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 30th November
London has caught up with the rest of the country and several inches of snow now cover England’s capital city. It’s rather worrying, as I’m supposed to be flying to Aberdeen in a couple of days to interview veteran neo-proggers Pallas about their new album, ‘XXV’. Said disc, a sequel to 1984’s ‘The Sentinel’, is rather good. An advance promo copy has been lodged in the office stereo for the past few days (I particularly like the track ‘Monster)’, alternating with my latest Record & Tape Exchange bargain, a mint, shrink-wrapped copy of the Michael Stanley Band’s 1976 underground gem ‘Ladies’ Choice’. The cover of the latter, featuring some dude wearing a satin tour jacket that Paul Suter and Dave Reynolds would both dismiss as gaudy, is so ‘of its era’ I find it truly hilarious. The MSB are a great band, too.
Following the talk of Pallas and still in the world of prog, Fish has posted some rather cool photographs of this summer’s High Voltage festival at his Facebook page. For reasons best known to himself, Mr Dick captured several participants, liggers and journalists in… er, candid states, including this one of yours truly, which he has titled: Dave "concerned of Leamington" Ling. What an honour! Check out the pix here. Fish is quite a decent photographer… roll over Ross Halfin!
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Monday 29th November
The highlight of my Sunday afternoon was a chinwag with Gus G, Firewind guitarist and currently a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Gus is a first-rate bloke, and the chance to natter with him was ample compensation for a disappointing Third Round FA Cup draw which paired Palace not with one of the Premiership big guns, a local rival or even sent them to a ‘new ground’, but boring old Coventry Shitty. Yawn. Another trip to a grey, soulless football stadium in the middle of an industrial estate? No thanks, I may be reorganising my sock drawer on that day…
With England beginning the final day’s play of the Ashes test streets ahead of the Aussies and the match looking set for a stalemate, I was left agog by the amount of empty seats at the Gabba. Turned in at 1am with the score at 370-1, just after Trott had been dropped in the slips and the hapless Mitchell Johnson had bowled four wides. The Aussies, usually so predictably resilient, were all over the shop. As I dozed, England put Ponting and his clowns out of their misery by declaring at 517 for one, before Kaitich was caught off the bowling of Broad for just four. Had the match gone on for another day there’s no doubt Strauss and company would have taken first blood. In failing to do so there’s a certain element of disappointment – the draw definitely felt like a win. However should the resounding nature of the last 48 hours of play be repeated in the Second Test, only one team will win the series.
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Sunday 28th November
With my sporting hat on, things are beginning to look rosier. As I awoke yesterday morning, England’s cricketers had somehow batted right through the night, overturning a 221-run deficit to give themselves a decent stab at saving the First Test. Then, during the afternoon at an ice-cold Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace picked up another three points through the vanquishing of promotion-chasing Doncaster Rovers; the club’s third victory in three games.
Overjoyed to bursting point, the alcohol levels were replenished by a bottle of dry white wine for the journey to Arch Enemy’s gig at the Forum. In fact, things were possibly overdone things a little as, after taking a comfy set in the balcony for support act Grand Magus, I actually found myself dozing off awhile (though this had more to do with too many nocturnal hours of watching the Ashes than the Swedish band’s music). I’ve seen Arch Enemy many, many times before but although the Amott brothers delivered another yet truly stupendous display of six-string athleticism, on this occasion they were undone by whoever was mixing the sound. Angela Gossow’s growls, an integral part of the group’s sound, were far too low in the mix. Things **did** improve as the set wore on, but by then it felt a little too late. Anyway, here’s what they played: ‘The Immortal’, ‘Revolution Begins’, ‘Ravenous’, ‘Taking Back My Soul’, ‘My Apocalypse’, ‘Dark Insanity’, Drum Solo, ‘I Will Live Again’, ‘Dead Eyes See No Future’, Guitar Solo, ‘Dead Bury Their Dead’ and ‘We Will Rise’, followed by ‘Snow Bound’ and ‘Nemesis’.
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Saturday 27th November
The cricket isn’t going too well, and if there’s a god of leather and willow then he doesn’t want me to see too much of the first test match. Having stayed up till 2am, gritting my teeth and swearing at the screen as a combination of bad luck, poor umpiring and dogged Aussie grit saw Hussey and Haddin take the scoreboard to 329 for five, once again the alarm went off at 5.45am and I stumbled bleary-eyed downstairs for England’s further humiliation at the hands of those confounded Convicts. No sooner had I made a cup of tea, taken the dogs outside and settled into my seat than the umpires took the players off for bad light. FFS!
My Friday was punctuated by three extremely enjoyable phone interviews. I spoke firstly to Black Spiders frontman Pete Spiby, then called Matt Jones and Dhani Mansworth, vocalist and drummer respectively of The Treatment, whose debut album was recorded at Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris’s Barnyard studios and produced by Dhani’s dad Laurie (of Airrace/More fame). To be titled ‘This Might Hurt’, it’s released via Powerage Records in February 2011. I’ve heard it, and it rules. An emotional Laurie later sent a misty-eyed email saying how proud he was to overhear Dhani engaged in his first interview of significance, and that he was happy it had been with me. ’Scuse me while I wipe away a tear! At the spectrum’s other extreme was a hilarious conversation with the well-seasoned Roger Ruskin Spear of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band breakaway act Three Bonzos And A Piano. I loved his sense of humour and it was undoubtedly the first time I’ve spoken to a musician on their mobile phone whilst they were down at the dump foraging for stage props!
During the evening I headed over to a packed Electric Ballroom in Camden to see Monster Magnet. Despite one of those ridiculous, annoying early curfews – 10.45 in this instance – forcing the band to begin earlier than usual and drop two songs from the show, the Magnet coped rather well in the wake of long-serving guitarist Ed Mundell’s recent, unexpected departure. Am not completely sure about the set-list, but I do know that there were two songs from the new album, ‘Mastermind’, (namely ‘Hallucination Bomb’ and ‘Dig That Hole’), plus golden oldies ‘Nod Scene’, ‘Tractor’, ‘Space Lord’ and ‘Powertrip’, plus a tremendous version of Hawkwind’s ‘The Right Stuff’.
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Friday 26th November
Having dashed across London after last night’s gig at the Borderline, I plonked myself down in front of the telly for the start the Australia-England Ashes series. The pundits had been insisting that this was England’s best chance of retaining the Urn Down Under since Gatting captained the side in 1986-’87, Ian Botham predicting: “The only way Australia can win is if England freeze”. Such talk seemed ludicrous when, after just three deliveries, having won the toss and decided to bat, England captain Strauss threw away his wicket without a run on the board to an innocuous-looking ball from Hilfenhaus. I retired to bed still shell-shocked and crestfallen with the score at 38-1. Tippy-toeing back down the stairs at 5.45am and fearing the worst, I crossed myself before turning on the box again. “Hmm… 197-4… Could be a lot worse”, I thought and headed into the kitchen to make a cuppa. Then everything came crashing down as Cook, Prior and Broad were sent back to the pavilion in consecutive balls – to my utter dismay, having taken the dogs outside for a piss, I watched through the living room window as Prior’s middle stump was smashed from the ground by a mediocre Joe Swash lookalike – what a fucking great way to start the day.
Things only got worse. At lunchtime, with England having been skittled out for 260, my busy workload was curtailed by a power-cut. The kids found the situation very entertaining till we were left sitting around playing cards by candlelight, wearing our coats to keep warm. The things you take for granted, eh?
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Thursday 25th November
I was annoyed that yesterday’s Rune Grammofon Records showcase gig clashed with the Christmas party of Esoteric Records, one of my favourite re-issue labels. In the end, though, the lure of two outstanding Norwegian groups – Elephant9 and Motorpsycho – won out, and I headed off to a sold-out Borderline. Elephant9 are a guitar-free instrumental trio, very much in the vein of ELP or The Nice, though also hinting at Tangerine Dream, Miles Davis and a Blackmore-less Deep Purple. Playing just five songs during 55 avant-garde minutes, they warmed the place up nicely… and then some.

Promoting one of the finest albums of 2010 in ‘Heavy Metal Fruit’, Motorpsycho were distinctly hairier and rockier, combining over-the-top fuzz-toned riffage with elements of prog, psychedelia, jazz and space-rock. The trio played at deafening volume (certainly for such a cramped basement venue) though the decibels were wielded almost as an additional instrument, hammering home the credentials of tunes that lasted anything up to 15 minutes long. Even after 14 albums, in common with Mastodon and The Mars Volta, Motorpsycho are doing fantastically exciting things within the sphere of metal and when, after 90 astounding minutes, they were forbidden from playing an encore, it spoke volumes that the audience refused to leave; cheering, stomping and standing its ground for almost ten minutes – even as the gear is defiantly broken down. Here’s the set-list: ‘Year Zero’, a new and as-yet untitled tune, ‘Whole Lotta Diana’, a new and as-yet untitled tune #2, ‘All Is Loneliness’, ‘Starhammer’, ‘The Wheel’, ‘Hogwash’ and ‘X-3 Hallucifuge (Suite Little Lucid Moments Pt III)’.
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Wednesday 24th November
Yesterday’s highlight was a phone conversation with Joey Tempest from Europe. It’s always a pleasure to chew the cud with one of the nicest men in the business: If only every interviewee were as personable and talkative. Joey told me that the band will be breaking in some songs intended for their next studio record during a February 2011 UK run that’s being called the ‘Balls And Banners’ tour, possibly even looking to bring in some special guests to play with them.
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Monday 22nd November
Given that the band from Buffalo, Upstate New York, have existed since 1985 and played in the UK on many occasions, also that I’m a big fan of their nine-album catalogue, it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that last night’s sighting of the Goo Goo Dolls was my first such experience. It helped that I had a great seat in the balcony of the Forum, one of my favourite venues in London, also that the sound mix was impeccable, but what really sold the show was the sheer consistency of the band’s songwriting. For nigh on an hour and a half the Goos mixed an almost-perfect flow of US hits such as ‘Name’, ‘Iris’, ‘Better Days’ and ‘Black Balloon’ with choice album cuts, offering nary a duff tune along the way (though the vocals of bassist Robby Takac seemed a little less convincing than those of guitarist John Rzeznik… I also found Takac’s foolish prancing around the stage rather annoying, but that’s just me). Anyway, the show was well worth the bus ride from one side of London to the other, also the energy-sapping return trip. If you haven’t got the band’s current album, ‘Something For The Rest Of Us’, I recommend giving it a try. Here’s what they played: ‘Sweetest Lie’, ‘Big Machine’, ‘Slide’, ‘Dizzy’, ‘Here Is Gone’, ‘Second Time’, ‘Smash’, ‘Can’t Let It Go’, ‘Black Balloon’, ‘Home’, ‘Better Days’, ‘Stay With You’, ‘Now I Hear’, ‘Tucked Away’, ‘Name’, ‘Let Love In’, ‘As I Am’ and ‘Iris’, plus encores of ‘Not Broken’ and ‘Broadway’.
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Sunday 21st November
I’m peeved. Under normal circumstances attendance at Annihilator’s gig at the Islington Academy would have been mandatory. But with Sky Sports electing to delay the kick-off of Palace’s away game with Sheffield United until 5.15pm, the chances of catching both match and gig were pretty remote. So I stayed home and drank myself into oblivion as the Eagles took the lead twice… and still lost the game thanks to an alleged ‘referee’ who sent off Owen Garvan for the heinous crime of swearing on the pitch, then allowed United’s second equaliser to stand, despite its scorer being at least three yards offside. I was immensely proud of Palace’s performance. We deserved a share of the points; I’m struggling to recall the last time I saw a worse referee.
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Saturday 20th November
At long last… Rush’s UK dates were announced yesterday. I love the fact that, just like Iron Maiden (who headline the same venue on August 5 and 6), Geddy, Alex and Neil will be coming to South London’s O2 Arena – a mere bus journey from Ling Towers – on May 25. Such a shame it clashes with Roger Hodgson at the Albert Hall… ah well. The press release says Rush are to revise the classic ‘Moving Pictures’ album in its entirety as well as preview tunes from their forthcoming album, ‘Clockwork Angels’, during a set that will last for three-and-a-half hours. With Toto announcing a gig at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on June 26, the summer is getting pretty congested (in the nicest possible way!).
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Friday 19th November
Wouldn’t you just know it? Last night there were three great gigs in London – Steve Lukather at Islington Academy, Richard Marx’s one-man show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the double header from Deftones and Coheed And Cambria at Brixton – and I was too bogged down with work to attend any of them! Richard Marx plays the Royal Albert Hall on May 31, so I’ll have to get along to that instead…
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Thursday 18th November
Though we are closing the pages of Classic Rock’s December 6 issue I freed up time to zoom over to an upstairs room at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for yesterday’s lunchtime gathering in honour of Mr Big. Hosted by Planet Rock Radio’s Darren Redick for a show entitled Off The Record and taking place before a tiny audience of competition winners, it saw singer Eric Martin and bassist Billy Sheehan answering questions and performing a few numbers acoustically. The pair really seemed to enjoy themselves, getting into the spirit of the occasion. Martin spoke of how, having joined Toto for a week, he “went out and bought a new wheel for my car”, whilst the ever-courteous Sheehan spoke at length and with great passion and wit on many subjects. Amid the chat they played five songs; ‘Electrified’, ‘Where Do I Fit In?’, ‘To Be With You’ and Humble Pie’s ‘Thirty days In The Hole’, also previewing a brand new tune called ‘Stranger In My Life’ from the band’s Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Journey)-produced comeback disc, which will be titled ‘What If…’ when it drops in January. Somewhat surreally, I found myself sitting very close to Woody Woodmansey, a one-time member of the Spiders From Mars, which only seemed to emphasize the event’s exclusive feel. This afternoon I think I shall give the Eric Martin Band’s ‘Sucker For A Pretty face’ a spin.

Last night’s friendly between England and France at Wembley was disappointing. Both teams had disastrously embarrassing World Cup campaigns, but it’s Les Blues that seem to be making a better recovery… quite probably because they had the nuts to ditch their hapless national coach. At 2-0 down, Capello’s shapeless, guileless and lacklustre XII didn’t start playing till pulling a goal back and a last frantic 15 minutes. In a way I’m glad they didn’t snatch the draw, as having done so would’ve wallpapered over a gigantic crack that needs fixing… urgently so.
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Wednesday 17th November
Needed to blow off some steam after finishing my contribution to the special issue on Motörhead, so headed over to the Beaverwood Club in Chislehurst. It takes ages to get there by bus, so a couple of tinnies of strong cider were consumed. An email from the club’s promoter Pete Feenstra has suggested I arrived in time to see The Stone Electric, a band from Memphis that he claimed sound like “Janis Joplin meets The Black Crowes”. Pete didn’t lie; though there were times when the trio sounded more like Chris Robinson fronting The Black Crowes thanks to Noni Crow’s familiar phrasing, the bassist has one helluva voice and their powerful, rootsy sound went down a storm with a packed crowd.
After a brief acoustic set from Virgin McMahon of Virgil & The Accelerators, who along with his drumming brother Gabriel would later switch to bass to back the headline act, it was time for Joanne Shaw Taylor, a little lady with a gigantic future ahead of her. With two albums to her name, Birmingham-born Shaw Taylor plays searing-hot, deeply emotive blues and has a sassy voice to match. Her self-penned material is coming along at a rate of knots and a mid-set rendition of Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’ was frighteningly good. No disrespect to the Beaverwood, but JST won’t be playing such places for too much longer. She supports Black Country Communion on two UK shows in December so don’t miss her. Meanwhile, here’s the set-list: ‘Shake ‘N’ Bake’, ‘Going Home’, ‘Let It Burn’, Medley: ‘White Sugar’/‘Rude Mood’, ‘Time Has Come’, ‘Manic Depression’, ‘Dead And Gone’, ‘Kiss The Ground Goodbye’, ‘Watch ’Em Burn’, ‘Blackest day’, ‘Jump That Train’, ‘Lord have Mercy’, ‘Bones’ and ‘Going Down’, plus an encore of ‘Black Country Soul’.
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Tuesday 16th November
Should you be wondering about the lack of recent updates to this page, the last several days were spent transcribing interview tapes from 6am till 10 or 11pm at night (unless, that is, I was going to a gig). ‘Stop, rewind, play’ over and over and over again. A large story for Classic Rock’s Jimi Hendrix special was followed by 4,500 words on the Classic Rock Awards, before delivering just shy of 14,000 words on Motörhead. When things get this bonkers and I’m forced to take lunch at my desk, one’s work begins to override just about everything else. Two weeks ago I bought a new mobile phone that’ll allow me to access my emails (and follow the Palace results!) on the move; it’s still sitting in the box.
Anyway, my copy of Classic Rock Presents: AOR has arrived. The decision to publish the title has caused some heated debate which I won’t get into here beyond saying that if the controversy causes the ‘main’ edition of Classic Rock to increase its coverage of melodic hard rock – which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be difficult – this can only be a positive. There are one or two things I’d have done differently with Issue One (for those that do not know, the idea is to publish it on a quarterly basis, should the demand exist). For instance Beth Hart is an artist that I really like, but who does not belong in the magazine – certainly not over two whole pages. However, Geoff Barton has done a sterling job of pulling everything together (It’s nice that he credited me with General AOR Expertise in the masthead!). There are some excellent, weighty features on established artists such as Journey, REO, Survivor, Heart and Night Ranger, plus such newer names as Reckless Love, White Widdow, Crashdïet and Issa and it’s great to see the names of Derek Oliver and Dave Reynolds in print again. On a personal note, my own interviews with Strangeways, Steve Lukather, Skin, Danny Vaughn and Richard Page, also a four-page story on How AOR Got Cool Again, are all present and correct. It can be ordered here.
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Monday 15th November
Attending gigs on Sundays can be a grind, especially when there’s engineering works on the railway line. However, I was most keen to check out the final night of a UK tour that offered a double bill of classic heavy metal from Electric Wizzard and Primitai, which meant a lengthy bus journey across London and back. Ho hum. Oh well; some things have just gotta be done.
A raw but promising five-piece from the South-East of England, Primitai play good old fashioned molten metal like it was always intended; their shredding solos and ball-busting yet melodic riffs overlain by the vocals of Guy Miller, who wore a cool Manowar T-shirt. In addition to playing fast, hard and furious, ‘Invincible’ (from their second album, ‘The Line Of Fire’) suggested they can also do ‘feel’… something distinctly lacking in so many of the young up ‘n’ coming Brit metal combos.
The excellent ‘Over The Top’ album had deservedly brought the LA-based headliners a Best New Band nomination at this year’s Classic Rock Awards, and on the whole I liked what White Wizzard had to offer. Their unabashed adulation of Maiden, Priest, Dio and the Scorpions shines through in every last note of songs like ‘Out Of Control’, which somehow manages to sound like a cross between ‘Kill The King’, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ and ‘Dynamite’, though their latest singer Peter Ellis is waaaaay to much of a Bruce Dickinson clone to be taken seriously. The Englishman brings the band a truly fabulous voice, that’s undeniable, but he also seems to have spent decades locked away in his bedroom swatting up on Iron Maiden DVDs, mimicking Bruce’s mannerisms and stage presence… those persistent cries of “Scream for me like you mean it” were plain ridiculous. Here’s the set-list: ‘Over The Top’, ‘40 Deuces’, ‘Celestina’, ‘Shooting Star’, ‘Out Of Control’, ‘The Iron Goddess Of Vengeance’, ‘High Roller’, ‘White Wizzard’, ‘March Of The Skeletons’ and ‘High Speed GTO’.
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Sunday 14th November
Why am I grinning so broadly and clutching my aching head? Yesterday saw my beloved Crystal Palace notch a fine 2-0 victory over Coventry Shitty at Selhurst Park. Settled by two controversial goals from Darren Ambrose – one from a free-kick following a hotly disputed back pass, the other dispatched coolly via the penalty spot – the game was not one for the purist, though it did lift the Eagles from the foot of the Championship table. What can I say? Vast quantities of cider, wine and vodka, also a disgusting kebab with extra chili sauce, were consumed in jubilant celebration.
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Saturday 13th November
Having caught them at the Classic Rock Awards a few nights earlier and on just about every tour of the previous decade and beyond, I’ve no regrets over passing on Cheap Trick’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig for my first live sighting of Freak Kitchen. The Swedish power-trio, whose guitarist Mattias ‘Ia’ Eklundh was once famously described as “better than Vai” by Guitarist magazine, don’t perform in the UK too often so this was one gig I wasn’t gonna miss. Though I’m not one of those guitar bores that lives to compare which musician plays the speediest, I will say that what Freak Kitchen have besides musicianship in abundance is good, catchy (if quirky) songs with strong vocals, and a crazily irresistible sense of humour. In that sense, Vai could learn a lot from them.
“Godammit, this is not easy shit to play,” grinned Eklundh whilst introducing ‘My New Haircut’, a rare example of the group playing in simple 4/4 time, adding: “Our hands are turning blue and our balls are turning green.” Another of the night’s most amusing moments came during ‘My New Haircut’, sung by bass player Christer Ortefors in American football style anti-glare make up and S.W.A.T. riot gear, when Eklundh attempted – in vain, of course! – to get the Camden Underworld crowd to clap along to the tune in 3/16 time. Genius! I could have listened to them all night but here’s what they played: ‘God Save The Spleen’, ‘Porno Daddy’, ‘Speak When You’re Spoken To’, ‘Chest Pain Waltz’, ‘Teargas Jazz’, ‘My New Haircut’, ‘Hateful Little People’, ‘The Only Way’, ‘Razor Flowers’, ‘Propaganda Pie’, ‘Nobody’s Laughing’, ‘The Rights To You’ and ‘Silence’ (that final song a preview of a new album that will be released next year).
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Friday 12th November
Though last night’s gig by the Heavy Metal Kids offered plenty of fun, the band’s new singer John Altman (yes, he of Nasty Nick from EastEnders fame) doesn’t yet seem a completely natural frontman. Of course it’s early days for this line-up, which has only been together since the summer, but when all’s said and done I came way from the Garage safe in the knowledge that this incarnation of the Kids does have considerable potential, as had been indicated by ‘Uncontrollable’, the only new song they’ve released so far. Musically speaking the group were incredibly tight and the set-list (culled largely from the ‘Hit The Right Button’ and ‘Anvil Chorus’ albums) was pretty definitive, but there was no mistaking Altman’s anxiety between songs. He seemed to be saying what we expected him to, as opposed to being himself. Simply repeating the phrase: “Are you having a good time?” and thanking all his mates in the audience does not a good frontman make, though, like I say, I’m sure it’ll come in time. Here’s the set-list: ‘Chelsea Kids’, ‘Blow It All Away’, ‘Hit The Right Button’, ‘Hangin’ On’, ‘A Hundred Skeletons’, ‘Blue Eyed Boy’, ‘Whisky’, ‘Crisis’, ‘On The Street’, ‘Message’, ‘The Cops Are Coming’, ‘Squalliday Inn’, ‘She’s No Angel’, ‘(Ain’t Nothin’ But) A House Party’, ‘Uncontrollable’ and ‘Crool World’, plus encores of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Man’ and ‘Delirious’ (the latter with a guest appearance from Max Splodge).
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Thursday 11th November
Last night was spent at the Roundhouse in London, compiling the winners’ acceptance interviews for the sixth annual Classic Rock Awards. The list of who won what can be seen here, along with some pix here. I got to thrust my trusty cassette recorder under the noses of most of the winners, presenters, attendees and performers (the 2010 event introduced live music, from Alter Bridge, The Union and Cheap Trick), including Geddy Lee of Rush, Neal Schon, Mick Jones from Foreigner, Jimmy Page and Jaz Coleman, John Paul Jones, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, Slash, Michael Schenker, Luke Morley and Peter Shoulder of The Union, Glenn Hughes, Steven Wilson, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Ron Wood, Scott Gorham, Joe Elliott, Biff Byford, Randy Bachman, Roy Wood, Rick Wakeman, Imelda May and the Cheap Trick dudes, whose Rick Nielson told me: “We’re gonna show the [rest of these musicians] what for when we go onstage; give them a lesson in how to really do it.” What I saw of their evening-closing display – which had many of the guests up and dancing like drunken fools around their tables – lived up to his boast. Slash also got up and jammed with Alter Bridge, too, which was incredibly cool.
My heart went out to Wendy Dio, who I feared would burst into tears when we spoke towards the evening’s end about Ronnie’s posthumous Tommy Vance Inspiration award. The night’s weirdest moment came during Cheap Trick’s live set. Somebody kept tapping me on the shoulder and each time I looked around for the culprit, there was none. Finally, at the fourth or fifth attempt, Tony Iommi could conceal his mirth no longer and burst out laughing. Most odd.
Away from the music, it was great to talk football with David ‘Kid’ Jensen of Planet Rock Radio, who was among many to admire my CPFC tie. Jensen was the spokesperson for the CPFC 2010 takeover consortium and was impressed to learn that I’d been a part of the demonstrations at Lloyds Bank that played such a role in rescuing the club from the abyss. In fact, footie was a general theme of the night, actually, as Pete Way and Geezer wanted to be kept up to date with the Villa game, with Glenn Hughes tearing out his hair at news that his beloved Wolves were being stuffed at Molineux by Arsenal.
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Wednesday 10th November
I’m still buzzing from last night’s dramatic game between Crystal Palace and Twatford at Selhurst Park. A stunning curled goal from Darren Ambrose gave the Eagles the lead, before the visitors nudged ahead. Thankfully, Owen Garvan scored two quick goals to seal Palace’s second win in 10 matches. What a relief.
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Tuesday 9th November
Although I’m still finding it odd to refer to Ronnie James Dio in the past tense, an abundance of the great man’s product now abounds. There’s a live album/DVD from one of his final live appearances at the Wacken Festival (‘Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell’), a double-disc reprisal of two classic Friday Rock Show performances at Monsters Of Rock (‘Donington Live: 1983 and ‘1987’) and Dio also makes a posthumous cameo on ‘Bitten By The Beast’, a solo album from his cousin David ‘Rock’ Feinstein of The Rods, articulating the song ‘Metal Will Never Die’.
On top of all this, a good friend of many years standing – PG Brunelli, a veteran lensman who was kind enough to have taken my wedding photos! – has published a collection of classic RJD images. PG knew Ronnie from 1983, spending time with him at his home, on the road and in various recording studios. The book, titled, A Photographic Memoir, is authorised by Wendy Dio and a sizeable chunk of its profits will go to Ronnie’s Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. Details here.

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Monday 8th November
Last night was spent at a central London location conducting interviews with Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee for Classic Rock’s upcoming magazine special on Motörhead (we are releasing the band’s 20th studio album, ‘The Wörld Is Yours’, via a special standalone 132-page magazine on December 14). The band were also filming a video for the song as ‘Get Back In Line’ at the time, which made things kinda difficult, but I got to spend quite a bit of with Kilmister between takes, asking him all sorts of super-detailed fanboy questions, which was a lot of fun.
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Sunday 7th November
What a wasted day. Yesterday at 7.15am I was on a coach that left Selhurst Park bound for Teesside, back home in South London just before midnight tolled. Though I’d seen CPFC claim the ‘old’ First Division Championship title at Ayresome Park in the 1993-’94 season, Middlesbrough’s current home of the Riverside Stadium is a ‘new’ ground for me (for the record, my travels following the mighty Eagles have taken me to around three-quarters of the 92 league grounds). It would all have been worthwhile had Palace clung onto a first-half lead, courtesy of Pablo Counago. Sadly, two deflected strikes in the last 15 minutes (the hammer blow yet another own goal from Paddy McCarthy) allowed the home side to seize three valuable points in what already looks like a nasty basement scrap.
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Friday 5th November
Oh. My. God. I’ve just received all four formats of Status Quo’s ‘Live At The BBC’ boxed anthology, including the limited edition eight-disc set. One Catford-based boogie-head is sporting an extremely wide smile right now! It looks absolutely superb and I’m so happy with the way my sleeve notes have been used. And with tomorrow’s coach trip to Palace’s game in Middlesbrough – five hours each way! – to consider, the timing of its arrival is excellent.
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Wednesday 3rd December
Having seen 13 bands during the past few days or so (including road trips to Bristol and Nottingham), gig-wise I’ll be taking things easy awhile. The Classic Rock Awards are a week away and with deadlines approaching for various stories, don’t expect too many updates here till the pressure drops off. Have just finished transcribing an interview with Carl Palmer in which the drummer confirms that, from his perspective, Emerson Lake & Palmer are no more. Refreshing honesty there from Palmer, a guy for whom I’ve a lot of time.
I have at least found the time for the usual monthly revisions of the Playlist, YouTube and Quotes pages.
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Monday 1st November
After attending six gigs in the previous seven days, how I roused myself at 4am for the trip to the Firefest remains a bit of a wonder. A couple of lagers assisted a quick power-nap on the train from St Pancras, and upon arrival in Nottingham I was ready to rock. Although the Swedish band’s debut album, ‘Time Elevation’, was an enjoyable though shamelessly derivative exercise in worship of 1980s-era commercial hard rock, Grand Design lacked fairy-dust onstage. ‘The Sad Sound Of Goodbye’ was such a wafer-thin Def Leppard parody, they should have called it ‘Hysterical’ and been done with it. I found myself thinking, “these guys cannot be serious” when the singer announced with a completely straight face that their farewell shot, ‘Gimme Gimme Love Sensation’ was about “all the chicks we know”. Sadly, they meant every word.
Newman, thankfully, were far more satisfying. As one of the UK’s major undervalued talents, mainman Steve Newman had waited a long time for this opportunity and he didn’t waste it. Though the keyboards should have been higher in the mix, something that robbed the group’s sound of its pomp-rock influence, their energy-charged display reminded us that you cannot beat the power of a good chorus and a feisty guitar solo.
I wasn’t reviewing the show in its entirety, so I nipped out to grab food and catch up with some friends as the Stage Dolls played. It turned out a bad mistake – everybody that saw them said the Norwegians were one of the event’s highlights. However, the first gig from Strangeways in 22 years was among the factors that enticed me to Firefest. As the band began with ‘Love Lies Dying’ and ‘Breaking Down The Barriers’, from my spot in the balcony I could see co-organiser Kieran Dargan, the man that brought the band back together, weeping stage-side. I knew just how he felt. Though the erratic contents of their comeback opus have set the cat among the pigeons, the band insisted upon playing four of its songs – namely the title cut ‘Perfect World’, ‘Time’ (which ran into the golden oldie ‘After The Hurt Is Gone’), ‘Borderline’ and the lumbering ‘Bushfire’ – in tandem with the vintage ‘Only A Fool’, ‘Empty Streets’, ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ and ‘Never Gonna Lose It’. There were times when I, too, found myself on the verge of tears of joy. I await next summer’s tour, and a fuller and more satisfying set-list, with anticipation.
The gentlemanly Jimi Jamison kindly agreed to swap slots with Pretty Maids, who experienced flight problems and then became involved in a nasty motorway snarl-up. And with the gods of karma smiling upon him, the former Survivor frontman stole the day with ease. Making his UK debut and backed by a band that included Tommy Denander on guitar plus various members of H.E.A.T., Jamison wore a sharp suit and used his allotted 65 minutes just about perfectly (though robbed of an encore, he was not allowed to play ‘I Can't Hold Back’, one of the songs that everyone was waiting for). But Jesus H Christ… what’s not to love about a set-list that pulled together ‘Caught In The Game’, ‘It’s The Singer Not The Song’, ‘High On You’, ‘Is This Love’, ‘I See You In Everyone’, ‘Didn’t Know It Was Love’, ‘A Dream Too Far’ (from the solo album ‘Empires’), ‘Crossroads Moment’ (another solo tune from 2008), ‘Rebel Son’, ‘Burning Heart’, ‘I’m Always Here’ and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’?
Still reeling from Jimi’s brilliance, I ventured outside for a pint or two of scrumpy cider with Dan Tobin from Earache Records during Pretty Maids, returning in time for Nelson’s own first ever gig on these shores. Obvious highlights included US chart topper ‘(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection’ and a rendition of Slaughter’s ‘Up All Night’ that saw guitarist Mark Slaughter take the mic, though I’d like to have heard ‘Call Me’, ‘Day By Day’, ‘When You’re Gone’ and ‘Kickin’ My Heart Around’ from the new album ‘Lighting Strikes Twice’ and perhaps slightly less of the releases that went unheard here in the UK. Nevertheless, when Matthew and Gunnar got it right, backed by a band that included the finest guitarist of the day in Neil Zaza, they were nothing less than Timotei-tastic.
Then it was back to the hotel bar until the wee small hours of the morning where Mark Slaughter, White Widdow singer Julez Mephisto, Terry Brock from Strangeways and Steve Newman were among those to graciously tolerate the drooling ramblings of a tired and emotional music hack. Yet another vintage Firefest, then. Here’s to the continued existence of this fine musical institution.