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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Thursday 31st December
Whaddya know, my boyhood heroes Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of the Quo have both received OBEs in the New Year’s Honours List. Rossi’s response of: "I’m not sure that we deserve it, but fuck it, I’m so made up it's ridiculous. You hear about people refusing them because it’s not rock ‘n’ roll but that's a dickhead approach. My partner [Parfitt] is even more excited about it – he’s probably blubbing” made me laugh aloud. Congrats from the Catford Quo Army.
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Wednesday 30th December
It’s cold, wet and depressing here in London, so after a late night interview with Paul O’Neill, the brains behind the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I allowed myself a rare lie-in. Alas, in getting up just past nine I found I’d already missed the conclusion of the Second Test. England had made light work of polishing off South Africa’s lower order to win the game by an innings and 98 runs – rather impressive given that back in the summer the home side had edged past the Aussies to claim the title of the world’s number one-rated cricketing side.
The chat with O’Neill, who is apparently a bit of a night owl, was fascinating. It was worth going along with his request that we talk as late as possible… he rang me at 10pm London time and I finally replaced the receiver just before midnight… Besides relating the story of the late Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun writing him a blank cheque to get TSO started we spoke about Winston Churchill (one of Paul’s all-time heroes – he’s quite an Anglophile), Greg Lake (who appears on TSO’s current disc ‘Night Castle’), the TSO-Savatage connection, why it took five years to make ‘Night Castle’, his enduring childhood love of prog (“It’s the only kind of music in which anything is possible!”), and his hopes and fears for the band’s first ever Euro dates, which take place in May. If only every interviewee was quite so giving of their time (and would pay for the call!!).
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Tuesday 29th December
For the past few days I’ve been almost literally chained to the PC, surrounded by huge piles of CDs, old magazines and cuttings of vintage reviews, feverishly completing a detailed sleeve essay for a Universal Records boxed set. Writing 10,000 words on just about anything can be a tough ask, but it’s been fun revisiting a few lesser-played albums by the band concerned as I hammer away at the keyboard. For instance, I’d **almost** forgotten just how underrated a disc 1994’s ‘Rock Art’ was; so there’s a clue for you… ‘The Tall Ships’ is blaring out as I type, what a truly superb song.
P.S. Due to my workload, plus the fact that there were no trains between London and Wales, I was unable to travel to Palace’s away game with Swansea so I’ve **still** not visited the Liberty Stadium. A goalless draw wasn’t a bad result… though having played with ten men for most of the match the home side will be happier with a share of the points.
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Monday 28th December
Just before the festive break my good friend John Dryland, who works for Cargo Records (the UK distributers of Frontiers), emailed a track from Brian Howe’s forthcoming solo album, ‘Circus Bar’, which is due in March. With a slick production worthy of Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel, ‘I’m Back’ is an absolute stormer of song – I just can’t stop playing it. Funnily enough, Howe was one of the very first musos I interviewed in my days as a fanzine writer. We first met when Brian gave me a few minutes of his time at the Red Lion in Fulham in late 1982 whilst fronting a latter incarnation of White Spirit. After ending up in Ted Nugent’s band for the following year’s ‘Penetrator’ album he went on to replace Paul Rodgers for a series of Bad Company albums, some of which were really rather good, and we became reacquainted as Brian paid a few social visits to the editorial offices of RAW Magazine in the early 1990s. Much alcohol-induced silliness, including falling into the back of a cab and demanding to be taken home to Portsmouth (almost 100 miles outside of London), ensued. I just mailed Howe to say ‘hi’ and found out he will be returning to Blighty early next month to see his beloved Pompey lose to whoever they are playing. Brian might as well enjoy the club’s days in the Premier League while he can as they will most probably be facing the mighty Palace next year. Don’t be surprised if more childish bar shenanigans take place during his visit.
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Saturday 26th December
Just home from Palace’s Boxing Day clash with Ipswich Town at Selhurst… my oh my, what a fantastic experience. Though a rare mistake from Julian Speroni gifted the visitors the lead, Fonte fired in a thunderblast leveller just before half-time, and when Town were reduced to ten men following Jon Stead’s mistimed lunge on Freddie Sears there would be just one winner; Palace by three goals to one. The only blot on an otherwise perfect day was having to endure Ipswich boss R*y K***e’s bellyaching regarding Eagles players allegedly (and **falsely**) attempting to influence the referee’s decision to send Stead off – gross hypocrisy from a player that spent half his career trying to do the exact same thing to his opponents. And, looking at the bigger picture, these complaints come from a Grade-A thug that admitted deriving great pleasure from dishing out a career-ending injury to a fellow professional, Alf-Inge Haaland. Neither will Palace fans ever forgive or forget K***e responding to a ‘keep the peace’ plea from police by stamping on our captain during an FA Cup Semi-Final replay at Villa Park less than a week after ManUre supporters had caused the death of CPFC fan Paul Nixon. The man is low-life vermin scum, and the sooner he takes the Tractor Boys down to League 1, then joins the ranks of the unemployable, the happier I’ll be.
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Friday 25th December
Though it was broadcast a few days ago I’ve only just sat down to watch Ozzy Osbourne’s appearance in the UK TV show Grumpy Christmas. Oh dear, Ozzy… what were you thinking? In entertainment terms, your less than side-splitting display was somewhere on a par with the last couple of studio LPs. No wonder the editors consigned all but a couple of studiously unfunny so-called anecdotes to the cutting room floor. Otherwise, however, my day is going rather well. Everyone seems to like the presents I bought. Mrs L got me a rather unusual gift – one of those dolls within a doll within a doll, each adorned with the face of a member of Status Quo’s classic line-up. I’ll be honest; the image of a youthful Francis Rossi that adorns the biggest, exterior doll looked more like Dream Theater’s James LaBrie… but a lovely, thoughtful pressie all the same.
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Thursday 24th December
My post-Wildhearts hangover was only just subsiding, so the decision to trek across London to hear FM’s new album, complete the last of my Christmas shopping and sink a few jars with various other members of Classic Rock and Metal Hammer’s editorial teams in the Crobar was quite possibly suicidal. But what the heck.
Minutes after walking into Metropolis Studios, FM bassist Merv Goldsworthy smiled: “Would you like a cider, Dave? Go on… with this album you’ll need it.” We joked that I had the headline for my story right there. Goldsworthy, drummer Pete Jupp and affable keysman Jem Davis were on hand. A lot of what they played me was also new to them, having only recently come back from mixer Andy Reilly in the States. Nine of the record’s 13 tunes were unveiled, a satisfying and diverse bunch of tunes if ever I heard one. I won’t spoil the surprise of the actual titles, but ‘Days Gone By’ is based upon a na-na-na hookline, ‘Don’t Need Nothing’ ratchets up the raunch factor and ‘The Fight Goes On’ is a real scarf-waver that’ll go down a treat onstage. Newcomer Jim Kirkpatrick has quickly found his feet with the group, delivering a terrific guitar solo as ‘Metropolis’, the album’s title cut, which sets the scene for my pick of the bunch – ‘Over You’, a Foreigner-meets-Queen rocker with some Thin Lizzy twin geetars thrown in.
Unsurprisingly, with depth-charges and potent apple liqueurs all sliding down the gullet alongside the Voddie ‘n’ Diet Cokes, it all got a little bit out of hand at the Crobar. I’m **seriously** messed up this morning. Luckily there’s not long to go till my annual alcohol-free sabbatical in the month of January.
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Wednesday 23rd December
Oh… my… goodness. Does anyone know any decent hangover cures?! Last night was spent at the Islington Academy (yet again) with my friend John Dryland, who had a spare +1 for the Wildhearts’ Christmas gig. We started off with a few too many pints of cider and I’m afraid I’ve little recollection of the journey home, nor the set-list, though the band did include a few unexpected surprises like ‘Liberty Cap’, from their debut EP ‘Mondo-Akimbo A-Go-Go’, and a version of Jason & The Scorchers’ ‘White Lies’, along the way. Sadly, it looks like I’ll be working right through the festive break but last nite was an excellent way of getting the celebrations started.
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Monday 21st December
As a long-time follower of Satyricon, I go to watch them every chance I get. As the curtain-closer to a world tour for the 2008 album ‘The Age Of Nero’, last nite’s show at the Islington Academy promised another incentive – the Norwegian black metal combo’s final performance before a hiatus of indeterminate duration. Due to London’s beleaguered, ice-strewn transport system I arrived later than planned, catching the last rumblings of a decent set from fellow Norwegians Posthum. Peppered by unexpectedly melodic bouts of twin-lead guitar and the decidedly non-BM banter of frontman Morean (“This one’s for all the ladeeez!”), Germany’s Dark Fortress were better still. I also enjoyed my first sight of Shining, a bunch of deeply troubled and wildly unpredictable Swedes. Singer Niklas Kvarforth has often spoken out in favour of suicide, and at their past shows razorblades have been handed to members of the audience. Last nite the Academy looked on, shocked, as Kvarforth suddenly seized Andreas Larssen and deep-throated the apparently passive male bassist, depositing a resultant pool of saliva at their feet. “He is leaving the band,” explained Kvarforth casually. Frankly, I’m not surprised Larssen tendered his resignation… if my lead singer played tonsil tennis with me onstage, I’d be calling a taxi and hoping that Lewis Hamilton was driving.
I’d seen Satyricon on six previous occasions (twice In Norway, once in Sweden, the rest in the UK), but last night’s gig was right up there among the best performances I’ve seen them give. Beginning with a beautifully savage ‘Repined Bastard Nation’ and enhanced by a fabulous front of house sound, the band’s command of textures was telling from the off. With short, slicked-back hair and a slim, muscular physique frontman Satyr roamed the stage looking emotionally detached, like some heavy metal terminator, sometimes even strapping on a third guitar to enhance the stunning wall of noise. Drummer Frost, meanwhile, offered yet another superhuman display of percussion. Cleary overcome by the enthusiasm of a crowd that was almost literally raising the roof, at encore time Satyr finally addressed the subject of the future with the words: “One day Satyricon will be back in a new way, form or shape… it’ll be as strong as ever before.” They’d fuggin’ well better. Here’s the set-list: ‘Repined Bastard Nation’, ‘The Wolfpack’, ‘Now, Diabolical’, ‘Forhekset’, ‘Black Crow On A Tombstone’, ‘Commando’, ‘The Rite Of Our Cross’, ‘The Sign Of The Trident’, ‘Supersonic Journey’, ‘Den Siste’ and ‘The Pentagram Burns’, with encores of ‘K.I.N.G’, ‘Fuel For Hatred’, ‘Die By My Hand’ and ‘Mother North’.
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Sunday 20th December
Given the Arctic-style conditions here in the South-East it was amazing that Palace’s game with Barnsley went ahead. The result of 1-1 was disappointing, doubly so as the Eagles missed a first minute penalty. Had it snuck under the crossbar, there was no way the visitors would have claimed a point. From a CPFC perspective, the game’s main talking point was a sensational equaliser from boy wonder Victor Moses, who took the ball on his chest and struck a flamboyant overhead kick into Barnsley’s net, leaving Steele flapping at thin air. It really was one of the classiest strikes I’ve seen in 30 years of following the Palace – worth the price of admission alone (handy, as the rest of the game was shit). Thank you, Victor… you’ve just added another £500,000 to your price-tag and I hope you do well when you are sold to a ‘big club’ in the New Year.
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Saturday 19th December
My return trip from Pittsburgh to London had appeared so easy but turned into an episode of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. With Gatwick Airport closed due to snow, my flight from Charlotte was hastily diverted to Manchester for refuelling, where we sat on the tarmac for aeons awaiting a take-off slot. I felt sorry for those whose ultimate destination had been Manchester (even sorrier than usual, in fact… haha!), as they were not allowed to disembark, having to trail all the way back to London, then head North again. And then… “I have good news and bad,” announced the captain to howls of dismay, “Gatwick has reopened, but our departure has been delayed a further two hours.” Idling away, reading the duty free magazine for the tenth time, my phone received a text from my fellow Palace nut, Neil Pudney. “The club has been given a winding-up order,” he informed me. “The club owes £1,202,977 and 26 pence. The petition will be heard in the High Court on Jan 27.” Jesus H Christ… welcome home, Dave!!!
After arriving home in the early afternoon, I spent a couple of hours working through my emails. Was happy to learn of new UK dates from Transatlantic and Bigelf and, set to join the fellas from Airrace in the West End for a bit of a Christmas slosh-up, I gradually got into the party mood. However, I’d figured without the transport situation. After buying a return ticket and some gut-rot cider for the journey into town, the indicator at Catford Bridge station was permanently set to ‘delayed’. One train after another failed to materialise and was then cancelled. In the end, after the 8.32 gave up the ghost I resignedly trudged back up the hill to the living room’s warmth – bah, humbug.
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Thursday 17th December
Prior to leaving home a surf for ‘used record stores in Pittsburgh’ had yielded some interesting leads, a taxi ride directing me to the magnificently named suburb of Squirrel Hill. Though I could’ve spent the entire day and a whole heap of cash at Jerry's Records, a warehouse stuffed to the ceiling with reasonably priced vinyl I restricted myself to a few select bargains, including a couple of AOR treasures by cult heroes Donnie Iris & The Cruisers – one of which actually features a rocked-up remake of ‘Glad All Over’, the Dave Clarke Five classic that always plays as my beloved Crystal Palace take the field at Selhurst. If possible I always try to get a feel for the areas my job takes me to, so I took the bus back downtown.
The shows by Trans-Siberian Orchestra were really, really good, though whether what I saw here in the States will work so well in Europe – a territory the band visits for the first time in May – is debatable. As an extension of Floridian prog-metallers Savatage, whose past ‘n’ present alumni of vocalist Jon Oliva, guitarist Chris Caffery, vocalist Zak Stevens, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Jeff Plate, also former guitarist Alex Skolnick, are ensconced in its ranks of around 25 individuals, TSO have somehow transcended the realms of the hard rock and classically-influenced music they create to become a theatrical institution. Their grandly-staged performances draw attendees from all walks of life, age-wise from eight to eighty – with album sales of more than seven million, in 2008 alone the band performed to five million-plus people in 80 North American cities, shifting in excess of $230 million worth of tickets. Fellow musos have also stood behind the concept, the likes of Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Greg Lake, Roger Daltrey, Robin Zander, Jon Anderson, Ian Hunter, Geoff Tate, Tommy Shaw and Joan Jett all joining them onstage in recent times.
And no wonder. Watching a top-end production that somehow combines Flying V guitars and penguin suits with elevating platforms, dry ice, a snow machine, a stunning laser display, a babe-tastic female violinist (the delightful Anna Phoebe – a fellow Brit), a light show worthy of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and enough pyro to barbeque an entire school of blue whales, it’s obvious why TSO has taken off so spectacularly. But – and there is a ‘but’ – with so much of the group’s content based upon Christmas themes, at times the show is overbearingly, cloyingly sentimental. Indeed, it’s tough to envisage them connecting anywhere near so well with the more cynical European audiences. Lucky, then, that the New Year shows will be based upon their current (and fifth) disc, ‘Night Castle’, which had just peaked at Number Five in the Billboard chart. Indeed, Jon Oliva was still recovering from an alcohol-fuelled celebration of the above fact as I sat with him in his dressing room between the two shows.
As stated, the first half of the hefty 150-minute show is based upon the trilogy of ‘Christmas Eve And Other Stories’ (1996), ‘The Christmas Attic’ (’98) and ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’ (’04), with material from ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ and ‘Night Castle’ filling its latter stages. I’d been looking forward to seeing Jeff Scott Soto, but was disappointed to learn that he is a part of the Orchestra’s alternate West Coast line-up. That said, as well as forming a stellar partnership with Skolnick, Caffery does a terrific job of helming the show. The band knows that in attempting to carve inroads to the European market’s cosier venues it takes a leap of faith, especially as much of their show must through necessity remain in warehouses at home. But if you dug the albums then no matter how scaled-down the shows turn out to be, their quality is sure to thrill you. Here’s the set-list: ‘March Of The Kings’, ‘An Angel came Down’, Medley: ‘O’ Come All Ye Faithful’/‘O’ Holy Night’, ‘Prince Of Peace’, ‘First Snow’, ‘A Mad Russian’s Christmas’, ‘Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)’, ‘Good King Joy’, ‘Ornament’, ‘Old City Bar’, ‘This Christmas Day’, ‘An Angel Returned’, ‘Toccata’, ‘The Mountain’, ‘Queen Of The Winter Night’, ‘Moonlight And Madness’, ‘Siberian Sleigh Ride’, ‘Angels Share’, Drum Solo, ‘Wizards’, ‘Mozart’, ‘Christmas Canon’, ‘Nutrocker’, ‘Camina Burana’ and ‘Requiem’.
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Wednesday 16th December
I’m in Pittsburgh to check out a show by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, though I only made it here by the skin of my teeth. My flight from London was delayed by an hour, and with four planes touching down simultaneously in Charlotte, North Carolina, the immigration desk was overloaded. Ended up making my connection by six minutes (count ’em!). I’d been lead to believe that Pittsburgh is a bit of a khazi, the clue being in the name, but the place looks quite clean and quite pretty. The band have also put me in a rather swanky hotel ahead of tomorrow’s gig – or should I say ‘gigs’ (plural) – with matinee and evening performances taking place a few blocks away at the 11,800-capacity Mellon Arena… both completely sold out, in the middle of the week. I knew that TSO were big news Stateside but not **that** big… I’ve already earmarked a couple of second hand record stories to check out in the morning, so bring on tomorrow.
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Tuesday 15th December
Oh-My-Sweet-Jesus, it’s actually happening… in Poland and the Czech Republic, at least. After all of the speculation, denials and prayers, the ‘Big Four’ of Thrash-Metal – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax… c’mon, keep up at the back! – have announced a history-making debut joint appearance at next summer’s Sonisphere Festival (in the nations mentioned). One can only hope that, with Anthrax and Slayer already confirmed for Sonisphere UK, Metallica and Megadeth will follow suit, joining the mighty Maiden on a bill of unprecedented, underpants-soiling quality. As chief ’Deth dealer Dave Mustaine so rightly remarks of the liaison: “If there are any heads left at the end of this festival that haven’t banged, they don’t belong there.”
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Monday 14th December
So we’re into the final strait of 2009’s gig-going activity, and last nite I nipped across London to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for an annual end-of-year showdown with Hawkwind. Alas, Arthur Brown was already into his support set by my arrival. With his multiple costume changes, madcap song intros and bizarrely painted face, the beanpole-like Brown is one of the last remaining English eccentrics, hurling himself around the stage with ungainly John Cleese-style gusto. Alas, a recital of the perennial ‘Fire’ was accomplished minus the stage prop that everybody remembers, Arthur’s flaming headwear (I myself once had a burning helmet, though the cream cleared it up…), but I made a mental vow to see the 67-year-old vocalist again before too long… should such an opportunity arise.
The excellence of Hawkwind’s headlining set was enhanced by the inclusion of the mighty ‘Levitation’ – title cut of the first of the group’s albums that I ever bought. I’d been dying to hear them play it again. Overall, though, the show was first class. My one complaint was not with the band but the audience that sat around me in the balcony, chirruping away aimlessly (some might say ‘gormlessly’) to one another from start to finish. Such was the extent of their rudeness, as we left the hall my friend Andy Beare remarked it had felt less like a rock gig and more of an internet chat room with some distant background music thrown in. These people are FUCKING IGNORAMI, and their behaviour is really starting to get on my wick!!!! Anyway, here’s the Hawks’ set-list: ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘Sentinel’, ‘Space Is Deep’, ‘Angels of Death’, ‘Silver Machine’, ‘Green Machine’, ‘Wraith’, ‘Prometheus’, ‘Spirit Of The Age’, ‘Warriors’, ‘Magnu’, ‘Tide Of The Century’, ‘You'd Better Believe It’ and (YAY!!) ‘Levitation’, plus encores of ‘Right To Decide’ and ‘Hassan-I-Sahba’.
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Sunday 13th December
Well, that was a fuggin’ waste of time. Out of the pit at 6.30am (impaired by a ferocious hangover from the Quireboys gig), three hours up the M1 to watch Palace’s game at Sheffield United, then four hours home again. Only for the Eagles to be outclassed by a team with a dismal home record. Pouring salt into the wound, the Blades took the lead with a ‘goal’ that didn’t appear to have crossed the line; after the debacle of Freddie Sears’ disallowed strike against Brizzle, CPFC fans should by now be used to such injustices – but, f**k me, they hurt. Especially when you’ve travelled half of the country to have your intelligence insulted by a blind linesman. Anyway, the match finished 2-0… I suspect Palace **still** wouldn’t have scored if the game was still being played.
The only positive, apart from spending some father and son time with my lad Eddie, was reading Brian Tatler’s autobiography, Am I Evil?, on the journey. The Diamond Head guitarist has approached his band’s tale with an unflinching honesty that’s refreshingly free of bitterness and quite often extremely amusing. Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine’s forewords are touching, and the book goes into fairly revealing detail about the fledgling Ulrich’s fact-finding mission at the Woolwich Odeon in 1981, even printing a hand-written ‘Thanks for letting me stay at your gaff’ note from Lars. As someone who’s career is, I guess, interwoven with that of DH – my first ever published review was of a February 1982 gig at the Saxon Tavern in London that appeared in Kerrang! #12, and I had many dealings with Tatler and vocalist Sean Harris (indeed Brian actually refers to me in the text as “the seemingly ever-present Dave Ling”) – I found the book difficult to put down. Of the band’s failure to gatecrash the big-time, despite such awesome early potential, the blame is jointly attributable to poor management – courtesy of Harris’ mum, Linda, and a local cardboard box impresario called Reg Fellows, bad luck and the equally calamitous decision to sign to an ill-suited label, MCA Records. The mess is best described by Robbie France, drummer on the ‘Canterbury’ album, who observes: “[The breakthrough] was never going to happen. Sean was tied to his mother’s apron strings and Linda couldn’t have managed a piss-up in a brewery. You’re only as good as your weakest link, and the management was ours.” Am I Evil? is available from: www.diamond-head.net.
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Saturday 12th December
Though I got stuck in traffic and missed an opening spot from Wolfsbane, last night’s gig from the Quireboys at the Forum was a bit of a riot. The band were playing their debut album, ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’, in its entirety and vocalist Spike had evidently joined the party spirit by swigging the cooking sherry or something. I felt a bit sorry for him as he threw the mic-stand up in the air and failed to catch it… HIC! But one thing I couldn’t fathom was the absence of an onstage bar – like the presence of Wolfsbane as support act a feature of the ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’ dates. Before this tour began guitarist Paul Guerin informed me that he had taken personal responsibility for designing its specifications, and that it would look “absolutely great”, though he did add: “My only fear is a Spinal Tap/Stonehenge scenario.” Well, something must have gone awry because the front rows were provided with a constant supply of booze (“Hehehe… here’s another little drink from Spikey!” cackled the singer at one point), they didn’t seem to come from a bar. Is there, I wonder, an Action Man-sized saloon scenario, locked up somewhere in a warehouse? Anyway, the gig was really good and it will have warmed the cockles of the audience’s hearts to see original guitarist Guy Bailey, bassist Nigel Mogg and keyboard player Chris Johnstone all joining in during the encore rendition of ‘Sex Party’.
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Friday 11th December
The new issue of Classic Rock (with Iggy Pop on the cover) just dropped onto the mat. My interview comments from the winners/presenters at the recent Classic Rock awards have been used in a very cool way. I’m also pleased that my Buyer’s Guide, which was submitted quite some time ago, finally made it into the print. The new Airbourne album, ‘No Guts, No Glory’ (due March 8) is also here. When I interviewed frontman/guitarist Joel O’Keefe not too long ago, he told me: “All that’s [different] about this album is maybe there’s more Jack [Daniel’s] in with the Coke. We’re a bunch of plumbers, mate. We’re not going to start building brick walls.” As well as being an amusing quote, it’s also true. This one kicks like the proverbial mule…
More good news: Some additional names have been announced to the magazine’s High Voltage Festival, which you’ll most probably be aware is to be headlined by ZZ Top and the reunited Emerson Lake & Palmer. The latest additions are: Foreigner, Asia, Wishbone Ash (the Martin Turner variety), Focus, The Reasoning and Touchstone. Not too bad for starters…
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Thursday 10th December
So the rumours are true… Iron Maiden will be playing the Sonisphere festival next summer. The event has also been expanded to a three-dayer. The only other headline act confirmed so far, Rammstein, are not a band I can get too worked up about, but with Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper, Iggy & The Stooges, Slayer, Anthrax and The Cult already booked, and with the Saturday of Download off the menu due to a clash with England’s first game in the World Cup, this one has gone into the diary in very big letters indeed.
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Wednesday 9th December
Still smarting from Palace’s woeful display against Doncaster last weekend I decided against travelling to the Madejski for last night’s game against Reading. What a crap decision. I should know now that you can usually count on Warnock’s teams to bounce back after a humiliation. Lo and behold, The Eagles scored four absolute screamers to win 4-2… just the type of faith-restoring performance that was needed ahead of the coming weekend’s road trip to Bramall lane for eldest boy Eddie and I. Yay, Eagles we are proud of you… and still only two points behind the play-off spots.
Just before tuning into the commentary I received a rather odd (but welcome) email from Glenn Hughes, referencing the fact that he may have “stepped out of the building for a moment” with his recent records, but promising “The Voice Of Rock is most definitely back”. Glenn also brought up the rumour of a “supergroup” that seems set to work with producer Kevin Shirley in the new year, but beyond a promise of “trust me, this is the real thing” would not spill the beans regarding the names of the other artists… doncha just hate it when people do that??!!
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Tuesday 8th December
Last night it was back to the Islington Academy, a place at which I seem to spend a lot of time (and money) in these post-Astoria days, for a date on Skin’s reunion tour. In something of a role reversal – the headliners opened for Little Angels at their farewell Royal Albert Hall gig during the 1990s – Gun’s Toby Jepson this time performed support duties, delivering one-man renditions of seven Angels oldies (‘She’s A Little Angel’, ‘Kickin’ Up Dust’, ‘Boneyard’, ‘I Ain’t Gonna Cry’, ‘Don’t Pray For Me’, a medley of ‘Young Gods’ and The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘Too Much Too Young’) that made me realise I was much, much too harsh on the band first time around.
Apparently enjoying the show as much as the crowd from the looks on their faces, Skin were right on the money. It’s nothing short of a crime that Neville MacDonald, a singer that could croon passages from Fly Fishing by JR Hartley and still sound interesting, has been hidden away for so long. During an acoustic section the band also introduced two brand new songs. I especially liked the sentimental ‘Reunited’, which was just on the right side of cheesy (then again ‘Redemption’ wasn’t too bad, either). Though the expected departing cry of: “We’ll see you again next year” went unheard, I sincerely hope there’s more to come from these guys in 2010… they’ve still got what it takes. Here’s the set-list: ‘The Only One’, ‘Spit On You’, ‘How Lucky You Are’, ‘You Blow My Mind’, ‘Experience Electric’, ‘House Of Love’, ‘Colourblind’, ‘Reunited’, ‘Redemption’, ‘Money’, ‘Take Me Down To The River’, ‘Look But Don't Touch’ and Medley: ‘Tower Of Strength’/‘Listening To You’ (again, by The ’Oo), with encores of EMF’s ‘Unbelievable’ (with guest Toby Jepson), ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Shine Your Light On Me’.
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Monday 7th December
With press tickets in short supply, I’d resigned myself to missing Alice Cooper’s date at Hammersmith. Then, late on Friday afternoon both Classic Rock and Metal Hammer asked me to cover the show (which took place last nite). Having missed Man Raze – Def Leppard’s Phil Collen on guitar/vocals, ex-Girl bassist Simon Laffy and Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook – till now, I was keen to check out their support slot. Mixing tracks from the ‘Surreal’ album with a couple of choice covers (Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ and ‘Search And Destroy’ by The Stooges), I thought they were rather good, though Cooper’s audience seemed to merely tolerate the trio’s presence as opposed to appreciating it.
As someone that has caught just about all of Alice’s recent tours, his set-lists are starting to bore me. With a splendid new album to promote, I’d been hoping Alice would ring the changes. Let’s face it, if you can’t shake things up a little to feature a concept album about a serial killer named Spider who leaves his victims cocooned in a silk web, chances are you never will. Alas, a solitary song from ‘Along Came A Spider’ – ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, delivered top a raised podium, six metallic extra arms dangling, Doctor Octopus-style – was added to the 95-minute display, which largely adhered to the singer’s tried ‘n’ trusted favourites – including a double-dose of the seminal anthem ‘School’s Out’, as its opening and closing strains. That gripe aside, Alice remains one of the greatest live performers I’ve ever seen; his stage presence is truly magnetic, and backed by a hairy, super-tight bunch of young bucks, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the stage as he is garrotted, decapitated, reincarnated and impaled upon a ten-foot hypodermic needle. I loved it when he introduced the band and the gorgeous nurse that tries to kill him throughout the show, then with a grin remembered the name of its star; “Me! Yeah me!” Here’s the set-list: ‘School’s Out’, ‘Department Of Youth, ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘Wicked Young Man’, ‘The Ballad Of Dwight Fry’, ‘Go To Hell’, ‘Guilty’, ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’, ‘Cold Ethyl’, ‘Poison’, ‘The Awakening’, ‘From The Inside’, ‘Nurse Rozetta’, ‘Is It My Body?’, ‘Be My Lover’, ‘Only Women Bleed’, ‘I Never Cry’, ‘The Black Widow’, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, ‘Devil's Food’, ‘Dirty Diamonds’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, ‘I Love The Dead’, ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, ‘Under My Wheels’ and an encore of ‘School’s Out’._ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 6th December
Excuse me while I hyperventilate. Yesterday’s score-line from Selhurst… Crystal Palace nil, Doncaster Rovers three. Having four efforts cleared off the line and enough chances to have won the game after 20 minutes is hard to stomach, but watching the team stop caring in its latter stage was worse. This season the Eagles have shipped seven – yes, SEVEN – goals to the likes of Scunthorpe and Donny. At home. Without reply. Believe me, I am one pissed-off l’il bunny right now.
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Saturday 5th December
Before dashing off to yesterday’s show, the New York Dolls at the Forum, I watched the World Cup draw on TV. On paper, being teamed with the USA, Algeria and Slovenia is a stroke of good fortune though I’m amazed that the media is smugly daring to suggest Capello’s men have “a relatively easy path” (and that’s the Daily mail, not The Sun) to the Semi-Finals where Brazil, should potential banana skins be overcome, would be the most likely opponents. All the same, the tournament’s commencement on June 11 cannot come quickly enough for me.
En route to the Forum I stopped off for a cheeky libation with Malcolm Dome, who had a package from the Classic Rock office for me. It contained ‘Amazônia – Live In The Jungle’, a DVD by the Scorpions, and the AC/DC boxed set, ‘Backtracks’, plus a promo T-shirt for the latter. How’s that as a way of kick-starting the weekend?!?
The last time I saw the Dolls, at the same North London venue in October ’06, I was completely and utterly blown away – even shelling out some hard-earned shekels on a T-shirt. On this occasion, however, despite having kicked off with an ass-whuppin’ ‘Looking For A Kiss’, the band ended up playing a little too much of their new material for my taste and midway through set until just before a double-pronged encore of ‘Exorcism Of Despair’ and the evergreen ‘Personality Crisis’, the sound began distorting horribly. Kinda annoying.
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Friday 4th December
Last night I went to see Sonata Artica and Delain at the Islington Academy. The place was absolutely packed. I’m a big fan of ‘April Rain’, Delain’s second album (due in January). Making their first visit to London and with Roadrunner UK having passed on their debut, few seemed too with the female-fronted Dutch band’s strain of gothic symphonic-rock though awareness built steadily through an eight-song set that plundered both records (‘Indivia’, ‘Stay Forever’, ‘The Gathering’, ‘Go Away’, ‘Virtue And Vice’, ‘Shattered’, ‘Control The Storm’ and ‘Pristine’). With plenty to offer musically and a frontwoman as divinely babealicious as Charlotte Wessels – from my spot at the back of the hall, the 22-year-old looked like a cross between Kelly Brook and Rachel Stevens – Delain are unlikely to be a support act for much longer.
Save for their set’s frustrating brevity (80 minutes… WTF?!), unspectacular solo spots from guitarist Elias Viljanen and keyboard player Henkka Klingenberg and the fact that Tony Kakko’s vocals were all too often drowned out by the persistent shrieking of the audience, it’s tough to criticize Sonata Artica. Charlotte Wessels duetted with Kakko on the golden oldie ‘Last Drop Falls’, but the bulk of the show was pulled from the most recent two albums, 2007’s ‘Unia’, and the current ‘The Days Of Grace’. Nobody seemed to complain – far from it; the Finns seem to inspire a hysterical devotion. Next time they’ll be back somewhere far bigger. Here’s the set-list: ‘Flag In The Ground’, ‘Paid In Full’, ‘Caleb’, ‘The Last Amazing Grays’, ‘As If The World Wasn't Ending’, ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Excerpt)’, ‘Last Drop Falls’, ‘Juliet’, Keyboard Solo, Guitar Solo, ‘Replica’ and ‘8th Commandment’, with encores of ‘In Black & White’ and a medley of ‘Don't Say A Word’/‘Everything Fades To Gray’.
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Thursday 3rd December
The news that next year Opeth will undertake a special mini-tour to celebrate their 20th anniversary caused me, in the parlance of Bo Selecta, to emit “a little sex-wee”. I mean, come on… two sets? The whole of their classic ‘Blackwater Park’ album?! At the Royal Albert Hall??!! So my heart skipped a beat upon opening the desk diary to jot down the date of April 5,only to find it clashes with Palace’s home game with Preston… GRAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!
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Wednesday 2nd December
Yesterday was spend dashing around like a blue-arsed fly. My day finally finished far later than expected after a bout of phone tag with Chip Z’Nuff from Enuff Z’Nuff. Chip thought I was calling him at 12 o’clock midnight to discuss his band’s upcoming UK tour with Faster Pussycat. I’d been told to ring at midday and kept getting his voicemail. Got hold of him in the end, though, as confirmed by this link to the Classic Rock website. Earlier in the day I also had a chance to chat to Stryper guitarist Oz Fox, quotes from which can be viewed here.
P.S. The Playlist and YouTube sections have been given their monthly updates.
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Tuesday 1st December
Like all those lucky enough to have seen Vain opening for Sebastian Bach-era Skid Row back in the day, I’ve retained an extremely soft spot for the San Franciscan sleaze-metal combo. Sadly, at last night’s Camden Underworld gig they blew hot and cold despite airing most of 1989’s classic ‘No Respect’ debut, and whilst Davy Vain retains one of the most identifiable voices in rock, also having kept it in good shape, there was **way** too much superfluous between-song banter. For me, Davy’s smugly-delivered and yawn-inducing soliloquies upon subjects such as soaping up tits in the shower (his own, oddly…) only served to undermine what would otherwise have a been a pretty good night. Here’s what they played: ‘Secrets’, ‘Love Drug’, ‘Push Me Over’, ‘Down For The Third Time’, ‘Icy’, ‘Who´s Watching You’, ‘Smoke And Shadows’, ‘Free’, ‘1000 Degrees’, ‘No Respect’ and ‘Beat The Bullet’, with encores of ‘Breakdown’ and ‘Ready’.