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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Sunday 30th November
Annoyingly, Crystal Palace failed to break down stubborn resistance from QP Ha-Ha-Ha at Selhurst Park. There were few clear chances in yesterday’s 0-0 stalemate but the Eagles had the edge, especially in the last 15 minutes when substitute Shefki Kuqi came on to throw around his not inconsiderable weight. Afterwards I drowned my sorrows with a few fellow CPFC diehards. At least Clowntown Pathetic also failed to win. Indeed, unanimous agreement greeted my friend Kev Denman’s amusing observation that the current season could finish right now, so long as the Clowns were beneath us – and we were fourth from bottom of the Championship.
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Saturday 29th November
Last night it was back to the Astoria for a gig from Airbourne and Stone Gods. The headliners are, of course, the hottest name of the lips of most rock fans right now. The fact that they were playing the Borderline back in February and can now headline two sold-out Astoria shows says it all. Special guests Stone Gods, or as my friend Dave Craig calls them, “The Darkness without the c**t”, really got the place moving to win over a significant proportion of the Friday night revellers. I thoroughly enjoyed Airbourne, whose powerhouse 60-minute stint vindicated their growing reputation, though a mild criticism I made of the Borderline show – Joel O’Keeffe’s reticence as a frontman – remains valid. Save for primal howls guitarist O’Keeffe says very little between the songs, and what he **does** offer is virtually incoherent. Then again, did that ever restrain Ted Nugent in his Wildman, gonzoid prime? Not really. Musically, these guys don’t have an original bone in their body but, Christ, do they squeeze out every last drop of entertainment value or what??!! Being the tour’s last night, Airbourne called Stone Gods’ Dan Hawkins back onstage for a ramshackle run-through of the classic ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ – a nice touch.
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Thursday 27th November
At that this time of year Classic Rock works on two issues pretty much simultaneously. Consequently I’ve not really grown into Satyricon’s latest – and ninth – album, ‘The Age Of Nero’, as much as it deserves. This embarrassing state of affairs didn’t prevent me from attending last night’s excellent gig at the University Of London Union (ULU, for short), during which the band played four of their new babies (‘The Wolfpack’, ‘Black Crow On A Tombstone’, ‘Commando’ and ‘Die By My Hand’). 18 months in the making, some of that time spent in a remote log cabin in the Norwegian mountains, ‘…Nero’ is the astonishing culmination of a five-album growth spurt that began with ‘Nemesis Divina’ in 1996. Since then the duo of frontman Satyr Wongraven and drummer Frost has gradually torn up the black metal rule book, adapting the genre’s key elements for their own dramatic ends. In 2008, nobody else sounds like Satyricon. Their corrosive guitar sound is entirely singular. Likewise, while other more generic black metal bands attempt to bludgeon the listener with overblown riffery, Satyricon tend to base their material upon shorter, sharper rhythmic strokes, creating a dense blur of sound that’s almost industrial in its sense of singleminded purpose. Additionally powered by Frost’s mountain of drums, the result is both senses-pummeling and deliciously hypnotic. Perhaps it says everything that the wearing of corpse paint is now optional, not mandatory. Here’s the set-list: ‘Angstridden’, ‘The Wolfpack’, ‘Now, Diabolical’, ‘Havoc Vulture’, ‘Black Crow On A Tombstone’, ‘Forhekset’, ‘Commando’, ‘The Darkness Shall Be Eternal’, ‘Repined Bastard Nation’, ‘Die By My Hand’, ‘The Pentagram Burns’, ‘K.I.N.G.’, ‘Fuel For Hatred’ and ‘Mother North’.
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Wednesday 26th November
Celebrating Mrs L’s birthday, last night we all went for a nice family meal. This meant getting back to Ling Towers slightly late for the kick-off of Palace’s away game with Norwich. Worrying whether there had been any early goals, I was on tenterhooks in the car. Suddenly a text arrived; assuming something dramatic had happened at Carrow Road I quickly opened it, only to find Toby Jepson conveying news of the death of his former Little Angels band-mate Michael Lee. Talk about coming down to earth with a bump. Lee, who went on to play with Page & Plant, Thin Lizzy, Ian Gillan, Lenny Kravitz, The Quireboys and The Cult, was only 39 years old. Arriving home, I raised several glasses in the percussionist’s honour after discovering the Eagles had raced into a two-goal lead, then allowed the home side to pull one back in the usual nail-biting conclusion. However nervously obtained, the three points leave CPFC just one more win behind the play-off zone. Superb!
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Tuesday 25th November
Last night was spent watching a mammoth gig from Nektar, a British band whose psychedelic-prog has always been more appreciated overseas – so much so that co-founding guitarist/singer Roye Albrighton and drummer Ron Howden are now accompanied by a couple of German musicians; bassist Peter Pichl and keyboard wizard Klaus Henatsch. Although the intimacy of the Borderline ruled out the contribution of their now possibly departed fifth member Mick Brockett (who always used to be responsible for their amazing liquid light show), the 275-capacity basement was a great place to witness the band, who played for two and a half hours. I won’t attempt a set-list as Albrighton, whose fingers proved as nimble and inventive as ever, lead Nektar through a convoluted display of medleys, old favourites, obscurities and couple of tunes from last year’s ‘Book Of Days’ album (namely ‘Doctor Kool’ and ‘King Of The Deep’). ‘King Of Twilight’, the song covered by superfan Steve Harris with Iron Maiden, was featured early on (linked to ‘Crying In The Dark’), ‘Tab In The Ocean’ getting things off to a sensational start. Annoyingly, Part One of ‘Remember The Future’ was overlooked in favour of Part Two, but let’s not split hairs… this was quite a show.
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Monday 24th November
Yesterday’s weather was grim in the extreme; ferocious wind, driving rain and the kind of icy cold that chills the bones. And with my rail link to central London being affected by ‘essential’ repairs, I was only too happy to accept the offer of a lift to Uriah Heep’s gig at the Astoria from my pal Steve Way (no relation) and his better half Jan. Despite the aforementioned circumstances the venue was full to the rafters. With a ten-year lapse between albums, nobody could blame Heep for wanting to play their well-received newie, ‘Wake The Sleeper’, in its entirety. The ploy worked better than I thought it might. Three new songs, followed by three more oldies; a pair of ‘…Sleeper’ tunes, then more well-chosen back catalogue gems. Rather than merely tolerating the new songs, perhaps sick of watching the band ploughing through material from their previous 20 discs as they’ve done on past several tours, the crowd positively lapped them up. And why not? ‘Wake The Sleeper’ was nominated for Album Of The Year at the Classic Rock Awards (unfairly losing out to Whitesnake’s Good To Be Bad, in my book). New skinsman Russell Gilbrook fits the group like a glove and, as ever, sound mixer Charlotte made them sound bloody awesome. Towards the show’s end Bernie Shaw’s voice began to flag due to a bad cold and when, following a standing ovation, Heep returned for a well-deserved encore the Astoria took the initiative for the final song, ‘Lady In Black’. Truly a night of triumph. Here’s the set-list: ‘Wake The Sleeper’, ‘Overload’, ‘Tears Of The World’, ‘Stealin’’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘Heaven’s Rain’, ‘Book Of Lies’, ‘Light Of A Thousand Stars’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Look At Yourself’, ‘What Kind Of God’, ‘Ghost Of The Ocean’, ‘War Child’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Angels Walk With You’, ‘July Morning’, ‘Easy Livin'’ and ‘Lady In Black’.
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Sunday 23rd November
Motörhead have a song (and album) called ‘Another Perfect Day’, which is a pretty good description of my last 24 hours. During the afternoon I enduring freezing conditions to watch Palace wallop Bristol Shitty, the club that turned us over the last year’s play-offs, by four goals to two, laughing my socks off at news that Clowntown Pathetic had sunk into the relegation zone, losing 5-2 at home to Sheffield United.
Grabbed a bottle of cider and zoomed across to Hammersmith where Lemmy and the boys were playing with special guests Saxon and opening act Danko Jones. Sadly, I didn’t get there in time for Danko and would’ve missed the start of Saxon had fellow Classic Rock scribe Peter Makowski not let me join him in the guest list queue (thanks fella). In the foyer I met Metal Hammer’s Dom Lawson, who was peeved at not being given a standing ticket, so willingly swapped him my stalls stub for a third row balcony seat. Nice doing business with you, sir!
Hats off to Saxon, whose blistering set was crammed with killer songs. “We’re gonna slow things down a bit; we’re not as young as we used to be,” teased Biff Byford sarcastically before the band previewed a brand new dizbuster of a tune, ‘Hellcat’, and Toby Jepson strolled on to join them for a singalong version of ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’. Here’s what the band played in full: ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’, ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘Live To Rock’, ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘Attila The Hun’, Medley: ‘Denim & Leather’/‘Ashes To Ashes’, ‘Hellcat’, ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’.
News came through during the interval that the Clowns had parted company with Alan Pardew – or as we call him at Selhurst Park, Agent P – in the wake of the Sheff Utd mauling. Once my hysterics subsided sadness intervened… after the heroics performed by Agent D (as in Dowie), Godammit… our so-called ‘rivals’ may even give the job to somebody with a bit of a clue. Can I humbly suggest they move the CV of Agent T (Peter Taylor) towards the top of the pile? Maybe even as player-manager.
Motörhead, as ever, took no prisoners. As so often remarked at this page, I cannot abide the idiots that use concerts as a place to hold inane conversations. Thankfully, Lemmy and chums render this act of rudeness impossible. Playing at such magnificent volume, people around me were forced to write things down on their phones. And how marvellous it was so see them rejoined once again by former axeman Würzel The Bastard during an encore romp through ‘Bomber’. This truly was an alliance of two of the greatest bands the hard rock genre has ever seen. The Motör-show ran as follows: ‘Iron Fist’, ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Rock Out’, ‘Metropolis’, ‘Over The Top’, ‘One Night Stand’, ‘I Got Mine’, Guitar Solo/‘The Thousand Names Of God’, ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Another Perfect Day’, ‘In The Name Of Tragedy’ (including Drum Solo), ‘Just ’Cos You Got The Power’, ‘Going To Brazil’, ‘Killed By Death’, ‘Bomber’ and encores of ‘Whorehouse Blues’, ‘Ace Of Spades’ and the timeless ‘Overkill’.
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Friday 21st November
As I’m becoming increasingly tired of writing and talking about – I’m sure people consider me a zealot or, worse still, boorish – Opeth’s ‘Watershed’ was my choice as the best new album of 2008. And given that last night the Swedes were playing my favourite London venue, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, with the reunited Cynic as their special guests… well, I thought I’d give it a miss and go to Mecca Bingo instead. What do you fucking think??!!
Considering the weight of expectancy for both Opeth and Cynic, opening act The Ocean must’ve felt a bit like an unwanted wedding guest and, sadly, their 30-minute set turned out bland in the extreme. One of the finest progressive/technical death metal groups ever to draw breath, Cynic were also restricted to half an hour but used their time wisely, plugging some excellent-sounding tunes (including ‘Evolutionary Sleeper’ and ‘Adam's Murmur’) from a new album called ‘Traced In Air’, though playing the songs that the fans wanted to hear (‘Veil Of Maya’ and ‘How Could I’) from a debut album that’s now… ulp… 15 years old.
Barring a slight annoyance regarding the staid nature of the set-list – I really wanted to hear far more than two songs from ‘Watershed’ – Opeth ruled. From my seat up in the balcony the sound and view were truly amazing, the back-projections enhancing the storytelling qualities of the quartet’s music; a sumptuous mixture of metal, prog-rock and psychedelia. As ever, band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt lightens the mood with his bizarre song introductions. Before playing ‘Hope Leaves’, a fragile ballad from 2003’s Steven Wilson-helmed ‘Damnation’ album, he deadpanned: “I’m gonna try and sing this with 300 per cent feeling, just like Bon Jovi.” Later on, whilst naming the musicians around him, Åkerfeldt grinned: “And on the keyboards... We all cut off our pubes and taped them to his face; it’s Per Wiberg!” But seriously, Opeth really need to make some changes to a set-list that’s sailing close to stagnation. Last night it ran as follows: ‘Heir Apparent’, ‘The Grand Conjuration’, ‘Godhead’s Lament’, ‘The Lotus Eater’, ‘Bleak’, ‘Hope Leaves’, ‘Deliverance’, ‘Demon Of The Fall’ and an encore of ‘The Drapery Falls’.
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Thursday 20th November
The first can of cider was cracked open well in advance of last night’s so-called ‘friendly’ international with Germany (c’mon, could there be such a thing?). One suspects that watching such a game is a bit like playing it in it: If you don’t limber up properly, you can seriously damage yourself over the course of 90 strenuous minutes. An injury-ravaged England dominated the first half and scored first but, with shots raining in on the German goalmouth, gave away what looked like being a stupid equaliser. So I was thrilled (and relieved) when, with five minutes left, John Terry steered a looping header into the far corner. Rudolf Schenker, Goetz Kuehnemund, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Tom Angelripper, Bert Trautmann, Angela Gossow… your boys took one hell of a beating (again).
There’s good and bad news from the word of melodic rock. In a ‘glass half full’ sense, the organisers of Firefest have announced that the festival is set to continue, for at least one more year. Amen to that. And, conversely, I was saddened to take a call from FM drummer Pete Jupp informing me that guitarist Andy Barnett, who is in the process of relocating abroad, has left the band. Work on the group’s comeback disc will continue as a four-piece (with Steve Overland filling in on lead guitar). I, for one, having shared many a sherbert and a laugh with Barnett through the years, will miss him.
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Wednesday 19th November
So… Diego Maradona, the cheating, drug-taking, paternity-denying egomaniac that knocked England out of the World Cup with a deliberate handball in 1986, is back on British soil. This time Maradona has the effrontery to masquerade as an individual of professional repute, namely the manager of the Argentinean national side (who tonight play Scotland). I hope that somebody shoots the bastard. It was 22 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten.
Received an email from Bernie Tormé, denying my recent Diary allegation that his band GMT still include ‘Smoke On The Water’ in their live set. “Your honour, we’ve been framed,” he says. “We did listen to you!” (Apparently, I ranted on the subject to Bernie and John McCoy at last year’s Hard Rock Hell). “You were right! Please sir, no more detention!” In the interest of declaration Bernie admits that the band **did** include ‘SOTW’ as a third encore in Grimsby, but only because it was Fin from Waysted’s birthday, “and he jumped, no crawled really, up on stage and tried to sing ‘around and around’ over it, between cursing in Glaswegian and calling me and everyone else in the band and audience ‘Jimmy’.”
So there you have it. And if GMT ever do play ‘Smoke On The Water’ in your town, please let me know. I’ll dock Mr Tormé’s pocket money.
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Tuesday 18th November
Last night, being my fourth of consecutive gig-going (including two all-dayers), took its toll. Felt absolutely knackered by the end of a three-band bill at the Islington Academy – two of them signed to Swedish label The Unit Music Company – but with a couple of days off (and an England international) on the horizon, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Although their brand of trash-punk was a little too light and fizzy for my own taste Essex’s Zen Motel played their hearts out for the half-dozen or so folks that witnessed their early turn (including the bar staff).
Specialising in groovy, 70s-influenced stoner-doom, Sweden’s Stonewall Noise Orchestra were far more up my alley. They certainly have a powerful, enjoyable sound but after a while their material sounded a little too samey. The band I had **really** ventured out for was headliners Hate Gallery, a four-piece that has cunningly re-named itself following a low-key launch under the different name of White Subway. Going further back, their bassist/frontman Janne Jarvis was a member of the splendid Radiator. Short-tempered at the disappointing turnout, sometime Warrior Soul member Jarvis is both the star of Hate Gallery and a captivatingly grouchy frontman. “Sort the fucking sound out, for fuck’s sake,” he growls at the bloke behind the desk, later turning his bile upon the audience. “A nice, lively London crowd as usual,” he drawls, dripping sarcasm at the between-song silences, before modestly plugging ‘Compassion Fatigue’, the band’s debut. “You won’t buy a better album this year, but you probably all got in on the guest list anyway, so fuck you… it’s a great record.” Jarvis speaks the truth about the fat-free, melodic vitriol of ‘Compassion Fatigue’ but the equipment and sound problems exert a dampener on a display that only really erupts into life with the last two songs, ‘The Idiot’ and ‘You Don’t Know’. Methinks this was a case of great band, but wrong venue and wrong space in time.
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Monday 17th November
Emerging from a Ruskin Arms-inspired hangover, last nite I witnessed the best gig I’ve seen from Chariot since the Londoners reunited back in 2004. The show at Camden’s Purple Turtle was my tenth such encounter with the band. Paul Lane, who plays guitar with a flashier style than predecessor Scott Biaggi, has bedded in nicely and Pete Franklin continues to defy the years with his Cockney barrow-boy banter and laugh-a-minute antics, which included jumping down into the crowd to pose with a wireless guitar… then being unable to get back up again. I also enjoyed the tracks they played from a soon-to-be-recorded fourth album, including ‘Creature’ and ‘To The Extreme’. Can’t wait to see Chariot again at Hard Rock Hell, which is now – ULP! – less than three weeks away.
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Sunday 16th November
Well, save for Palace losing 2-1 in Cardiff (the home side’s penalty being highly contentious) and having to take two nightbuses across London following first of two Clive Aid gigs, my weekend has gone well. Ex-Maiden drummer Clive Burr attended both shows, of course, and it was moving to note the affection with which the fans still regard him. Whenever he was pushed into the main hall to watch a band, the crowd parted like the Red Sea for his wheelchair.
Friday night’s gig got off to a low-key start. Competent and enthusiastic, Tequila Rockingbird were better – marginally – than their cringesome name, and the violin, saxophone and didgeridoo-enhanced “hillbilly heavy metal” of the next group, Conspirators, was memorable only for a guest appearance from their producer, Bernie Tormé. So I spent some time in the bar with ex-Kerrang! designer Steve ‘Krusher’ Joule, who was there to introduce some of the artists. As we debated how sanitised and sterile magazine journalism has become, Krusher told me how back in the “good old days” he and a K! colleague (who shall remain nameless, should the tale now embarrass them) routinely took a taxi to the off licence en route to the office, buying a bottle of Mescal and a bottle of mineral water and switching their contents, complete with worm. The cab would then drop them off right outside Kerrang!’s local boozer just as its doors opened at 11am, where the landlady greeted them with two specially prepared drinks. Krusher gulped down the first, proclaiming “Rock!”, his colleague following suit with a cry of “Roll!” and the day was ready to begin. How times have changed.
Apart from a gratuitous cover of Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’, Tokyo Blade – well, guitarist Andy Boulton and hired hands – were amazing, closing a positively rampant set with two of the weekend’s finest tunes, ‘If Heaven Is Hell’ and ‘Night Of The Blade’. I can’t remember when I last saw Elixir, one of the true NWOBHM survivors, but it didn’t take long to realise that I liked their present tense status more in principle than reality. When you’ve been accused of being Iron Maiden imitators for your whole career, likewise if your singer ain’t too great, the very last thing you should do is play a cover of ‘Children Of The Damned’. The crowd seemed to enjoy Elixir, but not me…
Given the excellence of their latest disc ‘Razorhead’, I’d been looking forward to seeing Marshall Law again for the first time since… well, so long ago now that they all slept on my living room floor and used up all my conditioner the next day. Bachelor days, obviously. The Brummies kept the riffs pumping but with singer Andy Pyke suffering from a cold outstayed their welcome a little, including two Maiden covers (‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Wrathchild’) in a draining 90-minute blitzkrieg.
Onto Day Two and given the Ninian Park result, the last thing I needed was contact with anything from Wales. Thrashers Brabazon had some decent trashy ideas, but woaaah, do they need a second guitarist?! With the aggressive, bluesy hard rock of Isolysis unremarkable, it was down to Hanging Doll, a female-fronted band from Brum, to show their Gothic mettle. I’ve been playing their debut album ‘Reason & Madness’ a lot since arriving home, and they’ve got potential aplenty. The polar opposite is true of Nemhain, whose ranks might well include celebrated drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates/The Haunted/Cradle Of Filth) and former Area 54 guitarist Lakis Kyriacou, but are let down badly by the wretched, alleged ‘vocals’ of fetish model Morrigan Hell. The mildly boogiefied, thunderously delivered hard rock of the next band, Hammerhead, was pleasant enough, but Cloven Hoof stole the day’s honours with frightening ease. His once waist-length barnet now sadly trimmed, Russ North still has an incredible, soaring power metal voice. With my umpteenth pint of snakebite and black in hand (the Ruskin’s white wine is… sorry, that’s **was**... undrinkable) I nodded away with growing enthusiasm as the band, rallied as ever by indefatigable bassist Lee ‘Air’ Payne, ran through the following set-list: ‘Inquisitor’, ‘Nova Battlestar’, ‘Astral Rider’, ‘Gates Of Gehenna’, ‘Reach For The Sky’, ‘Road Of Eagles’ and an irresistibly singalong finale of ‘Laying Down The Law’. No, I’m not writing this to stem the hail of Payne’s pulpit-like ‘Why does everyone in England hate us?’ emails; they really were excellent. A bit like the Ruskin itself. The place’ll be missed.
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Friday 14th November
Clarification at last. The project that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham are concocting will **not** be going on the road masquerading as something more glamorous. “Whatever this is, it is not Led Zeppelin,” say Page’s management company in a statement. “Not without the involvement of Robert Plant.” Common sense has prevailed. I, for one, will still want to see it, though… Just a bit…
Most of yesterday afternoon was spent spinning ‘Evil Twin’, the superb second album from Robin Guy and the ex-Gillan pair of John McCoy and Bernie Tormé – better and more succinctly known as GMT. Complete with a guest appearance from Dee fuckin’ Snider of Twisted Sister, it’s the most incendiary, squalling and filthy slab of garage rock I’ve heard since… ooh, since the trio’s debut album, ‘Bitter And Twisted’. Nice work, fellas. Now drop ‘Smoke On The bleeding Water’ from the set and I’ll be completely content.
Mention of John McCoy, who produced the first Samson album, reminds me to plug a deserving cause. Tonight and tomorrow, a special Clive Aid gig takes place at the Ruskin Arms. The Ruskin was, of course, the East End scene of many of Iron Maiden’s earliest triumphs (I saw them there as a wide-eyed kid in December 1981, with a newly appointed Bruce Dickinson on vocals… also caught Quo rocking the same stage on their tour of the nation’s pubs in 1999). Now, sadly, the venue is about to close its doors for the final time. Inspired by ex-Samson/Maiden/Desperado/Elixir sticksman Clive Burr, Clive Aid raises awareness and funds for cancer and Multiple Sclerosis charities. That and various rumoured special guest appearances should be reason enough get y’self down to East Ham if you’re able.
P.S. An email from EMI Records reveals that the Michael Schenker Group re-issues for which I recently wrote sleeve essays are due on January 19. The jewel in the crown of the first batch of three is 1980’s self-titled debut, produced by Roger Glover, which now adds demo tracks recorded in London by the very first MSG line-up, completed by singer Gary Barden, former Talas/future Mr Big bassist Billy Sheehan and ex-Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi.

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Thursday 13th November
Oh dear, another music icon bites the dust. At around 10pm last night I received a text from Rock Radio’s Paul Anthony, wondering whether I’d heard a rumour that Mitch Mitchell, the last remaining member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was dead. Sadly, it turned out to be true. Drummer Mitchell, a Londoner whose jazz-based style can be heard on the Experience’s Holy Trinity – ‘Are You Experienced’ and ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ (both 1967) and ‘Electric Ladyland’ (’68), – passed away from ‘natural causes’ in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon. He was either 61 or 62, depending upon which reports you read. I had the honour of meeting Mitch at a press reception in 2002, and he seemed like an interesting guy, as you’d rightly expect. RIP, Mr Mitchell.
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Wednesday 12th November
Captain Sensible never fails to make me laugh. With a 32-year career behind him, The Damned’s ever-quotable guitarist is a journalist’s dream – once you get hold of him, that is. I’d spent the previous couple of days failing to make contact by phone in various airport lounges and foreign locations. “I’ve just come back from Rome, where I plied my dubious disco nonsense on the poor old Italians,” he tells me with a carefree laugh. “I feel such a fraud. They put me up in a sumptuous hotel, and I went on this TV show and performed an abbreviated version of ‘Wot!’, the disco classic that I invented rap music with [in 1982]. I’m to blame for that, too. I was on the screen for one minute and fifty seconds, and I got paid as well!”
Sensible, who also had another 1982 hit with ‘Happy Talk’, doesn’t attempt to hide his dual identity. “One minute I’m making a loud noise with The Damned, the next all this solo rubbish – I don’t know which one I enjoy most,” he chirrups. “It’s not bad for an ex-toilet cleaner from Croydon, is it?”
I’m finding it hard to stop playing ‘The Old Road’, a sensational album by ex-IQ/Jadis keyboard wizard Martin Orford. Under normal circumstances, mention of Orford’s name would merit a link to his site… only Martin doesn’t have one, and more to the point **doesn’t want one**. His dislike of the internet and its culture of ‘here’s my work, feel free to steal it’ is such that ‘The Old Road’ – which features cameos from Asia’s John Wetton, John Mitchell of It Bites, Nick D’Virgillio and Dave Meros of Spock’s Beard and, incredibly, Dave Oberlé of 70s proggers Gryphon (later Kerrang!’s advertisement manager) – marks what the press release calls a “complete withdrawal from the music industry”. Or as Orford put it in a recent email: “Unashamedly retro and proud of it, this is rather like my ‘bugger the internet, I’m off to live in the 1950s’ album”. If you love old-school prog, you’re advised to go out and give Orford one final payday by buying (and not downloading) ‘The Old Road’ – it’s bloody great.
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Tuesday 11th November
Slightly later than usual, this month’s Playlist and YouTube have just been posted. And speaking of recommended discs, Classic Rock contributors have just been asked to submit their ‘Best Albums of 2008’ lists. As CR doesn’t usually run them writer-by-writer as most magazines do, opting instead to calculate one communally-pooled chart, let me illuminate you with the hallowed results of the Catford jury…
1) OPETH – Watershed – Roadrunner
2) IT BITES – The Tall Ships – Inside Out
3) AC/DC – Black Ice – Columbia
4) URIAH HEEP – Wake The Sleeper – Noise
5) JOURNEY – Revelation – Frontiers
6) ALICE COOPER – Along Came A Spider – SPV
7) DEF LEPPARD – Songs From The Sparkle Lounge – Mercury
8) TESLA – Forever More – Frontiers
9) TESTAMENT – The Formation Of Damnation – Nuclear Blast
10) BLACK STONE CHERRY – Folklore And Superstition – Roadrunner
11) STONE GODS – Silver Spoons & Broken Bones – PIAS
12) DEMIANS – Building An Empire – Inside Out
13) MÖTLEY CRÜE – Saints Of Los Angeles – Eleven Seven Music
14) WHITESNAKE – Good To Be Bad – SPV
15) DRAGONFORCE – Ultra Beatdown – Roadrunner
16) AVANTASIA – The Scarecrow – Nuclear Blast
17) H.E.A.T. – H.E.A.T. – Stormvox
18) METALLICA – Death Magnetic – Vertigo
19) IHSAHN – AngL – Candelight
20) ROSE HILL DRIVE – Moon Is The New Earth – Megaforce

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Monday 10th November
How disappointing that Blind Melon have split with Travis Warren, the frontman that seemed to be doing such a great job of replacing the late, great Shannon Hoon in London two months ago. Judging by the group’s explanation – “God dropped a Stradivarius down Travis’s throat, but he treats it like a broken pawnshop fiddle” – and the singer’s own protestations of being “underpaid and overworked”, it all ended messily. And I had such high hopes…
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Sunday 9th November
Ouch, my aching head. My first glass of cider hit the back of the neck very shortly after news broke that Clint Hill had stabbed Crystal Palace into the lead at Coventry Shitty’s Ricoh Arena. The game finished 2-0; kinda wished I could’ve been present to witness the club’s first victory in five games but I had tix for last night’s Alter Bridge gig at the Brixton Academy. My friend Steve Way and I supped a few cold ’uns before the show, simultaneously toasting Palace’s victory and as preparation for a potentially fascinating concert.
I’ve seen Alter Bridge on four previous occasions (pretty much every time they’ve played London, except for the first gig at ULU) from 2004 onwards. This time, though, with lead singer Myles Kennedy being linked to a tour with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, I found myself watching and listening through a quite different set of eyes and ears. No doubt about it… Kennedy is among the very best young(-ish… is 38 young?!) up ‘n’ coming classic rock frontmen out there – bar none. As proven by a solo acoustic version of ‘Watch Over You’ that really kicked the band’s 90-minute set into gear, Myles commands attention and has a set of pipes to die for. But is he the individual to front a – quote, unquote – Led Zeppelin tour? It depends upon your expectations. For all its soaring, uplifting qualities, the Kennedy larynx doesn’t sound remotely like Percy Plant. Then again, maybe that’s what Jimmy and company are after; some young gun to come in and propel them into a fresh direction, not merely to re-heat past glories? Alter Bridge’s management offered a terse “no comment” to Classic Rock’s official enquiry regarding the rumours; the fact that the band included Robert Johnston’s ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ (from whence Zep borrowed the immortal “Squeeze my lemon…” line) seems to imply the deal has already been done. And, so long as it was temporary, why the heck not? The other three members of Alter Bridge have nothing to lose and everything to gain in taking a year off. After attaining the level of Brixton Academy headliners, and performed so convincingly to generate a hysterical reaction – just wait till you see the DVD they recorded!! – the Zep connection would only enhance what is a justifiably escalating reputation.
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Saturday 8th November
I’ve been a fan of Dan Reed since the Portland-born frontman broke through with the first, eponymously-titled Dan Reed Network album in 1988. Back then I was working for RAW magazine, and I don’t mind admitting that Reed’s arrival caused heated arguments during our editorial meetings. The dilemma was this: Reed had the requisite attitude and long hair (at the time, anyway), but after furore of Kerrang! putting Prince on their front cover, would our readers embrace his sexy, mesmerising brand of funky guitar rock – performed by a multi-national backing group? The answer was, emphatically, in the affirmative and Reed went on to cross over into the hearts of rock fans everywhere, gigging alongside Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones and many more. Indeed, after I filed a less than positive review of Reed’s slot with the Stones in Manchester, such was his modesty that he actually telephoned to agree with several of my points. Over the course of several interviews I got to know Dan pretty well, even flying to Los Angeles to see him filming the video for ‘Mix It Up’, where he memorably proclaimed: “Instead of rock stars getting fan letters, we need to write fan letters to the garbage man, the 24-hour pizza man; those who stay up to make our lives pleasurable”. Sadly, apart from mysterious reports of meetings with the Dalai Lama and the release of various collections and live discs, Reed dropped off the map after the Network’s third album, 1991’s The Heat’.
So it was great to see him onstage again in the UK, after 15 long years away. Last night’s gig at the tiny Borderline attracted many of the scene’s ‘old faces’, including former Wimbledon tennis champ Pat Cash, who’d brought along his wife and two sons. Dan was performing acoustically, with no backing band, previewing compositions from a new solo record called ‘Coming Up For Air’ that drops next year. So, clearly, the funk factor would be absent. But the songs? Ah well… no problems there, squire. Like the rest of the crowd, which listened attentively to the quieter moments and sang along vociferously to the tracks they knew, I was extremely impressed by the new tunes ‘Losing My Fear’, ‘The Promised Land’ and ‘Brave New World’. Older gems included ‘Long Way To Go’, ‘Rainbow Child’, ‘I’m So Sorry’, ‘Let It Go’, ‘Lover’, ‘Ritual’, ‘The Salt Of Joy’ and one of the finest love ditties ever penned, ‘Stronger Than Steel’. Between the music, Dan revealed how he lived in Jerusalem for the past three years, before that in India as he mused upon becoming a monk or returning to music. He will be back in April, apparently, though whether that’s with an electric band or on his lonesome once more I’ve no idea… but you’re advised not to miss it.
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Friday 7th November
Well, the weekend’s almost here and this evening I’m off to see Dan Reed play an intimate one-man club date. Can’t wait for that. This afternoon I’ve been playing Jeff Scott Soto’s excellent new album, ‘Beautiful Mess’, a real masterclass of radio-friendly slickness and funky groove, interspersed by blasts from the deluxe edition of ‘The Age Of Nero’, Satyricon’s latest. Hahaha, not too many folks will have had **those** two records on rotation, I’ll wager!
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Thursday 6th November
For the past few days I’ve been transcribing a series of special interviews with Bill Ward, Bernie Tormé, Ron Nevison, Pete Way, Vince Neil, John Sinclair, Glenn Hughes, Don Airey, Penelope Spheeris and Phil Soussan, all of whom have one thing – or to be more accurate, one person – in common. No prizes for guessing. Listening to their recollections has been huge fun. I particularly enjoyed conversing with Spheeris who, of course, was responsible for one of the greatest music films ever made, namely The Decline of Western Civilization: Part II, The Metal Years. I still recall attending a press preview of that film with my friend Mick White (then vocalist of Samson) in 1987, alternating been roars of laughter and sinking back in our seats as the home-truths of the industry we loved so much slapped us around the face. Penelope, who even claims to read this diary, is currently working on a cinematic biography of Sex Pistol-turned-cheese fancier Johnny Rotten, and a hair metal-themed movie called Love Above The Strip. The latter especially sounds like great fun.
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Wednesday 5th November
Well, the internet is ablaze with Cream vs Led Zeppelin, Page vs Clapton flame wars. Indeed, a Classic Rock Radio Station in Detroit called Jack at his London home to verify what he told me on Monday night at the Classic Rock Awards. Jack didn’t play the ‘I’ve been misquoted’ card, insisting that his dry-as-a-bone Glaswegian humour had simply been misinterpreted. And he did have the bottle to stand by his opinion, admitting: “Obviously [there is] a little bit of jealousy on my part”. However, he also reiterated: “Let’s face it, Jimmy Page ain’t no Eric Clapton, no matter what anybody thinks” and poured gasoline onto the bonfire by joking (I hope!): “The only decent guy… the one good guy in that band is dead”.
The speed with which music stories appear on the internet still never fails to amaze me. Rolling news sites like Blabbermouth are updated for each major occurrence, right around the clock. So, knowing their love for a soundbite I’m mildly surprised that Blabbermouth didn’t pick up on two of my interviews which were recently posted on the Classic Rock website; Yngwie Malmsteen proclaiming: “I love being an exhibitionist: It’s excellent”, and Ross The Boss declaring that his new, self-titled band is “all about one-upping Manowar”.
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Tuesday 4th November
Last night was the fourth annual Classic Rock Awards, which took place at the swanky Park Lane Hotel. Once again I was conducting the post-presentation interviews for the magazine’s coverage – a great, if stressful, job. Basically, you sit around doing virtually nothing for five hours except shaking hands and guiding musos into photographer Ross Halfin’s secluded fairy grotto, guarded by vicious pitbulls on crack (well, CR art editor Brad Merrett, anyway). At one point I looked on agog as Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Ozzy Osbourne and Slash goofed around for the lens. Utterly bemused (and amused) by my love of Crystal Palace FC, Halfin is an extremely odd fish. He’s happy to welcome Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies into his enclave, likewise Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash were apparently the first live band he saw, back in 12BC). “Okay,” I thought, “he’s not just after the biggest celebs”. And yet, when I suggested it might be good to get a shot of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, whose ‘Watershed’ was up for Album Of The Year, Ross gazed blankly and sighed: “Look, do me a favour. No Dave Ling bands, okay?”
Then, quite suddenly, the ceremony began. It was like removing a cork from a bottle. In principle there’s supposed to be an even flow; from the podium, into Halfin’s lair, out to the assorted agency photographers and journalists, and then the artists return to their tables. Of course, it doesn’t work like that. With due respect to Mike Fraser, who collects a DVD award for AC/DC, and Flemming Rasmussen, who’s there on behalf of Metallica to receive Re-Issue Of The Year for the vinyl editions of the band’s first three albums (but won’t answer any questions on ‘Death Magnetic’), the media scrum has its sights set firmly on the likes of David Coverdale, who **want** to be photographed and interviewed; indeed they positively play to the gallery, shaking hands, flashing teeth and offering generous soundbites. And at the other end of the spectrum, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have a minder who at first politely informs you their charges are “not doing any interviews”, then – when she learns you’re from Classic Rock – generously grants you “four quick questions”. Meanwhile, while you await a spot with Gary Moore and Peter Green, they are being overtaken in the queue by Todd Rundgren and Syd Barrett’s sister Rosemary Breen. The press area becomes as congested as Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour. See what I mean about the stress factor?
So it feels great when an absolute pearl comes along. Enter Jack Bruce, the legendary Cream bassist/vocalist who disses Led Zeppelin for “tuning down” at their “lame” O2 reunion gig and then launches into an astonishing rant: “Fuck off, Led Zeppelin, you’re crap. You’ve always been crap and you’ll never be anything else. Cream is ten times the band that Led Zeppelin is.” I try not hinder his flow by letting my astonishment show. It works. “You’re gonna compare Eric Clapton with that fucking Jimmy Page?” he continues. “Well, to be fair, they’re different kinds of player, aren’t they?” I reply, rocking on my heels. “No! Eric’s good and Jimmy’s crap. And with that I rest my case,” seethes Bruce, wandering outside to face the flashbulbs and hollering: “LED ZEPPELIN ARE CRAP!” Since the story broke on the web I’ve been asked many times whether Bruce was drunk. Though another member of the CR team (who shall go nameless) believes that he was, Jack didn’t seem inebriated at all. He certainly wasn’t slurring his words.
And before we knew it, the ceremony was over. With quotes from just about everyone on the magazine’s hit-list safely secured, the sense of relief was palpable. Having stayed off the booze I didn’t fancy the after show party. I decided that if I dashed off I might **just** catch my last train from Charing Cross Station, only to bump into Thunder singer Danny Bowes, another Sarf London boy who was driving my way and offered a lift right to the end of my road. A fortuitous end to a quite magnificent night.
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Monday 3rd November
I returned from the Living Colour interview, put down my bag and made a quick cuppa, then nipped out the door again to Shepherd’s Bush Empire where a decent-sized crowd had gathered for the last night of the immodestly titled ‘Classic Legends Of Rock’ tour. Tony ‘TS’ McPhee and his Groundhogs opened the bill. McPhee plays the guitar murderously, and without a plectrum, which really makes a big noise. Having recently re-purchased the band’s classic album ‘Thank Christ For The Bomb’ on CD for the first time I really enjoyed them, though others expressed a witheringly contradictory opinion (hello Barry!).
Having feared that they might be a little ‘pub-rock’, or worse still ‘chicken-in-a-basket’, Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash pleasantly surprised me. His band can really play, and bassist/singer Turner, sporting a fringed jacket and throwing shapes, remains a great entertainer. In a recent Classic Rock interview Martin criticised Andy Powell, who of course has kept the Ash flag flying without him (“He’s an excellent guitar player, but as a vocalist I sometimes think he struggles”), also slighting Powell’s ‘official’ Wishbone Ash line-up (“Whenever I go to see [them] I always end up in the bar”), and with his incarnation having re-recorded the classic ‘Argus’ album (under the title of ‘Argus Through The Looking Glass’ – complete with guest appearances from John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes) this story looks set to run and run. Incidentally, Turner’s men played ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Throw Down The Sword’, ‘Blowin’ Free’, a terrific ‘Phoenix’, a version of ‘Living Proof’ that displayed perhaps just a little too much swagger, before ending with ‘Jailbait’.
Still fronted by the madcap genius of keyboard player/flautist and yodeller Thijs van Leer, who looks more like racing pundit John McCrirrick than ever, headliners Focus were equally enjoyable. Now 60 years old, the Dutch master is lovably eccentric, skit-skatting and la-la-laing over the band’s musical ebb and flow, donning an owl mask and generally running the show, even coming to the lip of the stage to blow into what looked like an alpine flugelhorn. Current guitarist Neils van der Steenhoven does a manful job of replacing Jan Akkerman and I’d like to see them again another time, hopefully for more than just 70 minutes.
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Sunday 2nd November
I’ve just dashed back home from a lunchtime rendezvous with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid. Makes such a nice change to interview such a likable, intelligent guy. Understandably after so many years of being misunderstood, the guitarist was annoyed to learn that the press blurb for Living Colour’s upcoming live DVD refers to them as “one the very few groups — if not the first and only — that can be coined as authentic sons of Jimi Hendrix”… As a matter of fact, our chat was timely, as I’m currently absorbed in Charles Shaar Murray’s excellent Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix And Post-War Pop, throughout which Vernon is generously quoted. The book, which examines flower-power culture, really does take us back to the days when no-one batted an eyelid if black people were referred to as “spades”. There’s a cringe-inducing part in which Pete Townshend of The Who approaches Jimi at the airport after a disagreement over the honour of headlining the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967. Townsend tells Jimi, “Listen, no hard feelings, I’d love to get a bit of that guitar you smashed”, to which Hendrix icily retorts: “Oh, yeah? I’ll autograph it for you, honkie.” Very different times indeed…
Otherwise it’s been a rubbish weekend. Despite having vowed not to on the grounds that it threw cricket into disrepute, I ended up watching England being utterly humiliated by a West Indian All-Star XI side in a Twenty20 game with an unbelievable winner-takes-all $20million purse. A crap sporting spectacle that sets a worrying precedent. And yesterday afternoon at a soaking wet Selhurst, Palace drew with Sheffield Wednesday – that’s just two points from a possible 12. Relegation form in anyone’s language, though in fairness the second half performance was a little more acceptable.
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Saturday 1st November
In an ideal world, this evening I would be zipping up to the Islington Academy following Palace's game against Sheff Wednesday. Ex-It Bites guitarist/singer Francis Dunnery is playing a show based around his excellent 'Tall Blond Helicopter' album. However, it's been a hectic week and the lads want to set off some fireworks in the back garden, eat a few hotdogs, etc. So that's what we'll do.
Very shortly I will be heading off into Croydon for a final, pre-game, mooch around Beanos Records, a much-loved emporium that's about to close its doors once and for all after 32 years of trading. Owner David Lashmar has done his best to stay the executioner's axe, but is finally bowing to the inevitable and Beanos now follows London's legendary Shades Records and Manchester's bargain-tastic Power Cuts into fondly remembered immortality. Awfully sad, if you ask me.
After a run of very poor results - two defeats and a draw in the last three matches - I'm hoping that Palace will see off today's visitors, two places above the Eagles in the Championship table but so badly off in a financial sense that the players have been asked to pay their own rail fares to London for today's game at Selhurst. Incredible. The Premier League has a lot to answer for.