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.
Thursday 31st December
That happy feeling when iTunes is on shuffle while you continue work on the friggin' end of year accounts and it throws out Terraplane's 'Right Between The Eyes', Quo's 'Slow Train', 'Xanadu' (Rush, not Olivia Neutron Bomb) and 'I Stole Your Love' by Kiss in succession. And as I type it's gone into 'Sheep' by Pink Floyd... yessssss!
[Edit: Okay... it's 7pm, that's enough work for one day. I'm in with the lads once again this evening. I've filled the fridge with cider, wine and sambuca and bought some party food. Hoping for a much better 2016 than the year that we are seeing out, though that wish is starting to sound a bit like a stuck record. Wherever you are and whatever madness you're planning, have fun and be safe.]
Wednesday 30th December
I spent most of yesterday day writing about Lemmy. Even 24 hours later it still felt a bit raw. The boys said they didn't mind, so during the evening I got out of Ling Towers and took a little 'me time'; catching the new Star Wars at my fave cinema the Picturehouse in Greenwich. The lads had already seen the movie with their mum, so I went alone. You can say that I went Han solo! A couple of glasses of wine in the bar helped, and I took in a bottle plus some nice crisps; it kinda took my mind off things for a while. I'd give it 8/10, the storyline being just a little too familiar. While I was out my obituary to Lemmy was posted at the Classic Rock site. I had been asked to give things a bit of a personal twist. They've titled it 'Hellraiser, rogue, father - Lemmy remembered'. I hope I managed to do the man justice.
Here's a snap of Eddie Lemmy Selhurst Ling with his namesake taken at the South Bank in London as Motörhead filmed their video for 'God Save The Queen' in 2000. A signed photograph in our Hall Of Fame bears the legend: 'To Lemmy Ling, carry the name with pride'. Ed... you know what you have to do.
Of course, the net is awash with tributes to Kilmister. Let me draw your attention to a couple of my own favourites. I love this one by Metallica's Lars Ulrich in Rolling Stone simply because it so personal and heart-felt. Rolling Stone have also struck gold with this one, which details Lemmy' last days. Both are fantastic reads.
Meanwhile, in SE25, there's a deluded, ungrateful twat alert. Patrick Bamford has returned to Chelski following a string of underwhelming displays, most recently after missing a sitter that would have won the game against Swansea. Bamford, your short loan stay at Palace was "terrible" because, as those woeful performances revealed, the same is true of you. Not ready for the Premier League, but already behaving like a diva... what a shock. The 22-year-old scored a hat-trick against Bromley pre-season and inadvertently found his level. He couldn't even raise his game against Dagenham & Redbridge. What a spoiled little oik.
Tuesday 29th December
It's a day of sadness and quiet reflection here at Ling Towers following the death of one of the world's great rock stars. Last night I'd got in from football, gone to bed, seen the phone flashing and heard the awful news about Lemmy. For a while I lay there having a good cry, almost numb with disbelief. We all knew that Lem was in bad health, but with touring prospects lined up till next summer, nobody expected him to go this soon. Sleep wasn't an option. I grabbed a bottle, headed out to the office, fired up the PC and stayed at the computer till 4am. The sense of grief was overwhelming.
Though we had spoken on the phone as recently as last October, it wasn't the man I knew. I'd said my goodbyes to Lemmy last July at Hyde Park. At the show's conclusion Mr Beare and I necked my bottle of contraband brandy, hugged and bawled our eyes out - it was the end of an era. I refused to go to Wembley. There are rock stars and there is Lemmy. I named my first born kid after the man and I still can't believe I will never hear him sing again, never share another conversation. As he told me in an interview seven years ago: "Rock 'n' roll makes you immortal – till you die. The trick is not dying. We're the last of our breed; when Motörhead have gone there will be a hole you can't fill."
P.S. Nobody seems to be mentioning Phil and Mikkey. I really hope they're both okay.
Monday 28th December
Palace's last home game of the season was a 0-0 draw with Swansea City. The Eagles had plenty of chances to claim the points but profligate finishing, notably from Chelsea loanee and second half substitute Patrick Bamford, who shot straight at Fabianski with the goal gaping, was an insurmountable problem. The result and the performance, also an unfair booking for Yohan Cabaye (who now misses next weekend's clash with Chelsea), were bitterly disappointing. Afterwards, with our usual post-game watering hole closing early, Eddie and I headed into Croydon with our friends Richard Thompson and Belinda Bullick. We ended up at little boozer called The Green Dragon, drinking pitchers of strawberry daiquiri and partaking in a pub quiz – the first I'd ever experienced. A great way to set the seal on a long day's boozing.
Sunday 27th December
Given the injuries we had, and also the fact that the Cherries are no pushovers, pre-kick off I'd have taken a point from a fairly tough away game. From what a saw via an internet link, a goalless draw seemed a pretty fair result. The Eagles are fifth in the table as we head towards 2016. #palaceinwonderland
Saturday 26th December
The verdict on Xmas Day 2015? Well, it was a two hundred per cent improvement upon the events of 12 months ago (which, to be fair, was among the most miserable and upsetting days of my entire life). My Christmas lunch was deemed "excellent" by the Linglets, I managed to get in a park run while it cooked and worked it off afterwards via a big walk with Bob and Eddie. Arn put some thought into his pressie for me; a healthy eating cook book, and like I said already, I found time to watch Twisted Sister's excellent movie. I'm pretty relieved that it went so well. And you won't believe this, but not a drop of grog passed my lips all day or night, though that will definitely change this afternoon before, during and after the game between Bournemouth and Palace. COYP!!
Friday 25th December
It's late-morning and I have retreated to a safe place, my office at the end of the garden, while the ex-wife comes by to hang out with the lads for a while and give them their xmas pressies. I've been saving this l'il beaut for a special occasion - Twisted Sister's documentary - and the timing seems perfect! Although it's more than two hours long it doesn't cover the band's entire, focussing on their beginnings and cutting off as they became stars with 'You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll'. I'm a bit of a TS live tape collector and hearing them talk about playing innumerable gigs in the Tri-State Area, reminded me of the cassettes I have of shows from venues such as Hammerheads in West Islip, the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen, Mad Hatter in East Quoge and Rockaway in Queens, some of which re of three-set performances, with plenty of cover versions thrown in. The movie its due out on February 5. Hmmm... now that's over with, I might even take the rest of the day off, hahaha. Happy Christmas, y'all.
Thursday 24th December
Well, everyone else seems to have stepped off the gas but as you'll have gathered by now it's rock music central here in Catford all year round. There's no such luck for yours truly. Yesterday I did the last couple of phoners of 2015 - DragonForce guitarist Herman Li and Cody Cannon of the Confederate rockers Whiskey Myers, the latter of whom are set to tour with UK for the first time alongside The Cadillac Three. Cody was a real spit 'n' sawdust kinda guy, I think he had a bit fd trouble with my accent. When I asked him whether Whiskey Myers are a country band with rock overtones or the other way around, he simply drawled: "I have no idea. We're just boys from the woods trying to play rock 'n' roll." Haha. I love that!
As the day winds down I've just dug out three rather good re-issues from Californian sword & sorcery metalheads Cirith Ungol - 1980's 'Frost And Fire', 'King Of The Dead' from '84 and 'One Foot In Hell', 1986 - now available on 180-gram back vinyl from Metal Blade Records. Primitive yet alluring, they've been lurking in the ever-growing 'to play' pile for quite a while.
[Edit: It's early evening as I type this and Ed and I are sitting here and rolling up with laughter at the all-time classic Song For Europe episode of Father Ted. The part where Ted and Dougal sit in a cloud of smoke, Ted losing his rag at their lack of progress, is one of the funniest comedy scenes ever... "Just play the fokken note!" What a truly brilliant series].
Wednesday 23rd December
Many, many thanks to Ross Halfin for the gift of a limited edition, numbered Iron Maiden CD bootleg picked up on his overseas travels. The band's show from Koseinenkin Hall in Tokyo back in 1981 during the era with Paul Di'Anno on vocals - the entire performance, including such early classics as 'Twilight Zone', 'Innocent Exile', 'Transylvania', 'Drifter' and 'Prowler'. I was lucky enough to see this line-up several times. Ross knows what a huge Maiden fan I am and very kindly picked it up for me... y'see, he is human after all! The packaging amused me greatly, too!
Tuesday 22nd December
Yesterday afternoon was spent in North London at a superb send off for Geoff Banks, a music writer, manager, publicist and gig promoter - he had been a co-organiser of the Celebr* progressive rock festival. I knew Geoff since the 1980s. He was an agnostic, which was reflected in the service. I felt for his dearest friends Jon Patrick and Pippa Lang who both spoke from the lectern with the utmost bravery (I'm not sure that I could've done the same on behalf of one of my own besties without breaking down). Damian Wilson's excellent version of 'Part Of Me' in the chapel was enough to bring a grown man to tears. Beers were quaffed and tales told at the 'after show', let's not call it a wake, and I stood around nattering to the likes of Wilson, IQ's Mike Holmes and Andy Sears of Twelfth Night. I bought a bottle of cheap vino collapso for the train journey back to Liverpool Street, thence from London Bridge To Catford. As funerals tend to do, the day had made me feel pretty morose but Banks had been a good man and I was glad that I made the effort to atttend. Geoff... I hope you find peace.
Anyway, it's a case of back to normal. I'm sitting here reviewing, and loving, the new Avantasia album. Entitled 'Ghostlights' it features cameos from the likes of Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Marco Hietala, Sharon den Adel, Bob Catley, Jørn Lande and Michael Kiske. It's out on January 29, and that honorary Englishman Tobias Sammet has done it again.
Monday 21st December
Back in 2007, I stormed out of the Scala in a rage following an incredibly frustrating, almost vocal-less gig by Trouble. For those unfamiliar with the venue it's a former cinema with a very high roof, and that disastrous evening with Trouble wasn't the first time that its dodgy acoustics had pissed me off. Not unreasonably, I vowed never to set foot over its threshold again. Last night, almost a decade later, I proved myself a first class liar. Yup... I went back to the Scala. Well, there was no real alternative. 'Please Come Home', by Lonely Robot, a solo project from It Bites/Arena/Frost* man John Mitchell, was among my favourite albums of 2015, and the Scala gig was a one-off. A few weeks earlier, talking at the end of an interview did for Classic Rock, Mitchell had assured me it was possible to get a decent sound at the place. So I took him at his word. And I'm glad that I did so.
Being a Sunday here in London, public transport problems were just about inevitable. And sure enough, by the time I arrived in King's Cross I needed a pint of something strong to calm me down. This meant that I missed the start of a support slot from HeKz, a rather splendid prog-metal group from Bedford. It took a while to gain entry and grab a beer - you might start to sense some kind of theme here – and as I did so Matt Young was announcing: "This is our last song... but it's a long one". 'The Black Hand' is a 12-minute epic and in my opinion it's also their best track, I'm happy I didn't miss it. I shall definitely watch HeKz again before too long.
For me the biggest issue of the night, Mitchell's promise about the Scala sound was faithful, though until about halfway through the volume levels were annoyingly quiet; maybe the only way they could make those crud acoustics work? The bloke next to me actually wore earplugs - I looked at him in puzzlement think you don't need those mate, trust me. Mitchell had chosen to perform in the spacesuit he wore in those amazing promo photos - bad move. It looked great but how on earth did he deal with the intense heat? Marillion's Steve Hogarth was a no-show, regrettably, but many of the record's special guests turned up to recreate their parts, Peter Cox of Go West on 'Boy On The Radio', Heather Findlay enhancing the already bewitching 'Why Do We Stay' which also included a lovely guitar solo from Mitchell, the best of the night, 'Oubliat', featuring the vocal talents of Miss Kim Seviour of Touchstone. Though he wasn't on the album, John's Frost* band-mate Jem Godfrey also delighted the crowd by adding extra keys to the title track. 'The Red Balloon' was a brilliantly understated way to finish a gig. Or so we thought until Phil Collins' 'Take Me Home' proved an inspired choice of cover version and Godfrey returned for Frost*'s 'Black Light machine'. By this time the sound had hit not only the buttons marked 'excellent quality' but also 'almost loud enough'. But the bottom line is that Mitchell writes brilliant songs. With a second album called 'The Big Dream' already in the can and the future of It Bites now looking a little dicey, here's hoping that Lonely Robot will become a bit of a force in 2016.
Sunday 20th December
I'd been looking towards last night's gig by Nightwish with a mix of disbelief and pride. Wembley Arena - sold out! WTF?! I first fell under the Finns' spell at the Mean Fiddler in London in August 2003, 24 hours after a UK debut at Bloodstock. "They will be packing out the Astoria on their next visit," I burbled in the pages of Metal Hammer's underground section, Subterranea - back then symphonic metal was about as popular in the UK as Donald Trump is right now. That prediction came true, and I was with 'em every step of the way, from headlining Hammersmith (2005) to Brixton (2009), via the dismissals of Tarja and Anette. In 2015, with the delightful Floor Jansen (pictured) occupying the role for which she was born, the band are stronger than ever.
No surprise, then, that one of the most colourful, exciting and finest gigs of the calendar year was saved till December 19. Amorphis were up first, hitting the stage at the somewhat unearthly hour of 6.45pm, but their atmospheric blend of dark metal and muscular, melodic hard rock was to prove a winner. It was my first viewing of Arch Enemy since Alissa White-Gluz replaced Angela Gossow at the mic. With her blue hair, guttural delivery and take-no-shit presence, the Canadian is a fine addition to the ranks of the melodic death metal band, whose other main weapon is of course the shred-tastic guitar duo of Michael Amott and his latest counterpart Jeff Loomis. A highlight of their set, 'Ravenous' sounded utterly, neck-snappingly brilliant.
For two hours Nightwish held 12,000 people in the palm of their hands. A cacophony of sound and pyro, so blinding was the show's presentation it was doubtless visible to Tim Peake on board the International Space Station. The über-dramatic, five-part epic 'The Poet And The Pendulum' was just monstrous, and at the show's conclusion there was a guest spot from Professor Richard Dawkins, the famed evolutionary biologist who narrated the title track of their current album, 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful'. The band seemed to enjoy the experience, too, bassist Marco Hietala announces disbelievingly: "I've seen Christ The Redeemer, I've visited the Taj Mahal and I've experienced most of the seven wonders of the world, but all of those are nothing compared to this, so let me just say… 'Good evening, Wembley'." Of the ten Nightwish shows I've attended since 2003 this was easily the best. Luckily it was filmed for posterity. And yes, a part of me was thinking, "I told you so".
This morning I almost leapt out of bed for Match Of The Day. Having watched the first 70 mins of Palace's game against Stoke via a weblink, the scores were level at one apiece as I left Ling Towers for Wembley. When I found about Palace's winner by text from Eddie I was somewhere in the New Cross area. I stood around anxiously at the top of the escalator at London Bridge, gazing at my phone and waiting for news of the final whistle before heading onto the Undergroundwhere there was no signal. So how absolutely bloody great to finally see Chungy's last-gasp screamer hit the back of Stoke's net this morning. That's 11 wins in the last 16 away games in the Premier League, what a record. A European spot is a realistic aim.
Saturday 19th December
Having departed Catford for Wembley at a ridiculously early hour to ensure that I didn't miss Black Star Riders (who were due to begin at the unearthly hour of 6.40pm), it was doubly gutting to end up missing more than half of their performance due to the journalist's worst nightmare, guest list issues... Gah! They were barrelling into 'Bound For Glory' by the time I made it inside. But, wow... what a great view of stage and the sound was superb. With its intro performed on a walkway out into the crowd and encouraged by deafening cheers, a finale of 'Whiskey In The Jar' went down a treat all over the arena.
Truthfully, I had intended to watch a couple of songs by Old Cov's Botox-ed up 2016 Whitesnake and head for the bar, but I ended up sitting out the entire show. It really was the equivalent of a car cash experience... delivered three songs in, 'Mistreated' was like being at a cat strangler's convention. My friends Lauren Archer and Philip Wilding were in the row behind me, and when DC launched into the Purple classic's opening line, sounding more like Cronos from Venom, the three of us stared at one another in disbelief before erupting into gales of embarrassed laughter. How could people be applauding this rubbish? Cov sang two or three songs adequately (strangely, including 'Soldier Of Fortune') but the rest were just pitiful, and as much as I adore Reb Beach as a member of Winger, his buttfucking of the solo to 'Fool For Your Loving' was unforgiveable.
Thank God that Def Leppard were able to rock up to save the day. And then some. New number 'Let's Go' worked well as an opener and when the classic, ecstatic opening guitar motif to 'Animal' peeled out into the evening air, all that preceded it was instantly forgotten. What a set-list, including 'Undefeated', 'Dangerous', 'Love Bites', 'Armageddon It', 'Rocket' and the God-like 'When Love And Hate Collide', with a final run-in of 'Hysteria', 'Let's Get Rocked', 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' and the two-song encore: 'Rock Of Ages', 'Photograph'.
Arriving back home my CR colleague Peter Makowski playfully chided me on Facebook for my criticism of Old Cov, using extreme fan-dom as his defence. I hold up my hands; we're all guilty of that. The wonderful historical collage during 'Photograph' reminded me that I've been a Leppard nutcase since seeing them at the 'old' Marquee in Wardour Street back in January 1980. Bands *do* work their way into one's DNA. But that doesn't mean we should bury our heads in the sand when their dreaded sell-by date comes around, surely? And on last night's evidence it certainly doesn't apply to Leppard just yet.
Friday 18th December
Had a lot of fun last night – Christmas drinks and a tasty curry with the CPFC awayday crew, Mark Cousins, Kev Denman and Tony 'Drug Machine' Knox. Lots of the great old stories were told (again… and again). I wonder why so many of them seemed to involve the words: "You won't believe this, officer, but…"
After the previous night's indulgence, the last thing I needed was a 10.30am phoner – this time with Crispian Mills, leader of Kula Shaker, a band I've bene quite partial to down the years (only saw them once – at the Astoria in '96). Their new album, 'K 2.0', is surprisingly good; I played it three times before the interview took place. Now 40 years old, Mills is the son of Hayley Mills (Sir John was his grandad), and he had plenty of interesting things to say. I really enjoyed the conversation, and I may well check out Kula Shaker again at the Roundhouse if I can blag a ticket.
Thursday 17th December
Mr Mark Tremonti likes to play his heavy metal LOUD! Even up in the balcony, leaning against the wall you could feel the reverberations. The Forum wasn't sold out but it was packed, and those inside could only be classed as mega-fans. Every last word heard from the stage was roared out by the faithful, each robust powerchord cheered. There was a real mood of triumph. 'Twas perhaps a little on the short side at just an hour and 15, especially now that the Alter Bridge guitarist has two records with his self-named solo project, but his band's gig offered quality in abundance. A mere two of the set's selections – 'You Waste Your Time' and current single 'Sympathy' – bore any real correlation to Alter Bridge. As I shall write in my Metal Hammer review: "If you went along expecting arena-friendly fluff, you left disappointed!"
I type this immediately after Chelski's decision to sack José Mourinho following a laughably bad series of results. Apologies for being blunt, and of course there are other factors to weigh up, but to me the situation is pretty simple: If you walk into a TV press conference and declare yourself "the special one", then you are nothing but a conceited c**t and it's only a matter of time before the door will smash you in the arse on the way out. I hope it smarts.
Wednesday 16th December
I was very sad indeed to switch on the PC and learn of the death of Vardis bassist Terry Horbury after a short battle with cancer, aged 65. I had made the pilgrimage to Newcastle for Vardis' comeback gig at Brofest in March of 2014, and along with my pal Paul Ging had supped some beers laughed a lot in the dressing room (Terry is on the right of my photograph). More recently, the band had just signed a new deal with SPV and Terry - previously a member of Dirty Tricks - and I saw them perform again at Bush Hall. Horbury played really well that night and was really getting a kick outta being back. Click here for further details. One thing's for damned sure: life is short, enjoy it while you can.
Okay, I really, really like Black Stone Cherry, don't get me wrong. I have seen them on each of their UK tours since 2007 (even as a support act, opening for Hinder at ULU!), but I'm not entirely sure that they will work as headliners of next year's Ramblin' Man Fair. Luckily, as I theorized a few days ago, the bill is pretty strong. Especially now that Airbourne, the Von Hertzen Brothers and Blurred Vision have all been added to the supporting cast.
Tuesday 15th December
The Linglets still snoring upstairs, I preceded the working day with a viewing of Horizon's special on Tim Peake, Britain's first astronaut, who takes off for the International Space Station in approximately two and a half hours. Truly fascinating and inspiring stuff.
Later on I took a break from the Dream Theater transcript to watch Peake blast off into space. It was even more moving than I'd expected. All those excited kids waving and shrieking at the Science Museum and a former member of Dare talking like a grown-up. I almost had to wipe away a tear when he waved and gave the thumbs up to the camera. There's only one song to play before I return to work. Fly safe, Tim.
Monday 14th December
Right... after the weekend's excess and excitement, it's back to reality... I'd better get on with the Dream Theater story for Prog Magazine. Those 3,000 words won't write themselves, will they? When the weather's this cold and I'm in interview transcript mode I find myself drinking twice as much tea as usual - probably something to do with relieving the sheer monotony of the process. I swear I've drunk 30 cups today... that cannot be healthy, can it? All of them supped from my beloved mug from the play-off victory over Shiteon.
Sunday 13th December
What a joy to watch this morning's repeat of Match Of The Day. Yesterday at Selhurst Yohan Cabaye's well taken 38th minute winner moved Palace to sixth in the Premier League table. Southampton are no mugs, and yet the Eagles beat them with a fair degree of ease. No doubt about it, Cabaye was pure class. I'm struggling to think of a better signing in the entire league. Watching him play in red & blue stripes is a joyous experience.
The celebrations continued long into the night. After some post-game beers in the Victory Club, Ed and I zoomed up to Charing Cross to meet birthday boy Jeff and his other half Phillippa, also the Crobeare (pictured with Ed). Seeking a decent lining for the stomach, Pizza Express at Trafalgar Square was our first port of call before, somewhat inevitably, we succumbed to the lure of the Cro. Our timing was absolutely perfect. As we walked up Charing Cross Road, my good friend Harj Kallah (also pictured) called to ask how long we'd be, and also what we were drinking? It's not every day you can place your order by phone and have it waiting as you pass across the threshold! Yup... it was quite a night!
Saturday 12th December
A long day of drinking beckons. Pre-match beverages before Palace-Southampton, followed by a trip to central London to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of my good buddy Jeff Gilbert. Some nosebag, and a probably tyrip to the Crobar - more than likely in the company of Eddie, though the lad has been made aware that he must behave himself or he'll be placed on the first train back to Catford. We shall see...
Friday 11th December
It's Friday, it's five o'clock... please, nobody shout 'Crackerjack'! While most of the music business seems to have gone AWOL I'm still likely to be here in 'work' mode for some further hours, adding the finishing touches to the very final Classic Rock news page of 2015 to the sound of a truly classic live album - 'World Wide Live', by those pesky Scorpions. Apologies if this Diary is beginning to turn into a commercial for the Scorps 50th anniversary re-issues, but the new edition adds a bonus DVD and 'making of' documentary. That's brilliant! I've never owned most of these albums on CD before until now, so I'm feeling a bit like a kiddie in a sweetshop.
Oh... hold on a minute, can somebody please answer me this: Why in God's name is Facebook sending me notifications of a tour from Gilbert bloody O'Sullivan in February 2016??!! I mean, when you start receiving those it's when you know you've advanced past the middle of the humpback bridge of life and dipped down onto its far, distant side...
Anyway, those news pages have been completed and sent, the Linglets are in bed; it's just me and the puddy tat say here watching Tyrant with a nice, well deserved glass of vino collapso.
Thursday 10th December
Dunno how I managed it but I'm home unscathed and at the relatively respectable hour of 9pm following this year's Christmas lunch, featuring most of the usual suspects: Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing, Steve Hammonds, David Gulvin, Cürt Evans and Andy Pearce. What a motley crew of fellow writers, record label peeps, designers and assorted layabouts, drunkards and ne'er do wells! However, somewhat disgracefully, John Dryland, Hugh Gilmore and Jonathan Richards both fell into the 'no show' category - especially shameful in Mr Dryland's instance as he was responsible for the organisation of the shindig! John's name was mud throughout the afternoon. Consensus was that he lied about having to attend a last minute business meeting, and that there was a female involved. Scoundrel!
I had experienced some scheduling issues of my own. My Dream Theater story is due to be delivered to Prog on Monday morning, and it's a sizeable little bugger. So, regrettably, I swerved the seasonal pre-meal Sambuca reception held at The Ship, and headed straight to the restaurant, Byron, on Charing Cross Road. I'd already decided to eat, stay off the grog and make my excuses as soon as possible but Prog editor Jerry Ewing ended up sat opposite me at the table and, in a rare display of seasonal goodwill, extended the Dream Theater deadline until Wednesday (only joking Mr Spewing!). Oh dear... so maybe a few drinks were possible after all. Ulp!
Wednesday 9th December
So you go to see the first band that you ever loved, whose 45s and albums were the ones on which you spent your pocket money. They play a mere bus ride away from where you live. And you get a name check from the stage (Andy Scott: "I've got a good friend and a good ally in the house tonight, Mr Dave Ling from Classic Rock magazine"). That's pretty cool I think. Guitarist Scott is the last original member in this line-up of the group (bassist Steve Priest still helms a rival, US-based incarnation, I believe), but the band does full justice to a batch of material that is, in a word, timeless. The show was a little shorter than Dartford where they also played 'The Six Teens', but here's the set-list: 'Action', 'New York Groove', 'Hellraiser', 'Peppermint Twist', 'Defender', 'Lady Starlight (Acoustic)', Acoustic Medley: 'Coco'/'Funny Funny'/'Poppa Joe', 'Teenage Rampage', Medley: 'Wigwam Bam'/'Little Willy', 'Love Is Like Oxygen' and 'Fox On The Run', with an encore of 'Blockbuster!' and 'The Ballroom Blitz'.
I'm not sold on the first headliner of Ramblin' Man Fair 2016 - Whitesnake. Hmmmm. The announcement stresses that Cov and company will be playing "a greatest hit set". Maybe the organisers are trying to reassure us that 'The Purple Album' won't be the main focus of proceedings. Not that I'll be watching them anyway. Not with so many other fine acts announced in the line-up's first trench: Procol Harum, Europe, Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Ginger Wildheart, King King, Walter Trout and Lifesigns... that's a pretty good start eh? But what a crying shame that it once again clashes with the Steelhouse Festival; how bloody stupid to have them both on the same date again.
Tuesday 8th December
Awwww, how lovely. The first xmas card of the year has arrived at Ling Towers, and it's from my old mate Paul Gillooly, accompanied by a scarf hand knitted by his missus, Anne. I have such wonderful friends. Paul has been a buddy of mine since we met at the Hammersmith Odeon queuing overnight for Quo tickets during the early 1980s.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Sweet again tonight, at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Having already caught a show from the current tour (see Diary, Monday 23rd November) I know what to expect - a selection of their classic hits from the 1970s and this brilliant, newly recorded, AOR-friendly track from their 2015 anthology, 'Action: The Ultimate Story'. Plus a few pre-shows ale and some vino with Paul Newcomb, Richard Thompson and Belinda Bullick. That'll do nicely, thanks very much.
Monday 7th December
I'm home from a laughter-filled later-afternoon exchange with Geddy Lee of Rush. He enjoyed telling me about the first time that he got drunk, in the company of Alex Lifeson ("All of the bad first things that happened to me were with Alex!") and drinking a concoction that the pair called 'Panther Piss'... I kid you not! "That's the best interview I've done today," Geddy smiled as I left the room. I didn't like to ask how many others there had been!
Having supped a bottle of wine on the train, I got back to Catford shortly after the KO between Everton and my beloved Eagles. Palace have had the upper hand in this fixture, winning it twice since our return to the top flight, and when defender Scott Dann - a Liverpool fan - evaded a static defence to nod in, I suspected that we might steal the points, despite overwhelming pressure from the home side. Alas, it wasn't to be, but a point apiece seemed fair from my (admittedly somewhat biased) perspective. And it also meant that my friendship with staunch Evertonian Colin Harkness of Spider would remain ongoing, hehehe.
Sunday 6th December
I absolutely hate doing my end of year accounts... especially over the course of a weekend. But I'm really enjoying the new, deluxe, re-mastered edition of 'Tokyo Tapes' by the Scorpions, which now comes with seven previously unreleased tracks including 'Hell Cat' and 'Catch Your Train'. I picked up the two pictured CDs up for a quid in Notting Hill Gate a few days ago after the Dream Theater interview. The 'best-of' the Moodies is pretty hands, and although I already owned all 15 of its tracks from the likes of Scorpions, Skid Row, White Lion, Damn Yankees, Heart, the Quireboys, Alias, Gary Moore, Warrant, Poison and Whitesnake, I'd never seen the 'Power Ballads' CD before (it's Swedish, released in 1991). Saved 'em both for today in a bid to sweeten my mood whilst in accounts mode.
And even though Palace didn't have a game - we play Everton away on Monday evening - how wonderful it was so begin my Sunday with Match Of The Day and an embarrassing defeat for Chelski at the hands of newly promoted Bournemouth. The winning goal was, of course, scored by former CPFC legend Glenn Murray.
I'm so very relieved that Noel Buckley and his paparazzi camera were not here in the Catford hood this afternoon. The sight of a red-faced gentleman in a Rush hoodie wrestling with a seven-foot Christmas tree in a variety of differing holds - over shoulder, under right arm, under left arm, supported by the spare shopping bag, dragging the thing along as though it were a canine, etc etc - up the hill from Tesco must have looked very, very comical indeed. I suspect I will be finding pine needles in my hair for weeks.
Saturday 5th December
Fish at the Assembly Hall on night #1 of a pair of shows in London – that was just awesome. There were some great solo tunes and a lengthy diatribe against terrorists before 'The Perception Of Johnny Punter', during which the big fella used a scarf to conceal his face hijab-like. Greeted by much amusement Fish then predicted that the following 50 mins ('Misplaced Childhood') would restore hair, reduce beer bellies and eradicate man-boobs. It didn't work... haha. A two-song encore of 'Market Square Hero' and 'The Company' was just what the doctor ordered, and it was great that Fish wore his Hibs scarf so proudly during 'Heart Of Lothian'.
I'd been dying to see the support act Lazuli, who played a great, largely vocal-free, set of tunes flavoured with an intoxicating mix of styles. The Frenchmen's daring sense of adventurism mixed and matched various genres and instruments, including world music percussion, xylophones, huge swathes of keys, tapboard guitar and... a flugelhorn?! Yes, a flugelhorn. Okay, now I've seen everything! I loved the evening so much that I might even try to go again tonight!
[Edit: Gah! My weekend's 'to-do' list is so bloody expansive, night #2 of Fish is simply outta the question. Here's what's on the agenda:
1) Shopping and laundry
2) Buy a Christmas tree (that'll take a second trip to the shops)
3) Review the new Dream Theater album for Metal Hammer (it's two hours long… gotta play it at least twice)
4) Laugh at the Shiteon, Clowntown and Scumwall results
5) Make a start on the dreaded tax return...
6) Go out for at least one park run
7) Fumigate the bathroom and shower… they're putrid. Ain't life great!!!]
Friday 4th December
Another day, another dead rock star. Nobody is really very surprised to learn that Scott Weiland has passed on. I interviewed Weiland just the once, for Metal Hammer in the summer of 2001, and he was every bit as fascinating as you'd expect. Here's the link. The fire brigade turned up in his hotel room, and during our chat he told me: "I drank alcohol from the age of 13, and I figured that it would probably catch up with me in my fifties or something… wrong!" Weiland was just 48 when he died, of as-yet unconfirmed causes. Later on I'm going to play Stone Temple Pilots' 'Purple' (on purple vinyl of course), the only album of Scott's that I can put hand on heart and say that I *really loved*, in honour of a troubled soul. May he rest in peace.
Yikes! I've been so busy in the wake of the Weiland news that I almost forgot to praise last night's Rock Goddess gig. I'd been more than a little disappointed by the gals' comeback appearance back in May, but a front of house sound-mix that was loud, proud 'n' crystal clear (and with none of those annoying pops from the PA), plus an improved set-list, combined to ensure triumph. And what a 'special guest' slot from Praying Mantis, topped off by the sheer genius of 'Children Of The Earth' and 'Captured City'. A fantastic night from two great bands, in the company of so many wonderful friends.
Thursday 3rd December
Wow... I'm not on Twitter and have no immediate plans to be so, but thanks very much John Harris of the Guardian who used the social media site to comment on my interview with Lemmy Kilmister in the latest Classic Rock.
"Dave Ling of @ClassicRockMag is a great interviewer: honest, empathetic. His i/v with Lemmy in new ish is brilliant."
How lovely, is that? #praisefromarealjournalist And further down the same page, Megadeth's Dave Mustaine writes: "I agree".
I couldn't resist interrupting my morning news surf to take a look this brilliant YouTube clip, spotted on the FB page of the mighty Thunderstick. Newly cleaned-up footage of Samson's semi-legendary mini-movie, Biceps Of Steel. Bruce Bruce (Dickinson)-era Samson were such a fantastic band with such underrated songs ('Fighting Man' and 'Vice Versa' appear here) and the tale's wonderfully absurd plot captures their wicked sense of humour to a tee. I really miss Paul and Chris, but especially Paul. Oh, and the Rainbow Theatre.
Wednesday 2nd December
My ears are still ringing from a night of classic heavy metal from Judas Priest and Michael Schenker at the Brixton Academy. Had I not seen and heard it with my own eyes and ears I'd never have believed the magnitude of what went down. Headliners Priest were magnificent, several timeless songs returned to the set-list and Rob Halford delivered the kind of vocal performance that I'd feared long-gone. I'm happy to admit I was so, so wrong. Read my full report here. Oh... and Scehnker's frontman Doogie White will be hearing from my lawyers for his somewhat cheeky introduction to 'Lord Of The Lost And Lonely': "This is a drinking song; some of the music press indulge in that, right Dave?"
Tuesday 1st December
I'm back at my desk after a productive morning spent interviewing three-fifths of the world's biggest prog-metal band, Dream Theater, about their upcoming (and utterly OTT!) new album, 'The Astonishing', for Prog magazine. My chat with the Three Js - from left, keysman Jordan Rudess, guitarist John Petrucci and singer James LaBrie - was the first the band had undertaken in promotion of said album. It was nice to get them fresh, before the answers become stock replies. Lots of laughter and smiles, too, I really enjoyed it.
There was just enough time for a sweep through the bargain racks at Notting Hill Gate's Record & Tape Exchange, to put down my bag and make a cuppa or two, and head out of the door again to the Brixton Academy for Judas Priest and Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock - if Carlsberg did the ideal working day, this one would be a pretty close contender.
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