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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Monday 30th March
Last night it was back to the 100 Club for the second time in 48 hours, this time to see Stone Gods, the Justin Hawkins-less remnants of The Darkness. Hate Gallery, a band formed around the sometime Warrior Soul duo of bassist Janne Jarvis and guitarist Rille Lundell, opened the show. As I saw them headlining late last year (see Diary, Nov 18) it’s perhaps unfair to judge them on 30 minutes spent before an audience that seemed to take an age to warm up. The wide-eyed Jarvis is a great frontman with a bee in his bonnet about the futility of celebrity culture. “What’s this all about?” enquired Janne rhetorically with an acidic scowl, holding up a red-top newspaper with Jade Goody, the reality TV ‘star’ whose recent demise caused a media furore. “It’s not Ghandi or Kennedy, is it? So she was a great mum… fuck off,” he roared contemptuously as Hate Gallery ripped into ‘The Idiots’, the first single from their album ‘Compassion Fatigue’.
Next up were Black Spiders, who I’m happy to say are fast becoming my favourite new band of the moment. A five-piece with three guitarists and a drummer that looks utterly deranged as he plays, their bombastic, detuned insanity reminds me of QOTSA, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Turbonegro and Kyuss. There’s no album yet, only a three-song EP, but song titles like ‘The Full Seven Inches’ and ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me (It Was Gene Not Paul...)’ give a vague indication of their unhinged genius.
Upwards mobility aside, Stone Gods needed to shake their set-list up a little. Fortunately, the band listened to their fans by delaying traditional opener ‘Burn The Witch’ to the encore, beginning with ‘You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight’ and introducing the debut album’s previously unaired ‘Wasting Time’ to the live repertoire. Though it was a bit cumbersome to have played two slower tunes, ‘Magdalen Street’ and ‘Lazy Bones’, in succession, barrelling through Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ set things back on an even keel. However the biggest shock was saved for encore time when Stone Gods attempted to add loud rock guitar to Girls Aloud’s ‘Something Kinda Ooh’. “Our decision to play this song has, to say the least, been pretty controversial,” Richie Edwards explained from the stage. “Some people absolutely love the song we’re about to do, others think we should be strung up by our thumbs – or some other appendage – for even considering it. But to be honest, that makes me want to play it just a little bit more.” How did the SG’s version of ‘Something Kinda Ooh’ compare to Cheryl Cole and company’s original? Don’t ask me… I always watch their videos with the sound turned down… Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Don’t Drink The Water’, ‘You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight’, ‘Making It Hard’, ‘Wasting Time’, ‘Magdalen Street’, ‘Lazy Bones’, ‘Whiplash’, ‘Knight Of The Living Dead’, ‘Start Of Something’, ‘I’m With The Band’ and ‘Defend Or Die’, with encores of ‘Burn The Witch’, ‘Something Kinda Ooh’ and ‘Oh Where ‘O My Beero’.
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Sunday 29th March
The Borderline is a favourite London venue of mine, so it was impossible to decline an invitation to visit it once again and review a group that I’d never seen before. With at least a half-dozen albums to its name, Magenta are a female-fronted, six-piece progressive rock band from Wales. Their singer, Christina Booth, has a strong voice and a warm personality, also a good sense of humour (she’s hardly been beaten by the ‘ugly stick’ either, which helps). I giggled as Booth chastised Pallas singer Alan Reed for his late arrival, mercilessly mocking his “flasher mac”. Guitarist Chris Fry also chips in with vocals of his own amid throwing rock star shapes and an armoury of tricks that includes using two hands on the neck, finger-taps and Steve Howe-like bursts of squealing slide. Material-wise Magenta have a good mix of epic tracks, ‘The Ballad Of Samuel Layne’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ both clocking it at around the 20-minute mark, ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘Speechless’ confirming they can also play more concise tunes. As you’ll have gathered, I was mightily impressed. Here’s what they played: ‘The Ballad Of Samuel Layne’, ‘Gluttony’, ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Demons’, Medley: ‘A Dream’/‘The Visionary’, ‘Speechless’, ‘King Of The Skies’, ‘Anger’, ‘Metamorphosis’, ‘The White Witch’ and encores of ‘Pride’ and another medley; ‘Man And Machine’/‘The Warning’.
Killing time whilst waiting for the Borderline’s doors to open I dropped into Fopp Records, my favourite bargain emporium. Purchases included the re-master of ‘A Farwell To Kings’ by Rush and the expanded edition of The Who’s ‘A Quick One’ for the miserly price of £3 apiece, plus Richard Cole’s book Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored for a quid less. Once the show was done I dashed back to Catford with all human haste to watch, kebab in hand, as England ground out an impressive 4-0 rout of hapless Slovakia in a warm-up for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine. It was, in short, a terrific day.
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Saturday 28th March
Having seen them opening for other acts on two recent occasions, it was high time that I checked out Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash as headliners. After limbering up over a several drinks with my old mate Xavier Russell, who very shortly heads off to see Metallica inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, my pal Andy Beare and I descended the steps into the 100 Club, where a large Friday night crowd had gathered. Blessed by perfect sound, bassist/frontman Turner and his band-mates proceeded to play two sets; one full of Ash songs obvious and obscure, the second based upon 1972’s classic ‘Argus’ album’. I will resist the temptation to comment upon which version of Ash, Turner’s or that of guitarist/vocalist Andy Powell, is the better. Though Powell would no doubt violently disagree, I’m fast reaching the conclusion that the fans are lucky to have them both. Here’s the set-list: ‘Why Don’t We’, ‘Blind Eye’, ‘Rest In Peace’, ‘Lady Jay’, ‘The Pilgrim’, ‘Persephone’, ‘You See Red’, ‘Time Was’, ‘Sometime World’, ‘Blowin’ Free’, ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Leaf And Stream’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Throw Down the Sword’ and encores of ‘Living Proof’ and ‘Jail Bait’.
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Friday 27th March
Yesterday was a bit of a marathon day. During the morning I visited the Ladbroke Grove studio of Steve Hillage for a most enjoyable interview. It was my second grilling of Hillage who is now, of course, firmly back in the eccentric realm of veteran space-rockers Gong. Steve gave me a couple of parting gifts as I bad farewell – a CD and DVD of his performance at the Gong Unconvention in 2006, his first solo show since 1979. Wondrous stuff! I will be at London’s Forum on November 27 for my first live experience of Gong, though their appearance at the Lounge On The Farm Festival in Canterbury on July 10 seems more alluring still as Hillage will also be playing a solo set.
In the evening – not exactly at two minutes to midnight, but pretty close – I had a chat with Nicko McBrain, who called from Lima (in Peru) to preview the Iron Maiden drummer’s upcoming jam session with Steve Vai, certain to be one of the highlights of this London International Music Show in June. Chatting with Nicko, one of rock music’s real characters, is always a hoot and this was no exception. Towards the end of the conversation I asked whether Maiden had any sort of time-frame during which they would begin crafting a follow-up to 2006’s ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’. “We’ll start writing at the end of the year, then record it early in 2010,” he confided. “After that we’ll work out when to release it and what to do touring-wise.” When I reminded him that not too long ago Steve Harris declared, “From now on, every gig is sacred,” Nicko chuckled and said: “No farewell tour is being planned. We’ll just make the best record we can and see what happens from there…”.
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Thursday 26th March
The phenomenon of performing popular albums in their entirety is becoming increasingly popular, with bands queuing up to add their own unique twists to the concept. In 2001, Cheap Trick’s three-night run at London’s Garage saw the Chicagoans revisiting their first three albums (one per night). Five years later, Iron Maiden risked the wrath of their fans by controversially basing a world tour upon ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’. And then last summer, Sparks trumped one and all with a 21-show London residency in which they ran through their entire album catalogue, one album per performance… in chronological order, obviously.
But last night was one of only two occasions I saw anyone grapple with **two** of their legendary albums in one sitting (the other being Queensrÿche’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ double-bill). The group was San Franciscan thrash metal veterans Testament, who transported a sold-out Islington Academy back to 1987/’88 with a ‘one night only’, Metal Hammer-sponsored revision of their first two releases, ‘The Legacy’ and ‘The New Order’. The show offered a unique opportunity to gauge Testament’s debut-to-sophomore growth spurt, its second half revealing how valuable their use of light and shade became. (Almost) anyone can play fast, and with the likes of ‘Curse Of The Legions Of Death’ and ‘First Strike Is Deadly’ the band quickly found its niche, though the relative maturity of ‘Musical Death (A Dirge)’ and ‘The New Order’ stood out as beacons of more popular things to come. I was particularly impressed by guitarist Alex Skolnick, who could walk into just about any Premier League metal band in the world, but the show’s sheer sense of fun was equally obvious, a seven-month road trip supporting Judas Priest coming to a stress-free end. At encore time Chuck Billy even had to reel in his band-mates as Skolnick and six-string partner Eric Peterson fooled around with a verse and chorus of Rob Halford and company’s ‘Rapid Fire’. Best of all, the final two songs, both culled from current disc, ‘The Formation Of Damnation’, were so well-received that I was left wondering (hoping?) that someday the same record will receive the standalone treatment it deserves. Here’s what was played: ‘Over The Wall’, ‘The Haunting’, ‘Burnt Offerings’, ‘Curse Of The Legions Of Death’, ‘Raging Waters’, ‘First Strike Is Deadly’, ‘Do Or Die’, ‘Alone In The Dark’, ‘Apocalyptic City’, ‘Musical Death (A Dirge)’, ‘Eerie Inhabitants’, ‘The New Order’, ‘Hypnosis’/‘Trial By Fire’, ‘Into The Pit’, ‘The Preacher’, ‘A Day Of Reckoning’, ‘Reign Of Terror’ and ‘Disciples Of The Watch’, with encores of ‘Rapid Fire’ (Excerpt), ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ and ‘The Formation Of Damnation’.
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Wednesday 25th March
I’m left with mixed feelings that Judas Priest are to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ‘British Steel’ by playing the celebrated album in its entirety on an upcoming US tour. After all that we in their homeland got on the Priest Feast was the exact same set that they did last summer??!! Pah… those lucky Yanks. Speaking of which, Priest will be appearing with Whitesnake on the North American dates, of which David Coverdale recently announced: “The US is our home and it is a priority for us to achieve the same success here as we have throughout the rest of the world.” Hold on a minute… he might live in Lake Tahoe these days but doesn’t Coverdale always talk about being British?!
P.S. Some excellent news: Opeth have been added to the bill of the Download Festival, which keeps on getting better and better.
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  Tuesday 24th March
I had marked John Waite down as a man of integrity even before last night’s interview to talk up a UK tour that includes a date at the Z Rock 09 festival. We last spoke back in the days when Bad English, the group he had formed with ex-Journey guitarist Neal Schon and other former members of The Babys, were in meltdown. As a pragmatic Lancastrian, Waite didn’t want to wash his dirty linen in public so requested my business card and promised to let me know the outcome of the situation once it resolved itself. Imagine my surprise when he lived up to his word several months later, calling to give RAW Magazine an exclusive – his side of the band’s break-up.
18 years later, the internet has more than its fair share of untruths. So Waite acted prudently when he admitted Googling my name before making the call from his home in the States. Besides discussing the reasons why he has failed to play a show in his homeland since a run of near legendary gigs at London’s Marquee in the summer of ’86, we put a couple of net rumours to bed, including the one that Ringo Starr – whose All Star band John joined in 2003 – had helped to bankroll the formation of The Babys. “No, no, no!” he laughed. “There was a guy called Ringo who was a mate of the second engineer when we made the first album [1982’s ‘Ignition’]. That particular Ringo used to make the tea in the studio for us; it’s just one of those stories that grew out of control.” However, Waite was a good deal less forthcoming when presented with another web rumour, namely that he and Alison Krauss, with whom he re-cut his international hit ‘Missing You’ three years ago, are a romantic item. “I won’t answer that on the record,” he stated.
So it’s a ‘no comment?’, I asked. “It’s a ‘no comment’.” 

Monday 23rd March
Just a quick plug for a brand new quarterly magazine which I’m happy to be involved with. Despite the fact that it’s becoming more bankable than ever before, I’ve long since felt that none of the existing magazines available on the British market have treated progressive rock with the respect it deserves.
And even when the music is begrudgingly written about, there’s always an undercurrent either of sly mickey-taking or plain ignorance (in the case of the latter witness the BBC’s recent ham-fisted documentary, Prog Rock Britannia).

Classic Rock Presents Prog is written by prog fans for prog fans. Its goal is to cover established bands (Floyd, Rush, Marillion, ELP, Yes, Dream Theater, BJH, Tull) and relative newcomers (Coheed And Cambria, Demains, The Reasoning, Pure Reason Revolution).
For the pages of #1, I contributed all-new interviews with Steven Wilson and the four original members of Asia, plus some assorted reviews (including King’s X live and the Camel CD re-issues).
A finished copy just dropped onto my desk, and it looks amazing. Can’t wait to sit down and digest it from cover to cover.

Sunday 22nd March
I'm well and truly stunned. For the past several weeks voices in the know have predicted that Mastodon's forthcoming release, 'Crack The Skye', will be among the frontrunners of 2009's Album Of The Year. Having sat in my office, volume cranked high, curtains closed and glued to the lyric sheet, I can only agree that the Brendan O'Brien (AC/DC, Audioslave, King's X)-produced 'Crack The Skye' is a monumental, gloriously overblown piece of progressively-inclined metal, and quite probably the Atlanta quartet's finest achievement to date. I've been a Mastodon fan since my friend Malcolm Dome and I caught the band, almost by accident, opening for High On Fire at London's Underworld in February 2003, at the tail end of a tour for their debut, 'Remission'. To say that they overwhelmed us both would be a little like stating that Jon Bon Jovi is fond of mirrors and green folding stuff.
Since then, Mastodon have gone from strength to strength, recruiting an army of fans with 2004's 'Leviathan' and 'Blood Mountain' two years later. I've no idea what its bamboozling concept is about - something to do with wormholes, secret societies, Rasputin and a magnet of wisdom, apparently - but 'Crack The Skye' is the album that will make Mastodon stars, you mark my words. After its 50 minutes were through, I sat breathless and dumbstruck before pressing the button marked 'play' again. The album can be heard in its entirety at the band's MySpace site.
Regarding yesterday's enjoyable 0-0 draw between Palace and Reading at Selhurst, I concur with Neil Warnock's claim that the home side "shaded it", but most of all it was lovely to have seen and been part of the ovation afforded to current Reading manager and former Palace boss Steve Coppell. The ever-modest and thoughtful Coppell helmed the Eagles through four different spells over 16 years and 600-odd games, guiding the club to third place in the top flight and a Wembley FA Cup Final, even negotiating a turbulent, relegation-threatened period of administration. The final fixture of the 1999/2000 season against Blackburn Rovers, which saw a jubilant Coppell throw his blazer into the Holmesdale stand as the club warded off the threat on being wound up, was the most emotionally charged game I've ever attended. I adore the bloke - always have, always will (though in a manly way, of course).
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Saturday 21st March
Well, the travelling might’ve been horrendous, bookended by a pair of infuriatingly slow crawls through central London traffic, but Thursday night’s FM gig was all I hoped it would be. Around 120 fortunate fans had received tickets for the intimate, one-off show at Winstanley College in Wigan, which saw the reunited UK group blooding their new guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick. Drummer Pete Jupp later told me that Kirkpatrick’s arrival has freed up FM’s ability to play their vintage material, his predecessor Andy Barnett having been reluctant to perform material from the all-time classic ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’ albums. This was reflected in a thoroughly mouth-watering and beautifully paced 16-song display that will be released on DVD in the not too distant future. My friend Kev McDempster and I sat within feet of the stage and observed with grins that would’ve shamed Cheshire cats as ‘The Dream That Died’ and ‘Dangerous’ were returned to FM’s repertoire, the ‘Aphrodisiac’ slowie ‘Hard Day In Hell’ being introduced onstage for the very first time. Sure, the show got off to a nervy start, Steve Overland singing marginally ahead of the beat during opener ‘Breathe Fire’, but despite a less than stellar solo during the same track, Kirkpatrick went on to prove himself a terrific addition to the band. A brand new song called ‘I Ain’t The One’ bodes magnificently for a new studio disc that FM plan to release in time for their Firefest appearance in October. Here’s the set-list in all its pink-suited glory: ‘Breathe Fire’, ‘The Dream That Died’, ‘Face To Face’, ‘I Belong To The Night’, a slightly rushed ‘That Girl’, ‘I Ain’t The One’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘Hard Day In Hell’, ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, ‘American Girls’, ‘Only The Strong Survive’, ‘Blood And Gasoline’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’ and ‘Bad Luck’, with encores of ‘Frozen Heart’ and ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Then it was time for Kev and myself to drink a few fermented grapes of our own… but that’s a whole other story!

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Thursday 19th March
No updates for a couple of days as I trek Northwards for FM's one-off gig in Wigan. My bag is packed with a variety of listening delights, including the Atomhenge Records Hawkwind re-issues, Ian Gillan's 'One Eye To Morocco', an advance promo of 'American Soldier' by Queensrÿche and a precious finished copy of Deep Purple's 'Stormbringer'.
Last night was spent in Camden where H.E.A.T., the new Swedish rock sensations, played a fabulous UK headline gig. I arrived early at the Underworld to fulfil a promise of catching a few songs by Lost Weekend, having received a frosty email from the UK's band's singer Paul Uttley following what he felt was an "out and out personal" review of their latest album, 'Fear And Innocence'. Uttley took exception to my use of the term "character bypass", so it was lucky that one of Classic Rock's sub-editors saw fit to remove the review's kiss-off line of: "Maybe they should change their name to Wet Weekend?" To be frank, however, I saw very little on the stage to change my opinion. Their strain of AOR pub-rock is proficient and enthusiastic... no more, no less.
H.E.A.T., by contrast, were sensational. What a singer! What a set of songs! What showmanship! What a crowd reaction! Purring through a set culled from last year's warmly received self-titled debut and topped off by a fulsome cover of Journey's 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)', the band very quickly made us forget life's miseries such as the credit crunch and the (slim) possibility of Scumwall fluking promotion. Although they were seen by four million TV viewers in Sweden's Eurovision eliminators and have an album and single in their national chart, it's early days for H.E.A.T. here in the UK, and last night's show, like the rest of the tour, was poorly publicised. But the 150-odd fans that partook of such a special night will surely tell their all of their friends not to miss out next time. I still predict great things.
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Wednesday 18th March
“I’m disappointed we’re not [going to be] in the play-offs, but we’re not good enough,” admits Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock after all hopes of promotion were finally dashed by last night’s defeat at Barnsley – a game I had tickets to have attended till it was moved to midweek after the original date was snowed off. Warnock’s statement is a typically frank summation of a dire situation. The trip to Oakwell sums up a hit ‘n’ miss season; taking an early lead thanks to the Human Kebab (Shefki Kuqi), then leaking three goals to a weak home side that, until the Eagles’ feeble capitulation, had been waist-deep in the relegation mire. The only meagre consolation to come from handing Barnsley three points is that south London neighbours Clowntown Pathetic are left all but mathematically condemned to third-tier football next season. Talk about a bittersweet feeling.

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Tuesday 17th March
A few days ago some friends and I were laughing about the plethora of so called heritage acts that are threatening to make this year’s Download bill seem more like a Monsters Of Rock bash of old. When somebody announced, “Imagine the emo kids’ reaction if the organisers were to go the whole hog and book a band like Journey?” we scoffed as one. Well, blow me down – that’s exactly what’s happened. With Neal Schon and company, Tesla, Down, Black Stone Cherry and the reunited Skin (of “Baby, baby, baby, baby… look but don’t touch” fame) newly confirmed to join the likes of Leppard, Whitesnake, ZZ Top, Dream Theater, the Crüe, DragonForce, Faith No More and Anvil, I’ve just booked myself a hotel room for the weekend. That’s quite a line-up, I’m sure you’ll agree?
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Monday 16th March
Good news for fans of Emerson Lake & Palmer, a band which has, of course, been on hiatus since 1998. An update at Carl Palmer's site reveals: "There is talk of an ELP reunion tour in the fall". You'll find me in the queue for tickets to that one.
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Sunday 15th March
What a beautiful day, in more ways than one. London is bathed in warm sunshine and with a clear blue sky overhead. I'm nursing a hangover in the wake of a great gig by Golden Earring and yesterday's football results. I'd love to have been at the Liberty Stadium - a new ground for me - for Palace's 3-1 triumph over Swansea City, but there was no way I was missing the first UK appearance by the Dutchmen in more than three decades. During the afternoon I trawled around the second hand record stores at Notting Hill Gate whilst my friend Steve Taylor, who was at the game, kept me updated with goal news. Bargains included a Fountains Of Wayne CD that I didn't have (1999's 'Utopia Parkway') and a fascinating collection of Weezer mainman Rivers Cuomo's demos ('Alone: The Home Recordings', 2007). Compounding the joy of a CPFC victory, when it became evident that Ch***ton and Scumwall had both lost their own crucial fixtures, there was nothing for it - pass me those cans of Strongbow Super please, barman. Hic!!
Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash were the special guests of Golden Earring. Though I missed the beginning of their set, which was based upon the classic 'Argus' album, I liked what I heard. A lot. The signs outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire which stated that Golden Earring would play for just 90 minutes were thankfully erroneous. The sound and lights were excellent and they ended up hanging around for nigh on two hours, the perennial 'Radar Love' bringing the house down. Because the impact of the group's best-known song was undermined by Cesar Zuiderwijk's gratuitous drum solo, my own highlight of the show was the irresistible 'Twilight Zone', culled from 1982's fabulous 'Cut' album. Golden Earring must have been thrilled by the size and enthusiasm of the audience; fingers crossed they'll return to these shores before too long. Here’s the set-list: ‘Candy's Going Bad’, ‘Just Like Vince Taylor’, ‘Another 45 Miles’, ‘Leather’, ‘Twilight Zone’, ‘Long Blond Animal’, ‘Fighting Windmills’, ‘Something Heavy Going Down’, ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’, ‘Liquid Soul’, ‘When The Lady Smiles’, ‘Going To The Run’, ‘Johnny Make Believe’, Bass Solo, ‘Radar Love' (including Drum Solo) and encores of ‘She Flies On Strange Wings’ and ‘Holy Holy Life’.
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Friday 13th March
Phew… what a busy week it’s been. I clean forgot to mention that I spoke to Danny Bowes and Luke Morley of Thunder a few days ago, the results of which will be run in a ‘farewell’ interview for Classic Rock. Got the impression that both were okay with the decision to call it a day – Bowes being frantically busy in his daytime work as a booking agent. Morley told me that Danny’s announcement was not a shock, though he didn’t expect it to have happened quite so soon. Luke already has a post-Thunder project lined up, though he was cagey to talk about it out of respect for his current band-mates, not wanting anyone to think he was stealing their… er, Thunder. “You could even pick up the phone and call David Coverdale at last,” I told him, resulting in a bray of laughter from the other end of the phone. “I could,” replied Luke, “but I probably won’t.” Before he hung up, Bowes warned me that Thunder are planning “the piss-up of all piss-ups” after their final performance at Hammersmith Odeon on July 11. “Okay, I’ll book a day off to recuperate,” I laughed, not realising till afterwards that the gig takes place on a Saturday. “You’ll probably need two days,” he advised, in all seriousness.
Before we move on, what terrific support acts Thunder have engaged for the farewell tour. The recently reunited Electric Boys will do the honours at Hammersmith and Wolverhampton, the Quireboys, Airrace and Logan (Scotland’s answer to Alter Bridge) sharing the rest. I might go to Cambridge to check out Airrace.
Last night was spent at the University Of London Union (ULU, for short) in the company of the ever-reliable Tigertailz and the fast-improving Heaven’s Basement. The latter recently cut a handful of new songs – ‘Can’t Let Go’, ‘10 Minutes’, ‘Dead Man’ and ‘Misunderstood’ – with producer Bob Marlette of Tony Iommi, Shinedown and Alice Cooper fame, and it says much of their self-belief that all four featured in the set, one after another. Three of them are great in my opinion, and in ‘Executioner’s Day’, as heard on a recent Classic Rock covermount disc, they have an anthem fit to become a classic. Shame that the show overran, which meant the ’Tailz had to cut their stage time down to 35 minutes, though the Welshmen closed with a titanic singalong of their own; the one and only ‘Love Bomb Baby’. Don’t ask me what headliners Hardcore Superstar were like… by that point I was too pissed to care!

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Thursday 12th March
It’s hard to say which was the more disappointing, Crystal Palace throwing away last night’s game at Burnley (the Eagles were winning 2-1 with 15 minutes to go but somehow ended up losing 4-2), or a below-par display from one of my favourite bands, Nightwish. I’ve been a strong supporter of the group’s decision to appoint Anette Olzon in the place of Tarja Turunen, the ensuing ‘Dark Passion Play’ figuring among the very best releases of 2007. And at last summer’s Bloodstock Festival they really seemed to have gelled into a cohesive unit. But I’m sorry to say, the illusion was rudely dispelled by the opening night of their world tour’s latest leg, at the Brixton Academy. It was the band’s first show in three months, and although instrumentally the band was spot-on, Olzon struggled to pierce the music’s symphonic power and dynamism. Matters were not helped by the set-list being radically changed; there was no place for ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’ and, according to Anette, ‘Romanticide’ (from the breakthrough album ‘Once’) had never been played onstage before – even during the Tarja era. For the first time since the headline-generating changeover, Ms Turunen’s presence hung heavy in the air. I applaud Nightwish for mixing things up, but although the show finished with a triumphant, pyro-enhanced version of ‘Wish I Had An Angel’, Olzon couldn’t do justice to material as demanding as ‘The Siren’ or ‘Ghost Love Score’ (all three of which originally featured on ‘Once’). Without the stabilising vocal influence and showmanship of bassist Marco Hietala they’d have been well and truly stranded up Shit Creek. It pains me to say this, but I felt the show was a 6/10 performance. Here’s what they played: ‘7 Days To The Wolves’, ‘Dead To The World’, ‘The Siren’, ‘Amaranth’, ‘Romanticide’, ‘Dead Boy's Poem’, ‘Sahara’, ‘Nemo’, ‘The Islander’, ‘The Poet And The Pendulum’, ‘Dark Chest Of Wonders’, ‘The Escapist’ and encores of ‘Ghost Love Score’ and ‘Wish I Had An Angel’.
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Wednesday 11th March
Now here’s a terrifying thought… whisper it quietly… grunge-rock is perhaps on its way back. Yes, proving the theory that musical trends are indeed cyclical, don’t rule out the possibility of a second flannel-shirted revolution. Where am I getting this rubbish? Well, from none other than the man that used to be Kurt Cobain’s publicist. Last night I was at London’s Hard Rock Café for a Roadrunner Records acoustic showcase featuring alt-rockers Madina Lake and New Jersey-based newcomers The Parlor Mob. Perhaps aware how much it would ruffle my feathers, Anton Brookes, the aforementioned Nirvana PR man (who also represents The Parlor Mob) grinned as he told me of another of his acts, a young trio from Leeds called Dinosaur Pile-Up that he claims are tearing up the British club circuit. This morning Anton emailed me a track called ‘My Rock And Roll’ that confirms the band are indeed a Mini-Me reincarnation of Cobain and Company. They will be huge. Can I be among the first to say that I hate them?
But back to the showcase. Though all I’d heard was a MySpace song or two, The Parlor Mob rather impressed me. Time permitting, I’ll check out their electric gig at the Water Ratz next Monday. Though I’ve nothing against Madina Lake, having enjoyed their 2007 debut ‘From Them, Through Us, To You’, the Chicago group’s music doesn’t translate too well minus all its trimmings, especially encumbered by a frontman who by his own admission knows nothing of singing songs in their correct key (“I just vibe it,” volunteers Nathan Leone, rather foolishly). Although the audience enjoyed the rather quirky display, it reminded me that I had some socks that needed darning.

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Tuesday 10th March
The balcony might have been closed off for last night’s Amon Amarth and Obituary gig at the Forum, but downstairs was crammed full. Annoyingly, the sound was as muddy as the Florida swamps from which the special guests hail, and from where I stood (right in front of the mixing desk) things improved only marginally when Amon Amarth took the stage. You can chuckle all you like at the veteran Swedish band’s image of Norse metal warriors – the evening’s longboat-themed set-closer, ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings’, pleads: “Oden! Guide our ships/Our axes, spears and swords/Guide us through storms that whip/And in brutal war”, and at one point frontman Johann Hegg stopped the show to gulp mead from a horn – but the recent Metal Hammer cover stars have accumulated a seven-album repertoire of sturdy, impressive material. I personally had no problem with the decision to include five tracks from current disc, ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’, but it was the subject of annoyance to some of those around me. What the heck… the show was great and I’d go to see both bands again anytime. Here’s the Amon Amarth set-list: ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’, ‘Free Will Sacrifice’, ‘With Oden On Our Side’, ‘Varyags Of Miklagaard’, ‘The Fate Of Norns’, ‘Under The Northern Star’, ‘Guardians Of Asgaard’, ‘Ride For Vengeance’, ‘North Sea Storm’, ‘Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags’, ‘Death In Fire’, ‘Victorious March’ and encores of ‘Cry Of The Black Birds’ and ‘The Pursuit Of Vikin
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Monday 9th March
In terms of gigs, there hasn’t been a great deal going on. So I’m pleased that Steely Dan will be back for three dates during the summer (including the Hammersmith Apollo a day before my birthday), with Anthrax and Airbourne – the former now featuring new singer Dan Nelson – also both added to the bill of the Sonisphere Festival in August. In stark contrast to the past month or so, this week’s going be a bit bonkers, live appointments with Amon Amarth, Obituary, Nightwish, Tigertailz, Heaven’s Basement and Golden Earring all having been eagerly pencilled into the diary. Better still, UFO dates are on the way in June… Bring it on!

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Sunday 8th March
Phe-e-e-e-ewe-e-e-e-e! I’m still relieved that yesterday Palace came from a goal down to claim victory over PNE, a bogey side in the past, to establish a chink of daylight (ten points… 11 if you take goal difference into account) between ourselves and the dreaded drop zone. Before leaving for the game I’d waffled about what the footie pundits call ‘winning ugly’ if necessary, but Palace’s sensational equaliser, smashed into the top corner by Sunderland loanee Anthony Stokes, was a strike from the drawer marked ‘Roy Of The Rovers’. The confidence it brought the team was palpable. Over at the CPFC bulletin board the possibility of making the play-offs is now once again being debated. That’s the gloriously unpredictable beauty of supporting Crystal Palace; will the next dozen-odd games bring another dramatic promotion surge or ignominious relegation (alongside the Clowns)? One thing is for certain: Life in SE25 is never predictable.
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Saturday 7th March
As my old pal Dave Reynolds requested that I scan him some archive Angel material I filled the dead time by spinning the recent Lovember Records re-issue of ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’ and my own favourite Angel album, ‘Sinful’, singing along at lusty volume. I hope that none of the neighbours were putting out any washing at the time, or they’d have been forgiven for assuming an army of tabby cats was being neutered in the office at the end of my garden. All together now, “White lightnin’… it’s fright’nin’!”
Whether it’s in tune or not, I hope that there will be some loud singing at Selhurst Park later today. The Eagles haven’t scored in 407 minutes of play at the club’s home ground, and it’s imperative that visitors Preston North End are put to the sword. I don’t care what type of goal it might be; the ball could rebound in off the referee’s ass for all it matters – just get the sodding thing in the net!!! With the Lillywhites chasing promotion, I can’t really see it happening though.

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Friday 6th March
I’ve just booked my transport to see FM’s gig at Winstanley College in Wigan in a fortnight’s time. Am making the journey north by coach. Whereas some people dislike that particular method of travel, I find it quite therapeutic and, of course, it’s cheap as chips – a third the price of going by rail. I’m saving some rather interesting-looking reading material for the trip, a potentially ludicrous new book which purports to be an educational study of metal called Heavy Metal Music In Britain (Ashgate Publishing). Edited by a German fella called Gerd Bayer and sporting cover art of two headbangers in denim jackets with Iron Maiden and Motörhead backpatches, its chapter subtitles include: ‘Hell-Bent For Leather: Judas Priest, Spectacle and Commodity Fetishism’, ‘Bullshit Detector: The ‘Inauthentic’ Realism of Grindcore’, ‘Anti-Respectability and Subcultural Themes In Motörhead’s Lyrics’ and, best of all, ‘Homer and the Heroic: Manowar and The Warrior’. It’ll either be a complete pile of pretentious pants, or something unexpectedly intriguing.
Anyway… back to FM. After so many years of the band being off the scene, it’s pretty hard to believe that I will probably get to see them three times this year; in Wigan, alongside It Bites at the Castle Park Rock Festival in Wales on May 30 and as part of the Firefest at Nottingham’s Rock City on October 24. Meeeesta, you are spoiling us!!!

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Thursday 5th March
What a great start to the day. This morning I logged on to find an email from none other than Dennis DeYoung, former keyboard maestro/vocalist with pomp rock messiahs Styx, offering a copy of his new solo album, ‘One Hundred Years From Now’ (Rounder Records, April 14). It seems like a century ago that Dennis and I discussed its projected release and, bless him, he was keeping a promise to alert me of its imminent release. “I am thrilled that there still is a record company in existence and that they were crazy enough to release my album; will wonders never cease?” muses the great man. I look forward to hearing it…
The postie has just arrived, weighed down by a quite brilliant package from Voiceprint Records. Until now I’ve never owned Mountain guitarist Leslie West’s solo albums ‘The Great Fatsby’ (1975) or ‘The Leslie West Band’ (1976), but I promise to give them both the home they deserve. Also a CD and DVD from former Manfred mann’s Earth Band singer Chris Thompson.
Before I forget, last night I trekked up to the Barfly in Camden to investigate a gig by a band from the Cambridge area called God Sacks Man, at the request of their manager, Laurie Mansworth. Laurie, you will recall was an artist in his own right first with the sorely underrated NWOBHM band More, then alongside Jason Bonham in one of the finest (and recently reunited) melodic rock bands of all time, Airrace. He was also the driving force behind Hurricane Party and Roadstar till a bust-up in April 2007. Featuring his 14-year-old son Danny on drums, the frighteningly young God Sacks Man are Laurie’s latest protégées. Grappling with an instrument that looked taller than he was, the diminutive bassist, who goes by the name of Swoggle (don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it…) was good to watch, and despite some vocal issues and a couple of iffy songs towards the set’s end, there seemed to be plenty of raw talent with which to work. I’ll definitely check them out again in a year’s time or less.
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Wednesday 4th March
Okay, I’m starting to worry about Palace’s slide towards the Championship’s relegation zone. Last night’s game against table-topping Wolves was a fixture I’d willingly have taken a point from before kick-off, and the team put in a spirited (if toothless) performance that, in my opinion, merited a draw. However, a disputed second half penalty sent the visitors back to the Midlands clutching all three points. The decision looked harsh from my seat in a Holmesdale Road stand that was being pelted with icy cold wind and rain, but I’ve just seen it on TV and Clint Hill’s tackle was a little reckless. The Eagles have only found the back of the net in two of nine league games – we can’t buy a goal, and with the table’s strugglers all seeming to hit form (with the exception, thankfully, of Charlton, who now look doomed after losing at home… AGAIN) all notions of mid-table comfort are starting to look a bit previous.
My solitary crumb of comfort from an otherwise thoroughly miserable night – I waited around for a bus home in the same Arctic-style weather for almost as long as the game was played – came via a new double-CD set of the Sweet’s best material (‘Action: The Sweet Anthology’ on Shout Factory, April 28). Charting the band’s bubblegum years with songs like ‘Funny Funny’, ‘Little Willy’ and ‘Wig Wam Bam’, it documents the toughening up of their sound with ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘The Ballroom Blitz’, before diving headlong into the hard rock of selections from ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, ‘Desolation Boulevard’ and all the rest, exhuming the final big hit, ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’, and closing with the best bits of a Brian Connolly-less swansong era that I personally consider to be sorely underrated; ‘Call Me’, ‘Big Apple Waltz’, ‘Give The Lady Some Respect’ and ‘Sixties Man’ are all mighty fine chewns in my book. Now firmly interwoven into my musical DNA, the music didn’t exactly keep the damp chills at bay, but it was bloody wonderful to hear it again.
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Tuesday 3rd March
This morning’s shocking news that the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by terrorists armed with guns and rocket grenades as it travelled to a test match in Pakistan caused me to sit bolt upright in bed. WTF??!! Five policemen lost their lives whilst protecting the sportsmen from 12 masked assassins… thankfully there were no fatalities among the Sri Lankans, but what on earth is the world coming to?! The idea that something as precious as sport can be used as a political tool is utterly abhorrent to me.
Still on a sporting theme, last night my youngest son came home from primary school with a sly but innocent grin, waving around a piece of photocopied paper. Knowing full well my views on the subject he kept a straight face whilst asking whether he and I could take advantage of a freebie ticket offer to attend tonight’s game between Clowntown Pathetic and Doncaster. Playing along with the farce, I sat him down and duly had the ‘no son of mine…’ conversation.
I was in such an upbeat mood, not even the ruse of ‘Daddy, I’m going to be a Charlton fan’ could have punctured it. Why? Well, during the afternoon I had the pleasure of a phone chat with Noddy Holder, former Slade frontman and one of the great statesmen of British rock. Now in his sixties, Noddy is another of my all-time heroes. Having loved the band as a kid, I witnessed Slade’s miraculous rebirth at the Reading Festival in 1980 and had quite a few dealings with the group during its second lease of life during the following decade. Holder assures me he still has those incredible pipes of his. Sadly, having opted to try different things in 1991 Noddy still isn’t tempted by a musical comeback though he did at least hold out a distant hope by using the phrase “never say never” with regard to singing in public again.
P.S. The Playlist and YouTube pages have been updated. I’ve also added more silly photographs to the CPFC Shrine, including one of myself made up as a red and blue version of Gene Simmons as the Eagles stuffed Sheff Utd at the 1996/97 Play Off Final. And what’s more, I have yet to pay a cent to Mr Simmons for the image rights… yah boo sucks, Gene!

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Sunday 1st March
Well, I wisely resisted the allure of Crystal Palace's awayday in Twatford. The decision to stay away wasn't purely economic; after yesterday's 2-0 reverse, the Eagles' last eight games have now resulted in a solitary win, one draw and six defeats. I'm hardly what you'd call a fair weather fan, but given the choice between pouring money down the drain during a second wasted trip to Hertfordshire of this season or getting on with some paid work (a bunch of album reviews, to be precise)... hmmm... sometimes common sense simply has to prevail.
The fifty-odd notes I saved didn't last very long. This morning was spent trawling the racks at a record fair in Orpington. Among the oddities that I picked up were an album I'd never even seen before, namely Gary Holton (of the Heavy Metal Kids) and Mick Rossi's 'Sing It To Me', and a lovely clear vinyl edition of the Electric Light Orchestra's 'On The Third Day'.