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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Wednesday 31st December
A seasonal bug has left me with a runny nose, clogged sinuses and an extremely bad temper. So, reluctantly, work matters and New Year’s celebrations have been brushed aside in favour of Beechams Powders, a duvet on the sofa and a banquet of crap British festive gogglebox fare. Amusingly, I still can’t get away from music. Whilst watching Calendar Girls, a mildly funny comedy about a bunch of Women’s Institute wrinklies that cause a media rumpus by removing their clothes for charity, who should pop up and be name-checked in a surreal Californian poolside scene but several members of Anthrax?! And then, during Goal!, the rather predictable rags-to-riches tale of a poor but gifted Mexican footballer that takes the Premiership by storm with Newcastle United (hang on, did I just say ‘predictable’??!), none other than AC/DC’s Brian Johnson makes a surprise speaking cameo as an avid Toon fan supping beer in a crowded bar. Careful, Brian (or ‘Bryan’ as the producers call him in the credits)… you don’t wanna get typecast, Bonnie Lad. Amid various other televisual tripe, Alice Cooper can also be seen in an advertisement for Norwich Union insurance. Frankly, it’s getting ridiculous. I await Dani Filth’s appearance on Question Time with baited (though somewhat wheezy) breath.
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Sunday 28th December
For the past few days I’ve enjoyed working on a set of sleeve notes. Whilst clattering away at the keyboard and sifting through various back issues of Sounds and Kerrang! in search of quotes, I’ve also whittled away at a tower of so-far unplayed CDs and LPs. I recently picked up the self-titled debut from The Roches, a female vocal group from the US, purely because it was produced by Robert Fripp. Not really sure what I was expecting, but it has some rather nice songs. On the heavier side of things, UK prog-power-metallers Shadowkeep’s new album, ‘The Hourglass Effect’ (Melissa Records) has exerted a satisfying effect upon both neck muscles and brain. Another CD that I picked up at the Record & Tape Exchange, purely because his name was faintly familiar and for featuring a version of ‘Baby, I’m Down’ from Leslie West’s solo debut, ‘Mountain’, was ‘Borrowed Time’ by Todd Wolfe. It was well worth the couple of quid it cost, and I can only echo West’s typically immodest though ringing endorsement – “There are very few guitar players I like better than myself. Todd Wolfe is one of them!” – of the Pennsylvania-based blues guitarist/vocalist, who it seems earns his crust through playing in Sheryl Crow’s band.
P.S. This afternoon’s defeat to one of Palace’s bogey teams, Bristol City, was a bit of a blow. The end of a good run had to happen sooner or later though, I suppose…
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Saturday 27th December
Yesterday’s hugely enjoyable 3-1 home victory over Norwich ensured that Crystal Palace secured 20 of the last possible 24 points. So, to celebrate, I partook of a wee drinkie… or 29. Ahem. My buoyant mood was enhanced by Scumwall and Brighton both losing, and the Clowns returning to the bottom of the Championship after a draw with Deaf Barton’s beloved QP-Hahahaha. It’s now been 15 games without a win for the Valley-ites, though sadly the ineptitude of their basement rivals means they have yet to be truly cast adrift. Assuming that 52 points are needed for safety, something like 33 points are required from the final 21 games. 1.57 points per fixture? Not exactly simple…
The new issue of Classic Rock just dropped onto the mat. I’m a tad aggrieved that the live review of the Firefest (co-written by Jon Hotten and myself) has once again inexplicably slipped through the net, though the cover feature on Deep Purple looks interesting. Somewhat controversially, Ian Gillan goes on record as stating: “Glenn Hughes is still copying Stevie Wonder. I can’t call him a bona fide member of Deep Purple”, whilst Joe Lynn Turner claims that: “Pound for pound, song for song, I think that ‘Slaves And Masters’ [1990] was the last great Deep Purple album. To me, it’s the final one that sounds like Deep Purple. It still has that cornerstone of Blackmore’s guitar. Later on they became a bit watered down and convoluted.” That’s gonna set the message boards chattering.
Likewise my own Status Quo story, in which we asked Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt the same questions (mostly about one another) and compared the answers. Says Francis on Rick: “In the 1970s he began making these noises with his throat, like a rock god. [Bursts into song]: ‘Felt in need of some loving/So I sat down on a wall’ [from A Reason For Living, 1973]; that’s how Rick Parfitt should sing. It’s fantastic. But someone convinced him to go [makes growling noise]. I don’t think a stuck pig is better, do you?” And later on, when informed that Parfitt believes he could defeat Rossi in a fight, the latter replies witheringly: “That’s Rick’s being macho again, but he ain’t as fit as me so I don’t think so. He’s a bit overweight, has no cardio-vascular whatsoever and no muscle strength. Shall I leave it there?” Though I say so myself, it’s an entertaining story that brings up issues that Rick and Francis must have discussed behind closed doors, but I certainly didn’t expect Rossi to publicly state: “Rick wants to be seen as a rock ‘n’ roll wild-man. That, to me, means he’s still a dickhead.”
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Thursday 25th December
Lunchtime approaches and it’s been a good Christmas Day so far. This year we went for the ‘Secret Santa’ method, which means sticking to a predetermined budget and buying a present(s) for a dear one, but keeping your identity a mystery. So far I have I received an electric trimmer for nasal hair, an attractive cactus for my office and a Status Quo key-ring with a magnetic supermarket trolley token. I suspect that Mrs L was the donor of these gifts as she often complains about the forest that grows out of my nose no matter how often I cut it. It also gives credence to the rock singer (no names mentioned) who several months ago pulled me aside to point out the exact same thing. Sadly, I was so shocked at his audacity that bringing attention to his own, somewhat more extreme though cunningly disguised follicular discrepancy didn’t occur to me till much later. As I type this I’m also spinning a Christmas pressie from my fellow CPFC addict/sufferer Neil Pudney, who a few days ago mailed me a CDr marked simply: ‘Hammersmith Odeon, 1st June 1978: PLAY LOUD’. Imagine my joy at realising it was an excellent quality recording of Van Halen’s celebrated support slot to Black Sabbath. Merry Christmas one and all; I’m off to practise some David Lee Roth-approved star-jumps from my office desk…
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Wednesday 23rd December
I’ve plenty of work with which to occupy myself during the festive break, including some Classic Rock stories and a set of sleeve notes for EMI. But this afternoon I made a point of taking a break to visit central London with my two sons. We wandered around the busy market and had a pleasant lunch at Camden Lock, then picked up a few pressies in the West End and I took them to Trafalgar Square to show them the Christmas lights and the enormous tree that the people of Norway send each year as thanks for Britain’s support during the Second World War. I even bought a present for myself; a DVD of all nine episodes of the 1970s comedy show Ripping Yarns. Being a CPFC follower I empathise with the tale of Gordon Ottershaw, whose beloved Barnstoneworth United haven’t won a football match in six years (or am I confusing Barnstoneworth with Clowntown Pathetic?). Now all I must do is find the time to watch it…
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Tuesday 22nd December
Jeeeeeez…. Rumours are mounting that the Astoria is to stage its final show on January 15. If the speculation is true, that means I’ve already witnessed my last ever concert (Apocalyptica and Swallow The Sun on Dec 12) at the legendary London venue, due to be bulldozed for a new Underground station as part of the Crossrail project. How odd, given that dates are still being advertised right up until March 29 (Kamelot). Apart from the regrettable fact that I didn’t get to say a proper mental farewell, where on earth will we go to now to see mid-sized bands in England’s hallowed capital city? It’s a joke, albeit an unfunny one. The sound at the Scala is shit. The IndigO2, which I rate as a superior venue, is generally considered too far outside the central area. Ditto, the Academy in Islington and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Also a few miles away from the West End, Camden’s Underworld is simply too small. And over in Kentish Town, the Forum is another that’s a little on the remote side. I love the Borderline, too, but it’s a tiny basement. What a farcical situation.
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Sunday 21st December
Apologies to anyone that happened to be in Camden last night to witness a drunken, grinning goon wandering around the streets. The thought of Charlton’s 14th game without a win and Brighton losing to a 90th minute suckerpunch injected a Tigger-style spring to my stride en route to see Angel Witch at the Underworld. And what a show it turned out to be. Still rallied by the seemingly ageless guitarist Kevin Heybourne, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal mini-legends hadn’t been seen onstage since a line-up that featured former Heathen/current Exodus guitarist Lee Altus reunited five years ago, their sole UK show taking place at a sparsely attended Ruskin Arms. This time, Angel Witch were opening for Orange Goblin so had the benefit of a large captive audience.
I’m happy to report that they knocked the place dead with 45 minutes of rampaging, heyday-era tunes, delivered with panache and confidence. No exaggeration, it was a thoroughly triumphant display, and by the time the quartet – completed by guitarist Chris Fullard, bassist Will Palmer (of Rise Above Records fame) and drummer Andrew Prestiege – blazed through their eponymously-titled anthem, the Underworld joined them in a rousing singalong – and unlike the bad old days, when their regular appearances at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street were sometimes taken for granted, nobody was tempted to replace the usual chorus (“You’re an Angel Witch/You’re an Angel Witch”) with the words: “You’re a load of shit”. Here’s the set-list: ‘Gorgon’, ‘Confused’, ‘Sweet Danger’, ‘White Witch’, ‘Sorcerers’, ‘Atlantis Arise’, ‘Angel Of Death’, ‘Baphomet’ and a medley of ‘Angel Witch’/‘Devil’s Tower’.
Grabbing a can of strong cider for the trip home, where the Sheffield United fixture had been recorded, I found myself exiting the Underworld with the bizarre thought: “I’m so happy, I don’t care if Palace lose 5-0”. Fortunately, such a calamity didn’t happen. Indeed, the Eagles played like lions, recovering from an unfairly awarded penalty to come from behind not once but twice to claim a share the points. One of our goals was scored by a player with a dislocated shoulder (defender Paddy McCarthy), the other bulging the back of the net in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time. No, it wasn’t a win… but it sure as heck felt like one.
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Saturday 20th December
Had Angel Witch not been playing the Underworld I’d probably have gone up to Sheffield for tonight’s game against Palace. The fact that it has an evening kick off for the viewers of Sky TV renders the journey logistically impossible. Ho hum. So instead I’ve been sifting through a pile of CDs that has gradually accumulated. I bought Rory Gallagher’s self-titled debut and ‘Everything Must Go’ by Steely Dan a few days ago, for the bargain price of three quid apiece at Fopp Records. The Rory album, which I’ve never owned before on CD, is quite superb; ‘Everything Must Go’ a mite too forgettable, sadly. Thrust into my hand by guitarist Johnny H after the band’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig on Thursday, Warrior Soul’s feisty newie, ‘…And We Rock And Roll’, also gets a big thumbs-up from yours truly. And how splendid it is to have some Heaven’s Basement material on CD at last – the fast-rising UK band’s debut, six-song EP now being available via their website for the inexpensive sum of a crisp fiver. Get it now, folks.
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Friday 19th December
Well, the gig-going year is almost over. With just Angel Witch at the Underworld on Saturday to go, my ears (and liver) can take a well-deserved rest. After seeing some unconvincingly YouTube footage of their reunion with Toby Jepson on vocals, I harboured feelings of trepidation regarding Gun’s Classic Rock-sponsored reunion gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Thankfully, they turned out unnecessary.
The soundman wasn’t too kind to Big Linda’s marvellously skewed take on traditional classic rock themes. I’d definitely like to hear their two new songs – ‘Same Old Black Shirt’ and ‘Not Mine’ – with a lot less bass and a little more guitar next time.
Despite being a long-time admirer of Warrior Soul, who were revisiting 1990’s ‘Last Decade Dead Century’, the unprofessionalism of Kory Clarke and company was disappointing. Taking the stage later than advertised, playing for longer than arranged and running past Gun’s own scheduled start-time the band seemed reluctant to end on their set. Those continuing sound problems also proved another bone of contention. Was there also some bad blood between the two bands? Clarke’s sarcastic statement: “Gun know how to rock. They know how to drink, too. They told me so”, seemed to imply resentment of some sort.
In the first of Classic Rock magazine’s One Night Only concert series, headliners Gun were due to play their own debut album, 1989’s ‘Taking On The World’, in its ten-song entirety. The show took a while to warm up, or was it just me acclimatising to Jepson’s voice on songs that I associate with original frontman Mark Rankin? Whatever, on moments like ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, ‘Taking On The World’, ‘Steal Your Fire’, ‘Welcome To The Real World’ and ‘Better Days’ it all came together to perfection. If only they hadn’t ruined an otherwise excellent ‘Inside Out’ by morphing it into ‘So Lonely’ by – spit! – The Police. I, for one, will be interested in hearing the new music that Gun are threatening to record and release in 2009. Here’s the set-list: ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her)’, ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, ‘The Feeling Within’, ‘Can’t Get Any Lower’, ‘Money To Burn’, ‘Girls In Love’, ‘Taking On The World’, ‘Something To Believe In’, ‘I Will Be Waiting’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Word Up’, ‘Steal Your Fire’, ‘Shame On You’, ‘Welcome To The Real World’ and ‘Better Days’.
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Thursday 18th December
Last night I attended the Palace reserves’ home game against Southampton. The Eagles fielded what looked like a strong side, with James Scowcroft and Neil Danns seemingly on the way back to action after lengthy injuries. Scowie put the Eagles ahead from a short-range, first half free kick, the play of Saints’ second string seeming to echo their first team counterparts: plenty of attractive, free-flowing passing, but no cutting edge. Sadly, the visitors upped their game after the break to triumph by two goals to one. All the same, it was lovely to watch a game over a quiet pint or three and appreciate its subtleties without living and dying over the result.
Still in the realm of footie, I’ve just completed Stan Collymore’s aptly-titled autobiography, Tackling My Demons (thanks to my friend John Dryland, who gave me his copy after finishing with it). Apart from his well-documented off the pitch indiscretions, Collymore is known for having played for Liverpool, Aston Vanilla and Nottingham Florist but actually began his professional career at Selhurst Park in 1991. A chapter called Crystal Palace: The Issue Of The Race Card implies that the club was divided into two distinct camps; black players like Ian Wright, Mark Bright, Andy Gray, Eric ‘The Ninja’ Young and John Salako on one side of the divide, everyone else on the other. He relates a story about Jim Cannon and Micky Droy rubbing Wright’s face in the training ground mud and, equally routinely, using the words “nigger” and “black bastard”. Being half-caste, Collymore felt alienated by both sides of the dispute – a recurring symptom throughout. There’s little doubt that Stan is/was mentally ill, and the book tries hard to justify his reasons for famously striking Ulrika Jonsson, also for being caught seeking sex in public car parks in an equally notorious ‘dogging’ incident. It’s a surprisingly articulate and fascinating read; I daresay Collymore himself wrote none of it. But as a one-time British transfer record holder, it’s also tawdry as hell.
And back on Planet Music, several albums are still on heavy rotation. Joe Bonamassa’s ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’ (Provogue Records, March 2009) is perhaps the US guitar-slinger’s finest record to date. I’ve also been playing ‘White Sugar’, the debut from Joanne Shaw Taylor, a stunningly proficient UK blues guitarist/vocalist (available on Ruf Records). As I type this, the postie has also just delivered an advance CDr promo of the 35th anniversary edition of ‘Stormbringer’, my all-time favourite Deep Purple album. It’ll be nice to finally get hold of that on CD when February 23 comes around.
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Wednesday 17th December
Girlschool’s world is gloriously chaotic. Only Girlschool would end up playing an album launch gig two months before the record concerned – the excellent ‘Legacy’ – arrives in the racks. It wasn’t their fault, of course; the record label delayed its release. But you get my drift. Last night the gals played the Astoria 2, their biggest show in London in many a long year. Entering the venue in time for support act Blitzkrieg, who should my friend Andy Beare and I bump into but a pallid-looking Kim McAuliffe. Barely able to speak, the guitarist/frontwoman lead us into a private area overlooking the stage, handed over generous measures of Jack Daniel’s and explained that having developed a banging cold, she would just have to sing through the pain barrier. “Just as well there’s no show tomorrow,” she shrugged. After chatting awhile to Tino Troy of Praying Mantis, Andy and I watched and enjoyed Blitzkrieg, who of course closed their set with the eponymously-titled classic, as covered by Metallica.
And onto Girlschool. McAuliffe’s condition aside, it didn’t take long for the wheels to tumble off. Because a roadie was still messing around on Denise Dufort’s kit as the intro tape began, they opted to start the show all over again, only for guitarist Jackie Chambers’ amp to malfunction during opening number ‘C’Mon Let’s Go’. The looks of flummoxed, helpless confusion on everybody’s faces reminded me of the woman motorist that only realises a car’s oil must be topped up when it breaks down on the M1. God bless ‘em.
Which isn’t intended to demean what turned out to be a hugely enjoyable gig. Though Kim’s vocals were low in the mix, she made it through the 70-minute set. Endearingly, the band’s frontline all seemed to wield mini-shakers, containing the ashes of Kelly Johnson, their late guitarist, for extra percussion during the tribute song ‘Other Side’. Ex-Whitesnake/Black Sabbath bassist Neil Murray dropped by to play on ‘I Spy’, freeing up an instrument-free Enid Williams to front the band with sass and gusto, Saxon’s Doug Scarratt and Ace from Skunk Anansie (who Williams revealed from the stage are set to reform in 2009) also making guest appearances. Sadly, their other intended cameo, Sabina Classen of Holy Moses, was a no-show. Here’s the set-list: ‘C’Mon Let’s Go’, ‘Not For Sale’, ‘Hit And Run’, ‘Never Say Never’, ‘Spend Spend Spend’, ‘Screaming Blue Murder’, ‘Future Flash’, ‘Other Side’, ‘Everything’s The Same’, ‘I Spy’, ‘Yeah Right’, ‘Race With The Devil’, ‘Demolition Boys’, ‘Emergency’ and ‘Take It All Away’.
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Tuesday 16th December
Yesterday, for 90 minutes… no, make that 94 minutes… I was a Derby County fan. The Rams were playing Clowntown Pathetic last night in what Sky TV called a “relegation special”. It was a scrappy, uninteresting match but, amusingly, the Clowns thought they were going to notch their first win 13 games until a stoppage time equaliser from Nathan Ellington. Cue frantic celebrations at Ling Towers. My Christmas just came a week early.
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Monday 15th December
There are so many excellent up ‘n’ coming young bands out there, and few better than Black Stone Cherry. Last night’s gig at the Brixton Academy was an absolute pleasure to have seen. These dudes have an excellent sound that sits somewhere between the classic, anthemic hard rock of Tesla and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s down-home rootsiness. Apart from a harmonica-totin’, instrument-exchangin’, full-on jam session that dominated ‘The Key’ – which saw members of support act Sevendust returning to the stage, an ill-advised drum solo from John Fred Young extending the bout of improv up to the 20-minute mark – the show was cleverly paced to accentuate all the Kentucky four-piece’s strengths, including the emotive vocals of guitarist Chris Robertson, who wept openly during an extended version of ‘Peace Is Free’ whilst bidding farewell to a crew member who’d worked with the band for seven years. I’m all for blokes addressing their feminine sides (you should see how much I cry when Palace lose…) and Robertson also got carried away with refreshing humility and happiness during the process of thanking a sizeable crowd for turning up to witness BSC’s largest headline gig to date. You know what, though? I suspect they’ll play bigger places still in years to come. Here’s the set-list: ‘Rain Wizard’, ‘Backwoods Gold’, ‘Blind Man’, ‘Ghost Of Floyd Collins’, ‘Hell And High Water’, ‘Long Sleeves’, ‘Please Come In’, ‘The Bitter End’, Medley: ‘The Key’/‘Chain Of Fools’/‘The Key (Reprise)’/Drum Solo, ‘Reverend Wrinkle’, ‘Lonely Train’, ‘Peace Is Free’, ‘Shooting Star’ and Medley: ‘Maybe Someday’/‘Voodoo Chile’.
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Sunday 14th December
What a truly excellent day. Yesterday afternoon was spent at a rainswept Selhurst Park, where joy erupted as the mighty Eagles beat Doncaster Rovers with an 89th minute Alan Lee winner. Afterwards I nipped over to Wembley Arena to see Status Quo and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. UK appearances from the latter are as rare as rocking horse shit, so it was good to see the band on excellent form. Their 50-minute show included just seven songs (‘Captain Bobby Stout’, ‘Castles Burning (Don’t Let It Bring You Down)’, ‘Martha’s Madman’, ‘Blinded By The Light’, ‘Redemption Song’, ‘Davy’s On The Road Again’ and ‘Mighty Quinn’ – the latter of which is now extra familiar for being played over the PA at Selhurst whenever Shefki Kuqui, the Mighty Finn, scores… ahem). Frontman Noel McCalla of Moon/Mike Rutherford/Partners In Crime fame had recovered from a heart attack and was back to his sensational, emotive best, likewise the rest of the group. Shame the audience’s reaction was so tepid but that’s Quo fans for ya. Here’s hoping the UK sees a lot more of the Earth Band in future.
It was wonderful to watch Quo over a few celebratory bevvies with my old china Nigel Glazier; we got to chink glasses as the band played ‘Dear John’, a song we’d actually appeared in the promo video for back in 1982. Having already seen the show at Croydon earlier in the tour (for details see Diary, October 8th), a few extra subtleties became apparent. I realised, for instance, that ‘Mean Girl’ was actually part of a two-song medley… at Croydon I’d been so deliriously excited to hear the ‘Dog Of Two Head’ classic, that fact pretty much passed me by. Okay, ‘Mean Girl’ was truncated and linked to another song, but you certainly won’t hear complaints from me for segueing into ‘Softer Ride’, from the immortal ‘Hello!’ album. Also noticed that the ‘Living On An Island’ reference to ‘Cruxie’ – as in Alan Crux, their now estranged former business manager – has been diplomatically amended to ‘Someone’. Never a band to bear a grudge… eh, fellas? If it sounds like a perfect evening, well… sadly, not quite. At encore time, ‘Junior’s Wailing’ was inexplicably exchanged with the aural monstrosity that is ‘Burning Bridges’; cue gnashed teeth, fingers being placed into ears and a burst of extremely loud humming from yours truly. Midway through I received a mocking text from Quo’s PR man, Chris Hewlett: “This one’s for you, Dave”. Bah humbug!!!
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Saturday 13th December

Well, **that’s** something I won’t do again in a hurry. I’ve always quite enjoyed Apocalyptica’s records but until last night, apart from a fleeting glimpse at the Sweden Rock Festival in June, had never seen them perform live. To be frank, the Finnish band’s gig at a sold-out Astoria bored me shitless. My wristwatch tells me the grisly experience lasted for a mere 90 minutes, but it felt like several lifetimes… no wonder they arrived onstage to the strains of The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Reworking Metallica songs for a cello might’ve begun as a bit of a giggle, but although in the past 15 years the band has recruited a drummer, long since written its own material and hauled in an impressive array of special guests, the joke is now well past its expiry date. If somebody among them could sing, well… I might conceivably have been a little more conciliatory. Their versions of the Metallica classics and a stab at Sepultura’s ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Inquisition Symphony’ are decent enough, the musicianship’s considerable finesse masking the absence of vocals, though live instrumental versions of ‘Bittersuite’, originally voiced by Ville Valo of HIM and The Rasmus’ Lauri Ylönen, and the Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour)-fronted ‘I’m Not Jesus’ are little more than pointless. If Apocalyptica can’t play these songs properly, why even bother?
Inspired by the pin-up visuals of Eicca Toppinen and Perttu Kivilaakso, the latter of whom quickly strips to the waist, there was plenty of screaming and even some female underwear thrown onto the stage. Perttu inquisitively picked up said undergarments, administered a quick sniff and with a knowing smile rammed a selection into his pocket. In fairness, the encore of ‘Nothing Else Matters’, ‘Enter Sandman’ and Grieg’s ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’ belatedly whipped up a degree of the drama I’d hoped for, but failed to compensate for what was otherwise a pretty appalling gig. Death to false metal!!!!!
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Thursday 11th December
Originally intended to take place at the Hammersmith Apollo, last night’s Wildhearts gig was downsized to the Forum in Kentish Town. The fact that Ginger was in ‘one of his moods’ ended up contributing to a highly unusual show. From the beginning he complained about the onstage sound, finally confessing: “I’m hopeless at lying if I’m having a shit time; I just can’t do it.” Ginger eventually stormed off after ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’, around 50 minutes into the show, and for a while it looked as though he wouldn’t come back. “I apologise for acting like a cunt – no, don’t clap me, I’m bi-polar… I don’t deserve it,” he sighed upon returning. I suspected the band would only do a few more numbers and then quietly call it a night. Proving that life with the Wildhearts is never predictable, instead they played on and on, past curfew even, another glum-sounding soliloquy (“thank God for music because I’m never too far away from the dark side”) followed by a melancholy stab at Steve Earle’s ‘My Old Friend The Blues’. More worryingly still, Ginger ended the show once and for all with the words: “I don’t even know if the Wildhearts have got a place in the world anymore, but thank you for being here tonight.” Ulp! It’s such a shame as he and the band have been on amazing form for quite a while – sober, too! Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Nita Nitro’, ‘Vanilla Radio’, ‘Someone That Won’t Let Me Go’, ‘Everlone’, ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’, ‘Suckerpunch’, ‘Sick Of Drugs’, ‘Carmelita’ (Warren Zevon cover), ‘Caffeine Bomb’ and ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’, followed by encores of ‘Geordie In Wonderland’, ‘Understanding Jane’, ‘Noting Ever Changes But The Shoes’, ‘Just In Lust’, ’29 X The Pain’, ‘Rooting For The Bad Guy’, Medley: ‘Lonely This Christmas’/‘Red Light, Green Light’, ‘Getting It’, ‘Caprice’, ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’, ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ and ‘Love U Till I Don’t’.
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Tuesday 8th December
After the weekend’s glorious demolition of Derby County, last night Crystal Palace needed to notch a fourth win in five games to maintain a promotion push. Thankfully, the visitors offered little or no genuine resistance at a freezing cold Selhurst Park. In fact, The Times’ match report seems like a perfect summation: “Crystal Palace moved effortlessly into fifth place – and a play-off berth – with a comfortable victory over an energetic, yet outclassed Southampton side,” wrote the paper’s Russell Kempson. “Long gone are the bad old days of early September, when Palace languished in 22nd position.” Couldn’t have put it better myself, my old son.
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Sunday 7th December
Okay, I’m home from Hard Rock Hell, weary and hung-over but more than satisfied by a great weekend’s entertainment. Sadly, with Classic Rock about to go to press (again), there’s insufficient time for a detailed breakdown. My band of the weekend was, without doubt, The Wildhearts, who tore Prestatyn a brand new asshole as the festival’s Sunday night climax. Thundering through a cream-of-the-crop 60-minute set that separated the men from the boys, Ginger perhaps best summed up their appeal with the observation: “Some great bands have played this weekend, but not too many singalong ones. Don’t be scared… come in and join the family.”
Here’s a précis of the groups that either floated my boat, or torpedoed it to the bottom of the bay. Annoyingly, there were some clashes – notably Hawkwind and Chariot – but I got to see most of what I wanted.
• Benedictum – I love both of this Californian band’s albums and of course the Amazonian Veronica Freeman is a babe of the first order, but she seemed to struggle in controlling the pitch of an admittedly very strong voice.
• Budgie – Another of my favourite bands, but having screwed up the start of the set with equipment gremlins it soon became apparent that the widdly-widdly approach of Dio’s Craig Goldy isn’t the answer to their disappearing guitarist problems.
• Thin Lizzy – Sorry, I don’t consider the band doing the rounds under this name to be Thin Lizzy at all, so disappeared into the backstage bar during their set. I **did** return for the strains of my favourite song, ‘Still In Love With You’, and was rewarded by the sight of a clearly refreshed Zakk Wylde strolling onstage to plant a smackeroonie on John Sykes’ cheek. Brilliant stuff.
• Doro – The crowd responded well to a fiery set that included the Warlock songs ‘Burning The Witches’, ‘Hellbound’ and ‘Earthshaker Rock’; Miss Pesch looked and sounded great, it’s so hard to believe that she is 44.
• Tigertailz – Again, another band I adore… so don’t expect objectivity from me on my own website. Some of the Classic Rock team thought they were dreadful. I beg, somewhat violently, to differ. 1-2-3, Go! “You’re not a lady/You’re a love bomb baby”…
• Beholder – These guys played bright ‘n’ early, at midday, on the Clive Aid stage. Fronted by gentle giant Simon Hall, whose vocals reminded me of Paul Di’Anno when he could still sing, ‘You’ll Never Take Us Down’ was menacingly convincing. At the same time I was also trying to keep a promise by watching a little of Spit Like This, who were playing on the Second Stage. Classic Rock’s blog quite rightly points out that Spit Like This “looked like Sigue Sigue Sputnik and played low-rent punk rock”, their wretched version of the Rocky Horror Show’s ‘Sweet Transvestite’ quickly despatching me back to Beholder’s bosom.
• Pride Tiger – Saturday’s first major-league attraction. Truthfully, I thought the Canadians’ album was far too Lizzy-like for comfort, but onstage they were much less derivative and I warmed to a set which built gently towards a cover of Atomic Rooster’s ‘Head In The Sky’.
• Praying Mantis – I wanted to declare these guys one of the Bands Of The Festival, I really did. And playing a set that overlooked to forthcoming ‘Threshold Of A Dream’ album to round up such NWOBHM staples as ‘Panic In The Streets’, ‘Children Of The Earth’, ‘Lovers To The Grave’, ‘Turn The Tables’ and ‘Captured City’ they came close. The band’s Achilles’ heel, I fear, is Mike Freeland, who simply doesn’t have the pipes to interpret such classy material.
• Tygers Of Pan Tang – Like Praying Mantis the Whitley Bay wonders concentrated on the oldies the fans wanted to hear; ‘Suzie Smiled’, ‘Slave To Freedom’, ‘Wildcat’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Man’ and ‘Hellbound’. Save for the glaring omission of ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ 2009’s edition of Tygers had just one disturbing flaw – guitarist Robb Weir seems to be turning into transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard.
• Waysted – What a marvellous surprise! In what was rumoured to be their final live appearance, the kings of chaos pulled things together. Recent Waysted live shows have seen bassist Pete Way (this evening sporting a Spice Girls T-shirt) and singer Fin Muir taking turns to go that thirty or forty drinks too far. At HRH they both stayed upright to remind us of a great catalogue of barroom stompers. [Incidentally, midway through Waysted’s set I learned that Palace had beaten Derby Country at Pride Park by two goals to one, Charlton’s defeat at Blackpool sending them bottom of the league. Large ones all round!]
• Warrior Soul – Didn’t see all of their set but, quite rightly, the Clive Aid stage went absolutely mad to belters like ‘Punk And Belligerent’. Will deffo check ‘em out when they open for Gun in a week’s time.
• Chariot – Lapped up by all those that weren’t watching Hawkwind on the main stage, the East Londoners wound up proceedings at Clive Aid, their meat and potatoes brand of old-skool metal rendered all the more entertaining by guitarist/frontman Pete Franklin’s antics.
Not being the world’s biggest fan of Clutch or Black label Society, I accepted the kind offer of watching Match Of The Day at the chalet of Demolition Records duo Eric and Ged Cook, staggering unsteadily back to the arena in time for the Wildhearts after a good marinade in vodka and Cherry Coke. Regretting it now, but it tasted delicious at the time!
The final Ling Verdict on HRH2: For all its surreal qualities – only in the UK would hordes of rock and metal fans descend upon a holiday camp in winter to see their favourite bands – this is a success story that can only get bigger, and Bigger and BIGGER!
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Friday 5th December
No updates for a few days as I’m off to Wales for the Hard Rock Hell festival. This month’s YouTube and Playlist are now up. Lechyd da, mateys!
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Thursday 4th December
The second Hard Rock Hell festival is now just a day away. As I forsake my weekend footie fix for the Prestatyn bash (fortunately, Palace are away to Derby), last night I decided to watch the club’s reserves playing their Reading counterparts. It was a perishingly cold evening. Indeed, as I got within a few hundred yards of the ground a fella came towards me shaking his head. Eying my red ‘n’ blue scarf he said: “It’s off, mate. The pitch is frozen”. Bah humbug, etc. So my mate Kev and I had no alternative but to return to the pub.
I was intrigued to log on this morning and see that some meat has been added to the bone of those Faces-to-reform rumours. Ronnie Wood has already revealed to Rolling Stone that some “fantastic” rehearsal sessions have taken place behind closed doors, leaving the band “ready to go” for a world tour in 2009. That’s all well and good. But who are they lining up to take the place of late bassist Ronnie Lane? None other than… ulp… Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Frankly I don’t see that working out. Not at all. Can you envisage him encouraging the rest of the group to go onstage naked, daubed in fluorescent paint, for a version of ‘Party On Your Pussy’? No. Neither can I. Thank the Lord.
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Wednesday 3rd December
Brrrrrrr, it’s the year’s coldest day so far and Bob The Dog is recovering from the shock of his first encounter with ice – his face was a picture after standing on a puddle in the park and going right through it. Luckily he’d already had his poo. But I’m thanking my lucky stars whilst typing this in a nice, warm office, surrounded by thousands of LPs, CDs, cassettes, magazines, Minidiscs, tour programmes, framed (and autographed) gig posters, filing cabinets of old press releases, etc. The reason for this belated display of gratitude was last night’s BBC1 programme Imagine… Heavy Metal In Baghdad, which followed the fortunes of a group of metalheads who were born in less fortunate geographical circumstances. The stars of Alan Yentob’s documentary were Iraqi metal act Acrassicauda, whose music was outlawed by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime – during which the simple act of headbanging could land you in jail. To play an actual gig… well, that was just about impossible. After all this time, you’d probably expect Acrassicauda to be able to play what they liked, wear their hair how they wished and pursue the freedom that resulted from Saddam’s overthrow. That assumption couldn’t be any more false. Having finally fled Baghdad, Yentob finds them scattered across the globe as refugees; cold, penniless and hungry, but still in contact with one another and desperate to play the music they love. With their story having made the newspapers at home, the band are asked what fate awaits them if they return. “100% death” is the reply. It’s a fascinating, heartwarming but ultimately saddening tale – I hope that one day it receives a happy ending.
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Tuesday 2nd December
I don’t really dig country-rock. The Eagles and Poco, okay. The Jayhawks? Yeah, absolutely terrific. But most of it is self-pitying, melodramatic, badly-sung piffle. That being said, last night an old music business contact persuaded me to check out The Whybirds, an unsigned but deservedly up ‘n’ coming four-piece from Bedford, who were playing at central London venue The Fly. I was glad I went. The band has a strong sound that at its rockiest ventures onto Southern rock and classic rock territory, not to mention a very decent set of tunes. Sadly, the material at the band’s MySpace site doesn’t do them justice, but plans are afoot to up their profile. Expect to hear more before too long.
P.S. Don’t kids say the funniest things? Still smarting with jealousy from my previous evening’s shock encounter with his hero, CPFC custodian Julian Speroni, at a Thunder gig, my eldest boy Eddie collared me by the front door as I left home for the Fly. “Is Speroni going to be there again, dad?” he asked excitedly, preparing to grab his coat and join me. Aw, bless!!! But I hope I’m not ruining his life in inviting him to share my tragic fixation.
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Monday 1st December
Whenever Thunder come to town, I move heaven and earth to be present. They are, quite simply, among the best live bands ever. GetVegas opened last night’s show at a sold-out Astoria. In Jonny Cole the organic-sounding, frighteningly young four-piece from Middlesbrough have a singer with a good, powerful voice, though at present their songs are unremarkable. At least Heaven’s Basement didn’t look like they’d been digging on somebody’s allotment before hitting the stage, turning in a dynamic display that peaked with the fist-punching hard rock of ‘Executioner’s Day’.
I can’t help but feel that Thunder are taken for granted. The reasons for this are blatant and manifold; after all, they release albums and tour each year, and being British they’re perhaps commonly dismissed as ‘old news’. Try telling that to an Astoria crowd that jumped, hollered and waved its arms from the show’s start with ‘Back Street Symphony’ to the very end. Danny Bowes’ dad-dancing is embarrassing, but as a showman he could turn a wake into a full-on panto knees-up. To Thunder’s credit, they do not simply live off past glories. Until the band departed for its well-merited encore, songs from the last three albums (including ‘On The Radio’, ‘Carol Ann’, ‘Stormwater’, ‘Dirty Dream’, ‘You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ and ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘N’ Roll’) outnumbered the group’s vintage material like ‘Moth To The Flame’, ‘Love Walked In’, ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Don’t Wait For Me’, with not even a whimper of dissent. The only slight murmur of protest came from Bowes himself, who in a dig at mainstream airtime programmers during ‘On The Radio’ sang: “20 years I’ve made a living at this/No thanks to you, and the TV, too…”, before the audience joined him in a cry of: “FUCK YOU!” How to get around this problem? Well, in wondering during the same song, “Should I go on a reality show?” Thunder might just have a point. I can see the nation warming to drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James, who as a fellow Palace fan already lives on a diet of crap, disappointment and false dawns. Would it hurt to gulp down a few alligator testicles in the name of publicity?
And talking of the mighty Eagles you could’ve knocked me down with a feather when, just before Thunder’s set, I was introduced to Palace goalie Julian Speroni, who transpires to be a massive fan of Thunder and rock music in general, with a half-dozen of their gigs already to his name. Apparently, Julian had planned to attend the show with defenders Jose Fonte and Johnny Ertl, who share his passion for powerchords but they were the worse for wear after the previous night’s Xmas party. I don’t mind admitting I was more tongue-tied in talking to Speroni than just about any rock star; thankfully, he turned out to be a thoroughly nice guy. [Okay, okay… I’m waiting for Ross Halfin’s gratuitous: “All football fans are gay” comment… do me a favour and fuck off, Ross].