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

Monday 31st December
Here's a job that I'm **really** enjoying - writing a lengthy sleeve essay about 'Obsession', a classic album released by UFO way back in 1978. It was extremely entertaining to talk to the record's producer, Ron Nevison, a few nights ago. Indeed, when I started to inform Nevision that I'd been conversing with UFO drummer Andy Parker just a few minutes beforehand, Ron interrupted me, excitedly exclaiming: "That man has no neck!"
Nevison's distinguished track record includes work with Led Zeppelin, The Who and Bad Company. He gives great interview, and since our chat on Friday we've fired a few emails back and forth. In one of these missives he revealed something I didn't know before - namely how UFO's double live album got its name. "I was sitting in a restaurant next to the Record Plant [in Los Angeles] during the mixing of 'Strangers In The Night', and the Frank Sinatra song started playing," reveals Ron. "I thought what a good title for an album it would be". The rest is history.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 30th December
Shall I shame myself by revealing the gory details of my last gig of the year 2007? Well... okay, if I must. Yesterday lunchtime I took my two boys to the O2 Arena, where for some bizarre reason I seemed to be the only person wearing a Rush hoodie during a performance of (cough... splutter...) Disney's High School Musical On Ice. The show was every bit as grim as I'd feared but Eddie and Arnie loved it, singing along loudly to each song's inane lyric. Well, during their short lives they've had to put up with a good deal of standing around in fields listening to 'my' music, so I really cannot complain.
Before leaving home I'd set the Sky+ for Palace's tough-looking away game at Sheffield United, which was live on the telly. One large vodka and Diet Coke followed another during the ensuing playback, and James Scowcroft's winning goal set the seal on a quite terrific day, which closed as we all gathered on the sofa and pretended not to cry during the conclusion of one of the all-time great family movies, 1982's ET - The Extra Terrestrial.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 27th December
Back to reality with a 7am log-on. Time, deadlines and interview tape transcriptions wait for no man. Still feeling a little hoarse after yesterday's trip to the Ricoh Arena to watch Crystal Palace ascend to ninth in the Championship table - just three points behind the play off pack! - with an entertaining 2-0 victory over Coventry. Thoroughly enjoyed bellowing out: "Dowie, what's the score? Dowie Dowie, what's the score?!"
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 25th December
What a terrific surprise... Mrs L has bought me one of those neat l'il turntable thingies that converts LP tracks into MP3 files. Previously restricted vinyl-only gems by Starcastle, Roadmaster, Prism, Steely Dan, Lizzy Borden, Ratt, Goddo etc can at long last find their way onto the iPod!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 24th December
Losing a loved one at this time of year makes the blow doubly unfortunate. Former Magnum drummer Kex Gorin was 56 when, two years ago, he discovered he had cancer of the right kidney, with secondary tumours on his lungs. The kidney was removed, but the only the only drug that could have prolongd his life cost around £3,300 for four weeks' worth of treatment and was unavailable on the NHS in his home county of Warwickshire. Gorin was effectively consigned to the scrapheap. This was especially disgraceful when one considers that the medication concerned - Sunitinib - is available to cancer sufferers that live a mere 30 miles away. Admirably, Kex's former band-mates raised approximately £10,000 with a charity show and auction, but the drummer - who played on Magnum's first four studio releases and the live 'Marauder' album in 1980 - slipped away on Friday. My condolences to all that knew him.
With an awayday trip to Coventry Shitty on Boxing Day lined up, I will be trying to take things easier than normal over the festive break. The postie has just delivered a promo copy of Iron Maiden's 'Live After Death' DVD (complete with all the extra features - due on February 4). A luxury edition of Rich Wilson's official Dream Theater book Lifting Shadows and the DVD of 'Live And Dangerous' by Thin Lizzy all join the competition for immediate scrutiny. Merry Christmas and good will to all men - unless, of course, they happen to wear the blue and white of the verminous south coast Seaweed.

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

Sunday 23rd December
Yesterday's 2-1 victory over Plymouth Are Gargoyles brought three further points for Crystal Palace, who are now up to tenth. By way of celebration, Mrs L and I traversed South London to investigate Jeff Wayne's musical version of War Of The Worlds. What a fantastic experience. The O2 is an absolutely incredible venue. Approaching under cover of darkness and with its lights on, it seemed to take on extra-terrestial qualities. Our tickets were dead-centre of the stage, 14 rows back. First released in 1978, the original double-vinyl album has long been a personal favourite. As a spotty youth I wore out several home-made cassettes of it, so it was awesome to watch the story unfold again before my eyes. Even managed to shoot some pix, and though Ross Halfin has no need to worry they came out okay. To view, click here.
My good friend John Payne, the former Asia bassist/vocalist, was heavily featured in the show, as the Parson Nathaniel - a role originally made famous by Philip Lynott, of course. Though he'd never acted before, Payne convinced as one of the planet earth's last survivors - perhaps tapping back into the survival instincts he summoned when Geoffrey Downes made him redundant to reunite the original Asia. John had very kindly obtained a pair of VIP passes for the end of tour party, during which he introduced the missus and me to another of the tour's stars, evergreen Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward, also Jeff Wayne himself. A fabulous night!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 22nd December
The Wildhearts at the Astoria; always fun. Openers Damone are a feisty, female-fronted pop-metal combo with a lively punky spirit. Their formidable current record 'Out Here All Night' brought the US four-piece a deserved (though ultimately fruitless) nomination for Best New Band at this year's Classic Rock awards, and it was easy to see why Ginger Wildheart tapped them for the tour.
Returning after 13 years away, Wolfsbane confounded minimal expectations to tear the place apart. My own reservations regarding Blaze Bayley's suitability as an Iron Maiden singer have of course been extensively documented, but as frontman (that's **frontman** and not **lead singer**) of the ebullient, rough-shod Tamworth terrors... well, we're talking a whole different story. "We have been brought back to save the world," a glazed-eyed Bayley informed the Astoria during one particular insane rant. "Al Gore cannot save the world from global warming, he is shit. A Spice Girls reunion cannot save the world. Led Zeppelin will not save the world. Only Wolfsbane can save the world." It's gloriously bonkers stuff. "If you don't put your fucking hands in the air, you are lazy and bone idle; a cunt and a weed", Bayley later warns us... okay okay, we get the message. The likes of 'Tough As Steel', 'Money To Burn' and 'Paint The Town Red' still sound like they were written on the back of beermats - probably were, in fact - and the wreched 'Manhunt' remains as thoroughly risible as Quo's 'Burning Bridges', but only a madman would overlook such sheer entertainment value.
Which brings us to the Wildhearts. Would Bayley's boast in Classic Rock that "we'll blow [the headliners] off every night" actually come to pass? Oh listen, don't be so fucking stupid. Sober, focussed and ensconsed in a genuine purple patch, last night's set was among the best from the Wildies in almost two decades of existence (I first encountered them as unsigned novices at an all-dayer at London's Sir George Robey in late 1990). Quite simply, they've become one of Britain's best ever live attractions.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 21st December
I was among last night's crowd as former Nightwish frontwoman Tarja Turunen played at London's Electric Ballroom. Like her solo debut, 'My Winter Storm', the show was rather patchy. Turunen is a superlative vocalist that enjoys an intimate relationship with her audience, and the 100-odd minutes that she shared with us contained nuggets of divine excellence and isolated moments of unrelenting tedium (notably, that regrettable cover of Alice Cooper's 'Poison'). In keeping with a promise to exhume some classic early Nightwish classics, Tarja returned to 1998's 'Oceanborn' album for 'Passion And The Opera' and encored with latterday hit 'Nemo', also re-visiting two covers that were once her former band's speciality, 'Walking In The Air' (the theme tune to The Snowman) and Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'The Phanton Of The Opera'. Those quality dips aside, Turunen pretty much deserved the rapturous reception she received. Here's what she played: 'Boy And The Ghost', 'Lost Northern Star', 'Passion And The Opera', 'My Little Phoenix', 'Sing For Me', 'Damned Vampire & Gothic Divine', muso-jam, 'Ciaran's Well', 'Our Great Divide', 'Phantom Of The Opera', 'Oasis', 'Walking In The Air', 'The Reign' and 'Poison', with encores of 'Nemo', 'I Walk Alone' and 'Calling Grace'.
P.S. Glenn Hughes is telling people that his forthcoming solo album is "better than sex". Hmmm, wonder what his wife Gabi has to say about that!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 20th December
It's not every day of the week that you experience face-to-face chats with two-thirds of The Three Tremors, the iconic supergroup that was intended to unite lead singers of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche, is it? But yesterday I met up with Rob Halford to discuss various metal matters including his Fight movie (see yesterday's diary), then headed Northbound for a quick rendez-vous with Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate. The latter was in town to talk up his band's decision to play both of their 'Operation: Mindcrime' albums back-to-back on next spring's UK tour. As ever, Tate was pleasant company, though even 24 hours later I still find myself lapsing into giggles about the Halford interview. To wind things up on a light note, I reminded Rob that not too long ago he had outed himself as a fan of The Golden Girls, the retirement-themed US sitcom from the 1980s. He brayed with laughter when asked which of the show's characters - Blanche, Dorothy, Rose or Sophia - he had the most in common with. So much so that when I requested we take a snap for the Gallery section, he joked about surfing through the channels of his hotel room TV to see if The Golden Girls was on, so that it could be in the background of the photo!
An unusually pleasant day was rounded off by hitting the Astoria for Hawkwind's annual festive bash, and a rare live rendition of 'Silver Machine'. Afterwards, several journo aquaintances adjourned to the Crobar, where way too many white wines ended up being consumed - a fact not unaided by the arrival of a certain Derek William Dick, who gave us all some lessons in how to drink like a Fish. Needless to say, I fell asleep on the train and have a very sore head as I type!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 19th December
Last night was pleasantly occupied by a central London screening of Rob Halford's latest project. War Of Words - The Film is a full-length archive audio-visual documentation of Fight, the singer's post-Priest solo group that ran from 1993-1995. I'd forgotten how great some of Fight's songs were; 'Into The Pit', 'Life In Black', 'Immortal Sin' and 'For All Eternity' all sounded marvellous. After the playback, the Metal God himself appeared for a 30-minute question and answer session, during which he spoke about Fight (of course), his industrial-metal band Two and the near-completion of Priest's much-awaited 'Nostradamus' album. Asked by a fan about the possibility of Priest playing at next summer's Download festival, 28 years after they had played at the inaugural Castle Donington bash (headlined by Rainbow), Halford was understandably cagey but wouldn't rule out such a mouth-watering possibility. Result!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 18th December
Arriving back in the UK, I headed directly to the Underworld where three-quarters of the classic Love/Hate line-up (guitarist Jon E Love is forbidden to leave the USA for mysterious 'legal reasons') were performing their 1990 album 'Black Out In The Red Room' in its entirety. The venue was pretty full, and despite my travel-induced fatigue I enjoyed the show immensely. Just like first time around, when Jon exited the band after they were dropped by Epic Records, Darren Householder was on hand to make up the numbers. As a casual Love/Hate fan, the 'BOITRR' songs made a huge impression upon yours truly, and it was also great to hear 'Don't Fuck With Me' and 'Wasted In America' again, though other segments of performance seemed to drag on a little.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 17th December
This short missive is typed on my laptop during a whistle-stop visit to Turku in Finland, reached via stopoffs in Sweden and Denmark, to catch the new Nightwish line-up for the first time. Can't divulge too many details regarding last night's show at 944 Halli, an impressive concert venue-cum-luxurious hotel complex set it the country's second city, but suffice to say that if you appreciated the band's post-Tarja comeback disc, 'Dark Passion Play', you will thoroughly enjoy their current stage show when it hits the UK in March and April. Now off for some breakfast!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 16th December
Eagles 2, Sheffield Wednesday 1 - a cheeky last minute lob from one of the 'new' faces of Palace wins the game. Academy kid Sean Scannell takes the club to nine games unbeaten. For a second or two, I thought I was gonna pee myself with joy... hahahahaha!!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 13th December
A recording of a certain reunited band performing earlier this week at the O2 is already on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers - it's amazing how quickly you can pick these things up nowadays! The sound's messy at the start (much like the gig, apparently), though after three or four songs... hmmmm, that definitely hits the spot! 'No Quarter' in particular is a moment of true magic... thanks Stew! [Don't waste your time or mine asking for copies please].
Last night I went to Earache Records' Christmas party at the Purple Turtle in Camden. Four of the label's acts had been booked to play short sets, and if you were the lucky bearer of a wristband that proclaimed 'Yes I am a ligger give me booze' then there was refreshment a-plenty to be supped.
Sadly, I missed most of the opening band Gama Bomb's set, but was impressed by Evile, Huddersfield's answer to Metallica, Megadeth and (especially) Slayer. These youngsters have come in leaps and bounds since I first saw them a year ago, and though there's still something of the Sixth Form to what they do, you cannot underestimate the enjoyment and energy that they dish out.
Here's where it gets messy. Painstakingly crafted with producer Chris Tsangarides, Biomechanical's forthcoming album 'Cannibalised' (due February 11) is a work of genius. But whoever thought it would be a good idea to introduce the group's revised line-up and a batch of songs still two months away from release at such an almighty booze-up deserves a good hiding. On record, 'Fallen In Fear', 'The Unseen', 'Cannibalised' and 'Through Hatred Arise' are an unholy mindfuck collision of John K's high-pitched banshee vocals, brutal guitar riffs and sampled keyboards. But as the mass exodus to the bar quickly confirmed, Biomechanical are nowhere near ready to do them justice onstage yet.
Blood Red Throne were due to close the event some time after midnight, but with the Norwegians arriving late from another gig in Oxford (with Divine Heresy), I snuck out for my last train home.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 12th December
Although the Californian band's early records were fantastic, I'd become bored to tears with Fear Factory by the time of 1998's well-named 'Obsolete' album. Perhaps against the odds, erstwhile guitarist Dino Cazares now has a quite spectacular new combo called Divine Heresy, and last night I checked them out at London's Underworld. Openers Blood Red Throne, featuring Tchort of Emperor on guitar, kickstarted the evening with some superb technical but bloodcurdling death metal - a heroic effort given that they'd turned up to be interviewed at TotalRock Radio that same afternoon with a huge jug of Long Island Ice Tea, and were so inebriated they couldn't even pronounce the name of their own band.
Cast in his own heavyweight image, the portly Cazares has assembled a truly stunning group. Among its prize assets is Tim 'The Missile' Yeung, a powerhouse percussionist that once recorded 872 bass drum hits during a single minute in a World's Fastest Drummer competition. The ex-Hate Eternal skinsman plays like a fuggin' machine, and I swear there were moments in Divine Heresy's 50-minute set when you could feel the Underworld's solid wooden floor reverberating to the pounding beat. Personally, I was left cold by the remake of FF's 'Self Bias Resistor' (despite Dino's bitchy assertion of: "I haven't heard anybody sing it that good in ten years"; Tommy Vext doesn't have the right style of voice) and also the lame ballad 'Closure', though the rest of their set was so monumental, it made the band's album 'Bleed The Fifth' sound positively tame - quite a feat.
P.S. I'm perplexed and disappointed to hear that Iced Earth have dismissed ex-Judas Priest frontman Tim 'Ripper' Owens to reinstate former singer Matt Barlow. What's that all about?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 11th December
It's destined to become as symbolistically iconic as Bron-Y-Aur Cottage, the infamous red snapper and motorcycles being revved up in the corridors of the Riot House. I refer, of course, to the ironing board that Led Zeppelin demanded as part of the rider for yesterday's comeback at London's O2 Arena (a show that ITV's morning bulletin just called "the reunion gig of the century"). The mental imagery of them all sitting around and drinking mugs of tea, with Robert Plant doing the valeting of his own stage gear before the show, is simply too surreal for words.
Knee-jerk reaction suggests that all expectations were exceeded, a theory that various footage captured on camera phones and by media camera crews seems to confirm. Now we must sit and await not only more considered feedback - certainly than BBC reporter Jon Kelly who disgraces himself and the company he works for by dismissing Zeppelin as "Queen without the sense of humour", but also whether anything else is likely to happen. You'll already know that the full set-list was: 'Good Times, Bad Times', 'Ramble On', 'Black Dog', 'In My Time Of Dying', 'For Your Life', 'Trampled Under Foot', 'Nobody's Fault But Mine', 'No Quarter', 'Since I've Been Loving You', 'Dazed And Confused', 'Stairway To Heaven', 'The Song Remains The Same', 'Misty Mountain Hop' and 'Kashmir', with encores of 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Rock And Roll'.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 10th December
And so... the big day arrives. No, unlike Pallas frontman Alan Reed who emailed last night to gleefully inform me of his last-minute press accreditation (doncha hate gloaters?!), I won't be schmoozing at the O2 this evening. Trying hard to pretend not to care, I plan instead on watching a bootleg DVD of Zeppelin's Knebworth Park show that my good friend Tony C from Norfolk recently supplied.
Of course, the million dollar question remains: Will the show be any good? It's been 10,348 days - let's call it 28 years - since Led Zeppelin left the stage following the second of their Knebworth shows, and as the band themselves have acknowledged previous reunions were considerably below-par.
This time they've rehearsed, however. But they were still forced to alter the keys of certain songs to accomodate Robert Plant's voice (reportedly "to avoid embarrassment").
Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French - a mega-Zep fan who saw them opening for Iron Butterfly at the Fillmore East in New York in January 1969 - recently told me that he declined the chance of a ticket to the original (postponed) date.
"I just don't know if they'll pull it off, and I'd rather remember the band the way they were. I give away the 'How The West Was Won' DVD to friends as gifts; the telepathy and synergy between them at that point [in 1972] still brings up goosebumps. But I want to be clear - they're getting back together for charity, which is absolutely the right reason. I applaud them for doing the one thing they know that can raise the most amount of money. I hope it's a great show and that the fans enjoy it. Jason Bonham is a great drummer. John Paul Jones is a master musician. But my question is: Will Jimmy be able to play the way we all remember, and can Robert still sing those songs? I don't know the answer to that."
Then, of course, there's the subject of whether or what - if anything - happens after the O2 show. Plant seems adamant that the event is a one-off. Page, on the other hand, has said: "I would like to keep this moving". For me, though, the quote that sums the situation up best is the one that Jimmy gave Channel 4: "It's a bit selfish to do just one show. If that's it, we probably shouldn't have taken the genie out of the bottle." Whatever goes on at the O2 tonite, it won't be boring.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 9th December
Yesterday's 0-0 draw at Barnsley marked Crystal Palace's eighth game without a defeat - a sure sign of improvement against a side that hasn't lost at Oakwell since the season's opening day. Things are looking up, and no mistake.
In the evening I hooked up with my old boozing buddies Chariot, who were headlining the latest franchised version of the Marquee Club. I was reasonably impressed by the place and its facilities, though the music in the basement was way too loud and disorted for such a confined space. In conversation with guitarist/singer Pete Franklin - a man who hasn't changed a jot during our quarter-century friendship - we realised that Chariot are among an elite of bands to have played four different Marquee sites; the seminal Wardour Street sweatbox, the venue in Charing Cross Road, the short-lived Leicester Square hall, and now the latest St Martins Lane site. A word of advice to the management of the new place - you must bloody well inform people who's playing on any given night of the week (via the website, at least), or it's just a matter of time before you go the way of Leicester Square.
Chariot rocked as magnificently as usual, though I'm still puzzled why bands insist upon playing their new/latest songs in a block, driving less committed fans away to the bar. The show began brilliantly with 'Screams The Night', 'Burning', 'Play To Win', 'Love Or Leave Me' and 'Horizons', before tapping last year's reunion disc 'Behind The Wire' for its title cut, then 'Shut It Out', 'No Emotion' and 'Cold, Hard, Cash' - couldn't they have mixed 'em up a bit? No complaints whatever about the final selection of vintage songs - 'Run With The Pack', 'Warriors' and 'When The Moon Shines'.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 8th December
This morning's news surf was conducted to the sound of a pile of unplayed promo CDs. An incongrous-looking one by Canada's Random Damage, featuring ex-Annihilator drummer Ray Hartmann, really tickled my funny bone. Its opening cut is a rant at overweight, über-opinionated music journalists (not that there are too many of those around, of course). The song's title? 'Hippocritic'. Ain't that just a stroke of genius! Shame the rest of the album, 'Human Flytrap', is so forgettable.
Just finished reading Issue 18 of Dave Lewis' excellent Led Zeppelin magazine, Tight But Loose. It contains an incredibly detailed yet fascinating 30th aniversary look back at the band's 1977 American tour that prompted me to haul out the old faithful bootleg, 'Destroyer'. Nice work, Mr Lewis.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 7th December
Last night I made my first expedition to the Boom Boom Club in Sutton, out on London's fringes. Distance-wise it's not too far away from home, but the capital's iffy public transport network makes the journey feel like a cameo in that fantastic Steve Martin/John Candy comedy movie Planes, Trains And Automobiles. Regardless, I was determined not to miss my only real opportunity to catch Honeytribe, a four-piece band fronted by Devon Allman (guitar-toting son of ABB mainstay and all-round Ling hero, Gregg). It was well worth the effort. Beginning with the fiery instrumental 'Mahalo', the 100-minute set was firmly based upon the band's highly rated debut album 'Torch', plus one or two surprises. Midway through they delighted the crowd with a version of 'Midnight Rider', an Allmans classic that Devon and company had cut for 'A Song For My Father', a compilation that ties together material by Bob Marley's son Damian, Carlos Santana's boy Salvador, and several others. There were also renditions of 'Melissa' and a final encore of 'One Way Out', a Sonny Boy Williamson standard that the Brothers recorded for 1972's immortal 'Eat A Peach' album. If that sounds a bit of a cop-out, Devon told me before the show that Honeytribe don't include 'Midnight Rider' in the 300 or so US gigs they perform each year, adding it here to compensate overseas folks for sitting through a set of material that they don't necessarily know. "The simple fact is that a lot of curious Allman fans are at my shows; as you know, the Brothers don't come here [to Europe]," he rationalises. "When's the next time they'll see the Brothers? Maybe never unless they go to New York or whatever. So this is us saying thanks." It's appreciated, and next time I'm sure that Honeytribe will have no problem scoring a central London show.

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

Thursday 6th December
After months of weary speculation, Journey have formally announced the identity of their new lead singer - Philippines-born Arnel Pineda (pronounced "pin-eh-da"), who as everyone knows by now was discovered singing Journey songs by guitarist Neal Schon on YouTube. That it should come to this; hiring a tribute band frontman. The web footage is decent enough, but does anyone really care anymore? In my own tiny way, like the others that expressed dissatisfaction with Jeff Scott Soto's short spell with the band, I can't help but feel at least partly responsible. In the press blurb, keyboard player Jonathan Cain talks smugly of returning "to our heritage sound". Schon blithely agrees by repeating the empty clichés he spouted when Soto was hired: "We feel reborn"... Blah blah blah, boys... I'll believe it when I hear the album and not a fragment of a nano-second before.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 5th December
"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way/Oh what fun it is to see Palace win away". How nice to be able to sing such a festive ditty last night at Loftus Road, and again on the Central Line all the way back into the West End. I never thought I'd have cause to say this but Neil Warnock has got my beloved club back on track again. We're battling for points - and winning them, goals from the two Clints (Hill and Morrison) wiping out a QP-Hahaha header in the first half. For a while there it felt just like the old days (sniff)!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 3rd December
I've lost count of the times I've seen (and enjoyed) Thunder, and indeed their precursors Terraplane. Glad that there was a good turnout at the Astoria last night. The Londoners made a few interesting changes to the set-list, bringing back the 'Behind Closed Doors' gem 'I'll Be Waiting', but being brave enough to axe the perennial 'Dirty Love'. No complaints from yours truly regarding the latter; it's about time it was given a rest.
Sadly, work on the train line caused me to miss just about all of Lauren Harris' opening set, but she seemed to receive a pretty decent round of applause for her last number as I arrived. Anyway, here's what Monsewer Bowes and the chaps played: 'Dirty Dream', 'Last Man Standing', 'Higher Ground', 'I'll Be Waiting', 'The Devil Made Me Do It', 'Robert Johnson's Tombstone', 'River Of Pain', 'Flawed To Perfection', 'Like A Satellite', 'Chain Reaction', 'Back Street Symphony', 'Love Walked In', 'Can't Keep A Good Man Down', 'Spin Doctor', 'Low Life In High Places' and the brilliant 'I Love You More Than Rock 'N' Roll'.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 2nd December
What a cracking game of football eldest lad Eddie and I witnessed yesterday at Selhurst. Facing high-flying West Brom would always be an accurate gauge of Palace's recent improvement, and when a well-organised Baggies side raced out of the blocks to seize a 1-0 lead after just eight minutes I feared that the game might become a rout. But no, after Clinton Morrison notched an eqaliser, the Eagles should have collected all three points. For the first time in what seems like aeons, the ground shook with noise during the second half and the players performed with equal passion. Maintain such standards during the coming months and the teams at the top will soon be looking over their shoulders.
I grabbed a bottle (anything with a screw top would do) en route to the Borderline for the Candlelight Records Christmas party. With free booze on tap, the night inevitably became a bit of a blur. Missed most of DAM's opening set, but my first live experience of female-fronted prog-metallers To-Mera - featuring the ubiqitous Lee Barrett on bass - was very enjoyable.
Looking forward to their second album, 'Delusion', which surfaces on February 18. Dark, menacing and powerful, October File also rattled the fillings in one's teeth, though their politically-themed between-song banter got boring very fast. Sadly, after a long day's swigging, my sobriety was hanging by a thread but the time Octavia Sperati closed the show. The Norwegian ladies created a splendidly mature second album in 'Grace Submerged', but whether they matched it onstage... hmmm... gosh... can I plead The Fifth on that one?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 1st December
It's scarcely possible to believe that the Pretty Things are now into their 45th year of existence. Still railing against society, they released a ditty called 'All Light Up' to protest against the smoking ban back in the summer and are currently promoting 'Balboa Island', the group's first new work in eight years. So when you're offered an opportunity to check them out first-hand, only a fool declines.
A posse of journos and media types braved torrential rain for last night's gig at the Clarendon Hall in Twickenham. Now in his mid-sixties, former Rolling Stones member Dick Taylor looks so dilapidated that you doubt an ability to dress himself, let alone perform the sizzling lead breaks that pepper the band's songs. Somehow he manages it, though. On the othjer hand, Phil May remains the rock star's rock star - to David Bowie, The Ramones, Pete Townshend and David Gilmour, at least. Together the Pretties defy Old Father Time pull off a hugely enjoyable display, juxtaposing early hits 'Rosalyn and Don't Bring Me Down' with newies 'The Beat Goes On', 'Buried Alive' and the aforementioned 'All Light Up'. The bit I liked best was when they revisited 1968's 'SF Sorrow', an album that's been acknowledged as the first full-blown concept piece in history. Here's what they played: 'The Beat Goes On', 'Don't Bring Me Down', 'Buried Alive', 'Havana Bound', 'SF Sorrow Is Born', 'Baron Saturday', 'Down In The Bottom', 'Come In My Kitchen', 'Hoochie Coochie Man' (featuring Arthur Brown), 'Come See Me', 'Cries From The Midnight Circus', 'LSD'/'Old Man Going' and 'Judgement Day', with encores of 'Rosalyn' and the old faithful 'Route 66'.