CAPTAIN'S LOG, STAR DATE 12th JANUARY 2017
As you've come to my page I can only assume that you have some kind of interest in me and my life, so here goes…
It's a little after 6am and a couple of hours ago Bob The Dog awoke me through barking at foxes in the garden (again). In that annoying void between sleep and the subconscious analysis of various subjects, a thought struck me: It's about time you wrote something for the Diary.
Over the last several months I've received many emails, texts and friendly face to face enquiries at concerts all asking pretty much the same question – why don't I update my Diary more regularly? The answer is simple. As a divorced single father of two boys in their late teens and being solely responsible for a mortgage that sometimes caused problems for a married couple, paid work must be a priority.
I've lived hand-to-mouth for the last few years, increasingly so since taking on sole responsibility for the Linglets. The crash and burn of TeamRock Publishing, owners of Classic Rock, Prog and Metal Hammer – the magazines that provide a good 95% of my livelihood – has only served to smash a Death Star-sized hole in my already precarious finances. I won't tell you how much I am left out of pocket following the takeover by Future Publishing, but frankly it's terrifying. Now more than ever, as all the best game shows would say, it's a "life-changing amount of money."
In many ways I was lucky, of course. Unlike those yet to be re-employed I got my job back when the titles were saved a few days ago, but as the euphoria subsides I find myself wondering how much longer I can afford to do what I do as a profession. Only time will tell.
The bombshell exploded in the most dramatic fashion on December 19. I was at the Robin 2 in Bilston, just outside Wolverhampton, preparing to watch my boyhood heroes the Sweet, the band that turned me onto rock music in the first place. My pal Robert Corich and I had been invited to attend soundcheck and maybe go for a pint afterwards with Andy Scott. Suddenly, I received a text from my friend, publicist Kirsten Sprinks: "Dave, I'm so sorry to hear your news…". As I replied: "What news?" the phone rang and then began to buzz with an avalanche of texts. It's hard to describe the mix of bewilderment and sadness. As Andy Scott left the stage and extended his hand for a shake, I had to tell him: "Sorry if I'm not my usual self, I've had a bit of a shock". How immensely flattering that he would fire back with: "Okay, come and work for us… there's a lot happening for the band in 2017 – we need a publicist." PR is not really my thing, but how lovely that he would say such a thing.
Three or four songs into the show, Andy approached the mic and said: "I've been asked by quite a lot of people for us to heavy it up". [Loud cheers]. "So we're going to play three songs from 'Sweet Fanny Adams'. (Which they did - 'Set Me Free', 'Into The Night' and 'AC/DC'). But before doing so he took a few moments to explain what had happened, asking the crowd: "What on earth will we do without that magazine?" and requesting they give a round of applause to CR, and my good self. They did so - loudly. I almost blubbed.
Over the next few weeks, Ben from Orange Goblin's Justgiving campaign showed the true levels of affection for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. £80k raised?! And a benefit gig on top??!! That was shocking. That was beautiful. That was faith affirming. My only hope is that some of the cash donated will come my way as, technically speaking, I'm not a staff member, though I am a co-founder of CR who has put the last 19 years of his life into making the magazine a success. For a mere £800K, Future brought the same stable of titles they sold to TeamCock (minus Prog, which had yet to be launched) for £10.2 million in 2003. Someone somewhere has got very rich – or even richer still – thanks to all of this, and it sure as fuck ain't me.
Another small but amazing thing that came out of the meltdown was the Kerrang! guys inviting the TR peeps along to their Christmas party… how frickin' classy was that??!! Meanwhile, I carried on as though nothing had happened, arriving at my desk at 8am following the Wolverhampton trip like it was a normal day of work. It was the only way, but I felt a little like one of those Jap soldiers hiding out in the jungle, unaware that WWII had ended. Gradually, disbelief and denial and sadness gave way to a state of seething indignation. For 52 weeks of every year I had worked six or sometimes seven days a week on behalf of Classic Rock magazine... holidays at Ling Towers?! What were those? But it didn't really matter because I loved my vocation - it didn't even feel like a 'job' in the truest sense of the word. And there I was welling up whilst preparing my final invoice, knowing full well that it was unlikely to be paid.
It made me so furious. The printed magazines were very profitable but some fuckwit had chosen to gamble with all of that by throwing immense wads of cash at paid-for online content – a complete non-starter: for fuck's sake, people now think music is free! – and a radio station that refused to accept adverts, launching it against a seemingly unassailable brand leader in Planet Rock. Madness! And I wonder how many of those same people in suits had to sit their kids down over Christmas and warn them that 2017 could be a year of downsizing in pretty much every regard, including where they live?
The unexpected loss of another childhood icon, Rick Parfitt, on Christmas Eve of all days only served to amplify my misery. I would never claim a genuine friendship with Rick but over the decades we developed an enjoyable and (from my end, at least) priceless professional relationship. Parfitt often picked up the receiver and sang Chuck Berry's 'My Ding-A-Ling' when he knew that I would be calling for an interview. We had last spoken exactly two months before his passing and during our conversation he guffawed: "It'll take more than death to kill me" – in fact, he said it twice. Tantalisingly, I had Skyped with Alan Lancaster mere hours before Rick passed and the bassist had confirmed that the much-discussed project PLC (Parfitt-Lancaster-Coghlan) was no mere figment of anyone's imagination. Plans had been forging ahead: four songs were in a recordable state, a producer (John Eden) lined up and a possible studio location discussed. Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.
My immediate response to the news was to head to my office and crank up the 'Quo' album at offensively loud volume, knowing that it was one of Rick's all-time favourites. In an interview he gave me for the recent re-issue, his pride over its contents was unmistakable. "When we wrote that one, it sounded so, so heavy," he beamed of the track 'Drifting Away'. "That rhythm was constant, right in your face; it was just such a turn-on. That's where my head was at back then, you know, 'Just let it fucking rock'." And that's how I will always remember Ricky P.
On Christmas Day I was equally stunned to hear of the death of George Michael, another huge favourite of mine (I kid you not!). What else could the so-called holidays throw at me? That question was answered on New Year's Day when I tripped and turned my ankle on a hidden divot during a park run. It was agony and of course it meant that exercise of any real value is off the menu for quite a while.
Over in SE25, Palace got rid of Alan Pardew and replaced him with Big Fat Sam Allardyce. I was loyal to Supa Al to the very end, but something had to change. When people ask whether I'm happy with BFS's appointment the best response I can provide is: "I'll tell you at the end of the season, once we know whether or not he's kept Palace in the Premier League." With the group of players he inherited on paper it *should* be possible, but I find myself yearning for the days when the newly promoted Eagles had a bit of fight and spirit about them: the type of games in which we would bowl up to Anfield, upset the odds and piss all over Steven Gerrard's farewell cake, or cause the odious Suarez to blub by coming back from 3-0 down with minutes to go, only to secure a draw. The current team pales by comparison, and much of that is due to Pardew.
Oh, I forgot to mention one ray of sunshine. Great fun was had by Eddie and myself as we travelled to Bolton for the FA Cup Third round game, a fixture that saw the ever-awesome Julian Speroni break John Jackson's record of 388 appearances as the goalie of Crystal Palace FC. What a wonderful weekend – superb company, including a boozy catch-up with Nigel Roberts and my pal Colin Harkness of Spider, mega-cheap drinks and a 14-hour pub crawl, and a humdinger of a cup tie played out in the pissing rain during which Jules kept a clean sheet.
So there you have it. Update over and now my cuppa has gone stone cold. I'd like to say thanks for all of the messages of support and concern that were received via this page. Along with a tremendously exciting Wishbone Ash project, my role in the rebuilding of Classic Rock is gonna take some time and until then I've no alternative but to place the Diary page 'on hiatus', though rest assured when the dust settles, and so long as writing about music for a living remains even remotely financially viable, it will be back. Whatever happens, I will continue to update the Playlist and YouTube pages. Drop by again at the start of February, you may be surprised. Until then, look after yourselves. Recent events have made it abundantly clear: Enjoy life while it lasts!