This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling
will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
Tuesday 30th December
I've just been on Amazon and bought myself a belated Christmas present: Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider's autobiography, Shut Up And Give Me The Mic. Truthfully, I didn't even know it existed till seeing a thread at the Facebook page of my mate Nige Roberts, who was taking the piss out of him for looking like Liz McDonald of Corrie. What a cheek! But I can see where he was going with the Lookie Likey thing. Ordered for less than a tenner inc P&P… now that's what I call a bargain! Dee is among my all-time favourite rock stars, I hope it's good!
Monday 29th December
Keith Millen's Red and Blue Army! Yeah… CPFC's faithful caretaker boss was once again in the dugout for yesterday's away fixture at QP-Hahaha. Though either side could have taken the points the score remained goalless. I'll be honest: it wasn't a game for the purist and Janick Bolasie really needs to invest in a decent pair of shooting boots. In the aftermath, I learned that the bookies were no longer accepting wagers that Alan Pardew, an esteemed former player who scored the winning goal in our now legendary FA Cup Semi Final victory over Liverpool in 1990, would be the next Palace manager. A long-term victim of the St James Park boo-boys, Pardew had side-stepped post-match interview duties after his Newcastle side beat Everton 3-2. Assuming Pards is stupid enough to take the CPFC job, there would need to be a big pay-off. My Magpies-mad mad Paul Ging would probably chuck in a fiver, though… LOL!
Sunday 28th December
This morning, following a chance meeting with its creator in the Islington branch of Tesco a few nights earlier (don't ask…), was spent in repeated appreciation of Lonely Robot, a new solo project from It Bites, Frost*, Kino, Arena frontman/guitarist John Mitchell, who has invited several guests stars including Marillion's Steve Hogarth, Kim Seviour of Touchstone, Jem Godfrey of Frost*, Heather Findlay, Nik Kershaw and Go West's Peter Cox to appear on a rather stunning record entitled 'Please Come Home'. What a superb bunch of tunes… it's incredibly more-ish. Repeated spins only encourage the desire to hear the damned thing yet again. The UK release date is February 23rd, and fans of Mitchell's oeuvre should prepare to be blown away.
Saturday 27th December
Well, I said at the time of the appointment that he'd be gone by xmas. I was out by two days. Palace have axed manager Neil Warnock. I'm just happy to see the back of the old dinosaur. To me, the decision is more than justified. The squad is good enough – it just needs a goalscorer (did I really use the word *just*?!) – but we couldn't have spent the rest of the season relying on the results of the teams around and below us. If you didn't laugh then you'd cry – Paul fucking Ince is rated at 33/1 for the job. On what grounds? Dougie Greedman is also being linked with a return to the same hot-seat that he walked out on for the filthy lucre of a pay rise… That's beyond hilarious! Where do these names come from?
Friday 26th December
Palace's feeble 3-1 Boxing Day capitulation at the hands of Southampton merely compounded the festive misery. What a dismal display we witnessed at Selhurst as the Eagles slipped noiselessly – I cannot remember the ground being so quiet – and ominously into the bottom three. Palace are now looking for a fourth manager in 14 months and on the strength of that performance it's hard to imagine us beating the drop.
Thursday 25th December
Thank fuck that's over. The worst Christmas ever. No questions pls, just take my word for it.
During the afternoon I decided to go out for a nice long run (the longer the better)… grabbing the first recording from the top of the nearest pile – it turned out to be last year's Black Sabbath gig at the O2 Arena in London. As the shadows began to lengthen it felt strange but somehow appropriate to hear Ozzy serenading me with the words: "Satan's sitting there, he's smiling/Watches those flames get higher and higher", followed by that now legendary cackle of: "Oh no, no… please God help me…!" Yeah, the day had been that bad…
Wednesday 24th December
Okay… a bit a theme's starting to develop here. More accounts during the daytime and another night of gogglebox action. Once the lads went to bed I settled down to watch both parts of the Beeb's warts 'n' all documentary History Of The Eagles which to my eternal shame had been lurking on the Sky+ since June 2013. It felt good to indulge myself with a bit of a country-rock marathon. What a truly superb programme, chocka with detail and absorbing characters. Coming from the perspective of a writer, the candour and arrogance of Glenn Frey were a joy... but, Jeez... what a ego – you wouldn't wanna be in a band with him!
Tuesday 23rd December
My hopes of making it up to town for a few beers in the Crobar were dashed at the last minute… another night in front of the tellybox it is, then. *Sighs*.
Monday 22nd December
I'm ploughing on with those confounded end of year accounts. Postie has just delivered a package containing phase two of the Led Zeppelin re-masters and owning these two on CD at last is numbing the pain – just a bit. 'Houses…' is among my all-time fave Zeppelin albums. 'The Rain Song', 'No Quarter' and 'Over The Hills And Far Away' never fail to make me smile. (Trivia alert – Somewhere amid the collection of bootleg cassettes I've got a recording of Twisted Sister playing '...Hills...' in their club days).
Awwww, bollox... Sami Hyypia has resigned as manager of the monumentally awful Shiteon & Homo Albion after a mere six-month reign. With a solitary win in 18 games and the club rooted in the relegation zone, the guy was doing a fantastic job of returning them to their rightful position in the football league. Who will replace him? Perhaps it could be another task for Agents Dowie or Freedman?
Sunday 21st December
A quiet night in with my two lads… the final of The Apprentice and a tin of Quality Street, now that's what I call a result! South London girl Bianca to win! Mark is a cocky wanker! [Edit – Well, not exactly the result I wanted but The Apprentice remains a great show, and I will miss it. The interview episode was classic as usual, especially Claude's verbal assassination of the nice but dim Solomon. "That's not the way out, that's the window!"]
Sunday 20th December
Given that last season's corresponding game was settled by a solitary goal, and that the home side's keeper was hailed as MOTM, yesterday afternoon's result of Man City 3 Crystal Palace 0 was bitterly disappointing. However, when you factor in that the Eagles went behind to a cruel deflection and that James McArthur had a perfectly good header chalked off with the score at 2-0 and with the crowd voicing its disapproval at 15 minutes from time, and things seemed a little more respectable.
Once the full time whistle had blown I headed for Shepherd's Bush Empire and my final gig of 2014. Having missed Michael Schenker's previous two London shows, I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing him again. Now backed by Temple Of Rock, a band that includes the erstwhile Scorpions rhythm section of Francis Buchholz and Herman 'Ze German' Rarebell, the Flying V-toting axe hero has done an outstanding job of rebuilding his career following a very public alcohol-fuelled burnout eight years ago. Though he used to find it something of a chore, Schenker now actually takes pleasure from performing onstage… and it shows. A ready-to-party Saturday night crowd went bananas from the opening chords of UFO's 'Doctor Doctor' to a well deserved two-song encore. And yet I found one or two minor reasons to grumble. Despite standing a few feet in front of the mixing desk, for the first half-hour Michael's contribution to the show was just too Goddamned low in the mix – this is the star of the show… how does that happen? Amiable frontman Doogie White did a more than creditable job of interpreting material sung by Phil Mogg, Klaus Meine and Gary Barden, but was I alone in questioning Schenker's right to play Scorpions songs on which he didn't appear? Save for the band's 'Lonesome Crow' debut, Michael graced just three tracks from the 'Lovedrive' album – all of which were included – but in spite of Buchholz and Rarebell's presence I found myself struggling to justify the inclusion of 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' and 'Blackout' when Michael has so many of his own songs to play… or is that just me being a party-pooping dickhead, I dunno?
Mostly, though, this was a gig to relish. A solitary new track previewed, 'Vigilante Man', suggested that the forthcoming 'Spirit On A Mission' album will be another corker, and to the cheers of a predominantly middle-aged audience Michael's son Tyson (whose own band State Villains had opened the show) stepped up to join him for the end solo of UFO's 'Too Hot To Handle'. The full set-list ran as follows: 'Doctor Doctor', 'Where The Wild Winds Blow', 'Armed And Ready', 'Natural Thing', 'Victim Of Illusion', 'Lovedrive', 'Coast To Coast', 'Before The Devil Knows You're Dead', 'Lord Of The Lost And Lonely', 'Let It Roll', 'Shoot Shoot', 'Into The Arena', 'Vigilante Man', 'Too Hot To Handle', 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' and 'Rock Bottom', followed by 'Lights Out' and 'Blackout'.
Saturday 20th December
Well, it was a choice between Quo Lite at the O2 Arena and the UK's opening night of Dumb And Dumber To. Given that I'm unlikely to attend another Quo gig in my lifetime – barring a return of the Frantic Four; they could do a festival, surely…? – the kids and I ended up less than a mile away from the O2, at my favourite local cinema the Greenwich Picturehouse (an intimate, friendly venue which actually has a bar inside the theatre!). We enjoyed a superb Mexican meal and, twenty years after the original movie seduced two generations of Lings, braced ourselves for the action. Ashamed to admit, I laughed so much that a bit of wee might've come out, especially at the scene with the hound and jar of peanut butter. Nazareth's 'Hair Of The Dog' is in the soundtrack, too! And how strange it was to come home, put the lads to bed and settle down for the final ever episode of The Newsroom, featuring Jeff 'Harry Dunne' Daniels' other supremely noteworthy character, Will McAvoy. Such a great series, I will really miss it.
Friday 19th December
Last night I dreamt that I was at a castle in Spain watching a reunited Deep Purple MK III. No, I'm not kidding… it felt completely lifelike. There were so many people around me that I couldn't see who was on keys instead of Jon Lord (RIP) but the band sounded absolutely fantastic and Blackmore had his mojo back. How disappointing it was to wake up.
My Thursday afternoon had been spent at Big Red in North London for the Christmas party of Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, et al. The food was okay but served up a little cold, so it was fortuitous that all drinks were on the house and there was plenty of inane, entertaining chatter from those sat around me, including Sir Geoffrey Of Barton, CR's production editor Paul Henderson and AOR magazine's designer Big John. As the tequila slammer stage was reached I realised that I wasn't really in the mood to get shitfaced, so ended up making my excuses and was back home in Catford by the unfeasibly early hour of 7.30pm. Spent the evening in the office indulging myself with a bit of a Breaking Bad mini-marathon. I wouldn't mind betting that there are some extremely severe hangovers in Balcombe Street this morning. (Not mentioning any names, Russell Fairbrother…)
Thursday 18th December
And so the Christmas party season continues… I'm just back from one of the best curries I've ever eaten. Spice Society in Beckenham is one heck of an eaterie, and the conversation with Andy Beare, Darryl Jupp and Neil Bricher was equally entertaining. Spookily, we realised that today is actually the 32nd anniversary of one of the gigs that over which we found ourselves reminiscing – Gillan on the 'Magic' tour, with support from Wishbone Ash and Spider at London's Wembley Arena. Aaaaaah, memories…
Wednesday 17th December
Oh, how fantastic… look what's just arrived. The instructions are simple: Press 'play'. Turn up the volume. And smile…
Last night was spent in an unusually posh Paddington pub in the company of three of my old CPFC awayday buddies – Kev Denman, Mark Cousins and Tony Knox. Many classic stories were re-told, including the time that, following a game in Norwich, select members of our party urinated into a window box outside an Indian restaurant… only for our entourage to enter said establishment and order a meal. One can only speculate as to the amount of bogeys that found their way into the Bombay potatoes – lucky that I don't eat them! 'Twas a great evening; not sure whose idea it was to try a nearby Brazilian eaterie but after such a liquid diet the menu of meat, meat and more meat was exactly what the doctor ordered!
Tuesday 16th December
My day began with an early morning phone interview – Jon Hiseman drummer of Colosseum, the veteran British progressive jazz-rockers who are set to call it a day after a UK tour in February. All I can say is… what a gentleman. I was amazed by Hiseman's dignity. "We are at the mercy of Barbara [Thompson, his wife and the group's saxophonist] having Parkinson's disease," he told me when I asked about the decision to disband. "Of course it will be emotional," he said of the final show, which takes place at Shepherd's Bush Empire. "Barbara and I met in '64 and we married in '67. We've got two children, so there's no way I'll be off gallivanting around the world with another saxophone player. Barbara doesn't have Parkinson's, *we* have Parkinson's, that's the only attitude you can take."
Monday 15th December
The start of another week, and yet another melodic rock round-up for Classic Rock. Cream of the crop is 'Only To Rise', first fruits of the liaison between Michael Sweet of Stryper and Boston fame and George Lynch, the guitarist known for a glittering catalogue of work that includes Dokken, Lynch Mob. I'm also digging 'Shanghaied', the debut from Ammunition, featuring Åge Sten Nilsen, AKA Glam, the former mouthpiece of Norwegian veterans Wig Wam, with songs co-written by Erik Mårtensson. And let's not forget 'Empire Of Sin', the second album from the Matti Alfonzetti-fronted Impera, Care Of Night's 'Connected' and 'Heroes Live Forever', an archive release of material from Zero Zero, a long defunct Glaswegian band with connections to Strangeways, The Almighty and (tentatively) AC/DC. All good stuff…
Sunday 14th December
Please take pity on my poor liver. Vast quantities of booze were supped before and after yesterday's game between Palace and Stoke – oh… and also at half-time, of course! Our usual pre-match haunt tends to become full, so my friend Kev Denman and I decided to opt for four-pint pitchers. One of Happy Days scrumpy cider (my tipple of choice), the other of Kronenbourg 1664 (that of Kev). When the bar staff enquired how many glasses would be required, I replied: "Oh, just two please…" Needless to say, the actual game was a bit of a letdown. A looped James McArthur header gave Palace the lead, but a mere 90 seconds later a fluke deflection placed the ball at the feet of Peter Crouch, who doesn't miss from such short range. Palace boss Warnock later accused the Potters of "time-wasting from the start", and it was that type of a game – messy, physical, sometimes petulant and not exactly easy on the eye. I was glad to get back to the social club… hic!
Saturday 13th December
Last night was spent at a London venue that's fast coming one of my favourites – the Assembly Hall in Islington. Located on the relatively new Overground line it's quick and easy to reach from Ling Towers, the sound is always first-class and the staff friendly. Given that the show was postponed from earlier in the year, I'd been dying to see Fish. Alas, my drinking buddy, Mr Beare, and I had forgotten how imbecilic some of the big Scotsman's diehard fans can be. To our dismay we got stuck behind a group of them – self-important idiots who shouted inane, vacuous comments during the quiet bits and played exaggerated air guitar and keys along to every song; one eye glued to the imaginary instrument, the other checking out who was watching their ego-wank. Had it not been so pathetic then I'd have laughed. The noise died to a defiant murmur when the ringleader was publicly 'shusssssshed' by a finger-wagging lady a few rows in front of us but by then the damage had been done.
But boy oh boy… what a show! Although the first two-thirds of a set that lasted more than two hours was filled by material from his most recent two LPs – notably the current 'A Feast Of Consequences' – Fish nevertheless put on a nicely balanced display, wheeling out Marillion's 'Slàinte Mhath', 'Heart Of Lothian' and 'Incubus' and even going walkabout in the crowd during the latter stages. But the focus was on '…Feast…' and its emotive five-song 'High Wood' suite. The show took on extra gravitas as Fish explained that the involvement of both of his grandfathers inspired him to compose the epic World War 1-themed piece. Like the rest of the album, it was quite exceptional, and if you're a lapsed Marils fan then please allow me encourage you to buy a copy (its predecessor '13th Star' is also highly recommended). Fish was overjoyed by the size of a sold-out crowd, and with It Bites keysman John Beck part of a crack backing band behind him the playing was never less than superb. The night was triumphant in just about every regard… save for those selfish individuals that had tried to ruin things for the rest of us.
Here's the set-list: 'Perfume River', 'A Feast Of Consequences', 'Manchmal', 'Arc Of The Curve', 'High Wood', 'Crucifix Corner', 'The Gathering', 'Thistle Alley', 'The Leaving', 'Slàinte Mhath', 'Big Wedge', 'Vigil' and 'Heart Of Lothian', plus a two-encore return that featured 'Incubus', 'Blind To The Beautiful' and 'The Company'.
Friday 12th December
I'm feeling ever so fragile following yesterday's now traditional Christmas meal in the company of John Dryland, Malcolm Dome, Steve Hammonds and the usual gang. Festivities began with a pre-meal Sambuca reception in Wardour Street's The Ship, scene of many a Marquee Club booze-up, and went downhill from there. By the time our posse bowled up at the Crobar, things had become very messy indeed. This morning I've been reminded of conversations I had with people that I don't even recall meeting... hahaha! Thanks as ever to John D for organising the event. I look forward to next year's with a combination of excitement and dread!
Luckily, I managed to get plenty of work done before my departure to the West End. I managed to transcribe a very recent phone interview with UFO's Phil Mogg. As usual, Phil was on fine form. When we got to discussing his lyrics and the possibility that he is underrated in that department, I asked him to clarify something about a song on the band's forthcoming album called 'Devil's In The Detail'. I'd played the tune over and over again and wanted to know whether it really does include the line: "The devil's in the detail/Weave within the cloth/The devil's in the detail/He's out collecting muff"? "NO!" Mogg exploded in a fit of laughter. "It's, 'He's out collecting moths!' What's wrong with you? Mind you, your version's not bad." It turns out that '…Detail' is among a couple of tracks inspired by the band's legendary former bass player, Pete Way.
I also transcribed a chat I had with Nils Lofgren, who along with the rest of Springsteen's E Street Band was among the most recent inductees to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Lofgren tried – and failed! – to avoid sounding bitter that the acknowledgement came along so late. "We play four-hour shows and people say we're one of the greatest bands ever, so I almost wore it as a badge of honour that weren't in the Hall Of Fame," he told me. "I had to laugh… By the time I back got to my front door [after the ceremony] the paint [on the award] had already started chipping. Twenty cents more would have bought some better paint, but that's the yin and yang of what's still a pretty prestigious honour."
Thursday 11th December
Where else on God's green earth would I have spent last night except at the Islington Academy, soaking up yet another dose of H.E.A.T., the Swedes first two albums were a joyous hybrid of Europe, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Dokken? In the three years since recruiting Erik Grönwall, a former winner of Swedish Idol, the quintet's sound has gradually taken on some tougher elements.
The charismatic, livewire Grönwall is H.E.A.T.'s proverbial ace-in-the-hole; shadow boxing, pogoing and throwing every fibre of his being into a slickly executed 95-minute performance. There was a gritty side to his character that brought to mind Sebastian Bach, especially when he spat up in the air only for the phlegm to drop back onto his forehead, causing him to grin and consume it. Uggg. 'Inferno', featuring the did-he-really-just-say-that? line of "I like to drink and masturbate", personifies the band's new-found grit, though Grönwall got to prove his vocal proficiency when delivering the poignant, lighter-waving ballad 'All The Nights' with just keyboard accompaniment. A three-song encore of 'Breaking The Silence', 'Living On The Run' and a triumphant version of 'Laughing At Tomorrow' that saw with the instrumentalists stop playing one by one was a truly great way to sign off.
The Academy wasn't sold out, though this was their second time in the capital in 2014 – the first being a date at the Garage that was recorded for the forthcoming concert release, 'Live In London' (due on February 20) – and the crowd devoured a show that was delivered with pure heat-seeking precision. This is a fantastic live band, and the protagonists must know it. Okay, they didn't quite scale the pinnacles of clinical greatness that saw them wipe the floor with just about all comers bar Danger Danger at the Firefest back in November, but for first-timers the effect remains jaw-dropping. You could almost see them gawp: "Nobody makes music like this anymore, surely?" Well, some bands still do.. okay? And let's be grateful for the fact. 2015 is shaping up to be the year of reckoning for this fine, fine act.
Wednesday 10th December
"This one's about old pick-up trucks and hot women," drawled Jaren Johnson introducing 'Back It Up'. "And if you don't like that kinda shit then pack your shit up and leave… you're at the wrong show."
For the second consecutive night I was at the Garage in the company of my friend Neil Jeffries. This time we were watching The Cadillac Three, a wonderful Southern rock band that had left me agog with appreciation nine months earlier opening for Blackberry Smoke. Led by the ebullient frontman/guitarist Johnson and completed by drummer Neil Mason, the Nashville-based trio, who don't feature a traditional bassist – lap steel/Dobro player Kelby Ray doubles up for the lower register parts – are an outstanding live act, possessed of all the charisma and get-up-and-go that Blackberry Smoke lack so desperately (sorry, BBS fans… it's the truth).
Concluding a sold-out debut headlining UK tour, Johnson displayed casual yet hugely enjoyable showmanship. When he announced: "Four days ago we took five or six planes and landed in Cardiff, Wales, for the Planet Rockstock Festival where we met Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, which was pretty bad-ass, and then we got drunk," the mention of England's rival nation generated catcalls and boos. "Hang on, brother, I'm just telling you where we've been. And from there we went to Manchester…" [More booing, and louder still]. "Look, we're not talking about damned soccer…" When a voice at the front corrected him about the name of our national game, Jaren cackled sarcastically: "Football… football shiyyyyy-atttttttt. And then we went to Birmingham last night. And we got drunk… again." And so it continued.
The crowd sang along to every last word, I'd not seen a reaction like it in quite a while. It's just as well they did so as in presentation terms, barring an intro tape, there's almost no show to speak of. I've seen better lit coal mines, and Mason doesn't bother with a drum riser… it's all about spit, sawdust, barroom banter ("I had a problem with whiskey – it's the best problem I've ever had," Johnson admitted as a precursor to 'Whiskey Soaked Redemption'. "If there was a girl named that I'd probably marry her and have sexual relations with her") and the other oh-so-vital ingredient, great songs. The trio played all 11 tracks from 'Tennessee Mojo', last year's Dave Cobb (Rival Sons/Black Country Communion)-produced debut and as they signed off with the brilliant non-album single 'The South' [www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHd0J2EHYGI] I was reminded of a recent conversation with Dante Bonutto of their UK label Spinefarm Records. Discussing the proliferation of Southern acts making an impact on the scene, Dante had said that a package tour might be a next logical move for all concerned – Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three, Whiskey Myers – another Spinefarm act; check them out! – and the Western Sizzlers… now that's a bill I'd pay to see on any night of the week! Yee-haw! (Thanks to Darryl Jupp for the photograph).
Tuesday 9th December
Even a savage dose of tour bus 'flu couldn't derail last night's excellent concert at the Garage from Joe Elliott and his Down 'N' Outz, with classy support from those Vega boys.
Following the debacle of their gig upstairs at the same venue exactly a month earlier (see Diary, 9/11/14), it was refreshing to experience a Vega show devoid of health issues and delivered with near-perfect sound. Better still, the audience really seemed to appreciate what they saw and heard. Newies 'The Wild, The Weird, The Wonderful', 'Gonna Need Some Love Tonight', 'Wherever We Are' and 'All Or Nothing' have slotted into the show with ease, likewise the Joe Elliott-penned '10 x Bigger Than Love', which Nick Workman sang unaware of the fact that he was being watched from side-stage by said Def Leppard frontman. A word of praise, too, for the shred guitar contribution of Marcus Thurston, now a full-time member of the band and a vital cog in their sound.
Though the Down 'N' Outz are now into their fourth year as a band, some still question the reasons for their existence. Elliott remains hell-bent on a goal of bringing wider attention to a repertoire of tunes by Mott The Hoople, British Lions, Mott and Ian Hunter. Given the levels of sickness going on, what they achieved at the Garage was astonishing. The frontman, who offered a birthday dedication of 'Sea Diver' to absent band-mate Phil Collen, performed manfully through the pain barrier for over an hour and a half, realising at one point that he could no longer speak between the tunes. Elliott's faith in material such as 'One More Chance To Run', 'Overnight Angels' and 'Who Do You Love' is completely justified, while the addition of a female violinist added a dark edginess to a set-closer of Mott The Hoople's 'Violence'.
"We had a bit of time off so we formed another band because this is so much more fun than climbing Mount Everest or renting a camper van and going down to Devon for the weekend," Elliott grinned through a Lemsip haze, mimicking a snooze as his colleagues (including Share Pederson of Vixen fame on bass, as well as the usual Quireboys alumni) prepared to launch into an encore of Ian 'Untah's 'England Rocks'. "Going fishing in the Lake District? Pah! – this is our fishing trip." Intriguingly, Joe felt compelled to raise the subject again… "We appreciate that tonight was a curiosity gig for a lot of you who had no idea what to expect. Well, this is what the Down 'N' Outz do; we hope you liked it and see you again next time." Count me in…
Monday 8th December
Eldest lad Eddie is a big fan of the TV show Surprise Surprise (okay, ahem… it's also a bit of a guilty secret of my own). I managed to get us a pair of tix for the filming of the Christmas episode at ITV Studios on the South Bank. Don't bother looking for us on the telly when it's screened 'cos we were right at the back, but once the monitors in front of us were belatedly turned on, allowing us to see the pre-recorded VT segments, the experience was a lot of fun. No spoilers re: the show's usual tear-jerking content, but… er… we both blubbed a bit! Well… quite a lot, actually!
Once the delightful Holly Willoughby had waved us goodbye and I had put Ed on a train back to Catford, I zoomed across to Dingwalls in Camden for a taste of boogie-rock royalty with Rick Richards of Georgia Satellites fame in the Western Sizzlers, plus a side helping of the ever-wonderful Warner E Hodges! My first reaction: Where was everyone? The venue was less than half-full but, you know what? I enjoyed it more than some enormodome gigs I've seen.
Formed by US-based Englishman Kevin Jennings, the Sizzlers operate on the proverbial shoestring, lamenting ex-wives, bar tabs and bank managers. A snare stand broke before they'd even played a note, causing Jennings to deadpan: "It's okay, we have a spare… it's a big rock show", but the band's irrepressible good time vibe wouldn't and couldn't be denied. Their independently released album 'For Ol' Times Sake' has become a bit of a cult classic in boogie-head circles, but in addition to old favourites 'Can't Win For Losing', 'One More Beer' and 'I'll Die A Happy Man If It Kills Me', I really enjoyed the new tracks 'Encourageable', which sounded like Quo trying to rewrite 'Respectable' by the Stones, their anti-Christmas ditty '12 Bar Humbug' and 'The Rebel In Me', a commercial hard rocker written by Jennings at a Blackberry Smoke gig and sung by Richards. Their version of the Frantic Four's 'Break The Rules' also caused dandruff to fly. Here's hoping the Sizzlers get to make a second album.
Probably best known for membership of cow-punk veterans Jason & The Scorchers and Dan Baird's Homemade Sin, Nashville's own Warner E Hodges was promoting a solo record called 'Gunslinger'. Backed by a band featuring ex-Bonafide guitarist Mikael Fassberg. who chipped in with songs of his own including the ass-kickin' 'Parade' and the rarely performed Bonafide tune 'Dog', he took to the stage declaring: "We're going to have ourselves a damned good time and hope that y'all participate with us." Well, we did – and then some. Highlights included the hard riffing title cut, 'Back In Town', 'Hell And Back' and 'Backwater Girl'. The AC/DC parody of 'The Hard Way' was introduced by some amusing bickering between Hodges and Kevin Jennings, who was in the front row, as to who had attended the most concerts by Angus and company. Hodges, with 105 (including 46 times with Bon Scott on vocals), believed that he'd won but was beaten by the Sizzlers mainman who caught the band no less than 15 times at the Marquee Club ALONE. Into the home strait, 'Sweet Marie', the Dylan-penned, Scorchers-covered standard, was followed by a superbly boogied-up version of John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Rose'.
I wasn't alone in making my excuses a few songs into the set of headliner Mick 'Very Slowhand' Ralphs, a man with a truly glorious heritage that, in my opinion at least, is gradually being eroded away. I suppose I can understand the guy's wish to keep on playing but he's now so far past his sell-by date it's just a shame.
Sunday 7th December
Yesterday's result: Spuz 0 Palace 0... their keeper was MOTM and we really should've won. It was about time we took a point off those jammy buggers from Might Fart Lane, if you ask me!
There was only one way to celebrate another priceless away point towards survival in the Premier League – several foaming ales at a DragonForce gig. Metal Hammer had asked me to review last nite's show at the Forum, which was headlined by the Dutch symphonic metal crew Epica. Arriving early enough to catch the first of three acts, I felt a little sorry for the London-based multinationals Neonfly. Deathly silence filled an almost empty room as their intro tape began, but despite being hampered by the usual muddy 'third-on-the-bill' sound mix, half an hour later, cheers were ringing out, rewarding Neonfly – among the most improved bands out there right now – for a rousing display of high quality, commercially-orientated metal.
After 15 years of 'one-trick-pony' accusations, DragonForce took a few more chances than usual with their sixth album, 'Maximum Overload'. This fact was reflected in their display at the Forum, which was filling nicely as they ripped into 'Defenders' and 'Fury Of The Storm'. With exactly half of their slot's dozen songs pulled from 'Maximum Overload', including a comedy remake of the Johnny Cash-popularised 'Ring Of Fire', the usual hyperspeed shredding from guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman (the latter of whom sported a very cool Bathory T-shirt) was tempered with songwriting maturity and an ability to vary tempos. Of equal importance, frontman Marc Hudson seemed more integrated to the team than ever before. By Odin's hammer, Epica were gonna have to move mountains to follow that!
I had only seen the headliners once before – at the Scala back in 2011, with ReVamp as special guests – but by golly it's clear that their star is rising. By now the Forum was uncomfortably full. It was great to see the place so completely and sweltering hot in defiance of the winter chills outside. Simone's advice to "stay hydrated" was well heeded with a few extra ciders, and I loved Epica's superb stage presentation; the band were backlit to dramatic effect, the simplicity enhancing their more bombastic, rhythmic moments. Simons' voice is a thing of shimmering beauty, soaring majestically above the music and contrasted by the growls of guitarist Mark Jansen. The multi-tracked, sampled backing vocals made them sound like a choir in their own right, but when they played at full tilt there was no doubting their metal credentials. The hysterical response to a first encore of 'Cry For The Moon' made me wonder how much longer Epica will be left foraging for the leftovers of their better-placed rivals Nightwish and Within Temptation.
Saturday 6th December
My Friday afternoon was occupied by a phoner with a true rock 'n' roll great – Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/ Jefferson Starship fame. A really interesting guy, as you'd expect. "I'm sometimes amazed that I'm still here alive," he told me with a chuckle at the start of our conversation.
In the evening Eddie and I tuned in to watch non league Blyth Spartans as they edged past League 2 basement boys Hartlepool United to make the third round of the FA Cup. There were six minutes of injury time and Hartlepool hit bar in 96th min but Jeff Stelling, Janick Gers – your boys took a hell of a beating! Palace have been 'giant-killed' before, notably by Hartlepool on an ice rink of a surface back in 1993, but I will always, always love the romance of the FA Cup.
Friday 5th December
All together now: "Fuck you, Black Spiders!" I've had a very soft spot for this fine band since seeing them open for the late lamented Stone Gods at the 100 Club back in early 2009. Two albums into their career it's probably fair to say that the group, led by Pete 'Spider' Spiby, have missed their pot-shot at the big time but they remain a truly superb live attraction – one of the best that this country has to offer. Last night they performed a great, fan-chosen set at the Garage, rammed with biker-boogie-stoner anthems and (of course) washed down by plenty of cider.
Spiby is a great frontman, dedicating 'Stick It To The Man' to Phil Rudd on the day that the troubled AC/DC drummer had been handcuffed and taken into custody after reportedly breaching bail conditions, and the show ended with a rabble-rousing rendition of 'Kicked In The Teeth' from the same group's 1978 album 'Powerage'. 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me' includes the brilliant lyric: "It was Gene not Paul/It wasn't Ace's fault"... but the fact remains that, save for a sprinkling of chewns from album #2 'This Savage Land', the Spiders have been playing these songs for a very long time. And disconcertingly, Pete is starting to resemble Dumpy Dunnell, the perennial underachiever of Rusty Nuts fame.
The set-list ran as follows: 'So, El Diablo', 'Stay Down', 'Stick It To The Man', 'What Use Is A Rock Without A Roll?', 'St Peter', 'Balls', 'Just Like A Woman', 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me', 'Teenage Knife Gang' and 'Blood Of The Kings' with encores of 'Meadow', 'Trouble', 'Creatures' and 'Kicked In The Teeth'.
Thursday 4th December
There was I, in desperate need of something to cheer me up after the Palace-Villa game, and AC/DC's new album drops onto the mat. On first listen it wasn't a patch on their previous effort, 'Black Ice', but I must say Brian Johnson is in remarkably fine voice for a gentlemen of his age. Having played it a couple of times there are three or four great tracks, including the salacious, Zeppelin-style riffing 'Emission Control', but if you ask me the rest are a wee bit so-so.
Wednesday 3rd December
The next time I see a football journalist write: "Crystal Palace are looking to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone" I will personally send the culprit a jiffy bag full of donkey diarrhea. Last night at Selhurst Park, the Eagles had 17 shots, Aston Villa a mere two (and one on target – from which they scored the game's only goal). If only we could afford a striker as gifted as Christian Benteke.
Tuesday 2nd December
Much fun was had at last nite's lig for the Marquee Club's 50th anniversary, which took place at Floridita, a restaurant situated next door to, and beneath, the legendary venue's old premises at 90 Wardour Street. Revellers includes Luke Morley from Thunder, Bob Young and Quo's John Coghlan, who was very much in 'party mode'. Spud told Malcolm Dome and myself a particularly boozy tale of the night he went to the Marquee, spent all his money and ended up walking all the way back to back to Brixton, before remembering that he actually lived in Norwood at the time. Haha! Drummers, eh?
Besides a free bar and plenty of good conversation there was some live music. Cutting Crew's Nick Van Eede and (I think) Gareth Moulton told some tales and played a few songs including the all-time great 'I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight'. Van Eede remembered that the group's now deceased lead guitarist Kevin MacMichael was so nervous about playing the Marquee in '86 that he went to the ship and got wankered, then wrote the set-list down in red – which the venue's spotlights rendered invisible.
T'Pau's Carol Decker played it cool with just two songs. It was nice to hear 'Heart And Soul' again, and she introduced 'China In Your Hands' with the words: "This is a song that went to Number one in 1987, I don't even have to sing it anymore. It's still paying the rent and buying me fucking fancy shoes – you all need to write one of these."
Introduced by the Marquee's own Jack Barrie the headliners were Ten Years After, whose latest line-up retains two long-serving members, keysman Chick Churchill and drummer Ric Lee, plus guitarist/frontman Marcus Bonfanti and bass player Colin 'Bomber' Hodgkinson (once of Whitesnake). A surprisingly entertaining 65-minute set was drawn mainly from the 1970s albums 'Ten Years After', 'Undead', 'Stonehenge' and 'Cricklewood Green', with the likable Bonfanti proving a worthy replacement for the late, great Alvin Lee and Lee's own successor Joe Gooch (who continues to work with fellow ex-TYA bassist Leo Lyons in the power trio Hundred Seventy Split). There was a nice name check from Ric Lee for Lee, who died last year, and during the same address the drummer revealed that in addition to a concert CD that's due in February the band will record a new album next year, "so we can stop being a covers band to material written by Alvin."
Like I say, I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were. Their set-list ran as follows: 'Sugar The Road', 'One Of These Days', 'I'm Coming On', 'Hear Me Calling', 'Me And My Baby', 'Love Like A Man', 'I Say Yeah', 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and of course the perennial 'Going Home', with an encore of 'Choo Choo Mama'.
Monday 1st December
So when my friend Malcolm Dome emailed to say that he'd got me onto the guest list for this evening's soirée to mark the 50th anniversary of the Marquee Club, I simply had to root through the loft for this T-shirt. It still fits me, too!
© 2014 - www.daveling.co.uk - All Rights Reserved
Web design by Frau Fledermaus Sitebuilding, FFS!