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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Tuesday 31st July
Believe me, I'd hoped that Michael Schenker would pull himself together for last night's gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. Alas, due to the venue's pre-entry queues his set had begun by the time I got in to see the show. The first sight that greeted me was Michael on his knees. "Oh shit", was my first thought. In fact, he played marginally better than at Pentrich (see July 29). Dispensing with keyboards, the band tried vainly to cover the fact that Michael was incapable of the fluid solos that have become his trademark. The intent was there, and at the show's end you could sense his frustration, but for the most part what Schenker regaled us with was open chords and random noise.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, the Scorpions were utterly superb, extending the set they played at Pentrich to just under two and a half hours of near-perfection (can anyone really claim to have enjoyed those bass and drum solos?) As Metal Hammer features ed Alex Milas gushed in this morning's email: "I nearly wept with joy at 'The Zoo' and it just got better from there." 'Dark Lady' was added to the section featuring Uli Jon Roth, and although 'Make It Real' got dropped, 'Deep And Dark', 'Blackout' and 'Wind Of Change' were all added. Then Uli returned for 'In Trance', hanging around as the show ended with a seemingly-spontaneous 'When The Smoke Is Coming Down' - a track from the 'Blackout' album which of course he didn't even appear on.
Incidentally, some objected to my suggestion that Matthias Jabs was "relegated to bit-part player" during the Rock & Blues show. I wasn't intending to denigrate Jabs, who is a fine musician and in my experience a pleasant and witty fellow away from the stage (for a German, at least), but to point out the disparity between the Roth-styled material and the band's MTV hits. In last month's Classic Rock, Matthias voiced his doubts regarding the "history lesson" of playing again with Uli, and even at Hammersmith the likes of 'We'll Burn The Sky' caused people to either punch the air with delight or scratch their heads and disappear to the bar. Make no mistake, as someone that wore out a vinyl copy of 'The Tokyo Tapes' during his teenaged years, I'm in the former category. To be honest, Jabs' disinterested body language did its own talking.
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Monday 30th July
Hadn't seen Sacred Reich onstage for what seemed like an enternity, probably because the thrashers from Phoenix, Arizona, have lain dormant for the past eight years. Band leader and bassist Phil Rind has grown up - and outwards - since our paths last crossed, though he remains a thoroughly likable frontman. "We're all getting older so be careful down there in the pit," Rind told the cluster of fans at the front of the Scala's stage. "My wife is a nurse so believe me, when you fall down at 20 you get up. But fall in the pit at 40 and you go to the hospital." The venue is far from sold out. It's a shame, as songs like 'The American Way' haven't dated musically, and of course are more lyrically telling than ever. Explaining the fact that they're unlikely to make a new album, Rind told us: "We're here to make you feel like you did when you were 17 or 18", and blow me down if they didn't come close to achieving that goal. Aside from the cream of platters like 'Ignorance' (1987), 'Surf Nicaragua' (1988) and 'The American Way' (1990), we got a monstrous rendition of Sabbath's 'War Pigs'. With tongue in cheek, 'One Nation', a song that SR guitarist Wiley Arnett and drummer Greg Hall re-recorded with Max Cavalera, was pithily introduced as "a Soufly cover". Here's the full set-list: 'The American Way', 'Administrative Decisions', 'Violent Solutions', 'Love... Hate', 'Ignorance', 'Crimes Against Humanity', 'Who's To Blame', 'State Of Emergency', 'One Nation', 'Independent', 'War Pigs', 'Death Squad' and 'Surf Nicaragua'.
P.S. During Sacred Reich's performance I received several texts indicating that Michael Schenker had let himself down again, this time at Manchester Apollo, scene of his now legendary implosion with UFO in November 2000. Somebody needs to remove Michael from the Scorpions tour - NOW.

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Sunday 29th July
Just home from the Rock & Blues Custom Show in Pentrich, where the best and worst of the Schenker family was displayed. Regardless of the falling rain, the Scorpions played a blinder as last night's headliners and I finally got to see Uli Jon Roth onstage with the band, running through four songs - 'Pictured Life', 'Speedy's Coming', 'We'll Burn The Sky' and 'Fly To The Rainbow'. What an awesome experience. To be honest, I felt a little sorry for Matthias Jabs, who despite doing an excellent job for the Scorps for so many years suddenly found himself relegated to bit-part player. But anyway, here's the full set-list: 'Hour 1', 'Bad Boys Running Wild', 'Love 'Em Or Leave 'Em', 'The Zoo', 'Coast To Coast', 'Holiday', 'Humanity', 'Leaving You', 'Make It Real', 'Pictured Life', 'Speedy's Coming', 'We'll Burn The Sky', 'Fly To The Rainbow', 'Tease Me, Please Me', '321', 'Big City Nights', 'Dynamite', 'Still Loving You' and 'Rock You Like A Hurricane'.
Compared to his elder sibling, who threw shapes and played the rock star to absolute perfection, Michael Schenker was an utter disgrace. He'd turned up at the site mid-morning with a bottle of Courvoisier cognac inside him. After an altercation during the soundcheck, Schenker threw his guitar across the stage, and tried to hurt the agent who'd booked him for the show, before threatening not to perform. The rest of the day was spent in his portacabin, attempting to sleep things off. It didn't work. Excuse the language, but Schenker played like a complete c**t. Looking visibly glazed, he could scarely walk let alone play guitar. After 45 minutes of his alotted 90, having been booed and jeered throughout, Michael stumbled into the wings to the strains of the footie chant, "You're shit and you know you are". Then, incredibly, he returned. There was a momentary improvement, but any thoughts that Schenker might get out of jail were rudely shot down during the ensuing half-hour. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is fucking improvised but we do the best we can, okay?" slurred Michael before UFO's 'Too Hot To Handle' - a song he must've played a hundred thousand times before, the simple riff to which had suddenly become infinitely beyond his grasp. Believe me, the song 'On And On' had never felt more appropriate. I'm told that once it was all over, Michael and his brother Rudolf came to blows and the pair had to be separated by security. The word 'pathetic' doesn't even begin to cover it. It'll be interesting to see whether he makes it to Manchester or Hammersmith.
Earlier in the day UK hard rockers Burn had turned in a very enjoyable mid-afteroon set. With their new singer Simon Hall, The Handsome Beasts deliver a roundly enjoyable 45 minutes of their own and Bernie Tormé and John McCoy's band GMT lived up to the promise of their splendid debut album, 'Bitter And Twisted'. Regrettably, though, Michael Schenker's infantile and irresponsible behaviour cast a very long shadow indeed. I do hope that he can sort himself out, though it's looking highly unlikely. How many more chances does the bugger need?
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Thursday 26th July
Preceding a new Monster Magnet album called '4-Way Diablo', which arrives through SPV on November 5, this morning was spent transcribing a great interview with Dave Wyndorf. The guitarist/singer is well known for his fondless of pharmaceuticals, so it was interesting that we discussed the occasion on which an overdose on prescription drugs almost killed him on 27th February, 2006. "It had been a long time coming," recounts Wyndorf. "Eveything began when I couldn't sleep on tour, so the doctors gave me something that would put down a wild animal. This was an anti-anxiety drug; the stuff that airline pilots and astronauts use. I was doing a lot of transatlantic flying, and on a plane one day I just started gobbling them down. All of my paranoias came at me like a giant, three-headed beast. My biggest mistake was not asking for help. The things are supposed to clear your mind before you go to sleep. They wipe out all the worries and concerns you might have, but what I didn't understand is that it's like a computer..."
...Everything just re-boots when you switch on again? "Exactly. The problems are not deleted, in fact they get magnified by ten. It was fucking horrible. I was utterly powerless, on a slipperly slope. I don't recall doing it but on the day concerned I took the whole Goddamn bottle - a hundred pills, man, just like they were a shot glass - and the next thing I knew, I woke up in a fucking loony bin."
Having sampled their upside and downside, even forged a career spent singing about them, Wyndorf is in a pretty unique position to talk about drugs. "They're supposedly a gateway into creativity," he muses. "And you know what? It's all a myth. They suck, and they'll get you in the end. They certainly got me."
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Wednesday 25th July
Gene $immons has shot down those rumours that he will be a contestant in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Fair enough. So for now, the venomous huntsman spider's position as king of the creepy-crawlies remains secure, and kangaroo bollocks will continue to be the most unpalatable dish out there. But I'm sure that Gene's offer of a masterclass in sliminess to all of the Australian jungle's snakes still stands.
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Tuesday 24th July
It's Kelly Johnson's funeral this afternoon. Sat at the computer from 7am till 9pm last night, also for most of the past weekend, in an attempt to free up some time, but with both the mags that employ me (Classic Rock and the Hammer) going to press simultaneously it's looking impossible. How bloody annoying. Will probably have to crack open a bottle of something strong instead. And lookee here, Don Arden, the fearsome former manager of Black Sabbath, the Small Faces and the Electric Light Orchestra among others has also passed on last weekend, at the ripe old age of 81.
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Sunday 22nd July
Fascinating gossip over at Billboard's website suggests that Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck are to join bassist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty as The Yardbirds for an Autumn tour of the US (no sign of Clapton, though). Sounds like Robert Plant has made his mind up once and for all about the mooted Zeppelin reunion, and it cannot possibly be good news.
Tigertailz and not Tesla will be play with Y&T on the latter's eight-date UK tour in October and November. So long as Tesla do a few shows other than the Hard Rock Hell shebang at Butlins in Minehead, I can live with that. In fact, I've just been playing a promo of the 'Tailz's 'Thrill Pistol' (due August 27); not too shabby at all. Y&T's live DVD/CD package 'One Hot Night' is here, too, and it looks and sounds great. Shame that the band had colds on the night concerned, you can hear it a little in Dave Meniketti's voice.
P.S. The loathsome Gene $immons has apparently signed on for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Good excuse for the Kiss bassist to invest in a nice new waterproof wig. I'm looking forward to the scene in which $immons is locked in a coffin, and when Ant 'n' Dec open it up the deadly animals that he's shared it with have all dozed off at his talk of Swiss bank accounts and how they are lucky to share his oxygen.
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Saturday 21st July
The brevity of Thursday's Gregg Allman gig had one good consequence, for myself at least. I arrived home in Catford to take a midnight phone call from Def Leppard's Rick Savage. Though out on a US arena tour with Styx, the bassist happily spoke about the band's forthcoming album, tentatively titled 'Sparkle Lounge' after a backstage social room they used each night on their last tour. The album is an eighty per cent state of completion, and as has been widely reported they've sent off some half-finished material to former producer 'Mutt' Lange to work his magic on. Unfortunately, Savage was uncertain as to whether or not Lange will be able to complete his side of the deal in time for their deadline. "Depending on how fast he gets them back to us, they'll end up being used on this album, or the next one," explains Rick, who says of the record's direction: "Sonics-wise, it's like 'High 'N' Dry', because it has lots of rock energy, though the songs are more sophisticated; 'Hysteria' would be the closest comparison." Sounds mouth-watering.
On the flipside, it's gutting to learn that the upcoming tour from Harem Scarem is going to be the Canadian group's swansong, though it seems that one further album will be made. Yet another good reason, as if one were required, to be at the Firefest on October 27.
The new issue of Classic Rock just dropped onto the mat. It's a shame that one of the best quotes from my Towers Of London interview ended up on the cutting room floor. Rather than waste it, think I'll just light the blue touch paper and stand well back. When I reminded lead guitarist The Rev that the Towers had declined the challenge of a charity boxing match from the Cockney Rejects, he boasted: "Those guys are old enough to be my dad. It'd be like getting in the ring with your father. Send their sons along if they've got any, we'll fight them instead." Three weeks later, with the story about to be published, The Rev and drummer Snell both left the band. Sheer coincidence, or the sound of somebody realising that their BUPA health insurance contributions aren't up to date?
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Friday 20th July
Well, it'd been 12 long years since I was fortunate enough to catch the Allman Brothers at the Greek Theatre during a work trip to Los Angeles (an interview with Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon, to be precise). Unless I'm mistaken the Brothers haven't deigned to set foot on a UK stage since Hammersmith Odeon in June 1991, so there was no way I'd miss Gregg Allman's stop-off at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. Kicking off with the title cut of 1987's 'I'm No Angel' was cool, as was following it with the next album's namesake, 'Just Before The Bullets Fly'. Various fan forums suggest that Gregg had "throat problems", which might explain the occasional dip in volume of what he sang, also his restraint from the high notes in 'Midnight Rider', but the 59-year-old still has a voice as sweet as molasses, and a cool ponytail to match. Barely 90 minutes long (boo, hiss!), the set included some fairly radical re-workings of ABB standards, including 'Dreams I'll Never See' (once covered by Molly Hatchet, of course), 'Melissa' and an unusually brief encore of 'Whipping Post', though to be frank the excitement levels dropped when percussionist Floyd Miles stepped up to the mic for 'You Must Be Crazy' and 'Back To Daytona'. Anyway, fingers and toes are now firmly crossed that the success of last night's show could bring the Brothers back here next summer. Here's what Gregg and friends played: 'I'm No Angel', 'Just Before The Bullets Fly', 'House Of Blues', 'You Must Be Crazy', 'Dreams I'll never See', 'Key To The Highway', 'Turn On Your Lovelight', 'Multi-Colored Lady', 'Can't Turn You Loose', 'Melissa', 'Back To Daytona', 'Midnight Rider', 'Statesboro Blues' and 'Whipping Post'.
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Tuesday 17th July
Just got off the phone with Mick Box of Uriah Heep, still displaying a nervous twitch at the mention of Sunday's appearance at Guilfest. He agrees that the sound didn't project beyond the first five rows, and because of various equipment problems and a shortened set, "It was a tough ol' gig to get through". Having played to 20,000 people in the Czech Republic the night before it was a rather sobering experience - probably why Mick admits feeling compelled to "hit the brandy" afterwards.
Equally disappointing, I'm sorry to report that guitarist Simon Lees has left Budgie on the eve of their first ever Australian tour, in order to concentrate on teaching guitar and various solo projects. Lees played manfully during his tenure with the Welsh rockers, so his flight from the group is a significant setback. However, bassist/vocalist Burke Shelley and drummer Steve Williams are sworn to continue and currently seek a replacement. Drop 'em a line here if you reckon you've got what it takes. Burke recently told me that he and former guitarist Tony Bourge are compiling bonus material for an expanded re-issue of Budgie's 1978 album, 'Impeccable'. There's lovely.
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Monday 16th July
Ever had 24 hours when you should've just stayed in bed? That's what happened to me yesterday. I'd been looking forward to seeing Uriah Heep introduce their new drummer Russell Gilbrook at Guilfest, an open-air concert right on the boundaries of what can be considered as London. The morning was warm and sticky, and as I left home after lunch the missus advised me: "Don't catch too much sun". Famous last words. The skies darkened and after having changed trains at Waterloo the heavens opened. Thankfully, although it remained overcast the weather held out for the rest of the day. That would be the least of my problems.
Pimms o'clock came and went at tea-time, after which Orange Goblin put on an above average display in one of the offshoot tents. Awaiting Heep's arrival I happened to catch the tail-end of a band called Duke Special, who I'll definitely make a point of seeing again.
Mick Box and company were due to take the stage at 9pm and play for an hour, with a strict 10pm curfew. But roadies were still dashing around and checking the gear at 9.15pm. When Heep did burst into action with 'So Tired' and 'Cry Freedom', to my utter dismay Bernie Shaw's voice was almost completely lost in the mix. I waited for improvement, but it never came. Winding things up with 'Sunrise', 'Gypsy', 'Look At Yourself', 'July Morning' and an encore of 'Easy Livin'', the band's nine-song set was strung out to 50 minutes, but despite an energetic and skilful display from Gilbrook, it turned out to be the most unsatisfying display I've seen from the group in 27 years of following their career.
Worse was to come. I virtually shat myself when, bowling up to London Road station for a train home, it became evident that engineering work had closed the line. Then, after a hasty taxi ride to Guildford's central station, I discovered that my mobile phone had slipped out of my pocket. And upon switching on the PC to begin work this morning, the previous afternoon's rain had seeped in through the office window and f**ked my computer. No email or web access - aaargh!
Relating my troubles to Metal Hammer's Alex Burrows, he chuckled and predicted: "These things always come in threes. Prepare for another disaster." Three hours later, that's exactly what happened. An upset-sounding Kim McAuliffe from Girlschool called to inform me that Kelly Johnson, the band's ex-guitarist, passed away late last night (Sunday). Kelly had been battling cancer of the spine for more than five years. I didn't know her anywhere near as well as the other members of Girlschool, but as a pimply young headbanger her photo consistently adorned my wall and I saw her perform live with the band many, many times. I'll be raising a glass in Miss Johnson's honour this evening.
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Sunday 15th July
With Mrs L and the Linglets away at our caravan by the seaside, how better to pass a solo-flying Saturday than a record fair, a pre-season friendly and a show from the mighty Gov't Mule? Alas, the record fair wasn't as productive as hoped; the handful of items I picked up including 'We Have Ways To Make You Rock', a blackmailably cheese-tastic slab of mid-80s vinyl from Dutch rockers Vengeance, whose ranks included Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon/Star One/Stream Of Passion fame.
Equally depressing, an almost full-strength Crystal Palace side were bloody fortunate to scrape a 2-2 draw from the trip to non-league Bromley, Stuart Green's last-gasp angled drive saving the visitors' blushes. On this evidence, it'll be another long and trying ol' season for the Eagles of Selhurst.
And talking of 'long', Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes and his group Gov't Mule seemed to throw many fans a curveball with a prompt 7pm start, playing through until just before 10pm (save for a brief interval). Excitement built as the Mean Fiddler slowly filled to capacity, and I was ecstatic that they wound up their first set with my favourite Mule track, 'Thorazine Shuffle'. Conversely, the liberal doses of reggae and a 10-minute drum solo from Matt Abts were less easy to stomach. However, in pure value for money terms alone, this marathon show was difficult to beat. Wonder how it'll compare to Gregg Allman's date in Shepherd's Bush on Thursday?
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Wednesday 11th July
For the past several days I've been getting to grips with an advance promo of Nightwish's 'Dark Passion Play' album (due via Nuclear Blast on October 1). Like many, I'd resigned myself to the fact that they wouldn't be anywhere near as good after the controversial sacking of operatically trained singer Tarja Turunen. Well, I needn't have worried. Almost without exception, the songs are absolutely spellbinding and new addition Anette Olzon delivers them to wondrous perfection, albeit a little less flamboyantly than her predecessor.
Still with Nightwish, I reviewed an official book, Once Upon A Nightwish (written by Finnish journo by Mape Ollila), in the issue of Classic Rock that's just gone to press. Apart from making public the open letter that they presented to Turunen at the conclusion of their last world tour, the group have done their best to maintain a dignified silence concerning the reasons for the line-up change. The book lays bare many of the gory details.
When I interviewed Turunen for Metal Hammer during the campaign for the 'Once' album, Tarja made a point of declaring: "I am not a diva". And yet, that's exactly how Nightwish and Ollila portray the singer, with considerable help from her Agentinian husband/manager Marcelo, who stands accused of demanding extra money from promoters - often resulting in cancelled shows - and propagating the sinister wall of silence that eventually tore Nightwish asunder. Besides claiming that a solo deal was negotiated in secret before she was sacked, it's even alleged that Turunen's unreasonable demands stretched to being presented with an expensive bouquet of flowers before a gig in Bucharest by the city's mayor (who sensibly told her and Marcelo where to get off). It's clear that blame lies with both sides of the dispute, though it's hard to feel any real sympathy for the increasingly corrupted Turunen. If you're a Nightwish fan, the book's a definite 'must-read'.
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Tuesday 10th July
My friend John Dryland has sent a few blackmail piccies from UFO's festival gig in Chepstow (see July 2 entry). The first is of myself enjoying a small post-gig tipple with Monsewer Mogg. Mr Dryland and myself hadn't been drinking - honest. And here's eldest son Eddie posing with Mr Parker, and avoiding the teeming rain in the merch tent with a couple of fellow redheads. They'd be great memories... if only I could remember them.
This morning's 'in' box contained an MP3 of 'Rose Today', the first single from Alter Bridge's new album, 'Blackbird', which is scheduled for late October. It's darned good stuff. Spoke to guitarist guitarist Mark Tremonti last week, who says the new album is heavier and contains more songs than their 2004 debut, 'One Day Remains'. The band might be playing a low-key club date in London during September, ahead of a full British tour in early 2008. Alter Bridge are one of my favourite bands, it's terrific that they'll soon be back in action again.
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Monday 9th July
Three cheers for Lars Ulrich. I was scheduled to do an interview with the Danish drummer before yesterday's Metallica show at Wembley Stadium, but for a variety of reasons my allotted time got cut drastically short. With editorial space put aside and the presses due to roll this evening, Ulrich took my business card and promised to ring and complete the conversation this morning. Well, he was as good as his word, spilling the beans on the band's forthcoming album ("Kirk Hammett's returned to full-time employment. There will be plenty of guitar solos"), addressing Kerry King's accusation that the Some Kind Of Monster movie made the band look like "fragile old men" and revealing how their next tour itinerary "won't be quite as nutty as before".
Speaking as something of a lapsed Metallica fan, their Wembley peformance was a gazillion times better than I'd feared. Watching from the Stadium's spanking new, state-of-the-art press box enclosure, the sound was crisp, musical and satisfyingly loud, and save for the irritating bouts of noodling that separated the songs it was hard to find any real fault with the group's two hours and 20-minute performance. With his slicked-back hair and pointy grey beard, a fired-up James Hetfield looked like the demented bastard offspring of ZZ Top's Bill Gibbons and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats. Watching 60,000-odd fans completely losing it to opener 'Creeping Death' was an incredible spectacle, and any band that pulls out a song like 'Disposable Heroes' (from 'Master Of Puppets') when you least expect it is onto a winner. Even 'The Memory Remains', from the mediocre 'Re-Load', failed to be a banana skin, the audience continuing to bellow out the section originally sung by Marianne Faithful for a full minute after the song had finished. "That, my friends, is why we do what we do," grinned Hetfield. Check out the set-list.
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Sunday 8th July
Even though I was down to review the show, getting hold of a ticket for last night's Steely Dan gig presented mighty problems. Sure enough, the Hammersmith Apollo was rammed to the rafters. With admission costing a cool fifty quid, the group could've hung around for a whole lot longer - on this stage seven years ago their two-set show ran for more than two hours - though there was little complaint about what they chose to serve up. Just two tracks from their recent catalogue were aired; 'Godwhacker' from 2003's 'Everything Must Go' and the title cut of the album before, 'Two Against Nature'. Naturally, the 'Aja' album was heavily featured ('Peg', 'Home At Last', 'Josie' and 'Aja' itself), as was 'The Royal Scam' ('Hiatian Divorce', 'Green Earrings' and 'Kid Charlemagne'). 'Gaucho' threw forth opener 'Time Out Of Mind' and 'Hey Ninteen', with 'Katy Lied' being plundered for 'Bad Sneakers' and 'Chain Lighting'. The 'Can't Buy A Thrill' track 'Dirty Work' was largely sung by the female backing vocalists, which was disappointing. And talking of singing, I'm pleased to report that Donald Fagen still has a voice as lived-in and comfortable as a favourite slipper. Sadly, a croaky attempt at 'Hiatian Divorce' reveals why Walter Becker sticks mostly to the guitar these days.
Encores of 'FM', from the 1978 movie soundtrack of the same name, and 'Countdown To Ecstasy's 'My Old School' got the Apollo on its feet and whooping its approval, though it would've been nice to have heard 'Black Cow', 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number', 'Babylon Sister', 'Do It Again', 'Bodhisattva' and the rarely performed 'Reelin' In The Years', which features Jimmy Page's favourite guitar solo of all time.

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Saturday 7th July
Well, knock me down with a feather. Michael Schenker's remaining US tour dates appear to have been placed "on hold". A little birdie tells me that it might not necessarily be Schenker's fault this time, but due to his so-called support mechanism. Even so, wonder if it'll affect the upcoming UK shows? Yesterday I did a great interview with Budgie's Burke Shelley. Burke's always good value for money, and above all refreshingly honest. The bassist/vocalist told me how Lars Ulrich from Metallica used to ring up and ask to produce the band's albums, though the offers were declined. "Well, he's a drummer, isn't he?" When I asked why he put the band back together at the end of the last century, Shelley's reply was instant. "I was broke". If only everyone was so candid!
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Friday 6th July
My PC virus trauma had generated a terrible thirst, so I headed off to Camden to see Obituary and Onslaught. What a frigging great double bill. The Underworld was rammed to capacity, with 100 on the guestlist. But it wasn't the cramped conditions or excessive heat that wound me up the most. Oh no.
Some people were standing there and smoking, as if they hadn't heard of the ban that came into force five days ago. Other less daring punters were more clandestine, sneakily visiting the toilets and generating puffs of smoke from under the door. For crying out loud... it's like being back behind the
bikesheds at school again. Grow up!!
Despite a disappointing live sound, Onslaught used their 40 minutes well. The excellent new 'Killing Peace' album was well represented as usual, and the place went suitably mad. With ex-Iced Earth/Dearth guitarist Ralph Santolla replacing the incarcerated Allen West, Floridian death-heads
Obituary previewed several tracks from the forthcoming 'Xecutioner's Return' album. For one terrible moment I thought they were going to overlook the title cut of their 1989 debut, 'Slowly We Rot'. Fortunately it was slotted in as the last track, though the show's late ending of 11.35pm caused me to
catch the milk train home, surrounded by all the other grinning drunks. Oh well, at least nobody tried to smoke in my carriage.
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Thursday 5th July
Yesterday afternoon saw my second rendez-vous with Roger Hodgson in 24 hours, this time a grilling for an EPK (electronic press kit) to promote his latest DVD, 'Take The Long Way Home - Live In Montreal'. It was another enjoyable interview, even though I had to repeat many of the same questions from the day before. Presented Roger with a spare copy of Porcupine Tree's 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' that I had lying around. If Hodgson appears on the next PT opus, I'll be claiming a commission. This is becoming a habit (for anyone who doesn't know, I helped to put Steven Wilson in contact with Alex Lifeson for his guest spot on the song 'Anesthetize').
My PC has just frozen up due to one of those detestable viruses - Grrrrrrr. Just what I need during a Classic Rock news deadline week. If I could find which ever twisted individial spends their time inventing these pointless, sadistic programs I'd force-feed them their own testicles.
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Wednesday 4th July
Dear oh dear. I've just sat through Velvet Revolver's long-awaited second album, 'Libertad'. What a dreary and inconsequential collection of songs. 2004's 'Contraband' had its moments, but this is just Yawnsville. Picking myself up off the floor, I boarded a train to central London for an interview with Roger Hodgson. I'm at a loss to know why the Californian-based ex-Supertramp frontman/keyboard player, who appeared at the weekend's Princess Diana memorial gig, seems to have a rep as a difficult interviewee. I got on well with him from the off. How nice it is when someone takes an interest in what you have to say instead of treating you as just another cog of the fast-mving conveyor belt that we're both stuck with. Hodgson wanted to know who my favourite groups were, which young acts were up 'n' coming, and a lot more besides. I was glad to recommend Porcupine Tree in both categories. Roger wrote down the name and said he'd definitely check them out. However, he lost brownie points for claiming to be support his hometown footie club, Portsmouth, without knowing that they currently play in the Premier League. Hmmm... is there any such thing as an inverted gloryhunter?

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Tuesday 3rd July
A couple of interesting new shows have been announced. Grammy-nominated John Parr, he of 'St Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)' fame, returns from the wilderness to play the Shepherds Bush Empire on November 23. His 'John Parr' and 'Running The Endless Mile' albums from 1984 and 1986 are big favourites at Ling Towers, so I won't be missing that one. British fans will also get to see the new-look Candlemass in November when the Swedish doom-meisters introduce new singer Robert Lowe (also a member of Solitude Aeturnus). "Great", I thought, opening the diary to jot down the date at London's Dingwalls, then realised that it clashes with England's vital Euro Championship showdown with Russia. How friggin' annoying!
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Monday 2nd July
Awoke on my birthday in a strange bed, covered in mud and impaired by the hangover from hell. What the devil happened last night? Oh, I know. Along with John Dryland from Cargo Records and eldest son Eddie, I went to see UFO at Chepstow Castle. Had a few glasses of lemonade (cough). Sadly, the weather was determined to screw up an otherwise excellent day. Having flitted between torrential downpours and overcast murkiness, the heavens opened just as UFO took to the stage. Serves me right for laughing at all those trendy wankers at Glastonbury, I suppose. On a more positive note, Dryland slipped and fell down a muddy bank of grass as we arrived at the site, causing much hilarity. However, it was well worth the long haul from London to Wales. We'd filled the bath in John's hotel room with two cases of cider, bottles of vodka and wine, and some diet Coke. After being joined by the ubiquitous Batttttty there was very little of it left by sun-up.
Two studio albums in, UFO have really found their stride with guitarist Vinnie Moore. Phil Mogg's between-song banter was worth the price of admission on its own, though he forgot some of the lyrics to 'Lettin' Go', which was newly returned to the show. As stellar as the 'Strangers In The Night'-based set they've played of late is, adding more material from the 'Tonka' Chapman era would perhaps introduce a little extra vitality. How about 'No Place To Run', 'Long Gone', 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent', 'We Belong To The Night', 'Blinded By A Lie' or even the brilliant 'Profession Of Violence', chaps? Hope I didn't bend the guys' ears too much about this subject after the gig. The clock was ticking towards midnight and I'm afraid I don't recall a great deal of the conversation that ensued in the dressing room. Anyway, it was yet another great night from one of the most entertaining bands gracing the circuit. Here's the set-list: 'Mother Mary', 'Lettin' Go', 'Daylight Goes To Town', 'Let It Roll', 'This Kids', 'I'm A Loser', 'Hard Being Me', 'Baby Blue', 'Only You Can Rock Me', 'Fighting Man', 'Love To Love', ' Too Hot To Handle', 'Lights Out', 'Rock Bottom' and 'Doctor Doctor'.
P.S. Thanks to my sons Eddie and Arnie for my birthday pressie: a two-disc CD called 'Kiss Gold'. All the best bits of their career, including solo tracks, right up until 1982, when they started to go off the boil. Awesome!