you'll know if you read this page with any regularity, a Crystal Palace victory is something to savour, but beating any side connected to Roy Keane - a wretched, ego-obsessed bully of the very worst kind - is one of the most pleasurable things that I can possibly think of. Last night, at a freezing cold, fog-bound Selhurst Park, the mighty Eagles saw off Keane's ordinary-looking Sunderland side with a fine 41st minute half-volley from centre-half Mark Hudson. I admit, putting ex-ManUre tossbag Keane in his place probably meant more to me than the three points, but it was an odd experience to be at a football match and find my concentration shifting to the Maiden gig across London at Earl's Court. Sounds like I missed an interesting show as midway through the game's second half, my friend Steve Taylor called to inform me the show had been interrupted by some sort of fire. Sounded like there were a lot of angry people shouting in the background, but it turned out that the fire was backstage and no-one in the crowd was in immediate danger. They did have to halt proceedings for half an hour, though...
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Friday 22nd December
Excitement is starting to reach fever pitch here in Catford as EMI Records have just biked over my tickets and hospitality passes for Saturday's Iron Maiden gig at Earl's Court. The countdown begins...
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Thursday 21st December
Received an email from Scott Rowley, Classic Rock's Editor In Chief. "You and I are in OK magazine this week. We've made the big time," he tells me, tongue firmly in cheek. Sure enough, the mega-selling UK celebrity mag has printed a collage of pix from the Classic Rock Awards, including one of myself deep in conversation with Glenn Hughes (probably along the lines of, 'Who wants to be in the Premiership anyway?'). For those that have never seen OK before, this issue's pages are filled with Brad 'N' Angelina, Kate Moss, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, George Clooney, and both sets of Jordans (Simon and Katie Price). Gosh, Mum will be proud. As if my appearance on Newsnight hadn't already made her the talk of the local hairdressers. Hold on, the phone's ringing... if that's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, tell 'em I won't do it unless Bruce Dickinson agrees as well. Christ, now I know how Diana felt...
Realised last night that I must be getting old. After an excellent Hawkwind gig at the Astoria that climaxed with an awesome version of 'Motorhead', I found myself turning down the post-show 'do'. Back in the day you'd have needed an electric cattle prod to exclude me from imbibing alcohol and God knows what else with Dave Brock, but as I got to the door of their hotel I started to realise just how gruesome the thought of a trip home on a nightbus full of Christmas drunks, in sub-zero temperatures, sounded. You won't believe how much I hate part-time, red-faced, office boozers. If those people drank irresponsibly for the other 11 and a half months of the year like the rest of us, there'd be far less vomit to clean up in shop doorways.
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Wednesday 20th December
So... the growing rumour is that Iron Maiden will headline Donington Park on June 6, two days before next year's Download Festival. Count me in! Oh, and Journey have given their lead singer's job to Jeff Scott Soto on a permanent basis, waving goodbye to Steve Augeri and whoever pushed the 'play' button on the sound desk. Well, knock me down with a feather! Who saw that one coming?!
It was off to the Astoria again last night, for Cradle Of Filth's traditional seasonal knees-up. Sweden's Deathstars opened a can of worms with their risqué feature in the current issue of Metal Hammer (sample quote: "Everyone has kissed everyone in Deathstars, on and off stage"), but their mixture of industrial metal, goth, and disco didn't really match the hype - not for me, anyway. On the other hand, seeing my old mates Sabbat onstage again was great. Alas, their first show in London for 17 years was flawed by vocalist Martin Walkyier suffering with a severe head cold. Obviously in a lot of pain he nevertheless croaked through 'A Cautionary Tale', 'Hosanna In Excelsis', 'Behind The Crooked Cross' (dedicated to "Bush, B Liar and all the fascist fuckers of the world"), 'The Best Of Enemies' and 'For Those Who Died', a song once covered by the evening's headliners. Fingers crossed we'll see Sabbat onstage again, even if they've sworn not to go down the full, hackneyed reunion route like so many before them. [P.S. I write that somewhat benevolently having just looked at my copy of 'Dreamweaver: Reflections Of Our Yesterdays' and seen the 'special thanks' credit: 'Dave Ling, who used to run the Spider fan club'. Sarky Northern bastards!
Unlike most of my colleagues (to whom, I hope, Dani Davey referred when dedicating an encore of 'Gilded Cunt' to "the English fucking press"), I've a lot of time for Cradle Of Filth. They have a consistently strong body of work, can always be relied upon to entertain and don't take themselves too seriously. Despite suffering the blow of losing an exceptional drummer in Adrian Erlandsson, Davey was in pantomime mood. "Who brought an orange to a gig?" he teased at one point. "C'mon, at least throw something that hurts." He-he-he, great stuff.

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Monday 18th December
Michael Schenker's webmaster appears as utterly self-delusional as Michael himself. "The air was filled with rock 'n' roll and the crowed roared like the devil himself," claims a post-Far East tour wrap at www.michaelschenkerhimself.com. This is the same excursion, remember, which saw Schenker storming offstage mid-set in Tokyo and caused his own band to call their leader "talentless", admit they "could not believe how bad[ly] Schenker played", and accuse him of giving "less than one per cent" of effort to the audience. Over to our man in the straitjacket: "Michael's playing was sharp and exact during all shows," continues the ludicrous posting, attributing the Tokyo incident to the same "poor health" that forced MSG to abort the trek's last stop in Tiawan. Should New Labour ever require a fresh spin doctor, or England's cricket authorities seek somebody to help excusing away the Ashes debacle, this joker is your fella.
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Sunday 17th December
Let's ignore Palace's inevitable defeat at Derby yesterday. Equally regrettable, the Ashes seem destined to return to Australia... the fateful day that Mrs L and I witnessed the fabled Little Urn being prised back from Antipodean grasp at the Oval now seems several lifetimes ago. Will such scenes ever come to pass again, I wonder?
Talking of things you don't expect to happen, how about this for an oddity? Yesterday afternoon, at a pub in Wembley, two former members of the late, lamented eight-legged Liverpudlian boogie monster Spider played onstage together for the first time since 1986. It was just a short, unrehearsed set from ex-rhythm guitarist/vocalist Col Harkness and lead axeman Dave 'Sniffa' Bryce, opening for the trusty Quo tribute band State Of Quo (whose Paul Carr and Dave Owen provided rhythmic accompaniment), but hearing the two guys blasting through 'AWOL', 'Rock 'N' Roll Forever Will Last', 'Gimme Gimme It All' and 'All The Time' made me extremely emotional. Sniffa had been missing in action for quite some time until stumbling upon my website, which in turn led him to the Spider Archive. Whether or not anything further will come of this reunion remains to be seen, but getting the group's three albums out on CD at last would be a good start. I must remind Geoff Gillespie at Majestic Rock of his promise to sound out the rights.
Uncannily, today marks the exact quarter-century anniversary of Spider's opening spot with Gillan at Wembley Arena - a venue right round the corner from The Greyhound, scene of yesterday's jam session. Where on earth do the years go, eh?
Departing Wembley for central London, I dropped by the Borderline to see The Pirates - responsible for the original 'Please Don't Touch' (later re-recorded by Motörhead/Girlschool). What a great, great band. Schoolboy friends, guitarist Mick Green and bassist/vocalist Johnny Spence have been rocking together since Jesus was in short trousers, but still make most groups a third their age sound tired and jaded.
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Saturday 16th December
It's been ages since a Van Halen update. Two things to report. Firstly, Edward Van Halen has challenged David Lee Roth to join up with a Van Halen reunion, telling Roth via an interview in Guitar World, "Dude, get your ass up here and sing, bitch!" In slightly calmer mood, EVH expanded: "The ball is in Dave's court. Whether he wants to rise to the occasion is entirely up to him, but we're ready to go." And secondly, according to lensman Ross Halfin, the addition of Ed's son Wolfgang on bass (favoured over Michael Anthony) has "rejuvented" the band. "They will come back and destroy the world," predicts Ross in his latest web diary, also calling the band's new sound "jaw-droppingly amazing". Wow.
I've taken some stick on the noticeboard of www.melodicrock.com for the brevity of my review of the Firefest in the latest Classic Rock, also for catching just the last two bands of the day (Winger and Gotthard). If the opinions of these few people weren't so small-minded and entrenched, they'd be funny. Apparently I don't care enough about music. As anyone that knows me will affirm, that's preposterous. Yes, there have been occasions when I've put my love of football above something that's happened in the world of music. Well, let him who also works seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, without holiday pay or sickness pay, for a company that last raised its scales of freelance contributions a decade ago, feel free to cast the first stone. I'm sure there won't be much of a queue. Listen, I adore my job, something that I hope is apparent in my style of writing, but I also make a point of maintaining some sort of safety valve (if indeed you can term the ups and downs of CPFC 'relaxation'). The cost of four season tickets for family Ling is not cheap, and sometimes a line in the sand must be drawn.
Loath as I am to defend myself against such ridiculuous accusations, I'll just state a few more things. 1) I was instructed by the magazine to review only Winger. 2) I paid my own return rail fair to Nottingham, something which the fee for the published review failed dismally to match. 3) In the face of great indifference, I wrote several preview articles about Firefest in Classic Rock. 4) If I hadn't gone along to the show myself, it's a fairly safe bet that the event wouldn't have been covered at all, as Classic Rock magazine tends to focus, as many of you rightly pointed out, on the genre widely accepted as 'classic' rock - rather than on the AOR scene - and their rising circulation figures in an otherwise static market probably proves that they're doing *something* right!
I almost fell off my chair howling with laughter at the anorak who sat and counted the words on how to make a maguerita (a box-out that accompanied my Status Quo story in the same issue), then juxtaposed it with the length of the Firefest review. If you want to know why the AOR scene is so ridiculed... well, look no further.
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Friday 15th December
Hungover and just a little bit proud, that's how I feel today. Last night was the final date of DragonForce's sold-out UK tour. Their show at the Astoria (ably supported by the rather splendid Firewind) was utterly breathtaking, but given the UK's musical climate and the sheer resistance to the kind of metal they take such delight in shoving down our throats, it's almost incredible to think they've now sold a quarter of a million albums around the globe. Let me just blow my own trumpet for a moment here: yours truly was among the first British journos to recognise their vast potential, having seen 'em opening for Halford in their days as DragonHeart. At the after show party, someone who should know better asked: "But don't the band's songs all sound the same?" My reply was: "Only if you insist upon being an utter hyper-critical and anally analytical bastard"... I mean, when did that cause a problem for Status Quo, Slayer and Motörhead? Yes, I regard Herman, Sam and the boys highly enough to name them alongside such esteemed company. As the self-proclaimed "heartbreakin', axe-raping, evil motherfucking kings of speed" (that's what their intro tape calls 'em anyway), DragonForce call their music 'extreme power metal', but on this evidence they're fast carving out a genre all of their own. It's just a shame that the Astoria's security staff were such killjoys, confiscating everyone's plastic swords and axes on the way in. Bah humbug!
And the cricket? Don't ask...
P.S. A hilarious 'open letter' from W Axl Rose has just been posted online, in which he reveals: "I regret to say that the ['Chinese Democracy'] album will not be released by the end of the year."  No... go on... you don't say!
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Thursday 14th December
What bloody amazing news - REO Speedwagon have confirmed four UK dates in June. Last time yours truly saw Kevin Cronin and company was at Hammersmith Odeon (not the bloody 'Apollo'!) way back in 1986, with the mighty FM as their opening act. Seem to remember Merv Goldsworthy tumbling off the stage and into the orchestra pit that night. This is a show to get excited about, so I've just hooked out 'High Infidelity', 'Nine Lives' and 'You Can Tune A Piano... But You Can't Tuna Fish' for a revision crash course.
Well done to Monty Panesar, whose magnificent spin bowling in the Perth Test Match made him the first Englishman to take five wickets in an innings at the WAKA. Makes you wonder what might've happened if he'd been used in the first two Tests. Nice to see Steve Harmison coming good at last, too. Keep it up tomorrow, England.
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Wednesday 13th December
Grrraaaaaaaaaah! The switching of Palace's home game with Sunderland to Friday the 22nd for the Sky Sports cameras means I'll miss Iron Maiden's first Earl's Court show. How bloody annoying. I'd been trying to wangle tickets for both nights. On the subject of Maiden, a piccie of me with guitarist Adrian Smith has just been added to the Gallery section. If you're wondering about the less than ecstatic expressions that we share, or why I'm draped like a red and white Christmas tree, it was taken at the playback party for 'A Matter Of Life And Death' back in the summer, and only a matter of seconds earlier Sweden had scored an injury time World Cup equaliser against England.
Whilst bunging a load of old newspapers into the recycling, I stumbled upon a fascinating Mail On Sunday story I'd overlooked. Written by David Sore, the late Syd Barrett's neighbour of the past 25 years, it made for uncomfortable reading. The reclusive Syd - sacked by Pink Floyd after an LSD-induced nervous breakdown - could often be heard screaming: "Fucking Roger Waters! I'm going to kill him!" and smashing the windows of his cul-de-sac house in Cambridge, also making spectacular seven-foot high garden bonfires of his own paintings. Before his death back in July, 60-year-old Barrett consumed a bottle of whisky a day, and was taken to Sainsbury's once a week by his mum (now also dead), who had to open the car door for him at both ends of the trip, then guide him back into the house afterwards. What a tragic waste of talent; the perfect advert for the 'Just say no' lobby.

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Monday 11th December
Today's a day I'd been counting down towards. Tramp's White Lion were supposed to be playing the Underworld, but apparently Mike Tramp left his voice somewhere in Belgium and has blown out the rest of the tour. At least I got to see a truly stunning gig last night, though that experience is also tinged with frustration. I've been playing Frost's 'Milliontown' album almost non-stop since it dropped into my lap in the summer. It's a remarkable, vital slab of modern prog that deserves every last word of its rave reviews. So I arrive in the foyer of the Scala (where the band are due to open for The Flower Kings) to interview their leader, Jem Godfrey, and the first words he says to me are: "Nice to meet you, this is our last gig." Huh??!! It turns out that Frost are a vanity project that have simply become too big and time-consuming for Godfrey, who makes a lucrative living writing and producing hits for pop stars like Holly Vallance, Atomic Kitten and Shayne Ward - yes, really. So after this show he's putting them on "indefinitive hiatus" until he feels like doing it all again in a year or two's time.
Come showtime, Frost play just a pair of tracks (the instrumental 'Hyperventilate' and 'Black Light Machine') from 'Milliontown', before Jem Gofrey tells the crowd: "It's time for our last song [Greeted by a chorus of boos]. Okay, the bad news is that it's the last one, the good thing is that it's 25 minutes long! [Cue loud cheers]". And crikey, what a swansong 'Milliontown' turns out to be: its lengthy instrumental sections comprising dense, swirling keyboards (played by Godfrey), fluid, imaginative guitar parts (courtesy of It Bites/Kino/Arena's John Mitchell), John Jowitt (of IQ's) pulsating authorative bass-lines, and the primal, precision drumming of Andy Edwards (also of IQ). If you haven't been Frostbitten yet, I urge you to do so right away. The king is dead, long live the king!
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Sunday 10th December
I'm philosophical about Crystal Palace's mini-revival coming to a juddering end. The Eagles engineered enough shooting chances to have wrapped the game up during the first 45 minutes, but after failing so dismally to do so it was always likely that Colchester might deliver a painfully fatal second half suckerpunch. To be fair, they outplayed us after the break, but over 90 minutes the score of 3-1 rather flattered the visitors.
At the recommendation of Asia's John Wetton, I've begun picking up Joni Mitchell's albums. Wetton became quite misty-eyed whilst talking of Joni when I interviewed him for Classic Rock's recent 100 Icons cover feature. His outpouring of emotion made me realise that I was probably missing out on something good. I've yet to trace a reasonably priced copy of 'Blue', the 1971 disc that John says "blew my fucking head off" the first time he heard it. But I just acquired a copy of 'Wild Things Run Fast', a very strong release from 1982 that features Steve Lukather on guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. I shall be investing in the rest of Mitchell's catalogue before too long. 'Wild Things Run Fast' might have been the record that Joni was promoting when Wetton enjoyed a memorable encounter with her, as both were Geffen Records artists at the time. It was, he recalled, "one of my biggest dreams caming true. To me, Joni Mitchell was a deity. So it was lucky that I'd had a beaker or two when we met. It meant I was able to speak to her. And it was like meeting an old friend. When she said that she really, really liked Asia's debut album - that it was 'the best rock record she'd heard' - I nearly died on the spot." What a nice story.
Oh yeah, before heading off to yesterday's match I found the time to answer a few of the Ask Dave questions that have been stacking up for a month or two. Keep 'em coming!
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Friday 8th December
Well, the big one took place last night - the reunited It Bites at London's Islington Academy. Francis Dunnery was absent, of course, but by Christ it was good to see the guys onstage again, dusting off a set of songs unheard in 15 years. The billion dollar question was how John Mitchell would fare in filling Dunnery's shoes. I admit, I had some doubts at the show's start.
Musically speaking, the band were dead on the money, Mitchell having very little trouble in replicating Francis Dunnery's guitar licks, which as ever were paired to perfection with the buoyant keyboard work of John Beck. But he sounded a little hoarse on the opening pair of 'Kiss Like Judas' and 'I Got You', and I found myself wondering if he'd been stricken by an ill-timed winter cold (Mitchell attributed it afterwards to nerves, or possibly failing to warm up properly) - or worse, that this simply wasn't destined to work. Thankfully, those theories were soon blown out of the water.
Things really picked up through 'Leaving Without You', 'Plastic Dreamer' and 'Hunting The Whale', and 'Yellow Christian' was quite magnificent - a real goosebumps moment. Tackling 'Ice Melts To Water', a hauntingly beautiful song that Dunnery could be always to pour his heart and soul into, was a brave move, but the new boy somehow pulled it off. The epic 'Old Man And The Angel' was another do-they-have-the-balls moment that was routinely ticked off (the look of relief on Mitchell's afterwards face was a picture!), the audience then taking matters into their own hands for a rousing 'You'll Never Go To Heaven'. 'Screaming On The Beaches' brought the set proper to an end, heartily demanded encores pairing 'Still Too Young To Remember' with 'Calling All The Heroes' and a brief closing snippet from 'Once Around The World'.
No doubt about it, Mitchell is a fine addition to the band. He's quite capable of making that guitar sing like a skylark, just the way Dunnery used to. The 105-minute show also debuted three new songs; 'Memory Of Water', 'Playground' and another typically IB stomper that was either called 'Stare Into The Sun' or 'Breathe'. On this evidence, the follow-up to 'Eat Me In St. Louis' will be well worth the 18-year wait when it finally drops in 2007.
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Thursday 7th December
Her music's a complete waste of time, but I admit to finding Courtney Love absolutely fascinating. She can be magificanrly indiscreet. It's hard not to smile at Love's latest claim (from the Daily Mail) that Prince Andrew once turned up at her Hollywood home in the early hours of the morning "wanting to party" and on the "look for chicks". Courtney claims to have been a fluffy bathrobe and slippers when HRH came a-knockin', but despite a spokesman confirming the 45-minute visit, the official line is that Courney talks "nonsense" by implying Andrew sought female company. Hilarious story, though...
Right, with expectation building for tonight's long-awaited comeback gig from It Bites, I've just rummaged through the closet and found my 'Eat Me In St Louis' T-shirt from 1989. It still fits me... hurrah. Fingers are firmly crossed that the new-look group won't let the side down after all this time. Early web feedback to the tour has been positive and I've confidence in Francis Dunnery's replacement John Mitchell. Will report back tomorrow.

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Wednesday 6th December
What a great band Captain are. Malcolm Dome and I caught their final show of 2006 last night, both of us departing a sold-out Mean Fiddler mightily impressed. Before the gig somebody asked what type of a band Captain are. It's such a hard question to answer. They morph together so many different elements, their critically adored and Trevor Horn-produced debut album 'This Is Hazelville' sounding like a hypnotic summer cocktail of Prefab Sprout, Radiohead, the Beach Boys and The Beautiful South (none of which I can usually abide, incidentally) crossed with the songwriting flair of It Bites and Jellyfish. If anyone has penned a more effortlessly lush and euphoric tune than 'Glorious' these past 12 months, I've yet to hear it.
I'm still chuckling away whilst transcribing a phone interview with Kevin DuBrow from a few nights ago. Quiet Riot's motormouth frontman might have reached 51 years old, but he still gives great interview. Of course, Kevin provided endless hours of entertainment for journalists back in the 80s, so much so that his band-mates finally kicked him out of the group. Kevin claims his that his tongue is less acidic these days but he still talks the hind legs off a donkey, and I've way too much material for my story (although better that than the alterative, of course). So here's a full length-quote that'll probably be truncated or end up on the cutting room floor. When asked how he felt when Randy Rhoads left to work with Ozzy Osbourne, DuBrow retorted: "I was very unhappy, but I had to be realistic. I wasn't much of a singer back then and Randy was a great guitar player. On the one hand I wanted to see him succeed, but on the other I wanted to bitchslap Dana Strum [future Slaughter bassist] for taking him to the audition. Then again I'd like to bitchslap Dana Strum anyway. Like me, Dana lives here in Las Vegas. But in 11 years I've never once seen him out. The theory is that he stays home because too many people want to beat him up."
Attaboy Kev, good to see you've mellowed with age!
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Tuesday 5th December
Just as I feared before retiring to bed last night, I awake to find that Flintoff and his dimwit colleagues have managed to snatch defeat by six wickets from the jaws of... well, a likely-looking draw... in the second Test Match. In truth, this is a scenario that most realistically minded England fans must have secretly feared before the series began. With the squad's key players either injured, lacking fitness or absent for other ridiculous reasons (hello, Marcus Trescothic), compounded by a range of baffling selection choices, it was always gonna be an uphill battle. I'm gutted. Absolutely fucking gutted.
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Monday 4th December
If you saw last Wednesday's diary, you'll know of my reservations regarding the first night of the original Asia's first ever UK tour (they only ever played two nights at Wembley Arena back in the day). Well, I'm happy and somewhat relieved to report that last night's Shepherds Bush Empire date was miles better. The set-list was the same, but the PA was louder, there were a few less errors and, unlike their Liverpudlian counterparts, the London crowd refrained from talking through the quiet bits. Asia's version of 'Roundabout' by Yes remains a bit of a white elephant, and I'm still perplexed by the inclusion of King Crimson's 'In The Court Of The Crimson King', though Steve Howe's contribution to 'Fanfare For The Common Man' definitely added something a little extra. Carl Palmer's drum solo was amazing, and John Wetton sang with the poise and emotion of a man half his age. The chemistry of this outstanding band remains intact. If Asia can capture it on record next year, and I suspect they should do so, yours truly will be very happy indeed.
I didn't hang around for the after show 'do', but from my viewpoint up in the venue's rafters a selection of liggers had gathered on the balcony below, including Chris Squire and Geoff Downes' former Buggles partner and Ronnie Corbett lookalike Trevor Horn - both later seen in animated chat at the bar. Wouldn't it be fantastic if Horn was invited to produce Yes' 40th anniversary album in 2008?
Alas, England's cricketers weren't able to press home their advantage in the Test Match, and a draw now looks like the only possible outcome. Let's hope that Flintoff wins the toss again in Perth. These Australian wickets are so batsman-friendly, such a slender slice of luck almost renders the match's end result a foregone conclusion (unless you're England, of course).
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Sunday 3rd December
Taking revenge for the Loftus Road massacre of a few weeks back, a Shefki Kuqi-inspired Palace faced little opposition in smashing three goals past Queens Park Rangers at Selhurst yesterday, leapfrogging above the relegation-bound visitors in the process. Thanks for the points, QP-Hahaha. It's great to know that after that last month's little blip, you're still a complete joke of a club. (Ulp! - hope Geoff Barton isn't reading).
What on earth?! Improbable to believe, but it's being claimed that Pete Way played along to a backing tape on UFO's recently completed tour. This ludicrous accusation was first made by a fan from Bristol in a posting on the Noticebard at www.melodicrock.com, now Ross Halfin is repeating it in his latest blog. C'mon, guys, get real. Pete's thud 'n' blunder, chaos theory-style technique is impossible to second-guess. No matter how bevvied-up he was, it would be harder for him to pretend to follow pre-recorded notes than just to play them himself. Backing tapes, my arse.

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Saturday 2nd December
Yay, that's more like it! A Herculean innings of 206 from Paul Collingwood has put England in the driving seat of the Second Test. Switched on the TV this morning, I was aghast and full of joy to see Flintoff declaring at 551-6, then nearly went through the roof when Langer was dismissed for four runs. To put things in perspective, for the loss of just one wicket, Shane Warne was clobbered 167 runs - more than the entire England team scored in their first innings in Brisbane. Keep it up, chaps!
So the British leg of UFO's tour is over. England's display in the cricket ensured that I had an extra bounce in my stride whilst taking Bob The Dog for his morning walk, but I also enjoyed playing an illicit recording of the band's Astoria show as we trudged around the park. Had forgotten how hilarious some of Phil's song intros were. Chiding Pete Way about his stage pants, which were gravitating downwards as usual, Mogg retorted: "Pull 'em up. No-one wants to see your arse. It's like journey to the centre of the earth". "I've never played a gig with so many bars. I mean... Where do you go?" the singer announced at one point, almost seeming misty-eyed at the possibilities. Later, when Phil complained of being given cheap lager, the audience began to pass up cans of the far stronger Red Stripe. A line of tinnies was soon perched on the drum riser. "Don't drink too many, we wanna finish the show," grinned guitarist Vinnie Moore, bringing them to Phil's attention before 'Love To Love'. "That's very American," responded Phil sagely. "We English just go, 'Fuck it, who cares?' But I appreciate your professionalism". Priceless!