This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
Monday 31st July
So… who else can legitimately say that they got back from Ramblin' Man, put down their bags, answered a few work emails and went out to the gym? I must be mad!!
RMF – Day 3: Sunday 30th July
I’d seen STONEBROKEN a while ago as part of the Rockingham Festival and found myself a little underwhelmed. However, the band’s road experiences as openers for Glenn Hughes, Black Star Riders and Cheap Trick are now beginning to pay off. A year ago they were on the Rising Stage, this afternoon they kicked off proceedings with the big boys. Okay, they’re still a little too close to Nickelback and Black Stone Cherry territory for comfort but their stagecraft is improving, too. They’re headed in the right direction, and no mistake.
Next up we headed over the Blues Stage, which had just kicked into life with JACK J HUTCHINSON. The Leicester-born guitarist/singer offered some decent moments such as the slide guitar-laced ‘Boom Boom Boom’, but for my money the whole thing was just a bit too lightweight and predictable.
Almost by accident we caught last couple of songs from SNAKECHARMER, purely on the way to secure the first alcohol of the day… I hadn’t seen the band since Micky Moody dropped out to be replaced by Simon McBride, nor was I particularly inclined to do so, but boy was I impressed. Someone – McBride, presumably – has lit a firecracker under the band’s collective arse. What a difference it makes.
The lovely Amanda had never seen Wishbone Ash before – in any of the band’s many incarnations. It was time to head over to the Prog Stage and fix that. With the sun beaming down upon us and multiple pints collected to save returning to the bar, former bass player/vocalist MARTIN TURNER and his band revisited the classic 1972 album ‘Argus’. Sure, Turner's voice sometimes croaks a little in its upper register but from the frailty of ‘Leaf And Stream’ to ‘The King Will Come’ and its stirring bravura ‘Argus’ is an enduringly charming, virtually flawless piece of music, and the addition of a snipper from Monty Python’s ‘Lumberjack Song’ in ‘Warrior’ made me roar with laughter (though I suspect Mr Powell may not have found it quite so amusing).
Still on the Prog stage, FOCUS capitalised on the amazing weather, band leader Thijs van Leer flitting between skit-skat vocals, yodelling and jaunty flute solos whilst pounding away at a Hammond organ that looked like it was held with duct tape. It was good to see so many people watch them. Perhaps inevitably, ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Hocus Pocus’ finished the set, the latter in a right ol’ tear-up.
It fills me with sadness to say that MAGNUM have reached the end of the road as a live act. Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley are among the nicest people I’ve met in music, but time halts for no man and Catley’s voice has spent the last few years badly deteriorating. At RMF his delivery was a feeble shadow of its former self and if Bob wasn't pissed off his face then from my vantage point, believe me, it looked as though he was. The band’s records are still great, but it was heartbreaking to see Catley try so heroically yet fail so tragically. The guy just can’t do it anymore.
Meanwhile, as their peers stumble, flag or fall, UFO continue to deliver. Those ultra conservative set-lists remain an issue but the wonderfully charismatic Phil Mogg retains an unmistakable presence, baiting an unspecified friend performing on another stage – Spike from the Quireboys, presumably – for the fact that his own band attracts “more women”. Personally, with time at a premium I’d have liked to see them cut down ‘Rock Bottom’ or even throw the thing out, but you cannot argue with a band that purrs through a set-list as impressive as this one: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Run Boy Run’, ‘Ain't No Baby’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Cherry’, ‘Love To Love’, ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’.
Regrettably, Ramblin’ Man was almost over for another year, with just headliners ZZ TOP to come. For me, just like countrymen Extreme 24 hours earlier, the Texans started really well. What’s not to love about ‘Got Me Under Pressure’, ‘Waitin’ For The Bus’, ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ and ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’? However, to call their performance ‘slick’ would be like saying that José Mourinho has a tendency to be a little self-satisfied. After a while what really began to annoy me was the show’s sheer impersonality: it really was little more than a conveyor belt for their hits. And when they began to steer away from those hits with a mish-mash of cover versions my attention flagged further still. I hopped back on board for ‘Just Got Paid’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’, plus an encore of ‘La Grange’ and ‘Tush’, but would it really have hurt Billy Gibbons to address the audience to say, “Thanks” or even “Goodnight”? I don’t think so. ZZ Top are excellent at what they do, there’s no doubt about that, but many years ago they ceased to be a real rock band to claim dual identity as ‘entertainers’. They’re not really for me anymore, I’m afraid.
On the whole, barring Saturday’s wash-out, RMF 3.0 was a whole lotta fun. I really wish that I’d been able catch a track or two from Blackwater Conspiracy, who my spies tell me were excellent… but hey ho. With so many bands spread across multiple stages it’s impossible to experience everything.
Mostly, it was brilliant to hang out and spend time with Amanda, who barely left my side all weekend. As ever my good pals Jeff and Philippa, who allowed us to camp in their back garden and put on a variety of entertainments, were the perfect, generous hosts – thanks so much, guys! – and what a wonderful friend Andy Beare continues to be. On the Sunday we even got to chink a glass with the quasi-legendary Alice Klaar. How that woman manages to stay so slim, vivacious, vibrant, and gorgeous, considering all she has to put up with, I will never really understand. One of life's mysteries indeed, but worth the enigma, just to bathe in her fragrant shadow. Here’s to 2018’s event. Hmmm… I wonder how many sleeps to go?
RMF - Day 2 : Saturday 29th July
Returning to the site there was no rain, though late afternoon showers were predicted. Those predictions came true… believe me!
Amanda and I headed straight for the Outlaw Country tent, where I was due to review Nashville’s own CAITLIN KOCH. Her Barbie doll looks were accompanied by a powerful voice and her smooth, saccharine flavoured country-pop ticked some boxes, but it was hard to avoid that fact that it all felt a bit soulless.
Wandering back to the Main Stage we caught the end of a kick-ass set from JARED JAMES NICHOLS. By the time we got to the front of the stage he was bulldozing through Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’ – what a way to sign off.
By this point we have met up my pal Andy Beare, who suggested a jaunt to the Rising Stage where XANDER AND THE PEACE PIRATES were also in the latter stages of their own set. This seemed like a very good idea. I’d been rather impressed by the Liverpool-based band on Nicky Horne’s Friday Rock Show and they demanded further investigation. Immensely talented frontman Keith Xander was born without a lower right arm and uses prosthetic limb with the plectrum attached to a hook to employ a unique picking style. The last song, ‘Dancing In The Light’, made me wish I’d seen much more of their set.
Over to the Grooverider Stage for my first sighting of LIONIZE , the Maryland band whose current album, ‘Nuclear Soul’, I’d reviewed positively for Metal Hammer. Regrettably, there was only time to watch half of their set, so save for the their fulsome fruitiness of their hard rock my overriding impression was that singer Nathan Bergman’s bulging one piece gold outfit made him look like a superhero on the way to Weightwatchers. Sorry, dude.
Meanwhile, back in Outlaw Country territory, JESSICA LYNN had the personality and sizzle factor lacked by Caitlin Koch, and not only did it look as though she actually knew her band-mates it seemed like they'd enjoy some nights out together. The vibe was contagious. I’d see her again. (Then again, maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Nashville).
Inevitably, it had begun to rain once more. Although Steve Harris is an all-time hero of mine I’ve never been the biggest fan of his side band BRITISH LION, so it made sense to listen to them from the VIP’s bar area, watching the final stages of Palace’s friendly against the French side Metz on my friend Steve Taylor’s phone. The first pint of the day went down well.
I’ve always loved REEF though incessant dampness ensured that at RMF they were pretty much just for the diehards. As I stood at the front getting soaked, the Top Ten hit ‘Place Your Hands’ was played early on, inciting much gyration onstage and off, ditto another of their best-known songs, ‘Yer Old’ – mightily appropriate in these surroundings.
A late-afternoon appearance from GLENN HUGHES, who powered through a formidable mix of solo tracks and standards from Purple, Hughes-Thrall and Black Country Communion, wrapping things up with a formidable romp through ‘Burn’, dazzled just like those high-vis pearly gnashers.
In the slipstream of the Hughes masterclass, DOKKEN’s almost comically threadbare set was almost laughable. After just a handful of numbers I had had to walk away. Amanda and I found a stall that did tasty noodles and stood under its parapet to avoid the continuing deluge. Tentatively, we wandered back. It was a big mistake. Everything in life has a sell-by date. For Don Dokken’s voice that point is long gone.
Over in the Country Outlaw tent, DAN BAIRD & HOMEMADE SIN were playing without Dan Baird, incredibly. Illness again, apparently. Ensuring the show carried on and stressing that he is by no means a lead singer, guitarist Warner E Hodges took over at the mic. It wasn't always pretty but it was a load of fun. At the show’s end Hodges exclaimed: "You know what... fuck it!" and the band burst into the rarely performed Georgia Satellites gem ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’. Fantastic stuff. Get well soon, Mr Baird.
As the time arrived for BLACK STAR RIDERS to do their stuff on the main stage, the rain became torrential. “Do you mind if I sit this one out?” asked Amanda, and headed for shelter. Following a recent tour during which they performed a solitary Thin Lizzy song, would the band buckle under the pressure of satisfying a festival crowd? The answer was ‘yes’, though besides ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, only ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ was wheeled back out to complete a set that I enjoyed from start to finish.
I don’t mind admitting, by this point I would willingly have cut my losses and headed for the ‘exit’ sign. Although I’ve some ‘history’ with Nuno Bettencourt, who once flounced out of an interview with me, let me make it plain that I really don’t mind EXTREME at all. I saw them several times back in their day and attended (and enjoyed) the band’s reunion show at the Forum in 2014. But there’s a time and a place for everything… At Mote Park it was pissing with rain and freezing cold. They played for waaaaay too long and there really is no legitimate reason that an act of their level should be topping the bill at a show like RMF. Any band that closes with Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ had better be very special indeed, but Extreme are merely ordinary, something confirmed by the steady departure of punters throughout. Look… I know that bona fide headliners are dropping like flies, but this was an exercise in barrel scraping.
RMF - Day 1 : Friday 28th July
It had yet to start raining as we walked through the gates for Day #1 of Ramblin’ Man Fair. The crowd was looking alarmingly threadbare, it had to be said, but with inclement weather threatened for the weekend and fans expected to shell out for a third day bolted onto the original Saturday and Sunday it was perhaps no wonder that attendance was thin at 4.20 on a Friday afternoon.
Sure enough, as the heavens duly opened GRAHAM BONNET, resplendent in a fluorescent pink jacket, found himself wondering: "Where is everybody?" Two songs in, a version of Rainbow’s ‘All Night Long’ suggests that while the rain gods are not destined to be on RMF’s side, the soundtrack will be tolerable at the very least.
LAST IN LINE, AKA various surviving members of the Dio band plus vocalist Andrew Freeman, were up next. I felt a bit indifferent to them if I’m honest. All I could think was that it must have been very odd for Vivian Campbell to be playing ‘Stand Up And Shout’, ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ and ‘We Rock’ again not only without RJD but also the late, great Jimmy Bain.
With rhythm guitarist John Nymann sidelined thanks to viral vertigo (whatever that means), Y&T were forced to perform as a trio for the first time in the San Franciscan band’s 43-year history, albeit with a guest stand-in called Ross McEwen on some selections. Despite the fact that rehearsal had been limited to an unplugged hotel room jam, the likes of ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Hurricane’, ‘Black Tiger’ and ‘Rescue Me’ still sounded wonderful. Y&T fans are used to hearing the band perform sets of epic duration, so 55 minutes felt a bit of a swizz, but nevertheless a potential banana skin was sidestepped with consummate ease.
12 months earlier on the same stage, SAXON had played a brilliant mid-afternoon slot. Returning as headliners presented no challenge whatsoever, as Biff eats crowds like these for breakfast. Circumstances allowing, the crowd had filled out quite a lot, too. Once again Byford threw away the set-list as vintage gems including ‘Power And The Glory’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’, ‘Crusader’ and the rarely performed ‘Machine Gun’ rubbed shoulders with a smattering of the band’s finest latterday standouts. This was a class display from an act that simply defies age. And amazingly, the rain held off until completion of an encore that included ‘Denim and Leather’… a sign from above, maybe?
Friday 28th July
At my desk at 6.10am. Okay - five more hours. Let's see how much more I can get done before Maidstone beckons. This is not a one-off: yesterday I worked from 7.30am till 11pm. Ramblin' Man Fair had better be worth it, and no... I haven't packed yet!
It's always nice when the latest version of this drops through the letterbox. How reassuring to know that another nine months of nail-biting drama is just around the corner. Also when the same delivery contains 'Exile & Grace', the forthcoming album from King King!!!
Thursday 27th July
As I type I am recovering from a double-whammy of the curse of 'Just one drink'. Despite vowing to abstain from the demon grog at last night's launch event for Black Sabbath's new boxed set 'The Ten Year War' I weakened upon discovering that the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky was free. A video address from Bill Ward and an excellent Q&A with Tony Iommi (conducted by my old pal Phil Alexander) sealed the deal - Oh well, just a few drinkies won't hurt. And whose idea was it to head over the road to the Crobar for 'Just the one' nightcap? Cue waking up at Amanda's place in the East End and a mad, bleary-eyed dash across London to be at my PC by 7.30am. 'Persuadable but professional', that's me! Now... on with my work!
Anyway, I'm feeling pretty downbeat as I pen a huge obituary to Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, revisiting the past interviews that we did over the past 17 years. There's only one thing guaranteed to raise the spirits - 'Legend', the new 'best of Suzi Quatro' collection. Curated by Suzi Q herself, it kicks some serious butt!
Wednesday 26th July
Well, I had promised to take Amada to her first ever footie game – thought it would be best to start gently… a pre-season match at Dulwich Hamlet in the company of Eddie and my pals Richard Thompson and Nik Moore, with beers before kick-off and afterwards. Palace fielded a pretty piss-poor side to be honest, and the match was less than spectacular. There can be no complaints over Dulwich's victory, though I was gutted that queuing for two beers in Hamlet's club house took 25 minutes – causing me to miss the Eagles' one and only goal of the night… gah!
Monday 24th July
Just back from Eddie Lemmy Selhurst Ling's best-ever gym session. Nice one, matey... keep it up!
[Edit: I'm watching the TV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy. The Princess died 20 years ago? That's just shocking. I still remember waking up to the awful news and the nation's outpouring of grief. I always liked Diana. Those two young lads have grown up as fantastic young men. Such a shame that Harry is a West 'Am wankaaah!]
Saturday 22nd July
Meaningless friendly it may have been, but it's always nice to put one over on Tiny Penis... er, Tony Pulis and his nauseating Baggies. And for this great man to reappear between the sticks and keep a clean sheet!
Happy 70th birthday to the great Don Henley. In the right circumstances this song can still make me weep.
Thursday 20th July
I'm really sorry to hear about the suicide of Chester Bennington. I genuinely loved the first Linkin Park album and interviewed Chester several times, including one of the first biggies for Metal Hammer in 2001 when he told me of a recurring childhood fantasy that Depeche Mode would fly a jet into his schoolyard and invite him to join their band. Bennington was always a dreamer, and as we know dreamers have their dark sides. The 41-year-old was a married dad of six... Jeez, that's sad. How tormented must he have been? RIP Chester, I hope you find peace.
Thursday 19th July
I'm appalled and disgusted to have received an email from Warner Bros about a re-mastered, expanded edition of an album by The S***hs. Yeah, please send me one... I dare you – I will fucking burn it.
Just back home from my third park run in two days. Very well done indeed to Eddie, who came along this evening and kept up with me on lap #1 and then finished lap #2 without needing to stop. He's been eating sensibly for the past few days and if he keeps it up I really think we stand a good chance of cracking his longstanding weight issues. #prouddad
Tuesday 18th July
Well, dearie me… it's gonna be a mighty tough day. Sifting through the latest melodic rock releases for an AOR column in CR Aug 16 - newies from Lionheart, Degreed, Janet Gardner, Moritz, 7HY and more are all up for grabs. Back to the gym at lunchtime, followed by a meal and cinema night in Greenwich with Amanda - back row seats are booked for War For The Planet Of The Apes. No doubt there will be a bottle of wine involved! Yessir, I know how to treat a lady!
Monday 17th July
Save for Ramblin' Man Fair this July is an usually barren month for live music, and it felt good to be out and gigging again. Though the size of a Sunday night crowd at the Underworld was disappointing – perhaps due to the ticket prices (I know several folks put off by paying £30 on the door for a small club show) – Lee Aaron seemed thrilled to be back in London after so many years. At 54, Canada's metal queen has still got the voice and that loveably goofy charisma of hers, and she also looks great.
Having diversified via jazz and opera, last year Lee returned to rock music after two decades with a record called 'Fire And Gasoline'. I'd expected to hear more from said album than two songs, but Aaron chose to bolster the 85-minute show by previewing three tracks from a follow-up that's due in the autumn. She described it as "a little bit blues-rock", which was true of 'I'm A Woman', though a brave cover of 'Mistreated' was, of course very familiar indeed. Deep Purple's classic is an untouchable song, though Lee and her band revisited it with respect and class, and naturally it allowed Aaron to really belt things out by showing off those tonsils… ditto 'Barely Holding On' from 1985's 'Call Of The Wild', a genuine showstopper if ever I heard one.
Negatives? Well, I missed the really old material. Just like at last year's Rockingham Festival, 'Lady Of The Darkest Night' was again tacked onto 'Powerline' and the wish-list of songs I'd craved in vain ('I Like My Rock Hard', 'Shake It Up', 'Danger Zone', 'Evil Game', 'Rock Me All Over', 'Only Human') was almost as long as those that were actually aired, though an encore of 'Hot To Be Rocked' sealed the night in fine style.
The metal queen is still royalty. Somewhere in Los Angeles, Paul Suter was smiling!
Sunday 16th July
A great, lazy Saturday night spent over at Amanda's gaff over in the East End: visit to the local pub, a delicious home-cooked meal... If only you could bottle how I'm feeling right now.
And there's more good news: 34 years after seeing her play that legendary UK debut at the 'old' Marquee in Wardour Street, it's almost time for Lee Aaron at the Underworld. Bring it on!
Saturday 15th July
Eddie and I are off shortly to Maidstone United's 4,191-capacity Gallagher Stadium for the first pre-season friendly of 2017/18. It's a new ground for me and there are several local pubs. It's a bit of a swizz that Palace have downgraded their side from the first team to an Under-23s XI, that's not why we shelled out for tix and train travel, but if FdB wants to run the rule over our fringe players then that's good enough for me. COYP! (I've missed writing that!)
[Edit: The result was an easy 3-1 win for the Palace, Jordon Mutch scoring twice. It's tempting to say that he's found his level].
Friday 14th July
What a fine start to my Friday. Phone interviews with Claire Hamill and Merv 'Spam' Spence about their respective roles in the Wishbone Ash albums 'Number The Brave' and 'Raw To The Bone'. Both are pretty underrated in the band's canon if you ask me, and I always loved this song! (I was also at the Marquee on the night it was filmed).
Hahaha! Brilliant! I'd forgotten all about this, from the pages of Extra Kerrang! issue 7, Sept 1985. My patented and somewhat unique technique of opening a bottle of Grolsch lager. Taken whilst on tour in Holland with those raving teatotallers Chariot.
Thursday 13th July
Funerals: such awful bloody things. Nevertheless, I took a degree of enjoyment from a trip to Southampton and being at Amanda's side as she reconnected with family members not seen in decades. Her beloved Aunt Lorna got the wonderful send-off she deserved and, to use a well-worn cliché, everything went as well as it could have done. When we got back in London quite a few cold beers were necessary... cheers!
Monday 10th July
I'm very happy to announce that I have a fantastic young lady in my life. We had a few drinks together when Rainbow and Sweet played at the O2 Arena and a week later she came to Lingfest. Neither of us was looking for romance but it found us anyway. Since then we've been pretty much inseparable. After a fairly miserable couple of years relationship-wise, also the employment shit that went down last Christmas, Amanda is just what I needed and I'm very happy indeed.
P.S. You probably all thought that I was gay, right? Hahaha!
P.P.S. The best three quid that I've spent in a while was Rod Stewart's autobiography, cunningly entitled Rod – The Autobiography. No ghost writer is credited; if Rod did it all himself then I applaud... loudly! Time for the last few chapters on the terrace before it gets dark.
Sunday 9th July
I suppose I'm a wee bit jealous of the posts from all of those at across London watching Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks, but gigs in Hyde Park just about always suck. On the upside, I'm enjoying 'Callifornia', the new Riverdogs album... gorgeous, lazy music for a Sunday evening. The best thing they've done since the debut, and no mistake.
And on the downside, it's hard to believe that Würzel from Motörhead died six years ago today. This was the business card that he handed me in the pub one afternoon, RIP Würzel The Bastard. 23.10.49 – 9.7.11. Gone but not forgotten.
Friday 7th July
There's some amazing though probably not wholly unexpected news from the Status Quo camp. Now they're plugging back in again. "This has been a year like no other. In many ways the band has felt out of control," says Mr Rossi. "Rick's passing was a huge blow. Much of what we had planned was envisaged initially to accommodate what would be right for him; those sands have obviously shifted. Now everything has changed. The band is not the same - it can't be and shouldn't be – and the plan has changed too. We're still listening to the fans, we always have, and we're hearing that this is what they still want. We're going to give it to them".
I have no words.
Thursday 6th July
I'm reviewing the new Threshold double-album, 'Legends Of The Shires', for Metal Hammer. Gotta admit I'm missing Damian Wilson's voice - I'd love to hear him get to grips with 'Stars And Satellites'. It has some great tunes, though. Check it out via Nuclear Blast on September 8. It's a bit special.
Wednesday 5th July
Yaaaaaay! Linglet care is sorted for Ramblin' Man Fair. Mote Park here I come… see you at the bar!
Tuesday 4th July
They're a day or two late, which let's face it is no great shock, but here are the monthly updates for the Playlist and YouTube pages. Enjoy!
Monday 3rd July
Well, it's back to reality after an utterly brilliant birthday weekend. As I type I'm rounding up the remaining news stories for Classic Rock July 20, followed by a final edit for the Earache Records 30th anniversary book - I *must* get it done today, by hook or by crook. Listening link to a new H.e.a.t. album that's due in September makes the start of a new week bearable!
Here's one of my fave pix from Saturday nite's celebrations (thanks to Rob Corich). Jeeezus, we've got a lot of peanuts left over from the party. Two weeks on the all-peanut diet beckon, I think. And although I don't really drink the stuff, we also have an awful lot of lager with which to wash it down. Anyone fancy a peanut and lager party?
Sunday 2nd July
Thanks for all of the messages, cards and texts, and everybody that came to Ling Towers on yesterday (and stayed beyond and into today... hello Amanda Gentle and Keith Barton!) It's been my best birthday in years. Eddie's girlfriend Megan made me a cake which was brilliant... CPFC, Quo, Sweet, Maiden, Wishbone Ash... a work of art - but we ate it anyway!!!
Saturday 1st July
Hmmmm... not sure whether I've bought enough ale, especially now that the Lions won this morning's rugby to level the series against New Zealand.
Later on the place will be filling with booze-mad loonies as another Lingfest rolls around to celebrate my latest birthday (which happens tomorrow - but I'm sure we will be drinking well past midnight!)