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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Wednesday 30th September
Exactly how dull was yesterday’s goalless bore-draw between Palace and Sheff Weds? More mind-numbingly tedious than a 15-hour Ted Nugent soliloquy on the importance of Ted Nugent, that’s how. Put it this way: my two pals Mark Cousins and Kev Denman both bailed for the pub somewhere around the 75-minute mark, confident in the knowledge that nobody from either side would find the net even if the game continued all night. Ever the optimists, Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I sat there in the lower tier of the Holmesdale stand till the death, awaiting our friends’ grim prediction to reach dire (and I mean **dire**) fulfilment. After the high of beating WBA last weekend, the shapeless, half-hearted tripe that’s still being rolled out at Selhurst for our alleged ‘entertainment’ was a harsh reality check. A sad statto writes: The Eagles have now scored just six goals in 15 games at Selhurst. Roll on Saturday’s home clash with on-song Blackpool… NOT!!!
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Tuesday 29th September
Later this week I’ll be off to Shepherd’s Bush Empire for a latest experience of the Wildhearts and their excellent support act, Black Spiders. As a warm-up, Ginger and company’s latest disc ‘Chutzpah!’ has been on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers – what a stonking collection of tunes. I’ve also been having a good look at the band’s new-look official site, which now has loadsa new features and a hugely entertaining tour diary/blog from the ever-estimable Ginger. The tale of being locked outside of the band’s gig in Glasgow a few nights ago, whilst in a “stoned, drunk, confused and paranoid” state, is worth a look if you’ve got the time…
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Monday 28th September
So… the original line-up of Unruly Child is back together for a new album – including Mark Free, the ex-Signal/King Kobra vocalist who went onto to adopt a new identity and become Marcie Free. UC’s self-titled debut from 1992 is among the very finest melodic hard rock records ever made so it’s good news, of course. That’s one heck of an interesting situation.
The resourcefulness of my fellow football supporters rarely fails to amaze and/or amuse me. In the wake of Alassane N’Diaye’s first Championship goal for the mighty Eagles – Saturday’s winner against WBA – the club’s online fans have been thinking up an anthem to honour the 19-year-old Frenchman. I really like their eventual choice… to the tune of Whitney Houston’s song from The Bodyguard it goes: “N’Diaye… will always love you…” – sheer genius!
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Sunday 27th September
With no intention of travelling to the Midlands to see Crystal Palace being thrashed at table-topping West Bromwich Albion, I used a free Saturday to attend a record fair at Olympia. Afterwards I retired to a local hostelry to enjoy a quiet drink with a gang of fellow vinyl disciples, including my buddies John Dryland, Hugh Gilmour, Steve Hammonds and Jon Richards. Much gossip and banter was being exchanged and before I knew it, five pints of cider had slipped down the gullet so it was time to head off to the Islington Academy for a gig by It Bites.
Heartened by reports of a most unlikely CPFC victory, a strike from Alassane N’Diaye curtailing an impressive run of wins for the Baggies, I moved on to large voddie & Diet Cokes with my Classic Rock colleagues Nick Shilton and Paul Henderson and then, inside the Academy, back to cider again. It Bites were due to play a set based upon their second album, 1988’s ‘Once Around The World’ – such things have to be approached seriously. Puzzlingly, the band opted to separate the show into two segments, the first of which was just five songs long and included acoustic re-workings of ‘Still Too Young To Remember’ and the new album’s ‘The Tall Ships’. Though guitarist John Mitchell seemed to be struggling slightly with a cold he quickly sang himself back into shape as they went on to play the proverbial blinder, second-half highlights including ‘Yellow Christian’, the epic ‘Old Man And The Angel’ and the album’s CD-only track ‘Hunting The Whale’. Prefaced by a teasing snippet of Genesis’ ‘Supper’s Ready’, an unexpurgated encore of ‘OATW’s 14-minute cut was, in short, the perfect end to a near-faultless day. Here’s what IB played: ‘Ghosts’, ‘All In Red’, ‘Still Too Young To Remember’, ‘The Tall Ships’ and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’, followed by: ‘Midnight’, ‘Kiss Like Judas’, ‘Yellow Christian’, ‘Rose Marie’, ‘Black December’, ‘Old Man And The Angel’, ‘Hunting The Whale’, ‘Plastic Dreamer’ and ‘Once Around The World’.
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Saturday 26th September
Hailing from the others side of the Thames and frustrated by the lateness of previous shows it staged I didn’t exactly shed a tear when the Garage, a venue in north London, was closed down. Well, the place is now open for business again and last night I headed over there to check out Primal Fear and Brainstorm. The latter were inhibited by a muddy sound that blunted the twin-guitar acrobatics of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric, Andy B Franck’s vocals also dropping in and out of the mix during the early stages of a 45-minute opening spot, but by the time they reached ‘All Those Words’ (two numbers from the end) the Garage was moved to express its appreciation by bellowing back the melody line in unaccompanied, supremely Teutonic fashion.
I **really** enjoyed Primal Fear, whose last couple of records have begun to explore slightly more melodic territory… probably advisable since there are only so many times that Judas Priest’s ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ can be re-written before the lawyers step in. The quintet are the audio equivalent of a World War II V2 rocket; once the ‘launch’ button bas been pushed, nothing can prevent them from wreaking maximum havoc and destruction. Even in his mid-forties, ex-Gamma Ray frontman Ralf Scheepers, who almost landed the Priest job after Rob Halford’s departure, still sang like a man half his age, often hitting notes that only dogs could hear. The quintet included five tracks from current disc, ‘16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead)’, but clocking in at almost ten minutes long it was ‘Fighting The Darkness’, a song from 2007’s ‘New Religion’ that really stood out, rendering the lame acoustic first encore of ‘Hands Of Time’ and a snooze-inducing extended guitar duel between ex-Thunderhead man Henny Wolter and Magnus Karlsson just about forgivable. Here’s the set-list: ‘Under The Radar’, ‘Battalions Of Hate’, ‘Killbound’, ‘Nuclear Fire’, ‘Six Times Dead (16.6)’, ‘Angel In Black’, Guitar Solos, ‘Sign Of Fear’, ‘Fighting The Darkness’, ‘Riding The Eagle’, ‘Final Embrace’, ‘Metal Is Forever’ and encores of ‘Hands Of Time’, ‘Seven Seals’ and ‘Chainbreaker’.
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Friday 25th September
Yeeeeee-haaaaaah! The new album from Foreigner is here! On first spin I’m very impressed by ‘Can’t Slow Down’, **very** impressed indeed…
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Thursday 24th September
In gig-going terms it’s been a fairly sparse week. With no live action planned for this evening I will dim the lights, put up my feet, order some popcorn and enjoy Thunder’s grandly-titled farewell DVD, 20 Years And Out 1989-2009: At The End Of The Road, Live In London 11th July 2009 (many, many thanks to Sir Daniel Of Bowes for fulfilling his promise of despatching a copy to Ling Towers). And once that one’s been viewed my attention turns to Diamond Head’s The Official Bootleg DVD, a limited edition collection of clips from 1980 to 2007 that guitarist Brian Tatler tells me will be available only at the band’s gigs and via their website. Well, they do say that staying in is the new going out…
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Wednesday 23rd September
Last night was spent interviewing Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse of the Swedish band Katatonia, whose new album – their eighth – seems likely to be a huge success. Their good friend Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth has already hailed ‘Night Is The New Day’ (to be released via Peaceville on November 2nd) as “possibly the greatest ‘heavy’ record I have heard in the last ten years”. I’m not sure I’d go **quite** that far, but it is a tremendous piece of music; intoxicating, addictive and by far the most progressive-orientated thing they’ve done.
Before meeting the Katatonia dudes, who were heading to Camden straight from the airport after a press trip to Germany, I killed some time in the Record & Tape Exchange (again… yes, I know they should do a Season ticket for sad people like me). Among the things I found in the bargain rack was a self-titled album by a band called Perfect Affair. The cover looked well ropey, but it was on Attic Records (the home of such Canuck greats as Anvil, Lee Aaron, Goddo, Triumph and more), and closer inspection revealed it to be co-produced by none other than Mick Ronson, who also contributes guitars and vocals. “Right”, I thought, “I’m havin’ that!” It’s not bad, either…
Just been indulging in some playful banter with my old friend and fellow prog enthusiast Nick Shilton. Shilts recently became a daddy for the third time, actually delivering the baby himself (he doesn’t believe in paying anyone to do anything). Consequently, Nick has a quieter social life than Terry Waite. I’ve been trying to persuade him to acquire an evening pass and see It Bites at the weekend, but he’s terrified of broaching the subject with Mrs S – even tried to highlight his predicament by sending me a terrific shot of his missus with the new arrival, both asleep on a pillow. My reply ran as follows:
Nick, that’s lovely. But the fact remains… this is It Fucking Bites… playing the whole of ‘Once Around The Fucking World’. On a Saturday fucking night. Are you a man or a fucking mouse??!!
That should do the trick.
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Monday 21st September
Thanks to the generosity of my friend Annick, who is also the godmother of my two lads, Clan Ling spent an unusual yet hugely enjoyable Sunday morning at the O2 Arena. Annick had kindly offered four tickets for the hospitality box her company Eagle Rock retains at the Arena. The event was not a concert, but a lavish theatrical interpretation of the 1959 classic movie Ben Hur. Involving 15 years of planning and put together at a cost of £5million, it is narrated by Stewart Copeland of The Police, who also wrote its musical score. A 400-strong cast includes gladiators, a Roman army, a slave village, 32 horses, 100 doves, three falcons, two eagles, two vultures and two donkeys – the latter presumably ‘on loan’ from Clowntown Pathetic, whose ground is a mere spitting distance away from the O2. As expected, the chariot race was the show’s highlight. Although I knew it was inappropriate I almost laughed aloud when Judah’s mother and sister, who become terminally sick whilst incarcerated, announce they are heading off to Leper Valley to spend the rest of their days in seclusion. Deep inside I wanted to leap to my feet and holler: “Okay, then… go out the Arena’s main entrance, turn left, go through the car parks and just follow the floodlights.” Mrs L would probably not have been too happy, though…
Ex-Thunder guitarist Luke Morley has announced that his new band with ex-Winterville guitarist/vocalist Pete Shoulder is to be called… The Union. I’m not too sure whether I like the name (remember, John Corabi and Bruce Kulick had a band called simply ‘Union’), but there are some impressive chewns to check out to by going here.
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Sunday 20th September
Thank God for that… I’ve finally seen Crystal Palace win for the first time this season. It was hard to verbalise the sense of relief when, after what felt like quarter of an hour of injury time, the final whistle blew to confirm yesterday’s 1-0 home victory over Derby County. Darren Ambrose’s second half strike ended a run of… ulp!... 335 minutes at Selhurst without a CPFC goal. Arriving home after a bit of a vodka & diet Coke binge and a few cans of cider on the bus, I started sifting through the goodies I’d collected in the morning (see yesterday’s diary) and the few bits and bobs that arrived whilst at Selhurst. Surfing the net for match reports, sipping at a tall glass of something strong and with FM vocalist Steve Overland’s new solo album, ‘Diamond Dealer’ (due via Escape Music on October 23), blaring in the background is my idea of Saturday night heaven.
I’m also looking forward to checking out the impressively packaged double-DVD of Joe Bonamassa’s gig at the Royal Albert Hall (for report of that gig see diary, 5th May, ’09), Uriah Heep’s 40th anniversary compilation ‘Celebration’ (which contains two brand new studio cuts; due on November 4), a double-live album from Van der Graaf Generator (Live At Paradiso, 14.4.07; via Voiceprint) and John Sloman’s new acoustic solo album ‘Reclamation’. A promo of the newie from Gov’t Mule, ‘By A Thread’, is also here and, on the evidence of an opening cut that co-stars ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on the gee-tar, sounds like a complete humdinger. But the album I’m finding it tough to dislodge from the Death Deck is Winger’s new ’un, ‘Karma’ (available through Frontiers, October 16th). The advance reports did not lie: It **is** a glorious distillation of the band’s first two, mega-selling albums (‘Winger’ and ‘In The Heart Of The Young’) with a hint of the harder-edged ‘Pull’. Its opening track, ‘Deal With The Devil’, is a rip-snortin’, party-all-night call to arms that drags the listener back to the glory days of hair-metal. The first time I heard it I sat there agog, listening to it three, four, maybe even five times in a row with a shit-eating grin on my face. Winger are back… believe it.
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Saturday 19th September
Well, today started on a frustrating note with a visit to the local post office sorting dept, where the last few days of mail had been amassed with a couple of big, red elastic bands. Once again, the buffoon responsible for delivery had not thought of removing the band to place the items through the letter box I-N-D-V-I-D-U-A-L-L-Y, instead of making me trail my ass down there to collect everything en masse. D’oh! What level of intelligence are we dealing with here?
Anyway, I was happy to carry some fantastic stuff back up the hill. Top of the list is, Neil Daniels’ book, All Pens Blazing: A Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook, which collates interviews with an impressive list of more than 60 fellow music writers, most of whom are friends and/or colleagues past ‘n’ present. Dave Dickson’s is all I’ve read so far, and it’s fascinating. Though we worked together on Metal Hammer and RAW, I never had too much to do with Dickson, for two main reasons. The first (and most important) was that he treated me like something he might have trodden in. And the second was that we both moved in very different musical circles, Dave championing such alternative bands as Flesh For Lulu, etc. Truthfully, I was also a bit wary of the make-up he wore and the air of sexual ambiguity he put out. He also seemed extremely weird. On one memorable occasion we shared a train journey to somewhere in the north of England – we must have been working for rival titles at the time – and the PR had booked adjacent seats. Putting my coat and bag into the rack I smiled and asked how Dickson was doing, and he cut me dead: “I don’t do small talk”. We sat in silence for entire trip. In his interview with Daniels, Dave reminds us that he used to like using slightly different questions to the norm. One of his famous opening gambits was asking Rob Halford: “Would you like an Opal Fruit?” Nowadays there’d surely be a comma somewhere in that question. But I digress. Dave made a career of putting people’s necks out of joint, and the way he talks of a rift in the Kerrang! office, not to mention the threat of being ejected from the premises by Geoff Barton, suggests that knack has not been lost. Hahaha!
Anyway, with great trepidation following the events of last week’s match, I’m off to Selhurst. More on my bulging postbag and its contents – including the superb new Winger album – when I get home.
P.S. Forgot to mention, I’m in All Pens Blazing, too. Order it here: www.authorsonline.co.uk.
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Friday 18th September
I’ve just had an interesting e-dialogue with my Classic Rock colleague Rich Wilson, who is about to issue an updated edition of his excellent official Dream Theater book, Lifting Shadows [order it here]. Among its ‘extras’ are a detailed look at the making of the band’s current album, ‘Black Clouds & Silver Linings’ and additional interviews with the likes of Neal Morse, Jim Matheos and Tony Levin. When I replied by stating facetiously that DT’s original keyboard player Kevin Moore, who refused to participate in the original version of the book, was still proving elusive… well, shall we just say that Rich’s language became a little colourful?!? Wilson isn’t the only person to lose patience with Moore. Rich has happily allowed me to use the following quote from the new edition to highlight this point. It comes from none other than Mike Portnoy in a chapter covering the OSI albums, ‘Office Of Strategic Influence’ and ‘Free’, that the pair collaborated on back in 2003 and ’06.
“I honestly went in there with an open mind and was truly excited to work with Kevin again,” sighs Portnoy. “But it ended up being more of the same old shit as when he left Dream Theater. When I’m making music with other people, I want it to put a smile on my face. Making those records with Kevin wasn’t fun. He’s not a fun person to work with. He’s a very depressing and stubborn personality and there’s no reason in my life or my career that I need to subject myself to that. If anything, making those two albums showed me in no uncertain terms that if Kevin hadn’t left Dream Theater, then Dream Theater would have broken up many, many years ago. So him leaving the band was probably the greatest ever thing that ever happened to Dream Theater. Dream Theater could not exist with that type of personality. As you know they are now doing a third album [2009’s ‘Blood’], which they didn’t even bother asking me about as they already know my feelings on the subject.”
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Thursday 17th September
I’d like to have gone to last night’s Michael Schenker Group show in London, but the place was sold out and nobody could get me in. Perhaps unsurprising given that Schenker’s band included Gary Barden on vocals and Chris Glen on bass – three-fifths of the classic line-up. My spies tell me the Underworld was alarmingly over-full. “9/10 for the set list, 7/10 for the sound, 0/10 for the view of the stage” was my mate Dave Craig’s verdict. Sounds like an uncomfortable night, but wish I’d have been there anyway…
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Wednesday 16th September
Oh-my-friggin’-God: It seems that there may be truth in the rumours of a tour featuring the ‘Big Four’ of thrash-metal; Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. “Nothing’s concrete,” says Metalli-bassist Robert Trujillo. “It’s not a sealed deal [but] we’re working on it.”
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Tuesday 15th September
It’s been teeming with rain here in London, so much so that this evening’s game between Palace and QP-Hahaha was called off a couple of hours before kick-off. After Saturday’s debacle, also the ridiculous ticket prices – it would have cost £50 for me and Eddie to go – I was already committed to staying home. When the news came in I texted my friend and fellow long-suffering Eagles fan Laurence Adams. Already en route to Loftus Road he was grateful to curtail his journey. Being a wise man, Laurence doesn’t get to many CPFC games. I told him he was exchanging one depressing shower for another! Never a truer word spoken.
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Monday 14th September
I’d forgotten how much I used to love car boot sales. Yesterday, savouring the arse-end of summertime weather, Clan Lang headed down to gathering in Kent. I picked up a shedload of CDs for a quid each, some of which I’ve only ever owned on vinyl (‘Solo In Soho’ by Philip Lynott, Dare’s ‘Blood From Stone’), others were snapped up for being available in different format (the re-mastered ‘Love At First Sting’ by the Scorps, a double-disc edition of Little Angels’ ‘Jam’) and one (Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’) re-acquired after I loaned it to a friend and forgot to get it back. Mostly, though, my haul comprised stuff that’s brand new to the collection: ‘The Fine Art Of Self Destruction’ by Jesse Malin, two from Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (‘Live From Mars’ and ‘Burn To Shine’), an unplugged album by Jason & The Scorchers, Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ (much as I know I shouldn’t, I’m fascinated by the walking car-wreck that is Courtney Love) and, amazingly, all three difficult to find albums by Shawn Smith’s band Pigeonhed (‘Pigeonhead’, ‘The Full Sentence’ and ‘Flash Bulb Emergency Overflow Cavalcade Of Remixes’) – 13 albums for £13… now that’s what I call a bargain, matey!
In the evening it was back to Shepherd’s Bush Empire again for the second time in 24 hours. Although Esoterica recently got the thumbs-up from Robert Plant, the place was far less populated than the night before. All the same, despite being patchy in places and disappointingly deficient of prog-rock in a live scenario which instead reinforced their gothic and metal roots, I enjoyed the Surrey-based quintet’s show. They certainly got full marks for bravery in terms of location for the performance, also for playing more than half of a rewarding new album, ‘The Riddle’, before it was released. Here’s the set-list: ‘Scream’, ‘Life Is Lonely’, ‘The Fool’, ‘Manimal’, ‘Samples’, ‘Silence’, ‘Chemicals’, ‘The Empire Of Eyes’, ‘Fill Me With Love’, ‘Watch This Drive’, ‘Tomorrow I Won’t Remember, ‘Don’t Rely On Anyone’, ‘Exposed’ and acoustically based encore of ‘Miranda And The Tempest’.
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Sunday 13th September
I’ve no words to describe the abject nature of Crystal Palace’s latest defeat. Coincidentally, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of our famous 9-0 undoing by Liverpool. That year we gained revenge upon the Scousers in one of the finest ever FA Cup semi finals. This season, alas, I foresee no such redemption, just more mundanity and misery. It’s acceptable to be given a lesson in football by one of the best teams in the world like Dalglish’s Liverpool… but, returning to the Fizzy Pop League after a season in League 1, Scunthorpe United were bottom with no wins from four games. And they absolutely destroyed us by four goals to nil. Warnock, who called the rout the “most embarrassing” result of his career, should hang his head in shame for his own lack of tactical organisation and the team’s gutless ineptitude. Crystal Palace versus Nottingham Florist on October 24, or FM at the Firefest? Yesterday’s debacle makes that decision so-o-o-o-o much easier.
Thank God, then, for Mr Big and the regenerative, soothing power of rock music. I’d been a little worried about reaching Shepherd’s Bush or an unplugged warm-up spot from Skin’s Neville MacDonald and Myke Gray (indeed, I texted Gray to find out what time they would be onstage, laughing aloud when he replied: “7.30-ish, depending on how long I need to shine Paul Gilbert’s shoes, LOL!”) Having left Selhurst well before the final whistle there was time a-plenty to drop off my eldest lad Eddie and reach the Empire for a sing-song display (‘Colourblind’, ‘Take Me Down To The River’, ‘Tripping’, ‘Which Are The Tears’, ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ and ‘Tower Of Strength’) that delighted a rapidly-filling venue.
Back after more than a decade and a half away, Mr Big were formidable, though the solos and extended bouts of widdling gradually began to wear (call me naïve, I’m such a fan of the band’s songs I almost consigned their muso-friendly indulgences to the back of my memory banks). Though shortened the show stuck fairly closely to the soon-come CD/DVD of their comeback gig at the Budokan, including the excellent brand new tune ‘Next Time Around’ and a superfluous reworking of Argent’s ‘Hold Your Head Up’. Setting the scene for a rollercoaster of a set, playing ‘Take Cover, from their fourth album ‘Hey Man’, as song #2 caused euphoria that had greeted ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)’ to take a noticeable dip, but Eric Martin was irrepressible, confirming from the stage the band’s intention to keep the reunion rolling. Here’s what they played: ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)’, ‘Take Cover’, ‘Green Tined Sixties Mind’, ‘Alive And Kickin’’, ‘Next Time Around’, ‘Hold Your Head Up’, ‘Just Take My Heart’, ‘Temperamental’, Medley: ‘It’s For You’/‘Mars: Bringer Of War’, Drum Solo, ‘Price You Gotta Pay’, ‘Wild World’, ‘Take A Walk’, Guitar Solo, ‘The Whole World’s Gonna Know’, ‘Rock & Roll Over’, Bass Solo and ‘Addicted To That Rush’, with a succession of encores that included ‘To Be With You’, ‘Colorado Bulldog’, The ’Oooo’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ and Talas/Diamond Dave favourite ‘Shyboy’.
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Saturday 12th September
What on earth did we do before the internet came along? It’s been widely reported that drummer Mikkey Dee was going to sit out some of Motörhead’s current US tour, with former GN’R/current Velvet Revolver man Matt Sorum taking his place (indeed, footage from the opening shows is already viewable online). Dee was apparently going AWOL with Lemmy’s blessing to appear in Kändisdjungeln, the Swedish version of the reality TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here! Well, the series debuted last nite and although my Swedish could do with a bit of brushing up I’ve just been watching some clips. It seems to follow the format of the UK show, but I have to say that female presenter Tilde de Paula is far easier on the eye than Ant or Dec. Looking down the list of competitors for a name that knew, amid wine expert Bengt Frithiofsson, singer Thorleif Torstensson and actress Inger Nilsson, I was amused to note the presence of ex-international footballer Kennet Andersson. Way, way back in the mists of time there was extremely strong talk of Andersson joining Crystal Palace in what would have been a bit of a coup. Then he had a outstanding tournament in the 1994 World Cup, playing in a Swedish side that finished third, and… pffft!... Kennet mysteriously had bigger fish to fry. I will keep an eye on Kändisdjungeln in the hope that 41-year-old Andersson and not Mikkey is faced with a ‘difficult’ breakfast of crocodile testicles, washed down with a tall, cool glass of elephant vomit. That’ll teach him for spurning the approaches of Selhurst Park.
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Friday 11th September
Last night I went back to the Beaverwood Club, just down the road in Chislehurst, to sink some beers and enjoy one of my favourite bands. I’ve seen Stray many, many times down the years – the first would, I think, have been opening for Saga at the Lyceum in 1981 - and they can always be relied upon to put on a good show. When I say ‘they’, of course I mean guitarist/vocalist Del Bromham, the band’s mainstay and driving force (which is not intended to demean the significant contributions of bassist Stuart Uren and drummer Karl Randall). Earlier this year Stray released an excellent Chris Tsangarides (Gary Moore/Y&T/Thin Lizzy, etc)-produced album called ‘Valhalla’. I was pleased that they included several of its selections during the show, notably the superb ‘1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’ and ‘Move A Mountain’, which closes with a bit of a ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’-style thrashalong when performed live.
Bromham is a great old school entertainer, full of comic one-liners and self-mocking wit. When his guitar drops out of the mix he announces in a music hall-esque style manner: “Ooooh, a slight technical problem there – me knob fell out, isn’t it shocking when that happens?” The band doesn’t use a set-list, relying on Bromham to shout out the tunes, which I’m happy to say included ‘Jericho’ (from 1971’s ‘Suicide’ album) and even ‘Come On Over’ (which first appeared on ‘Mudanzas’ in 1973 but will be known to some for the fact that Steve Harris’ daughter, Lauren, recorded it on her own album ‘Calm Before The Storm’). Someday I’d really like to see them do ‘Son Of The Father’, the opening track from ‘Suicide’, but last night’s performance nevertheless offered a very decent mixture of old and new. Here’s the set-list: ‘Houdini’, ‘Time Machine’, ‘Jericho’, ‘Move A Mountain’, ‘Skin’, ‘After The Storm’, ‘1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’, ‘Free At Last’, ‘Harry Farr’, ‘I Believe It’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Buying Time’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘All In Your Mind’.
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Thursday 10th September
“Rampant England storm to World Cup Finals”… “Capello’s 100 per cent men crush Croatians 5-1”… “They’re gr-eight!”… These newspaper headlines confirm why I am so hung over. Last night I sank almost a whole bottle of vodka as England booked their passage to next year’s tournament in South Africa in the most emphatic manner possible. And oh, how incredibly satisfying it was to wreak revenge upon Croatia, the nation that went to the European Championships instead of England. Slaven Bilic, your boys took one hell of a beating.
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Wednesday 9th September
Phew… another whirlwind day with three phone interviews – Uriah Heep’s Trevor Bolder, Mark Hamilton from Ash and Little Caesar frontman Ron Young. Although all three were really enjoyable, Ron Young was magnificent value for money. In addition to discussing the band’s comeback album, ‘Redemption’, and how he got to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger around the head with a pool cue in Terminator 2, Young explained in full, gory detail how Geffen Records screwed the band’s career first time around, from their label manager getting fired for being caught for masturbating on his secretary (yes… really) to David Geffen telling him face to face that he would not allow them to go to another company and have success, on the grounds that if they did so it would make him look bad. Yes, all that you’ve heard about the music business is true, my friend…
BTW, after mentioning that I wrote the sleeve essay I’ve had a few emails enquiring when the revised edition of Airrace’s ‘Shaft Of Light’ is due to be released. It’s out on October 19, and will feature two bonus tracks. On the same date Rock Candy Records will also be unveiling a re-mastered edition of Montrose’s legendary self-titled debut from 1974. That’s another to raid the piggy bank for.
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Tuesday 8th September
F**k me, the new Cheap Trick album is superb! Titled ‘The Latest’ and available via www.cheaptrick.com, it kicks off with the timeless one-two punch of ‘Sleep Forever’ and ‘When The Lights Are Out’ – an irresistible Noddy Holder and Jim Lea composition that fits them like a glove – and doesn’t put a foot wrong till safely over the finish line. Bound to be a contender for Albums Of 2009, and no mistake. Ron Young from Little Caesar has also emailed me the band’s comeback album, ‘Redemption’, and once again I’m hugely impressed. It’s been a great year for new music with plenty more to come.
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Monday 7th September
With the Linglets due to return to school this morning and my Airrace sleeve essay safely submitted, the family spent a nice, peaceful Sunday afternoon in Greenwich Park. Leaving the others to traipse around Greenwich Market, I headed for the bargain basement of the Record & Tape Exchange, emerging with a bargain or two. A mint vinyl copy of B.B. King’s ‘Best Of’ was well worth a quid, but shelling out the same amount on ‘Tearsurf’, a farcically bad rap-metal outing from 1995 by the Dutch combo Waving Corn was a grave mistake. Just goes to show, for all the label’s current credibility Roadrunner have put out some 24 karat turkeys in the past. It was nice to have acquired a Fireball Ministry CD I didn’t have, ‘Their Rock Is Not Our Rock’, as well.
But back to normal and I have to admit, I’m surprised at this morning’s news that “personal reasons” have caused Rob Randell to quit Heaven’s Basement. The bassist says his heart is just not in being a musician any more. Then again, in my last interview with Richie Hevanz (CR #136), the singer admitted: “Supporting Black Stone Cherry and Shinedown gave us a sight of the next level. Seeing where we stood in the food chain was a bit of reality check, it made us realise how far we’ve still got to go.” Richie, Sid, Jonny and Chris have vowed to replace Randell and persevere; my hope is that the band remains resolute and fulfils its potential.
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Sunday 6th September
Recovering from a hangover induced by a box of Zinfandel (rose wine) left behind last weekend by my brother-in-law Stuart, imbibed last night during England’s friendly win over Slovenia at Wembley, I am trying not to spend the entire day chained to the PC. I’ve noticed that my youngest son, Arnie, is a sensitive soul who gets very emotional over weepy films. So we this morning we sat and tried hard to conceal our worsening emotional states during one of my all-time favourite movies, Beaches, which stars Bette Midler as CC Bloom. By the end, during the song ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, both of us were hiding our faces behind cushions, trying to pretend to be unmoved. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched Beaches, it always does that to me.
And in the world of **real-life** tragedy, farewell to Angel’s original bass player, Mickie Jones, who recently lost a long battle with liver cancer. I shall make a point of playing Angel’s 1976 classic ‘Helluva Band’ in his honour before the day is through.
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Saturday 5th September
Yesterday’s activities began early and finished late. So early, in fact, that I got Roger Glover out of bed for a 9am phoner. The chat with Deep Purple’s bassist, who recently not only became a dad once again but also a grandfather for the first time, had been previously arranged, he just overslept (excusable under the circumstances). I always enjoy talking to Roger as he doesn’t mind giving an honest answer to a reasonable question. When I put him on the spot about the inconsistencies of Ian Gillan’s voice, he replied: “Yeah, it can sometimes be a little rough, but according to Ian, the harder we work the better it gets – it needs that exercise. And a lot of it has to do with what his general heath is like on any given day.” A couple of hours later, amid working on a sleeve essay for the re-issued version of Airrace’s ‘Shaft Of Light’ album, I also chatted with Gun guitarist Jools Gizzi about the band’s upcoming UK tour, which hits London on November 26. He’s another nice geezer.
In a Classic Rock interview not too long ago, UK-based/Aussie-born guitarist Gwyn Ashton made a bold proclamation regarding his new album, ‘Two Man Blues Army’. “What I’m trying to do is aim a little beyond the standard blues thing, even to a garage-style alternative market”. Till hearing the release concerned, I took his comments with a pinch of salt. But believe me, ‘TMBA’ is a fabulous, daring record and when Ashton and faithful drummer Kev Hickman rolled through Lewisham last nite – appearing a mere 20 minute walk away at the Anchor Music Club, the latest venue of local live music entrepreneur Pete Feenstra – I just had to be there.
Quite simply, what I saw blew me away. In recent years Ashton has opened for Status Quo and collaborated with the likes of Don Airey from Deep Purple, Rory Gallagher’s rhythm section of Gerry McAvoy and Brendan O’Neil and SAHB stalwarts Chris Glen and Ted McKenna, but what he’s doing right now is edgy, fresh and hugely enjoyable. Think Rory Gallagher jamming with the White Stripes and you won’t be too far wrong. Ashton compensates for a bass player deficit with superlative technique, interpreted via an array of swampy, edgy and high-octane, riff-based tunes like ‘Break’, ‘Million Dollar Blues’, ‘Mad Dog’ and the more refined ‘Cross Road Blues’ - all worth the admission price alone. However, he also tackles a variety of classics with varying degrees of faithfulness. Rick Derringer’s ‘Still Alive And Well’ and ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ by Albert King are both treated with due respect, and I love what he does with Memphis Minnie’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ (later famously reworked by Led Zeppelin, of course). But at the other end of the scale, he spits out the bones of ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’, reassembling them as compelling, barely recognisable Frankenstein’s monsters. The Two-Man Blues Army show is so entertaining that it’s tough to imagine any genuine fan of the blues, or indeed of wider taste, failing to be floored by its immediacy and power.
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Friday 4th September
Can it really be? Slayer’s Kerry King is quoted in a story at the Metal Hammer website that suggests Lars Ulrich is plotting a tour which would feature the ‘Big Four’ of thrash-metal; Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and (if they can get their shit together) Anthrax. “I don’t know Lars that well and I haven’t heard it from Lars, but apparently he’s talking to somebody about it,” comments King of the potential tie-in, which would be unique in the history of metal. The clash of musical talent and personalities – in particular, Dave Mustaine vs everyone! – is so tantalising, it’s kinda hard to sum up in mere words.
Disappointingly, however, I hear that Rock Goddess have split up again – barely weeks after reuniting, and without playing a single gig. There’s better news in the shape of a return from Little Caesar, one of my favourite groups from the 1990s. A new album called ‘Redemption’ is on its way, which I can’t wait to hear.
P.S. The latest YouTube and Playlist selections are now viewable.
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Thursday 3rd September
“It’ll be difficult but we’re going to try and cram a bit of everything into the hour and a half we’ve got,” says Nektar’s Roye Albrighton from the stage of the Borderline. “That’s the trouble when you play this progressive rock shit; you’re expected to have ten-minute keyboard solos, 15-minute guitar solos and,” he breaks for emphasis, turning towards Peter Pichl, the man who stood in for Pete Way on UFO’s recent ‘The Visitor’ album, “two-hour bass solos.”
Jocularity aside, in stark contrast to Nektar’s last marathon performance at the Borderline (see Diary, 3.9.09), last night’s gig left me starving for more. Like Albrighton, who praised them effusively from the stage, I found the evening’s support act, Audioporn – a wild, tongue-in-cheek melodic pop-prog mix of Talking Heads and Jellyfish – to be a surprisingly appealing appetiser for the main event. But given that Nektar ended up playing for an hour less, omitting the likes of ‘Remember The Future’ and ‘Tab In The Ocean’, that enjoyment was somewhat tainted. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Nektar do and the new line-up is really starting to come into its own (in showmanship terms, Pichl couldn’t be any less like Pete Way, but he’s a hell of a player)… it’s just that last night there wasn’t enough of it. Here’s the set-list: ‘Crying In The Dark’, ‘King Of Twilight’, Medley: ‘Dr Kool’/‘King Of The Deep’, ‘Dream Nebula’, ‘Desolation Valley’, ‘Preacher’, ‘Mr H’/Bass Solo and ‘Recycled’, with an encore medley of ‘Good Day’/‘What Ya Gonna Do?’.
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Tuesday 1st September
I’m getting a bit peed off with Neil Warnock blaming the referee every time things don’t go Crystal Palace’s way. Even Stevie Wonder would’ve seen that Paddy McCarthy was in danger of being sent off during yesterday’s televised away game with Peterborough United, so it’s ridiculous for Warnock to bleat about the officials being at fault for the match becoming a poor spectacle after the Eagles were reduced to ten men, when plainly his own woeful tactics – is the formation supposed to be 4-4-2 or 4-3-3? – played a huge part in the teams having to share the points (thanks to a moment of opportunism from CPFC’s Alan Lee).