This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
Sunday 16th April
Stop me if this sounds familiar: It's that awful, awful moment when you wake up on someone's sofa, with absolutely no clue where you are. You think you've lost your manbag but it's okay, it's over there in the corner of the room. Your alarm is ringing but you can't find your phone. You search under the sofa, move the cushions, check under the coffee table. You look in said manbag. It's fucking got to be somewhere, right? You venture cautiously out of the room and look around in the hall, and then in the toilet. And the fucking thing is in your back pocket all along.
On the way home dog walkers look at your dishevelled state in utter contempt and disgust (and of course there are 'essential works' on the train). Never, ever go drinking with Tyrina Gallagher and Julia Graham - especially after an important Crystal Palace game. Managed to make it back to Catford. Have we got any Easter eggs I can eat? Dad will be here for lunch in about 75 mins,. Feck. How am I going to get away with this?
Saturday 15th April
I'm just back from a park run and into a bit more Wishbone transcript before heading off to Selhurst for Palace-Leicester. Truth told I'm flagging after six consecutive nights of music and/or sport, but I've one further evening of energy left in me and I ain't gonna be missing Tytan at the Unicorn.
My Good Friday soiree was spent at Under The Bridge – lovely venue, awful geographical location – in the company of The Magpie Salute, a new band led by ex-Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson. With Marc Ford also on guitar and Sven Pipien on bass (their early line-up also featured another former Crowe, keysman Eddie Harsch, who sadly died), they're as close to the music and original spirit of the Crowes you are gonna get.
Basically, it's a ten-piece line-up: Three guitarists, a lead singer, bassist, drummer, keyboards and a trio of female backing singers (one of whom played searing blues harp, cowbell, xylophone and even a bit of voicebox). Dreadlocked Englishman John Hogg is just a brilliant find, and whatever addiction issues the bloke may have ensured in the past, Marc Ford played like an absolute bloody demon. This was TMS' third of four nights in London and at each show they played a unique, two-hour set. Being a Good Friday, it was only fair that the band would revise the classic song of the same name, and boy... did they play it well?
Introducing a joyous, super-funky farewell of 'Remedy', Robinson took the mic to express his thanks, introduce the newcomers and promise a more expansive return visit. "I'll come back if you guys bring two friends next time. With all of this zombie music that makes people stupid, now more than ever, we play rock 'n' roll - warts 'n' all. It's never out of fashion, and the more you guys come to the shows the more it stays alive. It's all about us still trying to do this and you guys supporting us." Amen to that.
Friday 14th April
Last night I saw a cool band called Mount Holly, featuring ex-Silvertide guitarist Nick Perri, at the Water Rats in King's Cross. They've a pleasing, slightly Zeppelin-ish vibe, some big riffs and a very charismatic singer in Jameson Burt. Perri and Burt had played the Water Rats as a duo last year. There was a fairly small yet very enthusiastic crowd for this electric, full-band gig, and when Mount Holly finally launched into their YouTube video track, 'Stride By Stride', the place went completely and utterly bonkers. On this evidence, the already-completed album (due in the summertime for Razor & Tie Records) is going to be very special.
Thursday 13th April
What was the hottest gig of the year so far? That would be DragonForce's intimate launch party for the new album, 'Reaching Into Infinity', in the top room of a Camden pub called the Black Heart.
"There are lots of reasons to celebrate tonight, firstly our fuckin' manager isn't here because he's sick," quipped Marc Hudson – not a very nice way to refer to my old mate Steve McTaggart, but the melodic power metallers were definitely off the leash, and this was more relaxed and informal than a regular gig, with plenty of interaction between those occupying the stage and the packed-in fans. It saw the band take multiple drinks breaks as trays of shots arrived; there were lounge jazz interludes and spontaneous interpretations of Manowar tunes, circle pits, lots of jokes about hairline issues (the crowd raucously demanded Sam Totman remove his beanie hat to confirm what they already suspected) and DF blazed thorough their metalised stomp through Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire'.
Of course there was also a preview of two very fine songs from the forthcoming LP ('Judgement Day' and 'Curse Of Darkness'). In the bar afterwards Herman Li satisfied my curiosity by confirming that 'The Edge Of The World', the album's 11-minute epic and DragonForce's longest ever song to date, will be heard on their October tour. And at the end, during 'Through The Fire And Flames', Hudson dove into the crowd and was carried above everyone's heads to the bar and back again. Titanic, triumphant stuff!
Wednesday 12th April
Having kicked things off with a few liveners at the Crobar, last night I had an enjoyable time at the 100 Club where Erja Lyytinen, the amiable and gifted pocket dynamo known as Finland's Queen Of The Slide Guitar, launched a new album. Lyytinen and her band played a sizeable chunk of 'Stolen Hearts', made in junction with Chris Kimsey of Rolling Stones, Marillion and Peter Frampton fame. Standouts included the title cut, 'Black Ocean' and the smooth, velvety '24 Angels'. An encore of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' set the seal on a fine evening and although I exited the 100 Club with Mark Taylor I'm somewhat relieved to report that we managed resist the gravitational pull of the Cro! And tonight: a bit of DragonForce! Now where did I put that plastic broadsword!!!
BTW, just to add my voice to the rest: I was extremely sad to hear of the passing of Eric Cook, former manager of Venom and along with brother Ged (of Atomkraft / Tysondog) a man behind Demolition Records. Regardless of one's view of Venom, it takes blood, sweat and tears to get such a band to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon. Could they have pushed on to become bigger with a more famous name? Amost certainly, but my understanding is that Venom stuck with Eric because they liked and respected him.
I always had lots and lots of fun in Eric's company, notably a vodka swamped trip to Poland in '88 to cover Atomkraft, Nasty Savage and Exhumer for Metal Hammer. Cook and Tony Bray (you know him as Abbadon) frequently appeared at gigs and events in The Smoke, dismissing the locals as "Shandy-drinking Southern pooftahs" and it was always a pleasure to spend time in their company. At Hard Rock Hell in Prestatyn 2008, Eric was there over the weekend with Tigertailz and a few other bands maybe. Black Label Society were the Saturday night headliners... not a bad band, but of course we ended up in Eric's room watching the Toon on MOTD with some vodka and tinnies instead.
Our paths would cross far less often, but the last time I saw Eric was at Download a few years back when we shared a cab from our hotel to the site. He was just the same guy; cracking jokes along the way and refusing contribution towards the fare.
Eric was 56 years old. Jeez, that's fuggin' scary.
Tuesday 11th April
It's 1.20am as I type this, but do I feel ready for bed? No I 'kin well do not. Being a football fan can be tough, especially when you're 100% hardcore. Beating the hated Arsenal by three clear goals to ease our relegation concerns - a first win over those smug North London c**ts in 23 years - with the Selhurst crowd chanting 'Olé' each time a Palace player touched the ball felt so, so sweet that I can hardly sum it up in words. Without a single shot on target Arse were completely feeble in the second half, there's no escaping that, but let's give some credit to the Eagles for making it so difficult for their opponents, who simply gave up after Cabaye's 63rd minute wondergoal to make it 2-0. My fave bit of the night was when the entire ground, baring one tiny, silent section, sang: "Oh, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay" as the Frenchman stared dourly towards the ground. What a stunning team performance, and well played to Hennessey, too... another couple of games like that and I shall be forced to eat my words.
[Edit: When you send a work-related email to an Arsenal supporting publicist and begin with the words: I'm not gonna mention the game, but... (thus, of course, mentioning it anyway!). What a great way to start the day!]
Monday 10th April
I'm feeling thoroughly ashamed. In 2016 a rather proud Mike Portnoy sent Jerry Ewing, Malcolm Dome and myself an email about the then newly completed Neal Morse Band album, 'The Similitude Of A Dream', upon which he had performed. "Guys, this is going to be a prog classic!" he promised, "I really do think it's in the Top 3 to 5 of anything in my entire catalogue." Well, many reviewers agreed with that assessment but my efforts to obtain a finished CD never came to anything and, sorry to say, its glories ended up passing me by. (I still don't do the download thing, it's physical or nothing - sorry). 11 months later, last night I was in the crowd at a rammed Islington Academy as the NMB performed 'TSOAD' in its entirety. Although I was unfamiliar with a single note of its two hour duration, it was impossible not to be swept along by the sheer passion of those up on the stage and among me in the crowd: most of my fellow attendees knew every word, every note, each uplifting word. With Morse acting out some of the parts beneath a video screen that conveyed its epic concept (a modern day twist upon the first segment of John Bunyan's 1678 book The Pilgrim's Progress), the show's presentation was nothing short of immaculate, the front-of-house-sound among the best I've heard at this venue. It was a jaw-dropping night and I'm happy to report that my copy of 'The Similitude Of A Dream' is at last on its way. I've some serious catching up to do. #humiliated
Sunday 9th April
Some of the occupants of Ling Towers are outside and enjoying the sunshine (I'm talking primarily of Bob The Dog here). Others, sadly, are stuck indoors and working on a Wishbone Ash coffee table book. By hook or by crook I will write another 10,000 words this weekend! We're up to 'There's The Rub'. Ted has just been replaced by Laurie and it's 1974. There's still a lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong way to go, but it feels like I'm making progress.
Saturday 8th April
Bernie Tormé, ah… Bernie Tormé. Undisputed king of the whammy bar. A big hero of mine in teenaged years with the mighty Gillan and the Electric Gypsies, and still making great music as a solo artist. Last night Bernie played the new-look Borderline, my first gig there since the venue's recent facelift. Getting used to the new look is gonna take some time, that's all I can say. Tormé played a stirring set, full of vintage gems (including 'Wild West', 'Turn Out The Lights', 'Star' and 'Possession'), cool-sounding tracks from the brand new album 'Dublin Cowboy' (among them the title cut and 'Hair Of The Dog', introduced as "song for my true love, alcohol!") and of course a nod to his Gillan past via 'No Easy' Way' and the band's covers of 'Trouble' and 'New Orleans'. Those glorious, squalling solos were the show's centrepiece, naturally, but the backing band was super-tight; how on earth did drummer Ian Harris perform in a long sleeved military tunic throughout? Bernie has never been the luckiest fella in the world and when it came to calling up a Pledger to sing 'Smoke On The Water' he managed to find the only bloke in the room who didn't know the words, coming in for the first verse during the riff and referring to crib sheet to check the lyrics – yes, really! It was an unintentionally comedic end to a really terrific evening!
I'm wading through the YouTube footage of last night's Rock And Roll Hall Of fame inductions. You've gotta love this clip of Yes performing 'Roundabout' with Geddy Lee on bass, it's heart-warming stuff. How lovely to see Geddy getting carried away with it all and playing air keyboards! The right man for the job... I suspect that Chris S would have approved.
It's a shame that Perry didn't sing again with Journey, but if the voice has depreciated to such an extent that a reunion is now impossible… well, that was probably the right call.
Friday 7th April
How encouraging to see a large crowd for last night's Chantel McGregor gig at the Beaverwood Club. Though the perception of McGregor is taking a while to sink in she is no longer a quote-unquote blues artist, having moved onto heavier pastures with 2015's second album 'Lose Control'.
Her set began with a couple of unaccompanied acoustic numbers before the band joined in for the 11-minute 'Inconsolable', which, sitting somewhere between unplugged and electric, was among the finest tunes of the evening. With a solitary throwback to her old style ('Nameless Blues'), Chantel has found her niche with the well channelled, propulsive hard rock of 'Burn Your Anger', 'Lose Control', 'Killing Time', 'Southern Belle' and a deserved encore of 'Take The Power'. And just when we thought we had McGregor pegged she throws in her epic untitled prog-rock piece, channelling a Steven Wilson obsession and named on this occasion as 'Strobe Lights In The Eyes Of The Damned' in honour of the failure of the Beaverwood's stage illumination. "Clever... but self-indulgent" reckoned the idiot in front of me who had insisted on talking through the quiet bits (there's always at least one of those, right?) Don't listen to a word from this disrespectful buffoon: It was a great night, Chantel's third album should be fascinating.
Thursday 6th April
Oh dear, yet another fatality and this one makes me very sad. I interviewed Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill several times for Classic Rock and for Prog, notably during a trip to Pittsburgh in 2009, and he was a fascinating character. Immensely quotable though prone to being long winded (on more than one occasion an extra cassette was required!), O'Neill was a huge Anglophile; from Yes, Crimson and Genesis to his personal hero Winston Churchill, he loved everything about this country of ours, and I know Paul was extremely proud to bring Trans-Siberian Orchestra to headline the Hammersmith Odeon in 2011.
In one of our best interviews he told me of TSO's formation, hatched in 1996 during a pow-wow with one of the industry's most famous names, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records.
"Ahmet told me, 'Paul, it's time you formed your own band'," he recalled. "I agreed, but only if it could be completely different to what was out there. I said, 'It has to be a full progressive rock band, with elements of hard rock and it must have 24 lead singers'. When he asked why, I explained there had to be no limits to what we could accomplish. Ahmet rolled his eyes but wrote a blank cheque."
Paul O'Neill: He didn't just think big, he wanted the stars. And now he's joined them. Check out there tribute here.
I must say that 'Do Hollywood' is one heck of a cool album, and I'm deffo planning to see its creators, The Lemon Twigs, when they return to these shores in November! Back in February Mike Portnoy hailed them as: "The Beatles meet Jellyfish meet Red Kross meet Badfinger with a member that somehow simultaneously has both Keith Moon and Pete Townshend's swagger and all looking like they are straight out of a Wes Anderson film!!" I can only agree, and Bob The Dog kinda likes 'em too!
Wednesday 5th April
I have sorted out my entertainment for next few nights:
Live stream of Southampton-Palace (tonight)
Chantel McGregor @ Beaverwood Club (tomorrow)
Bernie Torme @ Borderline (Friday)
Neal Morse Band @ Islington (Sunday)
[Edit at 7.15pm: I'm just back from the gym and a Tesco run. As I emerged from the shower with a bottle of wine, Arnie asked: "Dad, what's for tea?" "The fridge is loaded with food, matey - fill your boots. Tonight it's a liquid supper for me!" COYP!!!!]
[Edit #2: I've always hated Southampton. Palace throw away a goal lead to slump to a 3-1 defeat. FECK!!!!]
Sunday 2nd April
The skies above South London were very dark but my rain dance didn't work, so I almost decided to hide under the bed and switch off the mobile phone during yesterday's game at Chelski. And that move seemed advisable when the team that seems destined for the title took the lead just minutes into the game. However, a well-drilled Palace side scored two quick goals of their own and somehow, amazingly, managed to cling on until the final whistle. What a blood and thunder display, as opposed to thud and blunder earlier in the season! However, I've no time for hangovers this weekend, I'm stuck strictly in the Wishbone interview transcript zone and in the wake of such a stunning result I took off to the gym to take out my delight for a Saturday evening session on the treadmill.
I'm really sorry to hear the sad news of the death of Elyse Steinman. Raging Slab were an excellent, if ill named, band. [Edit: Wow, they still exist!!!] I was fortunate to see them play several times and their self-titled second album from 1989 still receives the occasional spin here at Ling Towers. Elyse was a bit of a fox, too. RIP...
Saturday 1st April
I've just stumbled upon this amazing photograph of myself and gig buddies Ian Mansell and Andy Adams somewhere in Europe 1983, following Twisted Sister on the 'You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll' tour in a vehicle that Dee Snider would later christen "the Bad News van". Besides just about all of the UK dates my pals and we saw them at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and then in Dortmund, Kaiserslautern and Nuremburg - the last three on a Monsters Of Rock bill with Thin Lizzy (their final tour with Lynott), Motörhead, Saxon and Blue Öyster Cult. Bloody great days, you've no idea how much I miss them...
Click on the links for this month's updates to the Playlist and YouTube pages.