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)

Back to the Diary Archives

Sunday 31st July
The sun is setting after another scorching hot day in south London. With the rest of Clan Ling at a christening up in Manchester I’ve been here alone, and my weekend is effectively done. So let’s see… how many of my goals did I achieve? Mow the lawns at the front and back of the house? Tick. Catch up on loads of crap TV that had accumulated on the Sky+ over the past fortnight? Tick. Eat healthily? Tick. Go running? Tick (twice, in fact). Refrain from drinking? Well, kinda… though I did sink some voddie and Diet Cokes a few in the Crobar on Friday nite. Walk Bob The Dog? Tick. Watch England take the upper hand in the Second Test? Tick (what a nice sporting gesture of India’s captain Dhoni to reinstate Bell after his controversial run-out). Do the laundry and get it dried? Check. Dig out a load of my old Machine Head interviews from a huge pile of copies of RAW Magazine? Check. Review the new Dream Theater album, ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’, for Metal Hammer? Um… no. Didn’t quite manage that last one. So I must prepare an early alarm call…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 29th January
My neck aches and I’ve got a hangover. Last night Status Quo played at the Greenwich Summer Sessions, an outdoor show in gloriously idyllic weather at the Old Royal Naval College. It was good to catch up with my friend Steve O’Connell over a few pre-gig jars; I was on the Pimms – a lovely summer tipple. Promoting their rockiest album in many a long year, ‘Quid Pro Quo’, the band put on a fabulous, energetic and enthusiastic display… I can’t recall the last time I saw Rick Parfitt grin so much during a Quo gig. The three new tracks (‘Rock ‘N’ Roll And You’, ‘Two Way Traffic’ and ‘Let’s Rock’) were a good fit in a lively and engaging set. I could’ve done without the drum solo and ‘In The Army Now’, but ‘Living On Island’ is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, and at least they didn’t play ‘Bu***ng Br***es’. In fact, I interpreted the decision to encore with a ‘Creepin’ Up On You’, a gritty, Parfitt-voiced rocker from ‘Heavy Traffic’, as something of a statement of intent. If there’s a High Voltage Festival next year, on such revitalised form Quo must deserve a place on its bill. Check out the set-list: ‘Caroline’, ‘Somethin’ ’Bout You Baby I Like’, ‘Rain’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll And You’, Medley: ‘Mean Girl’/‘Softer Ride’/‘Beginning Of The End’, ‘Two Way Traffic’, Medley: ‘What You’re Proposin’’/‘Down The Dustpipe’/‘Little Lady’/‘Red Skies’/‘Dear John’/‘Big Fat Mama’, ‘The Oriental’, ‘Let’s Rock’, ‘Living On An Island’, ‘In The Army Now’, Drum Solo, ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rocking All Over The World’, with an encore of ‘Creepin’ Up On You’ and Medley: ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Music’/‘Bye Bye Johnny’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 28th July
My pal Steve ‘No Relation’ Way was outta town for last night’s Eagles Fitter Fans session. I was a bit wary of going along alone, but I’m glad that I did so. In the most challenging session so far – this was Week Five; the weigh-in confirmed I’d shed another 1lb (despite a weekend of excess at High Voltage) – there was some keepball and circuit training. The sweat was quite literally pouring off me; I pitied my fellow passengers on the 75 bus back to Catford. Never thought I’d say it but I am **loving** all of this exercise…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 27th July
Although it was broadcast a few days ago I’ve only just had the time to watch Gene $immons getting dumped off Celebrity Apprentice USA. For the second week in a row, $immons decided against attending the briefing by the client, relying instead on his own God-given intuition. Yes, you guessed it… Gene told Donald Trump – the only man in the northern hemisphere with a more embarrassing hairstyle than the God Of Blunder – that the boss of Kodak was “wrong” when his campaign floundered. By the end of their boardroom showdown I was cringing behind the sofa… what an unspeakable oaf $immons is.
During the evening, eldest son Eddie and I headed down to Selhurst Park for Palace’s friendly with newly promoted Norwich. Both clubs had put out strong sides. It was a good, competitive game that looked to be heading for a goalless draw till a clever pass put one of our academy kids, Nathaniel Pinney, though on goal in a one-on-one. Making it look all too easy, Pinney rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into the net from a sharp angle. The Eagles won 1-0. The point was clear: Boss Dougie Freedman **must** give some of the club’s youngsters a chance during the coming season. My friend Neil Pudney had got us tickets in the Players’ Lounge, so once the final whistle blew, we hung around for a short while. A grinning Eddie got the autographs of Darren Ambrose, Nathaniel Clyne, Owen Garvan and Wilfried Zaha… a hugely enjoyable night.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 26th July
Though I was still walking around like a zombie in a post-High Voltage comedown, last night I stuck to my promise to go to the Borderline for a first sighting of Canada-based guitarist/singer Philip Sayce. Dunno how I managed it, but I’d got it into my head – falsely – that the evening’s support act was Joanne Shaw Taylor. The mistake was convenient as it allowed myself and my two friends, Neil Pudney and Bruce Osborne, to partake in what was billed as a “last-minute, intimate show” from Rival Sons at our planned pre-gig meeting point, the Crobar. I’d had my reservations about the band on the Main Stage at High Voltage (see Diary, July 24), but playing at ear-splitting volume in the cramped environs of the Cro, they took on a whole new vitality. What that says about them, I’m really not sure. Are they destined to fall short of becoming an arena rock headline act, only to become a bar band ? Time will tell, I guess, but as all those packed into the Crobar will affirm, last night they rocked big-time.
Philip Sayce is a great artist, no doubt about it. A few of the man’s albums lurk in my collection, and although he is capable of playing with great soul and fragility he wields his guitar like it was a machine gun. However, last night’s show lasted for an endurance-challenging two hours – the last third of which seemed largely gratuitous. He left the stage and played his guitar among the crowd, lavishly extending versions of songs that would’ve sounded better in more concise form. An encore of Albert King’s ‘As The Years Go Passing By’ was tremendous, but as the Borderline’s 11 o’clock curfew came and went and Sayce played on… and on… and on… eventually winding up at the venue’s existence at 11.25pm, my patience and indeed my physical ability to remain vertical were both being taxed to the full. I’d like to see him again on another occasion, but maybe not quite so soon after a trip to High Voltage.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 25th July
Gotta admit, the High Voltage Festival weekend has left me utterly spent and exhausted. Arriving back at Ling Towers in the early hours of this morning, I felt like I’d done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson… but what an utterly fantastic experience. Especially on the Sunday, the music was so good that I didn’t feel the need to go backstage – even once – with one great band following another, each bathed in glorious sunlight and washed down with lashings of cold cider. And in my world it doesn’t get much better than that.
Just like the Von Hertzens 24 hours earlier, Pallas [8/10] surprised the early-birds by coming onstage before billed – 10 minutes premature in this instance. Focusing heavily on their excellent new album ‘XXV’, a record that saw the Aberdonians shifts the emphasis from neo-prog into territory carved by Rush, Deep Purple and Porcupine Tree, they hit paydirt with ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Monster’, the latter of which lived up to its title, before closing with their best-known song, ‘Eyes In The Night (Arrive Alive)’, a track that for reasons known only by Pallas themselves is increasingly overlooked these days.
Having relocated from Prog to the Hammer stage, before the arrival of The Treatment [8/10] I made my friend Andy Beare a money-back guarantee. “If you don’t enjoy this band, I’ll buy you ten pints”, I promised. Imagine the look of dismay on his face as, within 30 seconds of their opener ‘Drink, Fuck Fight’ The Beare turned and mouthed the words: “Shit… I love them”. So did the High Voltage crowd, which grew in terms of both size and enthusiasm as the Cambridge whippersnappers ran through their paces.
Due to conflicting schedules I only caught a little of St Jude on the Main Stage, which was disappointing, but with Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell supplying the drums, a solo set from Michael Schenker [8/10] provided one of day two’s biggest shocks. Michael has done outstandingly well to revive his career after an alcohol-fuelled meltdown that reached its nadir at the Rock And Blues Custom Show in 2007, and in choosing to focus on his UFO, the Scorpions and MSG years the guitarist clearly knows which side his bread is buttered. There was a reunion with his brother Rudolf on ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, and various other luminaries walked on and off, including ex-UFO bassist Pete Way and his stripy trousers, Doogie White and Jeff Scott Soto, which tended to lend a slightly haphazard feel, but fair play to Schenker for a U-turn – or should that be a Flying V-turn – which many (including myself) felt was well and truly beyond him.
Rock music has few better frontmen than Danny Bowes, and optimum booze consumption in tandem with the weekend’s most dazzling sunshine meant that a one-off reunion appearance from Thunder [9/10] was set up to perfection. As the Londoners purred through a wondrously relaxed ‘best-of’ display that began with ‘Back Street Symphony’ and ended with ‘Dirty Love’, Bowes wrung every last ounce of excitement from the audience. With guitarist Luke Morley firmly committed to The Union, a little birdie tells me that Bowes is keeping his eyes open for a new musical venture. Whichever band offers him a job is onto a dead-cert winner. But in the long-term, should Thunder never perform live again it would be a travesty.
Pure sun-drenched salutation greeted a Special Guest slot from Black Country Communion [9/10], whose bassist Glenn Hughes set the tone for an inspired hour-long performance by roaring: “I am a messenger, this is my prophecy” during a riff-fuelled opening number, ‘Black Country’. Unlike various other Deep Purple singers, Hughes still retains a set of golden tonsils, and although the inclusion of Joe Bonamassa’s ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’ and Purple’s own ‘Burn’ might suggest otherwise, BCC are more than just the Hughes-Bonamassa show. Much, much more…
Regrettably, the crowd thinned out noticeably for headliners Dream Theater [9/10], though of course the veteran US/Canadian band’s brand of expansive, elaborate prog-metal was never destined to satisfy each and every High Voltage attendee. As somebody fortune enough to have heard DT’s Mike Portnoy-less comeback disc, ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ prior to its September unveiling, I already had confidence that the band could continue with ease, I just didn’t expect them to be anywhere near **this** fantastic. Previewing just one song, ‘On The Backs Of Angels’, over the duration of a monumental two-hour set that was delivered with exquisite texture and clarity, their new percussive engine, ex-Steve Vai/Extreme drummer Mike Mangini, slotted into his role with consummate, mechanical ease. It was a brilliant end to a first-rate weekend that might even have pipped last year’s event in quality terms.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 24th July
There’s just enough time for me to grab 40 winks, change my T-shirt from a Manowar 2011 garment to a nice red number from Trapeze’s 1994 reunion tour, and head back to High Voltage. Time’s short, so here’s my somewhat truncated rundown of Day #1, which began with the Von Hertzen Brothers [8/10] on the Prog Stage. Commencing five minutes ahead of schedule, which allowed them to play an extra song, the Finns got the 2011 show underway with a head-turning display that mixed deft arrangements, huge hooks and lightning bursts of lead guitar with assured multi-part harmony vocals. Suffice to say that my drinking buddy Andy Beare, who’d never heard a note of the trio’s music, now has all of their albums on his shopping list.
Despite the indignity of having been introduced by Lucio of Planet Rock Radio, a prize plonker if ever I saw/heard one, Skin [8/10] kept up the good work. Neville MacDonald, whose hair is growing back at a rate of knots, offered one of the best voices of the weekend, though the lack of volume over at the Main Stage was a major problem throughout the day.
Rival Sons [6/10] are up for two prizes at this year’s Classic Rock Awards, and the California-based retro-heads also sound great on record, but at High Voltage there was something that just didn’t seem to sit quite right. I took a drinks break during Queensrÿche’s set, returning for a slick (but equally quiet) display from Thin Lizzy [7/10]. Seriously, I’ve done louder farts than the PA at this year’s HV, and during Lizzy’s set – which saw Michael Monroe join them to play the saxophone solo on ‘Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)’ – I almost became involved in fisticuffs with a couple of young oiks who thought that was perfectly okay to chatter away on their mobile phones whilst the rest of us strained our ears to hear what was being played/sung. I despair of these selfish friggin’ donuts…
Thanks to a loan of Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, Slash [8/10] enjoys the services of the best hard rock singer in the business. Kennedy has a wristwatch, too, which means that the show can actually be relied upon to begin on time. There was a slight feeling of being on auto-pilot for the top-hatted ex-Gunner, who was celebrating his 46th birthday, but the place went bonkers when they played ‘Nightrain’, 'Rocket Queen’ and especially ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’.
Enabled by the sonics befitting a headline act (if you get my drift…), headliners Judas Priest [7/10] began well enough, with newcomer Richie Faulkner doing such a superb Stars In Your Eyes-style impression of KK Downing that the absentee guitarist was barely noticed – and that’s high praise indeed. At the start, Rob Halford was also in extremely fine voice, hitting the right notes during an excellent version of ‘Starbreaker’, though by the time the band reached ‘Blood Red Skies’ it was tailing off. I was also starting to do a convincing impression of the world’s most drunken man, so The Beare and I made our excuses and actually snuck out of the gates during Halford’s interminable call and response intro to ‘You Got Another Thing Coming’… yes, you read that right – we left early. And I don’t regret it at all.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 23rd July
The day has come at last – Classic Rock and Metal Hammer’s own High Voltage Festival! It rained overnight here in London; let’s hope that’s the last of the wet weather for at least 48 hours. I’m only reviewing one of today’s bands (the Von Herzten Brothers on the Prog stage), with most of my writing duties falling on the Sunday. Hmmm… I wonder whether a libation or three might possibly be in order?
Although Palace didn’t get the outcome I wanted, last night’s trip to a pre-reason fixture with Crawley Town was a lot of fun. The fiercely contested game finished goalless, something that was due to the myriad changes to both sides by their managers, though the Eagles’ new striker Glenn Murray, stolen during the summer from arch rivals Broken & Homo Album, struck the woodwork with an audacious second half shot after coming on an a substitute, inspiring a raucous chorus of: “He used to be gay/But now he’s okay/Walking in a Murray Wonderland…” from the massed Eagles fans at one end of the ground. I almost forgot how much I love football!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 22nd July
Now that’s spooky. Yesterday, after reading various complimentary online references from those privileged to have heard the new Dream Theater album, I emailed the band’s UK publicist to determine whether there were any advance weblinks. “A watermarked promo will be with you tomorrow,” pinged back Kirsten Sprinks at Roadrunner Records. And it’s just dropped onto the doormat, along with a finished copy of the Black Stone Cherry album. Oh, happy days. Playing the DT album – entitled ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ (due September 12) – as I type this and I’m impressed. Very impressed indeed… Better still, after several seemingly endless days of rain, the sun is shining here in the fair city of London, which bodes well for the weekend’s High Voltage festival, an event that DT and their new drummer Mike Mangini are to headline on Sunday night.
This evening, my eldest lad Eddie and I are off to our first Crystal Palace pre-season friendly game (yes, football is back… almost!). The Eagles travel to Crawley Town, who 12 months ago shamefully turned us over 1-0 in a corresponding match. Crawley may have achieved promotion to the football league in 2010/’11, but let us not forget that CPFC had the handicap of being managed by George Burley back then… tonight our revenge will be claimed!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 21st July
I’d been toying with the notion of nipping up to Nottingham Rock City for tonight’s High Voltage warm-up from Skin and Thunder. However, today was also my two lads’ final day at their current secondary school and it didn’t seem fair to leave them alone. So instead I conducted an enjoyable phone interview with Deep Purple’s keyboard player Don Airey, whose new solo album ‘All Out’ is rather good, and spent another enjoyable couple of hours reviewing the new two-disc Ronnie James Dio career anthology, ‘Mightier Than The Sword’, for Metal Hammer. And talking of Hammer, the magazine has released the details of a long-awaited UK tour from Manowar, which includes a gig at London’s Brixton Academy on November 5. Hail and kill!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 20th July
My Tuesday afternoon was spent at London’s Air Studios in a state of physical and aural intoxication, caused jointly by dry white wine and a 5.1 playback of Steven Wilson’s new solo album, ‘Grace For Downing’. Frankly, my mind is becoming ever more boggled by Wilson’s ability to compose and perform so much music, and to such consistently high standards. Due for release on September 26, ‘GFD’ lasts for around 90 minutes and is spread liberally across two discs. Tapping into prog, jazz and classical moods, it’s different enough from SW’s solo debut ‘Insurgentes’ but sufficiently familiar to tick all of the usual boxes. For the most part leisurely and unhurried (a little like Opeth’s newie ‘Heritage’, which Wilson mixed), save for rare exceptions such as the 23-minute prog-jazz wig-out ‘Raider II’, it’s the kind of album I can imagine listening to on my patio over a pitcher or two of Pimms as the sun goes down.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 19th July
I cannot stop playing my watermarked promo of the new Opeth album, ‘Heritage’. It’s so bloody addictive. Cheers to my friend Gina Walters, who I’ve reconnected with on Facebook after many years, for sending this rather silly photo of yours truly with Skin’s Myke Gray. Myke still appears to be wearing his pyjamas, but why on earth am I carrying a Duty Free carrier bag around with me at Monsters Of Rock? Answers on a postcard…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 18th July
I was torn between staying in to watch the final of The Apprentice and trekking across London for Crimson’s Glory’s first UK gig in 22 years. With the Floridian progressive metal band set to revisit material from their first two albums (namely 1986’s ‘Crimson Glory’ and ’88’s ‘Transcendence’), common sense prevailed. I arrived at the Underworld in time for a support slot from Power Quest… and regretted not going for a drink instead. The Anglo-Italian power metal combo’s cause was hardly helped by a murky sound mix but with the exception of one song – ‘Wings Of Forever’ – I found them pretty uninspiring.
The four surviving classic-era members of Crimson Glory took to the stage with a new vocalist, Todd La Torre, taking the place of Midnight, who died in 2009, and in party mood (it was rhythm guitarist Ben Jackson’s birthday, after all). First time around many mocked the quintet for their gimmick of wearing silver masks, but the music they made back then has undoubtedly stood the test of time. Doing a fine job on songs such as ‘Dragon Lady’, ‘Lonely’ and the dramatic ‘Lost Reflection’, La Torre proved an exceptional addition, hitting the ozone-threatening notes once handled by his illustrious predecessor as his colleagues rolled back the decades to deliver an unexpectedly stunning performance. The crowd might have been a little smaller than anticipated but most in attendance knew every word, singing along at the top of their voices. A fantastic night was had by all. Here’s the set-list: ‘Mayday’, ‘Valhalla’, ‘Dragon Lady’, ‘Azrael’, ‘Queen Of The Masquerade’, ‘Lady Of Winter’, ‘Where Dragons Rule’, ‘Painted Skies’, ‘Masque Of The Red Death’, ‘In Dark Places’, ‘Burning Bridges’, ‘Red Sharks’, ‘Lost Reflection’, ‘Lonely’ and ‘Eternal World’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 17th July
This morning was spent playing my all-time favourite Rush album, ‘Hemispheres’, which I picked up last night for the bargain price of £3 at Fopp Records whilst en route to a few relaxing libations at the Crobar. Glad to have it on CD a last. My well-worn gatefold vinyl edition, which Geddy Lee kindly signed when I interviewed him seven years ago, can now take a well-earned retirement.
It’s mid-afternoon and I’m home from a lunch with my mum and dad and my two sons, the last time that the lads and their grandparents are likely to see each another for quite some time given the imminent uprooting of the rest of Clan Ling. Rather upsetting for all five of us, but it went as well as could be expected.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 16th July
Well aware of my fanboy tendencies, William Luff in the EMI Records press office has kindly sent the new Iron Maiden anthology ‘From Fear To Eternity: The Best Of 1990-2010’ on two different formats: A double CD to play, and the triple-picture disc vinyl edition to sit and gaze admiringly at. The arrival of the package was most welcome; last night saw another ugly row with my estranged spouse here at Ling Towers. The situation is becoming intolerable.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 15th July
The running times for next weekend’s High Voltage Festival are up. On Saturday it looks like I shall be watching the Von Hertzen Brothers opening up the Prog Stage, before spending the rest of the day at the Main Stage, though if humanly possible I’ll take quick peeks at Neal Morse, Caravan and Electric Wizard. On Sunday, it’ll be Pallas and The Enid at Prog, followed by Michael Schenker, Thunder, Black Country Communion and headliners Dream Theater.
I simply cannot stop playing ‘Mercury’s Down’, the new solo album from Pride Of Lions singer Toby Hitchcock (to be released via Frontiers on August 29), which is lucky as I’m due to do a phone interview with him over the coming weekend. Having re-discovered it hidden under a pile of pesky bank statements, I’ve also had ‘Rock For Japan’ on heavy repeat. It’s a double-disc released by AOR Heaven Records which features rare and unreleased material from 44 mostly great acts, including FM, Dan Reed, Fiona, Legs Diamond, Mitch Malloy, Tony Harnell, House Of Lords and many, many more. With profits going to relief for the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crises, it’s well worth picking up.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 14th July
I’ve been a Dr Feelgood fan for many, many years, the band’s 1979 live album ‘As It Happens’ having been among my very first vinyl purchases. So the chance to conduct a phone interview with Wilko Johnson, the wide-eyed, über-eccentric former guitarist that stole the show so dramatically in Oil City Confidential; Julien Temple’s full-length feature film documentary about the Feelgoods, was pretty exciting. Wilko, who tours the UK in September, didn’t disappoint. Sounding brilliantly incoherent – seriously, he made Pete Way sound like somebody’s life coach! – he detailed the utter bafflement he felt not only at securing his first major TV role as Royal Executioner Ser Illyn Payne in HBO’s fantasy series Game Of Thrones, but at life in general. When I asked Johnson what the rest of 2011 might hold for him, he simply shrugged: “Oh I don’t know anything, mate. Honestly, I haven’t a clue. The car turns up [each morning] and I get in it and ask: ‘Alright then, where are we going?’” Brilliant…
Last night was spent at my beloved Selhurst Park, kicking a ball around and undertaking various forms of physical exercise – some of which must have looked extremely camp! – as part of week three of Eagles Fitter fans, CPFC’s men’s health initiative. Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I came through it all unscathed, and both of us were happy to discover that 4lbs apiece had been shed since last week.
I bought some tickets from the box office for Palace’s opening fixture of the season, away at Peterborough United on August 6. The game takes place a week before my ex-missus and my two young sons up sticks and head for their new life in Manchester, so my eldest lad Eddie is going to join me. Regrettably, with everything up in the air at Ling Towers in a domestic sense, the Peterborough jaunt looks likely to be our last awayday together for quite a while.
Gahhh! Whilst I was training at Selhurst, over at Shepherd’s Bush Empire Sir James Of Page was making a guest appearance with The Black Crowes, joining them for an encore rendition of ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. There’s some fantastic YouTube footage here.
P.S. I’m hearing a bizarre (and so far unconfirmed) rumour that Thunder will be opening for Skin at Nottingham Rock City a week today, on July 21, as a warm-up for the High Voltage Festival. Hmmm... should it turn out to be true, I wonder whether I can get myself up there...?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 13th July
Well, it wasn’t easy but I managed to conduct a phone interview with Stefano Lionetti. For all his talents as a songwriter, singer, guitarist and guiding light of Lionville, an excellent pure-AOR project whose self-titled debut has been receiving amazing reviews, Genoa-born Lionetti felt that his grasp of the English language was insufficient to conduct a free-flowing conversation, but with a little help from his brother Alessandro, who co-wrote some of the music and helped to piece together the album, we muddled our way through. Stefano’s English is much better than my Italian, put it that way. I also had a lively conversation with Matt Oliver, the drummer of UK hard rockers Jettblack, who are about go out on tour with White Wizzard. Their single and video song ‘Two Hot Girls’ is highly recommended.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 12th July
An hour of my Monday afternoon was spent in a London recording studio in the company of my Classic Rock colleagues Jerry Ewing and Dave Everley and Metal Hammer's Jonathan Selzer. Roadrunner Records had organised a 5.1 surround playback of Opeth's new album, 'Heritage' (which drops on September 19th).
The band's Mikael Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson were also in attendance. I was extremely impressed by what I heard. In the wake of 2008's 'Watershed', which I personally considered their best album so far (beating the celebrated 'Blackwater Park' by a hair's breadth), the band have followed a logical path, shedding the death metal growls of old and pursuing a more laid back and experimental style of music. It will be fascinating to see what their fans make of 'Heritage', which was mixed by Steven Wilson and comes in a sleeve that could have been designed for Harvest Records in the 1970s, even including some rhythmic passages from former Weather Report drummer Alex Acuña, but it definitely gets the thumbs-up from me.
As we prepared to exit, Åkerfeldt confided that the band will be touring the UK in November. The itinerary has just been announced and their date at London's Brixton Academy is already noted down in the diary - annoyingly, it clashes with two other gigs (Steve Hackett and Peter Frampton's '...Comes Alive' anniversary bash) on November 13, but them's the breaks.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 11th July
Regrettably, those rumours of Würzel’s demise are true. I’m told that he died of a heart attack, with a beer in his hand. Though we hadn’t crossed paths in ages I had plenty of cool dealings with Würzel during the 1990s, including one particular very pleasant afternoon spent balancing on bar stools in an establishment at the bottom of Carnaby Street (“It’s your birthday? We’re going to the pub now!”). It was Würzel that introduced me and various other boozers on RAW magazine to the delights of the ‘depth charge’, a pint of cinder with a shot glass containing Cointreau dropped into it, and I still treasure a superb business card that he once gave me – it’s been stuck on pin board of my office ever since. Würzel, RIP.

My friend Andy Beare and I returned to the Sonisphere festival for its final day. We had a great time but the event’s so-called clash-free running order was to prove exasperating. We only wanted to see three bands and each, with the exception of Opeth, overran and/or started late, causing us to miss the beginning or the end of a set. Aussie rockers Airbourne displayed an amazing energy that was completely contagious, and everyone held their breath as frontman Joel O’Keeffe (complete with guitar) drunkenly ascended a ladder to strut his stuff atop the Saturn Stage during an extended ‘Blackjack’. Annoyingly, we had to dash across the field as they began their last number, ‘Stand Up For Rock ‘N’ Roll’, but my… Airbourne got the crowd buzzing.
With hindsight, Motörhead might have been better off cancelling their slot at Sonisphere. Lemmy had begun things with a lovely speech in honour of Würzel, dedicating “this entire set and the rest of our lives” to his fallen band-mate, but he appeared visibly inebriated, leaving many of the song introductions to guitarist Phil Campbell, and there were times when the performance threatened to fall apart at the seams. Obviously, there were mitigating circumstances and they got through it okay, I suppose, but their part of the event was very disappointing given the group’s usual high standards.
Missing the last few minutes of ‘Overkill’ (grrrrrr…), we dashed back to the Saturn Stage, arriving just as Opeth hit the opening chords to ‘The Grand Conjuration’. Performing in descending twilight and with a surprisingly good sound, the band ran through just four other tunes (‘Face Of Melinda’, ‘The Lotus Eater’, ‘Master’s Apprentices’ and a delicious ‘Hex Omega’) during their allotted 50 minutes. The first few specks of rain began fall as their performance ended, and despite having intended to hang around for comedian Bill Bailey, the thought of standing through a set from Flaccid Digestive… sorry, Limp Bizkit… during a downpour was too much to take. So I bought a bottle of chilled dry white wine at an off license on the way home and we blasted the promos of excellent new albums from Work Of Art and Sebastian Bach whilst London-bound, toasting the memory of Würzel along the way.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 10th July
Just for once I had a leisurely Saturday. In between bouts of tape transcription I took my son Eddie to his tenpin bowling club in the morning and watched some of the final one-day cricket game between England-Sri Lanka, which Alistair Cook’s men needed to win in order to claim the series. It reached an exciting conclusion in England’s favour with final flurry of wickets… to the people that say cricket is dull: Try watching it!!
After a great day out at Sonisphere on Friday, my friend Andy Beare and I have decided that we will most probably go back again today (Sunday). Our passes are valid for the weekend, so why not? Motörhead, Opeth and Airbourne are all playing and if the weather holds we might even hang around to watch Bill Bailey.
[Edit: As I prepared to hit the sack, there were some worrying but unconfirmed rumours that former Motörhead guitarist ‘Würzel’ (real name: Michael Burston) has died at the age of 61. Should this be true, and I hope it isn’t, watching Motörhead at Sonisphere will be an extremely emotional experience.]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 9th July
Amazingly, my waterproof gear wasn’t needed for the trip to the Sonisphere Festival. Apart from a few drops of rain the threatened showers stayed at bay. My friend Andy Beare and I blazed up the M1 to Knebworth Park and back to a soundtrack of Terraplane’s ‘The Singles Anthology’, the new Airrace album ‘Back To The Start’ and an advance promo of Leslie West’s excellent ‘Unusual Suspects’ (due on September 19), collecting our passes and finding a place in the rapidly growing throng just in time for Diamond Head. I was a little nervous for Brian Tatler, a guy I’ve known and liked for many years and who was thoroughly deserving of the opportunity to play for The Big Four’s audience. Wisely, the band included four songs previously covered by Metallica (‘It’s Electric’, ‘The Prince’, ‘Helpless’ and ‘Am I Evil?’) and although they were forced to truncate a few things to shoehorn everything into thirty minutes alongside ‘Sucking My Love’ and the post-Sean Harris track ‘Give It to Me’, they merited and received a warm reaction.
With Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser depping for new parent Scott Ian, and getting to perform a snippet of his band’s ‘Refuse/Resist’ as a warm-up for ‘I Am The Law’, Anthrax started well but tailed off a little when Joey Belladonna’s voice began to falter. Having strayed too close to the front, Andy and I were caught in a mosh during the song of the same name, but ‘Madhouse', ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Indians’ really fired up the crowd. A new song called ‘Fight ’Em Till You Can’t’ bodes well for the band’s new album. However Belladonna wasn’t so great on ‘Only’, voiced originally by John Bush, and his singing was way out of tune during ‘I Am The Law’, which didn’t help.
It was good to see David Ellefson back in Megadeth, whose pumped-up display was an absolute joy to behold. When the band hit a groove and those guitar solos begin to fly, as witnessed in ‘Hangar 18’ and ‘Holy Wars... The Punishment Due’, they are truly unsurpassed in their field. Was it just me, or did Dave Mustaine – normally the picture of sullen concentration – appear to be enjoying himself? Besides a convincing ‘best-of’ set – ‘Trust’, ‘In My Darkest Hour’, ‘Wake Up Dead’, ‘Hangar 18’, ‘Poison Was the Cure’, ‘Sweating Bullets’, ‘Head Crusher’, ‘A Tout Le Monde’, ‘Symphony Of Destruction’, ‘Peace Sells’ and ‘Holy Wars...’ – Megadeth previewed a new song called ‘Public Enemy No 1’, setting themselves up as the band to beat.
Despite the fact that Gary Holt from Exodus was filling in for absentee guitarist Jeff Hanneman, Slayer were able to turn in a solid eight out of ten performance, mixing classics like ‘War Ensemble’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Chemical Warfare’, ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ with newer material such as ‘Snuff’ and ‘Hate Worldwide’. They’ve become a little like Motörhead: a no-brainer for late-afternoon festival spots, but for me they paled in comparison to Megadeth.
Dating back to a gig at London’s Marquee in March 1984, I’ve seen Metallica on many, many previous occasions. They rarely, if ever, disappoint and last night was no exception. To the band’s great credit they tapped the spirit of these Big Four shows by focussing on the classic era of thrash-metal, including just one track from current release ‘Death Magnetic’ (‘All Nightmare Long’) and even ignoring their huge hit ‘Nothing Else Natters’ in favour of a blitzkrieg of molten riffs and snare-drum mutilation to concentrate on the group’s first four albums. As hoped, musicians from all four bands plus Diamond Head gathered together for an encore jam through ‘Am I Evil?’, and I felt a wave of pride for the song’s co-composer when Lars Ulrich announced: “If it wasn’t for Brian Tatler, there’s a pretty good chance none of us would be here tonight.” It was a monster metal moment, make no mistake. Here’s the ’Tallica set-list: ‘Hit The Lights’, ‘Master Of Puppets’, ‘The Shortest Straw’, ‘Seek & Destroy’, ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, ‘Ride The Lightning’, ‘The Memory Remains’, ‘All Nightmare Long’, ‘Sad But True’, ‘The Call Of Ktulu’, ‘One’, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘Blackened’, ‘Fade To Black’ and ‘Enter Sandman’’, plus ‘Am I Evil?’, ‘Battery’ and ‘Creeping Death’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 8th July
Awoke to the pitter-patter of steady rain against the bedroom window. As I type, it’s becoming a torrential downpour. Bollocks… am off to the Sonisphere festival in just a few hours. It will be a complete mud pit. Will have to dig out my oldest and most disposable pair of trainers and some bin-liners to double as some kind of waterproof garment; the disapproval of the weather gods will not prevent me from a unique opportunity to see The Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) and Diamond Head.
Some cheerier news: Uriah Heep have announced a string of ten UK dates in December. Besides my favourite London venue, Shepherd’s Bush Empire on December 8, I’ll do my best to attend the shows in Milton Keynes and Br***ton. As Mick Box is prone to saying: “’Appy daze!”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 7th July
The thought of heading down to Selhurst Park, AKA the home of football, for the first night of physical training for CPFC’s Eagles Fitter Fans programme had made me slightly nervous. Physically speaking I’m the best I’ve been in years, but my ability as a footballer leaves plenty to be desired. Apart from park kickarounds with my two sons, the last time I played with any kind of competitive spirit was at my most porksome during the 1990s as part of a music journalists vs Deep Purple match in Germany circa the ‘Slaves And Masters’ album. Luckily, the actual ball skills training begins with some five-a-sides next week. In fact, Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I were two of the fittest in attendance. The sit-ups were bit iffy after my back troubles of last December, and the work with the skipping ropes probably made us look like a right pair of benders, but we sailed through just about everything else. And, given my domestic situation, the donning of the boxing gloves was extremely therapeutic!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 6th July
I was a little disappointed by last night’s gig from Warren Haynes, which took place at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Don’t get me wrong, the Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers guitarist has made a thoroughly excellent solo album in ‘Man In Motion’, but over the course of almost two and a half hours the combination of extended jamming sections – I’m pretty sure he played just four songs in the first 40 minutes – and the style of the backing musicians, which comprised of four black instrumental players (including a prominent saxophonist that was presumably being paid by the note) and chick backing singer, took its toll. When the show was good (the new album’s ‘River's Gonna Rise’, a version of Hendrix’s ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ and a delicious encore of ‘Soulshine’) it was excellent, but call me Mr Niave for having expected rock ‘n’ blues with a dollop of creamy soul… and not the other way around. Here’s the set-list: ‘Man In Motion’, ‘River’s Gonna Rise’, ‘Sick Of My Shadow’, ‘Your Wildest Dreams’, ‘On A Real Lonely Night’, ‘Spanish Castle Magic’, ‘Invisible’, ‘Old Friend’, ‘Indian Sunset Play’, ‘Forevermore Railroad Boy’, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, ‘Fire In The Kitchen’, ‘Hattiesburg Hustle’ and ‘Tear Me Down’, followed by ‘Soulshine’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 5th July
Hmmm…. I’ve managed to accumulate more than 200 ‘friends’ at my Facebook site in less than three days. To re-iterate: If I don’t already know you, I can’t add ya… sorry, no disrespect intended but there are only so many hours in the day and the confirmation process is driving me bonkers. What really winds me up the most is people that think it’s artsy or clever to use an esoteric shot of one of their kids, or of a cow in a field, as a profile photo. I don’t have the time to click around your page in a bid find out whether we met in the bar at Monsters Of Rock in 1988. It’s straight to the ‘reject’ bin, I’m afraid…
The third issue of Classic Rock Presents AOR has arrived. Neil Jeffries’ cover story on the making of Foreigner’s ‘4’ looks good, and my own interviews with Chicago, Airrace and Richard Marx are all present ‘n’ correct. That’s wonderful news; I can afford to eat again this month. To order a copy, go here.
Just been playing a new double-CD anthology from The Pirates called ‘Shakin’ With The Devil: 1977-79’, which is terrific. I’ve also spent a little time getting to know the second Back Country Communion album. The consensus of the reviewers was right; it’s a grower. I was a little harsh in my initial dismissal of it. I shall stay behind after school and write 200 lines: ‘I won’t be such a complete and utter pillock in future. Honest’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 4th July
Brilliant news – Lizzy Borden have added a London gig in December, taking place 24 hours before the band’s spot at Hard Rock Hell. I’ve been a fan of the veteran US glam-rockers for many years, their ‘Visual Lies’ album being something of a personal fave, and it was fabulous to see them play an excellent slot at Sweden Rock in 2008. Now I get to witness them again in a club for the first time since they did the ‘old’ Marquee in Wardour Street during mid-1987 – great!
There are strong rumours that Shaun Derry, who quit Crystal Palace for QP-Hahaha, is to return for a third spell at Selhurst Park… great news, if true. And former loanee Kagisho Dikgacoi, known more succinctly as KG, has signed a deal that ties him to the Eagles for the next three years. Progress at last…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 3rd July
Well, my birthday offered more ups ‘n’ downs than the proverbial whore’s undergarment. Accompanying my eldest son Eddie to his school fête was a bit of an upsetting experience. My two lads have both been very happy there, but with the rest of the family due to uproot to Manchester in time for the new term in September, I felt a bit weepy in walking out of its gates for the final time (for me, at least; Eddie and Arnie still have around two weeks before the summer break).
My new Facebook page is threatening to spiral out of control. I find myself with more than 100 ‘friends’ in less than 24 hours. Consequently, there’s a rule: If we’ve not met before, or you are not a business associate of some kind then I can’t add you. Otherwise things are just gonna get unwieldy. Sorry. However, it’s been great to catch up with so many folks from my past. I was happy that my friend Lindsay sent a great photo that he took at this summer’s Download Festival featuring yours truly with Bob Catley from Magnum. Jules Millis of fast-rising Melbourne-based melodic rockers White Widdow also sent a shot of us together at last year’s Firefest.
During the evening I headed into central London. Some 24 hours earlier it had been the birthday of The Treatment’s Dhani Mansworth – the drummer had turned 18 (sickeningly young!) – and a gang of people were celebrating in the Montagu Pike, a Tottenham Court Road public house that now occupies the site of the Marquee Club. I nipped into Fopp Records and treated myself to the re-mastered CD of Rush’s ‘Caress Of Steel’… a bargain at three quid… and took root in the Crobar, where as the Montague revellers (including Dhani’s dad Laurie, of Airrace, and that band’s singer Keith Murrell) spilled in and out during the course of the evening, all sorts of booze-fuelled tomfoolery ensued. Am paying the price for it this morning, but what a fantastic night!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 2nd July
I’m not doing any work today as it’s my birthday (sorry, no clues re: the number concerned). I’ve just been watching the ‘Live At Reading’ DVD from 1982 that accompanies the new re-issue of Twisted Sister’s ‘Under The Blade’ on Armoury Records. It’s ‘kin excellent. My eyes moistened a little during the final part, when the band are joined by Lemmy, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and Pete Way to administer a sound thrashing to the Rolling Stones anthem ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)’. For those of us that were in the crowd that day – check out these photos with Messrs Snider, Mendoza and Way – the footage stands as a real time-piece of a long-gone era.
I was thrilled to receive a pressie from my old mate Robert Fields, who stumbled upon a dusty, hard-backed tome entitled Joseph Paxton And The Crystal Palace in a Glaswegian book store and thought of yours truly. Most kind. Given that it later lent its name to the greatest football club in the world I’ve often wondered about the beautiful building made of glass, destroyed by fire in 1936, the basic structure of which survives in the grounds in the park of the same. This will be an interesting read. I’m currently wading through a hefty tome on the band Steely Dan by the US writer Brian Sweet, but it’s on the bedside table and will be up next!!
Well, I’ve caved in under pressure exerted by a few American friends, mainly from Charrie Foglio and Caroline Gibbons, to get myself a Facebook page. Am not completely sure whether I like it or not, though being on there is certainly very addictive. There are also a few pitfalls. The 'Phil Mogg' page is run by someone who is passing himself off as UFO's Phil Mogg for some strange reason - and certainly without any endorsement from Phil himself. Pete Way’s is diverted to an Oddbins off license (only kidding). And the respective mailboxes of Kip Winger and Dan Reed were both too over-subscribed to accept me as a Friend… boo, hiss! However, I did get a laugh from an indignant tweet by Steve Way – with whom I am attending the CPFC Fitter Fans project (see Diary, Thursday) – that reads: ‘First session at Crystal Palace FC is done: ten more weeks more to go... shit-dave ling weighs less than me.” Brilliant!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 1st July
Last night I took my eldest lad Eddie over to Wembley, where we attended the filming of one of his favourite TV shows, The Cube, presented by Philip Schofield. We’d been once before, but this time there was much more excitement involved as a nurse from Newcastle pitted her wits against the many evils thrown at her by the show’s vindictive spheroid star.
Bowling up unsuspectingly at Wembley Park tube, I’d forgotten that Take That were playing a gig at the Stadium. The place had turned into a real-life Cougar Town. Most agreeable, LOL!
P.S. Look out for monthly updates at the Playlist and YouTube pages. In anticipation of my birthday, which is tomorrow, as a treat my webmistress has also re-designed the site’s front page, which I think looks bloody superb!