Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

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Tuesday 31st May
I’ve just finished reading Neil Daniels’ book Don’t Stop Believing: The Untold Story Of Journey and, reluctantly, find myself agreeing with the consensus of the reviews that I’ve seen so far… namely that the band’s story **still** pretty much remains untold. Journey value their secrecy and the book is an unofficial one, which meant rebuttal from most of the people that that Daniels tried to interview. On top of this, Daniels seems to write an awful lot of books these days. How to put this nicely (especially from another scribe who’s style might be termed “quote-heavy”); well… in this instance his text is bogged down by too many bland, generic comments from previously published interviews – block after block after block of them – failing to pack anywhere enough of the ‘bite’ deserved by Journey’s chequered history, nor the insight of somebody that can take a step back. It reads like one long record company biography.
Having said that, the band’s gloriously indiscreet former manager Herbie Herbert offers some controversial opinions, including the dismissing Steve Perry as a “prick”. The trouble is, Daniels taps Herbert’s comments so extensively that they end up sounding like the rants of a deranged, bitter loony. In tandem with the way that the whole ‘Tapegate’ scandal is rapidly glossed over and some silly factual errors – it was Jeff Scott Soto that reunited Talisman circa his dismissal by Journey, not Steve Augeri – this book can be described as: ‘A valiant attempt, but nowhere near good enough’.
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Monday 30th May
My eldest lad Eddie and I spent yesterday afternoon among a sizeable crowd at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, where a new competition called the London Legends Cup was taking place. In response to the runaway success of cricket’s Twenty20 format, the game was played according to Football40 rules; eleven-a-side teams, twenty minutes each way with a penalty shoot-out to settle things where necessary, plus sin bins and corners taken from the edge of the penalty box. It featured four sides from the capital – Fulham, Chelski, the Arse and Spuz. Although Crystal Palace weren’t represented, there were plenty of former Eagles on display including Chris Coleman, Eddie McGoldrick, Danny Granville, Matty Lawrence, Stan Collymore (who was roundly booed each time he touched the ball) and even Kenny Sansom, who is now 52 years old. Andy Linighan was also in the Arse’s squad, though I don’t think he made it onto the pitch. It was good to read in the programme that Sansom, CPFC’s left-back from 1975–1980, has put himself through rehab at last. At one point the former England defender used to drink nine bottles of wine a day!! With the likes of Paul Merson, Gianfranco Zola, Ricky Villa, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Tony Woodcock, Paul Walsh, Darren Anderton and Tore Andre Flo all turning up and proceeds going Help A Capital Child, it was a fabulous way to pass an afternoon. Here’s hoping that it happens again next year.
Having put Eddie onto a train back home to Catford, I headed over to the Underworld in Camden where the Heavy Metal Kids were playing a gig with Philip Lewis of L.A. Guns/Girl/ Tormé fame on vocals. Though this arrangement has been reported as temporary, don’t be surprised should it go on for a while longer – Lewis said from the stage: “It’s absolutely brilliant to be singing in the band that I just fucking worshipped as a teenager”. All in leather and with what looked like a dead stoat dangling from his belt, jet-black hair suspiciously luxuriant (!!), Lewis has all the confidence and charisma lacked by his predecessor John Altman of EastEnders fame (who was actually in the crowd). Opting for a dapper white jacket and polka dot shirt during the encores, Lewis just lust looked right in the band and certainly gave off an appropriate authentic Londoner vibe, sounding dead at home during impressive versions of ‘The Cops Are Coming and ‘She’s No Angel’. “We’ll see you again in August!” he cried as the band left the stage with the Underworld howling for more. Here’s the set-list: ‘Hangin’ On’, ‘Blow It All Away’, ‘Hit The Right Button’, ‘Chelsea Kids’, ‘A Hundred Skeletons’, ‘Blue Eyed Boy’, ‘Whisky’, ‘On The Street’, ‘Message’, ‘It’s The Same’, ‘The Cops Are Coming’, ‘Marseille’ and ‘She’s No Angel’, plus ‘Run Around Eyes’ and ‘Delirious’.
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Sunday 29th May
Media saturation was such that I had no intention of watching last night’s Champions League final. Although its showdown took place here in London, the Champions League holds zero interest for me. It’s an irrelevant competition for those of us that consider ourselves true football supporters. Why should any **real** fans of the game care a jot about a fixture between two multi-millionaire prima-donna behemoths? The victor tends to be the club that has spent the most money, not the one boasting superior skill levels. One set of fat-cat egomaniacs versus another. Why even bother? And yet with nothing to do on a Saturday night, and with eldest son Eddie nagging about basking in its alleged splendour, I found myself press ganged into tuning in. Whaddya know… I was glad that I did so. Playing in sexy red ‘n’ blue stripes and with a core of players from the club’s academy (probably the only two commonalities shared with my beloved CPFC!), Barcelona’s passing and movement was awe-inspiring… they didn’t just defeat ManUre, they pounded them into the ground, doused their remains with petrol and incinerated them. It was a joy to watch.
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Saturday 28th May
What a truly incredible feat – The Zombies are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary. Having been blown away by their display at the Childline Rocks charity concert back in March 2008, I’ll own up to being a (relatively) new convert to the cause of this magnificent yet shamefully undervalued act. At the risk of sounding like a zealot, the group’s new album ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ has also been on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers for the last month, so it was great that The Zombies aired six of is best tracks – including my own favourite, the slightly Steely Dan-ish title cut – during last night’s gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Equally impressive, when attention was turned to a half-dozen cuts from 1968’s cult classic album ‘Odessy And Oracle’ to end the first portion of the show, the group was rejoined by its original rhythm section of bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy, with b/vs from White’s wife Viv. Not that lead singer Colin Blunstone needed any help in the vocal department, mind. It’s hard to believe the guy is now 65 years old.
Over the course of two hours The Zombies racked up a whopping 26 songs (though their August 1964 debut ‘She’s Not There’ was performed twice). In addition to Zombies material, Rod Argent chipped in with two Argent classics (‘Hold Your Head Up’ and ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You’) and Blunstone reminded us of a guest spot with The Alan Parsons Project on 1982’s ‘Eye In The Sky’ album with a superb revision of ‘Old And Wise’. Having managed a half-century in the business, it’ll be fascinating to see how many more tours and/or albums the band has left, though when I asked Argent this very question during a recent Classic Rock interview, the keysman – who turns 66 in a month – replied: “My father, who is sadly no longer with us, played in a band till he was 83.” If they can keep on making records as captivating as ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’, I wouldn’t object if the Zombies carried on till they reached a hundred – or at least matched Malcolm Dome’s age (whichever comes first).
I’m not completely sure whether I have all of the song titles correct, but I **think** this was the set-list: ‘I Feel Abused’, ‘I Love You’, ‘Nobody Loves You Like I Do’, ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’, ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’, ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’, ‘Show Me The Way’, ‘Any Other Way’, ‘Care Of Cell 44’, ‘A Rose For Emily’, ‘This Will Be Our Year’, ‘Beechwood Park’, ‘I Want Her, She Wants Me’, ‘Time Of The Season’, ‘Play It For Real’, ‘A Moment In Time’, ‘Whenever You’re Ready’, ‘Tell Her No’, ‘Old And Wise’, ‘Say You Don’t Mind’, ‘I Do Believe’, ‘Hold Your Head Up’, ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Summertime’, plus encores of ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You’ and ‘She’s Not There’ (again!).
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Friday 27th May
I’m just home from an appointment with the solicitor during which I signed my divorce papers. Meanwhile, my soon-to-be-ex-wife is in Manchester for the weekend, a visit to the city of her birth during which she will look at new schools for our kids. It’s an extremely sad moment. Although I mess around with words for a living, I’m not quite sure how I feel.
A crumb of consolation arrived in email form from a fella called Mark Willett, who wanted to know whether I had been drinking outside a pub called The Pilot before the Rush gig on Wednesday night. My reply in the affirmative apparently won the guy three separate £10 bets – “my mates had all said: “No, that’s not Dave Ling, he’s too slim!” – so it’s nice to know that my fitness regime is being noticed by others.
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Thursday 26th May
Maybe I’m becoming harder to please in my old age but I had mixed feelings about Rush’s gig at the O2 Arena. The band played magnificently, and bassist/Geddy Lee’s voice was much better than I’d feared but, having avoided all knowledge of the set-list in advance of the show, I ended up slightly disappointed by the reality of what was performed. I’ll be brutally honest; 1982’s ‘Signals’ was the last Rush album to **really** excite me. The evening had started well with a few warm-up libations in a nearby pub called The Pilot, which was full of Rush nutters including my friends Neil and Louise Pudney. The arrival of my CPFC-supporting buddy Mark Cousins, who promptly decided that it was Pimms o’clock, enhanced the party vibe.
Into the gig, then… From my seat about 20-odd rows back, dead-centre of the stage, the sound was amazing, and I loved the little quirky eccentricities that have by now become such crucial elements of the show; cinematic introductions, washing machines disguised as amplifiers, etc. But for me, the performance’s first segment contained just three classic songs (‘The Spirit Of Radio’, ‘Time Stand Still’ and ‘Freewill’); maybe four at a push should you include ‘Subdivisions’ in that category. The rest – ‘Presto’, ‘Stick It Out’, ‘Working Them Angels’, ‘Leave That Thing Alone’, ‘Faithless’, ‘BU2B’ and ‘Marathon’ – well… I could take or leave, to be honest.
During the interval there was just about enough time to dart into the band’s press reception and grab a pint of wine (!!!) and say ‘hi’ to a few people before Rush returned to the stage. Watching them perform the ‘Moving Pictures’ album in its entirety was such I joy, I almost forgot my reservations about the first half of the gig. The second new tune of the night, ‘Caravan’, led into Neal Peart’s drum solo… curiously understated on this tour, I thought, but Peart remains The Guv’nor of all things rhythmic. ‘Closer To The Heart’ was performed with a revised arrangement, and the O2 erupted as the band burst into the God-like ‘2112’ segment of ‘Overture’/‘The Temples Of Syrinx’, but instead of pushing the audience over the edge and into the realms of nirvana (with a small ‘n’) the band elected to say farewell with ‘Far Cry’, from 2007’s ‘Snakes & Arrows’. Eh?! At encore time a fairground-style intro prefaced a truncated ‘La Villa Strangiato’ before a reggae jam morphed into the classic ‘Working Man’. A great show, then. But, in the opinion of yours truly, not a truly brilliant one.
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Wednesday 25th May
I sank a few vodka and Diet Cokes with my old friend Caroline ‘Funky’ Gibbons before heading into London’s Borderline for a gig by Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Beth Hart. Getting her lyrics garbled and scattily forgetting to include a new single ‘Take It Easy On Me’ which has been playlisted at Radio 2, Hart is a bit of a loose cannon. You know what? I kinda like that. Introducing a version of Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’ which she has recorded with Joe Bonamassa for a collaborative album that’s due later in the year, she grinned: “Isn’t that a great title? You go down to South America and they’ll shoot you for that shit!”
Beth revealed that her nervousness was due to the presence of Jeff Beck among the packed crowd. I’m sure that Jeff will have loved the almost two-hour set, which began and ended with a band-less Hart seated at the piano, her immaculately emotive voice leaving the Borderline agog. The 39-year-old hits all the notes with consummate ease – no wonder she is often compared to Janis Joplin, though the fact that she also covered tunes by Aretha Franklin (‘Baby, I Love You’) and Sam Cooke (‘A Change Is Gonna Come’) possibly says more about her than the weighty file of press cuttings. Besides The Voice she also has an irresistible stage persona, devoting down-time between songs to unselfconscious confessional chit-chat about her drug-consumed past and homespun self-self philosophies. She’s also brave enough to share two brand new tunes with us; ‘The Mood That I’m In’ looks likely to appear on a new album that’ll be recorded in August, whilst the excellent ‘Caught Out In The Rain’ is barely two weeks old. “What’s the point in putting it on a frickin’ record if people don’t like it?” she pointed out with a laugh.
Here’s the set-list: ‘Baby, I Love You’, ‘Leave The Light On’, ‘Chocolate Jesus’ ‘Learning To Live’, ‘One Eyed Chicken’, ‘Immortal’ (inc bass and drum solos), ‘As Good As It Gets’, ‘The Mood That I’m In’, ‘Caught Out In The Rain’, ‘Bad Love Is Good Enough’, ‘LA Song’, ‘Motherfucker Wash Your Feet’, ‘Ugliest House On The Block’, ‘Monkey Back’, ‘Sick’, ‘Happiness… Any Day Now’, ‘Lifts You Up’ and ‘My California’, plus encores of ‘Weight Of The World’ and ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.
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Monday 23rd May
Now this is **really** gonna piss the Seaweeds off… Crystal Palace have closed a deal to bring striker Glenn Murray to Selhurst Park for the next three reasons. Last year Murray scored 22 goals for the Eagles’ arch rivals Shiteon & Homo Albion, making himself something of a hot property in the process, but save for a signing on fee the move didn’t cost his new club a single penny. Thanks a lot, Shiteon! You are too, too kind!
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Sunday 22nd May
Saturday night was spent at the cinema in Bromley as my boys and I donned 3-D goggles to watch Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It was a pretty good movie; plenty of action scenes and a few moments of comedy, plus a cameo from Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow’s dad – I’ll bet that the services of a make-up lady, hairdresser or wardrobe consultant were not required.
Working on a sleeve essay for a new double-CD anthology of the singles released by the much-missed (by me at least!) Liverpudlian boogie-heads Spider has been tremendous fun. Hearing some of those songs again and exchanging emails with Col Harkness, Sniffa and Brian Burrows has made me feel quite nostalgic.
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Saturday 21st May
With the future ex-Mrs Ling away for yet another weekend, my boys and I have got the place to ourselves. Under more normal circumstances I’d have been going to the CPFC Fans Forum at Selhurst Park, but it’s nice to spend time with the fellas; a bit of a treat has been lined for them this evening (Saturday). Last nite after they’d gone to bed, I caught up with Robert Plant: By Myself, an ‘in-his-own-words’ career retrospective that was screened on BBC4 a few weeks back. It didn’t teach me anything new about Percy, but it was a pleasant enough way to pass an hour before bedtime.
I’m just back from my morning run. Am pretty pleased that I’ve been able to maintain my fitness regime, which is paying off. Played an Minidisc of Rush’s 2007 gig at Wembley Arena whilst going through my paces: It’s really put me in the mood for Wednesday night’s show at the O2 Arena.
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Friday 20th May Much of my morning was spent transcribing a recent phone conversation with Sisters Of Mercy singer/leader Andrew Eldritch. Regular visitors to these pages might surmise that I’m not really a fan of SOM, though I enjoyed my encounter with Eldritch – notoriously evasive and difficult to interview – who tuned out to have a brilliant, dry wit. I certainly didn’t expect him to be a fellow sports enthusiast, but somehow we got into a conversation about the ups ‘n’ downs of supporting yoyo football teams (i.e. ones that are perpetually promoted and relegated). I mentioned that I myself follow one such a club. “Please tell me it’s not West Ham?” retorted Eldritch, a fan of FC St Pauli “who he described as: “a German football team of very left wing renown.” “No… I’m a season ticket holder at Crystal Palace,” I told him. “Ah yes, that **is** a yo-yo team,” replied Andrew before going off on a slightly surreal rant about the merits of CPFC’s controversial former owner Simon Jordan. “I liked that guy a lot – a very entertaining and erudite man,” reckoned Eldritch. “His was a refreshing voice in a very tawdry industry.” At that point you probably could’ve knocked me down with a feather.
As it’s Friday afternoon and I’ve just finished transcribing another interview with Richard Marx, I’m currently playing The Great Man’s eponymous debut album, first released back in 1987. ‘Endless Summer Nights’… ‘Should’ve Known Better’… ‘Hold Onto The Nights’… it’s joyous to be sitting here in my office, door open and sunlight flooding in. I bet the neighbours hate my singing!
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Thursday 19th May
I’ve been up to my eyes in interviews for the past 48 hours, so right up until the last minute it was uncertain whether I’d make it along to the co-headline gig between Heaven’s Basement and Jettblack. In a way, the respective fortunes of these two British bands seemed worlds apart. As a comparatively new act, Jettblack have earned great reviews for their debut album, ‘Get Your Hands Dirty’. Meanwhile, line-up changes and a fluctuating direction – among other issues – have prevented Heaven’s Basement from signing a record deal or releasing a full-length collection of tunes. The Underworld was respectably full for both bands, but to these ears Jettblack, who delivered 45 minutes of molten Dokken-ish and sleazily commercial hard rock, seemed like the group with momentum on its side, delivering the highlights of their record (including ‘Two Hot Girls’, ‘Mother Fucker’, ‘Slip It On’ and ‘When It Comes To Lovin’’) and previewing a brand new song that may or may not have been called ‘Less Talk’. I thought they were great.
Regrettably, though the crowd loved them, I couldn’t put hand on heart and say the same of Heaven’s Basement. Reduced to a four-piece by the respective departures of Richie Hevanz (replaced by Aaron Buchanan) and rhythm guitarist Jonny Rocker, the band have completely reinvented themselves, opting for a younger-sounding style of music than the classic-influenced direction of their precursors Hurricane Party and Roadstar. As well as old favourites ‘Tear Your Heart Out’, ‘Reign On My Parade’ and ‘Executioner’s Day’, their newly-written set offers the occasional enjoyable moment such as ‘Let Me Out Of Here’, but watching them I found myself thinking: ‘This is no longer for me’. Given that I’ve followed the fortunes of one or another of their incarnations for almost a decade, it’s almost apt that the band now has a song entitled ‘The Long Goodbye’. I wish them all the best, of course, but there’s no getting away from the fact that last night’s gig was pretty grim.
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Wednesday 18th May
Well, that’s yet another of life’s ‘to-do’ boxes ticked. At last I’ve interviewed a (former) member of The Clash. My chat with Mick Jones about the reunion of Big Audio Dynamite was lots of fun – he’s a very pleasant geezer; no airs ‘n’ graces. Think I shall play ‘The Clash’ and ‘Give ’Em Enough Rope’ during this morning’s news surf…
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Monday 16th May
OMG… has it really been a year since Ronnie James Dio passed away? Those 365 days sped by so fast, I’m completely flabbergasted. RJD, RIP.
I’ve just finished reading Vince Neil’s autobiography, Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell And Back With One Of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen. In the pages of Classic Rock Presents AOR #1, Geoff Barton was extremely disparaging about the book, awarding it a solitary star (out of a possible ten). GB must have bestowed his mark upon Neil’s personality rather than merits of the text, which I found interesting enough. Neil is pretty honest throughout, digging his own grave, jumping into it and somehow managing to re-heap the misplaced soil on top. I had no idea of the stratospheric levels of schism between himself and the rest of Mötley Crüe. The ‘singer’ (and I use the term loosely) rejoined the band in 1997. You’d think that by now they’d have shaken hands and let bygones be bygones. But no. The air within the group remains completely poisonous, its members only getting together for the paycheques. “I don’t trust Nikki Sixx, I don’t trust any of the guys in the band,” complains Vince on page 259 in one of many, many bitter rants. Neil’s claims of sobriety (“I still drink on occasion. I have a little champagne now and again, and sometimes I’ll have a shot of tequila”) are as risible as his own pumped-up self-importance – especially given the fact that he spent jail-time for driving under the influence once the book was published. But on the whole it’s a fascinating read. Next up… Neil Daniels’ Don’t Stop Believing: The Story of Journey, which arrived over the weekend.
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Sunday 15th May
When you’ve been dieting and exercising like a loon, it’s a wonderful feeling to pull on a pair of skinny black jeans that had lain unworn since Crystal Palace were last in the Premier League – zipping them up makes all of the effort feel worthwhile. To celebrate, I met boozing buddy Andy Beare at the Underworld in Camden for a humongously entertaining show by Tigertailz. Two years had sped by since my last sighting of the ’Tailz, during which time the much-travelled UK glam-rockers have recruited an excellent new rhythm section. Besides looking great, blonde-haired bass player Sarah Firebrand keeps the low notes pumping, while the excellent Robin Guy (Rachel Stamp/Bruce Dickinson/GMT/AntiProduct, etc) would walk to just about any band you could name. Regrettably, the Underworld’s Saturday night curfew forced the band to cut things shorter than anticipated but with a big chunk of its contents culled from 1990’s quintessential ‘Bezerk’ album, the show left me grinning from ear to ear. If, like the aforementioned Mr Beare, you are a ’Tailz virgin… it’s about time the situation was rectified. Here’s what was played: ‘Sicksex!’, ‘Wazbones’, ‘Living Without You’, ‘I Can Fight Dirty Too’, ‘Brain The Sucker’, ‘Long Live The New Flesh’, Drum Solo, ‘Love Overload’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Noise Level Critical’, ‘Shoot To Kill’, ‘Natural Born Animal’, Jay Pepper’s Solo Bit, ‘I’ll Tear Your Fucking Heart Out’, ‘Dirty Needles’, ‘Call Of The Wild’ and the slice of audio genius that is known as ‘Love Bomb Baby’. Fabulous stuff!
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Saturday 14th May
The next set of Thin Lizzy deluxe re-issues are on their way. I’m counting down the minutes till June 26, when I will finally get the opportunity to own 1977’s hugely underrated ‘Bad Reputation’ and the outstanding ‘Black Rose: A Rock Legend’ (which was released some two years later) on Compact Disc at last. I’m a lot less excited about 1980’s ‘Chinatown’, to be honest… though not having heard it in many years it will of course receive an unbiased reassessment on the same date.
I’ve just received a copy of ‘Man In Motion’, the new solo album from Warren Haynes, one of my favourite guitar players. Haynes is known for his work with Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers among others, but he has outdone himself with ‘Man In Motion’, a truly masterful appetiser for his must-see solo date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London on July 5.
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Friday 13th May
Yesterday was the 14th birthday of my eldest son Eddie. I’d planned a bit of a surprise. A fellow Crystal Palace-supporting friend of mine called Simon Sharp – nicknamed Sy Sports News due to his alleged ‘insider info’ on transfer news – was playing on the hallowed Selhurst Park turf in a game for the charity Football Aid. As it was Ed’s birthday, Sy said he’d try and get permission for Eddie and I to kick a ball around with him in the warm-up. I had conjured up mental pictures of myself going in goal before the Holmesdale Stand, leaping like a salmon to turn a penalty struck by Eddie around the post. Alas, the security staff were not letting anyone on the pitch… bah, humbug, jobsworths, etc. We did enjoy watching the game, though: 11 Palace fans wearing the red and blue home kit versus a side in the white shirt with the red and blue sash. Palace playing Palace… for the first time ever in my hundred years of supporting the club, defeat was impossible! Just like a real match, the players came out to the sound of ‘Glad All Over’ and there was plenty of amusing banter from the stands, especially for the well-fed lad playing for the ‘away’ side. He looked like Neil Shipperley but actually had a pretty decent first touch, and when he trapped the ball on his sizeable chest and passed the ball to a team-mate, the whole place applauded. The game finished 2-2, so everyone was a winner.
While all of this was happening in SE25, a little bit of musical history was being made on the other side of south London. At the O2 Arena, David Gilmour fulfilled his pledge to make a very special guest appearance during ex-Floyd band-mate Roger Waters’ revision of ‘The Wall’, performing the immortal guitar solo to ‘Comfortably Numb’. Equally mouth-watering, Nick Mason also popped up to play ‘Outside The Wall’ with Waters and Gilmour. The available YouTube footage is so fantastic, it almost encapsulates the very reasons why I love rock music so much.
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Wednesday 11th May
There’s not very much to report, I have been beavering away at my stories for the Download Festival programme and doing the occasional interview such as last night’s chat with Geoff Tate of Queensrÿche. Also had a quick conversation with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens about the Dio Disciples project, which was pretty interesting, and before closing down for this evening placed a call to Richard Marx, whose new album ‘Stories To tell’ is on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers. I’d spoken to Marx a couple of times before and knew him as one of the nicest and most humble artists around. However, on this occasion he outdid himself, laughing like a drain when I brought up a previous quote about his record sales dipping from double-platinum into “double-plywood” over the last decade.
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Monday 9th May
Last night I attended John Waite’s gig at the Borderline. Waite had invited his friend and fellow Northerner John Parr to open the show with a few choice acoustic numbers. Parr is a likable raconteur with a fine self-mocking wit, and his one-man versions of ‘Naughty Naughty’ and ‘St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)’ were enjoyable enough, though they left me scrambling through the racks in search of an old cassette of a radio broadcast of a gig he performed at Harpos in Detroit way back in ’85. I’d love to see him play an electric concert that featured the likes of ‘Magical’, ‘Treat Me Like An Animal’ and ‘Two Hearts (American Anthem)’.
Post-show, opinion on Waite’s headline set was fiercely divided. Speaking as somebody that adores John’s current album, ‘Rough & Tumble’, I had no problem whatsoever with the singer’s decision to include around half of its tracks in the 90-minute set. Others, conversely, bitched and whined about not hearing enough vintage Babys or Bad English tunes – deeming versions of the former’s ‘Back On My Feet Again’ and ‘Head First’ and the latter’s ‘Best Of What I Got’ a less than sufficient reminder of the great man’s past. There’s no such churlishness from yours truly. Waite’s voice may have has lost a smidgin of its edge but he had a first-class band which featured the hugely impressive Kyle Cook of Matchbox Twenty on guitar, and the pithy remarks that punctuated the songs added to the entertainment value. Explaining the new version of ‘Mr Wonderful’, a song that originally appeared on his ‘Ignition’ album in 1982, John stated: “We re-recorded this as a bonus track but it worked out so well we’ve put it back into the set. We did it for the Germans.” Amused by the murmurs of discontent that followed he shrugged and grinned: “It’s okay, y’know… we won [the war].” Here’s what was played: ‘Change’, ‘Back On My Feet Again’, ‘Evil’, ‘Mr Wonderful’, ‘Better Off Gone’, ‘In Dreams’, ‘Best Of What I Got’, ‘Whenever You Come Around’, ‘Downtown’, ‘Suicide Life’, ‘If You Ever Get Lonely’, ‘Love’s Goin’ Out Of Style’, Drum Solo, ‘Missing You’, ‘Rough & Tumble’, ‘Sweet Rhode Island Red’, and an encore of ‘Head First’.
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Sunday 8th May
Given the club’s legendary ups ‘n’ downs, it’s unusual for Crystal Palace FC to play their last game of the season with nothing at stake. Thankfully, given the way the Eagles were overrun by a rampant Nottingham Florist, Championship football had already been secured for the 2012/’13 campaign. Off the pitch, however, the fans did the club proud by creating a carnival atmosphere. The trials and tribulations of the last few years have really galvanised the club’s support, and the lap of appreciation by the players and management staff, many with kids in tow, was an emotional thing to witness (especially for those of us that had protested outside Lloyds HQ less than a year ago, as the clock ticked towards Palace’s extinction). Delivered in his strong Glaswegian brogue, manager Dougie Freedman’s speech (“If I’ve ever needed your support, in any way you can, that time is now – buy your season tickets, get behind us and we won’t have a club at the bottom of the league”) had an element of the Braveheart about it.
After several more drinks, my footie bud Kev Denman and I nipped across London to meet Andy Beare at the Dublin Castle in Camden where The Slide, a Swedish band tipped for success by Classic Rock at the beginning of this year, were playing a gig. It was well worth the effort. The quartet, who are managed by Roger Ericson, the former guitarist of New York sleaze-rockers The Throbs, have some excellent songs, including the sassy ‘Cross The Line’, ‘Light It Up’ and a finale of ‘Can You feel The Rain’. Okay, the crowd was miniscule – was it really just Kev, Andy, Roger and I that saw them take the stage?! – but the band put on a terrific retro-based performance.
We hung around a while longer to watch another Swedish band called Hong Faux. They had some rather good tunes, but by then the effects of a piss-up that had started at 11am were becoming all too evident – especially for some of our party (hello, Kev!). Sorry, Stockholm dudes… a more perceptive critique must wait till another day.
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Saturday 7th May
I’m a big fan of Leslie West, so it was an honour to be commissioned to write an extended sleeve essay for a ‘special edition’ of the Mountain guitarist’s upcoming solo album. The record has some high-profile special guests – I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to name them, so will err on the side of caution. Over the course of an hour or so Leslie talked me through the sessions, which were produced by Fabrizio Grossi, an associate of Steve Lukather. He also played me a few of its songs, which I must say were rather superb.
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Friday 6th May
I’m becoming a regular visitor to the Beaverwood in Chislehurst, an intimate and friendly club that specialises in gigs by blues-rock acts. Last night’s attraction was a group called Girls With Guitars, a three-piece uniting the talents of Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde and the delightful Samantha Fish, whose album is available via Ruf Records. Sadly, despite the quality of tunes like ‘Mr Loving Man’ and a cover of the Steve Miller Band-popularised ‘Jet Airliner’, their show was undermined by sound issues, a bad case of feedback plaguing its first half. Equally annoying, Samantha seemed to have the only microphone that worked properly. The band took their interval early in a bid to rectify these gremlins, and it worked – to a certain degree. Asking the audience to move nearer the stage certainly helped the intimacy levels, and a sassy version of AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ was extremely well received by a very patient crowd. By the end, the gals were rocking along nicely… I’d definitely go and see them again on another occasion.
I thumbed through the newly-arrived issue #2 of Classic Rock Presents AOR during the bus-ride to Chislehurst. With an 11-page cover story on Toto penned by Derek Oliver, once again the magazine offers plenty to read. Paul Elliott had paid a visit to a Worcestershire studio where FM were working on a new album, likely to be titled ‘Desolation Station’. The band sounded on buoyant form. I especially loved Merv Goldsworthy’s quote of: “It’s like you used to play for Arsenal 20 years ago, and now you’re back in the first time [at the age of] 50!” It also includes my own features on The Babys, Roxette, King Kobra and Miss Behaviour. Buy it here.
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Thursday 5th May
Was it really only two months ago that Houston, Serpentine and Vega played at the Borderline? Where does the friggin’ time go? Since then my whole world has been turned upside down, and it seems like just two or three days.
Anyway, last night the same trio of groups, with the addition of two more bands, both Swedish – Miss Behaviour and Crashdïet – descended upon the Islington Academy. I was hugely impressed by Miss Behaviour, who are still young enough to be the sons of Bon Jovi and Europe and even possibly the grandchildren of their heroes Magnum, but whose cool, confident strand of melodic hard rock belies their age. Marshalled by the capable vocals of Sebastian Roos, MB purred through a half-dozen songs from their tremendous album ‘Last Woman Standing’ (namely ‘1988’, ‘Cynthia’, ‘Give Her A Sign’, ‘Till We Meet Again’, ‘Average Hero’ and ‘Emergency’), the keys of Henrik Sproge and Erik Heikne’s athletic guitar work blended to perfection. I demand to hear them play a longer set… and I demand it yesterday!
Beyond stating that it was good to witness them both again, and that Vega’s Spinal Tap moment was extremely comical – nobody could work out how to halt their dramatic scene-setting intro tape, which to everyone’s embarrassment ran three times! – I’ll gloss over Serpentine and Vega who were covered in the Diary on March 5th. Despite having enjoyed the band at the Borderline, this time around Houston were a big disappointment. With their pair of Abba-esque female guitarists seemingly jettisoned, two hirsute, pouting hard rock axemen inflicted pointless solos upon us… frankly, it didn’t work. And the least said about the singing of Hampus ‘Hank’ Erix the better; the guy was all over the place.
Perhaps mindful of this fact, and aware that it was their presence which had attracted most of the modestly sized crowd, Crashdïet pounced. Though their spunky mixture of glam rock and metal sounded akin to The Ramones jamming with Skid Row and Hanoi Rocks, to these ears the songs were too predictable. And what about those pre-recorded backing vocals??! I’d not heard anything so blatantly fraudulent since the days of the Tony Mills-fronted Shy. But the crowd loved them, and by their swansong of ‘Generation Wild’, which saw all of the evening’s attractions up on the stage together, they’d just about won me over as well.
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Tuesday 3rd May
I still can’t believe I’m typing this but Status Quo’s new album, ‘Quid Pro Quo’ – the one that’s only going to be for sale in branches of Tesco – is a bit of a humdinger, their best in many a long year. Though possibly a bit contrived (one must wonder whether their hearts were **really** into this miraculous return to the roots?), the album rocks along nicely, providing just about everything that Tesco Man (or indeed Woman) will be expecting from the band. Looks like Quo are playing at the O2 Arena instead of Wembley Arena in December; that gets the thumbs up for yours truly, too.
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Monday 2nd May
RIP Henry Cooper OBE, one of Britain’s greatest ever sporting heroes. Our ’Enry, as he was known, was as much of a national treasure as Norman Wisdom, the Queen Mum or Tommy Cooper… I was too young to have witnessed Cooper’s legendary bout with Muhammad Ali – then known as Cassius Clay – at Wembley in 1963, during which Ali was sent reeling to the canvas by ’Enry’s hammer, but the footage is brilliant.
I’ve been exchanging a text or two with Joe Elliott, expressing my condolences regarding Sheffield United’s drop into League 1. The Blades put up quite a fight during the last few games of the season, and personally speaking I’d rather Doncaster Rovers had gone down. Elliott seems reasonably cheery given the circumstances, recommending I check out this excellent YouTube clip and signing off with the words: “Dagenham & Redbridge, here we come!” Poor sod.
Although working for Classic Rock is my bread and butter I also love writing for Metal Hammer, whose reviews editor Jonathan Selzer makes a habit of throwing me all sorts of intriguing albums. Thanks to JS and MH, this morning was spent discovering two bands that till now I’d shamefully overlooked. A fairly new act, South coast quartet Stone Circle are recommended for fans of Opeth. Meanwhile, Virginia’s While Heaven Wept are one of America’s best-kept secrets, a twenty-year history prefacing their first work for new label Nuclear Blast. The beautifully crafted ‘Fear Of Infinity’ is available on June 2. Its 11-minute swansong, ‘Finality’, left me swooning in admiration.
P.S. Speaking of which, here are this month's Playlist and YouTube updates.
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Sunday 1st May
Ling Towers was engulfed in scenes of boundless joy as the Eagles preserved their Championship status thanks to yesterday’s nail-biter at Hull. The Palace required a draw, or for Sheff Utd and Scunny to fail to win their own matches, in order to avoid relegation. Having gone behind against the run of play during the first half, it took academy youngster Ibra Sekajja to restore parity two minutes from time. Having signed a contract just a week earlier, the 18-year-old from Croydon had only travelled north in order to experience a taste of the first team squad but came off the bench to nudge home with his very first touch in professional football, thereby sealing quasi-immortality. Dramatic stuff… which is, of course, what one has come to expect from the mighty CPFC.
Nerves still jangling, it was off to see Magnum at Shepherd’s Bush Empire where a 45-minute warm-up from Gwyn Ashton’s Two-Man Blues Army elicited a surprisingly warm reaction, given the disparity between the headliners’ lavish romp-rock and the Australian guitarist’s own, gnarlier tendencies.
They say to beware of what you wish for, and two or three years ago the moaning of Magnum’s hardcore fans reached an undignified crescendo. The set-list was becoming too predictable, etc etc. In response the band radically overhauled the show. So much so that many of those same fans were forced to complain all over again. In 2011, the breakdown is a little more even-handed. Of 15 songs aired at the Empire, seven pre-dated the band’s 2001 reunion. That’s probably a pretty fair breakdown. Although to these ears their new album ‘The Visitation’ took some getting used to, it was good to hear its best track, ‘Wild Angels’, loaded towards the 100-minute show’s beginning. Here’s the full set-list: ‘Back To Earth’, ‘When We Were Younger’, ‘Wild Angels’, ‘Brand New Morning’, ‘How Far Jerusalem’, ‘Spin Like A Wheel’, ‘The Moonking’, ‘Freedom Day’, ‘Les Morts Dansants’, ‘Black Skies’, ‘All My Bridges’, ‘All England’s Eyes’ and ‘Vigilante’, with encores of ‘Kingdom Of Madness’ and ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’.
Drummer and fellow CPFC nutcase Gary ‘Harry James’ was in jubilant mood at the after-show bash, where I also chatted to a very sober but contented Tony Clarkin, who informed me that he is enjoying being a member of Magnum now more than at any other point in his career. That surprised me, to be honest… but he said it like he meant it.