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

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Monday 31st October
It was upsetting to hear about the death of Shy’s Steve Harris, especially as I learned of it via a text emanating from the band’s bassist Roy Davis whilst working on a story about the band for Classic Rock Presents AOR. The guitarist was only 46 years old and had been battling an aggressively malignant brain tumour. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve several times and as well as being a gifted player and song writer (check out the solo on ‘Reflections’, from 1985’s ‘Brave The Storm’ album here) he was a modest and extremely likeable fella. Monsewer Beare and I raised several glasses in honour of Steve during Saturday night’s Black Spiders gig… My condolences go out to his missus, Debbie, his family, and of course his Shy band-mates, all of whom kept a dignified silence throughout the illness that began back in the summer of 2009.
Many thanks to writer/photographer Timo Isoaho, who kindly emailed me this backstage snap he took of myself and Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala on a trip to Finland almost four years ago. Still on a pictorial theme, here’s the ‘official’ shot of myself and others from the Crystal Palace Fitter Fans programme striding the fabled Selhurst Park turf earlier this month. Okay, now own up… which bastard tuned on the wind machine??!!
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Sunday 30th October
Grrruuuuuuuuuh. Just awoke semi-clothed on top of the bed, wearing only one sock and with my wallet decidedly empty. It can only have been another day out at Selhurst Park, followed by an evening on the town with Andy Beare…
Though I was disappointed by Crystal Palace’s failure to beat Reading – both sides had their moments in the ascendancy – the defence hasn’t conceded a goal in the last five games, and the club tops the Championship's ‘Last Six Current Form’ table, standing a place outside the play-offs. That’ll do for me.
My evening was spent at the Forum in Kentish Town where, following a bottle of wine on the tube, Mr Beare and I met to watch Black Spiders supporting Volbeat. The Danish headliners, who fuse bluesy hard rock with rockabilly and punk, are not exactly among my all-time favourite groups, but their music was a rather fine soundtrack to the consumption of cider and the size of the crowd they pulled was extremely impressive. Black Spiders will never let you down, and having seen them play pretty much the same set over and over again for the last couple of years it was reassuring to hear that they do, in fact, have some new material stockpiled. Amid stage favourites ‘Stay Down’, ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’, ‘St Peter’, ‘Just Like A Woman’ and a departing version of ‘Blood Of The Kings’ that was dedicated to the late Jimmy Savile, the band revealed two unreleased ditties; the pacy ‘Revolution Man’ and a more laid back though no less anthemic tune that’s likely to be called ‘Kill The Lights’ but which I’m reliably informed is officially untitled at present. Both bode well for album #2 for the Spiders.
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Saturday 29th October
Last night’s double-header between It Bites and Mostly Autumn was my third visit to the Islington Academy in a week… can I get a season ticket?!
With both bands electing to play for 75 minutes there was plenty into which to sink one’s teeth. Mostly Autumn were plugging their brand new live-double ‘Still Beautiful’, electing to play ten of its cuts (‘Distant Train, ‘Answer The Question’, ‘Evergreen’, ‘Deep In Borrowdale’, ‘Passengers’, ‘Dark Before The Dawn’, ‘The Last Climb’, ‘Ice’, ‘Questioning Eyes’ and ‘Heroes Never Die’). I was impressed by the variety and serenity of their music, also the quality of Oliver Sparnenn’s lead voice. Their final two songs were pretty darned stunning, it had to be said. And to all the people that stood around chattering so loudly during the quiet parts that a communal “schhhhhhhhh!” was raised: Lick my lovepump, you selfish ass-wipes.
It’s been a while since we last heard anything new from It Bites – too long, in fact. Set to be released on March 26, 2011, the countdown to the new album ‘Map Of The Past’ is now well and truly underway, with the title cut and its B-side ‘Wallflower’ on sale in the foyer as a new single (available on vinyl, too!). In addition to that pair the band also began the show with another new tune called ‘Man In The Photograph’ which sounded terrific, running through three cuts from their last release ‘The Tall Ships’ (namely ‘Oh My God’, ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ and an encore of ‘Ghosts’), filling out their allocated time with a Japanese-only obscurity called Staring At The Whitewash’ and several stone-cold IB classics, namely ‘Underneath Your Pillow’, ‘Screaming On The Beaches’, ‘Kiss Like Judas’ and the epic ‘Old Man And The Angel’. To many the very notion of an It Bites without Francs Dunnery (and, to a lesser extent, bassist Dick Nolan) still borders upon the blasphemous. Those folks are entitled to their opinion, of course, so long as they’ve given the John Mitchell-fronted variety a fair chance. I’d be astonished if such views were not well and truly renounced. Exiting the Academy last night with a huge smile, I’ll own up to feeling a little like a quivering jelly.
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Friday 28th October
Oh wow… Ian Stewart has emailed over a track called ‘The Sentinel’ from the new Strangeways album, ‘The Age Of Reason’. I think I’ve just pooped my undergarments! It’s absolutely fantastic… much more in the vein of the group’s signature sound than their comeback disc ‘Perfect World’.
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Thursday 27th October
When Symphony X last rolled through town back in March and with their new album ‘Iconoclast’ still months away from release, the New Jersey band erred on the side of caution, featuring just a couple of its selections in the set. Last night levels of confidence in their eighth studio record were such that they dished up all but one song from its regular single-disc edition, namely ‘Prometheus (I Am Alive)’. Did the Islington Academy audience complain? Hell no! Why would they? ‘Iconoclast’ is an excellent album, paring back the gothic-sounding extremes of their previous release, 2007’s ‘Paradise Lost’, integrating marginal elements of industrial and electronic music to create a clanking, darker and distinctly edgier sound that’s perfectly suited to its futuristic man-against-machine concept.
With his strong, rich and completely flawless delivery, also an effortless connection with the audience, Russell Allen might just be the natural heir to Ronnie James Dio. No, I’m not kidding. Russell is **that** good. Throw in a guitarist as skilled as Michael Romeo and a keyboard player, Michael Pinnella, who can wipe the floor with just about anybody in the symphonic-progressive genre (with the obvious exception of Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess) and the result was always going be something very special indeed. Armed by a crystal clear and spectacularly loud sound mix, Symphony X delivered everything that was hoped of them. No wonder Mike Portnoy once described them as “‘Heaven And Hell’-era Black Sabbath, with Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar”. Seriously, if you haven’t seen these guys yet then don’t cry and moan there are no up ‘n’ coming world-class heavy metal bands anymore. Here’s the set-list: ‘Iconoclast’, ‘The End Of Innocence’, ‘Dehumanized’, ‘Bastards Of The Machine’, ‘Electric Messiah’, ‘When All Is Lost’, ‘Children Of A Faceless God’, ‘Heretic’, ‘Inferno (Unleash The Fire)’ and ‘Of Sins And Shadows’, plus an encore of ‘Eve Of Seduction’, ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ and ‘Set the World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)’.
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Wednesday 26th October
Manager Dougie Freedman elected to rest a few senior players for last night’s League Cup clash with Southampton, but it really didn’t matter. In fact, with Saints doing likewise the result was an open, competitive game. The tie was settled by a goal from Darren Ambrose and a penalty won by wonderkid Johnny Williams and converted by Jermaine Easter. Palace cruise into the quarter finals for the first time in nine years. Yessssssss!
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Tuesday 25th October
Okay, I withdraw the negative comments made about the autobiography of Colin Hart, Deep Purple and Rainbow’s tour manager, in this Diary on October 18th. I spent most of my post-Firefest coach journey to London engrossed in A Hart Life, which definitely picks up speed after a so-so beginning. Hart relates his version of the now legendary Blackmore-Coverdale catfight in Munich, reveals the tale of John Bonham singlehandedly wrecking of Blackmore’s parties in LA and, best of all, talks of the Man In Black’s “shockingly vibrant head of hair” which materialised overnight. “We looked on in silent awe [but] thought it best not to mention it,” he snickers. There’s also mention of Cyndi Drucker, Ritchie’s personal hairdresser, who once cut my own locks after one of the band’s parties circa the ‘House Of The Blue Light’ album in 1987.
No sooner had I put down my overnight bag in Catford and brewed a welcome cup of tea than it was time to head out to the 25th birthday party of Metal Hammer magazine at the Islington Academy. With drinks at 1986 prices(!) and a selection of live bands it was a great evening. To my eternal shame I’d never seen Malefice before, though I was hugely impressed by the Reading-based metalcore combo. Neither am I a particularly enthusiastic fan of Orange Goblin. And yet their 40-minute display – which previewed two rather fine songs from the forthcoming album, ‘A Eulogy For The Damned’ (I particularly liked ‘Stand For Something’; the other was called ‘Red Tide Rising’), as well as a valiant romp through Sabbath’s ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ – was surprisingly enjoyable. As a member of MH’s original launch team I find it pretty amazing that the magazine has lasted for a quarter of a century. That’s a wonderful achievement… here’s to 25 more years!
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Monday 24th October
Despite the previous night’s excesses I awoke fairly early for a pre-Firefest brunch with my fellow scribe Dave Reynolds and his lovely missus Andrea. As a consequence of our conversation the ears of quite a few individuals will have burnt as red as traffic lights. Made it into Rock City in time for Newman [7], who got the Sunday bill off to an uplifting start. A guest appearance from Pete Fry, leader of FarCry, the New Jersey-ites that Newman replaced on the bill due to the former’s inability to pay their air fares, was a nice touch though along with a rousingly received closing rendition of ‘One Step Closer’ it made me realise that band-leader Steve really should play a little more guitar of his own.
The early part of the following set from White Widdow [8] was plagued by microphone and monitor issues, also an imbalance between and Enzo Almanzi’s mazy guitar runs and the disappointingly flaccid keys of Xavier Millis, but matters were resolved by the third song (‘Cry Wolf’). During a set that included ‘Tokyo Rain’, ‘Strangers In The Night’, ‘Reckless Night’s and ‘Broken Hearts Won’t Last Forever’, the only time the antipodeans put a foot wrong was when when frontman Jules Millis stumbled and almost landed on his derriere during a rock star-like leap from the drum-riser.
That they secured two encores during the middle of the afternoon confirms Alien [9] were the surprise package of Firefest 8. The long-absent Swedes offered one of the event’s finest vocalists in Jim Jedhed, who might have looked like a darts player but sang like an angel, also the AOR song title of the weekend in ‘Tears Don’t Put Out The Fire’ and even a moment that caused grown men to wipe something from their eye as Jidhed locked keyboard player Jimmy Wandroph in a warm, brotherly embrace during a standing ovation for a masterful cover of The Marbles’ ‘Only One Woman’. Fuggin’ great.
Conversely, Kane Roberts [6] was dreadful. Musically speaking the set, curtailed ten minutes early with a decent version of ‘Take It Off’, the song he co-penned with Paul Stanley for the Kiss album ‘Revenge’, was credible enough though the guitarist (who had slimmed down immensely from his days with Alice Cooper) seemed apprehensive and ill-prepared, behaving like he’d never even seen a microphone before; mumbling, rambling and talking complete and utter bullshit. There were quite a few ‘tumbleweed moments’…
With blond locks, boyish smile, slim physique and an easy-going persona that veered a little too close to Partridge Family territory, Mitch Malloy [8] was a big, big hit with the ladies. Luckily, his babalacious bass player Anna Portalupi balanced things out by offering some eye candy for us fellas. Personally speaking, I find Mitch’s voice a little too shrill at the top end (this coming from a Rush fan!), though few melodic rock fans could possibly have failed to be impressed by a rousing display that included ‘Mission Of Love’, ‘It’s About Love’ and an encore of ‘Anything At All’, the single from his self-titled 1992 debut that’s still able to fill dance floors.
No doubt about it, Coney Hatch [10] were band of the weekend. Making their British debut the Canadians were simply immense. Though my appreciation of their performance was momentarily distracted by a text from Alison Rye (nee Joy), enquiring about the status of bassist Andy Curran’s infamous ‘trouser hamster’, the flow of the band’s more commercial-sounding moments (‘She’s Gone’, ‘Fantasy’ and ‘The Girl From Last Night’s Dream’) and the harder-hitting likes of ‘Don’t Say Make Me’, ‘Devil’s Deck’, ‘Hey Operator’, ‘You Ain’t Got Me’ and ‘Monkey Bars’ was just about perfect. More please… and soon.
How would headliners Unruly Child [6] follow that? Well, the truth is that they couldn’t. To be abundantly clear, the prospect of witnessing all five members of the original band regrouping to play on a British stage for the first time – after a hiatus of 19 years – was principal among the factors that drew yours truly to Nottingham, but despite bringing the house down I was left sorely disappointed. My understanding was that the trans-gender Marcie Free – formerly Mark – had retained the voice of a man and assumed feminine appearance and mannerisms. Not on the evidence of last night. From my position in the balcony she merely sounded androgynous. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful that the audience embraced Free’s life changes so emphatically, yet equally impossible to circumnavigate the weirdness of ‘that voice’. When the show was good – viz ‘You Are My Everything’, ‘Take Me Down Nasty’ and ‘On The Rise’ (ironically, an ode to a stiffie!) – it was superb, though the old magic returned all too sporadically.
Afterwards, booked onto a National Express coach back to London at 8am this morning, I decided to have one drink at the after show party. Bet you know what’s coming next…? Yeah, I stumbled back to my own hotel at 3am after a night of talking bollocks with the likes of Coney Hatch’s Carl Dixon, Jules Millis from the Widdow, Steve Newman, Jay Schellen of Unruly Child (who I’d actually forgotten was in a latterday line-up of Asia), the ubiquitous Rob Evans and all of the Firefest crew among many others. A great way to end a fantastic weekend. Long may this remarkable festival live on.
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Sunday 23rd October
I type this with an extreme hangover, following a marvelous day out at the Firefest. Preparing to don my ‘professional’ hat in several hours – Classic Rock Presents AOR have asked me to review the show’s Sunday segment – I figured I’d make Saturday my drinking day. After a horrendous 5.45am alarm call I arrived in Nottingham in time for some goss and a quick couple of pints of Scrumpy with Dan Tobin of Earache Records. Sadly, this meant missing the show’s opening act, Talon. However admission to Rock City was gained in time for Vega [8], who served up a dollop of hook-laden exuberance in one of the best sets of the weekend. As a footbridge between traditional melodic hard rock and something a little more adventurous, these guys could have a major role to play in the future.
I was less impressed by Silent Rage [6], who shot themselves in the foot by including three songs from their classic debut album ‘Shattered Hearts’ (‘Make It Or Break It’, ‘Sarina’ and ‘Rich, Young And Pretty’) in medley form. Grrrr. With Tommy Denander on guitar and H.E.A.T.’s Jimmy Jay on bass, the slightly eccentric Jeff Paris [8] got off to a slow, uneasy start but soon tapped into the Firefest spirit. It was great to hear him play ‘One Night Alone’, ‘Lucky This Time’, ‘Stop Playin’ With My Heart’ and ‘Cryin’’, somewhat appropriately bursting into his party song ‘Saturday’ Night’ just as news broke that my beloved Crystal Palace had taken the lead over at Portman Road (the game finished 1-0!).
Making their much-trumpeted debut concert appearance, W.E.T. [9] achieved the seemingly impossible by not only meeting everybody’s expectations, possibly even surpassing them. I almost had to rush back to the hotel for a fresh pair of undergarments when Jeff Scott Soto passed the microphone to Erik Martensson for a sublime version of Work Of Art’s ‘The Great Fall’.
You’ve no idea how sorry I am to say it but despite playing their ‘Walk In The Fire’ album in its entirety, and with original bassist David Stewart back in the ranks, Strangeways [7] were unable to follow W.E.T.’s magnificence. This was largely due to the fact that Terry Brock was suffering from a bad cold, though compared to its predecessor ‘Native Sons’ – the album the band **should have played** – the material from ‘WIFT’ can be a touch soporific.
To be blunt, the prospect of watching stand-in headliner Steve Augeri (replacing the advertised Warrant), who had bored me shitless with Tall Stories at Firefest in ’08, was nowhere near the top of my priority list. So after a number or two – Steve’s version of Journey’s ‘Lights’ was, at best, functional – I checked into my hotel and joined a few boozing buddies, including Sir Ivan of Gunn, in replenishing our alcohol levels. As evening drew on, I returned to the hotel bar where Coney Hatch’s Carl Dixon played a relaxed and hugely enjoyable one-man show, running though various solo material (including the poignant ‘The Point Of This Life’, about the car crash that almost curtailed his own existence three years ago) plus the likes of ‘Poppa Was A Rolling Stone’, ‘Pinball Wizard’ and even Coney’s own ‘Hey Operator’. ’Twas great music to drink to and before I knew it the clock was striking 4am… time for bed!
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Saturday 22nd October
Incredibly, five gigs had been jotted down in my diary – the first night of the Firefest weekend, plus no less than four in London town; Joe Bonamassa at Hammersmith, Chariot at the Royal Toilet, Leaves’ Eyes at the Underworld and the one that I actually ended up attending, The Union at Islington Academy. It was a very tough call but in ‘Siren Song’ The Union have recorded a truly magnificent second album… one that came second in my list of Best New CDs Of 2011 for Classic Rock magazine (losing out narrowly to Dream Theater’s ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’).
The Union play an irresistible brand of hook-laden bluesy hard rock, overlain with the superlative vocals of Peter Shoulder. Though the band are considered to be very much the baby of ex-Terraplane/Thunder guitarist Luke Morley, Shoulder is no mere junior partner and aside from the unbelievable quality of his singing I was surprised by the sheer amount of lead guitar that he plays live. The tracks culled from ‘Siren Song’ worked really well. ‘Black Gold’ sounded fabulous even minus its honky-tonk backing vocals, ‘Blame It On Tupelo’ and ‘Burning Daylight’ reminded me a little of Zeppelin and Alice In Chains respectively, whilst ‘Obsession’ was based around some fearsome drumming that the Glitter Band would have been proud of. The only negative point? Well, with two albums under their belt I figured that the band might have played for quite a lot longer than an hour and 15 minutes… though at least there was no sign of a duff track all evening. Here’s the set-list: ‘Watch The River Flow’, ‘Burning Daylight’, ‘Black Gold’, ‘Saviour’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘Blame It On Tupelo’, ‘Lilies’, ‘Obsession’, ‘The Remedy Is You’, ‘Cut The Line’, ‘Black Monday’ and ‘Siren’s Song’, plus an encore of ‘Come Rain, Come Shine’ and ‘Step Up To The Plate’.
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Friday 21st October
My intention had been to attend last night’s gig by Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack at the Beaverwood Club. In the end, with Firefest weekend approaching and various editorial deadlines to meet I ended up staying home and writing a review of Dream Theater’s new Blu-ray disc, ‘Live At Budokan’, for Prog magazine. I already owned ‘LAB’ as a double-disc DVD and triple-audio shebang from its original release in 2004, but… blimey… this new package – which including various ‘extra features’ lasts for more than four hours! – is so much better. Through necessity I watched it on the kids’ Playstation (Blu-ray discs are incompatible with regular DVD players or PCs), but the picture definition is out of this world, and the audio quality like being sat at the mixing desk wearing a pair of headphones. Note to self: I shall buy a Blu-ray player before too long!!
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Thursday 20th October
Having gone through unexpected levels of frustration to get her on the end of a phone for my Nightwish story, it was lovely to have a good, long phone chat with Anette Olzon, who addressed some difficult questions with unexpected honesty and cheeriness. Anette really doesn’t deserve the gauntlet of hate she has had to endure since replacing Tarja Turunen on 30th January, 2007. After all she has faced during and after the tour for the Finnish group’s ‘Dark Passion Play’ album – including divorce, childbirth, a panic attack-fuelled onstage meltdown in Belo Horizonte and even multiple death threats from Tarja-obsessed nutjobs (yikes!) – she gets extreme kudos from me for hanging on in there.
I’ve just booked my transport to the Firefest, which takes place up in Nottingham this coming weekend – it finally feels real at last! Wish that I could afford the full 3 x nights in the hotel, but that’s a little beyond my budget right now so it’s Saturday and Sunday for me... Unruly Child, W.E.T., Strangeways, Coney Hatch, Jeff Paris and White Widdow, etc. A stellar cast of pink fluffiness. This is gonna be pretty bloody special, I’m sure.
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Wednesday 19th October
Well, that’s another to mark down under ‘life highlights’. As participants of the now completed Fitter Fans program, my pal Steve Way and I were among a group of supporters granted permission to tread the fabled Selhurst Park turf during the half-time interval of last night’s game with Bristol Shitty. What an experience! If only Neil Pudney, seated in the stand and entrusted the box brownie, had taken a few more photos of Steve and I instead of zooming his lens upon the visiting cheerleaders from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers… Oh well, despites its narrow margin the 1-0 win, thanks to a disputed penalty converted by Glenn Murray after boy genius Jonny Williams was ‘tripped’ in the box, was nothing more than the home side deserved, confirming Palace’s best start to a season in six years. Freedman’s Super Eagles soar past Shiteon and into fifth place, one point off an automatic promotion spot. Get in!!

Fitter Fans
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Tuesday 18th October
The weather has taken a turn for the worst after an unseasonably warm and pleasant weekend. Last night I found myself wearing a sweater whilst the bed warmed up. Reading entertainment was provided by A Hart Life (Wymer Publishing), the autobiography of Colin Hart, Deep Purple and Rainbow’s tour manager. It’s a little light on anything scurrilous so far but Hart has an easy-going style of narrative, so I’ll stick with it…
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Monday 17th October
Mr Beare and Eddie and Arnie’s godfather, Harj Kallah, ended up staying over after Saturday night’s celebration. We decided to go back out to the park and kick a ball around again in a attempt to blow away the cobwebs – with hindsight, a gigantic mistake. I’m now paying the price for this foolishness. The only consolation the certain knowledge that The Beare, who last took exercise back in 1973, is feeling a good deal worse.
With the house empty again I was able to inspect a bundle of new Rock Candy Records re-issues that had dropped onto the mat. Oh joy – the first two Lone Star albums! ‘Flat Out’ by Blue Öyster Cult’s Buck Dharma. Armored Saint’s ‘Delirious Nomad’. ‘Face To Face’ by Angel City. The first Vandenberg album! ‘Social Intercourse’ by Smashed Gladys… hmmm, I’m sure that I once met Sally Cato at the St Moritz Club (and yes, I myself was Smashed!). And one that I’m less familiar with… Electric Angels… produced by Tony Visconti, so the chances are it’ll be good. Rock Candy are really doing the business at the moment – long may it last!
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Sunday 16th October
My knees and thighs are extremely sore, also my drinking arm, after a group of visitors descended upon Ling Towers for an official knees-up to celebrate the return of my sons Eddie and Arnie for an event we dubbed The Boys Are Back In Town. Although my long-time associate Malcolm Dome was unable to attend due to a date with Robert John Godfrey in Birmingham (!), friends of varying descriptions – publicists, record label employees, designers, musicians, photographers and fellow music scribes – dropped by. Making the most of some superb warm weather, there was a hugely enjoyable game of football in the local park. Eddie and I both scored hat-tricks as our team triumphed 10-8, Eddie notching the winning goal following a delightful near-post flick-on from yours truly, after which I was hoofed unceremoniously into the air by a Doctor Martens-wearing Andy Beare (it’s always the same, isn’t it? Scumwall fans can be relied upon to take the physical approach when faced by an artisan of an opponent… LOL!). Sadly, Stampede’s Rueben Archer arrived fashionably late and declined to join in the final stages of the kick-around, but we’ll get him next year…
Once the final whistle blew, we returned to drink Ling Towers dry. A terrific selection of people had congregated in the back garden – The Beare excluded, obviously! – and as afternoon bled into evening, then night-time, a great time was had by all. Thanks to everyone that dropped by. We’ll do it again for the Euro Championships next year.
Hugh Gilmore arrived bearing gifts, God bless him. As well as a six-song EP from his own band Pig Irön, he brought two fantastic four-disc boxed sets; Frankie Miller’s ‘The Complete Chrysalis Recordings (1973-1980)’ and ‘Futurist Manifesto 1974-1978’ by Be Bop Deluxe. Beats a cheap bottle of Sainsbury’s plonk or a box of Ferrero Rocher any day of the week…
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Saturday 15th October
No doubt about it, Y&T are among the most consistent performers to frequent the UK’s gig circuit. As a long-time fan that saw them at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street way back in ’82, I never miss the band’s London shows. After spending much of the day transcribing a lengthy interview with Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish at around 5pm I began to develop an uncommon thirst so opted to dart over to the Garage to meet with Andy Beare for some pre-show sherberts.
Stampede performed an excellent and well received support set, mixing pre-reunion gems such as ‘Shadows Of The Night’, ‘Days Of Wine And Roses’, ‘Missing You’, ‘Moving On’ and ‘The Runner’ with a couple of new chewns (‘Send Me Down An Angel’ and ‘Having Fun’) from the comeback disc ‘A Sudden Impulse’. I hope to see them again soon.
Okay, Y&T have only one original member but the band remains absolutely first-rate. The tussle-locked Dave Meniketti is starting to look like a cross between Brian May and Steve ‘No Relation’ Way but by Christ… he still has the pipes, and celebrating the 30th anniversary of their finest album ‘Earthshaker’ they did their best to tear the roof off the Garage. Mr Beare and I stood fairly close to the front of the stage, grinning as though we were still 16 year old kids and drinking with the thirst of tramps that had found a 50 quid note! Jeff Scott Soto, who had guested with the San Franciscan band at the Islington Academy on their previous tour, made a return visit to duet with Meniketti on ‘Forever’ to end an absolutely joyous two-and-a-half-hour display. If it sounds like Y&T left me drooling… well, guilty as charged m’lud. Check out the set-list: ‘On With The Show’, ‘Black Tiger’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘Surrender’, ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Midnight In Tokyo’, ‘Shine On’, ‘If You Want Me’, ‘Blind Patriot’, ‘Winds Of Change’, ‘Hungry For Rock’, ‘Lonely Side Of Town’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘Hurricane’, Drum Solo, ‘Summertime Girls’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Looks Like Trouble’, ‘Squeeze (with guitarist John Nymann on vox in place of the late Phil Kennemore) and ‘I’m Coming Home’, with an encore of ‘Open Fire’ and Forever’. Pretty cool, huh?
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Friday 14th October
Last night, in front of around 60 people Mike Tramp sang a song called ‘There Must Be More To Life Than This’ which told the story a down at heel rock star, whose hair gets thinner, finds himself rebuffed by MTV and has his Ferrari repossessed. This was an act of bravery for Tramp, who having experienced multi-platinum success fronting White Lion and survived grunge with Freak Of Nature now finds himself up on the tiny stage of the Purple Turtle in Camden, but who simply cannot and will not stop performing the rock music that he loves. And why should he?
Whether Tramp **really** believes his boast that the Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz are the greatest band he’s ever played is doubtful, but he’s having fun and, equally important in his own mind, being age appropriate at last. Actually, short hair suits Mr Tramp and he’s kept himself in good physical shape, grinning as the group churns out its knockaround, slightly punky pop-rock. The 100-minute show is based upon the Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz’ two albums, plus ‘Hymn For Ronnie’, a heart-felt though slightly overbearingly earnest tribute to Ronnie James Dio that actually includes the couplet: “Did Ritchie Blackmore ever thank you for making his Rainbow glow?/What was he thinking when he told you to go?”
Despite declaring with an almost embarrassed shrug that “My relationship with the White Lion songs has almost become like the toothless aunt you have to visit at Christmastime – you really don’t wanna go there”, it’s three re-arranged standards (‘Little Fighter’, ‘Broken Heart’ and ‘When The Children Cry’) that receive the evening’s biggest cheers, alongside name-checks for WL’s now legendary three-night 1988 stint at the Marquee Club and even a 1978 Eurovision spot with the band Mabel (“I’ll do everything within my power to prevent that song [‘Boom Boom’] from going onto YouTube!”). However, the Dane’s stubbornness as well as his honesty deserve the utmost respect. Here’s the set-list: ‘Gotta Get Away’, ‘Alright By Me’, ‘Little Fighter’, ‘Come On’, ‘The Soldier Never Started A War’, ‘Wish You Well’, ‘Don’t Let Them Put It On You’, ‘The World Is Changing’, ‘Broken Heart’, ‘All Of My Life’, ‘Back To You’, ‘When The Children Cry’, ‘No Tomorrow’ and ‘Between Good ‘N’ Bad’, followed by ‘Hymn For Ronnie’ and ‘More To Life Than This’.
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Thursday 13th October
Call me a killjoy but as much as VFM is important in the current climate I find it infinitely preferable to see two or three bands performing for a reasonable amount of time each than six crammed into one madcap evening. The latter option is what happened at last night’s Smokehead Rocks gig at the Islington Academy, which was headlined by the Electric Boys – only the latter went onstage so late that many who’d paid to see them had already been forced to leave in order to catch their last trains home.
Thanks to a phone interview with UFO’s Phil Mogg I wasn’t able to get there till Tainted Nation were just about to start, so I missed both Sencelled and Dynazty. Fronted by Eden’s Curse drummer Pete Newdeck, who was suffering from a bad cold, Tainted Nation were not for me, I’m afraid. Not at all… On the other hand, Sweden’s Miss Behaviour were excellent, previewing a brand new Europe-flavoured song and (according to some of those that had been there from the start) really upping the ante. Jettblack had a few sound probs, with the guitar solos way too low in the mix and swamped by some unnecessary clanking bass. They went very down well, though.
What minimal crowd there was – 200 people, maybe? – was starting to thin out by the time the Electric Boys began at (ulp!) 10.45pm. Conny Bloom and company locked right into bitchin’ groove (to use a technical term!) and dished out a really good but all too brief set, three new ones (‘Father Popcorn’s Magic Oysters’, ‘The House Is Rockin’’ and ‘Angel In An Armoured Suit’) sprinkled amid the classics, but by the time things ended at the unreasonable hour of 11.40pm we were very much down to the diehards. The set-list ran as follows: ‘Psychedelic Eyes’, ‘Groovus Maximus’, ‘Father Popcorn’s Magic Oysters’, ‘Electrified’, ‘Mary In The Mystery World’, ‘The House Is Rockin’’, ‘Knee Deep In You’, ‘Angel In An Armoured Suit’, ‘Captive Of My Soul’ and an encore of ‘All Lips ‘N’ Hips’.
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Wednesday 12th October
Okay, following the recent missive about my filing cabinet (see Sunday), I’m now ‘outing’ myself as a full-blown, card carrying saddo. On the way home from a hugely enjoyable interview with John McManus, the former Mama’s Boys bassist/singer, I nipped into the Record & Tape Exchange, exiting with seven vinyl albums for the price of just £5.50… a bargain in anyone’s language. My haul contained some rather good releases – a mint copy of the 1976 debut from Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias on Transatlantic Records, Jim Capaldi’s ‘The Contender’ (released the following year, and featuring Paul Kossoff on guitar) and ‘In Style’ by David Johansen, produced by Mick Ronson and issued in ’79. To my eternal shame, however, I also felt compelled to buy ‘Heart-twango & Raw-beat’, a 1981 release by the Original Mirrors. Why the heck…? Well, only because it featured Pete Kircher, later of Status Quo, on the drum stool.
And talking of the mighty Quo, it seems that the cat is out of the bag. The group’s message board is on fire with excitement following a revelation in the new issue of Classic Rock that the band are contemplating some sort of reunion with original bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan (first hinted at here on September 15th). “We haven’t decided what will happen yet, but it’s exciting because I never thought I would work with those guys again. And now possibly we will,” reveals Francis Rossi in the magazine’s story.
Amid all of the pant-wetting euphoria, however, there’s simply no pleasing some people. “The past should stay in the past – bad idea!” grumbles one fan. Another has the audacity to proclaim that: “Quo is and will always be Rick [Parfitt], Frame [Rossi], Rhino [Edwards], Andy [Bown] and Matt [Letley].” They’re entitled to their opinions, of course, but… Hello… planet Earth calling… are you receiving me? This is a (potential) reunion of the Frantic Four, a group that ruled the planet from 1971 to the mid-80s. Should the individuals concerned decide to play a one-off show together in to 2012 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of Quo’s forerunners The Spectres… well, to quote Ted Nugent “I’d drag my dick through a mile of broken glass” to be there.

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Tuesday 11th October
Female-fronted Canadian band Blood Ceremony distil a variety of chilling influences – Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep and Black Widow, along with various old horror flicks – into a sound that has been memorably described as “flute-tinged witch rock”. Having seen them in a rather inebriated state at the Borderline earlier this year (Diary, April 22nd), it was good to catch them again last night; this time in a state of stone cold sobriety, and in the more cosy surroundings of the Water Rats in King’s Cross.
Demonstrating a nice line in fixed, glassy-eyed stares, Alia O’Brien is a deceptively frail and petite but decidedly attractive frontwoman. With cool fringes attached to the sleeves of her tight-fitting black party dress – very Ozzy Osbourne! – her manic bursts of flute and keyboards accompany some of the most monstrous, cobweb-encrusted Sabbath-flavoured that riffs you’re likely to hear, courtesy of Sean Kennedy. Judging by the way it almost fell apart at the seams (the band definitely need to work on the endings of their songs), a brand new composition which I think was entitled ‘The Elder Edge Dark’, will require some fine-tuning but suggests a continued artistic growth into a third album. Okay, their lyrics of ‘goat-headed serfs’ and ‘necromantic soldiers armed with crystal scythes’ are somewhat cheesy in this day and age, but they don’t wander into territory that Neil Peart, Heep or Slayer have previously failed to explore. No… Blood Ceremony get the thumbs-up from yours truly – empathically so. Here’s their set-list: ‘The Great God Pan’, ‘Hop Toad’, ‘Return To Forever’, ‘My Demon Brother’, ‘Master Of Confusion’, ‘The Elder Edge Dark’, ‘Oliver Haddo’, ‘Coven Tree’ and ‘Hymn To Pan’, with an encore of ‘I’m Coming With You’.
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Monday 10th October
What a way to start the week. I haven’t been listening to Planet Rock radio much anymore due to the guy that presents their breakfast show being a prize plum, but this morning something compelled me to make a rare exception. The strains of Steely Dan’s ‘Reeling In The Years’, a song that features Jimmy Page’s all-time favourite guitar solo, filled the kitchen as I alternated between making the boys’ school sandwiches and throwing stoopid Elliott Randall guitar hero shapes.
I’ve been busy reviewing albums and absorbing Classic Rock’s new Fan Pack issues, containing Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’ and ‘III’ by Chickenfoot. Both are first-class reads, with in-depth editorial coverage to accompany the quality of the music. Chickenfoot’s Sammy Hagar gives CR writer Henry Yates such a terrific, revealing interview that I might just have to invest in a copy of his autobiography. Referring to the singer’s final tour with Van Halen, Sam states: “If Edward Van Halen really knew what he did, he would have called me the second he sobered up and said: ‘Dude, I’m sorry’.” That this call never came must go some way to explaining why we **still** await the new Van Halen album, which according to internet rumour is further delayed due to EVH’s alleged discontent over the vocals of David Lee Roth.
P.S. As I type, Chickenfoot have confirmed two UK shows in January, including a gig at Brixton Academy on the 14th. So… Palace vs Leeds at 3pm, followed by a helping of sizzling fried Chicken – brilliant!
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Sunday 9th October
The past several evenings were spent working on a filing system for my office. As a self confessed kleptomaniac, I’ve retained just about every press release that I ever received, along with things like gig flyers and hand-written set-lists. Back in the days of vinyl I used to insert press biogs into the sleeve of each record which of course made them very easy to find, but the introduction of CDs caused a veritable mountain of the things in the corner of my office. So I bought a new filing cabinet and have been sorting them alphabetically (okay, I know how utterly tragic that must sound). Should you seek obscure release date info for a band such as Horned God, Flattbush, Sona Fariq, Orgy, The Union Underground or Number One Son, or a heavy-hitter of rock music (Motörhead, Maiden, Rush, the Scorps and Porcupine Tree all have their own folders), then I’m your man… ha-ha-ha… remind me to get a life someday! But, believe me, there’s some **extremely** useful reference data stored away in my office, especially with a separate filing cabinet already housing a selection of b/w promo pix and press cuttings from Sounds, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, etc, etc. I even found a spoof Polymer Records biography for the first Spinal Tap album!
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Saturday 8th October
Although the point gained from a 2-2 draw served to confirm a path to next year’s Euro Championships (where we join Germany, Italy, Spain and Holland, plus the hosts Poland and Uktraine), a 90th minute equaliser from Montenegro and Wayne Rooney’s inexcusable sending off served as harsh reminders of England’s frailties. Having strolled into a 2-0 lead, the granny-shagging f**kwit kicked out at Miodrag Dzudovic and quite rightly saw red, inspiring yet another embarrassing capitulation from the Thee Lions who had been coasting to a comfortable victory (though let us not get carried away: Montenegro is a nation with a population of just 650,000 people). More disappointing still – England’s lamblike exit from the Rugby World Cup at the hands of the French. Why on earth did I get out of bed so early in order to watch such aimless, gutless tripe? Words fail me…
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Friday 7th October
I’m looking forward to the end of a long week, also of course to crucial games for England’s footballers and rugby players. As it’s taking place a short bus-ride away in Camberwell, my friend Laurie Mansworth, the Airrace guitarist, has invited me to attend the shooting of a new video by The Treatment. Providing the time can be freed up I shall almost definitely accept; it will be a good way of limbering up for England’s game in Montenegro. A draw will be sufficient to secure a birth to next summer’s European Championships… can’t wait! I’ve already set the alarm clock for tomorrow morning’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final between England and those confounded Frogs. Swing low sweet chariot… let’s not lose this, England…

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Thursday 6th October
There will be some sore heads at Future Publishing’s Balcombe Street HQ following last night’s birthday soiree for Alex Milas, the Editor of Metal Hammer. Having tied up a productive working day with a great phone interview with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke of Fastway, I joined a gang of friends that included Malcolm Dome, Xavier Russell and Sarah Harding for a few liveners in the Crobar.
The party itself took place at Big Red, a rather pleasant North London boozer that I’m sure I’ll visit again. Jerry Ewing was among those to conduct deejaying duties, serenading the throng with some rather fine tunes that included ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ by Kansas and John Farnham’s ‘The Voice’. Mr Milas, AKA The Dark Lord, is one of the nicest geezers I know, and he deserved the evening’s enormous turnout. There was cake. There were shots that tasted a bit like mouthwash.

What I’m trying to say is that it all got out of hand. As I stumbled past Holloway Road tube station on my way home I spotted Classic Rock’s Editor In Chief, Scott Rowley, looking uncharacteristically dishevelled whilst picking at a disgusting-smelling kebab (“Don’t you dare mention this in your blog!”… Ooops!).

During the train ride back to Catford I devoured the new issue of Prog Magazine, which includes my own interviews with Don Airey and Arch-Matheos. Congrats to Philip Wilding for a masterful review of the new Steven Wilson album, and I enjoyed the trawl through Bill Bailey’s record collection, though the comedian did ram home his bizarre sense of humour by name-checking one of the most dreadful bands of all time, Talking Heads… FOAD David Byrne.
P.S. Michael Eden has left one of my favourite melodic rock bands, Eden’s Curse. What a shame. If only I could make a grain of sense of the singer’s statement.
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Classic Rock

Tuesday 4th October
Signing off for the day… There’s not much to report, save for the fact that I have just conducted a nice, easy-flowing interview with Dan Reed, one of the most affable musicians I’ve ever dealt with, and that the Playlist and YouTube sections have been given their monthly overhaul.
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Monday 3rd October
Sunday in London Town… scorchio! And there I was stuck at my desk, sick as a dog thanks to a king-sized hangover, transcribing an interview with Carl Palmer (though I did manage to blow away the cobwebs with a nice run in the park). During the evening I had a pleasant chin-wag with Anders Rydholm, the bassist, keysman, guitarist and chief songwriter of the Swedish melodic rock group Grand Illusion, during which I learned that Grand Illusion did not take their name from the Styx album of the same name… that was a bit of a shock!
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Sunday 2nd October
Despite having rolled in from the Royal Toilet at 2am I was up in time for England’s crunch Rugby World Cup clash with Scotland. Defeat to the Auld Enemy by eight points or more would have spelled elimination from the tournament, and for quite a while that looked like a very real possibility. Mercifully, England got their game in gear after the interval and caught up, then overtook, the Sweaty Socks to send them packing their own bags. Phew… that was a close thing. Now bring on the Frogs in Saturday’s quarter-final.
Palace’s home game with Wet Sham was an equally tense affair. Twice the Eagles took the lead at a sun-drenched, volume-charged Selhurst Park, only for the visitors to restore parity. In the end a point apiece was a fair result, despite the claims of that odious pie-eater ‘Fat Sam’ Allardyce, who must have attended a different game to the one I saw (“Almunia is going home bemused because he hasn’t had a save to make and still picked the ball out of the net twice” – my arse!).
The evening’s entertainment was provided by the Von Hertzen Brothers who, somewhat surprisingly in the wake of a triumph at the High Voltage Festival, had been forced to de-scale their gig at the Garage to the more intimate surroundings of the Borderline. Given the excellence of the Finnish group’s display, I suspect this was the last time that London will see them on such a tiny stage. The three siblings have got the lot; great songs, wonderful lead vocals, impeccable harmonies, cunning arrangements… even a God-like encore interpretation of King Crimson’s 1969 classic ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’ to round out the show. I could’ve watched them all night, and with hindsight the set was perhaps a little too short (the onstage set-list having included ‘Experience’, which was mysteriously omitted). Here’s what they **did** play: ‘Miracle’, ‘Gloria’, ‘Let Thy Will Be Done’, ‘Disciple Of The Sun’, ‘The Willing Victim’, their new single ‘Always Been Right’, ‘Angel’s Eyes’, ‘Kiss A Wish’, ‘Freedom Fighter’ and ‘I Believe’, plus ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’.
Post-show I joined a gang of boozing buddies/writing colleagues in the Crobar for a few more sherberts. There was plenty of heavy-duty drinking going on. Jerry Ewing thought it would be amusing to include Prog magazine’s Nick ‘Mine’s A Perrier’ Shilton, a man hardly known for his alcoholic consumption, in a round of shots. Poor old Shilts knocked it back, grimaced and then looked bemused… Mr Spewing had filled the shot glass with water (which is about the strongest liquid ever to have passed the poor fella’s lips)!!!
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Saturday 1st October
Important memo to self: Stop talking about buying a replacement battery for the BlackBerry and get it done! No sooner had I left home for an interview with Carl Palmer than the drummer’s publicist emailed to switch the location. ‘No problem,’ I thought, without paying too much attention to the new venue, except that it was in the same street as the original choice. Then, despite having charged the thing, the phone went, ‘Fzzzzzzzzzt’ and died. My only sensible course of action: Walk along the street’s length, checking all of its pubs for Mr Palmer… how embarrassing. Luckily, the plan worked and as we sat outside on a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon, a large glass of white wine at my fingertips, CP gave me a terrific interview to promote his up ‘n’ coming solo tour.
Having seen the band only once before (with a different line-up at the Ruskin Arms in ’08), I’d been looking forward to last night’s gig by Tokyo Blade – even if it was taking place at one of my least favourite venues, the Royal Standard in Walthamstow. The NWOBHM veterans had reunited four-fifths of their best-known line-up, vocalist Nicolaj Ruhnow filling the shoes of Alan Marsh for the band’s rather good album ‘Thousand Men Strong’. German-born Ruhnow proved to have an excellent voice in the vein of Geoff Tate, Rob Halford and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens… when it could be heard. Yes, sorry to say, the Curse Of The Soundman struck again; a soupy, indistinct mix taking its toll upon my enjoyment of the gig – and that was before the disaster of the threatened collapse of Steve Pierce’s Leaning Tower Of Drums, the toppling of which had threatened to derail the show the moment the band took to the small stage. When the sound reached acceptable levels half an hour or so before its conclusion, the Blade sounded sharp and dangerous. But by then, sadly, the damage had already been done. Here’s the set-list: ‘Night Of The Blade’, ‘Break The Chains’, ‘Dead Of The Night’, ‘Lunch-Case’, ‘Forged In Hell’s Fire’, ‘Condemned To Fire’, ‘Thousand Men Strong’, ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Lightning Strikes’, ‘Love Struck’, ‘Unleash The Beast’, ‘Killing Rays’ and ‘The Ambush’, followed by superb versions of ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ and ‘If Heaven Is Hell’.