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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Friday 31st October
No room for even the barest smidgin of doubt: Last night I attended a heavy metal gig. As I got home and removed my footwear in the peace and quiet of the living room, I could scarcely believe how badly my ears were ringing - even for somebody that's attended two, three or four gigs a week for the past 20-plus years. Slayer, take a bow. The gig, of course, was the 'Unholy Alliance' package tour - Slayer, Trivium, Mastodon and Amon Amarth - at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, though by the time I turned up just before 7pm it seemed that Amon Amarth's raping and pillaging was done and they had boarded the Viking longboat home. No matter, I thought to myself, Mastodon are always excellent live. Sadly, the band did their best and musically they sounded great but guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders' vocals were far too low in the mix. Very annoying.
Trivium, on the other hand, sounded **bloody amazing**, with a thudding bottom-end that kicked you squarely in the gut and plenty of squealing treble on the guitars, amplified to levels that suggested someone had finally kneecapped the jobsworth from the GLC - the killjoy that monitors the decibel count with his little black box. **This** is how you are supposed to listen to heavy metal, I grinned. Nice one, Trivium. That's the best I've seen you in, I think, five viewings to date.
Sworn to including all of their benchmark album 'Reign In Bloody' during the evening's headline performance, Slayer were absolutely bloody amazing, turning in a skin-flayingly brutal display that almost succeeded in defining their chosen genre. Tom Araya's stage personality never fails to amuse. A threatening, growling whirlwind of hair during the actual songs, the bassist otherwise talks to the audience with disarmingly impeccable politeness. I laughed aloud when he referenced a famous Terry Jacks song midway through the show, "We had joy, we had fun, we had... 'Seasons In The Abyss'" - bloody brilliant. And as for Dave Lombardo's drumming... the man is either a robot or a bloody octopus. Here's what Slayer played in one of the finest shows I've seen this year, or indeed any other: 'Flesh Storm', 'War Ensemble', Medley: 'Chemical Warfare'/'Ghosts Of War', 'Seasons In The Abyss', 'Jihad', 'Live Undead', 'South Of Heaven', 'Angel Of Death', 'Piece By Piece', 'Necrophobic', 'Altar Of Sacrifice', 'Jesus Saves', 'Criminally Insane', 'Reborn', 'Epidemic', 'Postmortem' and 'Raining Blood'.
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Thursday 30th October
For those from outside the UK, our headlines are being dominated by the misbehaviour of an alleged 'comedian' (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) and an equally badly dressed and unfunny TV presenter that cannot pronounce the letter 'R' - ironic, as his surname begins with said letter. The pair took it upon themselves to call Andrew Sachs, the actor that played Manuel in Fawlty Towers, and leave answerphone messages boasting and swearing about having had sex with his granddaughter and joking that Sachs - now 78, incredibly - might be moved to kill himself. After the BBC received more than 25,000 complaints, the 'comic' later resigned his position, though despite being suspended from work his counterpart remains on full pay - a not considerable sum, as 'Wossy' is said to receive £6million a year from the British taxpayer (no matter what we think of him).
You're probably wondering why I'm waffling about this? Well, apart from feeling obliged to comment upon the unfathomable dichotomy between these grossly untalented individuals and their absurd pay packets, the furore reminded me how much I miss making my own prank calls. Aw, c'mon... don't try to tell me you didn't make 'em too...?
Gangs of us often came back to my place in Leytonstone, East London, once the St Moritz nightclub closed, where we would consume fuzzy navels (vodka, peach schnapps and orange juice) till the local pub opened for market traders at 6am. I found myself transforming into Police Constable Lovethrust - "Please don't laugh, ma'am, my name is not a subject for levity" - as we called people's long-suffering mums or dads to announce the arrest of their offspring. We also went through phases of calling a particular number in the early hours of the morning, letting the phone ring until it was picked up, then announcing "GOODBYE!" and hanging up. Some people were stupid enough to fall for it several times. I haven't laughed as much since... since... well, Charlton's middle-eastern takeover deal fell through.
Anyway, PC Lovethrust has been remarkably silent for the past decade or so. But if the Beeb wants to pay him a couple of million, I'm sure he'd consider coming out of retirement.
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Wednesday 29th October
I'm still seething at Palace's inability to beat Nottingham Florist last night, at a rain-swept Selhurst Park. Comedy defending of the grandest proportions allowed the visitors to notch goals that even the rearguard of a Stevie Wonder XI could've kept out.
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Monday 27th October
It's lunchtime and I'm just back from Day Two of Firefest. Having developed a splitting headache halfway through Tall Stories' set, this year I remained steadfastly sober throughout - even in the hotel bar afterwards. But what a great time I had. If you've never been to Firefest before - and it was being reported that this event would probably be the last - you missed out on something special: A great bunch of people, a spirit of nostalgic bonhomie and some fantastic bands, most of whom have long since given up the ambitious cut 'n' thrust of stardom to simply enjoy themselves.
Burn were just kicking off as I entered Rock City. With taut guitars, soothing keyboards and the confident disposition of frontman Jeff Ogden, the Loughborough-based sextet were ideally suited to getting the Firefest started. I'd already raved about David Readman's self-titled solo disc in the pages of Classic Rock, and mixing up lively rockers ('Wild In The City') and ballads ('Long Way To Heaven'), the Burnley-born Pink Cream 69 frontman's rousing performance did not disappoint. Thanks to its closing number, 'Kingdom Of The Blind', I also made a mental note to pick up Readman and guitarist Alex Beyrodt's forthcoming Voodoo Circle album.
On the strength of a truly amazing debut album, Sweden's H.E.A.T. were one of the acts that had attracted me to Firefest. So it was disappointing to learn, moments before they hit the stage, that vocalist Kenny Leckremo had been left at home following a heart operation. However, with Erik Mårtensson of countrymen Eclipse stepping manfully into the breach, also a guest appearance from Brother Firetribe's Pekka Ansio Heino, the show went on. It all got a bit karaoke as the band ran through Europe's 'Cherokee', 'Fool For Your Lovin'' by Whitesnake, 'Living On A Prayer' by Jon Jovi and Journey's 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)', but with their own songs 'There For You', 'Late Night Lady', 'Straight For Your Heart' and 'Never Let Go', the band definitely proved they can project and perform like stars. Indeed, as the youngest act on the bill - average age 22, I heard - H.E.A.T. made the best of a bad situation to hold their own superbly.
Making their UK debut after an absence of 16 years, Californian pomp-rockers Rox Diamond tried hard and deserved a better reaction. But for all their artistry, Kevin Achenbach's guitar failed to display any testicular fortitude until halfway through, so the crowd seemed to drift off in search of food and drink.
Not for nothing is Mitch Malloy regarded a cult hero. And in the company of another underground icon - guitarist Tommy Denander - the blink-and-you-missed-him former Van Halen singer breezed through an agreeable selection of foot-tapping, Velcro-hooked, blue-collar anthems, peaking with one of the day's most exquisite AOR moments, 'Nobody Wins In This War'.
Next up were White Sister, back in the UK for the first time since a support tour with FM in 1987 (indeed, the band folded a year later). 'Promises' and 'Don't Say That You're Mine' quickly set them on their way to 'band of the weekend' accolades, inciting flurries of air keys among the excited crowd, the swoonsome ballad 'Save Me Tonight' sung with emotional gusto by bassist Dennis Churchill Dries, Garri Brandon matching his colleague on 'Love Don't Make It Right'. I'd like to heave heard 'em play 'Fashion By Passion' too, but you can't have everything.
Though I'm a big fan of Tall Stories' one and only album, released in 1991, the band - fronted by Steve Augeri of Journey fame - let themselves down badly at Firefest. 'Chain Of Love' and 'Somewhere She Waits' remain great tunes, but Augeri's voice was all over the shop and before too long his air of detachment/borderline nonchalance rubbed off on the majority of the audience. Danger Danger, on the other hand, were exuberant and irrepressible. Like the musical equivalent of a stag weekend they kicked off with 'Horny Sonofabitch', demanding shots of Southern Comfort from the front rows and even inviting former singer Paul Laine to join them for 'Under The Gun'. There was still no sign of 'Slipped Her The Big One', but we'll let 'em off on this occasion.
I suspected that bill-toppers Firehouse might pale to irrelevance after Danger Danger's nigh-unfollowable special guest spot. But the more sedate (though let us not forget, multi-Platinum-selling) Illinois quartet pulled out all the stops, including the signature hits 'All She Wrote', 'Love Of A Lifetime' and 'Reach For The Sky' in a professional and thoroughly enjoyable display. If this **does** turn out to be the last Firefest - Firehouse's frontman CJ Snare proposed: "It's like Ozzy, will it be his final tour? We'll see" - well, the event went out on a discernable high with 'Don't Treat Me Bad', one of the genre's best-loved tunes. For what it's worth, I hope that Kieran Dargan and his tireless team do manage to put on another show.
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Sunday 27th October
Grrr, I’m still disappointed that Palace failed to bring home three points from yesterday’s trip to Bloomfield Road; a mud-splattered encounter against Blackpool that was apparently played from start to finish in bucketing rain. The Eagles were pegged back twice after goals from Paul Ifill and Craig Beattie, though when you go straight down to the other end of the field to reclaim the lead after the home side has equalised, it’s absolutely maddening not to close down the game.
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Saturday 25th October
No, I'm not holed up in Nottingham at the Firefest, nor on my way to Palace's away game in Blackpool. I will be heading Northwards tomorrow as there are quite a few Firefest bands that I want to see (notably H.E.A.T., Rox Diamond, White Sister and Tall Stories), but I've got some important sleeve notes to write and when you've a young family and the pennies must be accounted for it's pretty hard to just vanish for an entire booze-fuelled weekend.
I'm still laughing at the fact that yesterday QP-Ha-Ha sacked Iain Dowie - perhaps a touch prematurely, but what the heck? It's the third time that the Elephant Man has received his P45 in less than two years. Surely that must render him nigh on unemployable? Certainly his achievements at CPFC now look a bit like beginner's luck. It would be terrific if Dowie took the reins at Scumwall, too, gave them a good shafting, before he returns to fooling around with rockets.
Tom in Bristol has responded to my recent diary entry regarding Classic Rock's 10th anniversary.
Classic Rock magazine is responsible for kick-starting the classic rock revival, eh?! So I can blame you c**ts for me being unable to get AC/DC and Metallica tickets, then?! (Only joking, I beat the gloryhunters to acquire AC/DC 2 nights Madison Square Garden, 1 night 02 Arena, 1 night NEC;-). But seriously, thank you for the hard work that you guys have put into it, and
here's to the next 10 years...
Cheers, Tom...
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Friday 24th October
Yesterday I ventured to the Astoria 2 in London where Jade Warrior, the acoustic-prog-art-folk combo from London, were playing their first gig in – ulp! – 35 years. Though I really wanted to like them, it turned out to be a pretty surreal night. Firstly because the crowd was so embarrassingly small; I’d guess a maximum of 60 people. Secondly because the nine-person unit played so darned quietly, you could literally hear a pin drop between numbers. And thirdly because frontman Glyn Havard did his job in such understated fashion, at times he almost seemed apologetic. Sadly, though the group played well enough (barring a few shocking bum notes) Havard’s voice now lacks any semblance of power or authority. Which is odd, as with his unkempt barnet and staring eyes he’s beginning to look a little like a bespectacled version of Father Jack Hackett, the alcoholic priest from TV’s Craggy Island. I’d have given away my signed copy of ELP’s ‘Tarkus’ to hear him shout, “Feck! Arse! Beer!” or even “Gurrrrls!” just the once.
But seriously, although the combination of haunting, floaty flutes, fruity saxophones and stand-up bass gelled well enough with Tim Stone’s gently-probing guitar on older songs like ‘Traveller’, ‘Reason To Believe’ and ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and such newer material as ‘Lost Boys’ and ‘Journey’, the appalling lack of atmosphere killed the show stone dead.
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Thursday 23rd October
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum, I suppose. But seeing as tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the first issue’s arrival on the newsstands, I’m gonna ask it anyway. What came first, Classic Rock magazine or the classic rock revival? I’d like to think the magazine has nourished a scene that was in danger of dying out. I mean, consider the perilous state of hard rock in 1998 – Korn and Marilyn Manson were the name on the lips of the popular metal press. The reunited Sabbath had just cleaned up at the Ozzfest, Page and Plant headlining the Reading Festival, but in stark contrast Kiss had just released the dire ‘Psycho Circus’; a real career nadir. Though he probably wouldn’t admit the fact, Bruce Dickinson must’ve realized the grim financial enormity of his foolishness in leaving Iron Maiden. Van Halen were about to strike out with Gary Cherone as their new singer. If you were a lower league band like Nazareth, who had just issued ‘Boogaloo’ to a tumbleweed-like silence, in this country it seemed like you had virtually no chance. Typically, it would be another nine years before the Scotsmen dared to release another album of original material.
Classic Rock magazine played its part in changing all that, I’m proud to say. Though Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden’s manager, apparently pinned our original press release onto his notice board and scrawled “About fucking time!”, the response from the record companies was a combination of bafflement and mild amusement. The UK’s press officers wondered aloud as one: Who would buy a magazine with a mission statement of assessing, and I quote, “Everything from Van Halen to Vangelis, from Rush to Radiohead, from Kiss to Kula Shaker with fair but critical eyes and ears”? Well, our growing circulation seems to suggest there were indeed quite a few. But if you’d told me back in 1998, as we prepared its low-key launch as a one-off title from a small central London basement, that a decade later Classic Rock would outsell Kerrang! and the NME, have outlived the Melody Maker, and have staged awards ceremonies that attracted the likes of Jimmy Page, Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck, the members of Heaven And Hell, Steven Tyler, Lemmy Kilmister, Brian May, Ian Gillan, Chris Squire, Nick Mason of the Floyd, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, Ian Hunter and many more… well, I’m not altogether sure I’d have disbelieved the possibility, though it might’ve sounded slightly far-fetched.
Like the rest of the team that put those first couple of issues together – Jerry Ewing, Andy Ryan, Phil Wilding, publisher Christina Neal – I’ll never forget the desperate excitement of standing around the fax machine, waiting for the sales figures to come in. And in 2008, how much bigger could it become? Who knows, but even after a decade of steady growth and newsagent availability I still meet people that don’t even know of the magazine’s existence – incredible but true. “Hall Dave, what are you up to now?” “Well, we’ve got this magazine called Classic Rock…” “Oh, that sounds interesting…” “Yeah, it’s like Kerrang! for grown-ups, you should check it out.”
Folks have gone away, had families and let go of the whole rock music thing… now it seems they want back in again. And Classic Rock is just the magazine to give it to them…
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Wednesday 22nd October
Last night Palace played a difficult away fixture at Birmingham, conceding the only goal of the game deep into stoppage time at the end of the second half. How disappointed was I at the puncturing of a three-match winning streak? Let's just say that if eldest son Eddie, who recently instigated a rather profitable swear-box policy on match days, hadn't been safely tucked up in bed at the time... well, the credit crunch would've seem like small fry.
Equally upsetting: Hanoi Rocks are to call it day. The Finnish band, who got back together six years ago, releasing three rather tasty albums (especially the last one, 'Street Poetry') along the way, feel that they've taken things as far as possible. Michael Monroe and company's gig in London on Halloween is to be honoured, and after a Japanese tour they wave farewell via some shows at Helsinki's Tavastia Club, where their career began in the 1980s. Hanoi are still one of the greatest live bands in the business, and the rock world will be all the poorer for their disappearance.
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Sunday 19th October

It’s official (#1): Life Daaahn Sarrrf is the best, guv’nor, and no mistake. “I would never in my wildest dreams have thought how good it is down here and how much I would enjoy it,” says Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock, a year after making the move from Yorkshire to Beckenham (Kent), near the club’s training ground, adding: “The only thing I don’t like about London is the traffic.” Now those are words I’m sure you never thought you’d ever read.
It’s official (#2): Palace are on the up. Yesterday’s 3-0 trouncing of Barnsley was achieved with ease. Even Shefki Kuqi got onto the score-sheet for the second consecutive game… truly amazing!
It’s official (#3): Classic Rock magazine is just a few short days away from celebrating its 10th anniversary, the inaugural issue (with Guns N’ Roses on the cover) having hit the newsstands on 24th October 1998. I’ve just been doing an interview with trade magazine Music Week (being grilled for once, not asking the questions myself) about the magazine’s phenomenal rise – for those that are unaware we now outsell both Kerrang! and the NME… an incredible feat given that the magazine was conceived on a shoestring budget at a time when classic rock (lower case) was about as popular as Pete Way mistaking an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for a stag night. The conversation with MW’s writer Valerie Potter made me feel nostalgic. Will post a little more on this subject over the next few days.
It’s official (#4): Porcupine Tree are one of the finest rock bands in the world today. Nearing the end of the touring cycle for their ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ album, they shook up the set-list for last night’s gig at the IndigO2, setting the tone for a great night by kicking off with ‘Normal’, an outtake from ‘FOABP’ that belatedly surfaced on the ‘Nil Recurring’ EP, then ‘Drown With Me’, a bonus track from ‘In Absentia’. It was that kind of a show. Next up was ‘Stars Die’, lifted from the US version of 1995’s ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’. But the undisputed highpoint was the epic ‘Anaesthetize’, the studio version of which featured Rush’s Alex Lifeson, of course. This live version triumphed thanks to some mesmerising interplay between dive-bombing guitars, the keyboards of Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison’s astonishing drums. With Steven Wilson in chirpy form – “Good evening Philadelphia,” he announced, to fool the bootleggers and live-tapers – and the most amazing front-of-house-sound I’ve experienced in aeons, it was an almost flawless display. Here’s what they played: ‘Normal’, ‘Drown With Me’, ‘Stars Die’, ‘What Happens Now?’, ‘Anaesthetize’, ‘Open Car’, ‘Dark Matter’, ‘Wedding Nails’, ‘Prodigal’, ‘Strip The Soul’/‘.3’, ‘Half Light’, ‘Way Out Of Here’, ‘Sleep Together’ and encores of Fear Of A Blank Planet’ and ‘Halo’.
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Saturday 18th October
Well, my weekend got off to a flying start with last night’s Walter Trout gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I’ve long enjoyed the tasteful blues-rock of ex-John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers/Canned Heat guitarist Trout, who satisfied a large and vociferous London crowd for five minutes shy of two hours. It was a good job that I arrived at the venue in good time for opening act Monte Montgomery, an Alabama native who as part of a tight three-piece unit plays imaginative, fluid and very agreeable melodic blues on a customised acoustic guitar. Sadly, Montgomery hung around for just 30 minutes… on the strength of songs like ‘Moonlight Tango’ and ‘Shock’ I hope to see more of him before too long.
My finished copy of the AC/DC album just arrived. My good friend Kevin McDempster just texted to say he too has received ‘Black Ice’, revealing that its gloriously invigorating strains gave him a bad case of “Angus leg, an automatic involuntary response” from below the waist. What a gruesome mental image! Oh well, it could be worse; it could’ve incited Walter Trout’s awful Crazy-Legged Funky Chicken routine, an unwittingly comical stage move which made it seem as though Trout had shat himself and was attempting to shake the fecal detritus away via the bottom of his trousers. But I digress. No mistake, ‘Black Ice’ will be among the very finest albums of 2008, jostling for top position of my personal chart with Opeth’s ‘Watershed’ and ‘Wake The Sleeper’ by Uriah Heep. As an interesting aside, I note that Heep have introduced all 11 of the ‘Wake The Sleeper’ songs into their current set-list. A pretty brave decision. But I, for one, will not be complaining.
P.S. Some new Ask Dave responses have been posted here.
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Friday 17th October
Among the worst aspects of my job is penning obituaries for people that I know. It would be stretching things to claim friendship with Joe O’Neil, the music publicist whose face graces the front cover of UFO’s 'Strangers In The Night’ album, but because of his buddy-dom with editor Harry Doherty I got to know him pretty well during the late 1980s when Metal Hammer launched in the UK. Generous with entertaining anecdotes (he had earned his stripes at the notorious PR company Heavy Publicity which represented Black Sabbath, Wild Horses and Hawkwind among many others) and never slow in buying a round, Joe – in his 50s when he died of a sudden heart attack, having moved into promoting classical artists – was a likeable, gentleman rogue. If memory serves, I hadn’t spoken to him in earnest since he handled the publicity for Aerosmith’s ‘Toxic Twin Towers Ball’ at Wembley Stadium way back in 1999, but my heart goes out to Sian, his wife (who I also knew, and liked, when she too worked as a publicist) and their two kids, Martha and Finn.
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Thursday 16th October
My immense delight at last night’s fine England victory against Belarus was tempered by the surroundings in which I watched it. With no Setanta Sports at home, I visited the local pub. The experience made me realise just how spoiled I am when it comes to watching football on TV. Not only did it take 35 minutes of scrummage at the bar to obtain my second pint of cider, it meant sharing oxygen with some of the most stupid, obnoxious individuals I’ve ever encountered. One ‘gentleman’ took great delight in gently kicking the back of my chair throughout the game. I moved a little out of reach. So, to grins from his gang of mates, he moved his chair towards me again. Pushing my buttons just ‘cos he knew he could. But what really irked was the imbecilic smugness from around the giant screen – something the Premier League has only worsened. When Steven Gerrard fluffed a chance to make the score 4-1, hitting the post instead, a buffoon to my left announced: “Fat Frank [Lampard] wouldn’t have missed that.” “No,” agreed his mate, “Lamps is a better player ‘cos he’s on £200K a week; the Scousers only pay Gerrard £150K, innit?” Which, aside from the futility of judging a player by his price-tag, brings me to my second point – the (over-)use of the most annoying colloquial suffix in the English language. “I’m going to the bar, innit?” “Rooney shouldn’t be back in defence, innit?” “Get us a packet of cheese & onion, innit?” WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT?! There’s an advert that says: You’ve got to be in win to win it. I prefer: You’ve got to be a winnit (according to the Urban Dictionary: “A small piece of turd that sticks to your arse hair”) to say innit. Next time I shall stay home and watch the highlights instead. Victor Meldrew, over and out.
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Wednesday 15th October
It took long enough, but I’ve **finally** locked horns with AC/DC’s ‘Black Ice’. It’s really, really excellent. Much as I hate to concur with Arsenal-obsessed Paul Elliott about anything (especially football!), as his Classic Rock review points out, it has become an empty cliché to hail each new album from Angus and company as “the best they’ve done since ‘Back In Black’”. Come on, ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ featured how many great songs? Two?! And that’s being generous.
So I approached ‘Black Ice’ guardedly. Actually, I heard it in slightly unusual circumstances: at a playback party at the Gibson Guitars premises, in central London. Just like the Saxon bash 24 hours earlier there was gratis wine and beer, though this time I paced myself admirably to make it home without going via Heathrow Airport (don’t ask). At first listen there were at least six songs that will make it onto my iPod once get my grubby mitts obtain a finished copy. Brian Johnson acquits himself very well vocally; it’s hard to believe he’s 61 years old. Having met ‘Jonno’ a few times, I can only testify to his downright niceness, not to mention honesty. I love the fact that (according to Classic Rock’s cover feature) his opening words to album producer Brendan O’Brien were: “If I’m not up to scratch, please, please tell me. I’m a big boy, I won’t cry, I’ll just disappear. I’ll just say goodbye to the boys, and they can get someone else in to do the job”. Isn’t that absolutely fucking amazing?
En route to the playback I nipped into Fopp Records and – as ever – came away with some great bargains. Three quid apiece for ‘Live In Europe’ by Rory Gallagher and Cream’s ‘Fresh Cream’, neither of which I’ve owned on CD before, and the same price for Syd Barrett’s somewhat less listenable ‘Opel’, plus a rather interesting-looking book on Tom Petty that I’ll probably end up saving for next weekend’s journey to the Firefest.
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Tuesday 14th October
Last night I heard Saxon’s new album, ‘Into The Labyrinth’, ahead of its release date in January at a special playback party in central London. The booze flowed like Niagara Falls, and the band’s Biff Byford, Doug Scarratt and Nigel Glockler were on hand for a good gossip as the music played, also being followed around by a camera crew for the purposes of their own historical DVD, so I won’t attempt any kind of advance critique. What I will say is that from ‘Battalions Of Steel’ – a sensational, rabble-rousing opening cut – to ‘Coming Home (Bottleneck Version)' – a farewell tune from an unplugged CD that the band are also working on (“Just wait till you hear ‘Crusader’ with an orchestra”, said a thrilled Biff) – it extends Saxon’s recent run of creative form, picking up with continued confidence where 2007’s ‘The Inner Sanctum’ left off. The umpteenth glass of white wine in hand, I discussed with Glockler the theory that it’s easier to make quality music when you’re in a bit of a purple patch. Looking back on the band’s late-90s slump (a time when Nigel was out of the group), he nodded in agreement: “When Saxon was down, it sounded like it – the shine was gone.” Make no mistake, it’s back.
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Monday 13th October
With balmy weather that reached 23 degrees Centigrade, yesterday passed by at a fairly leisurely pace. In between reviewing various CDs and DVDs for Metal Hammer and transcribing a Classic Rock interview with Scottish rockers Gun, I caught up on lots of telly that’s been stacking up on the Sky+. The Sci-Fi channel has been showing Thunderbirds, a series I adored as a kid – especially the episode ‘Pit Of Peril’. Sadly, its appeal doesn’t seem to be a generational thing. “This is stupid, you can see the strings,” remarked youngest son Arnie, ruining my enjoyment as International Rescue risked their lives in attempting to retrieve the Sidewinder from a blazing underground inferno. During another episode, eldest lad Eddie pissed on the bonfire once and for all by asking: “Dad, why are the same puppets in every show, just with slightly different voices?” I sighed deeply and gave up trying to indoctrinate the ungrateful bleeders.
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Sunday 12th October
I should’ve known that opening that bottle of Baileys wasn’t a good idea, on top of the vodka and cider that had already been consumed during the afternoon. But I had to celebrate the slightly flattering score-line of last night’s World Cup qualifier – England 5, Kazakhstan 1 – somehow, especially as Coatia’s failure to beat Ukraine puts England firmly in the group’s driving seat. I’m regretting it now, but what a Borat-tastic nite!!!
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Saturday 11th October
Aw soddit, ain’t it always the way? No sooner do I press ‘send’ on this month’s Playlist than a promo of Tesla’s newie, ‘Forever More’, drops through the letterbox. Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon played me a couple of these tunes – one of which I now recognise as ‘I Wanna Live’ – at their hotel following their Sweden Rock performance, leaving me mightily impressed. It’s blaring away in the background as I type, and those sentiments are heartily echoed. Great songs, the usual Herculean vocal display from Jeff Keith and how nice it is to have Terry Thomas back on the scene (that’s the Foreigner/Bad Company/Richard Marx producer, not the late, gap-toothed comedian of the same name). Oh yeah, look out also for an update on the YouTube page.
With copy-filing deadline approaching, I’m now onto the fourth and (so far) final volume of Martin Popoff’s Ye Ole Metal book series, which focuses on the year 1977. Seeing as it contains essays on Sweet’s ‘Off The Record’, ‘Motörhead’ by Motörhead, ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’ by Angel, Styx’s ‘The Grand Illusion’, Triumph’s ‘Rock And Roll machine’ and ‘Violation’ by Starz, this one is shaping up to be the best so far. All four are still available from: www.martinpopoff.com.
And with that I must begin the gentle liquid preamble towards this evening’s World Cup Qualifier – England versus Kazakhstan at Wembley. Fingers crossed that the momentum of that outstanding 4-1 victory in Zagreb can be maintained.
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Thursday 9th October
Talk about rescuing a situation from the jaws of disaster. Raven were in a flustered state arriving in London for last night’s show at the Underworld. Someone had put unleaded petrol into the diesel car in which they were travelling, while drummer Joe Hasselvander was “sick as a dog” to use somebody’s words. Worse still, the ticket sales were (how shall I put this diplomatically), er… disappointing. But the show went ahead anyway, and what a t’riffic night ensued. With the venue having brought in two support acts, Raven were only supposed to play for an hour. They ended up adding an extra 15 minutes to go past curfew, sweating buckets and giving everything for the fans that **did** bother to turn up. John Gallagher’s high-pitched voice still rattles the fillings in your teeth, and though they missed out some songs I’d been dying to hear – what the heck happened to ‘Hard Ride’, ‘Wiped Out’ and ‘Hell Patrol’? – the trio, completed of course by axeman Mark Gallagher, left the Underworld’s metal connoisseurs extremely shaken and pleasantly stirred with golden oldies like ‘Take Control’, ‘Live At The Inferno’, ‘All For One’, ‘Rock Until You Drop’, ‘Speed Of The Reflex’, ‘Mind Over Metal’, ‘On & On’, ‘Crash Bang Wallop’, ‘Break The Chain’ and ‘Don’t Need Your Money’, plus new tunes ‘Breaking You Down’ and (appropriately, given the circumstances) ‘Long Day’s Journey’.
The night happened to be John Gallagher’s 50th birthday, something his missus had warned me about in an email, so Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing and I signed a suitably irreverent congratulations card and sent it into the dressing room with a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Besides thanking us from the stage, John, in return, later presented yours truly with something better still – a CDr of Raven’s just-recorded (and still unreleased) album, ‘Walk Through Fire’. I have to say, it does a **really** fine job of distilling the band’s irrepressible live lunacy onto a mere piece of silver-coated plastic. And the last track… I won’t give the game away just yet… is another of the band’s inspired choices of cover version.
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Tuesday 7th October
Cinders, you shall go to the ball. Last night Status Quo played the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, a local gig that under normal circumstances I’d never dream of missing – except this year they announced that Manfred Mann’s Earth band would support them at Wembley Arena in December, so I requested tickets for that one instead. However, after seeing the tour’s set-list I felt compelled to experience their greatest hits show in far more intimate environs. At lunchtime my mobile rang and Chris Hewlett, the band’s long-suffering publicist, confirmed that he’d acquired an extra pair of tickets at short notice – did I want them? Does the pope shit in the woods??!!
In a long overdue effort to please what Francis Rossi calls the “hardcore fans”, as opposed to the “floaters” – or more recent converts – some significant changes had been made to the show. Its first three songs presented little in the way of surprise, though Rick Parfitt’s ‘Don’t Drive My Car’ made a very welcome return. Then came the moment I’d been awaiting for… my pulse raced as the chords rang out… Der-der, Der-der, Durr… Der-der, Der-der, Durr… the intro to ‘Mean Girl’, from 1971’s ‘Dog Of Two Head’, closely followed by the ‘Hello!’ classic ‘Softer Ride’ and, not too far down the line, ‘Is There A Better Way?’, now with Parfitt assuming lead vocals, culled from ‘Blue For You’. The band’s faces were plastered with huge grins during ‘In My Chair’ and an encore romp through ‘Junior’s Wailing’, setting the seal on a joyous display. Yes, this really was a case of ‘new denim underwear please, nurse’. My biggest worry, given Rossi’s oft-avowed reluctance to going back down the hard rock route, is that the next tour will be a “floater”-friendly one, i.e. full of (s)hits like ‘Marguerita Time’, ‘The Anniversary Waltz’, ‘All Around My Hat’ and the wretched ‘Burning Bridges’. That would be cause for a cyanide tablet.
Here’s what the Quo **did** play: ‘Caroline’/‘The Wanderer’/‘Rain’, ‘Don’t Drive My Car’, ‘Mean Girl’, ‘Softer Ride’, ‘Beginning Of The End’, ‘Is There A Better Way?’, Medley: ‘What You’re Proposin’’/‘Down The Dustpipe’/‘Little Lady’/‘Red Sky’/‘Dear John’/‘Big Fat Mama’, Medley: ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Me’/’Ice In The Sun’, ‘The Oriental’, ‘Creeping Up On You’, ‘In My Chair’, ‘Living On An Island’, ‘In The Army Now’, Drum Solo, ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’, ‘Rocking All Over The World’, ‘Junior’s Wailing’ and Medley: ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Music’/‘Bye Bye Johnny’.
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Tuesday 7th October
When it comes to loaded accolades, being tagged as “the new Janis Joplin” is about the most poisoned of chalices. Beth Hart – whom I saw last night at a tiny London venue called The Fly – has had to live with this and more, but as the music she makes informs you, her life was already pretty full. As a recovering addict who sings of self-mutilation and an abusive family background in the song ‘Leave The Light On’, she appears a troubled yet appealingly optimistic soul. “I spent five and a half years sober, but recently I relapsed,” the Los Angelino admits. “Now it’s been two and a half months [since my last drink] and I’m grateful to be sober, I’ve got a great husband and a great band.” But when opens that mouth… fuck me… what a sensational voice comes out; emotive, husky and full of natural, full-blooded power. Though based in raw, earthy blues, her sound is founded upon strong choruses (‘As Good As It Gets’) – even her jazzier, more sedate moments (‘Monkey Back’) remain distinctly hummable. She tugs on the heartstrings with a neat re-make of Gov’t Mule’s ‘Soul Shine’, and her version of Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ confirms that – nationality aside – Mr Page picked the wrong singer to have joined him atop that London bus in Beijing several weeks back. In years to come, methinks that more than 150 fans will be claiming to have attended this gig, the set-list of which was: ‘Mamma’, ‘Hiding Under Water’, ‘Good As It Gets’, ‘Lifts You Up’, ‘Monkey Back’, ‘Sick’, ‘Waterfalls’, ‘Bottle Of Jesus’, ‘Soul Shine’, ‘Congratulations’, ‘Leave The Light On’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and encores of ‘A Change Is Going To Come’ and ‘One Eyed Chicken’.
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Sunday 5th October
Sunrise was still some time off as I checked the ‘in’ box before yesterday’s road trip to Nottingham Florist. Returning home just before midnight my wallet was empty, energy levels had flagged to zero and I was zigzagging along the street in an alarming fashion. So was the journey worth it? Most definitely, yes. Florist 0, Crystal Palace 2 was a justly deserved final score – the second lobbed from home a difficult angle by (ulp!) Shefi Kuqi. WTF?! That’s seven points from the last possible nine for the Eagles – things are looking up.
Rolling northwards up the M1, many pages of Martin Popoff’s Ye Old Metal books were turned. I’m now onto the third tome (in a series of the four) of detailed essays covering seminal hard rock releases. This one covers the year of 1976, its salubrious choices including ‘Virgin Killer’ by the Scorpions, Starz, Boston and Lone Star’s self-titled debuts, Kansas’ ‘Leftoverture’ and ‘Helluva Band’ by Angel. Popoff has done a typically thorough job. Disjointedly and sometimes repetitively structured to cram in as much info as possible, the chapters aren’t what you’d call brilliantly written, but that was never the intention. There’s lots of assumed knowledge and because they’re written in a conversational, haphazard manner it’s not always clear who’s being quoted at any one time. But if like me you’re fascinated by trivia, they’re pretty much indispensible. Hearing that Bachman-Turner Overdrive recruited a pizza delivery boy to play the piano solo on ‘Takin’ Care Of Business’, then had to track him down to pay out his royalties, made me smile, as did the revelation that the Scorps penned ‘Virgin Killer’ to mock Kiss’ Spinal Tap-style excesses. I found guitarist Scott ‘Top Ten’ Kempner of the Dictators’ anti-Led Zeppelin rant – “I really hate them; they turned the blues and real rock ‘n’ roll into a cartoon. It was a Vegas act, as far as I was concerned” – equally comical, though of course for different reasons.
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Saturday 4th October
Poor old Sam Totman. DragonForce were within sight of the finish line, celebrating a Top 20 album placing for their latest disc ‘Ultra Beatdown’ in the usual manner – all sorts of athletic jumping around the stage, bouncing off trampolines, swigging booze and running up and down strategically placed ramps. Then suddenly, during an encore of ‘Valley Of The Damned’, Totman slipped on some beer and smashed to the floor, his band-mates collapsing with ill-concealed mirth. “The chicks won’t want to do it with me now,” observed a red-faced Sam sagely. The guitarist’s pride was more damaged than his health, it seemed, but from my spot in the balcony the tumble looked – and sounded, judging by the awful klank he made – really fucking painful. Most bands would’ve stopped playing and called it a night. Generally speaking, the show impressed me a lot. Rather than coming on as one long, relentlessly demented guitar duel (with added keyboard histrionics from the lunatic Vadim Pruzhanov), as they have done in the past, DragonForce are gradually learning to introduce light and shade via songs like the new album’s ‘The Last Journey Home’, but without ruining what made them so special in the first place. Here’s the set-list: ‘Heroes Of Our Time’, ‘Operation Ground And Pound’, ‘Reasons To Live’, ‘Fury Of The Storm’, ‘The Warrior Inside’, Keyboard Solo/Jam, ‘Soldiers Of The Wasteland’, ‘The Last Journey Home’, ‘My Spirit Will Go On’, ‘Revolution Deathsquad’, ‘Valley Of The Damned’ and ‘Through The Fire And Flames’.
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Friday 4th October
Anyone else familiar with Mêlée? Not too many of ya, if the audience at the Orange County band’s London show – at King’s College – provides a realistic yardstick. Truth told, I only recently discovered Mêlée myself via 2007’s Howard Benson (Bang Tango/Motörhead)-helmed ‘Devils & Strangers’, which I presumed was their debut. Not so. In fact, they’ve existed for nine years and have two full-length discs plus a slew of EPs, singles and compilation appearances. Though plagued by equipment gremlins and too much idle chatter, their 80-minute set was very enjoyable; my own favourite of their repertoire, the Cutting Crew-flavoured ‘Imitation’, surfacing early on, and they did their hit, ‘Built To Last’, just before the encore. Frontman Chris Cron sometimes became too bogged down in Elton John-style contemplative noodling on his keyboard (the sappy ‘Can’t Hold On’, for instance), but at its best the quartet’s mixture of melodic pop, punk lite and college rock was pretty irresistible (viz ‘My Biggest Mistake’, ‘Love Carries On’, ‘Stand Up’). Shame there weren’t a few more people around to have enjoyed it.
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Thursday 2nd October
Those fucking It Bites bastards! For the past 24 hours I’ve had a song of theirs buzzing around my brain. Just as I think it’s gone, there it is again: “The wind… that shakes the barley”. It’s driving me insane!! BASTARDS!! And talking of those of an illegitimate persuasion, yesterday I paid a visit to Fopp Records. There I spied a book on Metallica written by my old muckers Malcolm Dome and Jerry Ewing. “Oooh, I wonder if I get a special thanks,” I thought. Ran my eyes down the credits and there it was, right at the bottom: Dave Ling is gay. Thanks guys! You will be hearing from my lawyers!
Fopp always has some good bargains. I picked up re-mastered versions of Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ and the Steely Dan classics Katy Lied’ (1975), ‘The Royal Scam’ (1976) and ‘Aja’ (1977) – all for three quid apiece! That’s just a silly price… The Steely Dan albums were worth having just for Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s brilliant pseud-like sleeve essays. I was in central London for a quick chinwag with Holy Ghost Revival, the originally Seattle-based band, now holed up in Vauxhall, whose album ‘Twilight Exit’ is turning into a real grower here at Ling Towers. Spoke to frontman Conor Kiley and bassist Jakes Bayley. Kiley, of whom the NME once wrote “mixes the swagger of Axl Rose with the charisma of Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood”, is waa-a-a-y too young to be namechecking Uriah Heep in his interviews, but I liked ‘em both.
Post-interview I headed off for a few pints of cider (and a bottle of wine) too many at the Palace reserves’ home game with QP-Haha, which I’m happy to say finished 3-2 to the Eagles. My mate Kev and I were both impressed by fledgling right back Nathanial Clyne, very much one for the future. John Merrick – AKA Hoops boss Iain Dowie – was said to have been in attendance, though luckily I didn’t ruin an otherwise great night by laying eyes upon his godforsaken ugly features.
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Wednesday 1st October
Crystal Palace 1 Clowntown Pathetic 0 – now there’s a result to inspire cardiovascular heat. It was the first time that my beloved Eagles had beaten our South London neighbours (note: not ‘rivals’, the caravan-dwellers are unworthy of such an accolade) in 11 miserable seasons. Palace had the best of the game against the lacklustre-looking visitors, a terrific 63rd minute header from on-loan striker Craig Beattie sealing the thee points that lifted us out of the relegation zone. Keep on playing like that and the Eagles’ll fly up the table. Can’t wait till Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Florist.
On a musical note, Judas Priest have announced a UK tour with Megadeth and Testament in March. That’s quite a bill. I will be there.