50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
FROMH BRITISTO BLUESRNIA O CALIFSSICS CLA istory redible h The inc nstoppable of the u ood Mac Fleetw David Crosby Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown Chris Rea BLACK STAR RIDERS ROBERT PLANT WHITESNAKE
Foo F ighte rs Lo TAKING u Re ed L@=LJM A WALK ON TH L@:=@ AF<LJ E WILD SIDE: 9FK>GJ E=J Steve :DAF< Win >9 AS ME A AL@<A<FLOwood ND ERIC GJCGM L HO “I THRE – I JUSTW THE TV OUT T WANTE D TO PLHE WINDOW AY MUS IC”
NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE 242
Features 34 Fleetwood Mac One band, a myriad of eras and a whole lotta moving and shaking going on. Classic Rock celebrates half a century of Fleetwood Mac, beginning with Mick Fleetwood taking us through his band’s early blues years. Then we move on to the crazy drama of the multi-platinum, drug-addicted worldwide hit machine years, and beyond…
52 Foo Fighters Dave Grohl was supposed to spend 2017 taking some time out. Instead he ended up with a new Foos album exploring his darkest thoughts.
56 Chris Rea Rock’s great survivor on industry sharks, strokes, cancer and why he’s earned the right to sing the blues.
60 Thin Lizzy They were just another rock band, then they released Jailbreak and joined the A-listers. Now they had to stay there.
66 Steve Winwood From teen sensation to Traffic, Blind Faith, session work and solo star, it’s been a long, successful and gem-studded career.
72 Bruce Dickinson Fencer, author, pro pilot, cancer survivor… He’s not just the fronman with one of the world’s biggest bands, you know.
76 Tyler Bryant How a chance meeting as an 11-year-old lead to him becoming a shit-hot guitarist and playing with some of rock’s superstars.
80 Lou Reed Moving to London and hooking up with Bowie, they created the classic Transformer, the defining record of Lou’s career.
MICK FLEETWOOD: DANIEL SULLIVAN
34 Fleetwood Mac Where did it all go wrong? Then right. Then wrong again. Then… You really, really couldn’t make this story up.
NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE 242
Regulars 14 The Dirt
Classic Rock bids a heartfelt goodbye, and thank you for the music, to Walter Becker, one half of Steely Dan… How to get Gene Simmons to visit your house ($50,000 is all it takes)… Welcome back H.e.a.t, Gentle Giant and Galactic Cowboys… Say hello to Lukas Nelson and Gold Key, say goodbye as well to Holger Czukay, Dave Hlubek, Grant Hart, Don Williams…
21 Raw Power
Gibson guitars and watchmaker Raymond Weil team up for a timepiece that pays tribute to an icon: the Gibson Les Paul.
26 The Stories Behind The Songs The Cranberries How a storming left-turn, an incendiary, furious track about the bombings in Northern Ireland, made them massive.
28 Q&A David Crosby The political and outspoken former Byrd on protests, life and death and the Pope possibly being a big fan.
32 Six Things You Need To Know About Kadavar Their face fuzz gets them into trouble and their new album, Rough Times, is a first-class trip. Meet the beardy Berlin trio.
New albums from Robert Plant, Ronnie Montrose, Motorpsycho, Europe, L.A. Guns, Walter Trout, The Professionals, Lionize… Reissues from Whitesnake, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Jam, Steve Miller Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Sex Pistols, Montrose, Nick Oliveri… DVDs, films and books on Bruce Dickinson, The Who, Lou Reed, Steely Dan, L7, Jeff Beck, XTC… Live reviews of Psychedelic Furs, Voodoo Six, Band Of Horses…
102 Buyer’s Guide Mick Ronson He played on some of Bowie’s greatest records, but the talents of the guitar great from Hull stretched much further.
108 Live Previews
Must-see gigs from The Doobie Brothers, Dweezil Zappa, Redd Kross, Mount Holly and Jonny Lang. Plus full gig listings – find out who’s playing where and when.
130 Heavy Load Ricky Warwick
The Black Star Riders frontman on the bands he’s been in, school, fighting, underage drinking and uncomfortable clogs.
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The making of Bad Reputation.
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ifty years. Half a century. Five decades. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, ultimately it’s a very, very long period of time. As the old cliché goes, you get less time for murder… While many bands began their illustrious ascendancy back in the heady days of 1967, there aren’t that many of them who are still very much a going concern. But Fleetwood Mac are one such entity. And this month we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of rock’s greatest, longest-running soap opera. It’s also a ﬁrst for Classic Rock, because while the Mac have been mentioned in our pages a million times during the magazine’s existence, it’s the ﬁrst time we’ve put the band on our cover. The Mac of today – Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – is very different to the Mac that guitarist Peter Green put together all those years ago, and Mick Fleetwood takes us through the early years of the band that bears his name, starting on page 34. That’s followed by the rest of the Mac’s long drama. Elsewhere we sit down for a chinwag with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson as he’s poised to release his autobiography, celebrate 40 years of Thin Lizzy’s Bad Reputation album, chat to Foo-in-Chief Dave Grohl and so much more…
THE COVER: FLEETWOOD MAC IMAGE MANIPULATION BY MAGICTORCH
Siân Llewellyn, Editor
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This month’s contributors HENRY YATES
Henry Yates has written for music titles including Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and NME, and is the co-author of Walter Trout’s official biography. This month he revisits the tumultuous early history of Fleetwood Mac, and enjoys a plain-spoken encounter with the unsinkable Chris Rea. More at www.yates creativecopywriting.com
Mike is one half of Brighton design studio Magictorch who’ve been chipping in with CR covers for years now. “I thoroughly enjoyed this one,” he says. “We were channelling Tango In the Night as there’s a bit more visual inspiration in the source material than their other covers. I know it’s cooler to prefer the Peter Green years but I’ve always had a soft spot for Rumours!”
Blimey. We didn’t half keep ‘Diamond’ Dave Everley busy this issue. Among other things, he unravelled the last 20 years of the Fleetwood Mac saga (p48), spent some time in church repenting his sins – and hanging out with Dan Reed (p114), interrogated Bruce Dickinson (p72) and also found the time to get the lowdown on hotshot Tyler Bryant (p76). Phew!
Stereo Can also be played on mono equipment
SIR K 66 087 (2SRK 1987)
Germany: Z France: WE 666
Playing this month: The Dust Coda, The Dust Coda
Grave Pleasures, Motherblood
Polly Glass Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
The Tubes, Young And Rich
Ian Dury, New Boots And Panties!!
Sons Of Apollo, Psychotic Symphony
Marcel Anders, Geoff Barton, Tim Batcup, Mark Beaumont, Max Bell, Essi Berelian, Mark Blake, Simon Bradley, Paul Brannigan, Rich Chamberlain, Stephen Dalton, Johnny Dee, Malcolm Dome, Lee Dorrian, Mark Ellen, Claudia Elliott, Paul Elliott, Dave Everley, Jerry Ewing, Hugh Fielder, Gary Graff, Michael Hann, John Harris, Nick Hasted, Barney Hoskyns, Jon Hotten, Rob Hughes, Neil Jeffries, Emma Johnston, Dom Lawson, Paul Lester, Ken McIntyre, Lee Marlow, Gavin Martin, Alexander Milas, Paul Moody, Grant Moon, Kate Mossman, Kris Needs, Bill Nelson, Paul Rees, Chris Roberts, David Quantick, Johnny Sharp, Sleazegrinder, Terry Staunton, David Stubbs, Everett True, Jaan Uhelszki, Mick Wall, Paddy Wells, Philip Wilding, Henry Yates, Youth Thanks this issue to Louise Brock (design) and Mark Wheatley/Justin Hood (production)
Ami Barwell, Adrian Boot, Dick Barnatt, Dave Brolan, Alison Clarke, Zach Cordner, Fin Costello, Henry Diltz, Kevin Estrada, James Fortune, Jill Furmanovsky, Herb Greene, Bob Gruen, Michael Halsband, Ross Halﬁn, Mick Hutson, Will Ireland, Robert Knight, Marie Korner, Barry Levine, Jim Marshall, John McMurtrie, Gered Mankowitz, David Montgomery, Kevin Nixon, Denis O’Regan, Barry Plummer, Ron Pownall, Neal Preston, Michael Putland, Mick Rock, Pennie Smith, Stephen Stickler, Leigh A. van der Byl, Chris Walter, Mark Weiss, Barrie Wentzell, Baron Wolman, Michael Zagaris, Neil Zlozower. Cover image manipulation: Mike Chipperﬁeld @ Magictorch Cover photos: Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Green, Bob Welch, Danny Kirwan – Getty / John McVie - Photoshot / Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood - Alamy / Jeremy Spencer - Photofeatures
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Thank you and good night. Grant Hart March 18, 1961 – September 13, 2017
Bob Mould has led the tributes to his Hüsker Dü bandmate Grant Hart, who at the age of 56 has lost a battle with liver cancer. “We made amazing music together,” the guitarist said of the Minnesota-based group’s former drummer. “When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared.” Hart was also a member of the alternative rock trio Nova Mob.
Don Williams May 27, 1939 – September 8, 2017
With 17 country music smash hits to his name, including You’re My Best Friend and Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good, Don Williams was a colossus of the genre. He was as a member of the Pozo Seco Singers before hitting the solo trail in 1971. The Texan singer-songwriter had been suffering from emphysema. He was 78 years old.
Murray Lerner May 8, 1927 – September 2, 2017
A filmmaker who captured some of the most iconic moments in rock history, Murray Lerner has died of kidney failure, at the age of 90. His film Festival showed Bob Dylan playing amplified rock for the first time, and Message To Love was a warts-‘n’-all depiction of the 1970s Isle of Wight Festival.
Jason Corsaro July 27, 1959 – August 16, 2017
New Yorker Jason Corsaro, a mixer, engineer and producer who worked with artists including the Rolling Stones, the Power Station, Duran Duran, The Cars, Paul Simon, Soundgarden and Chic, has died of stomach cancer, at the age of 58.
Iron Maiden release a live package, recorded on their most recent bout of touring, on November 17. Produced by Tony Newton and Maiden bass player Steve Harris, The Book Of Souls: Live Chapter is available via Warner Music on CD, deluxe CD and vinyl audio formats, and a concert film is available to stream free online or as a digital download. As this issue went to press, all four members of Polish death metal band Decapitated were being held in custody in the US on charges of kidnapping and rape. They stand accused of assaulting a woman on their tour bus following a show in Spokane, Washington. They plan to contest all of the allegations brought against them. Singer Mitchel Emms has left The Treatment to pursue other ventures. The split is completely amicable. Currently writing a follow-up to their third album, last year’s Generation Me, the Cambridge band are looking for a replacement with “a great voice, a killer attitude and a passion for rock‘n’roll”.
Will Youatt Died 13 September, 2017
Best known for a spell with Welsh rockers Man, Swansea-born bassist and singer Michael ‘Will’ Youatt also played with the King Bees, Pete Brown’s Piblokto, Quicksand and Deke Leonard’s Iceberg, among others. He was 67 years old.
Jane Train Died August 23, 2017
Bob Seger says he is releasing a new studio album in November. The 72-year-old singer’s last release was Ride Out in 2014.
March 24, 1938 – September 5, 2017 Holger Czukay, the bassist and a co-founder of the pioneering German band Can, has died at the age of 79. He was found by a neighbour at his apartment, converted from Can’s old studio just outside Cologne. The cause of death had yet to be revealed as this issue went to press. “I never intended to become a rock or pop musician,” Czukay said back in 1994. “What I wanted to become was a creative person.” Having studied under acclaimed but controversial composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in the 1960s, and subsequently working briefly as a music teacher, Czukay performed on nine of Can’s albums as well as engineering them. Alongside Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Faust, Can were front-runners of the following decade’s krautrock scene, mixing ambient and electronic music with rock and avant garde.
After leaving Can in 1977 for a solo career, he worked as a producer and/or collaborator with Brian Eno, Japan singer David Sylvian, U2 guitarist The Edge, Public Image Limited’s Jah Wobble, the Eurythmics and the German band Trio. He also appeared on the 1992 album The Mermaid, a project that featured Peter Gabriel and Annie Lennox. Czukay became a pioneer of sampling before the term was even invented, using random snippets of sound recorded from short-wave radios and pasting them into recordings. Back in April, under the name The Can Project, a variation of the group’s line-up that included Can’s ever-present keyboard player Irmin Schmidt and American vocalist and early Can member Malcolm Mooney reconvened without Czukay to perform with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. DL
Dave Hlubek August 28, 1951 – September 3, 2017 Dave Hlubek, a co-founding guitarist of southern rock band Molly Hatchet, has died at the age of 66, reportedly having suffered a heart attack. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Hlubek also sang lead vocals for Molly Hatchet in the group’s early days before the addition of Danny Joe Brown in 1974. He was part of the six-man line-up who recorded the group’s genre-classic self-titled debut, released in 1978, on which the guitar playing was split with Duane Roland and Steve Holland. Hlubek remained with the band for a further five albums before being replaced by Bobby Ingram due to self-confessed “unbearable” levels of rockstar excess and substance abuse.
Ingram went on to take over the running of Molly Hatchet, something that Hlubek found hard to stomach. In 2005, while he was a member of Skinny Molly, he told Classic Rock: “The name once really meant something, until somebody [Ingram] got a hold of it by a clerical error. I hear these days they do good shows and bad ones, but all things come to an end and, believe me, there’s a finale on the way.” However, later that same year Hlubek rejoined Molly Hatchet, and continued to play with them while his health allowed. “Dave will be missed but never forgotten, as the music lives on through his legacy in Molly Hatchet,” said a statement from the current band. DL
Adrenaline Mob’s tour manager has become the second victim of the car crash that killed the group’s bassist David Z. Forty-eight-year-old Jane Train (her real name), passed away following the injuries she suffered in the crash.
A new bookazine, titled 100 Greatest Rock Albums Of All Time (pictured) is set to reveal the best-ever rock releases, as voted for by the readers of Classic Rock. It’s on sale on October 28, priced £9.99.
Walter Becker February 20, 1950 – September 03, 2017 Walter Becker, the bassist, guitarist and co-founder of that drew from many other areas to produce something Steely Dan, has passed away due to as yet undisclosed causes. unique. Featuring the talents of almost 40 players including The 67-year-old was due to appear with Steely Dan at the Michael McDonald on backing vocals, 1977s Aja, their first upcoming BluesFest shows in the UK and Ireland. According platinum-selling record, is widely considered a watermark for to his Steely Dan partner Donald Fagen, Becker had been both the band and for the genre of jazz rock. “recovering from a procedure” of an unspecified nature. As über-perfectionists, both themselves and the poor sods Back in the summer, having been advised by that they hired, touring was largely undertaken doctors not to leave his Maui home, Becker sat out under sufferance. Quick witted and dry as the THE STARS the band’s concerts in New York and Los Angeles, PAY TRIBUTE Sahara, together Becker and Fagen struck fear where he was deputised by Larry Calton, the noted into interviewers, especially when grilled in Walter was a musical session guitarist who appeared on Steely Dan’s union. When Classic Rock spoke to them during icon and wonderful 1980 album, Gaucho, among others. the promotion of their comeback disc Two guy. My condolences Soon after the loss of his colleague, Fagen said in Against Nature, writer Philip Wilding began – not to his family and a statement: “I intend to keep the music we created unreasonably – by asking why they had felt it to Donald. Larry Carlton together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan necessary to take a 20-year break. band”, confirming their spot at BluesFest, though “I exploded sometime around 1980, I think, He was a gifted as this issue of Classic Rock went to press Donald but they put all the pieces back together again,” musician/composer, a poet of real wit and also cancelled the remainder of a tour with his responded Becker, known to have had a drug intellect. Always other band, the Nightflyers, due to illness. period during the time-frame concerned. “We insightful, brutally Becker and Fagen met in 1967 while studying at didn’t really fall out or anything, I think we were honest at times also usually hysterically Bard College in New York. Together the pair forged just sick of each other. We’d been in the studio for funny. We were all an instant writing connection. Fagen recalls: twelve years, throughout the 1970s, and twelve lucky to know him. “We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the years is a long time for any decade.” Michael McDonald 1920s through the mid-60s), WC Fields, the Marx In his story, Wilding would describe Becker Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, (“the one with the glasses”) and Fagen (“the one Steely Dan music Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to with the permanent scowl”) as “achingly droll touched me deeply. Steve Lukather, mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.” – exasperating so at times”, while they in turn Toto “They never came out of their room, they taunted him for the way he spoke. “Is this a bad line stayed up all night,” adds Terence Boylan, another or have you got a thick accent?” demanded Becker. Steely Dan took rock probably the closest to musician based at Bard. “They looked like ghosts “You’re Welsh? So it is your accent. Well, there’s pure jazz it has ever – black turtlenecks, and skin so white that it nothing we can do about that, at this point…” been. Their style was looked like yogurt. Absolutely no activity, chainIn rather more serious tones while talking to the innovative and truly inimitable. Walter smoking Lucky Strikes and dope.” Independent newspaper, Becker said of the breakdefined a guitar style Four years later the pair followed an associate up: “We had pursued an idea beyond the point that was all his own. called Gary Katz who had become a staff producer where it was practical. That album [Gaucho] took Sad to see him go. Brian May, Queen for ABC Records, relocating to California to about two years, and we were working on it all of become staff writers for the label, where they that time. It was a very painful process.” Steely Dan was formed the nucleus of a revolving group of In the wake of Two Against Nature, which won a one-of-a-kind group. The world is forever musicians known as Steely Dan, named after four Grammy Awards including Album Of The grateful for their music. an oversized, steam-powered strap-on vibrator Year, Steely Dan would make one further studio Warren Haynes, they’d read about in Naked Lunch, a novel by album, Everything Must Go, and tour whenever they Gov’t Mule William S. Burroughs. felt in the mood or necessity called – which wasn’t A unique artist in Having abandoned the notion of forming an often. It’s unknown whether Fagen will continue a world of imitators. actual band that at first included guitarists Jeff to make records under the Steely Dan umbrella Michael Des ‘Skunk’ Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim without his partner, though we suspect not. Barres Hodder and vocalist David Palmer, over the next Neither do we know whether Carlton will appear What brilliant music he decade Becker and Fagen drew in the cream of the with Fagen at the BluesFest dates. and Donald created musicians’ world to create their Steely Dan albums When Becker and Fagen were inducted into the together. What a gift to the world. – often esoteric in nature but smooth as silk, and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001 they spurned David Longdon, pieced together in the studio with levels of care and the traditional acceptance speech to thank all of Big Big Train scrutiny that separated the men from the boys. the musicians that they’d worked with (“It’s a very I’m truly sad that Says Fagen: “Walter had a very rough childhood long list”) and to take questions from the celebrityI never got to meet one – I’ll spare you the details. Luckily, he was smart filled audience, before Becker demanded of the of my all-time favourite as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great gathering: “Who was the original drummer in the mentors. Julian Lennon songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, Mothers Of Invention? After all, this is the Rock including his own, and hysterically funny. Like And Roll Hall Of Fame; some of you must know a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of this information.” creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and Yes, Walter Becker was cranky. Besides that cantankerous transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art.” disposition he demanded that musicians push themselves From Can’t Buy A Thrill in 1972 to the aforementioned Gaucho, to the very limits, but the results of his lifetime’s work – not Steely Dan ruled the FM Radio airwaves, seducing their to mention sales of around 40 million copies – speak for listeners with an erudite, often darkly humoured style of rock themselves. He will be very much missed. DL This month The Dirt was compiled by Lee Dorrian, Dave Everley, Ian Fortnam, Paul Henderson, Jamie Hibbard, Rob Hughes, Dave Ling, Will Simpson
Gene Simmons with his new box set, The Vault.
Get a home visit from Gene Simmons! For $50,000 he’ll hand-deliver his new box set to your door. Gene Simmons celebrates 50 years in music with a limited-edition boxed set featuring 150 never-before-released tracks. What’s more, for a mere $50,000 (£37,000) the Kiss bassist/vocalist is offering to travel to your home, deliver the package and even hang around for a couple of hours to chat. Why would anyone spend more than most people earn in a year for that? We’ll let Gene’s biggest fan – himself – answer that. “The Vault is the largest box set of all time; it’s almost three feet tall and it weighs forty pounds, and it spans a lifetime, from my very first song, My Uncle Is A Raft, which was recorded in 1966, right up to 2016,” he tells us. “It has songs I wrote with Bob Dylan, and three more featuring Edward and Alex Van Halen; Joe Perry from Aerosmith is on there. All of the Kiss guys, too. This thing has taken eight years to collate. “Let me be blunt. Thanks to my fans, I’m rich,” he continues, “and I’m so proud of The Vault that at my own personal cost I will fly around the world and hand-deliver it. I’ll even pet your dog, too.” The Vault is available in various editions, so if the thought of a home visit from Gene is too terrifying there are also other ways of receiving it, details of which you can find at www.genesimmonsvault.com After years of acrimony, Simmons recently renewed his friendship with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley when the two of them sat down to write two songs together. Now it seems likely they will share a stage together, as part of a benefit concert in support of victims of Hurricane Harvey, held in St Paul, Minnesota on September 20. “People have lost their homes and need a lot of help, and the show is already sold out,” says Simmons. “Don Felder, The Jayhawks and Cheap Trick will all perform, with the Gene Simmons Band as headliners. I suspect Ace will try to jump up on stage, and we will play together again.” Now that Frehley’s demons are vanquished, is it possible he could re-join Kiss? “We tried three times, that’s enough,” Simmons replies. “Ace will always be a member of the family, but it’s time to let it be.” DL 18 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
The shooting of a documentary film about Lynyrd Skynyrd has been halted due to a row over the involvement of a former member of the band. Skynyrd’s current guitarist Gary Rossington and representatives of former members Ronnie Van Zandt and Steve Gaines, who both perished in the 1977 accident, have sued Cleopatra Entertainment, the makers of Street Survivor: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash, for hiring the band’s former drummer Artimus Pyle as the story’s writer. Mick Fleetwood believes that Fleetwood Mac’s 2018 tour won’t be their swansong. “In my mind it isn’t [the final tour], and everyone in the band has decided that it’s not,” he tells Rolling Stone of the upcoming 18-month world tour.
The 50-year career of David Bowie (pictured) recently reached a major milestone with the late singer’s one billionth stream on Spotify. Bowie’s Top 10 most streamed tracks are: Heroes, Let’s Dance, Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Starman, Rebel Rebel, Moonage Daydream, Changes, Ziggy Stardust and, perhaps surprisingly, Modern Love. Jim Lea, the former Slade bassist, makes a personal appearance at the Robin 2 in Bilston on November 5 for the first official showing of a DVD filmed at the same venue in 2002, titled For One Night Only. Proceeds will go to Cancer Research UK and Dementia UK.
Galactic Cowboys The metal-with-a pop-centre band return – and this time they’ll be careful not to be seen as "King’s X's little brother”. Galactic Cowboys sit near the top of the league table of Great Lost Bands Of The 90s. Like a heavier version of fellow Texans King’s X, the Houston four-piece pitched themselves as Metallica-meetsThe Beatles, welding the heavy-duty riffing of the former to the latter’s anything-goes approach. Seventeen years after they split up, the Cowboys have returned with a new album, Long Way Back To The Moon. Vocalist Ben Huggins explains how they achieved lift-off again. Whose idea was it to get back together? Bill Evans, who is acting as our rep for [new label] Mascot, called Monty [Colvin, bass] three years ago, asking if we had any interest in getting back together. Monty said: “Let me make some calls.” I was like: “Yes, I’ll do it.” I gotta tell you, I have missed Galactic Cowboys for a long time. I was the last one holding on back then. I didn’t want the band to end.
You were closely associated with King’s X. Too closely, maybe? Those guys were our friends, they were great for us, but it was tough being King’s X’s little brother. It did stifle us a little bit. I don’t regret it, but I just wish we’d done more with other people as well. The Cowboys had a unique sound. Did audiences get what you were doing back then? It confused some people. We did our first real tour supporting Overkill, who were just balls-to-thewall thrash metal. We went on and did our thing with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, and people were just getting angry. I got dragged into the pit by my hair at a club in Pittsburgh. I had to fight my way out and back on stage, but I carried on playing. It was like I had been baptised by the crowd: “Okay, they didn’t kill me and now they’re getting into it.”
“I got dragged into the pit by my hair, but I carried on playing.”
Why did you split up? Offers for tours were drying up, we had our budget for the last album [2000’s Let It Go] cut, people were starting to grumble. It was a spiralling thing. You were originally signed to Geffen, the same label as Nirvana, and your debut album came out a month before Nevermind. Did that help or hinder your band? I can give you a quote from Gary Gersh, who signed us. They were stoked about us, we were having constant conversations with the label. And then when Nirvana took off it was like [makes shutting-down sound] – nothing. They put out one more album and then they lost interest in us: “Yeah, you’re gonna have to leave now.”
Individually you’re all Christians, but you never pushed Galactic Cowboys as a Christian band. Why not? I’m not a minister, I’m not a preacher, I’m not an evangelist. I’m a singer in a rock band. If you hire a Christian plumber, do you ask him to do a sermon before he clears your drain? Do you wonder if the world needs a new Galactic Cowboys album? The world didn’t need the first six or seven! We did it because we wanted to do it. There’s something about creating this thing that’s totally your own, with your patented sound, that’s totally fulfilling. Yeah, there’s some selfishness there, but I don’t care. DE Long Way Back To The Moon is released on November 17 via Mascot.
“I’m always so confused when people say that my songs sound so different from each other. To me it just sounds like rock’n’roll.”
& Promise Of The Real A famous dad and Neil Young’s seal of approval help, but this band show lots of real promise.
Back in the day, when I was trying to get a record deal, the labels would tell me that it was too varied. But it all seemed cohesive to me.” The new album features a diverse range of guests, from members of Brooklyn quartet Lucius to Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson himself and, on piano, “For a long time I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer,” says Lukas Nelson. Lukas’s Aunt Bobbie, now in her 80s. It’s the sextet’s fifth studio album, but “I was really into skateboarding and surfing too, but then music took over.” feels very much like a landmark. “I’ve got some new members in the band For all his early ambitions, there was a certain inevitability about the and they’ve added a lot of space,” Lukas says. “And we’ve built it up a little career path he would eventually take. Lukas is the son of country legend more, with a bigger sound. It’s a step up, for sure.” Willie Nelson, and for the past nine years has been fronting his This new-found authority is partly down to their recent FOR FANS OF... own band, Promise Of The Real. “Learning to play guitar and collaboration with one of their heroes. In 2015, having been writing songs is how I got close to my dad,” says Lukas, whose impressed by their performance at Farm Aid, Neil Young first musical memory is being on stage with The Highwaymen, enlisted Promise Of The Real to back him on The Monsanto Years. the country supergroup formed by his father, Johnny Cash, Merle Immediately afterwards, they became his touring band. Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. “I feel that the communication “Sometimes you play golf with somebody who’s much better between us is a big part of why I play music.” than you are and you start to get this surge of confidence and Taking their name from a lyric in Neil Young’s 1974 tune Walk play better,” says Nelson. “That’s what it was like with Neil. “Neil Young has On, Promise Of The Real hit the sweet spot between country, There’s a mutual respect there, and we’ve learned so much just released so many southern blues and classic rock’n’roll. Latest album Lukas Nelson from the way he keeps a constant focus on his music and his art.” records that have & Promise Of The Real stirs memories of The Band, Leon Russell, Nelson also reveals that there’s a new Young/POTR album influenced me, but I also Delaney & Bonnie and Glen Campbell. Plus, naturally, Neil Young. love Harry Nilsson,” on the way soon. “It’s a studio record, and the songs are so says Lukas Nelson. “When it comes to the guys I grew up listening to – Neil, The positive,” he says. “There’s a lot of love in there, it’s uplifting “I think he’s one of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan – no two songs sound and it’s quite a departure from The Monsanto Years. I think it’s greatest singers in the whole of rock’n’roll. He the same on their records,” he explains of his modus operandi. going to blow people’s minds.” RH did an amazing version “I’m always so confused when people say that my songs sound of The Beatles’ Mother so different from each other. To me it just sounds like rock’n’roll. Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real is out now via Fantasy. Nature’s Son on Harry , and his style of production is just so beautiful too.”
Riches from the rock underground
MORLY GREY The Only Truth, 1972, Starshine, USA. £700+ Responsible for one of the better locally released US heavypsych LPs of the early 70s, Morly Grey formed in Alliance, Ohio by brothers Tim Roller (guitars) and Mark Roller (bass, lead vocals). Initially a fourpiece, they released a single on their own label in 1969, before stripping down to a power trio, with two different drummers on each side. Limited to 1,000 copies, it has rightly become a sought-after rarity. Opening with Peace Officer, you’re given a good indication of what the rest of the album has to offer; essentially heavy but not all-out bludgeon, featuring West Coast vibes morphing into folk-rock and progressive blues, with a vast array of acid guitar motifs. There appears to be an element of Christianity in their general message, though it’s hard to ascertain. But it’s the 17 minute title-track, The Only Truth, which is the standout here. It
‘Limited to 1,000 copies, it has rightly become sought-after.’
Steven Wilson has added a third night at London’s Royal Albert Hall, on March 29. Roger Waters will bring his Us + Them tour to Europe in 2018. The former Pink Floyd man has already announced six dates in Germany and Austria for next May and June and is set to announce shows in several other territories, including the UK. Bassist Paul Gray is back in The Damned as successor to the long-serving Stu West. The band are currently in New York with producer Tony Visconti, working on their eleventh album.
Mike Patton [pictured] says that Faith No More have no immediate plans to work again. The singer told a radio interviewer: “We’re kind of on an extended break, and if something happens again then it’ll happen organically and naturally, but I kind of don’t think it will.” Don’t hold your breath for a new solo album from Ozzy Osbourne – it could be a long wait. “I would like to do another record, but it’s wasting money,” says the singer. “Nobody’s buying.”
H.e.a.t The Swedish band return with a fifth album and a new sound that has so far provoked some fiery reactions... early on h.e.a.t were fêted as melodic rock’s great white hopes. Serving to enhance the extremes of the band’s sound, the addition of Swedish Idol winner Erik Grönwall changed all that. As the Stockholm-based quintet release their fifth album, Into The Great Unknown, Grönwall reveals why they are unfazed by the internet shitstorm caused by its poppier sound. H.e.a.t disappeared for two years to make this album, which was a big risk considering the way the band’s career was taking off – even in the UK. It was a scary decision but we needed some perspective. Had we just made the record in between touring, [the music] wouldn’t have matured anywhere near the way it did.
Society or Eye Of The Storm. Yeah it would, but the way we look at things, nobody remembers a coward. On the Facebook page you’ve almost stoked those fires. It’s like you’re enjoying the controversy. Well, in a way we do. One of the things that I like most about social media is that the fans can speak their mind, and we get to answer them directly. What about the fan who said: “It’s a shit song, but I still love H.e.at. Hopefully this will be your Kiss Dynasty moment”? I saw that [laughs]. But we’re really not offended. I believe that when people hear the whole album they’ll understand.
“I’ve nothing against AOR, I’d rather people think we play rock’n’roll.”
Its first single, Time On Our Side, has really set the cat among the pigeons. One fan dismissed it as “disco-synth”. Is that a fair description? [Laughing] Yeah, absolutely. And we totally expected those strong reactions but we’ve always written the songs that we feel are right for H.e.a.t. We also write according to our influences and those have changed a bit. It took me ten spins to understand this album, so for fans it will take even longer. Can you swear that making this record was about pure artistic growth, or were managers and label staff saying the band should break into a new, younger market? It was nothing like that. It turned out the way it did because we spent some time apart and got into other types of music. For instance, Jimmy [Jay, bassist] has got into bands like Muse and Imagine Dragons. It would have been more sensible to return with a traditionally H.e.a.t-sounding song like Bastard Of
Circa the previous album, you said to Classic Rock that next time around: “We want to make the sound even broader; the pop bits poppier and the heavy bits even more colossal.” That’s exactly what we’ve done. We knew the band had to change; that’s inevitable. H.e.a.t have been hailed as the figureheads of a genre that some felt was on its last legs. Is that why you had to get out? If you were to psychoanalyse me, that might have something to do with it but I have nothing against AOR, I’d rather people think that we play rock’n’roll. How did the down-time affect your dreams of rock stardom? We are hungrier than ever and cannot wait to begin touring again. This band is even more dedicated than ever. DL Into The Great Unknown is out now via earMUSIC.
H.E.A.T: KLARA FOWLER
features some truly in your face hard-rock action, with atmospheric moves and mesmerising guitar dream sequences. Not long after this release, Morly Grey changed their name to The Roller Bros band, releasing a more commercial sounding album the next year. The brothers continued to play locally up until recent times, recording another Morly Grey album during the mid-90s, yet to see the light of day. The Only Truth is a very accomplished musical work, which should have had a bigger audience. A proclamation on the back sleeve states: “This record was specifically recorded to be played at a high volume”. Amen to that. LD
Led Zeppelin’s record label, Warner Music Group, are said to be planning a “series of high-profile events” in 2018 to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, one of which is the erection of a statue of John Bonham in his home town during the year of what would have been the late drummer’s 70th birthday.
Time To Celebrate Swiss watchmakers pay tribute to an iconic American guitar. has a circular guilloché motif featuring six chords studded by fret-shaped hour markers. At 12 o’clock are the names of the famous guitar manufacturer and the legendary Les Paul signature, and a splitdiamond inlay – a distinctive feature of the Les Paul Custom guitar – sits next to the date window. All of which is attached to your wrist by an ebony calf leather strap. Mention the word ‘battery’ in such esteemed company and you’ll get raised eyebrows and a sharp intake of breath. This watch has a self-winding movement that ensures an approximately 46-hour power reserve for all but the most sloth-like wearer. This collector’s model is issued in a 300piece limited numbered edition, and comes in an exclusive presentation box inspired by the famous Gibson guitar cases. If we could afford it, we’d have one – on each hand! £2,895, from Raymond-weil.com Paul Henderson
When legendary guitar makers Gibson and acclaimed Swiss watchmakers Raymond Weil get together to celebrate arguably the most iconic guitar that has ever been produced, you know instinctively that the result is not going to be something akin to what you might get when Gene Simmons comes up with yet another ‘memorabilia’ idea, or a wristwatch with a cute picture of Mickey Mouse that you might find in a Disney shop. With the Freelancer, Ramond Weil pay their respects to a legend with a wristwatch that is “elegant, with a touch of rebellion, and embodies its free spirit”. That’s what they say. What we say is that they’ve come up with a stunning timepiece that we agree is elegant, and is also striking, beautiful and, to use a phrase that this column is quite fond of, reassuringly expensive. The body of the 43.5 mm case is made of steel and its tachymeter bezel is enhanced with black PVD inspired by the lacquer on the Gibson Black Beauty guitar. The board
The Les Paul has gone way beyond being just
If you’re going to celebrate a guitar, then the Gibson Les Paul is going to be top of most people’s lists for the honour. Invented/developed by the guitarist and inventor whose model name it bears, and launched by Gibson in 1952, it went on to be restyled in many different variations (Standard, Custom, Junior, Studio, Special) and was/ is used by the majority of the greatest rock guitarists ever to strike a power chord. When it was first teamed with a Marshall amp in the late 60s, notably by Eric Clapton, the soun d – which most people first heard on John Mayall’s 1966 album Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton (aka The Beano) album – almost overnight became the Holy Grail for rock guitarists. Clapton, Paul Kossoff (pictured), Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore and Billy Gibbons are just a few of the legion of guitar legends whose main guitar was or is the now truly iconic Les Paul. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 21
Yes, who play a 50th anniversary tour next year, have cancelled the remaining dates on their North American Yestival tour following the unexpected death of Virgil Howe, the son of guitarist Steve Howe. The Amorettes play a special charity concert at The Tolbooth in Stirling on November 3, in aid of the Strathcarron Hospice. On their only headlining show of 2017, support comes from Edinburgh’s The Rising Souls.
This month, @jamiehibbard is elegantly wasted in these three sartorial stand-outs. Red Wing X Eat Dust Pecos cowboy boot When two uber-cool labels decide to get together, it always piques our interest at SDM. But when those two labels are the purveyors of great boots, Red Wing, and Dutch denim house Eat Dust, we lose our mind a little bit more! Here they’ve come together to produce ED’s favourite silhouette, the Pecos cowboy boot, available only in red and in the UK only at the London Red Wing store. £315, @RedWingHeritage Red Wing Store, London. Needles Rebuild 7 Cut Rock tee Ok stick with us on this one… Needles are an eccentric Japanese label who take seven different fabrics to create a unique rock band shirt – no two are the same. Bands covered are some of Needles’ favourites, such as the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Slipknot. £115 @EndClothing EndClothing.com Penfield Thurman bomber jacket Well that summer didn’t come to much in the end, did it? What you need now is a good, go anywhere, do anything jacket. You can’t go wrong with a bomber, and this is just that. £115 @PenfieldUSA Penfield.com 22 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
According to Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore will not be returning to Deep Purple in any capacity – including a one-off show, an idea mooted by The Man In Black himself. Despite stating “there’s no great animosity any more”, the singer comments: “Ian Paice puts it best: why would I go back to that misery again?” As this issue went to press Evanescence announced a series of orchestral shows. They play London Royal Festival Hall March 30/31, Manchester Apollo April 2, Nottingham Arena 3, Glasgow Armadillo 5 and Sheffield City Hall 6. The US band’s fourth album, Synthesis, is out on November 10.
The 50th anniversary of Ten Years After (pictured) is being commemorated with a 10-CD boxed set, released on November 10 via Chrysalis. Limited to 1,500 copies, The Albums 1967-1974 brings together the group’s first nine records plus a disc of previously unreleased material.
Gentle Giant The prog band from yesteryear have had tracks remixed by Steven Wilson and there could be more on the way. Formed from the ashes of psych-pop hitmakers Simon Dupree And The Big Sound in 1970, Gentle Giant were the quintessential prog band, fusing soul, jazz, rock and classical music into a complex whole. Lack of commercial success failed to deter them, with the band surviving for a decade before splitting up. Major fan Steven Wilson has now remixed selected tracks for the sumptuous Three Piece Suite. Founder member and lead vocalist Derek Shulman, one of three brothers in Gentle Giant, explains all… How did Three Piece Suite come about? Steven’s worked on our stuff before and suggested doing songs from the first three albums. Going back into the vaults brought back the magic of that period. We were growing up as musicians at a time when it felt like everything was possible.
How close did Elton John, who played keyboards for Simon Dupree, come to joining Gentle Giant? He was serious about it. We’d told him that we were going to dissolve Simon Dupree and do something new. He said he’d like to be a part of it, even though he was trying something on his own. In fact, myself and Ray [Shulman] went up to Watford with him, just as he met Bernie [Taupin] for the first time. So he wasn’t begging for a job, but he was auditioning, for sure. How did the band function with three brothers? It was archetypal sibling rivalry. Phil and I used to be at each other’s throats with Ray as peacemaker. The other members used to hide. We toured extensively with Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson remembers going into our dressing room after one show and walking back out immediately, because we were having such a loud argument about who’d played a bum note. He thought we were going to start throwing chairs at each other.
“Elton John said he’d like to be a part of Gentle Giant.”
Gentle Giant once stated that you deliberately avoided being commercial… That was actually a quote by my brother Phil, who’s always been full of satire, cynicism and irony. Yet there was also a millstone around our necks because we’d had a big pop hit as Simon Dupree [1967’s Kites]. And we were bagged as a prog band. In truth, we wanted to have as many fans as we could. How important was producer Tony Visconti in your early days? Tony was incredible on the first couple of albums. He was a teacher too. We didn’t have any money to stay in London while we were recording, so he allowed us to sleep on his floor in Putney. It was fascinating being around him at the same time that he was working with people like Bowie and T.Rex.
Anything else on the horizon? We’re looking at remixing Free Hand , with a couple of out-takes. And there’s a 20-album box set of live shows coming next year. The albums were sketches for the live gigs, which offered something completely different to the studio songs. Will Gentle Giant ever reunite? No. Trying to recreate something we did decades ago wouldn’t make sense to any of us. You can’t rewrite history and one thing I’d never want to be is a parody of myself. The band was never about cash or a quick killing. Being paupers and enjoying our music was much better for us. RH Three Piece Suite is out now via Soulfood and is reviewed on page 93.
“We made a conscious decision not to look at what our contemporaries in punk and hardcore were doing.”
Say what you want about these Floyd-loving punk/metalheads, just don’t use the word ‘prog’.
Apart from keeping his punk cred intact, an extra issue for Sears has come from stepping out from behind the mixing desk and getting in front of the mic. “That hasn’t affected mine and Lags’s relationship, cos we know how each other works,” he points out. “It’s more of a ball-ache for me. I’m Even if you don’t know about Gold Key themselves yet, you might be now involved in every different part of the process! For a control freak, it aware of some of the members’ ‘day job’ bands: guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ sounds like a dream, but you lose vision, and it’s really hard to hold on to Barnard is the driving force behind hardcore punks Gallows, whom vocalist that initial feeling if you’re recording it, mixing it, mastering it, writing it, Steve Sears also produces, while bassist Jack Leach arrives via extreme demoing it and singing it.” math-metallers Sikth. Recording the album was quick. “We’d do a song a day – we FOR FANS OF... So for this heavily tattooed assemblage to record Hello Phantom, would just work it out until we were happy with it,” Sears says. an album of intriguing yet ultimately accessible melodious rock – More problematic have been preconceptions. The band were with audible traces of time spent listening to Pink Floyd, QOTSA, so apprehensive about being prejudged that they made their live Muse, even Radiohead – you’d think it represents something of debut at a festival in Tenerife, of all places. a left turn. Not so, apparently. “In the end that was an incredible experience, not least because “I’ve always been into making music that keeps you on your it almost didn’t happen. A tropical storm was forecast that would toes, so it’s not really a change,” Sears insists. “I’m not interested in have rained the whole thing off. So we all got really drunk, only to “We all totally love churning out the same records. Gallows could have made the last be told that the storm has passed and the gig was back on. By that The Dark Side Of The two albums just like people wanted them to sound, but they’ve point we were definitely more than half-cut. But maybe that was Moon,” says Sears. never been into doing that. We’ve always wanted to push ourselves. “David Gilmour has one why it was such a good gig.” of the most iconic guitar “So with Gold Key we made a conscious decision not to look at ‘Drink more and worry less’ would appear to the lesson to be sounds. His use of space drawn there. “We’ll just have to see if the fans of our other bands what our contemporaries in punk and hardcore were doing. Yeah, and atmosphere and there are definitely some influences, like Pink Floyd. We’ve got embrace it,” Sears concludes. “I just hope that people think it’s the effects and delays acoustic songs that sound like Steely Dan, and people have thrown that he uses on that different and give it a chance.” WS album, that’s a hundred the ‘prog’ word around quite a lot. For me that’s tough, because per cent an influence. from my background I still think of it as a bit of a dirty word.” Hello Phantom is out on October 27 via Venn Records. My dad’s favourite band was Pink Floyd, so I guess it seeped into my brain somehow.”
Heavy Rotation What we’ve been listening to this month
of her voice. There’s drama and empathy, as Seviour opens up her soul here in a way she has never has before.
Black Country Communion Back in business again, this ‘supergroup’ have never sounded more cohesive. One of the cornerstone songs on the album BCCIV, it sees Glenn Hughes’s vocals neatly complementing Joe Bonamassa’s powerful guitar work. Or is it the other way round? Whatever, there’s an unmistakable charisma that makes it a stand-out celebration.
10 Going, Going, Gone
The Professionals Punctuating an immense and relentless high-calibre rhythmic assault with toothloosening, punchy solos, this is exactly what you’d expect of any track featuring Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Billy Duffy. Going, Going, Gone – a paean to the joys of the nicked guitar – finds Cookie’s reborn Professionals in blinding form.
2 She’s Got To Be Somewhere
David Crosby Seventy-six-year old David Crosby’s career renaissance continues apace with his third post-CSN album release. This track, Sky Trails’ smooth-as-silk opener, marries the effortless slickness of Steely Dan with the punchy brass of Chicago, as Crosby’s characteristically ageless vocal chills your spiritual chardonnay while oozing class.
11 Tin Foil Hat
Todd Rundgren feat. Donald Fagen A recommendation from David Crosby, who promises you’ll “laugh like a fool”, Tin Foil Hat finds the venerable Rundgren taking a beautifully observed pop at a mystery figure with ‘tiny little hands’ who’s apparently ‘tweeting like a teenage girl’, whoever that could be. Controversial, yet candy-coated by Steely Dan man Fagen’s trademark honeyed vocal tones.
3 Stand By My Girl
Dan Auerbach Black Keys man (and collaborator with many) Dan Auerbach has a new solo album, Waiting On A Song, from which this super-catchy ode to a murderous housewife is taken (hop on to YouTube to check out the video. It’s a hoot). Think southern soul with slick pop-rock sensibilities.
12 Sacred Horse
Enslaved Once the masters of the Norwegian extreme metal scene, Enslaved have moved increasingly towards a more progressive sound over the past several years. This track, from the album E, continues the journey. Intricate, envelopingly atmospheric yet still with an edge, here’s Enslaved capturing a momentous spirit.
4 Bondurant Women
The Texas Gentlemen Lush piece of 70s-ish southern goodness (plus added seaside-friendly warmth) from a bunch of guys who originally got together as a backing band for singersongwriters, including Leon Bridges, Nikki Lane, Shakey Graves and many others. Ones to watch out for.
Neil Young Recorded at Malibu’s Indigo Studios in intimate surroundings – Young accompanying himself on acoustic guitar – and intended for ‘76 release, Powderfinger boasts a raw, untrammelled power beyond the reach of electricity. Ultimately shelved, it was ear-marked for Ronnie-era Skynyrd until fate intervened.
Death From Above Toronto’s one-time ‘79 duo Death From Above weigh into their Outrage! Is Now third album with this raging statement-of-intent riff monster that bulldozes from one crescendo to the next. Part-firestorm, part maelstrom, some say it’s punk, but it’s got Tony Iommi written through it like a stick of Brummie rock.
14 Fast & Frightening
L7 With their ‘rags to riches to rags’ documentary Pretend We’re Dead rampaging over the horizon, what better time to recall Sparks, Finch, Gardner and Plakas at their redraw, ferocious peak. This war-painted, live-in-Finsbury Park B-side assault features a wheelie-popping L7-alike heroine with ‘so much clit, she don’t need no balls’. Nice.
The Dust Coda There are pleasing whiffs of Black Stone Cherry and Monster Truck – plus a load of hearty soul – in this beefy, catchy highlight from London’s The Dust Coda. Keep an eye out for the full, self-titled album, due for release on October 27.
Recovery Is Learning
15 Favourite Pleasures
Gun The title track of the Scottish band’s new album, it has their trademark ability to combine smooth hard rock with funk and a huge dollop of melody, but there’s a freshness here that prevents it from being a mere throwback. This belongs in 2017, as Gun show how to balance respect for their past with a desire to be contemporary.
Primus Always oddball, never conformist, Primus are engaging yet bizarre on this song from new album The Desaturating Seven. It’s all based on a children’s story about goblins stealing the colours of the rainbow. Which is typical left-field stuff for this trio.
The Tubes They were an amazing, big-draw live band (headlining Knebworth ’78) back in the day, but all the make-up, costumes and props would have meant jack shit had they not also had some killer songs like this orchestrated, cinematic gem from Young And Rich, one of the albums in their newly released collection The A&M Albums.
Blitzen Trapper Portland group Blitzen Trapper’s sunshiney-but-smart pop-rock acquires some dark country overtones in this new track taken from upcoming album Wild And Reckless (due on November 3). We loved their last album, 2015’s All Across This Land, so it’s great to have them back.
Kim Seviour Once the voice of Touchstone, Kim Seviour is now out on her own – and she’s never sounded more individual and passionate. Recovery Is Learning, the title track of her debut solo album, is haunting and expansive, bringing out the colour and timbre
17 Still Of The Night
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Dan Auerbach: southern soul with slick pop-rock sensibilities.
Whitesnake The opener of the just-released reissue of Whitesnake’s gold-plated 1987 album, and one of the best Led Zeppelin ‘tribute’ tracks ever recorded. It’s got the thumping riff, the unaccompanied vocal-wail verse, the Whole Lotta hi-hat-and-cymbal-pings mid-section breakdown, strings… Coverdale and co. rarely sounded as good.
THE STO RIES BEH IND THE SON GS
The Cranberries Zombie The Irish band had already enjoyed success with their sweet ballads, but this storming left-turn, an incendiary, furious track about the bombings in Northern Ireland, made them massive. Words: Emma Johnston
US, touring universities and arenas and building up their brand. Rather than being a collaborative effort, it was written by O’Riordan alone, in the calm of her own flat, and it began life as a much gentler proposition than it ended up as. “It was extremely busy and we were working all the time around the clock,” she says. “That song came to me when I was in Limerick, and I wrote it initially on an acoustic guitar, late at night. I remember being in my flat, coming up with the chorus, which was catchy and anthemic. So I took it into rehearsals, and I picked up the electric guitar. Then I kicked in distortion on the chorus, and I said to Ferg [Fergal Lawler, drums]: ‘Maybe you could beat the drums pretty hard.’ Even though it was written on an acoustic, it became a bit of a rocker. “That was the most aggressive song we’d written. Zombie was quite different to what we’d done before.” It was recorded in Dublin with producer Stephen Street, who spent a long time working on getting the guitar settings right to give a suitably expansive sound. But while they were experimenting with raising the volume, O’Riordan says it wasn’t a concerted effort to ride the grunge bandwagon. “It came organically because we were using our live instruments, we were plugging in a lot, and we started to mess around with feedback and distortion. When you’re on tour you start to mess around a bit more with the live side of things. There were a lot of bands around that were part of the grunge thing, and this wasn’t grunge, but the timing was good. We couldn’t have really fitted in with grunge, because we were just a different type of a band. We were Irish and from Limerick, and we had a lot of our own ideas. A lot of the grunge bands were very similar to each other.” Equally important to the success of the track, released as a single, in the MTV
era was the accompanying video, in which the singer was painted gold and surrounded by silver-painted cherubs. It was inter-cut with documentary footage of soldiers and children on the streets of Northern Ireland, filmed by director Samuel Bayer, who also made the videos for Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Blind Melon’s No Rain. “I actually thought the director was very brave,” says O’Riordan. “When he got back, he was pretty pumped – there was a lot of adrenalin pumping through him. He was telling me how tense it was and how he was blown away by the whole thing. He got footage of the kids jumping from one building to another, and he got a lot of footage of the army. He was a very good director.” Released in 1994, Zombie went to No.1 in several countries and on the
“It’s a tough thing to sing about, but when you’re young you don’t think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. When you’re young you’ve no fear.” US rock chart (although it only made it to No.14 in the UK), and was certified platinum in Australia and Germany. At the MTV Awards, the band beat Michael Jackson and TLC to win Best Song. But that paled into insignificance when they were invited to perform it at the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, when Ulster Unionist leader John Hume and SDLP leader David Trimble were honoured “for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland”. Parent album No Need To Argue went on to sell 17 million copies, and made O’Riordan very rich. “I wouldn’t change anything about it, because it did so well,” she says. “It was well-written and it was well-composed. I think it did so well because it’s hard to categorise it. And I still like singing it.” Something Else is out now on BMG.
The Cranberries revisited Zombie this year when they re-recorded an acoustic version with the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the band’s reworked greatest hits collection Something Else. “We did it with a quartet, so it’s a lot tamer but it’s still nice,” says O’Riordan. “It’s interesting to do acoustic versions of your songs because it kind of shows that they can stand acoustically as well: Is it a good song? Has it a good chorus? Has it a good verse? Does it have a bridge? “I think when you’re young you have lots of aggression. When you get older it kind of goes away, you get a bit more laid-back. It was fun to go back to it.”
y 1994, Limerick rock band The Cranberries had achieved international fame with their chart-topping, multi-platinum debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We?, and most people thought they knew exactly what the Irish four-piece were about. As the final days of grunge stormed around them, they were a barefoot, floaty, slightly hippie-ish oasis of calm, the romantic longing of Linger and the fairy tale sugar-rush of Dreams further sweetened by singer Dolores O’Riordan’s girlish, heavily accented vocal style. Then in September, in the run-up to the release of their second album, No Need To Argue, they turned their own image on its head by returning with Zombie, a grungy, gloomy, furious anti-war song that found O’Riordan raging against the violence caused by the conflict in Northern Ireland, which was making the news headlines on what seemed like a weekly basis. On March 20, 1993, one of two bombs was planted in a litter bin in Warrington city centre by Irish republicans. When it exploded, 12-year-old Tim Parry and three-year-old Jonathan Ball were killed, and dozens of people injured, in an attack that shocked and appalled the public in the UK and Ireland alike. When the news of the attack broke, The Cranberries were on tour in the UK, and O’Riordan was on the tour bus in London. “I remember at the time there were a lot of bombs going off in London and the Troubles were pretty bad,” she says now, 24 years later. “I remember being on tour and being in the UK at the time when the child died, and just being really sad about it all. These bombs are going off in random places. It could have been anyone, you know? “It’s a tough thing to sing about, but when you’re young you don’t think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. As you get older you develop more fear and you get more apprehensive, but when you’re young you’ve no fear.” Zombie was written in a rare lull between tours; the band had spent the majority of the year on the road in the
Tapping into the Troubles: Zombie-era Cranberries.
RELEASE DATE Sept 19, 1994 HIGHEST CHART POSITION UK No.14 PERSONNEL Dolores O’Riordan Vocals, guitar Noel Hogan Guitar Mike Hogan Bass Fergal Lawler Drums WRITTEN BY Dolores O’Riordan PRODUCER Stephen Street LABEL Island
David Crosby The former Byrd on protests and politics, life and death and being popular with the Pope. Interview: Ian Fortnam
ith Crosby, Stills & Nash on permanent hiatus, David Crosby is enjoying something of a solo career renaissance. Obviously, a formidable reputation precedes him, so it shouldn’t really come as any surprise that this co-founder of The Byrds, who either wrote or co-wrote Eight Miles High, Wooden Ships, Teach Your Children, Almost Cut My Hair and many more is still capable of producing exceptional work, especially in today’s early-60sechoing troubled times. Nevertheless, it’s impressive that his three most recent recordings, made in close collaboration with his son James Raymond (2014’s Croz, last year’s acoustic Lighthouse and his latest Sky Trails album), sit comfortably alongside his very best. Kicking back in his California home, Crosby laughs loud and long when I observe that he retains possession of a voice of such clarity that women appear to find it impossible to resist, spluttering: “Let that be the headline for the piece, you silver-tongued devil. I want that one out there!” The Sky Trails song Capitol is laced with a cynicism that seems to extend to politicians of all political leanings. Is corruption an essential element within all those who seek political office, or only those who attain it? Corruption’s endemic in politics. There are exceptions. The law of averages – the law I respect the most – tells me there are occasional politicians who are honest and trying to serve the people that elected them, but most are blatantly corrupt. They’re pretty scummy people. In the United States right now it’s as if we’re a failed country. We’ve stopped being anything other than a bad joke. If I come to Europe I’m going to sew a maple leaf on my shoulder!
What do you make of the rise of the political right in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendancy into presidential office? It’s scary because it’s happening in a lot of places. It’s happening in Poland, they tried to drag the UK to the right, they tried it in France and Holland without success. You see it a lot and it’s been encouraged by the rise of right-wing fanaticism in this country, which has been unquestionably encouraged by this asshole we have for a President. Please quote me! Many of the songs with which you were involved during the first decade of your career are evocative of a time when change was swift, protest achieved much in the field of civil rights, the anti-war movement shortened the Vietnam war and environmental concerns were being voiced. The future looked incredibly bright. So what went wrong? The Democratic Party failed us. The Republican Party stooped to levels even we, who felt them capable of really awful stuff, couldn’t believe. The problem in the United States always goes back to money. Corporations spend billions of dollars buying elections and own the people they gave the money to. Then they call up and say: “Quarterly report’s down, we need a nice little war. Why don’t you send some people back to Afghanistan?” And that’s a very bad situation. The United States is, at best, in a lot of trouble. Do these troubled times add fuel to your fire? Do you find that you’re writing more? I’m certainly trying to. I’ve been saying for a while that we need a song for our times. A song as strong as Ohio or We Shall Overcome. A song for our people out there in the street. And we don’t have it yet. I’m trying to write it myself, and trying to get anybody else to write it. I don’t care where it comes from, I just care that there is one.
“The three hours I’m on stage is heaven to me. It’s the other twenty-one hours a day that beat the crap out of me.” 28 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
David Crosby: enjoying a late-career purple patch.
Do you think the optimism of the 1960s has a place in today’s cynical society? Yes. You need to have optimism and hope in order to function. I have to, anyway. Okay, this guy’s a terrible president and we’ve got terrible people showing up doing awful things, but it’s making us look at them. Racism was always here in the United States of America. We just weren’t looking at it. Now they are marching down the street with torches in their hands, and it’s real. It’s ugly and it’s not fun, but America needs to look at this so we can deal with it. We can’t deal with it if we pretend it isn’t there. During the early eighties you were in the grip of a debilitating cocaine addiction. At that point, freebasing seemed to have reached epidemic proportions. Did its prevalence within the rock community come in the wake of the apparent death of sixties idealism? I don’t know if they were linked, but certainly the advance of the drug culture and the debauch
of idealism happened at roughly the same pace and would seem to be connected. I don’t know if you can prove the causality, but they’re definitely connected. We didn’t know the drugs were going to get us addicted, sap our will, ruin our lives, pick up our families and destroy us, but it’s exactly what they did. It happened at the same time our leaders were getting shot – King, Kennedy. There were a lot of factors in losing, or damaging, that idealism, and drugs was only one of them. Drugs messed us up and did great harm, and we lost a lot of people to them, but I don’t think it’s as simple as the one caused the other. There are a whole multiplicity of variables there affecting it. One event that’s emblematic of those changing times was the assassination of John Lennon, which compelled you to arm yourself for self-preservation. It was a decision that saw you fall foul of the law more than once. Where do you stand now on the right to bear arms?
I grew up in a different time. Where I grew up we raised lemons and avocados, and when you turned twelve years old you got a two-two [rifle], and shooting rifles was just a part of how everybody lived. It’s a completely different thing to the gang-fuelled, ‘automatic weapons in their back pockets’ approach to guns. The gun itself isn’t the problem, the problem is in the operator. Talking about trying to reduce gun ownership in the United States, as they did in Australia, is just nonsense, man, because two-thirds of households in America have got guns and nobody’s gonna give them back. You’re never going to get rid of them. It doesn’t mean I approve of them. I’d love to live in a world where we didn’t have to have them. What did you discover about your fellow man during the time you were incarcerated in 1983 for possessing drugs and a firearm? I learned about racism. I’d met and worked with black musicians who were some of the greatest people on the planet. Odetta and Josh White
were my mentors, people I learnt how to be a folk singer from. So I had this great picture of who black people were. Then I was suddenly in prison with people who couldn’t read a comic book and had nothing left but attitude. They were the bottom end of the Texan prison system and not a good advertisement for people of colour in this country. So I had to wade through that and realise that, no, though some people were pretty terrible, the full range of people was also there. There were angels and demons, and in any group of people bigger than a hundred I was always going to find both. That was a big lesson. Five years for a quarter of a gram of pipe residue seems like an awful lot of jail time. Do you feel that the various agencies of law enforcement already had their eye on you as a representative of the counterculture and that your position was reflected in the severity of your sentence? CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 29
Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash as CS&N in 1969.
“We didn’t know the drugs were going to get us addicted, sap our will, ruin our lives… but it’s exactly what they did.”
Yeah, sure, they were trying to make an example. I only did a year, but they were trying to make an example. And probably rightly so. And what did you discover about yourself during the time you spent in jail? I discovered myself again. When I woke up from the long drug nightmare, I woke up in a prison cell, and while it’s not a great place to wake up, at least you wake up. And I discovered I could live without the drug, which was something I didn’t know. I thought I couldn’t. I discovered I could manage my life there and stay out of trouble long enough to survive day to day. I learned that I could still write if I went back to it. Because I had done drugs to the extent that they’d wiped out my ability to write completely, and I wasn’t even really awake as a human being. Then I wake up in prison and start reading again, start thinking again and started writing again. That was the big joy, that the writing was going to come back.
In 2010, If I Could Only Remember My Name was voted the second-best album of all time by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper. Did you have any idea that you were quite so Pope-friendly? No I didn’t! The next one on the list was Dark Side Of The Moon, so I beat Pink Floyd. As soon as it came out, I got an email from David Gilmour saying: “Damn you, you bastard.” We laughed about it a lot, thought it was funnier than shit. There has to be somebody in The Vatican that’s got really good taste in music, I guess. I’m a huge fan of this Pope. He’s the best thing to happen to the Catholic church in a thousand years. A fine human being who, instead of just talking the talk, walks the walk. I’m not Catholic, I’m not religious at all, but I think he’s terrific. You’re obviously a passionate man, driven to distraction by injustice and corruption, but you seem to find perfect peace in performance. Do you find the process of making music beneficial to your physical and mental well-being? Absolutely, man. Singing for me is a joy. Just as war drags humanity downward, brings out the very worst in humanity, music is a positive, lifting force that brings out the best in us. I love singing. It’s the other twenty-one hours a day that beat the crap out of me – the bad food, no sleep and cheap hotels. But the three hours I’m on stage with the band, that’s heaven to me, man. I’m doing what I was put here to do.
Crosby today: still enjoying performing.
Sk y Trails is available now via BMG.
MAIN: ALAMY; INSET: GETTY
Do you write for specific projects as they arise, or is writing an ongoing process? I just write. I’m always picking up the guitar to see where it’ll take me. When Joni Mitchell and I were going together and I was producing her first record, I said something to her and she said: “Write that down.” And I said: “Write what down?” “What you just said. It was something good, and if you don’t write it down it didn’t happen.” And that stuck in my head. Ever since that day, if I get four words in a row that I like I write them down.
Prior to your liver transplant in 1994, when you were first diagnosed with hepatitis C, the prognosis looked pretty grim. How did you react to your diagnosis? I didn’t believe it. The first diagnosis was at Johns Hopkins [an academic medical centre in Baltimore] and I didn’t believe them. So I went to UCLA, and they said: “Yeah, it’s absolutely true, you have hepatitis C, your liver is very close to failing. As a matter of fact, we were going to give you a pager and send you home, but we don’t think we could keep you alive at home, so you’re checking into the hospital right now. Seventy-two days in the hospital. It was absolutely terrifying, man.
Kadavar Meet the animalistic Berliners who are writing a soundtrack for these troubled times. Words: Henry Yates Portrait: Joe Dilworth
It’s rare that a band seem like they’re part of both the past and the future. An encounter with Kadavar might feel like tumbling through a wormhole to the early 70s, with the Berliners’ beards and tailoring all period-correct, and their playbook in thrall to Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page. But dig into Rough Times, their fourth album, and you’ll find this trio updating stoner and psychedelic sounds while dissecting the modern world. “All the refugees,” frontman Christoph ‘Lupus’ Lindemann says with a sigh. “All the war. And of course, in America, I don’t understand how you can vote for somebody who’s homophobic, anti-women, anti-science, anti-anything. We kinda had the feeling that the good times might be over, so we called the album Rough Times.” The album is a trip. Since the band formed in 2010, the boneheaded response has been to cast Kadavar as a Sabbath throwback. But that doesn’t square with their latest album, which unfolds like a saga and sprinkles eclectic influences. “It’s a journey,” Lupus explains. “Because it starts really dark and doomy, kinda Electric Wizard-style, like we’re really pissed off. But then it clears up, gets a little nicer, with this Neil Young vibe. By the end it almost seems like there’s some hope left. Not everything is black and the end of the world.” The world is their stage. Lupus grew up in post-unification East Berlin, but the shadow of The Wall looms over Kadavar’s often-claustrophobic sound and escapist world view. “My mother always told me, whatever happens, when you’re old enough, leave, just go,” he recalls. “Because they never had the chance. There was the Stasi, spies everywhere, Russian soldiers, you couldn’t say what you were thinking. I’ve always enjoyed that freedom. You come to Mexico City, get on stage and see hundreds of kids freaking out. That’s the moment when all the pain makes sense.” Their lyric sheet ain’t pretty. A scan of the Rough Times track-listing
announces that Lupus is not from the hearts-and-flowers school. “When I’m happy and everything is good, I don’t feel like writing songs. I need anger and hate, to feel uncomfortable. Vampires is about my generation: nobody knows what the future is going to bring for us. Die Baby Die is about the music business, people knocking on your door, trying to make money out of you – then those people move on and they don’t give a fuck about your dream.” Kadavar are having an identity crisis. “One night, we were all at the bar and decided we needed animal names,” recalls Lupus. “Simon [Bouteloup, bass] became ‘Dragon’. Christoph [Bartelt, drums] was ‘Tiger’, and I took the Latin name for wolf, ‘Lupus’. But now we’re getting closer to our animals. Tigers are lazy the whole day then they go out for one big hunt – and Christoph might hang out all day, but when he gets up he’s serious. I’m getting more like a wolf, lonely. I used to go out and get wasted, but nowadays I stay home and write.” Their face fuzz gets them into trouble. Most upcoming bands can’t get arrested. As Lupus recalls with a shudder, Kadavar did – in Texas. “The cops stopped the car because they said we were too fast. But it definitely had something to do with the hair and beards. They had guns pointed at us, put us in a field for hours, blinding us with spotlights, with dogs trying to find drugs. Nobody has ever pulled a gun on me before. That’s a feeling I never want to have again.” They’ve got a split personality. The stage Kadavar and the studio Kadavar, Lupus reminds us, are two different beasts. “People say our records never really catch the energy we have on stage. We are way more brutal, heavy and dirty live. Of course, you want to blow people away, so you do it as fat and big as you can, but we never try to have that on the records. We are not really fans of big, fat production. Maybe we have two identities. But on the new album, I think we’ve caught both of them.” Rough Times is out now via Nuclear Blast. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 33
The Blues Years From 1967 to 1974, the nascent Fleetwood Mac teetered on the line between triumph and oblivion. Co-founder Mick Fleetwood recalls the “wild story” of the band’s early years… Words: Henry Yates
t was the fag-end of summer 1967, and the tectonic plates of In his own testimony for Love That Burns, meanwhile, Green writes: London’s blues landscape were shifting. On September 9, under “Fleetwood Mac was a bit of an experiment to begin with. I wouldn’t have cover of darkness, the door of Decca Studios in London opened and been surprised if it had flopped. The way the line-up came together had house producer Mike Vernon furtively waved in a fledgling band for a lot to do with fate.” an after-hours session. There was Mick Fleetwood, the drummer Maybe so, but it was chemistry that drove it. A proto-Fleetwood Mac – recently ousted from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for being habitually at that point with Brunning on bass – had already played their debut gig, at “loose as a goose”. With him were bassist Bob Brunning and an impish, the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in August 1967. Later that year, as the mischief-making slide-guitar wizard named Jeremy Spencer. More McVie-bolstered line-up hit the London club scene, a fascinating dynamic auspiciously, there was Peter Green, the spellbinding guitar hero who had was in evidence. Both on stage and when hassling promoters off it, the replaced Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers, and arguably outshone him in East End-raised Green was patently in charge. his tenure with Mayall, and was now widely tipped to explode. “I would parody Peter when he would slip into that tough barrow-boy “People were almost forcing Peter to form a band,” remembers thing when he couldn’t take us any more,” notes Fleetwood. “We would Fleetwood, a full half-century later, in an interview to promote Love That mimic him and it became a running joke: ‘Get your fucking shit together. Burns, a mouth-watering new book that chronicles the band’s early years. You both played like shit! Fleetwood, I’ve got more swing in my left “So I think eventually he basically went: ‘Okay, fuck it.’” bollock than you had tonight!’” To fair-weather fans of the stadium-filling Rumours line-up of On the flip side, bandleader Green’s economical guitar playing Fleetwood Mac, that original line-up is either a mystery or style and musical generosity gave space for his bandmates a mere preamble to the main event. to shine, his priority always the interplay, not the “The main story is always going to be the individual showboating. Fleetwood Mac that you know now,” Fleetwood “It was incredible in those days,” notes McVie. concedes. “No doubt, what’s going to be “Mick and I behind Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, remembered is the incarnation that’s not in this it was like a fucking freight train. It’s nothing that book; y’know, Stevie [Nicks], Lindsey [Buckingham], includes massive amounts of technical skill, it’s just Chris [McVie], John [McVie, who had soon replaced chemistry that works.” Brunning] and myself. But I wanted this book to be “It was all about friendship,” picks up Fleetwood. about the band that Peter Green started in 1967, and “Peter gave me confidence. I play from the heart. I was lucky and happy enough to be at his side, right I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. And he from the beginning. told me: ‘Mick, you’re okay, just play.’ Peter was the “I want people to know what started Fleetwood consummate team player. Later, in an interview, Mac. Well, first of all it was Peter. And a bunch of kids someone asked him why did he call the band that were channelling our heroes. We were listening Fleetwood Mac? And he said: ‘Well, in truth, I thought to blues artists that were freaking us out. The irony is at some time I’d probably move on, and I wanted John Mick Fleetwood that these funny little English dudes reconstituted an and Mick to have something after I left.’ art form that was all but dead – and nobody gave “Peter gave and he gave,” Fleetwood continues. a shit about it in America – and served it back to “I was looking at the set-list for the Windsor Jazz them. We helped to save something that was all but Festival. And remember that Peter had become a sort thrown in the dustbin.” of Eric Clapton hero-worshipped player on the scene. He Across the decades, all parties have credited Green as the basically turned around and gave it all away to Jeremy. [That catalyst behind the original band’s formation. Spencer remembers show] is a lot of Jeremy. That’s really a very generous person.” being press-ganged by him at a Birmingham show in June 1967 (“He asked The magnanimous Green was not only happy to feature Spencer’s noteif I wanted a drink, and as we stood by the bar he talked as though I was perfect Elmore James homages in the set, he also even indulged Spencer’s already in it”). In Love That Burns, meanwhile, McVie recalls the badgering on stage antics, which included cavorting in a gold lamé jumpsuit with a that made him turn his back on a steady Bluesbreakers pay cheque (“Peter red dildo lolling from the gusset (a routine that saw them briefly banned was bugging me, you know: ‘Come on, join, join, you gotta join!’”). from The Marquee). Spencer recalled: “Peter said that I was the first player While interviewing Green for the book, Fleetwood was surprised to to make him smile since Hendrix.” learn that his own invitation to join was largely down to the sympathy he logical next step was a debut album. In November 1967, a threevote: “I thought he was going to say: ‘Well, I thought you were a pretty day stint at CBS studios resulted in the self-titled LP known good drummer.’ But he said: ‘You’d just broken up with Jenny [Boyd, later informally as Dog And Dustbin, a Brit-blues master class that Fleetwood’s first wife] and you were devastated, and I just thought you pinballed from soul-drenched Green originals like Looking For Somebody needed to do something. That’s why I asked you to join the band, because and I Loved Another Woman to Spencer’s trademark olde-blues salutes. I just wanted you to get back on your feet.’ How amazing was that? It really “That was a blues album,” Fleetwood says. “Y’know, this is what we do. had nothing to do with whether I was a halfway decent drummer or not, it The irony was, we were on Top Of The Pops and they probably felt we was just because he loved me and he didn’t want to see me in pain.”
“I hope that part of our story is about acceptance of people who have come through the ranks, which has allowed this crazy story.”
Fleetwood Mac: (clockwise from top left) Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, John McVie, Danny Kirwen and Jeremy Spencer.
Singing the blues: Danny Kirwan, Peter Green and John McVie in the studio in 1969/70.
invented that music. A lot of people who were not our audience were a precocious and chronically shy guitarist named Danny Kirwan joined suddenly listening to Elmore James. It really holds up, when you listen to the band. Fleetwood recalls a teenager who “one might have mistaken for some of that early stuff. I mean, Peter was such an extraordinary player, so an innocent church choirboy… but he would play the hell out of his sensitive and so mature. guitar, deep in the trenches of the darkest grooves”. “The thing about London and a lot of bands in that particular Indeed it was Kirwan’s diverse influences and off-kilter style that period,” the drummer continues, “is that, in our own way, we helped Fleetwood Mac to their first hit singles – and the were real blues bands. London was a cauldron of broad-minded and more textural tracks on 1969’s Then creativity which, I might add, is still being felt Play On album. musically, sociologically, in fashion “It was thrilling to see them go from nothing more and style. It caused all these ripples than a twelve-bar blues band to making records as that became waves and storms and creative as Albatross and Black Magic Woman,” recalls hurricanes of creativity. I don’t Vernon. “The catalyst for the change was Danny. think it’s pushing the envelope for There were no bands anywhere that had three someone such as me, sitting back guitar players, and it diversified the whole sound of and saying [mock-nostalgic]: ‘Oh, the group.” in the old days, do you know what On first inspection, as a dreamy guitar we did?’ There are just things that instrumental with the vibe set to ‘mellow’, their 1968 happen in certain places. It’s like single Albatross was a hard sell, Fleetwood when people talk about Paris in acknowledging that it was “a little light in the the twenties.” loafers” for the band’s blues hard-core followers. But even as that debut album hit “Everyone at CBS, our distributor, said: ‘We’ll never No.4 in the UK shortly after its be able to sell this, no radio station’s ever gonna play release in February 1968 there was it,’” notes Vernon. “But Peter just kept telling us it Mick Fleetwood a taste of trouble to come, when was going to be a hit. Eventually, after hearing it Green baulked at the band’s billing enough times, we all agreed.” on the sleeve as ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’. Green’s instincts were on the money. After the “He was furious about that,” Fleetwood recalls. “They band performed Albatross on prime-time BBC, the single snuck it in there, because [Peter] was the only person that began shifting 60,000 units daily on its march to No.1 in was beginning to be quite famous on the blues circuit. And I don’t the UK. Green’s chiming Man Of The World and ambitious Oh Well blame them. But that was the last time you ever saw Peter Green’s name in weren’t far behind, both singles hitting No.2 in 1969. That year’s Then Play front of Fleetwood Mac.” On album, which saw Green expand his palette with songs inspired by Follow-up Mr Wonderful could only repeat the debut album’s trick with hearing classical composer Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending at the diminishing returns, but the line-up was revitalised that summer when Proms, reached No.6.
“Jeremy was vulnerable, ripe for the picking, because he always had a Bible sewn into his duffle coat and he was already flipping out from the drugs.”
Fleetwood, Green and Spencer with JT Brown, recording the Blues Jam At Chess album in 1969.
MICK FLEETWOOD: MICHAEL PUTLAND; JEREMY SPENCER & J..T. BROWN: JEREMY SPENCER COLLECTION; PETER GREEN: JEFF LOWENTHAL L
“I don’t really know why I left the group in the end. I think it was just because I wanted to do things for free.”
“The world was unfolding for him,” notes tough upbringing and his rock-star status, not to Fleetwood. “One can only imagine what he’d have mention the pressure to maintain the band’s created if he had continued on that track.” commercial ascent. Rather less high-minded was Green’s Rattlesnake “The burden of our success haunted him,” notes Shake, written about Mick Fleetwood masturbating. Fleetwood. “Peter thought it was all bullshit and was Capping off a breakthrough year, there was also convinced that people never really liked him. This the release of Blues Jam At Chess, showcasing the linetook him to the brink and it ultimately made him up as they cut heads with the genre’s big beasts in unable to handle normal life.” Chicago, including Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon and As the band hit the road in early Peter Green Shakey Horton. Inspect the photos in Love That Burns 1970, Fleetwood watched his friend and the Mac members are certainly wide-eyed, across the aisle of the tour bus, although the respect reportedly ran both ways, with waited and hoped. JT Brown, formerly of the Elmore James band, noting of “There are some pictures in the Spencer: “Hell, it’s like Elmore has been dug up from the book that of course are very personal,” he grave. I’m closing my eyes and hearing my boss singing.” recalls. “I remember the exact moment. There’s Such triumphs couldn’t mask a sour taste and the sense of an ending, some pictures of Peter on that last tour, and I remember however. After the band had set out on producer Mike Vernon’s then-new how it felt. I was sitting on that bus and I was looking at blues label Blue Horizon, manager Clifford Davis had swooped to move him and thinking: ‘Maybe he’ll change his mind. Maybe his charges to the Immediate label (thence to Warner Brothers/Reprise). he won’t leave.’” “When Fleetwood Mac left us,” noted Vernon, “the thing that upset me The cautionary tale of Green’s ignominious burnout more than anything was the idea that our family unit was being destroyed. is well-known now, the tipping point generally And it was being destroyed for reasons of commerciality.” acknowledged to be the day at a Munich hippie commune when his already fragile mind-set was shredded by LSD. or his part, Spencer had felt adrift since Kirwan’s arrival, and he Interviewed for Fleetwood’s book, he can only express released his first solo album in 1970. Most troubling of all was the bewilderment at his actions: “I don’t really know why decline of Green. Plainly, this was a man fast unravelling. He gave I left the group in the end. I think it was just because I wanted to do things befuddled interviews in which he spoke of plans to give away the band’s for free. I knew that people looked at me like I was in a dream. I could tell money, took to wearing messianic robes and sprinkled cries for help that, even at the time.” across lyrics for songs such as Man Of The World (‘I just wish that I’d never been “We were devastated,” Fleetwood says today. “Losing Peter Green was born’) and Love That Burns (‘Please leave me now in my room to cry’). devastating. It was like, it’s probably over. My instinct was to keep going. Green’s ominous final contribution, The Green Manalishi (With The TwoBecause what else are we going to do? The band’s called Fleetwood Mac, Prong Crown), felt more troubled still, its lyric addressing a nightmarish and really, we were experiencing the very thing that Peter thought would character that surely represented the guitarist’s struggle to reconcile his happen. So at least we had something.
Clockwise from top left: Dave Walker and the equally short-lived Bob Weston, “major player” Bob Welch, John and Christine McVie.
paraphernalia, shop – and never returned. The mystery was only solved, Fleetwood notes, when he was found sworn in to a religious group known as the Children Of God. “Jeremy was vulnerable, ripe for the picking, because he always had a Bible sewn into his duffle coat and he was already flipping out from the drugs.” Having already cancelled a gig at LA’s Whisky A Go Go, the only recourse was to recall Peter Green, although his refusal to play the hits and insistence on free-form jamming meant this could never be a permanent solution. Relative consistency arrived only in the form of guitarist Bob Welch, the Californian-born musician whose jazz-inflected contribution to the next five albums – including major US hits such as Hypnotized – deserves higher billing. “Bob was a major part of this band after Peter left,” Fleetwood says. “[But] in Europe, people don’t actually know a lot about him.” The band’s new digs also contributed to the sense of stability. Costing just £23,000, Benifolds was a sprawling Victorian pile in rural Hampshire, which for the next three years became the band members’ communal home and the backdrop to the albums that followed. On standout tracks such as Morning Rain, 1971’s Future Games album gave the first hints of the band’s melodic pop direction and the growing influence of Christine McVie to come. The following year, Bare Trees was also an artistic success, with Kirwan delivering gems like the funked-up title track, and Welch again vindicating his hiring with the stunning autumnal ballad Sentimental Lady. The upward trajectory couldn’t last. Kirwan’s paranoia and alcohol dependency were spiralling, and his distaste for the band’s direction and, in particular, Welch’s style were coming to a head. In August 1972 Kirwan effectively signed his own death warrant by refusing to take the stage and watching from the back as the band struggled to cover his parts. For Fleetwood, Kirwan’s firing was a no-brainer: “It was something we simply could not forgive.
JOHN & CHRISTINE MCVIE: MICK FLEETWOOD ARCHIVE; GETTY x3
“And I have to say, the lesson learnt there was that once we had survived that most devastating thing, every time someone left, because we’d survived Peter we thought we could probably get through.” Desertion was in the air. Spencer was “gloomy” and despondent. McVie talked vaguely of ditching the bass and managing the band instead. For Fleetwood, the only way forward was to start afresh, the drummer leading the reeling lineup to shared quarters in Kiln House, “a frugal, artsy farmhouse” in Hampshire, where days were spent rehearsing new material and nights smoking hash. “We closed ranks,” he reflects. “We went to Kiln House and did the band-in-the-country-cottage thing that Traffic and Led Zeppelin had done. Y’know, go to the country and lick your wounds. We were very shaky.” Slowly, the music began again. But when the Kiln House album emerged in September 1970, it was a curious beast, mostly driven by Kirwan’s rockier leanings and Spencer’s 1950s pastiches, and it was perhaps lucky even to reach No.39 in the UK. “We made that very unusual, charming little album,” reflects Fleetwood, “where Jeremy was in a world with Danny. But they weren’t prepared without our big leader. Jeremy just retreated to making his Buddy Holly-esque songs. It’s sort of a cool little album, but we were floundering.” New faces helped heal the wounds. Christine Perfect had moved in the band’s orbit since the start, catching McVie’s eye as she played keys with Chicken Shack at that Windsor festival in 1967. The pair dated, then married in 1968. She played piano on the Mr Wonderful, Then Play On and Kiln House albums, before officially becoming a member of Fleetwood Mac at a New Orleans gig in August 1970. Even then, the revolving door continued to turn. In February 1971 the band’s US tour was derailed when Spencer walked off down Hollywood Boulevard – ostensibly to visit a ‘head’, or drug
America here we come: the McVie/ Fleetwood/Welch/McVie line-up relocate to the US, and the next phase of the Fleetwood Mac saga begins…
“It was all about friendship. Peter gave me confidence. I play from the heart. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.”
Danny had broken the code, the one that said you to London and Bob got fired from Fleetwood Mac.” don’t hang your bandmates out to dry on stage.” Plainly, a clean break was needed. The answer With the band again flailing, Fleetwood went once again came from Welch, who suggested that fishing for new blood. “Peter really set the precedent,” relocating to the States would give the band more he says of his skills as a talent-spotter. “I’ve been in clout in that lucrative market. the band since 1967, and I’m not a singer or “Bob was the beginning of us living in America, a songwriter, but my song became Fleetwood Mac, us really separating from being in Europe,” says and I can quietly say that I had a lot to do with this Fleetwood. “We lost a huge chunk of our audience in strange journey of putting [and] keeping people in Europe when Peter left, so the band changed and we Mick Fleetwood the band. I learnt that from Peter. migrated to America [in 1974].” “In the same way, people have come into The move drew a line under a seven-year ride and Fleetwood Mac and they’ve been acknowledged for a mind-boggling early catalogue. “If anyone cares to who they are and haven’t been asked to emulate pick up the albums from the beginning,” says Fleetwood, something that went before. Peter taught me those lessons “right through some of the changes we went through with and I remembered them. I hope that part of our story is about Kiln House, Future Games, Mystery To Me, all these albums… it’s like a acceptance of people who have come through the ranks, which has very strange and unusual musical. If you put on Blues Jam At Chess, or the allowed this crazy story, where everybody has been unbelievably different, original Peter Green incarnation, then you put on Bob Welch or Kiln House, musically.” you’re entitled to ask: is this the same band? There’s some similarity, but Fleetwood didn’t always make the right call. In August 1972, Dave it’s hard to find sometimes. That in itself is a wild story. Walker arrived from Savoy Brown full of promise, but was exposed in the “This book is about paying tribute to the members of Fleetwood Mac,” studio. “He was very good at engaging the audience, and the crowd would he concludes. “It’s told by me, but I’m really hoping it feels like everyone go nuts for him,” Fleetwood notes. “It wasn’t until we were making Penguin has been paid kudos to, who started this band, and the changes in the that we realised it wasn’t going to work out.” band that are not often very well known. That’s why it’s really Bob Weston lasted longer – contributing guitar to 1973’s important to separate it. I wanted this [story] to survive on Penguin and Mystery To Me albums – but wreaked havoc its own. The book ends where I introduce Stevie and by having an affair with Fleetwood’s wife Jenny, Lindsey to Christine. And that’s a whole other sending the drummer into a tailspin, causing the story…” cancellation of a US tour –and the so-called ‘fake’ Love That Burns–A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac, a line-up of jobbing musos Volume One: 1967–1974 by Mick Fleetwood is absurdly billed as the real thing. published by Genesis Publications. For more info visit “I couldn’t get through the tour, and had www.genesis-publications.com or call +44 (0)1483 540 970 a breakdown,” notes Fleetwood. “I sent Jenny back CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 39
Rumours Years With a new line-up and a new commercial sound, Fleetwood Mac hit new heights of success, while relationships within the band hit new lows thanks to drink, drugs, fights and affairs. Words: Rob Hughes
a daunting commercial proposition. “It felt right. It was very quick,” Fleetwood later told the NME’s Chris Salewicz. “We all liked each other and that was it. We rehearsed for ten days and went in and made the album. It was a great sense of circumstance.” By the end of February the record was done. Among the highlights were McVie’s soft-rocking Over My Head and Warm Ways, along with a couple of striking Nicks compositions: Landslide and Rhiannon, both of which dated from around the time of Buckingham Nicks. Landslide is a heartfelt commentary on the lot of the struggling artist, written in Aspen, Colorado after Nicks and Buckingham had been dropped by Polydor Records. “I was looking out at the Rocky Mountains, pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us,” she noted. Rhiannon was a sparkling example of the radio-friendly new Mac, governed by creamy harmonies, finger-picked guitar and John McVie’s sinuous bass groove. A supernatural tale, inspired by Mary Leader’s novel Triad, Nicks claimed to have written it at her piano in 10 minutes. “I still have the cassette tape of when I was first writing it,” she told Classic Rock. “Lindsey came in and I said, ‘We have to go to a park and record
ick Fleetwood had only popped out for groceries. But a chance encounter with an old PR buddy at a shop near his home in Hollywood’s fashionable Laurel Canyon led to an invitation to check out a newly refurbished recording studio nearby. Eager to find somewhere to record Fleetwood Mac’s next album, he was duly taken to Sound City. In-house engineer Keith Olsen was there to greet him. To demonstrate the studio’s sonic capabilities, Olsen played Fleetwood a track he’d produced for a local duo the previous year: Frozen Love. Its creators, the duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, had since been dropped by their label after the album, Buckingham Nicks, had tanked. Fleetwood, however, was smitten with the track. Frozen Love was “seven enchanting minutes of vocal harmony and dynamic guitar”, he recalled in his 2014 memoir, Play On: Now, Then And Fleetwood Mac. “I loved what I heard and asked him to play more.” A few weeks later, in December 1974, Fleetwood was rocked by the news that his band’s singer-guitarist, Bob Welch, was quitting. A combination of gruelling tour schedules and a disintegrating marriage had finally tipped him over the edge. Fleetwood Mac needed a replacement – fast. And their drummer knew exactly who to reach out to. He called Lindsey Buckingham and asked him to join. Buckingham was quick to stipulate that he and Nicks came as a package. This insistence impressed Mick Fleetwood. “It was family first, it was loyal,” he recalled. “They were like-minded – they wrote together, lived together, loved together. They were very much what Fleetwood Mac was all about.” So it was, in the first week of 1975, that Buckingham and Nicks formally became Fleetwood Mac’s latest members. The arrival of the American couple signalled the end of a messy chapter in Fleetwood Mac’s career. Buckingham and Nicks seemed to offer a brighter future and, crucially, an expansion of the Fleetwood Mac sound. The band were now blessed with three first-rate singer-songwriters. Nicks’s pliant voice could shift in a heartbeat from a kittenish rasp to a wounded wail. Christine McVie brought a sturdier, though no less tractable, alto. Buckingham, meanwhile, brought a Cali-pop sensibility to his lead vocals and guitar work that finally unshackled the band from their blues-rock past. As they began work on a new album – the plainly titled Fleetwood Mac an indicator of this ground-zero dawn – the band suddenly sounded like
the sound of birds rising.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy.” All the more remarkable when you consider that Rhiannon became one of Fleetwood Mac’s most enduring songs, emblematic of their sound post-Peter Green. “There’s something to that song that touches people,” Nicks said in 1976. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m really glad it happened.”
“We forced ourselves into a pressing creative world. That’s a lot to ask when you just want to get a dagger and stick it in his or her back.”
Given the band’s previous crises – the loss and debilitation of Peter Green and Danny Kirwan, the lack of sales, a dwindling fan base and, of course, the sorry saga of the bogus line-up – it seemed as though Mick Fleetwood it was all bouquets for Fleetwood Mac at last. But another messy narrative was already unfolding. There had been tensions in the studio. John McVie, for example, had taken issue with Lindsey Buckingham’s sometimes dictatorial methods at Sound leetwood Mac’s transition from blokey blues outcasts to City, particularly his insistence that he teach the rhythm section mainstream superstars wasn’t quite the overnight success that their parts. McVie told him firmly: “The band you’re in is Fleetwood revisionist history tends to depict. Mac. I’m the Mac. And I play the bass.” Released in July ’75, the Fleetwood Mac album took some time to gain This was nothing, however, compared to the relationship problems that traction. The quintet toured the US for six months after completing it, the were afoot. John and Christine McVie were on the brink of divorce, hard miles spent on the road eventually paying off when Over My Head Fleetwood was going through the same thing, and it transpired that made the US Billboard Top 20 early the following year. In June ’76, Rhiannon Buckingham and Nicks’s relationship was floundering too. Fleetwood peaked at No.11 in the US, but it barely scraped into the Top 50 in the UK. had at first viewed them as “the perfect bohemian couple”, but the reality The Mac had to wait until September before the album itself topped the US was very different. Fleetwood Mac would prove to be rock’s most tangled chart. Only Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! outsold it that year. soap opera.
The stars of the soap opera that was Fleetwood Mac in the mid-70s: (l-r) Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie.
“Tusk was the most important album we made because it drew a line in the sand that, for me, defined the way I still think today.”
you’re feeling so hurt you just want to get a dagger and stick it in his or her back.” It’s to Fleetwood Mac’s lasting credit that they were somehow able to unite all this fragmentation into a cohesive whole. Musically, Rumours builds on the Lindsey Buckingham y the time they all began work on follow-up driving AOR of its predecessor, adding richer blends, album Rumours in early 1976, the atmosphere bigger harmonies and a near-perfect consistency of within Fleetwood Mac was volatile. These acoustic and electric textures. The songs, interpersonal tensions were only heightened by the unsurprisingly, are almost all about relationships. Don’t ubiquity of booze and drugs. Cocaine was plentiful in the Stop was Christine McVie’s attempt to inject a little positivity studio. Inside the Record Plant in Sausalito, co-producer Ken Caillat into the band’s perilous emotional state; an infectious singalong witnessed the creative toxicity first-hand. “It was like being trapped inside that banished pessimism to the four winds: ‘Don’t stop thinking about a tornado,” he told Classic Rock in 2007. “Some moments we were in the eye tomorrow/Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here/It’ll be here better than before/Yesterday’s gone, of the storm and all was calm, people were laughing and joking… yesterday’s gone.’ A moment later everything changed and people were screaming at each Another Christine McVie song, Oh Daddy, was supposedly written in other, breaking things; assistants were running for cover.” honour of Mick Fleetwood’s temporary reunion with his wife, although According to Record Plant owner Chris Stone, speaking to Billboard in conflicting stories say it was another song for Curry Grant. 1997: “The band would come in at seven at night, have a big feast, party till Buckingham’s Second Hand News and Go Your Own Way both addressed one or two in the morning, and then when they were so whacked-out they the fallout from his failed relationship with Nicks. The former was couldn’t do anything, they’d start recording.” a carefree rebound anthem about finding comfort in the arms of others. There were factions within factions: John McVie, Fleetwood and The latter carried a similarly upbeat tone, and stunning three-way Buckingham were living in a house nearby, while Nicks and Christine harmonies that arrived on the back of a rhythm inspired by the Stones’ McVie shared a small apartment. Street Fighting Man. Nicks was unhappy about some of Go Your Own Way’s The McVies had decided to limit their communication with one another lyrics, particularly ‘Packing up/Shacking up’s all you wanna do.’ “I very much to matters of music only. Yet even that detente was severely tested when resented him telling the world that ‘packing up, shacking up’ with different Christine started seeing the band’s lighting director, Curry Grant. men was all I wanted to do,” she complained to Rolling Stone. “He knew it Distraught, John threw himself into the bottle. The situation wasn’t exactly wasn’t true. It was just an angry thing that he said.” But Buckingham sweetened when Christine wrote You Make Loving Fun as an ode to Grant. refused to amend them. “I don’t know if John ever really enjoyed the musical aspect of making Among Nicks’s contributions was Gold Dust Woman, a document of the record,” Caillat remarked. “But he put his head down and delivered like excess, the title referring to cocaine. Dreams concerns itself with her split a pro. Even while drinking, he never flubbed a line, not once.” from Buckingham, advising her ex-lover to ‘listen carefully to the sound of your In contrast, Buckingham and Nicks dispensed with civility altogether. loneliness’ and pointing out that women will merely come and go. Even The only time they weren’t ranting at each other in the studio, by all Nicks’s I Don’t Want To Know, written prior to her joining the band, was very accounts, was when it came time to do a take. much on theme. Talking to Classic Rock’s Max Bell in 2013, Fleetwood pondered aloud: Rumours took more than a year to complete, but the time – and pain “How did we survive making it with all these ex-lovers blowing up in each – was justified. It was an instant success upon its release in February 1977, other’s faces? It was emotionally charged. We forced ourselves into a oneshooting to the top of the Billboard’s chart. Within 12 months it had sold on-one, twenty-four-seven, pressing creative world. That’s a lot to ask nearly 10 million copies, made No.1 in the UK and won a Grammy. when every time you look at someone your heart is in your mouth, or Alongside The Eagles’ Hotel California, it represented the commercial apex
of West Coast soft rock during the 70s. It has gone on to achieve worldwide sales of more than 40 million. Mick Fleetwood has suggested that the romance of Rumours lies in its voyeurism.
“Some moments we were in the eye of the storm and all was calm, a moment later, people were screaming at each other, breaking things.”
he overwhelming success of Rumours only million dollars, a then-record sum for a rock album. accelerated the band’s indulgent behaviour. He also retained the services of regular co-producers Their new luxury lifestyle meant private jets, Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat. a fleet of limos and outrageous tour riders (according “He was a maniac,” Caillat said of Buckingham. to Fleetwood, Nicks demanded a pink room with “He’d tape microphones to the studio floor and get a white piano). Cocaine was bought in bulk. In into a sort of push-up position to sing. Early on, he Ken Caillat, co-producer a move that echoed Pink Floyd’s appropriation of came in and he’d freaked out in the shower and cut a giant pig, Fleetwood commissioned a 60-foot off all his hair with nail scissors. He was stressed.” penguin to float over the stage at their vast outdoor A big wedge of the budget was spent the album’s shows. “We were pleasantly out of control,” he said. title track, Tusk, semi-tribal gallop that evolved from Fleetwood Mac may have conquered America (and half a simple Buckingham riff that the band had been playing at the world), but they did so despite themselves. Intra-band relations sound-checks. They recorded the 112-piece USC Trojan Marching refused to run any smoother. Fleetwood and Nicks began a wild affair, Band at LA’s Dodger Stadium to give the song some added oomph. If your Christine McVie became involved with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and ears are so attuned, you might also be able to make out the sound of John McVie took solace on his boat in Marina Del Ray. Fleetwood slapping a leg of lamb with a spatula. Luckily for the band, Buckingham, meanwhile, had immersed himself in his home studio, Warner Bros slept easier when the song became a huge transatlantic hit in where he began plotting their next album. By his own admission it was September 1979, a month before the album was released. an intense period that also saw him start to unravel. He was particularly The Tusk album was a sometimes incongruous mix of tones and styles. mindful of being trapped by expectations in the wake of Rumours’ Songs like the exquisite Sara and Sisters Of The Moon, both written by Nicks, commercial performance. “We really were poised to make Rumours 2, and felt like natural, very Mac-like extensions of Rumours. Others felt like that could’ve been the beginning of kind of painting yourself into a corner separate individual visions, from Christine McVie’s downbeat Over And Over in terms of living up to the labels that were being placed on you as a band,” to a variety of Buckingham songs – the ruminative That’s All For Everyone, the he told Billboard in 2015. folk-indebted Save Me A Place, the faintly psychedelic Not That Funny. Against Warner Bros’ wishes, the next album was envisaged as a double Compared to Rumours, Tusk was greeted like an expensive folly. Sales album. Buckingham had become fascinated by the edginess and innovation might have been highly respectable (four million copies worldwide), but of post-punk and new wave, absorbing the music of Talking Heads, The the suits at Warner Bros deemed it a relative failure, citing Buckingham’s Clash and others. Rumours hadn’t been without its avant-garde moments – jet recklessness. Nevertheless, it was an artistic triumph and a global hit, a feat phasers, Fleetwood hammering sheets of glass on Gold Dust Woman – but all the more impressive for being much pricier than a standard double LP. Buckingham wanted to take his musical experiments to a whole other level. For Buckingham, however, it represented something far more valuable He made obsessive home recordings, fiddling about with varying tape speeds, at the end of a bust-to-boom decade that had threatened to turn placing microphones in his bathroom and using a Kleenex box as percussion. Fleetwood Mac into just another commodity. “Tusk was the most Fleetwood Mac spent a fortune doing up their own Studio D at Village important album we made,” he told City Pages in 2011, “because it drew Recorder in LA. Installing himself as executive producer, Buckingham a line in the sand that, for me, defined the way I still think today. I was presided over sessions that lasted well over a year, at a cost in excess of one trying to pave some new territory for us.” CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 43
With drug use rampant in the band, itâ€™s no surprise that the 80s and 90s delivered them some dizzying highs and crashing comedowns. Words: Mick Wall
t the end of the Tusk tour in 1980, Fleetwood Mac was over. Blown away on the tides of cocaine, money, madness, and a bloated double-album that appeared to do everything it could to distance itself from the winning, grinning, sinning So-Cal sound of Rumours. Over-influenced by the sudden ascendance of punk, Lindsey Buckingham had cut his hair, shaved his beard and bent over backwards to try to bring Fleetwood Mac up to speed with the new now sound of the delusional late 70s. The irony that this was achieved in a $1.5 million purpose-built studio was apparently lost on him. Now, in the aftermath of the relative commercial failure of Tusk, and a tortuous year-long world tour that had left all five members in a hurry to get as far away from each other as possible, prospects for any sort of follow-up were thin, to say the least. Indeed, the next five years were to be so grim for Mick Fleetwood that by 1985 he had sold his mansion, his flash car collection, even all his gold and platinum records, and now slept on a cot in the back room of Mac producer Richard Dashut’s Laurel Canyon home. He was bankrupt, divorced, and so addled on coke that the only people he still spoke to on a regular basis were the voices in his head. “I’d been down before, in the years after Peter Green left and we struggled to stay afloat,” he said. “But never anything quite like this.” In 1985, the dogged keeper of the Fleetwood Mac flame – the man who had co-founded the group and been its driving force for nearly 20 years – found it almost impossible to imagine how he would ever fight his way back from this form of “extended hotel hell”. How had it happened? How had things got to this?
fairy stories, including her own The Golden Fox Of The Last Fox Hunt; and an autobiography full of “the love affairs, the heartaches, the tragedies, the incredible happiness” of her life with Fleetwood Mac – that she only had time to contribute three songs. One of those, That’s Alright, was a handme-down from her Buckingham Nicks days. Another, Straight Back, sounded like a well-meaning reject from Bella Donna. The third, though, Gypsy, was classic Stevie Nicks. Wistful, swirly and witchy, it gave the band another huge Rumours-style hit. That, plus the equally sublime McVie and Buckingham co-sung hit, Hold Me, elevated the new album, Mirage, to No.1 in the US. The album still didn’t sell even a tenth of what Rumours had done, but the Mac were back – like Tusk and coke and infidelity and deep pockets had never intervened. Well, almost.
hen I’m writing my songs, or just writing in my journal, I feel like the spirits are right here in the room with me, helping guide my hand,” Nicks told me one night, reclining on plush sofa cushions at her candlelit Hollywood Castle home. “Not ghosts, more like… good feelings. Strong emotions, from the past, from the future.” Emotions that she wasted no time putting into her second solo album, 1983’s The Wild Heart. Mirage may have reestablished Fleetwood Mac as a commercial force, but it did nothing to discourage Nicks, Buckingham and now Christine McVie from instantly moving on to solo projects once the subsequent tour – just 29 shows in two months – was over. Buckingham quickly moved on to make his second solo album, Go Insane – quirky, poppy, unashamedly MTVfocused – which flopped. McVie had a minor solo hit with Got A Hold On Me, which was Fleetwood Mac by f Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had been any other name. the catalyst for Fleetwood Mac’s evolution from The only one who was content to lie back in the has-been British bluesers into Californian softshadows and wait for the heat to drop was John rock exemplars – the magic sauce that nurtured the McVie. He did some old-pals-act, jamming with hits and reinvented the Mac’s grizzly old image – it John Mayall and Mick Taylor, reviving memories was Buckingham and Nicks who used the early-80s, of his Bluesbreakers beginnings. He became, in his post-Tusk era to parlay new, more exciting solo words, “a gagster” around LA, whenever he could careers for themselves. be bothered to stick his head out the door. Mainly, Buckingham had sacrificed himself for Mac’s though, he hung out on his boat, soaking up the rays. giant success for long enough, he now decided. It As before, Nicks was the only one of the band’s was time for him to go it alone, unbound by such front three to score heavily solo. And the only one, trite demands as hit singles and release deadlines. ironically, to really move the musical board on from He wanted to make art, and Fleetwood Mac was no the classic floaty Mac sound. Collaborating with Mick Fleetwood longer the place for him to do it. Prince on The Wild Heart – hence the preponderance His next stop was Solo City – and a US Top 10 hit of squelchy synths and drum machines – she had in his own right, Trouble. another top-five hit with Stand Back, lifting the album “Mick was a little bit bitter about me leaving,” the to double-platinum status. Similarly, the yet-morefamously strong-headed guitarist put it at the time. “But if platinum 1985 follow-up, Rock A Little, in 1985, and the Mick and I see each other, there’s nothing wrong. The chemistry is top-four single Talk To Me. there – that’s what the band was all about in the first place.” But by now Nicks’s health – and decision-making – was faltering. Indeed. And a statement that left the door nicely ajar for any future Having inexplicably turned down the song These Dreams, written rapprochement. especially for her by Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin and multi-star Nicks, however, appeared to have other ideas. She was 32 in 1980, and collaborator Martin Page, she then suffered the ignominy of seeing Heart ready for “a big new adventure”. She was also the biggest female singing take the writers’ second choice version to No.1. Her voice had also gone star in the world, had recently taken on a new manager, the all-powerful from lamb’s-blood cool to wrinkled cat lady, the result in no small part Irving Azoff, also then manager of the Eagles, and destined to become one of her years of cocaine abuse. That and the brandy, champagne and of the major music biz players of the century. When Irving told Nicks that a ferocious cigarette habit. now was her time to strike out on her own, she knew he was right. “All of us were drug addicts, but there was a point where I was the “There’s the wild side to me and the free side,” she explained in 1982. worst drug addict,” she would later recall of the period. “I was a girl, I was “As I get a little older and a little wiser, there’s still the wild side that doesn’t fragile, and I was doing a lot of coke. And I had that hole in my nose. So it want any discipline whatsoever in her life, and the part of me that knows was dangerous.” the only way I can get to people is not to be so terribly out of control, to At the end of her ’86 solo tour, she checked into the Betty Ford clinic, balance the two.” and came out with a repeat prescription for the tranquilliser Klonopin Or put another way, if her solo career didn’t take off, she knew she could – given to her by a certain “Doctor Fuckhead!” she scowled – which she always go back to Fleetwood Mac. Only Nicks’s career did take off, her solo also then became addicted to. Word was she had to have rhinoplasty to debut, Bella Donna, going to No.1 in America and selling nearly five million fix her coke-rotted septum. She also suffered long bouts of chronic fatigue copies, and including three hit singles, with the first, Stop Draggin’ My Heart syndrome following the removal of her silicone breast implants. Around, becoming Nicks’s biggest hit song since Dreams four years earlier. “They made me very, very sick,” she told one writer. “I had them done in By 1982, as Fleetwood Mac gradually reconvened to make a new album, December 1976. I’d only been in Fleetwood Mac one year and I was getting Nicks was so busy – planning a musical based on Bella Donna that would a lot of attention. I had always thought my hips were too big and that I had be “like the Othello of the eighties”; a ballet based on Rhiannon, or possibly no chest.” a film version with Nicks as the titular heroine; a collection of children’s Now her problem was no self-esteem.
“I’d been down before, in the years after Peter Green left and we struggled to stay afloat, but never anything quite like this.”
“All of us were drug addicts, but there was a point where I was the worst drug addict. I was a girl, I was fragile. It was dangerous.”
Ghost in the machine: Stevie Nicks rarely attended the Tango In The Night sessions.
Meanwhile, Mick Fleetwood’s problem was no craved the kind of bright-white-lights attention a new anything. He had also tried for some semblance Mac album would give him. of a solo career, with The Visitor, No.43 in 1981, Christine and John McVie were happy to collude. and I’m Not Here, which came and went in 1983 Fleetwood Mac had been their lives. They wanted it without troubling the charts at all. The latter was to revive as much as anyone. As for Nicks… billed as Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, named after his he album, titled Tango In The Night – an oblique three-million-dollar pad The Blue Whale in Ramirez reference to the various forms of ‘tango’ the Canyon. “A huge house built around a pool,” band members indulged in during the which he said quickly “turned into a real zoo” of Stevie Nicks moonlit hours, aka ‘dancing with the ice queen’, ‘no dealers, groupies and after-midnight shenanigans. blow no show’ etc – would eventually take more than Neighbours included Barbra Streisand and Don a year to complete. Yet during that time Stevie Nicks Henley, but the entourage at the spent less than two weeks in the studio. Then when she house became “a pool of leeches”. did, she was so bumped-up, yanked-down, spun-around Now bankrupt to the tune of eight that she found the process turgid, boring, a drag, man. “I can million dollars, by 1986 Fleetwood was desperate remember going up there and not being happy to even be there,” she later to get the Mac money machine up and running again. admitted. “I guess I didn’t go very often.” He began by re-establishing his personal relationship In fairness, she had been on the road touring for some of the time, been with Lindsey Buckingham. The guitarist, who’d recently in rehab for some of the rest of the time, but mainly she was simply ill. begun preliminary work on his next solo album with From the drugs, from the withdrawal, from the implant infection, from Richard Dashut, invited Fleetwood – still living at the life she now found herself living as he spiralled into her late-thirties, Dashut’s house – to work on some of the demos. alone and vulnerable. “I had some ambivalence about Mick,” Buckingham It’s all there on the three tracks she wrote for Tango, most notably confessed. “He was clearly into my album, and yet I knew Welcome To The Room Sara, based on her month-long stay at the Betty Ford he was to a substantial degree instigating this whole Centre, where she had checked in under the name band thing. I couldn’t be mad at Sara Anderson. The line: ‘Front line baby/Well you held him, because Fleetwood Mac is his Taking Nicks’s place: Bekka Bramlett. her prisoner,’ was in reference to her management lifeblood, really. He’s spent his whole company, Front Line, whom she now blamed for life trying to keep the ship afloat.” working her too hard – the classic rock star response When the sessions then evolved into a nascent to allowing money and fame, and all the ‘fun’ that Fleetwood Mac album, Buckingham allowed it to went with it, to fuck them up. It’s there again in the happen. “Everyone has said to me: ‘This is going to dreary, feeling-sorry-for-yourself ballad When I See be a good thing for you,’” he said, acting nonchalant, You Again, singing about ‘the dream is gone/So she stays “and, of course, you kind of are suspicious of their up nights on end.’ Not much better was the funk-lite motives, too. I’m a suspicious guy.” Seven Wonders, which Prince had perked up for her. The truth was that, like the rest of the band – Nicks, Nicks was so utterly absent from the Tango sessions excepted – Buckingham hadn’t enjoyed significant that when she sat down with the band to listen to commercial success since Mirage four years earlier. the first official playback she had a major freak-out He may not have been broke like Fleetwood, but he
The Behind The Mask Mac, now
because, she screamed: “It’s like I’m not even on this record. I can’t hear with guitarists Rick Vito (bottom myself at all.” To which Christine McVie replied dryly: “We wanted you left) and Billy Burnett (right). to sing on it too. But you weren’t here. Now why don’t you just say you’re sorry and we’ll work it out.” At which point, according to Mick Fleetwood in his 1990 memoir, “Quite gracefully, Stevie capitulated in front of the whole band and we gleefully layered her vocals into the mix of the album. Stevie had been right after all, and so had Christine.” In fact several of her vocal tracks had been deliberately taken out of the mix by Buckingham, because she’d been drunk when she did them. Instead he used a Fairlight sampling synth to assemble some of her vocals. “I had to pull performances out of words and lines and make parts that sounded like her that weren’t her,” Buckingham later claimed. It was a shame, as the rest of Tango In The Night contained some of the Mac’s best work since Rumours. Family Man, a Buckingham classic originally intended for his solo album became one of the album’s six singles. He also wrote and sang lead on the album’s most insistent hit, Big Love. Christine McVie was also back on winning form, writing and singing the album’s other huge hit, Little Lies, a song that would once have begged for a Stevie Nicks vocal, here delivered with all the sugared aplomb of a true pro. Ditto Everywhere. This stuff was radio heaven, the kind of fluffy commercial dud. On it there were no hits, no give-a-shits, and although it cloud-bouncing singalongs the Mac could again now be counted on to entered the UK chart at No.1 it dive-bombed thereafter and barely made keep the big wheels of the record industry rolling. the US Top 20. Released in 1987, Tango In The Night became the second-biggest-selling Both Nicks and Vito split, and Fleetwood dug deep again, this time album of Fleetwood Mac’s career after Rumours, selling more than two bringing in guitarist Dave Mason, the former Traffic/Hendrix/solo artist/ million copies in Britain alone. Surely, even with doubts about Nicks’s session slinger, and Bekka Bramlett. The daughter of American duo health still in the balance, the late-80s would be a new epoch for the band Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Bekka was a leggy blonde 25-year-old now celebrating its 20th anniversary? who didn’t have a voice as distinctive as Nicks’s but she was almost half It was – but not in the way any of them would have liked. Because her age and sure looked good. This line-up also released just one album, just as they were about to begin a nine-month world tour, in September, 1995’s Time, which became the worst-selling Fleetwood Mac album since Lindsey Buckingham decided he couldn’t go through with it and abruptly Penguin more than 20 years before. While on the road, the once magnetic left the band. Fleetwood Mac now found itself sandwiched onto a nostalgia package Cue panic, fury, bitter recriminations, and so many different versions tour, between REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. of what happened that have come out over the years since that it’s almost Buckingham’s next solo album, Out Of The Cradle had come impossible to know which tells the most truth. What everyone out in 1992 – the same year Bill Clinton came to power on the – even Fleetwood and Buckingham – seems to agree on is that back of Don’t Stop – but was a complete flop. Even John Buckingham bailed because he just couldn’t stand the McVie put out a solo album in 1992, not that anyone thought of going back on tour with a band that noticed. For a while, it really did look like no one was still believed in all the ‘old-school’ ways of life on getting out of this story alive. the road: dusty rose nostrils, white-walled eyes, No one – not even tunnel-visioned Mick brandy of the damned tongues and hundred-dollarFleetwood – could have predicted that there would bill shoelaces. be yet more comebacks to come in the new century. Promises were made to him, inducement offered, Instead, when I visited Stevie and then accusations and threats that culminated in Nicks in the early 90s, at her home Buckingham calling Nicks “a schizophrenic bitch” hidden deep in the Hollywood and throwing her over the bonnet of a car. “You’re hills, I found the lady of the house a bunch of selfish bastards!” Fleetwood recalls the in quiet repose. There was no guitarist yelling at them as he left. ‘significant other’ present, just Afterwards, John McVie merely shrugged: “It a bunch of giggling middle-aged didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this was female friends, all dressed to the gonna happen.” Lindsey Buckingham nines in teeny-weeny cocktail But Fleetwood, the old trouper, who had dealt dresses, drinking from fluted with Peter Green at his most psychotic, who had wine glasses, submerged in the dealt with other prima-donna guitarists walking dancing shadows of a house lit only by out in favour of solo careers, who had kept the creaking thousands of tiny candles. Fleetwood Mac ship on its unsteady but direct course She showed me round the house, every room, for two decades, shouted everybody down. He gave it the old stiff stairway, cupboard, hidey-hole, nook, cranny, even upper and lip and announced: “We’ve got a bloody great record, and the bathrooms and toilets with their gold fixtures and we’re gonna look like a lot of bloody idiots if we don’t go on the road. Let’s fittings. Then we came to the bedrooms. There weren’t keep our momentum going and use it to find new people.” that many, actually. Then we got to her bedroom. She pointed to the fourAnd that’s what they did. poster bed on which sat dozens of Teddy bears, dolls and stuffed animals. he 1990s would provide for a strange kind of afterlife for Later we settled on a couch and she told me how she believed in Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood had desperately attempted to reinvent reincarnation. How she still loved Buckingham and Fleetwood – and the wheel again, bringing in singer-guitarists Rick Vito and Billy others, right back to her earliest teenage crushes. She showed me her Burnette to what was now the band’s eleventh line-up. But not even two journal, which she had kept for years, full of dry-pressed flowers and her guys could fill the tremendous Buckingham-shaped hole in the soul of “secret thoughts” and poetry. the band, and though Fleetwood Mac toured successfully enough, I asked if she could ever see herself back in Fleetwood Mac one day. chartering their own Boeing 727 aeroplane, the only album this line-up “No,” she she said, smiling. “Unless, you know…” made together, 1990’s Behind The Mask, proved to be an artistic and Oh, I knew.
“I couldn’t be mad at Mick, because Fleetwood Mac is his lifeblood, really. He’s spent his whole life trying to keep the ship afloat.”
Rebound Years Buckingham and Nicks returned to the band, Christine McVie left, Christine returned… and another series of episodes of rock’s longest-running soap opera were written. Words: Dave Everley
here’s a theory that Fleetwood Mac operate on a 10-year cycle, one that reaches peak success, maximum drama or a combination of both whenever the year ends in a seven. Since they formed in 1967, much of the band’s career has worked to that schedule. The year 1977 produced the worldbeating Rumours, a soft rock masterpiece that played out against a backdrop of romantic complication and personal psychodrama. In 1987 it was Tango In The Night, a Yuppie-era landmark created amid struggles with drug addiction and barely suppressed acrimony that precipitated the departure of Lindsey Buckingham before the album had barely cooled on the shelves. Then 1997 was no less chaotic, with Buckingham returning for a lucrative live reunion, only for Christine McVie to bail soon afterwards. If 2007 and 2017 – so far – have bucked this trend, it isn’t for lack of trying. The past 20 years of Fleetwood Mac have been no less eventful than their first 30, albeit for different reasons. The tangled relationships that exist between the five members – and especially between Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – continue to define the group as much as their music. “There’s a subtext of love between us, and it would be hard to deny that much of what we’ve accomplished had something to do with trying to prove something to each other,” Buckingham said in 2013. “Maybe that’s fucked up, but this is someone I’ve known since I was sixteen, and on some weird level we’re still trying to work some things out.” Or as drummer Mick Fleetwood neatly put it: “This band is the most abused franchise in the music business.”
members of Fleetwood Mac never allowed them to truly escape each other. Within weeks of putting things to bed, Fleetwood began working with Buckingham on his new solo album, soon pulling John and Christine McVie into their orbit. Nicks hadn’t been idle during her time away from Mac, and by 1996 she was clean and, more surprisingly, collaborating with Buckingham again on Twisted, a song for the disaster movie Twister. With Buckingham at the centre of things it was only a matter of time before the fragments of Fleetwood Mac were pieced back together. “Lindsey was very much the focus of it all,” acknowledged Fleetwood. “I’ve gotten real close to him over the last year, to a place we’ve never been before.”
MAIN: DALLE/ICONICPIX; INSET: GEMA-ICONICPIX
id-way through the 90s, Fleetwood Mac were in trouble. Their last studio album, 1995’s pallid Time had been a disaster. It wheezed into the lower reaches of the British charts for one week, and didn’t even make the US Top 200 – unthinkable only a few years before. The problem was simple: there was no Lindsey Buckingham and no Stevie Nicks. It might have said ‘Fleetwood Mac’ on the record sleeve, but this was a pale imitation of the real thing. After the band found themselves on a soulless US package tour, Mick Fleetwood decided that enough was enough. “It was starting to be too much hard work,” he said a few years later. “We made an album that was a total failure and I couldn’t see myself starting all over. So we stopped.” Except it wasn’t that simple. The weird bond that existed between the
Missing person: Nicks was at first unwilling to carry on without Christine in the band.
Holding it all together: Mick Fleetwood is the only ever-present member of Fleetwood Mac.
Nicks was similarly effusive. “He and I are probably better friends than we’ve been in a long time,” he said of Fleetwood. “We had some really nice talks and some nice moments that were so sweet.” In March 1997, the inevitable happened: the Rumours line-up announced officially that they would be reuniting for a tour later that year. Fleetwood Mac’s 10-year cycle was running on time.
“This band is the most abused franchise in the music business.”
Buckingham said. “I think the time apart helped us appreciate each other. This has always been a group of people you can say maybe didn’t belong in the same band together, but it’s the synergy that makes it so magical. We were able to see that more clearly.” Mick Fleetwood For Stevie Nicks, it wasn’t so straightforward. She reflected that while the magic was still there on stage, off stage it was a different matter. The simmering tensions between the singer and her old boyfriend had he first proper Fleetwood Mac concert to feature both never truly cooled, and their relationship was trapped in a nearBuckingham and Nicks since 1982 took place on May 23, 1997 at adolescent cycle of mutual adoration, frustration and enmity. the Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles. Filmed for an MTV “It’s like the old days, because our spirits never really change,” she special and billed as The Dance – a name that could be read as a reflected in 2001. “It really is wonderful. It’s just not wonderful when the celebration of the reunion or a comment on the behind-the-scenes politics affair comes off stage. You can be in love on stage and that’s fine, but as involved with it – the show was a hybrid of the old and the new, mixing soon as you mess up and take it off stage you don’t want to talk to people, stripped-down versions of 70s and 80s staples with a handful of new you don’t want to stand next to them and you don’t want them to put their tracks. Two of those songs in particular, Buckingham’s stinging My Little arm around you.” Demon and the wistful Nicks-penned Say You Will, suggested Fleetwood This time, though, their rocky friendship was the least of the problems. had a viable future beyond this gig. That was proven when the attendant Halfway through the tour, Christine McVie dropped a bombshell: she album went to No.1 in the US. After a turbulent few years, the train was wanted out. “She flipped out and said: ‘I just can’t do this any more, I’m back on the rails. having panic attacks,’” said Nicks. “She sold her house and her car and her Predictably, a full tour followed. Publicly, the line being peddled was that piano and moved back to England.” they had all grown and matured since the tumult of the 70s and 80s. “The Christine had effectively retired from Fleetwood Mac, and indeed from craziness that existed in eighty-seven and eighty-eight was gone,” music altogether. Her departure upset the delicate power balance
Being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998.
Fleetwood Mac came out of hiatus to perform at an MTV special, billed as The Dance, on May 23, 1997.
within the band even more than Buckingham and Nicks’s departure had done years before. “She is the magic mediator,” said Nicks. “She’s the one that made light of everything and made everybody laugh and told us we were all full of shit. She was the person who made it all work.” Christine took her bow at the beginning of 1998 when Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement award at the Brits a few weeks later. “We’d said our goodbyes in America,” she said later. “We just all slipped away into the night.” For once in Fleetwood Mac’s career, there was no drama. McVie’s departure effectively pushed the stand-by button on Fleetwood Mac for the next few years, even if Buckingham and Nicks couldn’t keep out of each other’s lives. In 2001, Nicks released a solo album, Trouble In Shangri-La, which featured Buckingham on one track, the aptly titled I Miss You. Buckingham himself had been stockpiling songs during the 90s and early 00s, even bringing in his bandmates to play on some of them. In 2000 he presented an album, Gift Of Screws, to his label, Reprise. Their advice: “Save these songs for Fleetwood Mac.” Once again, Buckingham’s solo career had been hijacked for a greater cause.
sound. Here, his protean songwriting and guitar playing wrong-footed anyone expecting Rumours Revisited or Tango In The Night 2. Indeed Red Rover and the bursts of borderline heavy-metal noise on Come sounded more like Buckingham solo tracks than Mac songs. Not everyone was entirely comfortable with this shift in focus. “It was a nightmare doing that record,” Nicks later said of Say You Will. “It really was Lindsey’s vision and it wasn’t very much about the other three of us. And of course it was the first record we had ever attempted to do without Christine. Right there, the whole thing was completely insane.” The public didn’t share her concerns, however. They were just happy to have a new album from this most iconic of ‘American’ groups, and pushed Say You Will into the US Top 5. While the band presented a united front in public, the old strains soon came bubbling back. They may have been heading towards their sixtieth birthdays, but Buckingham and Nicks were still behaving like squabbling teenagers. “On the Say You Will tour we were always fighting,” Nicks said in 2011. “Our up-and-down relationship never really changed. It’s no different than it was in 1976 when we broke up.” (Presumably any psychic wounds were at least partially salved by the $27 million the tour reportedly generated.) With the combustible dynamic at the heart of he songs that started life as a Lindsey Fleetwood Mac having exhausted more than one of Buckingham solo record mutated into its participants, once the tour was over the various Fleetwood Mac’s seventeenth studio album, members went back to their separate lives. Over the Say You Will, released in 2003. It had been 16 years next few years, Nicks bounced between lucrative Stevie Nicks since Buckingham last appeared on one of the Greatest Hits tours and outings with old friends Don group’s studio albums, and six since The Dance. “It Henley and Tom Petty, while Buckingham finally took us that long to figure out what the hell we were released a solo album, 2006’s startling Under The Skin, going to do without Christine,” said Nicks. “Or even if we and settled into the role of left-field auteur. Both patiently could do it without her.” fielded questions about the future of Fleetwood Mac, It turned out that they could. Behind The Mask and Time had set although their answers were very different; Buckingham suggested the bar low, but Say You Will was the sound of a band finally catching up that they might reunite for a tour in 2008, while Nicks was adamant that with themselves. Far from being a pallid recreation of past glories, tracks she would be unwilling to carry on without Christine McVie. such as Peacekeeper and the kaleidoscopic Murrow Turning Over In His Grave Nicks won that particular battle of wills, and a reunion failed to threw off the shackles of nostalgia. materialise, although matters weren’t helped when Nicks’s close friend McVie wasn’t entirely absent – she sang backing vocals on Bleed To Love Sheryl Crow claimed in 2008 that Fleetwood Mac would be touring the and Steal Your Heart Away, two tracks that were originally recorded for following year and that she would be involved. Typically, Buckingham Buckingham’s postponed solo record. And Nicks had her share of denied that Crow’s participation had ever gone beyond a casual songwriting credits, most notably on the title song and Illume 9-11, conversation, while Nicks insisted otherwise. a mystical treatise on the World Trade Center attacks, even if the hefty “It was absolutely discussed and she was absolutely invited to join,” 18-track running length carried the whiff of diplomatic tightrope walking Nicks said. “The reason was because I wanted another woman in the band in order to please everyone. – it’s hard to be in the boys’ club. I explained to Sheryl what it was like to be Mainly, though, Say You Will was Buckingham’s baby. As far back as Tusk, in the group – that it’s all-encompassing. Like, on the Say You Will tour we one of his chief roles had been to agitate the traditional Fleetwood Mac went out expecting to do forty shows, and it turned into a hundred and
“We were always fighting. It’s no different than it was in 1976 when we broke up.”
With Fleetwood Mac, you get the feeling the story will never really ever be over…
“The craziness that existed in ’87 and ’88 was gone. Time apart helped us appreciate each other.”
thirty-five shows. So Sheryl called me and said: ‘I’ll and the dogs and baking cookies for the YWCA,” she have to pass.’” explained of her lengthy hiatus from music. “But As it turned out, Fleetwood Mac were reactivated then it got so boring. You couldn’t walk down the Lindsey Buckingham in 2009 for a tour. Crow wasn’t involved, and neither road without meeting two people related to each was Christine, although she was in the audience for other. I missed the songs. And I missed the audience.” their show in London. At the same time, a BBC Sure enough, Christine rejoined Fleetwood Mac documentary cast light on the current state of the officially at the start of 2014. Her return reinstated the Buckingham-Nicks relationship. “Maybe when we’re group’s best-known line-up, though it did little to ease the seventy-five and Fleetwood Mac is a distant memory, we might be push-me-pull-you dynamics between two of its chief protagonists. friends,” said Nicks. “Relations between Lindsey and I are as exactly as they have been Buckingham held the reins earlier in the decade, but now things had since we broke up,” Nicks said. “He and I will always be antagonising each become more complicated. A passive-aggressive power struggle played other and we will always do things that will irritate each other, and we out in the press. In 2011 the guitarist suggested that Fleetwood Mac were really know how to push each other’s buttons. We know exactly what to ready to return. “We’re doing something for sure,” he said. “I wouldn’t be say when we really want to throw a dagger in.” shocked if it was a tour and possibly an album. We’ll have to wait and see. Nicks’s ongoing refusal to get involved in a new Fleetwood Mac album With Fleetwood Mac there’s a lot of land mines out there politically, and wasn’t button-pushing as much as the act of a person determined to retain it’s hard to get everybody on the same page at the same time, but I think control of their life. But it seemingly frustrated Buckingham, who has this might be one of those years where everyone will want to do the same subsequently attempted to persuade, cajole and plead with his on-off thing. Whatever that is.” partner into re-engage with the process. His suggestion in 2015 that Nicks felt differently. She decided to instead concentrate on her solo Fleetwood Mac were entering their “last act” read suspiciously like an album, In Your Dreams. In his very polite, very British way, Mick Fleetwood attempt at a guilt trip. But still Nicks has refused to budge. put the blame for the inaction at the Nicks’s feet. “For now she refuses to In terms of their own 10-year-cycle, 2017 has been relatively quiet. do a Fleetwood Mac tour. It’s down to her,” he said in 2012. “I don’t believe Evidently tired of waiting, Buckingham and Christine McVie released an Fleetwood Mac will ever tour again,” he added pessimistically. album together in June. Comprising material that dates back to 2014 and featuring appearances from Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, it is n the event, he was wrong on both counts. Nicks changed her mind effectively a Fleetwood Mac record without Stevie Nicks. and the band hit the road again in 2013. They even had a new EP to But the story of “the most abused franchise in music” is still being promote, the prosaically titled Extended Play, comprising three songs written. A new tour featuring the Rumours line-up has been announced for from Buckingham and one from Nicks. 2018. Mick Fleetwood recently said that they are sitting on “a huge amount If that was a surprise, then it was nothing compared to what happened of recorded music”, although “virtually none of it” features Nicks. Given next. When the tour reached London, they were joined on stage by an the constant state of flux Fleetwood Mac exist in, only a fool would rule unexpected guest: the supposedly retired Christine McVie, who pitched in out the notion of it ever appearing. on a rapturously received Don’t Stop. “God knows, our lives are unimaginable without each other,” Mick “I had this idea that I’d love the small village life, with the Range Rover Fleetwood has said. It was true in 1977, it’s even more so today.
Dave Grohl was supposed to spend 2017 licking his wounds. Instead he retreated into the wilderness, loaded up on wine and wrote a schizophrenic new Foo Fighters album exploring his darkest thoughts. Interview: Marcel Anders
DAN BURN-FORTI/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES ADDITIONAL REPORTING: HENRY YATES
ven a steaming hangover can’t slow Dave Grohl down. It’s a summer’s day in Los Angeles, and although the frazzled Foo Fighter rolls into the band’s Studio 606 clad entirely in black, his conversation is the usual kaleidoscope of themes. His kids. Metallica. Animal from The Muppets. And, above all these, the fiercely ambitious ninth album, Concrete And Gold, that will scotch any lingering notion of the Foos as Nirvanalite. “This is something,” he tells us, “I’ve always wanted to do.” By rights, Grohl shouldn’t be on duty. Recent times have been sufficiently tough for this human dynamo to breathe that dirtiest of words: hiatus. To recap, there was the tumble from a Gothenburg stage back in June 2015, the broken leg and the makeshift set-up that saw him installed on a guitar-bedecked throne. “Well, it’s strange,” he reflects, “because I remember right after surgery, having the phone call with my production crew. We had to cancel four or five shows, but we wanted to finish [the tour]. I knew I couldn’t walk for months, so I thought, ‘OK, I’ll sit down.’ And we drew this diagram and made that crazy throne. “The first show sitting in that throne was so fucking weird. I’d never sat down and played a rock show in a stadium. And I was nervous, but by the end of the show, I thought, ‘That was weird, and I like things that are weird, so let’s do it more.’” Grohl’s throne carved out its own small slice of rock’n’roll folklore – especially when it was lent to fellow hobbler Axl Rose. “I went to see Guns N’ Roses and it was a fucking great show, but I was sitting there watching them, like, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’ It’s like watching a king on a throne just sort of conduct an audience.”
But when he dethroned each night, Grohl struggled. “We did fifty or sixty shows after I’d broken my leg and I had a blast. The shows where I was sitting in that ridiculous throne thing, I fucking loved it. But those were the best three hours of the day. It was the other twenty-one hours that were a challenge, because I was on crutches or in a wheelchair. So not only was it physically challenging, but after a while it’s emotionally difficult, so I thought the best thing for the band would be just to stop and get away from it for a while. We’ve always felt like if we get to the point where it’s just about to snap then we back off and say, ‘We should stop,’ y’know?” This was to be the year the Foo Fighters lay low, dabbled in rainy-day projects, caught up with their longsuffering families. That was never going to work out. As the sprawling master tapes and wall-mounted platinum discs of Studio 606 attest, since he formed the Foos back in 1994, downtime has not been in Grohl’s vocabulary. The frontman soon found himself feeling rudderless, empty, bereft. “I was approaching other projects, like directing movies and stuff like that, just to do something other than the band, but my passion wasn’t the same. And it actually seemed like work, this other project. I’ve never had to manufacture some inspiration to be in the Foo Fighters. It’s always been real. And here I was trying to create some inspiration or energy to do something else. And I realised, like, ‘Oh, that’s what it’s like when your heart isn’t one hundred per cent in it.’ It was around then I started to realise, like, the best thing for me isn’t a break, it’s to make music with the band. “It’s hard to spend too much time away,” he says. “I need to play music with these guys. It’s such a big part of my life
“I would drink a bottle of wine and then scream anything into a microphone. It was like this unfiltered stream of consciousness.”
Game of thrones: the king of rock puts his feet up.
Sane old songs: “Music is what keeps me from going crazy.”
that when you’re away from it for six months, eight months, whatever it is, you actually feel empty in a way. I thought at one point that music was the thing that was making me exhausted and fucking up my head. But then after six months, I realised: ‘No, no, no, wait. Music is what keeps me from going crazy, y’know?’”
“When we play live and you’ve got a hundred thousand people singing along, that’s what life’s all about.”
hen there’s the Concrete And Gold lyric sheet, whose often bleak viewpoint is at odds with Grohl’s sunny-side-up persona, and prompted Josh Homme to note: “Finally, Dave’s made a dark album. It was about time.” “Well, I had been watching television and thinking about the state of the world and the state of America,” remembers Grohl, “and I went to Ojai and fucking turned the television off. I threw the television out the window and just wanted to play music; disappear. But yeah, I mean, I think the current climate here on planet Earth is a bit disparaging. It seems like there’s so much division and conflict that ultimately all I want to do is bring everyone together to feel some hope or sing a song. “When you come to a Foo Fighters show,” he continues, “not everybody comes from the same place. They’re from all walks of life and different races, different religions, different nationalities, different languages, but they all manage to come together and sing songs with us, and that to me is the ultimate goal. I don’t want to divide anyone. I want there to be this sort of coexistence, though I feel like there’s a lot of institutions that are placed upon us that really split everyone into so many
MAIN: KEVIN NIXON; INSET: GETTY
o began Concrete And Gold, the new material initiated over five days at an Airbnb in Ojai, California, where Grohl stripped to his underwear, drank heavily then spat whatever came to mind into a portable studio. “When I went to sing these songs,” he says, “I went into that house in the woods for a week just by myself and I would drink a bottle of wine and then scream anything into a microphone. It was like this unfiltered stream of consciousness.” If Grohl’s testimony suggests that Concrete And Gold is an album of the route-one, three-chord,
hit-and-hope variety, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Described by the line-up as “Motörhead’s version of Sgt. Pepper”, this ninth album is the most ambitious of their career, walking a tightrope between savage hard rock and pure pop. The natural conclusion is that this schizophrenic quality is down to a happy tug-of-war with Greg Kurstin, the producer best-known for his pop smashes with Adele and Sia (as well as his own off-kilter outfit, The Bird And The Bee). Grohl says otherwise. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to make a record where musically or instrumentally, or dynamically, it’s really diverse. So every record has its moments of that, whether it’s the first record, or the second record with stuff like February Stars and See You, or In Your Honor, there’s the acoustic side, there’s the rock side. “But when I met Greg, I realised he’s the person that’s going to do this bigger and better than we’ve
ever done it before. Like, anywhere you want to go, he’ll take you farther than you thought you could go. So if you say, ‘I want this to be really trashy and noisy,’ then you get a song like La Dee Da, which is just really, like, fucking noisy. If I say, ‘I want this to sound really huge, like a choir,’ then you get a song like Concrete And Gold, where it goes from being this really spare, dark Black Sabbath riff to exploding into this mushroom cloud of fucking choirs. I eventually realised that the [title track] not only serves as this hopeful finale to the album, but it also does represent the juxtaposition or the duality of the sound of the record. There’s that raw foundation of noisy rock riffs, and then that beautiful shiny melody and harmony on top. “I grew up listening to The Beatles when I was young,” Grohl continues. “The songs I always loved the most were the ones that were kinda dark and sinister, like She’s So Heavy. It’s almost like the first dark metal riff. It’s like, you just close your eyes and it seems like this fucking sinister, dark vibe. But the vocals are so beautiful, and the lyrics… I mean, the harmonies they would stack are so fucking pretty, and I knew that when I was ten. So that’s sort of written into my DNA zipper musically – that’s my first love. And this time, we’ve actually got to the place where I feel satisfied that we did that one thing that I always wanted to do, y’know?”
Foo Fighters: (l-r) Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett.
different factions that you forget about basic common human behaviour. “When I’m writing lyrics, I’m not so politically direct that it would sound like a Rage Against The Machine album, but what I’m trying to do is express frustration at how everyone is so divided. When we go play live and you’ve got a hundred thousand people singing along to a song, that to me is what life’s all about. Connecting all these people with a lyric or a song or whatever. That’s what gives me hope.” Arrows could be interpreted as a call-to-arms against President Trump: a song about a character with arrows in his eyes and war on his mind? “One of the beautiful things about lyrics is that you wind up singing those songs for your own reasons. Arrows is actually written about my mother, and the struggles of being a woman and a single parent, trying to raise two kids as a public school teacher, and the struggles that I’d watch her go through. Dirty Water, I think, is just about feeling polluted by that black cloud of oppression. Y’know, where you’re bleeding dirty water and you’re breathing dirty sky, you just kinda feel polluted by that sort of dark energy.” Other songs, like the cacophonous La Dee Da, with its references to cult leader Jim Jones, find Grohl looking inwards and backwards. “That song is about me as a teenager,” explains Grohl. “When I was twelve or thirteen years old, I started discovering hardcore punk rock, underground music, and I was alienated from most people in my neighbourhood where I lived. I was the only weird punk-rock kid, and there was something
empowering about that – I felt good about myself that I was different from everyone else. And this is in the 80s where there’s this conservative wave of politics that was washing over America, with the Reagan administration and Reaganomics, and the country was in this state of conflict, because instead of it being progressive, it seemed regressive. And as a forward-thinking fucking alienated freak, I just felt uncomfortable that: wait a minute, I don’t want life to be like it was in the fifties. I want life to be like it is fucking now. Today. “There were times where it was difficult,” he reflects, “but I felt proud that I didn’t just go by the same standards as everyone else in life, and so listening to Psychic TV or fucking crazy industrial music in my blue bedroom, where I had mistakenly painted Jim Jones on my wall. I didn’t mean to: I was painting his face on a bedsheet and it stuck to my wall. So when I tore it off, all the paint bled through onto my wall. So over my bed, I had this mural of his face for years. And obviously he was a fucking violent, terrible, crazy fucking person… but I wrote that song about how I still feel alienated in life in so many ways.” Grohl is a teenager no longer. At 48, black must soon give way to grey, the first hint of the ageing process announced by his thick black spectacles. “Oh God, it’s the worst,” he hoots. “When I was
young, I really wanted glasses cos my sister had them. She had braces and glasses. I was so jealous, cos she had all the accoutrements. And then finally, when I turned 40, eight years ago, my optometrist said: ‘Well, you need glasses.’ I was like: ‘Yay! I’m getting glasses!’ Now I’m like: ‘Fuck glasses!’ They drive me crazy. If I forget them I can’t read menus. I ask people to read me the menu. It’s embarrassing. It’s terrible. C’est la vie, mon chéri.” Breaking your leg, sitting on that throne, getting glasses… have you ever wondered if you might be getting too old for all this? “Oh, I’ve felt like that for the last fifteen years, y’know?” Grohl says, laughing. “I remember when we first started the band, thinking, ‘Well, I won’t do this in my thirties cos I’ll just be too old.’ But as you play, you don’t think about that. You just sort of feel like yourself. You probably still feel like you’re twenty-five, until you see your reflection in a window or a mirror and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’ “But no, I don’t think you could put an expiration date on something that still has life. I’ve always felt like there’s still life in this band, and there’s still songs in the band, and we’re still a fucking great live band, so I don’t know why we would stop.”
“When I’m writing lyrics, what I’m trying to do is express frustration at how everyone is so divided.”
Concrete And Gold is out now on RCA/Roswell. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 55
From industry sharks to cancer and strokes, nothing can sink Chris Rea. Rock’s great survivor looks on the bright side of life. Words: Henry Yates
MORRIS 1000 POLICE CAR: ALAMY
ew experiences in life are more humiliating than spluttering up the driveway of Chris Rea’s country pile in a decrepit Seat Altea. The veteran bluesman’s home is a trove of automobile porn: a gleaming Ferrari, a pristine Caterham 620, racing overalls, press clippings of Rea himself burning up the track. It’s becoming apparent why he wrote Road Songs For Lovers, his new semi-concept album, on which he admits that he finds peace only behind the wheel. “I love it,” he says with a twinkle, that burnished face crinkling into a walnut. “I always have. I don’t know why. How do you explain love?” Rea looks good, all things considered. Last week he had an MRI scan, the latest two-step in the 66-year-old’s long-standing dance with abdominal cancer. It turns out there are other ailments afoot. “I had a stroke in the autumn,” he reveals. “Boy, that was a big shock. When I first got home I couldn’t play slide guitar. It was horrific. Very scary moment. I couldn’t play F major 7th. I got it into my head that my perception of pitch had gone with the stroke. And it took a lot of convincing from people saying there’s nothing wrong with what you’re playing. I’m getting it back now, hopefully, for the tour.” You’d defy anyone to detect an issue on Road Songs. Rea’s supple, dextrous slide work is the fairy dust on these bluesy songs of open-road escapism, his desert-dry vocal wrapping them in parchment. He recorded his parts here, in his home studio. “They have to drag albums off me,” he says. “If you’re not careful, you just polish. And that’s a weakness of mine. Because I don’t have a big ego. I don’t think I’m any good, really. I’d love to play something and think: ‘Yep, that’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” but I never do.” He’s proud of these songs, though. Apart from the sinister trudge of Last Train, it’s easy to cast this album as a love letter to cars, the second great passion of Rea’s when he was younger. “You’re a little boy in Middlesbrough,” he reflects. “There are no colours, nothing glamorous. Everything is black and white. Then you’re stood with your dad and a German racing car goes
past you at 180 miles an hour. Even if it did that now it would be incredible. Imagine the relative perception in 1956. “They’re not an indulgence,” he stresses of his collection of cars. “I’m a proper racing driver. I’ve got an international C licence. I race a 1957 Morris 1000 police car. It’s not exactly a Lamborghini, is it? But I adore it. I’m an anorak. It’s about the engine, all that. It’s not about status. The Caterham will be my last car. It’s the heroin of car addicts. Nick Mason [Pink Floyd drummer and fellow petrolhead] once said to me: ‘You don’t have to take drugs to be an addict,’ y’know?” Aren’t cars stereotypical things for a rock star to write songs about? “I’m not a rock star!” Rea puffs, indignant. “There have been moments when I wish I was. When I see a Ferrari 250 GTO and it’s going for twenty-five million pounds, for about ten seconds I wish I was a rock star. It’s very difficult to be a rock star. When I’ve met people who are rock stars, they’re focused like you wouldn’t believe. They’re bothered about their hair. They’re constantly having something done to their face. How you look and how you sound is everything. It’s narcissistic. I’m not.”
ame has always repelled him, Rea reminds me. Digging his heels in all the way, his reluctant ascent began with his 1978 hit Fool (If You Think It’s Over), which he despised, and when the real circus began he was in too deep to walk away. “I signed a record contract that was the only one available to me at the time. I signed with the wrong record company for what I wanted to do, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. “When I did The Old Grey Whistle Test, the other band that was on with me was Dire Straits. I knew that day that that was what I should be doing. But it was too late. If Mark Knopfler had asked me to join them that night, I would have. And I would have gone to court with my record company. But I don’t think my record company would have let
me go. They’d have let me starve rather than let me go. Because somebody in Los Angeles had told the head of my record company: ‘Never let that boy go.’ It was quite sinister when you look back. “When someone said: ‘If you’re doing that TV gig, you’ve got to wear a leather jacket,’ I should have just said no to all that. But then I mightn’t have got this far. You’re constantly juggling what you want to do and what you have to do. “We had all this when I went back to the blues. They all shit themselves. What they didn’t realise is that Chris Rea fans like that. That’s the bit they like, better than the poppier side or trying to have a hit single. One German journalist for a rock magazine said: ‘The best thing you can ever see is a Chris Rea sound-check, because they’re just grooving and playing.’ They used to have to get us off stage: ‘For fuck’s sake, we’re opening the doors.’ We’re playing away, happy as pigs in shit – because we love it.” Last time we met, you said that the fallout from fame left you bad-tempered and aggressive. “Terribly aggressive. Y’know, I was four times a week at the gym and I was sixteen and a half stone. And fearful and paranoid that some twat was gonna take me back to the old pop record days. I became horrendously paranoid. There’s nothing to be paranoid about any more.” Aren’t you wary of Road Songs becoming a hit and the whole cycle starting again? “I don’t think we are. All through the spring I was saying to my manager: ‘John, promise me this. When it doesn’t happen, just stay calm. I don’t want any fucking getting drunk and having fights.’ “One of the things I’ve noticed is that I don’t think people care if you bring a new record out or not. When you go to Harley Street, all the doctors’ names are on brass plates, and underneath it tells you what they do. Well, that’s what we are. You’ve got ‘Mark Knopfler: Money For Nothing, Sultans Of Swing’. Doesn’t matter what else he does, that’s his brass plate. ‘Chris Rea: Road To Hell, On The Beach, Driving Home For Christmas’. If I made a triple
“I had a stroke in the autumn. When I got home I couldn’t play slide guitar.”
Speed freaks: Rea with fellow petrolhead Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.
Considering what Rea has been through, he’s earned the right to sing the blues.
of my musician friends said: ‘Well, we’re all going to leave the country.’ And I think the people who are left behind will say: ‘Good riddance.’”
ea reckons Road Songs, released on his Jazzee Blue label, will cover his expenses but perhaps not much more. “Well, touch wood, it’s not costing me money. But ten years with Jazzee Blue, you find out some of the things you just can’t get if you’re not with a big record company. There’d just be this mystery of why you couldn’t get in that magazine. It’s even happening now with gigs. Trying to get on a gig that Live Nation don’t own is extremely difficult. You find yourself not being able to get a venue. You don’t know why. The men at the top are still the men at the top. Most bands have become casualties of the business, but at the top of the business they’re on the same money as they always were. That bit hasn’t changed.” How do you feel about other developments in show business? “This is probably the only interview in the world this week where it’s you and me sat talking to each other,” says Rea. “Nowadays they’ll send emails and just say: ‘Answer the following questions.’ It saves money. “One of my big shocks lately is how people – even in the business – listen to music. It’s frightening. When I first started, there was a man who went round Warners’ offices all day long, every day, resetting people’s hi-fis and playback systems. Now they’re all listening to it on a PC. And modern music has changed because of that. Young kids make music for a PC. So they won’t have a big, fat bass, because you can’t hear it on a PC. They’ll make a more pointed, rhythmic bass, and it’ll be quantised. And that’s modern music. One of the final milestones for me was Ed Sheeran
“If I made the world’s best-ever music, they’d still want On The Beach.”
at Glastonbury this year,” he continues. “Because people were saying that he was using a little black box, and he didn’t have a band. But the main point of that was nobody cared. “We have terrible trouble when we tour. The last four people who’ve played the venue you’ve arrived into are saying: ‘Well, we didn’t have any trouble [with the sound].’ And you know that’s because it was all on hard disc. Of course you don’t have trouble, because you don’t have a buzzing 1962 Stratocaster!” And yet, for all the dodgy live sound and brassplate audiences, Rea says he’s raring to take Road Songs into its natural habitat when he goes out on his European tour in November. “Touring is like a holiday,” he says. “And when we do Germany and England on the tour there’ll be an album that comes out of that. I’m already onto my next one now. My problem is it’s almost like having a form of autism. I seriously think it’s quite close, creativity. I get up this morning, quarter to seven. I’ve got to write something. I’m useless at doing nothing.” Somehow, you suspect Chris Rea is the kind of musician who will never be done – unless his hand is forced by factors beyond his control. Again, where a ‘proper’ rock star would shut down any such enquiries, Rea is an open book on the subject of his gathering health issues. “The medical is the leveller when you’ve been as ill as me, with permanent damage,” he says. “And it has a lot of effects that I wish it didn’t. But it does. Y’know, there are reasons why I can’t go to the Himalayas. And I’d love to. But the way my body is now, digestion-wise, I couldn’t go up there.” He brightens. “I’m happy to be here,” he says. “I really am. And y’know, if you lose your pancreas and you’re on morphine for sixteen weeks in hospital, then you can say: ‘What’s wrong with me singing the blues?’” Road Songs For Lovers is out now via Jazzee Blue/BMG.
NICK MASON: PHOTOSHOT
album of the world’s best-ever music, better than Beethoven, they’d still want On The Beach.” Does that realisation hurt famous musicians? “It hurts accordingly to the size of your ego. The bigger the ego, the bigger the hurt. We’re all brass plates. I mean, Elton John brought a fabulous album out last year with the American producer [T Bone Burnett]. There won’t be one person at the next twenty thousand Elton John concerts that will wait for a song off that album. You’ve also got people who get the brass plate and put it in neon and do ‘best of’ tours. In fact, in Germany, the venue they’ll put you in and the type of money they’ll put up is totally dependent on what songs you’re contractually going to play. If you’re going to do all your hits, they’ll put you in the big arena in Dortmund; if not, they’ll put you in a club down the road in Cologne.” Given Rea’s troubled relationship with paydirt, perhaps the most fascinating song on the new album is Money, a rare deviation from the car theme, on which New Orleans brass jousts with his grizzled commentary on modern avarice. “That was me listening to the money programme [Money Box] on Radio Four,” he explains. “Everyone sees their politics from where they stand financially. That’s why everyone’s worried about Jeremy Corbyn, because he doesn’t have any financial desires, so he thinks you can live on thruppence. But when he wins… And he is going to win. There’s no doubt about it. I’ve got a bet. I’ve got sixteen to one. Him and his chancellor will decide how much money they think you need, everything else will go to the government.” That’s bad news for millionaire musicians like you, isn’t it? “No, because I think he’s right. A lot of people are like: ‘Fucking hell, Chris, don’t tell me you’re a Corbyn fan. For fuck’s sake, don’t tell anyone!’ I’ve written a song about him. It’s called What’s So Wrong With A Man Who Tells The Truth? Because he’s standing there, even his own party are laughing at him, and I thought: ‘You’re all laughing at your own peril.’ And yes, in the old way, Corbyn is useless. Because he says the wrong things. But the young people have had enough. “Because of my health I’m constantly in some of these hospitals. And we need more money. Of course, Newsnight will say: ‘Yeah, but where’s he gonna get it from?’ Tax. It’s as simple as that. One
As 1976 came along, Thin Lizzy were just another rock band, with a one-hit past and little in the way of a future. Then they released Jailbreak, and the boys weren’t so much back in town as running it. But after a disappointing follow-up, the pressure was on. Words: Mick Wall
A Word, was an almost identikit Boys Are Back reshuffle. In Britain, it didn’t matter. Lizzy had repeat hits and even more success on their winter ’76 tour, culminating in the sold-out three-night stint at the Hammersmith Odeon that would be recorded and later released as the 1978 Live & Dangerous double album. But after a brawl at the Speakeasy involving his tough-guy pal, singer Frankie Miller, Robbo slashed his left hand so badly he was told he’d never play again. Lizzy were forced to cancel their second US tour in a row – a month of dates in December intended to make up for the previous cancellation. Lynott was furious. According to Gorham, “Phil had become obsessed by everything American and really saw the band making it big there.” But with Johnny The Fox failing to follow Jailbreak into the US Top 30, and another tour in tatters, Lynott was convinced the band had blown their big chance. He was right.
“We thought of ourselves as the street punks of that era, so when the punk thing came around, Phil just embraced it.” Scott Gorham
here had been a decent attempt to recover lost ground in America with the self-styled Queen-Lizzy tour of the US in the early months of 1977. “We really learned a lot from opening for Freddie and the boys,” says Brian Downey. “They were in a different league to us.” The focus now, though, was on ensuring their next album would restore them to the US charts. They already had the title, Bad Reputation, which was a sardonic reflection on their damaged relationship with American concert promoters, record company executives and everyone else that had all but thrown in the towel when it came to trying to get the band off the ground in the States. Cliff Bernstein, then the band’s A&R man at their US label Mercury – and later co-manager of Lizzy-wannabes Def Leppard – once said: “It broke my heart that Lizzy continually fucked-up in America. In the end you just move on to other things.” In less than a year, they had gone from being compared favourably to Bruce Springsteen to completely dropping out of the conversation. Bad Reputation would be their belated attempt to fix that. “Promoters started wondering, ‘Thin Lizzy – they cancelled again?’” says Downey. “They were questioning the band’s credibility. After that, we had no
or the first five years of their topsy-turvy career, Thin Lizzy had been also-rans – strictly second div, with their 1973 novelty hit Whiskey In The Jar, their earnest ‘Irish rock’ concept albums and their constantly blurring line-ups. Could-have-beens. Maybes. Jokes. They were saved by the bell of their sixth album, Jailbreak, in 1976. For the first time the band successfully showcased their intoxicating blend of rock-funk-folk-blues bloodletting, and overnight Lizzy went from uninvited guests to new leaders of the pack. The big hit single from the album, The Boys Are Back In Town, had taken them from town halls to the big league: multiple nights at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, a first major tour of America, gold records on two continents. Cool cats adored by their kitties. Twenty-six-year-old singer and bassist Phil Lynott was the star. Black Brazilian father, white Irish mother, Lynott combined the Stagolee swagger of Jimi Hendrix with the street poetics of Van Morrison. Flanked by two genuine gunslingers in 20-year-old guitarist Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson (Scottish, fiery, bad for good) and 25-year-old Scott ‘Good Looking’ Gorham (So-Cal cool, hair, chick magnet), in the blister-popping heatwave of the summer of ’76, nobody in rock carried more heat than Thin Lizzy. Then, almost before the party got started: the crash. As drummer and co-founding member Brian Downey puts it now, speaking from his rural Irish abode: “It wasn’t helped by the lifestyles the band were living, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. People coming down with hepatitis and slashed hands… Situations that you could never predict would happen – but did happen.” A prestigious US arena tour opening for Rainbow had been abandoned after Lynott – already deep into his potions and powders – had picked up hep C from a dirty needle. Fleeing home to London, Lynott wrote most of the songs for the band’s hastily scheduled next album from his hospital bed. The result, Johnny The Fox, had ‘follow-up’ written all over it – emphasised by the fact its own hit single, Don’t Believe
Thin Lizzy in New York City, 1977: (l-r) Brian Robertson, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Phil Lynott.
Dancing in the moonlight, caught in the spotlight: Robbo and Lynott at the 1977 Reading Festival.
“Bad Reputation was definitely an improvement on Johnny The Fox. But it didn’t do very much for us in the end.” Brian Downey
in tandem with Gorham, with whom he felt a much greater kinship. Phil and Robbo would fight – “Phil had hands like fucking shovels!” – and Robbo would invariably come off worse. Phil and Scott would hang out, going out to clubs, doing coke, smack, whatever; pulling chicks. “Phil and I had this kind of clique thing going,” says Gorham. “Like our own language, little looks and things. That made it kind of tough sometimes when someone new came into the band. Like, you’re in the band now but you’re gonna have to prove yourself first before you get really in with us. “A big reason why Phil and I became such good friends was because we trusted each other. No names, but maybe with some of the other guys, he never quite trusted them. We always tended to agree, musically. Not always on album but definitely on stage. Also, I’ve never been worried about being a big star, so that never came between us either, where maybe it did with some of the other [guitarists].” Robbo fancied his chances as a frontman. Moore actually became a frontman. Lynott had a head start on both of them and was determined that Bad Reputation would help keep it that way. But it was the twinned harmonies of Robbo’s guitar interplay with Gorham that defined the Lizzy sound – Robbo’s beautifully telegraphed solos and intricate flourishes that finessed Lizzy’s badass hard rock into something more lyrical and enticing.
chance of breaking America unless we had another massive hit.” Belfast boy Gary Moore had stepped in to fill Robbo’s shoes for the Queen tour – but on a strictly temporary basis. Moore-o, as they knew him, had already joined the band and left once before. “He had very high aims as an instrumentalist,” Lynott would later tell me. “He was into jazz rock and very technical stuff.” Having known Moore since they were teenagers in Ireland, however, Lynott also knew how badly the guitarist wanted to be a star. When Moore declined to continue replacing Robbo for the Bad Reputation sessions, Lynott was prepared to play a waiting game, and decided to record the album with just Gorham on guitar. “Phil said: ‘Fuck it, we’ll just do the thing ourselves,’” Gorham said. “Lizzy had started as a three-piece – I guess he figured it would be no big deal. But I loved Robbo and I wasn’t at all sure about handling a whole album on my own.” Robertson, meanwhile, put on a brave front. “I’m getting my own band together!” he bragged to anyone who would listen. But in truth he was devastated to find himself on the outside. “Phil and I had our differences,” he said at the time, understating the case more than a little, “but we always worked well together.” In truth, Lynott rarely ventured over to Robbo’s side of the stage, instead throwing his best shapes
Lynott knew working without his firebrand guitarist was a risk. To plug the gap, Tony Visconti was hired to produce. Visconti was then at the peak of his 70s powers, having produced all 20 of T. Rex’s major hit singles and albums, before latterly working with David Bowie on some of his most influential recordings. At the time it seemed like a coup for Lizzy to have someone of Visconti’s stature involved. (Bowie’s Visconti-produced Low album was No.2 in the UK at the time.) Speaking now, though, from his London home, Visconti says he saw it as a no-brainer. “I just loved The Boys Are Back In Town. For me, it was the best single of that summer. Then when I met Phil a few months later, he charmed me. He had such charisma. I jumped at the chance of working with them.” At Visconti’s suggestion, they worked out of Toronto Studios in Canada through May and June 1977. The producer – privately disappointed not to have Robbo there for the duration – decided the best way forward was to bring the bass and drums more forward in the mix, pushing the lone guitar back, a technique he’d developed while working with Bowie on The Man Who Sold The World. A bassist himself, Visconti knew the value of having a strong, textured bass lead the sound. He then embellished that sound with strings, sax, clarinet, keyboards, synthesisers and gongs, adding greater panache to the band’s roughhouse sound. He also took a firm stance on Lynott’s and Gorham’s spiralling ‘partying’. “It got to the stage where it was affecting work on the album,” he says. “In the end I had to phone management and ask them to get out here and help me sort it out.” Now recording their third ‘make or break’ album in a year, Gorham says: “What happened to Phil was probably a direct result of that. ‘Jeez, I gotta keep my shit together. I gotta find inspiration. I gotta keep up, man. Hey, chop me out a line of that coke…’ Then next time it would be two lines. We needed that fucking joy juice, man, just to get us up to keep us working. We figured the drugs were the only things that were saving us. Now, that’s a crazy way to think, but that’s the way it was back then.” Lizzy co-manager Chris O’Donnell duly flew out from London and read them the riot act: you have lost your principal guitarist, your last album was a dud in America, punk is now taking over
THIN LIZZY everything in the UK, if you fuck this album up it’s the end of your career. “Everything was fine after that,” says Visconti. “The guys knuckled down and we really began making what I still like to think became one of their best albums.”
ost of the songs had been worked out before they arrived in Toronto. Now reaching the peak of his songwriting prowess, Lynott came in with some of his best material, not least album opener Soldier Of Fortune. It boasted a spacy Pink Floyd faded-in intro and a quick lock into deep grooves, Gorham doing a fine job of twinning his own guitars, with Lynott in full-on storytelling mode. “I started off writing the song to put down mercenaries,” he explained at the time. “Saying how disgusting it was going off and becoming a trained killer. Then as I started to write the lyrics, I began to realise that everybody has a little bit of mercenary blood in them. You know, like sometimes I’m real brutal with chicks – just go after them, get what I want and ‘see you later’. Everything I do and say is to get what I want. So at the end of the song I had to say: ‘I am a soldier of fortune.’ So it wasn’t as heavy as it was initially intended to be cos as I looked more into it, it wasn’t a simple question of black and white.” This observation lay at the heart of the more mature material Lynott was now writing. Not that Lizzy lost any of their sting, as the title track, which followed, ably demonstrated with its war-drum riff and sneering vocals, though again with a mournful glance sideways: ‘You’re too sly/So cold/That bad reputation/Has made you old…’ A co-write between Lynott, Gorham and Downey, Bad Reputation would replace Sha La La on tour as the showcase for the drummer’s spectacularly percussive solo. “I remember that riff knocking around for a good while before we recorded it,” Downey recalls. “It was a great number to play. The unusual time signature [6/4] was Phil’s idea. Scott and I put the rest of it together, all the little embellishments that really brought the song out. But Phil had the lyrics written before we’d gotten into the studio.” Side one, as it was in those days, also featured a third utterly climactic Lizzy track in Opium Trail. ‘I took a line that leads you to the opium trial,’ sang Lynott, and you knew he wasn’t making it up. Again, songwriting credits went to all three band members, but lyrically this was one from the heart from Lynott. In interviews, he would talk convincingly of being influenced by seeing a TV documentary on the Golden States Of Shan – that shit-pool on the borders of North Vietnam, Burma and China where 50 per cent of the world’s heroin trade was then said to come from. “It’s an antidrugs song,” he would insist, straight-faced. In truth, Lynott had been dipping in and out of H for heaven for over a year. So had Scott and Robbo. Musically, however, this was Lizzy at another peak, complete with a fiery new Robbo solo. Gorham says: “It was me that talked Phil into bringing Robbo back for some of Bad Reputation. I was trying to get the magic circle back together again and he’s not buying it. But he finally relented. ‘All right, but just fucking keep him away from me…’” Recalling his brief time in Toronto, Robbo said: “I wouldn’t even fucking speak to Phil the first week I was there, wouldn’t hang out, nothing.”
Lynott with Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon during the 1977 Queen-Lizzy tour of the USA.
Visconti later recalled how after Robbo had got to pure artistic transcendence. The music is completed his solo on Opium Trail, “I invited him sweeping, epic, again closer to Pink Floyd than the back to the control room to hear the playback. He quasi-metal outfit the band would shrink to in the just said no, he’d rather not, and left. It was a pity 80s. Lynott delivers one of his deepest, most honest, because it was a great piece of work.” no-jive lyrics, with its exquisite pay-off: ‘Dear Lord… Eventually, a rapprochement was tentatively I believe your story now you believe mine.’ Lynott on the entered into. But the bond was fragile. “Me and phone to God: not praying, just saying, with angelic Scott always got on great with Robbo,” says backing vocals by Visconti’s wife, Mary Hopkin. Downey. “But it had got to the point where Phil According to Gary Moore, speaking years later, and Robbo weren’t even talking. Then in the studio Lynott – who would publish his second volume of with Visconti, they gradually got it together again. poetry, simply titled Philip, around the same time They were talking, at least.” Bad Reputation was made – was a wordsmith first, The rest of the album’s six tracks were split singer second, bassist third. evenly between the good and the great. The good: “He’d spend more time on the words than the the poignant Southbound, the music because he found the phoned-in Killer Without A Cause music not that difficult. They (The Boy Are Back… but only were very simple songs, you some of them), and the gently know? He’d play you Dancing contrived Downtown Sundown. In The Moonlight on the acoustic Lynott said of the latter song: guitar and you’d go, ‘Is that it?’ “Because I wrote Don’t Believe Then you’d hear the finished A Word, every chick I went out thing and understand what with after that used to throw he’d been so enthusiastic about it back in my face – ‘I don’t because he was hearing it as the believe a word you’re saying.’ finished thing in his head.” So I figured I’d write a song With Dancing In The that was actually a statement Moonlight and Bad Reputation of love, so this would be an released as a double A-sided hit answer to it, and there’s a line in single in the summer of 1977, Brian Robertson it that goes, ‘Please believe in love, and pre-release reviews for I believe there is a God above for love,’ you know?” the album glowing, the band, with Robbo back in The great: the lilting, loitering chocolatey pop tow, headlined that year’s Reading Festival. of Dancing In The Moonlight, destined to become the They were back where they belonged – on top, album’s signature single and Lizzy’s biggest and mama, better get your fuck-on below. The album best hit song after Boys; and That Woman’s Gonna reached No.4 in the UK, making it their biggestBreak Your Heart, a wonderful big-sky production, charting hit. Yet when it came out in America, it with Robbo allowed back in to add his distinctive barely touched the sides, dragging its heels as far lead flourishes over Gorham’s taut acoustic as No.39, then falling off its horse again. strum-a-thon. It could have signalled a whole new “Bad Reputation was definitely an improvement direction for Lizzy, beyond the jailhouse rock and on Johnny The Fox,” says Brian Downey. “But it didn’t into the wide blue open of orchestral pop. do very much for us in the end, even though it was And then there was the album’s most impressive a great album. The problem was that by then the moment, Dear Lord. Co-written by Lynott and band did have a bad reputation, certainly when it Gorham, Dear Lord was the closest Thin Lizzy ever came to America.”
“I wouldn’t even f**king speak to Phil the first week I was there, wouldn’t hang out, nothing.”
â€œIt was me that talked Phil into bringing Robbo back for some of Bad Reputation. I was trying to get the magic circle back together again.â€? Scott Gorham
Lynott and Gorham at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1, 1977.
Gorham, Downey and Lynott in Copenhagen, August 24, 1977.
When the front cover of Bad Reputation carried a simple black-and-white picture of just Downey, Gorham and Lynott – no Robbo – it only served to underline how much the band’s mystique had mushed into misunderstanding. Downey says: “I didn’t agree with that but I was outvoted. Everyone just wanted the three of us because everybody knew that after this album, Robbo would be gone.” In fact, Robbo continued ‘guesting’ with the band for another 12 months. But it was getting hard to keep up with what was really going on. Getting harder to care.
he aftermath of Bad Reputation found Thin Lizzy living in a world where on one side of the planet – Britain, Europe, Australia – they had never been bigger, while on the other – Am-er-ee-ca – they had effectively blown it. “Every now and again something would come along that seemed to stop the band in its tracks. And that seemed to happen a lot,” says Downey. “Especially over those years when the band was on a crest of a wave. We had so much bad luck.” He pauses, then chuckles. “We could have avoided it by living a bit more cleanly but it’s easy to say that now. That’s the way the band was back then. There’s no getting away from that.” Drugs were normal; to be encouraged, in fact. “Yeah,” Downey says. “It makes my eyes water now just thinking about it.”
Instead of following Queen and Led Zeppelin into the frontline of American rock mythology, Thin Lizzy now found themselves being lauded by the new wave of punk stars who saw them as the rule-breakers of rock royalty – one of us, guv. “We thought of ourselves as the street punks of that era,” says Gorham. “All the other rock bands of the era were slick, vocal harmonies. We weren’t like that. So when the punk thing came around, Phil just embraced it. ‘Thank fuck, man! There’s other people out there like us!’” Lynott also saw the credibility by association factor of being photographed with Sid and Nancy, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and playing gigs around London – half-Lizzy, half-Pistols – as the Greedy Bastards. “Phil was always very mediasavvy,” says Gorham. “Phil loved doing Top Of The Pops. He just loved being on TV. We would go out and do a video and nobody would play it because there was no MTV in those days, so it would become this whole financial waste of time. But by God we had a video!” It was around this time that the music press began spritzing rumours of Lynott starring in a movie about Jimi Hendrix. It wasn’t true, but as Gorham says, “Phil never denied it because it was a great story and got a lot of press. “Phil knew the value of print, he knew the value of a picture in a magazine. He had it down, he had a map, he just knew this shit. We would do
millions of fucking photo sessions, getting dressed up in different outfits. Then right at the end of every shoot he would say: ‘All right, now let’s have a nice little smiley one for the teeny mags’ – which I fucking hated. But he was right, of course, because those mags did use those shots. You never had to beg Phil for a picture. Even the drug busts he loved. ‘Hey man, you see my drug bust in the paper?’” It would be another two years before Lizzy recorded another original album, the void filled with Live & Dangerous, officially Robbo’s last release with the band, and still their best-selling collection. It was only kept from No.1 in the UK by the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Convinced Lizzy had gone as far as they could go, Lynott also looked seriously into the possibility of making a solo album. He’d been talking about it since Rod Stewart abandoned his band, the Faces, for a successful solo career in 1975. “Phil thought he could be the new Rod Stewart,” says Downey. “He had the looks and the gravelly voice. He even talked to Rod’s management about it.” In the event, Lynott would have to wait until 1980 before seeing that dream come true. Meanwhile, Robbo was ousted for the last time. “We were all hoping Robbo would stay on the straight and narrow but he’d fallen off the wagon again,” says Downey. “Robbo and Phil weren’t getting on too well again. I personally didn’t want to see the most successful version of Thin Lizzy falling apart before we’d even got started. I thought this should be sorted out. Hopefully it’s just a passing phase. But it just kept going on. Every time we went on tour, some sort of argument cropped up and the animosity started all over again.” It came down to it being either Phil or Robbo who would have to leave. No contest. “I think Phil would have walked if Robbo didn’t.” Gary Moore now came back in. Lynott agreed to appear on three tracks on Moore’s 1978 solo album, Back On The Streets – including the original, slowed-down, soulful version of Don’t Believe A Word and a new co-write between the two, with Lynott on lead vocals, entitled Parisienne Walkways. But again, the clouds came back when the latter track became a hit single, and both men verbally scuffled over who deserved the most credit.
ooking back now, 40 years on from its release, it’s impossible not to see Bad Reputation as both the peak of Thin Lizzy and the beginning of a long, drawn-out end. Brian Downey walked out not long after Gary Moore rejoined. “I was burnt out,” he says. “My health was really suffering. I needed to get away.” Enticed back for the Black Rose album in 1979, only to see Moore walk out for the third and final time halfway through the subsequent American tour, Downey looks back now on what he calls “the Thin Lizzy curse” with the admirably balanced perspective that only time and space can bring. “I try to forgive the bad and focus on the good times. In the studio, we never did 25 fucking takes of anything. On albums like Bad Reputation, if things weren’t happening, Phil would always come up with a master plan to save the song. ‘Okay, this is the new arrangement I have an idea for.’ And the new arrangement would normally work. That just shows you how talented Phil was.” And how brilliant and unique Thin Lizzy really were. And why their real reputation will outlive them forever. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 65
Steve Winwood, posing for the sleeve shoot for his Arc Of A Diver solo album in London, 1980.
He was a teen prodigy with the Spencer Davis Group, tripped the light fantastic with Traffic, almost joined Cream but was in Blind Faith, and had major success as a solo artist in the 80s. The everrestless Steve Winwood looks back over a glittering career and reveals his unexpected new direction. Words: Rob Hughes
n his 2007 memoir, Eric Clapton vividly recalls hearing Steve Winwood for the first time. The guitarist was in the early flush of his career playing in The Yardbirds when he encountered the Spencer Davis Group in clubland in 1963. Winwood, SDG’s precocious singer/organist, may have been just 15 but, Clapton notes: “If you closed your eyes you would swear it was Ray Charles. Musically he was like an old man in a boy’s skin.” Bob Dylan was gripped by a Spencer Davis Group gig three years later, midway through his UK tour. Afterwards, as seen on the Eat The Document film, an open-mouthed Dylan asks of Davis: “How’d he learn to sing like that?” To which Davis, appearing lost for an answer, merely replies: “Well, since the day we found him.” Steve Winwood always seemed fully formed from the start. He was still in his teens when he quit the Spencer Davis Group and formed Traffic in 1967, leaving behind a trail of huge-selling hits, among them Keep On Running, Gimme Some Lovin’ and the somewhat ironically titled I’m A Man. At 21 he was in Blind Faith, the band that came to embody the late-60s ideal of
the mercurial supergroup. Winwood was so much in demand as a musical ally – helping out Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker and Howlin’ Wolf, to name but a few – that he was an industry veteran by the time he finally got around to a solo career in the latter half of the 70s. “I came into music from a slightly different direction than some of my contemporaries,” he tells Classic Rock today. “I started off playing with my dad, learning thirties and forties dance music and American classics, which wasn’t particularly easy stuff. And I was a chorister in the High Anglican church. That music got under my skin somehow. Then along came skiffle and early rock’n’roll and Buddy Holly. And later on came Ray Charles, who introduced me to this crossover from bebop and jazz into rock and R&B. I was so engrossed with learning all these different kinds of
music, and trying to play them all, that being on stage was just part of it. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything I should shy away from.” If there’s one prime directive in all of Winwood’s work, it’s an inclusive approach to music making; there’s very little that’s off limits to his imagination. “With Traffic we made a conscious decision that we would try to incorporate a lot more elements – folk, jazz, ethnic music and even bits of classical music and different forms,” he explains. “I’d probably say that I’ve been trying to do that ever since.”
rowing up in the Great Barr area of Birmingham, Winwood might easily have followed his father into the family’s local foundry business. But music took hold at an early age. He was eight when he made his stage debut, playing in the same band as his father, a semi-pro musician, and elder brother Muff. Stevie became a regular on the Midlands R&B scene in his early teens, before he and his sibling formed the Muff-Woody Jazz Band. Looking to put his own group together, Spencer Davis caught them one night.
“Punk rock was almost a reaction against what I’d been doing. It was difficult for me to grasp that.”
Traffic in 1965: (clockwise from top left) Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Steve Winwood, Dave Mason.
Still in the spotlight: Winwood in 1983.
A “With Traffic we made a conscious decision to incorporate a lot more elements – folk, jazz, ethnic music and even bits of classical music. I’d probably say that I’ve been trying to do that ever since.”
that I never had a proper job,” Winwood says. “At fifteen I’d be going up to play all-nighters at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, finishing at five or six in the morning. Then on the Sunday the same promoter had a club in Hanley, called The Place, and we’d play that. I’d get home at one in the morning, then have to go to school that day. That was pretty unsustainable and I was kicked out of school.” Had the planets aligned a little differently, Winwood’s musical life may have taken a whole other turn in 1966. Not long after the Spencer Davis Group had scored their second UK charttopping 45 with Somebody Help Me, Ginger Baker was putting Cream together. Eric Clapton had originally envisioned the band as a quartet, with Winwood out front, although both Jack Bruce and Baker favoured a trio set-up. Clapton was outvoted, of course, but it’s tempting to imagine how Cream might have developed with Winwood also in the band. “There was a slight lack of synchronisation in the timing of things,” says Winwood, musing on what might have been. “There came a point in the Spencer Davis Group where I thought: ‘I’ve definitely had enough of this, I want to do something else.’ But I’m not quite sure whether that occurred before Cream or not, or if I was in that mind-set. After that point occurred, though, then yes, I would certainly have taken the job.”
“They were playing a form of music that was a step up from traditional or New Orleans jazz,” he recalls today. “I walked in and there was this kid, pretty much not long out of short trousers, who played piano like Oscar Peterson and sang like Ray Charles. I asked him if he’d like to be in the band and, in a lovely little Birmingham accent, he went: ‘I’d love to, but I don’t have a driving licence.’ I told him I’d come and get him, because I had a beatenup old Bradford, which I’d paid fifty quid for.” With Muff also on board as bassist, alongside drummer Pete York, the quartet started working up tunes by Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. Before long they’d secured a weekly residency at the Golden Eagle, and soon attracted a BBC crew to film the queues around the block. “With Spencer Davis we were discovering blues and R&B, all this fantastic music we were hearing from America,” says Steve. “They were singing in a form of English and a lot of the time I didn’t understand what they were talking about, like ‘another mule kicking in your stall’ [from Muddy Waters’s Long Distance Call, referring to someone else making moves on your loved one]. There were lots of things like that. And by not being able to emulate that stuff accurately or faithfully, we were inadvertently creating our own style.” Life as a touring musician soon took precedence over everything else. “I’m afraid it has to be said
s it transpired, Winwood elected to form Traffic with three long-time friends from the Midlands R&B scene – Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood. The four-piece shifted around various bases in London before finally taking up residence in a remote cottage in Aston Tirrold, deep in rural Berkshire. In doing so they set the trend for bands suddenly upping sticks and ‘getting it together in the country’. “The big problem was that we felt we couldn’t play music whenever we wanted,” Winwood says. “In London we couldn’t set the gear up in one of our flats and make a racket at two or three in the morning. So moving to the country was really a practical move. We were living at the cottage in squalor. It was kind of like a crash pad, four lads living like students. But instead of being in a university town it was half a mile up a muddy track with no electricity and water from a well. We were crusties, really.” There were rumours, too, that the cottage was haunted. “A few people have told me they thought it was,” he says. “Of course, Jim and Chris are no longer around to talk about it [Capaldi died in 2005, Wood in 1983], but I think they both had quite vivid experiences. Whether or not that was to do with whatever substances were around or not I don’t know. Because there was a lot of that about.” Spooked or otherwise, the cottage proved an ideal base for Traffic to conceive their debut LP. Released in December ’67, Mr. Fantasy was a minor psychedelic classic, its loose-limbed songs stirred by exotic rhythms, soulful white blues and Eastern strangeness. Its standout tune was Dear Mr. Fantasy, the product of a fertile songwriting partnership with Capaldi and Wood. Its gestation, as with most things Traffic, was a little unconventional by pop standards. “Our songwriting originally came out of a need to have material for us to jam,” Winwood remembers. “We learned to play together – I’d be on guitar or organ, Jim on drums and Chris would play flute and sax – and that gave us a freedom to move different ways. We’d do these long improvisations, and Jim, very often, would scribble down a verse or chorus on an envelope or the back of a fag packet, which I’d stand up on the organ.
STEVE WINWOOD “Having recorded it, we’d go back and listen to what we’d done and work out which bits to keep. That was really the way we wrote. It was only later, when Jim and I started writing with different people, that we realised that wasn’t the way most people wrote songs.” After a second album in late ’68, Traffic were finished, at least for the short term. It was a year in which the increasingly restless Winwood guested on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, slipping a Hammond groove under Voodoo Chile. By the next spring, Cream having disbanded, Winwood and Clapton started hanging out together more regularly. The pair would smoke joints and jam amid the bucolic peacefulness of Aston Tirrold. Ginger Baker popped over too, and with the addition of Family bassist Ric Grech, Blind Faith were born. Making their live debut at a huge free concert in London’s Hyde Park, Blind Faith lasted for one album and a brief US arena tour. “Blind Faith was pretty murky, really,” Winwood remembers. “That didn’t really work out quite as well as Eric and I had intended. I don’t think there was any one reason for that, but Eric didn’t want to carry on doing what he’d been doing with Cream. We were both looking for something else. The music that we started off doing was acoustic and jangly. It had a sort of folk element to it, not something that goes down too well in the arena rock environment. But of course rock was becoming big money at that time. “There was a lot of pressure on Blind Faith with this sort of ‘supergroup’ tag,” he continues. “We had pressures from the business to start recording before we were perhaps ready, and we were suddenly playing big places. So we were caught out a bit, adapting what we were doing to those venues, which wasn’t quite the right thing. Neither of us were into that. We were starting to lose interest at different points and were drifting apart.” Winwood returned to the studio in 1970, initially to make a solo album, under the guidance of producer Guy Stevens. But things didn’t quite work out. Stevens wanted to introduce a few covers, whereas Winwood was more keen on something more challenging. Stevens left, and Winwood brought in Capaldi and Wood, reuniting Traffic. The result was John Barleycorn Must Die, a progfolk masterpiece that also voyaged into free jazz and R&B. “For me, Traffic was like coming home,” he says. “It was easier to explore music with Traffic than it had been with Blind Faith. We were utilising different kinds of music, trying to continue the legacy we’d started and which hadn’t properly come to fruition for us. There were still plenty of other things for us to explore.”
raffic’s journey ended in 1974, amid Winwood’s recurrent issues with peritonitis (inflammation the abdomen) and after a couple of uneven final albums. The decade proved a transitional, sometimes difficult one for him. He threw himself into session work. “Something happened in the mid-to-late seventies,” he reflects. “I dropped out a little from the rock’n’roll world. I’d been doing it for ten years since I left school and was looking for other things. So I made a conscious effort to do a lot of sessions and work as a sideman, to try to learn how other people were putting music together. I toured as a
Blind Faith in 1969: (l-r) Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton.
sideman with John Martyn and played with a lot of amazing people during that time. Then later on, of course, punk emerged. I found that tricky, because punk rock was almost a reaction against what I’d been doing. It was difficult for me to grasp that, so I suppose I sort of went underground a little.” One of his ‘underground’ activities involved a musical liaison with the eccentric Bonzo Dog man Viv Stanshall. The pair had already co-written Dream Gerrard for Traffic’s swansong album and collaborated on Stanshall’s solo record Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead. They then concocted a soundtrack for a film version of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, hoping for financial backing. It never arrived. They did, however, manage to funnel some of its ideas into Sir Henry At Rawlinson End, Stanshall’s surreal satire of upper-English mores that was eventually made into a film starring Trevor Howard in the title role. “Viv was hilarious,” Winwood says, laughing. “He always sort of needed a straight man to do the musical things that he was wanting to do. And for a while I became that. We’d go into pubs and people’s houses and start off some kind of act. I’d play some music, he’d play a bit on his euphonium, then try to do conjuring tricks.” In among all this larkery, in 1977 Winwood released his fairly underwhelming solo debut. His re-emergence as a major force didn’t happen for another three years, with the arrival of the belated follow-up, Arc Of A Diver. Stanshall co-wrote the title track, although more crucially the record marked the beginning of Winwood’s working partnership with Texan songwriter Will Jennings. Winwood also found himself restored to the business end of the charts in both the UK and US,
with lead-off single While You See A Chance making the Billboard Top 10. “At the end of the seventies my contract had run out, but I was still held by another option,” Winwood explains of the album’s inception. “So I decided that I was going to actually do everything on this record – play all the instruments, engineer it and write all the songs. I think the A&R department at Island thought I’d lost the plot and forgot about me a little bit. Then at some point they said: ‘Why don’t you at least work with someone who can help you with the lyrics?’ And they suggested Will. Lyrics were certainly always something I could do with help on, so I thought, yeah, I’ll work with this fella. I didn’t really know much about him or who he was, but we just hit it off. I started to work in a different way with Will. We discovered lots of ways of working together.” Winwood’s 1982 album Talking Back To The Night made less of an impression, however. Aiming to repeat the DIY formula of Arc Of A Diver, the album instead felt underproduced and a little prosaic. Its relative lack of success, in addition to marital problems at home, led to a prolonged bout of soulsearching for Winwood. There were even rumours that he might quit music altogether. “Was I thinking about giving it all up? Yeah, I was,” he reveals. “I was looking at what else was available – not that I could do anything else. But I was looking for something a little different.” His solution was to switch managers and relocate to New York. He corralled a crack team of helpers – including co-producer Russ Titelman, James Taylor, Joe Walsh, Chaka Khan and Nile Rodgers – and returned with his biggest-selling solo record to date, 1986’s appropriately
“Blind Faith was pretty murky, really. That didn’t really work out quite as well as Eric and I had intended.”
“With Spencer Davis we were discovering blues and R&B, all this fantastic music we were hearing from America,”
The Spencer Davis Group outside the pop music TV show Ready Steady Go! studios in Wembley in the 60s: (l-r) Pete York, Muff Winwood, Spencer Davis, Steve Winwood.
STEVE WINWOOD Back in the high life: Winwood collecting his Grammys in Los Angeles in 1987.
Winwood with songwriting partner Will Jennings.
named Back In The High Life. The album won three Grammys, went triple-platinum and delivered his first ever US No.1, the ecstatic Higher Love. His writing partnership with Jennings produced further hits with Back In The High Life Again and The Finer Things. In his late 30s, Winwood was suddenly a mainstream superstar. His sound may have taken on the requisite gloss and polish that the era tended to demand, but his absorption of disparate styles remained in keeping with his previous work. His new standing was compounded in 1988 by the equally big-hitting Roll With It, whose title track also topped the Billboard chart. Winwood is quick to defend his output during the latter half of that decade. “The music industry was growing at a rate of knots, becoming huge and much more powerful,” he says. “In some ways I was getting led astray a little by the executives. I’m often accused, in that period, of moving much more towards pop. But Back In The High Life still has those elements of ethnic music, folk, jazz and all those things we were trying to do in Traffic. It’s just that Traffic
had a lot of rougher edges, whereas this has that smooth eighties production technique. So I would maintain that I wasn’t particularly selling out. It was all down to the way it was recorded.”
t’s been a while since we heard from Steve Winwood on record. His last studio album, Nine Lives, was released in 2008. When he’s not at home with his family in his centuries-old manor house in the Cotswolds, he’s out on the road with his trusty band, playing dates around the US and Europe. It’s a vocation he takes very seriously, and tapes every show in order to assess the nuances of each performance. “Technology has made that very easy to do now,” he says. “It’s just a sort of laptop set-up that we have. Sometimes we do it just for our own educational purposes, so we can listen afterwards and check on things to see how we’re sounding.” Now, he has just released his first ever live solo collection, Winwood: Greatest Hits Live. The two-disc set serves as a glorious overview of his 50-plus years in the business, dipping freely into the back
pages of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and beyond. Most of what you might wish for is here, including Gimme Some Lovin’ and I’m A Man, Dear Mr. Fantasy, John Barleycorn and The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys (arguably Traffic’s greatest moment), and While You See A Chance and Back In The High Life Again. Above all, the album reveals that Winwood is still fully engaged with all the things that make him great, chief among them being the finest white-soul voice of his generation. “Over the last five or ten years we’ve been trying to hone our live show a little more,” he says. “A lot of the time I have to do certain stuff, or else people complain if I don’t play Can’t Find My Way Home or I’m A Man. So throughout the years we’ve tried to reinvent them or give them a slightly different twist, to keep ourselves interested if anything. And the audiences seem to like them too. “I’ve been working for the last decade with José Neto, the Brazilian guitarist, and Richard Bailey, who’s Trinidadian. So we give it a sort of Latin/Brazilian feel, and sometimes with a little jazz in there. We thought it was about time we committed all this to record.” Despite the subtle recalibrations of his back catalogue, it might be easy to surmise that Steve Winwood is riding out his days on past glories. But it turns out that he’s very much fixed on the future, and in a way that you might not expect. Nearly ten years on, he reveals that he’s finally begun work on a successor to Nine Lives. “I’ve been quite into dance music lately,” he says. “There are some DJ/producers who are doing some very interesting stuff, so I’ve been looking at different ways to see how I can work with that. I’ve started putting some things down, and there are also lots of people in places like Brazil and Cuba that are doing things with dance music too. So that taps into the ethnic music side of things. I’m not sure whether it’ll actually be me or whether I might try to invent a third-party act, as it were. I’m just looking at all possibilities right now. “There are so many different sub-genres that it’s sometimes difficult for people of my age to understand it,” the 69-year-old says laughing, “so I have to get my son to help me fathom it all out. But I do think that dance music takes as much playing and manipulation as any instrument does. “I’m not one of those people who thinks, as a lot of my generation do, that the best music was made in the sixties and seventies and since then it’s all been going downhill. There’s some great stuff around, and the future holds a lot of very interesting things for me. I’m not finished yet.” CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 71
Pro pilot, fencer, cancer survivor, author… As you’ll find out from his new autobiography, there’s much more to Bruce Dickinson than just fronting one of the biggest heavy metal bands on the planet. Words: Dave Everley
ruce Dickinson would like you to know that when it came to writing his autobiography, What Does This Button Do?, he didn’t need any outside help. “People ask: ‘So who was your ghost writer?’ and I go: “Actually, I did it myself,’” he says proudly. “I physically wrote 180,000 words, and all of it was on WH Smith pads in actual handwriting, proper old-school.” Writing an entire book by hand is a very Bruce Dickinson thing to do. The Iron Maiden singer is seemingly a man who can turn his hand to pretty much anything: flying aircraft, fencing, fronting one of the most successful bands of the past 40 years. The exception is swimming: “I am one of nature’s sinkers,” he says. What Does This Button Do? is a genuinely fascinating and funny look back at Dickinson’s life. From his early days growing up in the Nottinghamshire mining town of Worksop (where he was raised by his grandparents until the age of six) to his roller-coaster 40-year music career, it paints a candid picture of a life well lived. Today Dickinson is in characteristically voluble mood, expounding on everything from the torrid time he had in the British educational system to his successful battle with cancer. “Writing a book forces you to look at yourself and what you’ve done,” he says. “It’s an education.”
It’s like the opening of the book says: everything moves in mysterious ways. You’ve got no idea where you’re going to end up. You have to take things as they come. The one thing I am, I suppose, is stubborn. I don’t fall over. Or if I do, I get back up. Some of the teachers you mention were fairly despicable. You write about some of the canings they dished out as if there was a sexual, S&M-like element to them. The whole era was very strange. These were creepy, dirty old men, and it was thought to be normal and acceptable. The whole Jimmy Savile thing and the rest of it opened up a massive can of worms, because that stuff was socially acceptable. The sort of stuff you’d be banged up for now, and quite rightly. You have to pinch yourself and go: “I’m really not living in the seventies any more.”
“MY SCHOOL REPORTS WERE ALWAYS SIMILAR: ‘WOULD DO BETTER IF HE DIDN’T PLAY THE CLASS CLOWN 24 HOURS A DAY.’”
Your parents were often absent during your early years – they were on the road with a performing dog act. Were you always destined to follow them into show business? Even before I knew properly who my parents were, I was after a pair of angel wings in the school nativity play. I wanted to be the person wearing them. My school reports were always depressingly similar: “Has not fulfilled his good potential, would do better if he didn’t play the class clown 24 hours a day.” You paint a vivid picture of your school days: bullying, regular beatings from the teachers. It sounds pretty horrific, but did it also make you the man you are? 72 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
Was there anything good about that time? There were a lot of brilliant things about the seventies, cos it was pretty disorganised and anarchic. But the flip side to that was that a lot of people got away with doing things that really weren’t so pleasant.
n his late teens, Dickinson moved to London, ostensibly to study history at university but in reality to pursue a career in music. After a few false starts, most notably in pub-rockers Speed, later called Shots (the highlight of their career was Dracula, a homage to the literary vampire that was more Carry On Screaming than it was Bram Stoker), Dickinson ended up as frontman with the NWOBHM band Samson, where he traded under the name Bruce Bruce and sported an impressive moustache. If you met the twenty-year-old Bruce Dickinson in the pub, what would you think? Gosh. Light the blue touch-paper! I don’t know what’s going on with that kid, but something is going to happen. He’s either going to end up doing what he says he’s going to do or he’s going to end up in jail. Or at the bottom of the river. You make no secret of your spliff-smoking days in Samson, but then you stopped. Had Samson not been such a bunch of potheads, I wouldn’t have bothered at all. I was like: “I’ve done the cannabis now, I don’t see any point in taking it further.” Nothing else happens. All that does happen is that people seem to slow down and eat a lot.
There’s one teacher, John Worsley, that you speak highly of. He introduced you to fencing. Did you stay in contact with him? I didn’t, but funnily enough I met his brother years later. Maiden were doing something in Florida in the middle of the eighties. There was this fencing competition in Fort Myers, and I ended up driving out there. I met this bloke called Worsley. I went: “Worsley? John Worsley?” And he went: “Yeah, that’s my brother.” Fencing is a very, very small world.
Did drugs get in the way of your ambition? No, not really. They just didn’t do anything for me creatively. The first time, you’re like: “Whoa, what’s all this about?!” But I soon realised I could get the same effect just by wandering around and using my imagination. I thought: “I don’t need to smoke something to go and imagine that.” It was a nice awakening, but once your consciousness is awake, you go: “I don’t need that any more.” It’s like writing really trippy lyrics – I’ve never taken an acid trip in my life. I’ve never eaten a mushroom or had anything remotely hallucinogenic. Everything comes out of my imagination.
Do you still fence? Yes, but I hardly have any time to go near it. I keep wandering around and looking at all my kit, going: “It’s getting a bit rusty now.” [Laughs] Like me.
You always avoided cocaine. Why? It must have been freely available. I never got cocaine. I got speed, because it made you run around really fast. But then it also made you feel absolutely shit. As far as cocaine is concerned, people get mashed and then sit there with the most stupid gibberish coming out of their gobs for hours and hours on end. It’s just tedious at best, and at worst it turns people into paranoid nutcases. So I’ve got no time for
Have you still got it in you, though? Absolutely. If I had a good run up, where I didn’t have other stuff going on, I’d be good. I love it. It’s really good fun. It’s cathartic and you get out there and have a yell and a scream but nobody dies.
Samson, with the moustachioed Bruce Bruce (second left).
On stage during yet another of Maiden’s gruelling tours.
“I’VE NEVER HAD ANYTHING REMOTELY HALLUCINOGENIC. EVERYTHING COMES OUT OF MY IMAGINATION.”
cocaine whatsoever. And obviously anything resembling depressives, I just don’t get. I don’t get why someone would want to shut reality off. Cos reality is brilliant.
But was the whole thing actually enjoyable? Of course it was enjoyable. The only thing you miss is any semblance of life outside it. That’s where it started to feel oppressive, especially towards the end of the Powerslave tour. You think: 74 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
– that’s what the listening audience want. But even if I had come out with a clear direction I don’t think people were ready to listen anyway, because they were so shell-shocked at me leaving.
What did you learn about yourself during the years away from Maiden? I actually learnt a lot more about other people. The one thing that happens when you’re in a big, powerful rock band – as in, powerful in the media – is that you have all kinds of people who will protect you; all kinds of people who will hide bad reviews from you or make sure you don’t see that paper because it didn’t say nice things about you. I don’t think that’s very helpful. But when you leave the fold and you’re suddenly on your own, outside the protective pentagram, you see all these people queuing up to give you a good kicking, because they couldn’t when you were in Maiden. And you think: “Really? Wow.”
or Dickinson, there certainly were other things to do. In the book, he doesn’t hold back when talking about his growing disillusion with Maiden during the early 90s, and his subsequent solo career. The impression of that period, at least initially, is of a man who stepped out of a gilded cage, only to spend the next few years trying to escape his own shadow. What was it like to leave Iron Maiden? It was like being a wild animal in a cage. They suddenly let you out and say: “There you go, off you go into the jungle, feed yourself.” And you go: “I’ve forgotten how to do that.” When I quit, everybody assumed I knew what to do, but I didn’t. It was a question of building it all up again. Most bands have the luxury of doing that when nobody’s bothered about them, so they make all these really goofy mistakes. I just happened to go and do the whole thing in public. In retrospect, I didn’t do a bad job of it once I’d got things in focus. What do you mean? There were some great songs on [Dickinson’s first post-Maiden solo album] Balls To Picasso. The big Achilles heel was that there was no clear direction
Did the negative reviews bother you? I was quite sensitive to reviews, especially if I thought they weren’t being fair. At the same time, I was never afraid of a critical review if it was honest and laid out reasons why. When Blaze Bayley replaced you in Maiden, you sent him two bricks painted yellow. I saw an interview with him, and there was a line at the end where he said: “I feel like Dorothy in
MAIN: ROSS HALFIN; SAMSON: GETTY
You write about Iron Maiden’s success in the eighties in the book, but also about the hard work involved. What does the pie chart of ‘Fun’ versus ‘Not Fun’ in that period look like? By and large we were working so hard, it was Groundhog Day: the venues get bigger, the venues get bigger, the venues get bigger. The roller coaster never stopped going down. At one point, Rod [Smallwood, manager] had us doing nine shows, one day off, eight shows, one day off. I said: “You can’t run human beings like that, they’ll fall over.” We were always arguing with Rod about making life more comfortable for ourselves. At one point, halfway through a tour, the stage manager literally sleepwalked off the stage. We said: “Don’t you think it’s about time we got a tour bus?” And he went [grudgingly]: “Yeah, alright then.”
“What’s the point of all this?” And it turns into the world’s biggest circular argument. “What’s the point?” “The point of it all is just to do it.” “Well, there’s other things I want to do…”
Aces high: Dickinson piloting Maiden’s private plane on tour.
GOING IT ALONE The pick of Dickinson’s solo songs.
DRACULA Neither one of his greatest songs nor even really a solo number, this creaky slice of Hammer Horror heavy metal by long-forgotten London band Shots warrants inclusion as Dickinson’s very first recording. A curio, but one that pointed to greater things.
SON OF A GUN
The Wizard Of Oz.” I thought: “That’s really sweet. I know exactly how you feel.” So I painted two bricks and sent them to him. Did you ever see Maiden with Blaze singing? No. It was all a little bit fraught. The only time I’ve actually listened to the albums was when Steve [Harris] said: “We need to go and record one of these songs.” I thought: “Oh, how does it go, then? I’d better go and have a listen to it.” Blaze gave it his best shot. He did. Absolutely. Hats off. Full-on respect to him for that. His voice is very different to mine, and there was a point when he got the job where I thought: “How the hell is he going to manage to do those songs? Maybe they just won’t do them.” I said to someone at the time: “Why don’t they really do something off the wall and really outrageous? Get a woman! There’s some of these female Finnish vocalists kicking around, and they’ve got the most outrageous voices! Do something to really, really knock people’s socks off.” But I’d have been fucked then. I’d never have come back.
done, don’t be a politician. It’s the civil servants who run the politicians, as they quickly realise when they get into office. We stand more chance of helping people out in Maiden by brewing beer and creating jobs, or taking a hundred and fifty people out on the road with us and giving them all jobs. We do a huge amount with Maiden. How did your cancer diagnosis change your view of death? I’m a bit more philosophical about it now. Although I wasn’t at any stage… how can I put it… near death, I could certainly see it in the rear-view mirror. Death doesn’t really cross your mind much, unless someone has an accident or falls under a bus. As human beings we brush it off, especially if you’re at a relatively young age, full of piss and vinegar, running around like a lunatic. And then all of a sudden in comes Mr Death with his scythe, pointing and saying: “I have come for you.” And you go: “Oh fuck. Really? I’ve got things to do.” So suddenly you find yourself really getting on with that, living your life that bit more, doing the things you’ve got to do. I find I have less time for people who want to waste my time.
“FENCING IS CATHARTIC. YOU GET OUT THERE, HAVE A YELL AND A SCREAM BUT NOBODY DIES.”
ickinson did return to Maiden, of course, in 1999, helping to usher in a period of success that outstripped even that of the band’s 80s heyday. Since then he has diverted his energies into other areas, including flying (he’s a qualified commercial airline pilot, and famously piloted Maiden’s Ed Force One plane on several tours) and beer-making (he had handson involvement in launching Maiden’s signature Trooper beer). Even a potentially life-threatening diagnosis with head and neck cancer in 2014 was seen off with a characteristic combativeness. You steer clear of politics in the book. You’ve tried a lot of other things, but have you ever thought of running for office? [Emphatically] No, no, no, no, no, It’s madness. No. I’ve got quite a few friends who are actually MPs of all shapes and sizes. And I’ve had my fair share of dealings with government agencies from the aviation side of things. And the one thing I’ve realised is that if you want to get anything
So what does the future hold? Maiden are having a bit of a rest. We’ve a lot of things going on at the moment, but nothing I can discuss in detail right now. There’s half a solo album sitting in LA too. I’d love to go and finish it. The other thing is, let’s see how the book goes, because I really enjoyed writing it. I wrote 180,000 words and obviously there was a bit of tweaking, and we had to take out big chunks for space. There’s about two-thirds of a book on the cutting-room floor. I couldn’t do another autobiography because I’ve already done one of those. But who knows, it could possibly turn into something else. What Does This Button Do? is published on Oct 19 by HarperCollins and is reviewed on p104.
The Dickinson solo career got off to a flying start with the glorious opening track of his debut solo album, Tattooed Millionaire. A brooding takedown of religious imperialism, it’s one of the finest things he’s written, with or without Maiden.
TATTOOED MILLIONAIRE The album itself was a stylistic grab-bag, but Tattooed Millionaire’s title track was a brash pop-metal gem with shades of Def Leppard’s Photograph. Who was it about? Our money’s on Nikki Sixx…
TEARS OF THE DRAGON Dickinson’s first post-Maiden album, 1994’s Balls To Picasso, was directionless and unmemorable, but it did produce this belter, featuring probably his best vocal performance since Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name.
OCTAVIA 1996’s Skunkworks was the sound of a man trying to reinvent himself for the modern era. It largely fell flat, but it threw up a few lost treasures, including this mini-classic.
ROAD TO HELL Dickinson’s reunion with Adrian Smith on 1997’s Accident Of Birth found him reconnecting with classic heavy metal and brought Iron Maiden’s greatest songwriting team back together. With this galloping anthem, they wrote the best Maiden single of the 1990s.
MAN OF SORROWS Dickinson doesn’t do ballads, but when it comes to stately epics, few can touch him, as this Aleister Crowley-inspired slow-burner from Accident Of Birth proves.
THE CHEMICAL WEDDING 1998’s The Chemical Wedding was inspired by painter, poet and visionary William Blake, and the soaring title track flew on the wings of the angels Blake once visualised.
JERUSALEM Blake’s iconic poem (and English rugby anthem) was the song Dickinson was born to sing. In his hands, it’s turned into something new: part mystical treatise, part Celtic metal drinking anthem.
NAVIGATE THE SEAS OF THE SUN Bruce’s feet were back under the Maiden table by the time of 2005’s Tyranny Of Souls, but he’d kept some classic tunes for himself, including this slice of part-acoustic, psychedelically tinged interstellar brilliance that sounded like nothing he’d written before.
“This old black gentleman said: ‘Do you like the blues?’ I said: ‘I don’t know what the blues is.’ He said: ‘I’ll teach you.’”
Couple l A chance meeting in a music shop as an 11-yearold sealed Tyler Bryant‘s fate, and led to him learning about the blues and a whole lot more. Now a shit-hot guitarist with his own band, he shares stages with some of rock’s biggest names.
very town below the MasonDixon line has a Roosevelt Twitty. He’s the kind of old dude you find in music shops or bars, or maybe out on the street, playing the blues like Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson. In another life he might have been as famous as those guys, but in this one the world passed him by a long time ago. Still, as long as he has a guitar and life in his fingers, all those missed opportunities don’t mean a thing. Tyler Bryant met Roosevelt Twitty a decade and a half ago in a guitar shop in Paris, Texas. Bryant’s parents had bought young Tyler, an 11-year-old obsessed with Elvis, a pawn shop acoustic guitar that needed stringing. “Sitting in a corner of the guitar shop was this old black gentleman, playing a Lightnin’ Hopkins-style blues song,” Bryant remembers. “I was immediately moved by it. I’d never heard anything like it. So I sat down and listened. He said: ‘Do you like the blues?’ I said: ‘I don’t know what the blues is.’ He said: ‘I’ll teach you.’” Roosevelt Twitty did just that, shaping and moulding this skinny kid. Bryant learned the blues from Roosevelt Twitty, but he picked up so much more too: dedication, decency, hard work. Fifteen years on, those lessons are starting to pay off.
yler Bryant isn’t really a bluesman any longer, but its fire still burns in his soul. With his band, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, he’s manning the rock’n’roll barricades, fighting against the musical dreck that threatens to swamp modern culture. He’s still a killer guitarist, of course, but the Shakedown are all about the songs first and foremost, and the ones on their self-titled second album (their third if you count the one they recorded a couple of years ago and has been sitting
on a shelf in some record company vault ever since) crackle with energy. Epic tours opening for AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses have taught them the value of reaching right out to the back rows. With his jet-black hair, ivory skin and AC/DC T-shirt, the 26-year-old Bryant looks like a cross between Keith Richards and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In person he’s all southern charm – one part self-deprecation, two parts self-belief. Bryant is Texan through and through. He was born in 1991 in Honey Grove (population 1,668), which neighbours Paris, where Bryant met the man who would become the biggest single influence on his life: Roosevelt Twitty. “I knew a couple of chords, but that was all,” Bryant says of that fateful guitar shop meeting. “Mister Twitty told my mom that if I wanted to learn how to play, he would teach me for free.” What did a 60-something blues musician see in a pasty 11-year-old white kid?
“My plan is to build up the Shakedown and start a revolution.” “I don’t know,” he says thoughtfully. “Maybe he could sense that I was genuinely interested, and he was moved. You can tell when what you’re doing is hitting someone in the heart, and what he was doing was getting me right there [taps his chest]. I understood it, even though I couldn’t play it.” The Bryants didn’t jump at Twitty’s offer. They were suspicious of why anyone would seemingly offer something for nothing, let alone an elderly black man in small-town Texas. “The town I’m from, especially back then, there was more of a racial tension,” he says. “It’s so weird to think about it now, but it was almost… not
segregated, but people would hang out in their own world. There had never been a black man come up and offer to do something so nice for me or my family.” But the young Tyler was adamant, and his family buckled. His mum began taking her son to Twitty’s house. The older man played his young protégé classic John Lee Hooker and BB King songs, teaching him how to play the blues. “He was my best friend,” Bryant says with a smile. This mismatched couple made the perfect team. They put a band together, the Blues Buddies. When Bryant was 15, the Blues Buddies opened up for Paul Simon; Bryant got kicked out of his highschool marching band for missing that day’s practice. “I didn’t give a shit,” he says with a grin. The way Bryant tells it, their friendship became about more than just music. “The kindness and compassion he showed me, and the way he shared music with me, it completely changed things, to where I watched it kill racism in my friends and my family.” Roosevelt Twitty died in 2013 after a fall. “Sixteenth of May,” Bryant says instantly. He has the older man’s signature tattooed on his arm. “I had him write it before he passed. I told him I was gonna have it with me at every show. When we played Madison Square Garden [supporting AC/DC, in 2016], I was like, ‘This is gonna be fun, Mister Twitty.’ He was right there with me.”
ryant left Honey Grove, and Texas, a few years before the man who was his mentor passed away. At 17 he quit school and moved to Nashville to play music, get noticed and become famous. He was an outsider there, a battered denim jacket amid the rhinestone shirts and nudie suits of Music City. “I was a rock’n’roll kid in a country town,” he says. “I would wear my mom’s flare pants cos it was the closest I could get to bell-bottoms. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 77
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown: (l to r) Noah Denney, Bryant, Graham Whitford, Caleb Crosby.
He hustled his way into the local music scene. He set up a fake email address and pretended to be a manager touting a shit-hot new guitarist. “I’d just toot my own horn as this fake person to get myself gigs,” he says. “I’d call local box offices over and over: ‘I represent Tyler Bryant, and this kid is hot.’” Why not phone them as Tyler Bryant? “That didn’t seem professional.” Whereas lying that you had a manager… He laughs. “Well, it worked.” These days, whenever he meets young kids, would-be musicians, he gives them the same advice: “Man, you’ve got to sell yourself. You’ve got to go out and hustle and make things happen.” He’s got a knack for making things happen. In 2011 he was invited to open for Jeff Beck on his Emotion & Commotion tour. Beck had spotted a video of this teenage guitar prodigy on YouTube and liked what he saw. “He was looking for an acoustic opener and thought I’d fit the bill,” Bryant says. “I was throwingup nervous, because he’s my favourite guitarist. He would just nod when we passed each other. We didn’t really talk, so I didn’t think he liked me at all. I thought: ‘This is not good.’” One night, Beck’s drummer told Bryant his boss wanted to talk to him. Bryant thought he’d gone over the top on stage and was about to get kicked off the tour. “He [Beck] was like: ‘You’re doing a good job. Do you want to come play with us tomorrow night?’” Bryant says, his eyes widening. “And I was playing it cool, while on the inside I’m freaking out.” Bryant spent the night binge-learning the songs on Beck’s set-list. In the end they played Sly And
The Family Stone’s Higher. “It wasn’t even in the set-list,” Bryant says, laughing. “I probably ended up jamming with him forty or fifty times.” Bryant put together the Shakedown before he hit the road with Beck. In true hustling style, he’d hang out in restaurants and ask if anyone knew any drummers. Finally he met Caleb Crosby. “We jammed together once, played our first show a week later, and we haven’t stopped since.”
oday the Shakedown are completed by bassist Noah Denney and guitarist Graham Whitford. The latter is the son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, a connection that doubtless helped them bag a slot supporting the Aerosmith earlier this year. Sure, a little nepotism never hurt anybody, although that doesn’t explain how the Shakedown have ended up opening for Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC. And ZZ Top. And BB King. And Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon and Vince Gill. But there’s a catch: despite all the help, the Shakedown are still waiting for their big breakthrough. Fair to say? “Totally fair to say. It’s incredibly frustrating.” Bryant frowns, then smiles his Texas smile. “Hey, we’re working on it.” That’s not even the most frustrating thing that has happened to the Shakedown, he says. In 2015 they had a whole new record in the can and ready to go. The only problem was that their US record label at the time, Republic, wouldn’t put it out. “You start dating someone, your date’s gonna put on their best face first,” he says. “Then they tell
“I would wear my mom’s flare pants cos it was the closest I could get to bell-bottoms.”
All shook up: Tyler Bry ant as an Elvis Presleyobsessed pre-teen.
you: ‘Oh, actually I’m bipolar, and by the way, I don’t take my medication.’ When we signed with Republic, they said:, ‘We see this band representing counterculture rock’n’roll. Rock’n’roll’s coming back, we’re gonna change the mould with you guys,’ all those things you want to hear. Then they said: ‘You guys don’t have a radio single, we’re not going to do anything, it costs too much money to put out a record.’” He sounds exasperated. “I could upload a record for fourteen dollars for the whole world to hear. I could put it on SoundCloud for jack shit.’” Six of the songs appeared on the Shakedown’s 2015 EP The Wayside. Another seven are sitting in a vault somewhere, gathering dust. “We’re not even allowed to re-record them,” says Bryant. He suggests that one day soon the Shakedown will become so big that Republic will have no choice but to release the music. He’s only half joking. “My plan is to build up the Shakedown and start a revolution,” he says. “I want to get enough people together, going: ‘We demand this music!’” This big talk isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. The Shakedown’s new album – obviously not released on Republic – shows there’s plenty of life left in rock’n’roll yet. The road miles the band have put in, playing to huge audiences, is paying off. Tyler Bryant might not be a superstar just yet, but he’s working on it all day, every day. Somewhere, Roosevelt Twitty is looking on proudly. Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown is released on Nov 3 via Snakefarm and will be reviewed next issue.
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UD O L XC I M AT D MAN
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Rudderless after the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed ditched New York for London, hooked up with Bowie and created the aptly named Transformer, the defining record of his career. Words: Chris Roberts Photos: Mick Rock
Velvets at every opportunity, playing their songs in his set for two years and even singing Andy Warhol on Hunky Dory. Perhaps calculating that he’d gain as much reflected cool as he’d give out, he whisked his American heroes and new pals – Reed and Iggy Pop – around London, showing them off to the press. Bowie saw in Iggy the wild, feral creature he himself was too cerebral to be. Reed arguably combined the essences of both, yet he was malleable. He wanted a career. He knew the ‘business people’ were urging him to record with Bowie as the results would prove both vibrant and commercially viable. “And it turned out to be true, didn’t it?” he smirked. Having always worn head-to-toe black, and accustomed to having films projected onto him, he allowed Angie Bowie to dress him more exotically. Going heavy on the black eyeliner, he became the Phantom Of Rock. “I realised I could be anything I wanted,” he drawled. On July 8 he made his London debut, as Bowie/ Ziggy’s guest at a Save The Whales benefit at the Royal Festival Hall. A week later his solo gig sold out the King’s Cross Cinema, and he smiled as it sank in that the audience knew the words to his Velvets numbers. That’s where Mick Rock shot the live photo that became the iconic album cover. Years on, Reed sniffed: “I did three or four shows like that, then went back to leather. I was just kidding around. I’m not into make-up.” His new glam guru was, though. Bowie ushered him into Trident Studios in August. Sessions were rushed, as Bowie’s other commitments, with Ziggymania breaking big, were escalating. Reed was, of course, grumpy on occasion. The honeymoon of mutual adoration was fading. Yet chief arranger Ronson and unflappable engineer Ken Scott (who’d produced the Ziggy album) caught lightning in a bottle. Bowie had encouraged Reed to reveal tales and mysteries from his Factory years, to talk about the characters, the bathos and drama. He was eager to hear about underground New York – an impossibly glamorous notion to early-70s Brits. The album became a seedy but
“I DON’T HAVE A PERSONALITY OF MY OWN. I JUST PICK UP ON OTHER PEOPLE’S.”
redemptive, self-contained world, where the drive for love led individuals down wrong turns into impersonal sex and imperfect drugs. There was no better microcosm of this than in one of the most unexpected hit singles of its era. “Any song,” Nick Kent wrote in the NME, “that mentions oral sex, male prostitution, methedrine and valium, and still gets Radio One airplay, must be truly cool.”
alk On The Wild Side is, along with Perfect Day, one of the songs for which the world at large will remember Reed, even if he fluctuated in later years between being grateful and deeming it a pain in the albatross. At the time of recording, it was just another song to his ears. His own preference for a single was the wiry rocker Hangin’ ’Round. “Which is why no one listens to me.” As he’d recount during the 1978 shows at New York’s Bottom Line (documented on the Take No Prisoners live album), he’d been approached by theatrical entrepreneurs in ’71. They’d proposed the idea of adapting the 1956 Nelson Algren novel about vice and addiction, A Walk On The Wild Side. “Are you kidding?” Reed protested, true to his contrary nature. “It’s about cripples in the ghetto. I’m the best-qualified person to set music to a book about cripples in the ghetto?” He demurred, officially, yet borrowed the title and sketched out ideas. Nudged first by Warhol and then by Bowie, he redrafted, peopling this backdrop with the New York personalities he’d been transfixed by and “picked up on”: Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro (Little Joe) and Joseph Campbell (the Sugar Plum Fairy) were members of Warhol’s pansexual ‘superstar’ parade. This coterie of actors, artists, transvestites, junkies and wannabes was both eulogised and mildly mocked by the song’s taunting, partly ironic title. “If I retire now,” Reed said soon after its success, having evidently warmed to it, “Walk On The Wild Side is the one I’d want to be known by, my masterpiece. I found the secret with that song. That’s the one that’ll make them forget Heroin.” In fact, his new teenage audience in Britain, buying it because Bowie endorsed it, had never heard of Heroin, and at that time barely registered the Velvets. Transformer served as a gateway drug. With radio DJs too naïve or dense to notice the sex and drugs references, the single climbed to No.10 in the UK – albeit six months later – and broke in America. Herbie Flowers’s upright bass slide, baritone sax from Ronnie Ross (Bowie’s sax teacher) and the ‘coloured girls’ going ‘doo, da-doo’ allowed Reed’s narration to drip with presence. He would pick the bones of New York for lyrical ideas ever more throughout a career of glorious highs
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ollow the dotted line,” Lou Reed grumbled at me in 2004. “Look, put all the songs together and it’s certainly an autobiography – just not necessarily mine. I write about other people, tell stories, always did. Any truly creative person could make five albums a year, easily. Each record is just what you did that week. Another week you might have done the same songs differently. But listen – I love every last one of them. Every single second of every last one, okay?” Okay. Fortunately for him, and for us, in late 1972 what he did that week beat most people’s year. Transformer remains a remarkable arranged marriage of gritty, witty words and pop succour. It anointed him the godfather of anti-stars, opening up a career that may otherwise have swiftly gone the way of all flesh. “I don’t have a personality of my own,” Reed said in 1972. “I just pick up on other people’s.” He’d come to London for a change of pace, to “get out of the New York thing”, but his first, eponymous, post-Velvets solo album, recorded on the dirty boulevards of Willesden Green in West London, had stuttered rather than strutted. Nobody, least of all him, was sure where a former Velvet Underground frontman should go next. This is where the personality came in, and plenty came out. Just five months after that debut, the November release of Transformer made Reed a household name in all the most disreputable homes. The world’s fastest-rising rock star, David Bowie, and his gifted lieutenant Mick Ronson, bang in the throes of Ziggy Stardust, coloured in Reed’s persona. They coaxed forth the nervy, needy spirit of Andy Warhol that Reed had ingested and brought him alabaster-faced into the glam rock era. They gave his unorthodox songwriting and unique vocal stylings the chance to step out of the gutter and into the spotlight. The cult of Lou became a small religion as a freak hit single boosted his ego and confidence. A mixed blessing. Transformer remains a caustic, camp classic of palatable pop transgression. Things moved quickly. As a fan, Bowie had been name-checking the
Mick Rockâ€™s iconic shot of Lou Reed that became the cover of Transformer.
Hangin’ ’round: Reed in his trademark black.
and intriguing not-so-highs – not least on 1989’s New York – but this inked his identity. Still in thrall to the bohemian preachings of mentor-guru-poet Delmore Schwartz, he would fret about “selling out”. Yet as his tones oozed and seeped from radios around the world, the rare blend of sarcasm and soul had the knock-on effect of boosting the profile of Warhol’s loosely related film trilogy Flesh, Heat and Trash. A debt repaid. Warhol had also helped the genesis of Vicious, the album’s firm yet feathery opener. He’d suggested the title, adding, “You know, vicious, like: I hit you with a flower.” Ronson eases the riff along but goes for a flailing Moonage Daydream-style wig-out over the fade. To Lester Bangs, Reed declared it “a hate song”, adding: “I drink constantly.”
n an otherwise deftly produced album, Vicious is oddly tame and muddy, but we do get the first dose of the pop-operatic backing vocals from Bowie and female duo Thunderthighs, which became such a key feature of Transformer. The nursery rhymes from purgatory continue with Andy’s Chest – which Reed said was about Warhol’s shooting by Valerie Solanas, “even though the lyrics don’t sound like it”. He’d recorded it with the Velvets in 1969, but the Brits pulled back the tempo and highlighted the macabre imagery – bats, rattlesnakes, bloodsuckers. The new verse about Daisy May’s bellybutton becoming her mouth was one step above music hall, and Reed confessed that he didn’t know what it meant. ‘Swoop, swoop! Rock, rock!’ went those multitracked backing vocals, as Bowie and Scott enacted their current obsession with a kind of postmodern doo-wop. It’s easy to forget now that Perfect Day was ‘just’ the hit’s B-side (technically the single was a double A-side). Its surreal 90s crossover success as a family-favourite BBC commercial featuring Boyzone and Pavarotti meant that “twenty-five
years on, it became even bigger than Wild Side ever was”, chuckled Reed. “Go figure.” Back in 1972, it was already confusing and confounding people. Was this a beautiful, sincere love ballad or a subversive hymn to smack? If the former, its tenderness – ‘drink sangria in the park, feed animals in the zoo’ – felt authentic, topped by the Supremes-referencing ‘you keep me hanging on’. Others insisted it was a dedication to Bettye Kronstadt, whom Reed – for all this album’s overt sexual ambiguity – married in ’73. Either way, Ronson’s strings and piano capture the grandeur and frailty of falling in love. Even Reed was full of wonder for them. Cast against type here, he was someone else, someone good. “I’m really very inconsistent,” he muttered. He’s on more familiar ground in Hangin’ ’Round, its prickly put-downs laid down not long after Bowie and Ronson had bashed out Chuck Berry’s Round And Round. Make Up is fairly difficult to misinterpret: ‘We’re coming out, out of our closets’ was a slogan the Gay Liberation movement had adopted as a global rallying call. This tough guy’s paean to lip gloss and perfume is enhanced by Herbie Flowers’s tuba obbligato. Wagon Wheel and I’m So Free are conventional guitar chuggers that coast happily on the goodwill generated by the album around them: you can sense Ronson and Bowie trying a few minor twists to jazz them up. Satellite Of Love, however, is another message from the gods. The piano-driven arrangement, with fingerclicks and those backing vocals, echoes Drive-In Saturday. Bowie soars stratospherically over the coda. Ken Scott has revealed that they could have made this climax even more huge with what Bowie sang on mic, but the
“WALK ON THE WILD SIDE IS THE ONE I’D WANT TO BE KNOWN BY, MY MASTERPIECE.”
star insisted that this album had better be about Lou, not him. Reed acknowledged the majesty of this section. “It’s not the kind of part I could ever have come up with, even if you’d left me alone with a computer programme for a year. But David hears those parts, plus he’s got a freaky voice and can go that high. It’s very, very beautiful.” The song in itself is no slouch, its sweetness turning sour through jealousy and paranoia. It had been demoed by the Velvets during the Loaded sessions, but nothing like this. The narrator’s comatose wonderment at technology – ‘I like to watch things on TV’ – seemed to hint at Warhol’s I-am-a-machine passivity then, but seems spookily prescient now. Addiction in another form. New York Telephone Conversation is a gossipy sendup of Warhol’s diaries, while the old-time jazz of Goodnight Ladies is the antithesis, except for the cynicism, of the Velvets. Reed was imagining his interior life as a nocturnal, nightmarish cabaret. Indeed, on his next masterpiece, Berlin, he forsake these producers’ pop arrangements that dressed his vignettes of sickly city life and gambled on what Bob Ezrin called “a film for the ears”. Perhaps he resented the kudos afforded his collaborators here. “He’s very clever,” he snarled of Bowie. “He learned how to be hip. Associating his name with me brought his name to a lot more people.” Mercurial as ever, he later asserted, “I love him. He’s very good in the studio. The kid’s got everything. Everything.” Lou Reed changed his mind about Transformer, the album that made him a big noise and rebooted that autobiography, more times than he changed shirts. On its 25th-anniversary reissue in 1997, he commissioned me to write sleeve-notes, only to nix them because, in a fit of revisionism, he didn’t want any mention, however passing, of “sexual experimentation”. Seven years later he told me he was thinking of remixing it. “That oughta be fun. We could put Bowie’s saxophone right at the back. We could mess around a whole lot.” Such mischief. Today, on its 45th anniversary (with a lavish Mick Rock photography book released to celebrate) it’s safe to say most of us haven’t changed our minds: it’s a louche, landmark album that changed – transformed, as in increased the voltage of – his life, and countless others. Transformer by Lou Reed And Mick Rock, the limited edition book, is available from Genesis Publications at www. transformerbook.com. Tel: +44 (0)1483 540 970.
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Wild side: Reed, Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
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Robert Plant Carry Fire
Science Fiction PROCRASTINATE! MUSIC TRAITORS
Eleventh solo album with the Sensational Space Shifters, featuring a duet with Chrissie Hynde.
aybe it’s the times we live in, with the knowledge and diverse resources available to musicians, but despite the parlous state of the industry, for veterans with more than a scintilla of curiosity, age is not necessarily a process of inevitable artistic deterioration. Robert Plant has just turned 69 and there’s a distinctly melancholic, late autumnal feel to some of the lyrics on Carry Fire. However, in its intricate, hybrid weave of folk, rock, North African rhythms and stylings, and even discreet fibres of electronica, this album represents a higher creative point than, say, his somewhat poodle-haired solo work of the early 1980s. Carry Fire once more features the Sensational Space Shifters, whose slightly cheery moniker belies their excellence. Their instrumental contribution is worth listing in full as it conveys not just the credits but the flavours of the album’s bill of fare. There’s John Baggott (keyboards, Moog, loops, percussion, drums, brass arrangement, t’bal, snare drum, slide guitar, piano, electric piano, bendir); Justin Adams (guitar, acoustic guitar, oud, E-bow quartet, percussion, snare drum, tambourine); Dave Smith (bendir, tambourine, djembe, drum kit); and Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson (dobro, guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, twelve-string). Albanian cellist Redi Hasa performs on three tracks, as does Seth Lakeman on viola and fiddle. Their interplay is evident immediately on The May Queen, in which Moog synth drones, Arabic percussion, russet hints of folk and a palpable boogie pulse mix naturally, evoking a sense of a mature and distilled contemporary blend rather than the tired, dated feel that hampers the releases of other eminent 60-somethings. Most noticeable is Plant’s voice. It may be that he simply can’t scale the vocal heights of his youth. It’s commendable, however, that he doesn’t merely attempt to recycle the 70s Plant tricks and tropes as a mere exercise in preserving the Robert Plant Brand. His voice has developed into something quite different with age: smoky, intimate, delicate, hankering, with none of the epic, blues-orientated screeching that was once his stock-in-trade. It’s an approach that suits the likes of Season’s Song, one of a number that seem to speak of an old romantic increasingly
aware of his own mortality: ‘My senses have escaped me/My mind is on the run.’ The arrangement patters discreetly like snow on a window pane. Still, there’s life in the old dog. New World… is announced by a heavy, billowing guitar intro, crashing onto a ‘virgin shore’. The allusion to ‘immigrant’ is one of a few fragmentary Zeppelin references that blow back on the winds of these songs, adding to a sense of Plant as a figure etched and weathered by great adventures from long ago, unsure how many lie ahead of him. Dance With You Tonight dramatically exacerbates that sense, haunted by the backward taping on the soundtrack. This, however, is an album rooted in the present day. Carving Up The World Again …A Wall And Not A Fence feels explicitly geopolitical, with its Native Americanstyle drum beats. Guitars breaking over the horizon are a reminder that this album isn’t entirely an exercise in contemporary fusion. Rock courses through it, as is further evident on the rumbling Bones Of Saints, and Plant’s defiant refrain of ‘No, no, no!’ That said, Plant shows a great grasp of modern atmospheres on A Way With Words, as if such an understanding comes with experience. There’s the evocation of evening clouds drifting, night insects gathering in the warm dusk, memories rearing – the unique emotional intensity of late middle age. The title track, meanwhile, is practically a sonic transcription of a Marrakesh that’s still bustling at sunset, traditional instruments plucked beneath starry skies of synth. There’s a sole cover version – Ersel Hickey’s Bluebirds Over The Mountain – which is given a revved-up treatment, with a sawn-off riff and percussive drive fit to rattle the remains of John Bonham. Chrissie Hynde provides guest vocals, and it’s a sign of something or other that in 2017 their vocals actually sound more similar than you might expect, as if to suggest that everyone eventually arrives in the same place. That is a somewhat romantic idea – rock has its fair share of stragglers and casualties. But as for Plant, the truth is that Carry Fire is about as good an album as we could reasonably expect from him in 2017.
‘As good an album as we could expect from Plant in 2017.’
QQQQQQQQQQ David Stubbs
Farewell album from Long Island alt.rockers. Arriving as an emo band in 2000, Brand New have since sculpted their sound and indulged their ambitions to create a niche for themselves in the pantheon of alternative rock. With Science Fiction, their first album in eight years and the last before they will split in 2018, they have written their own eulogy. Seething with anxiety and frontman Jesse Lacey’s trademark sarcastic self-flagellation, and with a gorgeous production that gives the music space to breathe, it’s an emotional, intelligent work of grace and beauty. Early growing pains have been replaced with the older and wiser Lacey’s view of the big picture, the spiderweb-delicate Could Never Be Heaven taking a distinctly grown-up look at the nature of relationships. And when they let loose and allow guitarist Vinnie Accardi to stretch himself, as on the sprawling, grunge-meets-prog 137, the power they possess is almost physically palpable. Goodbyes are never easy, but they’re going out on a high, on their own terms, leaving us with genuine musical treasure to remember them by. QQQQQQQQQQ Emma Johnston
Sons Of Apollo Psychotic Symphony INSIDE OUT MUSIC
All-star progressive metal troupe deliver the goods. The rogues gallery of ‘usual culprits’ cast in Sons Of Apollo invites two iron-clad certainties: guaranteed virtuoso musicianship and a healthy dose of cynicism. Uniting members past and present of Dream Theater, Guns N’ Roses, Mr Big and Journey, Sons Of Apollo succeed in the proficiency stakes but, unusually, they’ve crafted an exceptional debut to shoot down all suggestions of fiscal opportunism, convenience or, God forbid, lethargy or laziness. Former DT alumni Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian bring the inevitable prog element, with Billy Sheehan and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal administering a hummable hard-rock twist, but the bridge linking those two styles, the factor that brings everything to life, is Jeff Scott Soto. JSS was
the wrong singer for Journey but he sounds magnificent here. Fuck the term ‘supergroup’: that’s not what this is about. Sons Of Apollo are simply a group that are super. QQQQQQQQQQ Dave Ling
Steve Hill Solo Recordings Volume 3 NO LABEL
Roll over, Don Partridge. If this is Vol 3, then Montreal one-man blues band Steve Hill is not a novelty one-off. It may be a low-fi experience and you may have heard many of these riffs before, but you can’t fault Hill’s committed determination or his talents as a performer. The gruff boogie of Damned and the mud-stirring Dangerous set up the album’s hard-rocking credentials, and Hill has clearly learnt from the masters, from Hendrix onwards. Subtle it ain’t, but he can certainly play, as the acoustic love song Emily and his dextrous take on Going Down The Road Feeling Bad clearly show. The niggling thought remains: how good would he be as a singer/guitarist in a band? QQQQQQQQQQ Hugh Fielder
Bigfoot Bigfoot FRONTIERS MUSIC Hard rockers pumped up and primed. A five-piece band from Wigan, Bigfoot have spent the past three years pounding their way round the club circuit. Tellingly, though, every time they’ve stepped out onto a festival stage, they’ve left their mark. You don’t have to get far into their debut album to work out why – their full-on, well-honed hard rock would rouse and focus any sluggish mid-afternoon crowd. Commanding vocals, a twin guitar attack that meshes fierce staccato rhythms and lightning lead guitar lines, and a stomping beat all combine to grab your attention. And they hold it through killer tracks like The Fear, Karma and Eat Your Words, swaggering showpieces like Freak Show and Prisoner Of War, and anthemic, harmonydrenched power ballads like Forever Alone and The Devil In Me. They have a broad range of styles – too broad maybe. They need to hone in on what they’re best at and concentrate on that. QQQQQQQQQQ Hugh Fielder CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 87
Ronnie Montrose 10x10 RHINO Hit-and-miss collection of the late guitar maestro’s unfinished works.
closest associates that make the most sense. Standout track Color Blind, with an outstanding performance by original Montrose vocalist Sammy ‘Sam’ Hagar, fair brings a tear to the eye. It’s low-key, sparse but triumphant, and includes the bittersweet words ‘live forever, never get old’. Similarly, Love Is An Art, with Edgar Winter on vocals and saxophone, has a wacky 1970s vibe, Winter’s croaking proving only a minor distraction. And as for the rollicking Any Minute, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad pulls off a vocal performance that almost defies belief. But there are problems. You’re never too sure whether Ronnie is playing or whether guests such as Steve Lukather or Rick Derringer are involved. Our guess is that the essential guitar parts are by Mr Montrose, with the solos added later. And then there are the hangers-on, the guys whose connection with Ronnie lack that umbilical-cord vibe. Still Singin’ With The Band is the worst culprit – you can’t help but feel that Glenn Hughes and Phil Collen were only there for the kudos. The same goes for Joe Bonamassa on The Kingdom’s Come Undone. This could have been a better testament to Ronnie Montrose’s legacy but, equally, it could have been a helluva lot worse. QQQQQQQQQQ Geoff Barton
Stan Bush Change The World L.A. The 80s never went away. Stan Bush unashamedly makes albums that belong in the 1980s. He eschews all aspects of modern rock because he feels comfortable in that era. So if you enjoy the melodic hard rock of that period then this album is most definitely for you. Bush writes neatly evocative power ballads (The Story Of Love, The Secret) and also uptempo anthems (Warrior, Born To Win) and delivers both of these styles with equal flair and enthusiasm. Never overcomplicating what he does, Bush is simply out to entertain in the same manner that has been his trademark now for 35 years. He also revisits arguably his two most famous songs, namely The Touch and Dare, which first came to prominence in 1986’s
The Transformers: The Movie. Neither are done differently to the original versions, so it’s hard to understand quite why he’s done it. Still, this is an enjoyable retro romp. QQQQQQQQQQ Malcolm Dome
The Necromancers Servants Of The Salem Girl RIPPLE French occultist quartet’s splendidly diabolical debut. Devil-fancying in heavy rock has been out of fashion ever since those pesky church-burning Norwegians started actually taking it seriously in the early 90s. But if anyone can bring it back into vogue, it’s this fiendish foursome from Poitiers. Recently signed to US label Ripple, they prove on this sixtrack debut that there are still a fair stock of tunes in Lucifer’s long-neglected locker. Salem Girl Part I and Black Marble House benefit from magnificently Maiden-esque twin guitar stings as they channel elements of goth portentousness, doomy vocal grunt and vintage melodic flair. Elsewhere, Grand Orbiter lurches between high-octane tritone-centric heaviness and atmospheric incantations, creating a sound as wealthy and tasteful as Old Nick himself. QQQQQQQQQQ Johnny Sharp
Walter Trout We’re All In This Together PROVOGUE
All-star all-clear for blues king. Trout’s albums either side of a life-saving, gruelling liver operation in 2014 dug deep into his personal blues. We’re All In This Together now looks determinedly outward, bringing in friends such as Joe Bonamassa and John Mayall to address what Trout calls “this time of madness”. On the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-assisted opener Gonna Hurt Like Hell, Trout warns his fellow Americans of the brand of political snake oil currently on offer: ‘Don’t you go buying/What they’re trying to sell.’ An hour later, the man who could barely lift a guitar three years ago is bringing the album to a storming close with Bonamassa on the healing title track.
RONNIE MONTROSE: GETTY
his writer was lucky enough to see legendary guitarist Ronnie Montrose play live three times: with his band Montrose at Charlton FC’s stadium in 1974, opening for The Who; at London’s Rainbow Theatre in 1975 on the Warner Brothers Music Show tour, supporting the Doobie Brothers; and with his post-Montrose band Gamma, at the old Hammy Odeon in 1981. But I’d be lying if I said any of these shows was a life-changing experience. Ronnie may have been a giant talent but he had a capricious demeanour and an understated stage presence. Indeed, he soon became frustrated by the limitations of traditional hard rock music and explored different avenues. Open Fire, his jazz-infused solo album, was inspired by Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow; the third Gamma record was largely influenced by Kraftwerk. Ronnie began to feel more comfortable in his axe-slinger skin later in life but clearly not comfortable enough: he shot himself dead in 2012. This posthumous release has good times, bad times. Ronnie had been working on songs with Styx bassist Ricky Phillips and Kiss drummer Eric Singer before his demise. Phillips completed work on the project, enlisting friends and collaborators to flesh out the basics, and it’s the contributions of Ronnie’s
Sky Trails BMG Redoubtable former Byrd still soaring high. Post-CSN, one of the more gratifying stories of late is the re-emergence of David Crosby as a solo force. 2014’s Croz was his first album for a couple of decades, followed two years later by Lighthouse. Now comes Sky Trails, a record that suggests the 76-year-old’s muse is still in close attendance. Crosby, for his part, puts this new-found proliferation down to “a lot of pent-up creative juice”. Unlike the mostly acoustic-led Lighthouse, Sky Trails finds him in full band mode, engaging in a nuanced blend of folk, soul and jazz that echoes vintage triumphs like Guinnevere and Déjà Vu. Indeed, he reaches back into the 60s for Before Tomorrow Falls On Love, a Michael McDonald co-write that asks what happened to that brave new world they once talked about, amid reflections of flickering candlelight and careless free love. One of several songs co-created with producer and son James Raymond, who also leads the band, the soft undulations of Capitol spike into bilious anger as Crosby takes aim at political corruption in the White House. Ultimately, however, he appears to be a contented man, from the radiant title track (a great duet with Becca Stevens) to the domestic paradise evoked in Home Free. QQQQQQQQQQ Rob Hughes
Elsewhere, the Trout band’s straight-up blues boogie backs Charlie Musselwhite’s swampy harmonica wail and Mayall’s country blues harp-blowing. Amid an understandable overdose of twin-guitar action, Joe Louis Walker’s bright tone and liquid, skipping flow help Trout prove that the blues can still be powerfully individual. QQQQQQQQQQ Nick Hasted
swirl of a Hammond organ and a thrashing snare drum. They know when to lay off the gas too, Bergman’s soulful chops brought to bear on the aching Ain’t It A Shame and the thrilling Let You Down, where he gets to channel his inner Joe Cocker. To call the whole thing life-affirming would be to understate it somewhat. QQQQQQQQQQ Philip Wilding
frontwoman Jodee Valentine, who tragically passed away last year) sounds like a teenage Brian Connolly, and the band vacillate between the hard-hitting glam rock of late-era Sweet and the crunchy riffola of NWOBHM. It’s basically the imaginary soundtrack to some long-lost VHS-era video nasty. Couldn’t be more true to form. QQQQQQQQQQ Sleazegrinder
Nuclear Soul THE END Rock and soul sing out on band’s latest album. Lionize are probably best known here as Clutch’s contemporaries and support act (they were also signed to Clutch’s Weathermaker label), though their history stretches back over a decade and includes stints working in Jamaica with Steel Pulse. Their reggae roots are less evident here with a sound that’s as much Thin Lizzy and Free as it is Solomon Burke and rhythm and blues. It’s a heady combination topped off by the distinctive, smoky and occasionally raw vocals of diminutive vocalist Nate Bergman (think Patton Oswalt with Paul Rodgers pipes), who croons, burns and beats his way through a slew of songs, buoyed along on the
Something Wicked This Way Comes SELF-RELEASED Stickin’ with the schtick. You might remember Thunderstick as the gimpmasked lunatic drummer from NWOBHM legends Samson. If you don’t, I suggest you read a history book. After Samson frontman Bruce Bruce (Dickinson) flapped off to Iron Maiden, the mighty ’Stick (born Barry Graham Purkis) formed an eponymous band, and while their ’84 debut Feels Like Rock ’n’ Roll was an audacious and raucous display of horror-glam, the band never quite caught fire. But the dream never died, and here we are, 35 years later, with a new line-up and a new album. How’s it sound? Like 1980, magnificently enough. Thunderstick’s new vocalist, Lucie V (replacing classic-era
OK RUBYWORKS Melodic Dublin indie rockers. The sensational sounds of Britpop, Britrock, grunge and all those other musical demi-mondes that soundtracked the turn of the last century may be old enough to apply for official Heritage Rock status a couple of decades on, but this Irish four-piece still make a good stab at making them sound contemporary. They prove that if you have enough youthful energy and conviction, nothing ever sounds old. The feisty brushes of Strokes and splashes of elegantly wasted Libertines cool on Treat Me So Bad and Ay Ay convince just as well as the grunge groan of Enabler and the Elastica-esque jerks of Razorhead. They’re no slouches when it comes to festival tentrocking choruses either, as Feel It and Come On, Hello prove. Sure, they don’t have the kind of left-field originality or artistic
quirks that would earn them effusive coverage in broadsheet arts pages, but they’ve got all the credentials to attract legions of sweaty pop pickers into their all-inclusive moshpit. QQQQQQQQQQ Johnny Sharp
Arcane Roots Melancholia Hymns EASY LIFE/RED ESSENTIAL
Proggy drama from the ambitious Brit trio. It’s all about the atmosphere for Kingston Upon Thames threepiece Arcane Roots, whose second album has a sense of scope and grandiosity that places them somewhere between the prog theatricality of Muse and the lush sonic tapestries of Sigur Rós, except they’re subtler, fresher and ultimately much less ludicrous than either of those bands. It’s been a four-year wait for the follow-up to Blood & Chemistry, and they’ve clearly used that time to learn all there is to know about electronic instrumentation, with skittish beats and swells of synths providing a dramatic foil to frontman Andrew Groves’ high, keening vocals and the meaty, no-nonsense rock riffs at the heart of all the bluster. One moment they’re raging on a string-laden Apt, the next they’re building a more subtle
Gizmodrome EARMUSIC All-star virtuosi find their radical grooves. ’Supergroups’ aren’t supposed to sound this fresh. Stewart Copeland (ex-Police), Mark King (Level 42) and Adrian Belew (ex-almost everybody – King Crimson, Bowie, Talking Heads) join with Italian keyboard whizz Vittorio Cosma (ex-PFM) in a Milan studio and have a whale of a time. A cue for indulgent muso jamming? Not here, as the four clearly get a buzz from their chemistry and do very strange things with Copeland’s innately peculiar songs. It’s a blitz of funky punky prog-reggae fusion (yes, that’s a thing, or at least it is now), and the playing is of course ludicrously impressive. What keeps the energy moving is Copeland’s bizarre vocal persona as a kind of horny preacher man, testifying to the travails – and fun – of ageing and travel. That King-Copeland rhythm section’s a bit handy too. They occasionally skid off, but most of this album is playful, pugnacious and pleasingly unglued. QQQQQQQQQQ Chris Roberts
Juliette Seizure And The Tremor Dolls
Johnny 2 Fingers & The Deformities
Seizure Salad JULIETTESEIZUREAND
Built To Rock ’N Roll
People sometimes forget, but like 20 years ago, Scandinavia saved rock’n’roll. I mean, it was pretty grim out there in 1999, an endless, numbing void of nu metal and pseudo-industrial pop and washed-out has-beens before the Hellacopters, Gluecifer and Turbonegro rode in on their longboats and straightened us all the fuck out. The Curse follow in their fine anklebooted footsteps with this effortlessly confident display of Swedish action rock, all snarls and switchblades and tight denim and sex-soaked rifforama. Calcutta Sunrise is the band’s third album and it’s a total jammer from end to end. The beauty of The Curse is that they get how rock’n’roll works – every song’s got a hook and they get in and out in two minutes flat. It’s all meat, no flab, and it ain’t pretty, either – every song is either about some dick they know (No Doubt About You, King Of Irritation) or some ruined party (City Of The Dead, Let’s Settle The Score). An instant classic. QQQQQQQQQQ
If everything that you loved about rock’n’roll never died then I suppose every band would sound kinda like the Tremor Dolls. But we live in a cruel and savage world so thank Christ Juliette and the gang are flying the flag for snotty, bubblegummy, glammy, pogo-ready punk. QQQQQQQQQQ
If we’re being technical about it, he’s actually Johnny 7 Fingers, but it is true that he’s only got a couple on his pickin’ hand. Doesn’t matter – he doesn’t need the rest to rock. Straight outta Moose Jaw, Johnny and his Deformities bang out a fistful of raucous party-starters. QQQQQQQQQQ
I can’t fault a band with hilariously primitive album art, and who rewrite mid-80s AC/DC songs over and over again. They have a song called Dirty Girl’s Island, for Chrissakes. They also have a song called She Has A Big Packet. Do they mean package? Is it a drag-queen song? I dunno. They’re French as fuck, if that helps. Love it. QQQQQQQQQQ
Remember back in ’83 when Tom Warrior played his Venom 45s at 33rpm and invented Hellhammer after hearing the Satanic sludge that oozed out of the speakers? I think these dudes did the same thing with their Screamin’ Jay Hawkins singles. This is an incredible display of doomy teenage dirtbag puke-blooze. Blood Weep is a fucking masterpiece. QQQQQQQQQQ
THE CURSE: MICKE KEYSENDAL/PRESS
By Sleazegrinder The Curse
The Curse: all meat, no flab.
kind of tension on the creepingly sinister Fireflies. In keeping with its long gestation period, this is music built to last. QQQQQQQQQQ Emma Johnston
The Professionals What In The World AUTOMATON No Steve Jones, but never mind, this is the bollocks.
et’s get one thing straight right from the start: rather than pulling his full weight as guitar and vocal frontman, Steve Jones merely strops his strings in a trio of guest star cameos here. This is news that’ll doubtless cause a widespread raising of eyebrows within the global punk community. Not that jukeboxer Jonesy can’t be arsed to tear himself away from LA radio fame, but because the cribnote version of rock history tells us The Professionals were dynamic duo Steve Jones and Paul Cook, rebranded in the wake of the Sex Pistols tsunami, and without the iconic guitarist on board, what’s left? Punk Ringo? As is often the case, the airbrushing shorthand of rock 101 ill-serves actuality, and any punk specialist worth their salt will tell you The Professionals amounted to way more than a notional post-Pistol whim of Cook and Jones. Among the smack ’n’ mayhem, of which there was much, were a band of no little potential, and their core (Cook, sometimes Jones, stalwart ex-Subway Sect bassist Paul Myers) are back for a second crack. With a little help from their friends. Upfront, manfully accepting the dual challenge of replicating Jones’s magnetically alluring yob charm and seismic humbucking bollocks, is Tom Spencer, whose fierce, deliberate vocal 90 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
masculinity occasionally overshoots the runway of mere machismo into the chestbeating Animalistic arena of the Anti Nowhere League, but there’s always room for a choking fug of testosterone in a band fronted briefly by Ray Winstone. Obviously, adequate though Tom’s riffing is, one all-singing strummer could never serve up the matchless testicular fortitude of Jones and absent wingman Ray McVeigh. So Paul Cook – amenable chap that he is – opened his bulging address book and, with minimal persuasion, coaxed Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, The Cult’s Billy Duffy, ex-Clash Mick Jones, ex-Ant Marco Pirroni and, fresh from working a little live magic, ex-3 Colours Red socialite Chris McCormack, to conjure up a requisitely throbbing scrotum-full of ballsiness. And they all deliver. In spades. This clearly represents a dream gig for the recruits and one they clearly relish. All tap into their inner Steve Jones, especially the man himself (though Collen shines by staying truest to his signature style) and with Cook and Myers rock solid in the engine room, production crucially tight and material strong, the results are simply spectacular. QQQQQQQQQQ Ian Fortnam
Orc CASTLE FACE Lysergic emanations from behind the garage door. Despite a Whovian approach to nomenclature – they’ve been the Oh Sees, The Ohsees and Thee Oh Sees among many, many others – the one constant to Oh Sees and bandleader John Dwyer has been their evangelical fervour in the cause of gloriously deviant rock’n’roll. And so it goes with Orc, the band’s 19th album in as many years. Yet anyone expecting a straightforward thrill ride of buzz-saw nuggets is in for a kaleidoscopic wake-up call. As evidenced by the band’s summer rampage across any number of European festivals they laid waste to, not only have Oh Sees increased their rhythmic attack in the form of the twin drum onslaught of Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone, they’ve also ramped up the cosmic flourishes to brain-scrambling levels. While the sonic hooliganism of The Static God snaps and snarls with an economic fury and Nite Expo grooves with intent and menace, Keys To The Castle finds Oh Sees brewing up a potent and intoxicating potion of garage ramalama, prog rock and psychedelia that’s a trip in its own right. Likewise the synapsefrying madness of Paranoise. Thoroughly anti-social and wonderfully obnoxious throughout, this is kick-arse psych’n’roll as it should be. QQQQQQQQQQ Julian Marszalek
Sons Of Texas Forged By Fortitude
Page and Cast In Stone pile on the emotional drama and catchy choruses. There’s even time for a bit of salacious slap and tickle on cheeky ZZ Top-referencing Slam With The Lights On, the crazy romantic fools. QQQQQQQQQQ Essi Berelian
L.A. Guns The Missing Peace FRONTIERS The classic line-up lives to (gun)fight another day. L.A. Guns’ storied history as Hollywood’s scrappiest shoulda-beens is at the same time aweinspiring and exhausting. How in the world co-founder/sole survivor Tracii Guns has managed to keep this train a rollin’ for almost 35 years and 11 albums is anyone’s guess, but clearly he’s not finished yet. Most folks would agree that L.A. Guns were at their best in the late 80s when Phil Lewis sang for ‘em. And that’s what you get here, a pretty fucking glorious throwback to Cocked And Loaded-era Guns, with all the bombastic screamalong choruses and dive-bombing flash-guitar heroism you can handle. Yes, to virgin ears it’ll sound dated, but who cares? There are plenty of Guns fans still out there, and anybody who loved Rip And Tear or Sex Action are gonna love high-flying rockers like Speed, Sticky Fingers or It’s All The Same to Me on this record. It’s a ripper. QQQQQQQQQQ Sleazegrinder
Bruising melodic metal from the Lone Star state. Album number two and these heavyweight southern-fried rockers are making themselves firmly at home in the groove they cut with 2015’s Baptized. Drawing comparisons with Pantera was inevitable then, and so it is now as vocalist Mark Morales unleashes some uncannily Phil Anselmo-esque throat aggro on vicious opener Buy In To Sell Out and the title track, over a juddering, squealing guitar barrage. In reality, though, these blasts of ornery violence are just one aspect of a sound that owes as much to commercial nu metal and radiofriendly grunge; for the most part the focus is on melody as Beneath The Riverbed, Turnin’ The
Neil Finn Out Of Silence LESTER Easy on the ear, but nothing that stands out from the Crowd. Former Crowded House man Neil Finn always wanted to write a song in the morning, record it in the afternoon and release it that night. Out Of Silence almost fulfils that objective. Following four live streams in August, the album was mixed in Auckland and ready to go. Piano ballads and autumnal reflections are at the heart of 10 orchestrated pieces. Love Is Emotional and the possibly apocalyptic More Than One Of You set the standard on an album that has the sonic feel of a nightclub engagement; percussive ticks, pedal noise and whirring acoustic guitars add to
the flavour. Brother Tim pops in for Alone, a naïve snapshot of life in London with Split Enz. The city was grey, buses bloodshot. Independence Day is normal for Neil: he tests the climate and the atmospherics are depressing. Terrorise Me, a response to the Bataclan outrage, is the key piece. The rest is no faffing and easy listening. QQQQQQQQQQ Max Bell
The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding ATLANTIC
Philadelphia singer-songwriter plays it safe on fifth album. Just as the mainstream will always repackage the underground, in recent years the independent sector has begun to return the favour. No one has benefited more from this unlikely trend than The War On Drugs (aka 38-year-old singer-songwriter Adam Granduciel). Catapulted from indie obscurity to headlining international festivals thanks to the success of 2014’s Lost In A Dream – a record which walked a perilous high wire between Dire Straits and Bruce Hornsby – he now finds himself caught between (soft) rock and a hard place; should he continue on the meandering path which
began with his 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues, or stick to a winning formula? Recorded in his adopted home town of Los Angeles, his fifth album plumps firmly for the latter option. Opener Up All Night moves through the formulaic pop gears as smoothly as Don Henley cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, while Holding On is a slickly realised mid-tempo foot tapper. However, shorn of the novelty factor, such middle-of-the-road material remains better suited to balmy summer nights and drivetime radio than to repeated home listening. As a certain Mr Hornsby could tell you, that’s just the way it is. QQQQQQQQQQ Paul Moody
The Electric Shakes Electrohypnosis THE ELECTRIC SHAKES
Fuzzy, bluesy Bournemouth trio’s stout second. The word ‘electric’ has a faintly kitsch ring to it these days, but that makes it all the more apposite for this three-piece from Dorset, who rustle up a fuzzy, hairy, sweaty racket redolent of an age when you could still get electrocuted by your amplifier. It’s no stylised retro-fest worshipping the dust in the
valves, though, as tracks such as In The Blood and Rats skilfully channel QOTSA’s druggy urgency and minor-chord melodic anxiety, and the former’s fuzz-caked guitar motif is instant earworm material. Throughout, though, there’s a satisfyingly organic garage rumble to a sound that keeps on gut-punching on the Stoogesgo-psychobilly stomp of Shot Me Down and the MC5-ish thundergroove of Magpie. Consider us shaken, and comprehensively stirred. QQQQQQQQQQ Johnny Sharp
Wayward Sons Ghosts Of Yet To Come FRONTIERS
Classic ideas repackaged. Okay, forget about which bands these guys have been in previously, because it only distracts from the present. Because Wayward Sons is a fresh start for all of the members, and this album sounds… well, fresh! This is simple, irresistible rock‘n’roll. There are nods to Thin Lizzy (Be Still), Bad Company (Give It Away) and Def Leppard (Killing Time), but it’s all done with such irrepressible momentum that what’s here transcends influences. Toby Jepson is in fine voice, guitarist Sam Wood cracks out the vintage riffs, and the whole portrait is of a band making their
own waves. The songs are well constructed, with the emphasis on giant choruses and propulsive rhythms, and in Small Talk and Something Wrong Wayward Sons have two of the best new songs you’ll hear in 2017. There’s still room for manoeuvre and improvement, of course. Occasionally, as on Ghost, they stumble a little, but overall, Ghosts Of Yet To Come is an album with pedigree. QQQQQQQQQQ Malcolm Dome
Robin Beck Love Is Coming FRONTIERS Fizzy pop-hawking chanteuse’s first album in four year. Robin Beck will forever be known as ‘the singer from that Coca-Cola ad’. While The First Time remains an 80s AOR classic, she’s had a hard time matching that song’s success in the ensuing decades. New album Love Is Coming is unlikely to shake off the ‘One Hit Wonder’ tag, but she can take solace in the fact that it’s a fine record in its own right. Beck’s fine-grained voice has lost none of its belting power – On The Bright Side is four minutes of melodic rock brilliance. Better still it has the kind of meaty production (courtesy of Beck’s husband James Christian) that many latter-day hard rock records lack.
The Turning Tide KUNDALINI MUSIC
It’s a shit business, as The League Of Gentlemen’s Les McQueen had it, and PP Arnold might recognise the sentiment. Spotted by Jagger, signed to Immediate Records and groomed for
stardom, the US soul singer’s 60s fairytale turned grim when her RSO label debut was shelved, leaving the tracks scattered or gummed in red tape. Cue the wilderness years… Was it worth Arnold sacrificing four decades of her life to reclaim The Turning Tide? Christ, yes. This is a stomping, hollering soul-blues master class, with a tag-team production by Eric Clapton and Barry Gibb that’s younger than
Orestea Elements HTTP:SHOP.ORESTEA.COM/ Taking the emo way out. Caught between heading into the alt.rock blue yonder or building up their fan base, Guildford emoflavoured rockers Orestea have chosen the latter course. After all, they have the power chords, the edgy, angular riffs and impassioned vocals of Lisa Avon to carry it off. Dense, clattering drums and a deep, resonant bass set up the opening Welcome To Surviville (sic), before Avon steams in with the first of her strident, harmonic hooks, with the rest of the band catching up quickly. By the time they reach the title song on track three they’re seeing how fierce they can be while hanging on to the melodies. But it’s the slow, bitter-sweet Getaway and the enhanced sounds on album closer Burning Bridges that offer a more distinctive way forward. QQQQQQQQQQ Hugh Fielder
By Henry Yates
PP Arnold: a stomping, hollering soul-blues master class.
It doesn’t always hit home – the cheese-ball funky rock of Me Just Being Me veers too close to Shania Twain territory – but there’s enough here to indicate that things don’t always go better with Coke. QQQQQQQQQQ Dave Everley
yesterday. Lift-off is achieved with the heartbeat bass and stinger guitars of Medicated Goo, and Born is even better, racing to a roaring finale that lets Arnold clean her vocal chords. Elsewhere the tears are still wet on torch songs like If This Were My World and Brand New Day, and there’s no cobwebs on a punched-up You Can’t Always Get What You Want. It’s the happiest of endings. QQQQQQQQQQ
Truth Is A Wolf AMADEUS MUSIC Steve Marriott’s third daughter is shaping up as the rock star progeny to beat. The blues informs her voice, but new album Truth Is A Wolf strays beyond it. There’s a haunted alt.rock slink to Broken, Fortunate Fate could be a great lost Pearl Jam song, Love Your Bones – an affecting salute to a dying friend – is a string-draped, music-box salute cut from the same cloth as Tori Amos. QQQQQQQQQQ
Solo Elektro SELF-RELEASED Something of a reinvention for the Australian troubadour. Solo Elektro might be proudly raw as hell – recording live in the studio, Ashton selfflagellates both his voice box and guitar to the point of abuse – but it’s ambitiously written, with tracks running the gamut between alt.blues, stoner rock and Easterntinged, Lennon-voiced psychedelia. These new clothes suit him. QQQQQQQQQQ
Long John & The Killer Blues Collective
Witchy Feelin’ RUF It’s hands-down the year’s spookiest album sleeve, and on Witchy Feelin’ Kim Simmonds is plainly not afraid of the dark. Thunder, Lightning & Rain is a rolling black sea of wah-wah guitar, the lugubrious title track creeps under your skin and Close To Midnight is as bereft as they come. The pick, though, is Why Did You Hoodoo Me, a reminder that Simmonds is still a blues guitarist from the top table. QQQQQQQQQQ
Heavy Electric Blues OUTLAW Long John Laundry’s latest project is the darkest shade of blues. A growl and skudded beat drive My Soul Rising, before Preacher’s House pairs manic piano to a feral delivery. Devil’s Train is jetblack rockabilly, while Big Man’s Got A Fat Chicken has the kind of barfly leer that gets restraining orders taken out. QQQQQQQQQQ CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 91
Europe Walk The Earth HELL & BACK Europe’s best album since their 2003 return shows the band confidently looking forward.
to amply feature some neat Norum tricks, nestling alongside Michaeli’s evocative punctuation. The pace slows on Pictures, but this is no soppy power ballad as it has an underlying agitation, Europe emphasising to us that they aren’t withdrawing into the past. And Election Day quickly shakes out the dust with some brisk work from drummer Ian Haugland. Meanwhile, Wolves has a deep-set, rumbling ire that brings to mind the recent recordings from Deep Purple, which is obviously no bad thing at all, and GTO also has inferences from Ian Gillan et al. The best is saved for last, though, as the epic album closer Turn To Dust beautifully balances changes in pace and mood on a song that manages to be both tuneful yet also a little disconcerting. This is where Europe reach a new level of achievement, proving that they have now brushed aside any remaining doubts about their validity in the current era. Walk The Earth is superbly produced by Dave Cobb, who highlights all the positive aspects of the band on an album that brings up new aspects of endeavour and creativity every time it’s played. An excellent release from the renovated and rejuvenated modern giants. QQQQQQQQQQ Malcolm Dome
Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real FANTASY Chip off the old block. The elephant in the room: yes, Lukas does sound uncannily like a young version of his old man Willie, and he has friends in high places, having backed Neil Young and grown up around country royalty. But this isn’t about nepotism, it’s grand music in the genes. From the opening Set Me Down Like A Cloud, with vivid turns of tone and crisp phrasing
blown along by Lucius’ singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, you’re cast into a selection of high-class material. While it wouldn’t be true to say that Promise Of The Real don’t owe nobody nuthin’ – Die Alone is southern groove in the JJ Cale style, and Just Outside Of Austin is a delicious rewrite of MOR classic Gentle On My Mind – these kids have balls. Lady Gaga adds majestic soul diva clout to Find Yourself, Nelson proves to be a sterling guitarist and the whole thing is hellacious, meaning good. QQQQQQQQQQ Max Bell
The White Buffalo Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights EARACHE Vignettes from American life from an LA troubadour. There’s something nostalgic about the work of singersongwriter Jake Smith, aka The White Buffalo, even though he’s working firmly in the here and now. He’s a storyteller, and his vignettes of American life have a sense of timelessness that could place his characters at any point in the last 100 years. His deep, rumbling voice and thumping, blues-saturated rock combine to drag you into a world of dusty small-town drama – no wonder the makers of Sons Of Anarchy saw fit to use his music on the show. There are echoes of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ Red Right Hand in Robbery, a tale of violence, greed and dishonour among thieves, while The Observatory is a delicate moment of reflection that wouldn’t be completely out of place in the early pages of Ryan Adams’ back catalogue. Turn the telly off and introduce yourself to the inhabitants of The White Buffalo’s world. QQQQQQQQQQ Emma Johnston
Damn Freaks Damn Freaks MIGHTY MUSIC/ TARGET GROUP
Eighties party hardy jukebox. Singer Iacopo ‘Jack’ Meille’s other band when he’s not fronting Tygers Of Pan Tang, Damn Freaks make no claims to be anything other than a shameless 80s-style good-time rock group.
EUROPE: BRIAN CANNON/PRESS
hen there’s a swelling keyboard intro to this album on the title track, you might have thought that Europe were reverting to the sound they had back in the late 80s. However, as the song opens up, it becomes clear that this is definitely not a band looking wistfully back to halcyon days, but one that’s striding determinedly forward on the strength of an edgy, energetic, fresh perspective. Ever since they reunited in 2003, the Swedes have steered away from their big hair reputation and cleared out any notions of living off what they achieved back then. Instead, they’ve gone for a heavier, more lucid approach that emulates their heroes, such as UFO and Thin Lizzy. This is the sixth studio album they’ve done in this period, and the best so far. For one thing, it’s a lot more natural, allowing John Norum to stretch out on guitar and for Joey Tempest to showcase a voice that has grit and bite, as well as huge melodic appeal. You can hear this coming quickly into focus on The Siege, which has a hard timbre, yet also nods towards the more Eastern refrains of Zeppelin, thanks to some deft keyboard sweeps from Mic Michaeli. And the darkly adhesive Kingdom United allows the band
The Tower RUNE GRAMMAFON Tower of power. Named after Russ Meyer’s 1965 sex-andsplatter-fest, Motorpsycho have been Norway’s foremost hard rock band since being formed in 1989 by bassist-singer Bent Saether and guitaristvocalist Hans Magnus Ryan, releasing over 20 albums (notably 1993’s Demon Box and 2006’s Black Hole/Blank Canvas). Joined by new drummer Tomas Jarmyr, this follow-up to 2016’s Here Be Monsters is epic in every sense, its finely wrought missives sometimes stretching over 15 minutes and straddling early Crimson-style monolithic doom riffs, episodic Magma complexity, psychedelic balladry and stoner bludgeoning, topped by harmonised vocals worthy of Yes or CSN. Full-bore blasters such as the Satan’s penis-mongering The Cuckoo, the Wagnerian swarm of Bartok Of The Universe and the 21st Century Schizoid Manrecalling title track were recorded at LA’s White Buffalo studio. Calmer sessions at a Joshua Tree recording ranch then allowed more reflective outings such as Stardust and The Maypole. Most seat-clenching is the colossal Van Der Graaf-style dogfight of Ship Of Fools and the cosmic extrapolations of Intrepid Explorer, while A Pacific Sonata star-sails transcendent spaceways to vistas usually traversed by Carlos Santana. Motorpsycho’s followers will hold this panoramic masterwork as a career peak, and it may even win some new disciples. A tower worth climbing. QQQQQQQQQQ Kris Needs
Sound-wise, there’s plenty of space in the mix to hear exactly what guitarist Marco Torri is playing, and Meille is a breathless ball of energy at the mic, the one-two punch reminiscent of classic Van Halen with Ted Templeman twiddling the knobs, particularly on opener Poison Apple and Burning Up, while Dream Highway has a distinct Poison vibe. Unsurprisingly, the top tune is the NWOBHM-riffing Break The Chains, which begs you to plug in the old air guitar and make like it’s 1980 again – and who doesn’t want to do that? QQQQQQQQQQ Essi Berelian
absence, leaving only the band’s trademark riffs – which are still monstrous – and frontman Jus Oborn’s snarling diatribes exposed and brittle under the harsh light of more transparent sonic values. Songs like Necromania and Wicked Caresses are still horribly heavy and several qualitative notches above most equivalents, but if you compare this to past triumphs like Come My Fanatics and Dopethrone – albums that pushed doom metal into heavier and more joyously drug-addled territory than ever before – Wizard Bloody Wizard falls a spliff or two short of the mark. QQQQQQQQQQ Dom Lawson
Wizard Bloody Wizard
The Blood Of Gods
Doom denizens dial down the dissonance. Within a few seconds of opening tune See You In Hell, it’s obvious that Electric Wizard’s ninth studio album amounts to a significant detour. In the past, the band’s languorous, malevolent epics oozed other-worldly menace from every pore, bolstered by insanely thick guitar tones and delivered with dense, psychedelic intensity. This time around, those eerie atmospheres and that underlying sense of hostility are conspicuous by their
More gory metal. The history of GWAR is littered with fake blood, death, jizz, menstrual blood, unspeakable gunk shot out of codpieces and bras, heroin overdoses (founder member Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungu, died in 2014), seaweed extract, outrageous costumes and the odd piece of public figure mutilation. As such, this long-standing band were ahead of their time when they started out with the morbid comic debauchery of
debut album Hell-O! (1988), predating Game Of Thrones, for one, by several decades. Over the years, GWAR’s sound has become codified into a Cannibal Corpse/Sabbathstyle thrash metal, mostly unlistenable but pleasingly dark and numbskull nonetheless. The song titles may be a little lacking this time round (although The Sordid Soliloquy Of Sawborg Destructo makes up for it), but The Blood of Gods is more of the same monstrous bilge. QQQQQQQQQQ Everett True
Death From Above Outrage! Is Now LAST GANG The Toronto cult legends evolve, filthily, popwards. Infamous more for being CSS’s odd choice of shagging music than for their own cultural impact – their 2005 new rave hit Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above made them household names, in indier households – trunk-nosed Toronto disco punk duo Death From Above (nee 1979) have traded on their cultish mystery since returning from a 10-year studio hiatus with 2014’s second album The Physical World. So, still on only their third full-length record in 17 years(!), DFA remain a pliable, evolving
concept, and Outrage! is an attempt to sprawl in the vague direction of scuzz-rock respectability. Hiring QOTSA producer Eric Valentine has given their bluesy bluster a hint of Josh Homme’s desert Bowie sleaze on tracks like Never Swim Alone, Statues, Caught Up and Moonlight (about singing drummer Sebastien Grainger getting a savage street beating while on tour in Dallas), and nudged the likes of Freeze Me even further into the realm of all-out grit-pop. There’s still space for the weird bits, though – Nomad is epic emo metal played, from the sound of it, on guitars made of burning asbestos, and the Royal Blood rifforama of NVR 4EVR literally features a shaker containing the ashes of a dead fan. Outrageous fun. QQQQQQQQQQ Mark Beaumont
Gentle Giant Three Piece Suite ALUCARD Consummately curated curios from Giant’s baby steps. They say necessity is the mother of invention. The fact that only a few songs from Gentle Giant’s first three albums still exist as multi-track tapes means that master remixer Steven Wilson had a finite set to work with
ROUND-UP: MELODIC ROCK
Phantom 5: packing some weighty punches.
By Dave Ling Martina Edoff
We Will Align AOR HEAVEN Amazonian brunette Martina Edoff returns with a third helping of glacial, majestically performed Scandinavian AOR. Co-written with a stellar cast that includes Erik Mårtensson of Eclipse/W.E.T., H.e.a.t’s Jona Tee (who also acts as a co-producer and contributes keyboards to the album) and Billy Sheehan, We Will Align is every bit as fresh, bubbly and energetic as its creator. QQQQQQQQQQ
A New World Arise It’s been four years since the excellent Frozen Paradise but at long last ColdSpell are back with a fourth album. As ever, the likes of Call Of The Wild and the gorgeous Signs are built upon durable hard rock-based foundations reminiscent of latter-day Whitesnake, while Michael Larsson’s guitar playing remains forceful yet always harmonious. QQQQQQQQQQ
Get Off Your Ass
Midnite City AOR HEAVEN Formed by current Tigertailz frontman Rob Wylde, who made the record that he wanted to hear as a fan, Midnight City model themselves upon Def Leppard, 1980s-era Kiss and, especially, Danger Danger. The results on this self-titled album are extremely easy on the ear, give or take the odd saccharine overdose. This album is pure fun, fun, fun. QQQQQQQQQQ
EMP LABEL GROUP
Phantom 5 Play II Win FRONTIERS In the realm of Teutonic melodic hard rock, few names other than the Scorpions carry as much weight as Claus Lessmann, lead vocalist with Bonfire during that band’s glory years, and Michael Voss, guitarist of Mad Max, Casanova, Demon Drive and Silver.
Lessmann and Voss pooled forces in 2015, the same year Claus exited Bonfire. Featuring ex-Scorp Francis Buchholz on bass, the first Phantom 5 album suffered for comparisons to Bonfire and lacked consistency, though it did enough to suggest the partnership could yet ignite. This time, with Buchholz gone (Voss deputises on bass, in addition to manning the desk), Phantom 5 have
taken huge steps towards fulfilling their potential. Play II Win isn’t perfect, but there’s more of a band chemistry and the music’s direction is better defined. The likes of Crossfire, Play To Win, Had Enuff and Baptise pack weighty right hooks, but once again, things wane a smidgen at the death. Still, for the most part, their choruses leave a satisfying aftertaste. QQQQQQQQQQ
here. Yet the results gel beautifully as a Best-Of-cumprimer to the band’s early work, itself the definition of invention. The tracks from Giant, Acquiring The Taste and Three Friends, all recorded between 1970 and 1972, with Tony Visconti producing the first two, showcase a panoply of multiinstrumentalists who, despite truly dreadful album covers, warped the proverbial envelope. At a time when some postpsychedelia experimentation was obligatory, they all but overdosed. The three Shulman brothers had harshly dismissed their glorious 60s hit Kites, under the name of Simon Dupree And The Big Sound, as too cabaret, or as they phrased it, “utter shit”. They figured they could fly higher. From Mellotrons to brass to drums to voices, they rejected the previously done. These new patterns bled later, diluted, into Super Furry Animals and Beta Band, but more swiftly were refined in the art-pop of 10cc. Genres mash on every track, as choirboy vocals switch to gruff blues-rock and rampant percussion marries jazz piano. There’s also a previously unreleased nugget, Freedom’s Child. As apogees Pantagruel’s Nativity and Nothing At All display, they had gargantuan dreams. QQQQQQQQQQ Chris Roberts
The Steve Plunkett-less Autograph took the final Firefest by storm, playing a stunning set. Alas, three years down the line, this weak comeback set adds little to the band’s legacy. You Are Us We Are You and Meet Me Halfway rank among a handful of worthy moments on the album, but the cod hair metal of its title track is simply embarrassing. QQQQQQQQQQ
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S E U S S I E R
Whitesnake 1987: Super Deluxe Edition
Nice year… We’ll take it. Era-defining Cov’s classic, generously expanded.
longside Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction, Whitesnake’s 1987 stands as the high-water mark of the MTV rock era, a blow-dried masterpiece wherein the blues moved to LA, got itself a spray tan and a perm and proceeded to hump the entire western hemisphere and a fair chunk of the eastern one into submission. It was an unlikely success story. Half a decade earlier, Whitesnake had been a strictly niche concern in global terms – an old-school British blues rock band (albeit a glorious one) put together by the singer with the glasses and frizzy hair from Deep Purple who wasn’t Ian Gillan. They were a decent seller at home, but when this bunch of lumpy English dudes in denim flares and satin jackets knocked on America’s door, America hid behind the curtains and pretended it wasn’t home. Most people would have taken the hint eventually. Except you can never underestimate the stubbornness of David Coverdale. The singer’s roving eye had been caught by a swaggering young guitar hotshot named John Sykes, then shooting off six-string pyrotechnics with the final incarnation of Thin Lizzy. Coverdale enticed Sykes into the latest line-up of Whitesnake in 1983, adding his firepower to a turbocharged remix of the band’s sixth album, Slide It In, designed specifically for the US market – something that even then looked like a dry run for 1987. With Coverdale’s blessing, Sykes de-bluesed Whitesnake. He packed out their rehearsal room with giant speaker stacks, drawing a line under their sunburst past and bringing them fully up to speed with the hard rock trends du jour. But the relationship between the two men was a turbulent one, a clash of two great big talents with two great big egos. There was only ever going to be one winner in that battle. Sykes might have written and played on the songs that made up 1987, but by the time the album was released he was gone, along with studio bassist Neil Murray and drummer Aynsley Dunbar, replaced by a cast of made-forMTV ringers drawn from Dio, Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne’s band. For all that, they managed to produce an album that oozed 80s class. The songs that make up 1987 are ingrained into the DNA
of anyone who grew up during that glorious decade: the crackling moods of Still Of The Night (the greatest/most shameless Zeppelin knock-off known to man), the priapic thunder of Give Me All Your Love Tonight, the surprisingly sincere yearning of Is This Love?. Long before he pilfered the gold from his own back catalogue with Whitesnake’s The Purple Album, Coverdale was giving flashy make-overs to two ’Snake classics: Here I Go Again and Crying In The Rain. The former is a textbook example of when hair metal got it right, the latter is the best song on the record. This super-deluxe edition of 1987 comes stuffed with the requisite add-ons in the shape of four extra discs of material (three audio, one visual). Skip the inessential collection of remixes, the shabby in-concert recording from Tokyo which won’t give Live… In The Heart Of The City any sleepless nights and the collection of various promo videos featuring Coverdale’s thenmissus Tawny Kitaen writhing on the bonnets of assorted automobiles and head straight for Evolution ’87, a compendium of demos and early versions of the songs that make up 1987. This is where you’ll find the meat of 1987. Rather than merely upend the waste bin all over the floor, various versions of each track have been meticulously stitched together to make new versions, so you’re hearing them grow from rough demos to the (almost) finished article as they play. It works brilliantly for two reasons. Firstly it’s a great way of charting the evolution of how a track is put together without having to sift through unnecessary detritus. Secondly, even the rawest incarnations of these tracks showcase the class of Coverdale’s voice – something the polish of the finished article occasionally hides. All the hair spray, teeth whitener and wives writhing on car bonnets can’t hide the fact that he’s one of the finest blues-rock singers Britain has ever produced. At 10m sales and counting, 1987 remains Whitesnake’s commercial high point. Is it their greatest album? Maybe, maybe not – Ready An’ Willin’ and Love Hunter both run it close, but then neither had the sheer cultural impact this did. Not bad going for the bloke with glasses and frizzy hair from Deep Purple who wasn’t Ian Gillan.
‘1987 stands as the high-water mark of the MTV rock era.’
QQQQQQQQQQ Dave Everley
The Atco Albums Collection RHINO “Jock-a-mo fee na-né” (it says here). After a decade as an in-demand session musician, Mac ‘Dr. John’ Rebennack came up with his own medicinal compound, a hearty gumbo laced with R&B, jazz and psychedelia, liberally seasoned with the voodoo mythology of his New Orleans home. The calling card was 1968’s Gris-Gris, distinguished by Mama Roux and the epic (and frequently covered) I Walk On Gilded Splinters; a true original, at once both sinister and welcoming. A new album arrived each year without fail, the likes of Babylon and Remedies consolidating the spooky vibes. Yet for all the cult praise and seals of approval from contemporaries, it was his fifth release, Dr. John’s Gumbo, that established him as New Orleans royalty, thanks to his interpretative magic on the music of the city’s famous sons Professor Longhair and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, including the ubiquitous Iko Iko. The final two albums in this collection, In The Right Place and Destively Bonnaroo, were made in tandem with another Crescent City mainstay, Allen Toussaint, and the muscular accompaniment of The Meters. It could be argued that Rebennack’s later work flirted with novelty (albums of standards, etc), and although there have been intermittent sparkly gems down the years it’s this first seven that make up the cornerstone of his reputation. QQQQQQQQQQ Terry Staunton
Sex Pistols More Product USM/UMC ‘Flogging a dead horse’ was how they termed it then. The Sex Pistols ‘third’ album, Some Product, Carri On Sex Pistols, released in 1979, long after frontman Johnny Rotten’s acrimonious departure, is a hastily cobbledtogether collection of the Sex Pistols talking, mostly on the radio – banned radio ads, the odd snippet of music, Grundy swear words included. As such it shouldn’t work on any level – the calculated money-grabbing cynicism behind such a release was going some, even for manager Malcom McLaren – but it does, sometimes gloriously.
In particular, the Yank-goading American phone-in session Big Tits Across America, snatches of which this reviewer can still recall 40 years on. Such gleeful, despicable, riotous, laddish banter – the sound of four lads not quite believing the gullibility of those around them, and taking full advantage. Often it feels like the least tutored moments are the most revealing when it comes to stripping bare myths. Rotten is a caustic delight, Paul Cook and Steve Jones willing dupes, the music industry a shameful smug mess. Pointless and gratuitously objectionable, but you could argue the same for spiritual peers Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. In keeping with the spirit of the original, this reissue (which includes a Radio 1 interview from 1977 and two previously unreleased radio interviews) is a rip-off, but that only adds to its ‘charm’. Twenty-four quid for a three-CD spoken-word set?! McLaren would be proud. QQQQQQQQQQ Everett True
Stray All In Your Mind: The Transatlantic Years 1970-1974 ESOTERIC Stray-cat dues. Roaring out of west London as teenagers in the late 60s, Stray became faves on the UK’s thriving club scene with their riff-bolstered prog, favouring Del Bromham’s guitar flights and US psych vocal harmonies. After 1970’s self-titled debut album, Stray recorded four more for Transatlantic (Suicide, Saturday Morning Pictures, Mudanzas and Move It), supporting the likes of Sabbath and Quo but never breaking big (even when managed by Charlie Kray). Changing label and line-ups, Stray continued with Bromham out front, getting a boost when Maiden’s Steve Harris declared himself a fan and his band covered All In Your Mind for the B-side of Holy Smoke. This bulging box contains the Transatlantic albums plus a disc of outtakes, rare 45s and demos, including their 1968 audition. Stray might not have found a home then, but they play a reunion show this month to celebrate this belated but welldeserved acknowledgement of their endless graft. QQQQQQQQQQ Kris Needs CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 97
The Jam 1977 UMC/POLYDOR Five-disc set of the band’s first glory year. My teenage self salivates.
the alienation of the suburbia I knew as well as Weller in The Jam), and the singles (of course) being the equal of anything that followed… even some of the suspect Motown covers, and especially that burning Who cover (So Sad About Us). And how great is first album track Time For Truth? I mean, as Weller himself put it, fuck off. Because they had never brooked no argument, never had any cause to doubt themselves, and because they were so young themselves, The Jam naturally managed to capture the confusion and bruised dreams of being a teenage boy in late 1970s Britain like few others. By the time the group released their debut single In The City in 1977 – and God, here was an anthem of pure optimism to match any (The Jam did anthems so well) – the band has already been playing together for five years and so arrived seemingly fully formed, operating at the peak of their powers. And then they just got better. It helped, of course, that drummer Rick Buckler looked so cool. Weller split The Jam when he was still only 24 years old. Mere mod revivalists? Get the fuck out of here. From year one, The Jam were insanely great. QQQQQQQQQQ Everett True
Montrose Deluxe Edition Reissues WARNER MUSIC
Two-disc reissues for two landmark Montrose releases. Montrose (9/10) and Paper Money (8/10) have long cemented Montrose’s place in history – the almost impossible to follow debut, the subsequent years of attrition between singer and guitarist – so what can yet another reissue offer to prise the cash from your wallet? In the
case of their debut, a remastered disc with incredibly clean and detailed demos that sound almost as pristine as the magical tracks they’d soon become. Most intriguing is the live set the band play for radio station KSAN. Stepping in as a late substitute for Van Morrison, it’s their first live show. As the DJ remarks: “I don’t even know if these guys have a name yet.” Name or not, they don’t disappoint – Hagar is already fully formed as a singer, while Ronnie Montrose is so mellifluous as to be ridiculous. A year later they’d return, as evidenced on the second disc of Paper Money, slick from the road and brimming with confidence; they’re practically mute on their first session, boisterous on the second. It’s another high-flying set, with a particularly robust Roll Over Beethoven showing a band in full flight and offering even more reasons to regret the fact they couldn’t make it last. Philip Wilding
The Residents 80 Aching Orphans CHERRY RED
Eyeballs, top hats and 45 years of madness. The only failsafe way to truly grasp what The Residents have been up to over the last 45 years would be to immerse oneself in their bizarre, challenging and frequently unfathomable music to the exclusion of everything else. But then you would probably go mad. The next best option is to buy this glorious four-disc retrospective, which is both as illuminating and confounding as anyone could hope. With tracks drawn from across the eyeball-sporting loonbags’ entire catalogue, and with a generous sprinkling of rarities and unheard material, 80 Aching Orphans reinforces what a unique proposition they have always been. Although more firmly rooted in avant-garde performance art than anything as mundane as rock’n’roll, The Residents’ music can be enchanting, thrilling and terrifying, often within the same song, and while they’re arguably the ultimate acquired taste, only a few moments veer into impenetrable insanity. All the band’s best-known tunes are here, from Hello Skinny (which many will know from Primus’s reverential cover) and Kaw-liga (think Billie Jean
THE JAM: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
his sumptuous five-CD collection contains much of The Jam’s prodigious output during their first glory year, 1977. That means you get the brash determination and unswerving vision of debut album In The City, the raw teen power of second album This Is The Modern World and the original Polydor demos from February 1977 (and not a duff track among them). On top of that, there are two lots of John Peel sessions, which still retain the knack of sounding more finely honed than the official releases, a previously unreleased live concert from the Nashville – 15 tracks of blistering fury – and the occasional dodgy Arthur Conley cover. There’s even a DVD full of TV appearances and promo videos. As I say, my teenage self would have salivated. So does my adult self. So what if In The City features seven times here, in various guises? Such self-belief! Such heedless purpose and willpower! Okay, these songs are no Sound Affects or Setting Sons, but what is? Seriously, what is? Also, there’s quite some argument to be had for Art School (distrust of adult conventions), the searing Away From The Numbers (loneliness to be found at the heart of the crowd), Carnaby Street, Life From A Window (very few songwriters captured
Diamond Cuts NETTWERK Good old rock’n’roll thunder from Down Under. Few bands pack as much fun and punch into their performances as Airbourne do. The Aussies attack their music with all the energy and attitude of maniacal cannibals on the trail of fresh flesh. It’s no wonder they’re regarded as the natural successors to Rose Tattoo. This set houses the band’s first three albums, giving us another chance to bathe in the bloodlust of Runnin’ Wild (2007), No Guts, No Glory (2010) and Black Dog Barking (2013). They’re so full of in-yer-face attitude that they still kick hard. What will interest Air heads, though, are the two other discs. The fourth CD, Diamond Cuts – The B-Sides, has a selection of 13 songs that were on the B-sides of various singles from that era, but also two previously unreleased tracks, namely Money and Heavyweight Lover. Both have unmistakable Airbourne rock’n’roll pace, with the former being a real gem. Quite how this got recorded during the sessions for No Guts, No Glory and then discarded is something of a puzzle. This should have been put out a long time ago. The fifth disc is a DVD called It’s All For Rock ’N’ Roll, which is a documentary on the band. If you’re expecting serious insight and philosophical analysis, you’ll be sorely disappointed. What you get is what you’d expect from such a band – full-on madcap bluster of the type that’ll make you smirk throughout. This is a cracking reminder of Airbourne’s personality. The bonus stuff enhances it all. QQQQQQQQQQ Malcolm Dome
gone wrong) to The Angry Angakok from 1979’s ageless masterpiece Eskimo. The perfect entry point for the uninitiated, these 400 minutes of madness make pretty much everything else seem a bit dull. QQQQQQQQQQ Dom Lawson
The Smiths The Queen is Dead – Deluxe Edition WARNER Teenage dreams are hard to beat. Returning to an album you adored beyond reason in your teens is clearly inviting disappointment, but this 1986 Morrissey-Marr career peak proves enduringly rich and rewarding in its punchy, remastered, expanded form. From that Shakespearean state-of-the-nation rockbeast title track to the deceptively sunny, tropical guitar shimmers of Cemetry Gates, from the Billy Liar-esque tartness of Frankly Mr Shankly to the gloriously overblown romantic self-pity of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, no other British band has ever sounded so simultaneously in love with
both life and death. Boy geniuses, still in their twenties, still largely unsoured by the bad blood to come. A second disc of demos, B-sides and alternative takes yields no lost classics but plenty of modest pleasures. My snobby teenage self might have hated the mournful trumpet solo on an early blueprint of Never Had No One Ever, but middle-aged me can appreciate this rare Smiths acknowledgement of rock’s jazzy, bluesy hinterland. The false starts, vocal stumbles and snatches of studio chatter also cast interesting light on a band that always appeared so supernaturally self-assured. Featuring a previously unreleased concert recording from Boston in 1986, the third CD offers a welcome reminder of the muscle and swagger the Smiths could muster outside the studio. Hand In Glove and I Want The One I Can’t Have both have real punky bite, while the weeping glissando cascades of That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore still inflame tender teenage emotions decades later. “Don’t pretend,” Morrissey teases the crowd, “you didn’t like it.” Warm and witty, camp and knowing, fully in control of his
art and his audience. I miss that brilliant young man sometimes. QQQQQQQQQQ Stephen Dalton
The Sisters Of Mercy Some Girls Wander By Mistake RHINO Fifty shades of black, newly reissued on deluxe vinyl. Despite releasing only one new song in the past 27 years, Andrew Eldritch’s techno-goth trailblazers remain the cult that will not die. They still fill arenas in Europe, while their rare UK shows are frenzied sell-outs. Newly remastered as a vinyl box set, this 1992 compilation of early singles and EPs captures the future doom-rock overlords as a febrile work in progress between 1980 and 1983, a rough beast slouching towards Leeds University Student Union. At almost eight minutes, the full-length zombie-apocalypse cyberpunk stampede of Temple Of Love is the sole crossover anthem here. Reissued in 1992, it gave the Sisters their biggest hit. Some of these primitive experiments haven’t aged
gracefully, with too much spindly drum-machine clatter and juvenile sleaze-horror schlock. But Phantom and Kiss The Carpet remain impressively cinematic, meshing moody guitar twangs with stuttering electro beats, while the slamming technometal cover of Iggy’s 1969 is basically Eldritch shamelessly confessing where he copped his Nosferatu vocal croak. More interesting are very early tracks such as Watch, Body Electric and Adrenochrome, recorded when the Sisters were still post-punk proto-goths who shared more sonic terrain with PiL or Cabaret Voltaire than the none-more-black hordes who would later follow them into the eternal night. QQQQQQQQQQ Stephen Dalton
Flock Truth – Columbia Recordings 1969-70 CHERRY RED
Giving a flying Flock. Emerging from Chicago into the heady, psychedelic avant-garde scene at the end of the 60s, The Flock were in thrall to Miles
Davis’s Bitches Brew. The sevenpiece line-up – centred on guitarist/singer Fred Glickstein and classical/jazz violinist Jerry Goodman – included two sax players and a trumpeter, and the opening track of their 1969 selftitled debut, called Introduction, has an alluring range of dynamics to draw you in. They can switch styles at will, often within the same song. The key for the casual listener is their left-field cover of the The Kinks’ Tired Of Waiting. If you get it, then the swirling bursts of creativity and frequently surreal lyrics provide their own momentum. But the sense that there’s more to come soon dissipates on their second album, Dinosaur Swamp, which is dense and bewildering. The ideas continue to flood in but there’s no quality control and the songs lack focus. Goodman, whose playing is a compelling feature on the first album, is relegated to a peripheral role. Instead, there’s an increasing reliance on sound effects and production tricks. Not surprisingly Goodman was easily lured away to the Mahavishnu Orchestra. QQQQQQQQQQ Hugh Fielder
ELP Fanfare: Emerson, Lake & Palmer 1970-1997 BMG This huge box set brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘super-deluxe’.
s Carl Palmer limbers up (you imagine he really does limber up – no one that age stays in that kind of shape without the occasional lunge) to collect the 2017 Prog God gong for his lifetime’s dedication to the music he and his bandmates made and loved, ELP’s label have decided to roll out what can best be described as the big guns. ELP collections are nothing new – the earth has been exhumed and reworked so many times on their past endeavours that even Love Beach managed to accrue some kind of legend, and not just for what Keith Emerson was wearing on the cover. It would, you’d imagine, be going some to get people to dip their hands into their pockets for yet another reimagining of the work that Emerson, Lake & Palmer did up to and into the 90s, when, quite frankly, the wheels had come off with an alarming clatter. That said, the only thing you can imagine that might be missing from this collection is one of Keith Emerson’s Hammond-stabbing blades. You get the original 11 albums, naturally, but
from there on in, all bets are off. There are the Steven Wilson and Jakko Jakszyk surround sound mixes, which were revelatory enough when first released, but when you fall into the ELP-shaped hole of the unreleased triple live album of a Milan show in May 1973, you wonder how three men made all that glorious racket. This will all be nothing new to the bootleggers, but there’s much to enjoy in the Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham re-engineered live disc, not least a show from Pocono International Raceway (no, we’ve no recollection of it as a venue either) in July 1972, where the band kick off with Hoedown and then Tarkus before settling into Take A Pebble, presumably so everyone can catch their breath. Personally speaking, it’s the On The BBC disc that kept calling me back, with the band flying through a show from the Works tour at some enormodome in Memphis, with some added
Bob Harris interviews to hold your attention. In addition to all that there are original promo posters, the Lucky Man single, a hardback book and even a badge. It may just be yet another ELP exhumation, but it feels like a labour of real love. QQQQQQQQQQ Philip Wilding
John Lee Hooker
Grand Funk Railroad Trunk Of Funk Vol 1/Trunk Of Funk Vol 2 UMC Bulging Trunks – no budgie-smugglers here.
T.N.U.C., Inside Looking Out and, of course, signature song We’re An American Band were, and remain, the stuff of legend – no matter what the holier-than-thou rock journals of old might have told you. As for the missteps? Well, look no further than 1974’s All The Girls In The World Beware!!!, the band depicted as muscle-bound Schwarzenegger types on the cover – Manowar eat your heart out. The album reaches its nadir with the appropriately horn-heavy Look At Granny Run Run – admittedly not a GFR original – which tells the tale of an old lady being pursued by her aged husband, who has just been prescribed Viagra (or the 1970s equivalent). To counterbalance the hilarity, the album closes with a magnificent version of Some Kind Of Wonderful, with an ever-commanding vocal performance by Mark Farner. But the best track of the entire collection just has to be the epic and elegiac I’m Your Captain, which appeared originally on 1970 album Closer To Home –an enduring classic rock, er, classic if there ever was one. The only criticism of these sets is the dodgy repro of the original album sleeves – the shiny glory of E Pluribus Funk, for example, now resembles a tatty beer mat. QQQQQQQQQQ Geoff Barton
Bark Psychosis Hex FIRE Hex is the album that the term post-rock was invented for. As Simon Reynolds (the critic who coined the term) had it, post-rock was about using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords. And so it is on Hex: the seven tracks contained on this 1994 album may come to occasional stops and refrains, the vocals whispered/lullabied like a bevy of saddened, friendless Talk Talk and AR Kane fans, but throughout there is a determination not to be
weighed down by heedless expectation: this music, while symphonic in structure, exists within the moment and the moment alone. Moments like the crystalline tumbles of sound washing across the middle section of Absent Friend feel both haunting and captivating: an overcoat of rock instrumentation perhaps, but with the feel and lineage of ambient dance music or a Philip Glass. Or even Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Throughout the entirety of Hex, the mood captured is one of rain-splashed, neon-reflecting deserted city streets: down but not depressed. Urban anguish. A direct line can be traced between the spellbound meandering mesmerising music here back to the roots of avantgarde electronica, minimalist classical and 1980s synth-pop, and forward to bands such as Sigur Rós, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and Tortoise (among many others). Hex was Bark Psychosis’s final moment (and debut album): although the band disintegrated soon afterwards. The mark they left is indelible. QQQQQQQQQQ Everett True
The Tubes The A&M Years CAROLINE Not punk, definitely dope: early years’ effervescence. It’s strange that glam, punk, prog and artrock aren’t all fighting over who claims The Tubes as heroes of their own. In the 80s, the wonderfully theatrical San Francisco porno-politico collective smoothed out their live shock tactics to gain radio play, but their first five years were a riot of satire, excess and misdirection. This often inspired box set brings together their four opening studio salvos, plus What Do You Want From Live?, recorded during a whole week of shows at Hammersmith Odeon. (Yes, they were that big; they headlined Knebworth in ’78.) White Punks On Dope, the finale of their 1975 self-titled debut album, was cunningly pitched as a punk anthem in the UK two years later, but by ’79, their other notional hit here, Prime Time, was an ironically slick love duet. Their minds moved too quickly to let an audience settle. So there are plenty of thrills and wry chuckles here, as even
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: GETTY
n July 1971, US monstergroup Grand Funk Railroad played a massive free concert in London’s Hyde Park, supported by Humble Pie and Head Hands & Feet. Thousands of early-generation headbangers witnessed a truly awe-inspiring set by the definitive American blue-collar rock band. However this monumental event has been largely erased from rock history because: a) GFR weren’t The Who or the Rolling Stones, and b) critics abhorred them as much as fans adored them. At least these Trunk Of Funk collections – actually, given the size of them, let’s call them shipping containers – give the band a little of the respect they deserve. Because let’s face it, this lot played arena rock before there were even arenas – just fields of corn and dusty parking lots. Vol 1 spans the years 1969-1971 and includes six discs, beginning with debut album On Time and ending with E Pluribus Funk. Vol 2 takes in 1972-1976 with another half-dozen CDs, from Phoenix to Born To Die. There are naturally missteps, given this phenomenal output, but when the Funk are on song, there’s no stopping them. For evidence, look no further than the brace of live albums included here: the aptly titled Live Album (1970) and Caught In The Act (1975). Tracks such as Mean Mistreater,
King Of The Boogie CONCORD Five-CD celebration of the influential blues legend. Unlike many of the blues giants who mapped out the sonic and psychic territory for future generations, multi-Grammy-winner John Lee Hooker lived to see his work rewarded and enjoy the spoils. The final disc in this collection (With Friends) shows just how far his music reached and the voluminous cast of those who benefitted from his inimitably rowdy, implacable fearsome and determined sound. Stoicism and unchanging resolve are the keynotes that tie together Hooker’s earliest primal foot-stomping solo tracks Boogie Chillen (a 1948 hit), the bopping and punchy 60s R&B sides (Boom Boom), and full-band final Healer-era recordings with Eric, Van and Carlos. The rural/electric blues crossover soundtracks Hooker’s journey from Deep South sharecropper shack to big city Detroit and Chicago blues, his rhythmic drive and lyrical ingenuity proving ageless and all-conquering. With 100 albums released in his lifetime, five CDs can only scratch the surface of Planet Hooker; stellar albums with Canned Heat and The Groundhogs are represented with one track each. Nonetheless, there are some choice previously unreleased tracks nestling beside the standard classics and deeper catalogue cuts. All told, this is a finely detailed and lovingly curated tribute to one of the true greats. QQQQQQQQQQ Gavin Martin
the revolving producers – Al Kooper, Ken ‘Ziggy’ Scott, Roxy/ Genesis man John Anthony and Todd Rundgren – scream 70s rock invention. That debut revels in sci-fi and trash culture; Young And Rich is wilfully sleazy; Now sees them anxiously covering Beefheart and Lee Hazlewood; Remote Control is an immaculate skewering of TV addicts. Turn on The Tubes again. QQQQQQQQQQ Chris Roberts
Ace Frehley Anomaly Deluxe STEAMHAMMER/SPV
Truly, madly, Frehley. Anomaly, Ace Frehley’s fifth solo album, from 2009, encapsulates the original Kiss guitarist’s personality to a tee. Strip away all the flash-bombs, smokin’ guitars and well-documented addictions and you’ll find a tender soul; someone who wears his heart on his sleeve – even if said sleeve is part of a cheap tinfoil spacesuit. The album begins in fine style with the raucous Foxy & Free, the pace not letting up for second
track Outer Space. The lumpen Pain In The Neck is a bit of a misstep, and a version of Sweet’s Fox On The Run is as throwaway as they come, but the album really hits its groove (pun intended) with the sprawling sixminute mini-epic Genghis Khan. (The moment when Ace bellows ‘Genghis!’ never fails to bring a smile to the face.) Talking of which, Too Many Faces has hints of paranoia, Ace maybe recalling his days in make-up with the words: ‘Too many faces in the mirror, looking back, looking back at me.’ Elsewhere, A Little Below The Angels deals with Frehley’s battle with alcoholism and features a sweet cameo from his daughter Monique, while It’s A Great Life (subtitled Don’t Let Gene Drag You Down) could perhaps be described as Ace’s very own My Way. In addition to the original album, this remastered edition includes three bonus songs: Hard For Me (previously unreleased), Pain In The Neck (previously unreleased slower version) and The Return Of The Space Bear (first time on CD). Aces high? You betcha. QQQQQQQQQQ Geoff Barton
U-Men U-Men SUB POP Two-CD anthology of one of the great lost Seattle bands. From 1983 to 1987, the U-Men were the kings of the Seattle underground. Their sludgy, twisted, hypnotic sound was akin to Melbourne’s Birthday Party and fellow American absurdists Butthole Surfers, but these north-western slime lizards had a malevolence and dark humour all their own. As Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm writes in the sleeve-notes, “The U-Men are one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. They were hypnotic, frenetic, powerful and compelling… They ruled a bleak backwater landscape populated by maybe 200 people.” Fanzine writer Bruce Pavitt released the U-Men’s first 12-inch EP on Bombshelter, and would have released their second on his fledgling Sub Pop label but was too broke. By the time their one album was released – 1988’s Step On A Bug – starvation and touring had done for bassist Jim Tillman, and the band, although still great, were never the same again.
U-Men split soon after, but not before releasing the tremendous, tremulous single Dig It A Hole/ Solid Action – the finest garage churner ever to rip off the Batman theme – which made Single Of The Week in Melody Maker, alongside Love Buzz, the debut single by new Sub Pop band Nirvana. This collection is the entire studio-recorded output of the U-Men, remastered by legendary producer Jack Endino, plus five unreleased songs – and damn, it’s fine. QQQQQQQQQQ Everett True
Various Let The Electric Children Play – The Underground Story Of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976 ESOTERIC Going underground. Following Island Records’ lead as an underground rock epicentre, Nat Joseph broadened the roster of Transatlantic, the label he had started to release folk and blues on in 1961, to mirror the changes happening in British music. Leading his attack were Pentangle, whose self-titled
1968 debut album became one of the biggest influences on late-60s rock by introducing folk and jazz elements. This stellar band are represented by two tracks that are the most familiar items on three CDs constructed from the Transatlantic archives. Alongside the better-known Stray and Jody Grind lurk a kaleidoscope of delights, including Sallyangie (featuring pre-Bells Mike Oldfield), Mel Collins’s Circus, prog-jazzers Marsupalami and CMU, the Dave Gilmour-mentored Unicorn, folk-rockers Gryphon, psych-proggers Jan Dukes de Grey, pre-Camel Peter Bardens, Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull, plus Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty as The Humblebums. The set also shows how Transatlantic provided an outlet for London underground stalwarts Skin Alley and The Deviants, which led to Mick Farren’s anarchic Mona – The Carnivorous Circus being recorded with percussion nutters Twink and Steve Peregrine Took. It tops an engaging chronicle of a time when rules were there to be broken, musical or otherwise. QQQQQQQQQQ Kris Needs
Steve Miller Band Ultimate Hits UNIVERSAL Some people call him Maurice… Comprehensive career retrospective of the Space Cowboy.
STEVE MILLER BAND: GETTY
t seems curious that despite a 50-year career, most rock fans’ knowledge of Steve Miller is limited solely to his handful of radio staples – The Joker, Abracadabra, Fly Like An Eagle. A graduate of the Chicago blues scene who arrived in San Francisco in time to embrace psychedelia, Miller navigated his way through the rapidly changing musical tides with a dexterity to match any of rock’s biggest stars. Yet this fascinating figure – a former child prodigy who went to school with Boz Scaggs – remains that rarest of commodities in rock: a household name we know very little about. Miller’s own frustration at this state of affairs spilled over last year at his belated induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an experience he described as “unpleasant”. Curated by Miller himself – now a sprightly 73 years old – this multi-formatted collection does its best to set the record straight. While the single-CD version collects all the hits plus a previously unreleased solo demo of Seasons (originally on 1969’s Brave New World
album), it’s on the 40-track, two-CD (and quadruple-vinyl) set where things get really interesting. Opening with a home recording of Les Paul (his godfather) telling him: “Steve, you’re really going to go places,” it comes with a folksy, autobiographical feel that’s mirrored by Miller’s essentially good-natured muse. It’s fascinating to trace his progress – from the driving psych-blues of 1968’s Living In The U.S.A. through the streamlined groove-rock of 1973’s Jet Airliner to the synthesised trippiness of 1976’s Wild Mountain Honey. Miller, ever the consummate entertainer, has always been about giving his audience value for money, and even here there’s no room for indulgence. Instead we get nods to his dance rhythm-assisted commercial renaissance in the 80s (Italian X-Rays), a brace of tracks from 1993’s return-to-form Wide River (Cry Cry Cry, Stranger Blues) and five unreleased (mostly live) tracks,
the most notable being a demo version of Take The Money And Run. Miller has always been at his happiest, as he told us in 1973’s The Joker, when he’s ‘playing my music in the sun’. His upbeat approach may have denied him the critical plaudits he deserves, but 40 years on from his heyday he’s having the last laugh. This funky, feel-good collection sounds as fresh as tomorrow. QQQQQQQQQQ Paul Moody
S ’ R E Y U B GUIDE
The Starman with his star man.
The self-effacing Yorkshireman made Bowie famous, was the sound of glam rock and revitalised the Velvet Underground.
Ronson’s involvement in Lou Reed’s Transformer showcased his string arranging and sharp guitar vision, and helped rescue a bunch of material lying around in half-finished form. His later work with Ian Hunter was fruitful, although the Bowie-mania days were never replaced. He also did sterling work with other side projects, including the Pure Prairie League and Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. “I’d follow him [Bob] anywhere,” Ronson vowed. “That whole tour was this huge adventure. There was Joan Baez, [Roger] McGuinn, Allen Ginsberg. There was Dylan. And there I was too. For a lad from Yorkshire it was truly out of this world.” After that, Ronno’s career was punctuated with hits, but not many. For every John Cougar there was a David Cassidy. A latter-day Bowie reunion and vital assists to Morrissey’s Your Arsenal coincided with the knowledge that he had inoperable liver cancer, but he worked up until his death in April 1993, aged just 46. Morrissey’s guitarist Boz Boorer recalled: “I can see him in front of a deafening Marshall head, dialling in a sound he could hear, a master at work.” Max Bell
Hunky Dory RCA, 1971 Recording began after Bowie and Ronson’s Glastonbury performance, with the future Ziggy components in place. This was the only time Ronno received arrangement credits. While Hunky Dory flopped at the time, it is regarded as the band’s best-loved album. Tracks like Quicksand and The Bewlay Brothers signal the time when hippie mysticism gave way to nascent glam rock on Queen Bitch and Changes. Nods to Lennon, Warhol and the Velvet Underground were ambitious calling cards, with Ronson’s acoustic and electric playing carrying the conceits off and ensuring that Life On Mars? achieved classic status.
The Man Who Sold The World MERCURY 1970 This is the one with the metal. The Eastern drone and Latin rhythms of the title track, the show-stopping R&B of The Width Of A Circle and the distorted, depressive All The Madmen were unlike anything else in British rock. Meanwhile, The Supermen, based on a riff Jimmy Page gifted the singer, was the perfect vehicle to let Ronson off the leash. Bowie provided the psych references to Nietzsche, HP Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley, and Ronson (and Tony Visconti) arranged to perfection. Even throwaway Black Country Rock is an object lesson in precision.
lthough he had only two solo albums released in his lifetime (Slaughter On 10th Avenue and Play Don’t Worry), Mick Ronson enjoyed a period as one of Britain’s greatest guitarists, thanks to groundbreaking performances with David Bowie before, during and after The Dame’s rise to fame. The fulcrum on Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Ronson’s skills – player, arranger, musical director – made him indispensable, until Bowie changed tactics for Diamond Dogs. Never at ease in promoting his solo albums, Ronno preferred a collaborative role, one he’d perfected in his most significant home town (Hull) band, The Rats. His first major project was also local: his contribution to Michael Chapman’s second album, 1970’s Fully Qualified Surveyor. Chapman said: “That bugger’s the best guitarist around.” This was the point when Bowie and his then-producer Tony Visconti first came across the skinny, reticent Ronson. Many have noticed certain similarities between the Chapman recording and Bowie’s Hunky Dory, the album signalling the mutation of hippie bohemia into emerging glam rock.
Superior Reputation cementing
Essential Playlist Stranger In The Room Fully Qualified Survivor
The Width Of A Circle The Man Who Sold The World
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars RCA, 1972
Transformer RCA, 1972 Ronson did the bulk of the production and all the vital arrangements on the album that popularised Lou Reed and made him a star. His string and piano parts for Perfect Day, the recorder on Satellite Of Love, that riff on Vicious and the iconic orchestration and vocal parts on Walk On The Wild Side should have ensured Ronno became wealthy, but as usual he received pay scale, while others reaped the rewards and the kudos. Later on, Reed credited the ‘Glammer Twins’ for boosting his career and emphasised the fact that Ronson’s hand was the major one.
Fully Qualified Survivor
Aladdin Sane RCA, 1973 Up and running, Ronson provided the Stonesy riffs to Watch That Man and the flaming solo on Time. The hit single The Jean Genie, based on The Yardbirds I’m A Man, was worked over by Bowie and Ronson at the back of the bus during the Spiders’ US tour and became the band’s biggest hit to date, followed by the prototype Bowie-doessoul track Drive-in Saturday. That single’s B-side, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Around And Around, depicts the guitarist at his most playful. Most people just busk the solo on covers of old rock numbers, but Ronson took it seriously.
June 16, 1972 marks the game changer for Bowie and his band. Ronson’s uncredited string arrangements often go unnoticed here because of the grandiose sweep of the songs, but his parts for Five Years and Moonage Daydream and the synth on Suffragette City underscored the lyrics, and his harmony vocals were integral. Producer Ken Scott marvelled at Ronno’s ability to make a brief dash to the toilet to write a chart and then tutor the unnamed quartet while Bowie looked on in silent admiration at “my Jeff Beck”.
A key breakthrough for Ronno, who studied Chapman’s string arranger Paul Buckmaster and producer Gus Dudgeon while lending his licks to the funky Soulful Lady and the sweeping chord changes of Stranger In The Room. In his element feeding off the strings on Postcards From Scarborough or underpinning the gentle Rabbit Hills, he also picked up tips on mood and nuance from bassist Rick Kemp, who had escorted him to the sessions. The dynamics on this album can be heard in Hunky Dory, the experience clearly having inspired Ronno.
Good Worth exploring
All The Madmen The Man Who Sold The World
Life On Mars? Hunky Dory
The Bewlay Brothers Hunky Dory
Moonage Daydream Ziggy Stardust
Rock ’N’ Roll Suicide Ziggy Stardust
Walk On The Wild Side Transformer
Panic In Detroit Aladdin Sane
The Jean Genie Aladdin Sane
I’m The One Slaughter On 10th Avenue
Ian Hunter CBS 1975 A long and lasting friendship between Hunter and Ronson began when Ronno scribbled a strings-and-brass arrangement on the back of a fag packet for Mott The Hoople’s Sea Diver and tutored the band through their version of All The Young Dudes. Hunter’s debut kicks off with Ronson’s solo on Once Bitten, Twice Shy, and Ronno gets a credit for Boy and adds guitars, organ, Mellotron, bass and harmonica elsewhere. Ronno’s production expertise lends this album its enduring quality, and his partnership with Hunter was replicated on You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic.
Slaughter On 10th Avenue
Play Don’t Worry RCA, 1975 Ronson’s second solo album suffers the same fate as its predecessor, as it’s piecemeal again. The highlights – Billy Porter, a revisited Stone Love (Soul Love) on the CD edition and a crisp take on Pure Prairie League’s Angel No. 9 are fine enough, but The Girl Can’t Help It and a warmed-up White Light/White Heat are surplus to requirements. The musicians include Trevor Bolder and Mike Garson so it sounds authentic, without quite convincing that Ronson believes he should be fronting the venture. RCA agreed and released him from his contract. Luckily, Dylan was just around the corner.
Pin Ups RCA, 1973 Great in theory, Pin Ups always sounded like contract filler, a mannered distraction at best. Bowie’s decision to revisit old mod-era fave raves was water off the proverbial for Ronson, who maps out the better songs – Rosalyn, I Wish You Would and Where Have All The Good Times Gone – without suggesting that either he or anyone else involved will usurp the originals. Additionally, the production is weak and tinny, so despite the good taste on show the results are clunky. This is an album damned with faint praise. You’re hardly in an amphetamine rush to slap it on the turntable.
His tenure with Bowie almost up, Ronson was pushed to the forefront by the MainMan organisation. He made a credible solo debut, but cast his net too wide, taking in everything from Elvis (Love Me Tender) to Italian pop (Music Is Lethal) and the Richard Rodgers ballet piece that Bowie suggested as the title track. In terms of virtuoso playing – Ronson’s version of Annette Peacock’s I’m The One being the charm – it’s business as usual, although for once he would have been better off with an outside producer, since too much on the album gets lost in translation.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy Ian Hunter
Maggie’s Farm Hard Rain
Cleveland Rocks You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic
I Feel Free Black Tie White Noise
Like A Rolling Stone Heaven And Hull
It Ain’t Easy Bowie At The Beeb
STUFF BOOKS &
Earthbound: David Bowie And The Man Who Fell To Earth
Susan Compo JAWBONE PRESS
Mad times in New Mexico, ’75. Firstly, this is not a book about David Bowie although his skinny presence is everywhere. It is a fascinating account of the making of Nic Roeg’s Bowiestarring problematic ’76 film The Man Who Fell To Earth. Author Susan Compo unravels the craziness that engulfed the film: the technical problems, the dangerous hangers-on, the sex and drugs but not the rock’n’roll, since Bowie’s mooted score proved to be a figment of his addled imagination; he never forgave Roeg for entrusting that job to Papa John Phillips. The strands are interwoven with gleaming prose, the writer mining detail like a forensic scientist. No potentially illuminating interview is left unturned, no ego unruffled. She makes you want to watch the film again. Do so accompanied by this grounded masterpiece. QQQQQQQQQQ Max Bell
What Does This Button Do? Bruce Dickinson
Iron Maiden frontman’s autobiography is light on all things Maiden, but probably better for it.
manoeuvred out. There is, however, a brilliant description of his first meeting with manager Rob Smallwood and a scathing put-down of NWOBHM. There’s no insight into his relationship with Harris, and even his growing dissatisfaction with the band’s direction is barely hinted at before he suddenly decides to quit after finding a quote from Henry Miller in the LA Times that reads, ‘All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience’. No mention of the unpleasantness on their final tour either. Indeed you’ll find out more about fencing and flying a plane than you will about life in a rock band, although he does admit that being a rock star ‘is not all it’s cracked up to be’. Similarly there are no references to wives, children, the Osbornes or Nikki Sixx. Dickinson has set his own limits and he sticks to them. Some might argue that part of the picture is missing, but the clues that point to his future character traits during his time at public school – which he hated but refused to leave because he hated going home even more – fill in many of the gaps. QQQQQQQQQQ Hugh Fielder
Tommy – Live At The Royal Albert Hall EAGLE ROCK The original rock opera gets its first airing since 1989. “I was abused as a child,” Pete Townshend admits, explaining why it’s been difficult for him to perform Tommy in full since 1970, and making 2017’s first performance in 27 years (plus 40 minutes of hits) all the more poignant. Starry casts including Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Ringo Starr and Elton John have at various times brought music’s first rock opera to life, but here The Who eschew gimmicky cameos and let Daltrey and Townshend fully inhabit rock’s most celebrated olfactory pinball supremo. It makes for an amazing journey as Rog ’n’ Pete rattle breathlessly through the titular Tommy’s life – from birth to extreme PTSD to becoming Messiah of the flippers – knocking out such scintillating prog-pop pieces as Christmas, Sensation and Go To The Mirror! like casual filler. The Acid Queen loses a little menace in Townshend’s hands, but Daltrey brings a bombastic wickedness to Cousin Kevin’s torture prog and
Transformer Lou Reed and Mick Rock GENESIS PUBLICATIONS
A connoisseur’s catalogue of cool. The first time many of us clapped our eyes on Lou Reed was via Mick Rock’s camera lens. Transformer’s haunting, kabukistyle cover image was captured during Lou’s debut London show, at King’s Cross in July ‘72. Reed, hastily dressed to impress in a rhinestone jacket by Angie Bowie, gazes into middle distance, the Velvets in his rearview mirror, on the cusp of solo greatness. It’s the ultimate Lou Reed shot, yet its position is far from uncontested. There’s the fabulous Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart-era shoot: Reed in shades, a leather jacket so small it could’ve been made for a child, under a see-through plastic jacket from Ian’s of St. Mark’s Place, an NYC boutique that did fetish before McLaren and Westwood, just as Lou did punk before Pistols and Ramones. There’s bleached ‘74 Lou: mean ‘n’ moody, dead-eyed ‘n’ skeletal, magnificent. Name a great Lou shot, it was probably Mick Rock’s, and in this implausibly plush volume, Rock and Reed rap a great accompanying commentary to all the best. The humour’s whiskey-dry, Warhol-weaned Lou reveals a photographer’s eye and it’s only a joy. Expensive, yes, but once you’ve bought the box sets what else have you got to spend your money on? QQQQQQQQQQ Ian Fortnam
Steely Dan FAQ Anthony Robustelli BACKBEAT Reading in the years. Many is the music fan who has dismissed Steely Dan as boring soft-rock jazzers, until one Damascene day the penny drops and their deft genius declares itself. Once you’re in the church, there’s no leaving. Zappa gave
BRUCE DICKINSON: JOHN McMURTRIE/PRESS
ne way and another, Bruce Dickinson has pushed a lot of buttons: as a singer, airline pilot, fencer, broadcaster, author, screenwriter, songwriter, actor, you name it. He’s driven and determined when it comes to achieving the target he sets himself, whether it’s becoming an international rock star, getting a commercial pilot’s licence or curing his throat cancer. He’s also a very affable bloke with a wry sense of humour who can take the piss out of himself. What Does This Button Do? is not so much an autobiography – although it begins like one – but a series of memoirs. Some of them are scenes from his life, such as his first terrifying pilot encounter with turbulence leaving him powerless as his plane is literally blown over the mountains, or his vivid tale of going to play a gig in Sarajevo at the height of the siege. His eye for detail enriches his writing, his attention to detail can be forensic, as the account of his battle with throat cancer reveals. Iron Maiden fans should note that no dirt is dished here. There are no band politics once he has established his place on stage alongside Steve Harris and drummer Clive Burr has been
a sadistic Yewtree growl to Uncle Ernie. Snippets of pastoral country, music hall and breezy blues dab extra colours onto Tommy’s palette as it barrels towards its towering conclusion, and it’s not hard to see why most of the 70s strived to emulate it. Even without Elton’s gigantic glitter boots in sight it’s a dazzling feat. QQQQQQQQQQ Mark Beaumont
them “98/100” while William Burroughs loved them “doing too many things at once”. This oddly-structured, listheavy book details the group’s career since 1972; The Dan’s mythical perfectionism and illogical popularity, their intermission and their 90s return. It goes deeper on chords, studio sessions and recording techniques than on personal stuff, and those seeking insight into the life of recently deceased Walter Becker won’t find any. The book is too kind to the two lacklustre 21st-century albums, but earns that opinion with its forensic study of their golden age. Robust. QQQQQQQQQQ Chris Roberts
Jeff Beck Live At Hollywood Bowl EAGLE ROCK
Virtuoso’s star-studded 50th-anniversary celebration. Magnificent but modest Jeff Beck suits Hollywood Bowl’s illustrious surrounds effortlessly, oozing sharp-shooter cool and firing off meticulously crafted, lethally targeted licks. Beck delivers a career-spanning set, with young, funky, free-rolling accompanists easily accommodating both Steve Tyler on a crowd-rousing Train Kept A Rollin and declamatory cuts from the guitarist’s latest album Loudhailer. Wet Willie veteran Jimmy Hall sparks Beck’s pyrotechnics, old sparring partner Jan Hammer his dynamic relish and thrill-seeking interplay. Beck’s tenderest touch gilds Beth Hart’s cover of I’d Rather Go Blind, and Buddy Guy (snazzy in a black-on-white polka shirt, reflecting JB’s white on black) brokers a battle of the big guns. “It will be another fifty years before we get a guitarist like this,” reckons ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and it’s very hard to argue with him. QQQQQQQQQQ Gavin Martin
L7 Pretend We’re Dead MVD They did it their way. The kids owe L7 a lot, which elevates this Blu-ray documentary above the typical ‘rags to riches to rags’ story most rock-docs end up telling. Well, that’s what happened to L7 too, but there’s a cultural and political edge to this band that
shouldn’t be diminished. L7 were staunch feminists in a way that seemed almost effortless. It wasn’t – as Pretend We’re Dead ably demonstrates in 90s interview footage, no journalist ever let them forget they were an ‘all-girl’ band – but L7 just assumed they could rock as hard as the boys, and then they went and did it. And it was magnificent. These days it’s just assumed that you can transcend gender if you rock hard enough. And L7 are the reason. If you weren’t a fan of the band before watching this, you will be by the time it’s over. As told mostly with smearybut-beautiful vintage footage and new voice-overs, the band leap from obscurity to fame and back with pluck and an infectious sense of adventure. Best of all, nobody even died. An ear got torn off at one point, but that’s pretty minor as far as rock careers go. QQQQQQQQQQ Sleazegrinder
XTC This Is Pop SPECIAL TREATS Heart-warming documentary on new-wave misfits-turnednational treasure. “Rockumentaries, I really dislike them,” says scowling XTC frontman Andy Partridge at the outset of this engaging 70minute trawl through the Swindon oddballs’ back pages. “They always have that lugubrious keyboard player from that prog rock group…” Sure enough, the next talking head to appear is Rick Wakeman. It’s a neat trick. But despite Partridge’s protestations it can’t hide the fact that over the course of a 30-year career his band fell prey to almost every rock cliché imaginable. So we hear about intra-band tensions caused by their label, Virgin, encouraging “good-looking” bassist Colin Moulding to take centre stage, cancelled US tours caused by Partridge’s drug-induced meltdown, and the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory likened to “losing a limb”. In one Tufnel-esque moment, Partridge, describing his songwrting process, even likens the sound of a guitar chord to “a pool of muddy water”. With star fans including Stewart Copeland, Clem Burke and, yes, Harry Shearer on hand to sing the praises of this most English of bands, This Is Pop is a hoot from start to finish. QQQQQQQQQQ Paul Moody
The High-Voltage Whatâ€™s On Guide Edited By Ian Fortnam (Reviews) and Dave Ling (Tours)
Was it akin to a religious experience when he played a church in London?
108 Interviews p111 Tour Dates p114 Live Reviews
“The thing that makes the Doobies is the amount of inf luences in our music. We never sought one particular direction.”
The Doobie Brothers The band preview their first UK shows in seven years, including BluesFest dates.
s part of the Californian band’s first UK visit since 2010, the Doobie Brothers are to co-headline this year’s BluesFest in London and Dublin, alongside Steely Dan. Their co-founding guitarist, lead singer and keyboard player Tom Johnston sets the scene. Last month the Doobies played stadium shows in California and New York alongside the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire. Were you able to watch the new-look Eagles? Yeah. I saw them in New York and they were phenomenal. Vince Gill fitted right in – as you’d expect, as he’s an amazing singer and musician. Glenn Frey’s son Deacon also did a great, confident job. They put on quite a show. I was very impressed. Steely Dan had Larry Carlton depping for Walter Becker, who of course recently passed on. Did you know Walter well? No, I didn’t. Our bands toured together back in the 1970s and I haven’t seen Walter since, but I’m a huge fan of Steely Dan. As we started, they were getting started and a lot of their tunes really resonated with me.
Is it stretching things a little to call the Doobies a blues band? Yeah, I guess so [laughs]. The thing that’s made the Doobies what they are is the amount of influences that go into our music. Blues, and rhythm and blues, is certainly one of them, but there’s also folk blues, and John McFee [guitarist] comes from a country background and has played on many, many rock albums that you would know all about. It’s a conglomerate of sound, but it all fits together really well. We never sought one particular direction. Why has it been seven years since the Doobies last toured the UK? Well, it’s a good question and I wish that I knew the answer. We really need to spend more time over there than we do, but at least on this trip we are also doing some dates of our own [in York, Glasgow and Manchester]. At those recent open-air shows in the States, almost all of the band’s set comprised FM radio hits. Do you still believe in playing the songs that people want to hear? Well, that wasn’t your average show. At our own shows we can get away with playing a few more deep cuts, but we know that anywhere we go, people want to hear the hits. And if you want to get a response then just whip out Long Train Runnin’,
Listen To The Music and China Grove.
DOOBIE DATA The Doobies were formed in 1970. None of their members, past or present, are brothers. Past line-ups have included Michael McDonald and Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter.
Bill Payne of Little Feat is the band’s touring keyboardist. That’s quite a coup. What a phenomenal addition Billy is – he played on just about every album we ever did, including most of the ones for Warner Brothers, and it’s great to hear that sound of his coming from that corner of the stage each night. Now seven years old, World Gone Crazy is the band’s last record of original material. Will there be a follow-up? Yes, and we’re already working on the songs. What stymies that is the fact that we’re on the road all the time. We end for the year in November and we’ll hit the studio right afterwards. As we’ve discussed, it seems like almost nobody is indispensable in rock’n’roll any more. Would you like the Doobies to carry on after you’re gone? [After a slightly shocked silence] Nobody’s ever asked me that before and to be honest, I’ve never really considered it. All I can say is that I don’t plan on going anywhere, and I’ll keep on doing this until I no longer can. DL The Doobie Brothers play BluesFest Dublin on October 28 and London 29.
Donald Fagen says that he intends to keep Steely Dan’s music alive for as long as he is able and will definitely be at BluesFest. How were they with Carlton on guitar? I wanted to get out and watch them at the soundboard but had to make do with a monitor in the dressing room, but they sounded great.
You guys in London and Dublin are in for a treat – I can’t imagine fans of either band going away disappointed. The BluesFest shows will be great.
Redd Kross The Californians look ahead to their UK support shows.
assist/vocalist Steven McDonald checks in as the power-poppers prepare for some rare British appearances as guests of The Melvins. The Melvins and Redd Kross touring together means double duty for you, with Dale Krover also playing drums for both groups. That sounds like hard work. We’ll have to see. I’ve done one-off shows before but never a full tour. Dale tells me I should survive it. The two bands play together a lot. Why are they so compatible? Well, for a start there are practical reasons – it’s cheaper to take one rhythm section. But although we might have a different approach to loud guitars, we’re both from the same graduation class. Will we hear more of Redd Kross’s punkier side, as opposed to the bubblegum element? Ha! No. My brother Jeff [vocals/guitar] just reissued Teen Babes From Monsanto, an eight-song mini-album of ours from 1984, and we’ll do that in its entirety, plus other songs from the catalogue. What prompted the change from the band’s early raw style to the more flamboyant approach? Mostly it was a natural progression but we had also become disillusioned by changes in the LA punk scene. Suddenly the people that had beaten us up at high school two years earlier were into TSOL and Black Flag, so we dug more into the music we’d grown up with. Redd Kross were an influence on Nirvana, Sonic Youth and many others. Why did the band never make the big breakthrough first time around? Some of it was our doing and we never felt too comfortable on major labels. Other parts of it are down to timing. A new album that’s tentatively titled Octavia is being planned. What is Redd Kross’s motivation now? Fear of death, I guess. Are you still trying to write the perfect pop song? Sure. Isn’t everybody? But it’s not an easy goal. DL The tour ends in London on October 31.
Dweezil Zappa Get ready for 50 years of Frank and the Mothers.
he 47-year-old son of late music icon Frank Zappa returns with an outing billed as 50 Years Of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever The F@&k He Wants. This tour celebrates the halfcentury since your dad’s band The Mothers Of Invention first appeared in the UK. Are you playing their Freak Out! album, which was issued the previous year, in its entirety? Not all of it, no. We are revisiting his earliest period. The first forty-five minutes is a bunch of early Mothers stuff, including material from Freak Out!, followed by the sixties era into the seventies and the eighties. There’s room for spontaneity? Oh yeah. Each night we choose from around thirty songs and a lot of the music itself requires improvisation – the interplay between the ensemble is a part of the composition. We do have a set-list, but we can jump around a bit with it depending on how we’re feeling. A couple of months ago, via your website, you invited male
singer/multi-instrumentalists to audition for your band. How did that go? Generally I audition people based upon word of mouth or who I know, but I thought it might be interesting to throw the net a little wider. You never know where you’ll find the next talented guy. For instance, my dad found Napoleon Murphy Brock [singer/saxophonist] in a small club in Hawaii. Were the auditions successful? We received lots and lots of videos and we saw many people. I didn’t
“The first fortyfive minutes of the show is early Mothers stuff.” select anyone from that process for this UK tour, but we found a guy called Adam Minkoff who will be involved with us in the future, should his schedule allow. Since 2006 you’ve dedicated your life to maintaining the legacy of your father.
How do you think he would feel about that? Ultimately I think he would appreciate the levels of commitment that come from the band. At a certain point in his career he began referring to musicians as mercenaries – so many of them were just on the clock. Your own career has been put on hold. Is there a part of you that’s left artistically unfulfilled by such a responsibility? I don’t look at it that way. This has been an enormous education, and when I do make more of my own music, and I will, I will have an entire new toolbox. Frank exerted such a cultural effect on rock music. Will we ever see his like again? I don’t know. There’s no more artistic development. It’s possible that someone’s out there, but my dad was so politically minded… he stood for truth and integrity, in music and in life. That’s another element that makes it harder to find another like-minded individual. DL The tour begins on October 8. CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 109
Jonny Lang The bluesman gets back to his roots on his latest tour.
ith Eric Clapton among his many admirers, Jonny Lang has enjoyed a meteoric career. Although his style is rooted in the blues, the North Dakota-born guitarist/vocalist adds a contemporary twist. His latest record, Signs, is a homecoming. Of sorts. What’s it like to achieve a platinum record at the age of fifteen, and to be nominated for a Grammy two years later? It’s a fantastic feeling. When all of that [success] started, I was just elated. Does a part of you also think: the only way from here is down? [Laughs] I’ve had that feeling on a couple of occasions, yeah.
Mount Holly Former Silvertide man Nick Perri looks ahead to a pair of dates.
ick Perri was a member of Silvertide. The guitarist later played with Perry Farrell and Shinedown, then alongside Matt Sorum in The Darling Stilettos. Now he introduces his latest venture, a rootsy Southern Californian alternative rock band. These two shows are Mount Holly’s third trip to the UK. We’re thrilled to be coming back. I came with Silvertide, and Jameson [Burt, singer] has been here a bunch of times as a solo artist.
Classic Rock said of Silvertide: “They sound like the bands that wrote the book on hard rock 110 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
It’s interesting that you label yourselves ‘alternative rock’. Forming a band is like a marriage, and Jameson has a whole other
“We spent a year on the album and came up with a fresh sound.” set of influences. We spent a year making our album and we came up with a sound that we consider fresh. Is Perry Farrell as interesting a character as he appears to be? He’s the sweetest guy in the whole world. Perry defines the spirit of alternative music, but those tunes
are very much blues-based and very much rock’n’roll. They were just presented in a manner that was fresh and exciting. I’m not comparing Mount Holly to Jane’s Addiction, but the two bands have a spirit that’s similar. Did you enjoy your spell with Shinedown? Yeah. I love those guys but musically speaking, it wasn’t where I wanted to head, so there was an amicable parting of the ways. I’d rather play the Water Rats [a small club] with my own songs than headline Wembley as part of someone else’s band. And without blowing our own trumpet too loudly, I believe Mount Holly is capable of making it to Wembley. The album has been finished for a while. When will we hear it? We’re still figuring that out. Timing is everything, and we have agreed to wait until the right moment. We’ve had a lot of success in the sync world recently, landing songs on TV shows and commercials. It’s coming soon, though. DL Mount Holly play London on October 18, Mansfield 21.
You’re now thirty-six. Fans of your music from the start have seen you get married, have five kids, fight addiction and discover God. You don’t mind sharing all that? My songs can be pretty bare. I just write what’s in my heart. Has owning up to being a Christian cost you some fans? Maybe it has. But if someone asks me about that, I’ll tell them the truth. My relationship with God is pretty important to me. Would you say that Signs sees you return to your blues roots? Yeah. I’ve tried to grow as a songwriter, but in spite of that refinement, the blues is central to what I do. Stronger Together is a slice of funky pop music, while Bring Me Home is almost a gospel tune – you refuse to be typecast. True, but I hope there’s continuity. I just write songs and record them. There aren’t a whole lot of solos, but there’s a lot of guitar on the album. There are quite a few solos but they’re not extended ones. At this point, my goal is to integrate the solo into the song. DL Jonny Lang plays London Shepherd’s Bush Empire on November 4.
MOUNT HOLLY: JACOPO LLORENZINI/PRESS; JONNY LANG: DANIELLA HOVSEPIAN/PRESS
Silvertide appeared to have it all: signed by Clive Davis, gigs with Aerosmith, Van Halen and Journey, and a triumphant set at Download. What went wrong? It was a combination of personalities and music business conflict. When that band was firing on all cylinders, it coincided with the start of Napster and downloading. Things were already going wrong within the band, so that didn’t help.
excess – Zeppelin, Aerosmith, GN’R.” Mount Holly are obviously very different. The progression feels very natural. I grew up on my parents’ record collections and Pink Floyd is my favourite band of all time, but I’ve taken in new inspirations. This is the first band I’ve been in that allows me to vent my appreciation for James Brown.
The new album Signs has a song called Snakes that’s about the times when humility failed you. It’s pretty cool you would admit that. Well, doesn’t everyone go through that at some point? I learned a lot of life lessons a lot earlier than I might have done under usual circumstances.
Tour Dates AIRBOURNE, PHIL CAMBELL
& THE BASTARD SONS, THE WILD!
Bristol Glasgow Manchester London Norwich Oxford Sheffield Nottingham
Academy Academy Academy Chalk Farm Roundhouse UEA Academy Academy Rock City
Nov 11 Nov 13 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 22
AIRRACE, LIONHEART Cardiff Wolverhampton London Sheffield Newcastle Edinburgh
Fuel Slade Rooms Camden Underworld Academy The Cluny Bannerman’s
Nov 30 Dec 1 Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 5 Dec 6
IAN ANDERSON & JETHRO TULL Manchester Newcastle Edinburgh Liverpool Bristol Birmingham Cambridge London
Apollo City Hall Usher Hall Auditorium Colston Hall Symphony Hall Corn Exchange Royal Albert Hall
Apr 3 Apr 5 Apr 6 Apr 7 Apr 9 Apr 10 Apr 11 Apr 17
ANTI-FLAG Manchester Bristol Leicester Leeds London Newcastle Glasgow
The Ritz Academy Academy Academy Kentish Town Forum Academy Academy
Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 16, 17 Oct 18 Oct 19
DAN BAIRD & HOMEMADE SIN Sheffield Leicester Glasgow London Newcastle Manchester
The Greystones The Musician ABC2 Shepherd’s Bush Bush Hall The Cluny Academy 3
Nov 7 Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12
JIMMY BARNES London Glasgow Edinburgh Glasgow Belfast Dublin
Islington Academy King Tat’s Wah Wah Hut Pleasance Theatre Cottiers Theatre Limelight Whelans
Dec 13 Dec 15 Dec 16 Dec 17 Dec 19 Dec 20
MARTIN BARRE BAND Stockton-on-Tees Derby Fletching Bilston Preston
The ARC Flowerpot Trading Boundaries Robin 2 Guildhall
Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 6
BIG BOY BLOATER & THE LIMITS Sheffield Darlington Hull
The Greystones The Forum New Adelphi
Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14
Manchester Witney London Grimsby Stoke-on-Trent Cardiff Cannock South Shields Glasgow Sheffield Troon Edinburgh
Sound Control Fat Lil’s Camden Underworld Yardbirds Club Eleven Fuel The Station The Queen Vic Hard Rock Café Corporation Winter Storm Festival La Belle Angele
Oct 14 Oct 19 Oct 26 Oct 28 Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 9 Nov 11 Nov 24 Nov 24
Nov 3 Nov 4
Wolverhampton Edinburgh Warrington Hull Middlesbrough Sheffield Leicester Cambridge Portsmouth
Wulfrun Hall Queen’s Hall Parr Hall University Empire Academy Academy Junction Pyramid Centre
Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 18 Nov 19
STEELY DAN, THE DOOBIE BROTHERS, GOV’T MULE, CHRIS ISAAC, MORE London
STEELY DAN, THE DOOBIE BROTHERS Dublin
BLUES PILLS London
Camden Jazz Café
See left for dates, currently April 3-17.
JOE BONAMASSA Cardiff Manchester Carlisle Aberdeen Gateshead Birmingham Brighton
Motorpoint Arena Arena Sands Centre GE Oil & Gas Centre The Sage Genting Arena Centre
Mar 9 Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 13 Mar 14 Mar 16 Mar 17
GRAHAM BONNET BAND,
KINGS OF BROADWAY South Shields Wigan Stoke-on-Trent Evesham Leicester Belfast Troon Pontypridd Grimbsy London Sheffield
Queen Vic Pure Eleven Iron Road The Musician Limelight 2 Winter Storm Festival Municipal Arts Centre Yardbirds Club Camden Underworld Corporation
Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 26 Nov 28 Nov 29 Nov 30
BROKEN WITT REBELS Norwich London Wolverhampton Newcastle Sheffield Glasgow Leeds Birmingham Southampton Brighton Bristol Manchester
Waterfront Shoreditch Old Blue Last Slade Rooms The Cluny Corporation Stereo Brudenell Social Club Academy 3 Joiners Arms Prince Albert Thekla Ruby Lounge
Oct 11 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 20 Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 23 Oct 30 Nov 27 Nov 29 Dec 8 Dec 9, 10
BROTHER FIRETRIBE Manette Street Borderline Rockingham Festival
Oct 21 Oct 22
THE CADILLAC THREE,
BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION Wolverhampton London
Civic Hall Hammersmith Apollo
Jan 2 Jan 4
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB Dublin Belfast Glasgow Manchester Birmingham Leeds Brighton Bristol
Academy Limelight Barrowland Academy Academy Academy Dome Academy
Oct 23 Oct 24 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28 Oct 30 Oct 31 Nov 2
Fletching Harpenden Pwllheli Bury Bath Norwich London
Mandela Hall Y Plas Rock City Kentish Town Forum UEA Academy Academy Academy ABC
Nov 9 Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20
Trading Boundaries Public Halls Hard Rock Hell Prog The Met Komedia Arts Centre Kensington Nell’s Jazz & Blues
Nov 14 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 22
ROGER CHAPMAN, FAMILY & FRIENDS
Leicester London Newcastle
Academy Shepherd’s Bush Empire Academy
Jan 11 Jan 13 Jan 17
CLITHEROE BLUES FESTIVAL The Grand
Butlins Quo Convention
ALICE COOPER, THE MISSION,
THE TUBES First Direct Glasgow Birmingham Manchester London
Arena The Hydro Barclaycard Arena Arena Wembley Arena
Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16
CRADLE OF FILTH, SAVAGE MESSIAH Belfast Dublin Manchester Glasgow Birmingham Leeds Oxford Southampton Norwich London Bristol
Limelight Academy Academy 2 Garage Institute 2 Church Academy Engine Rooms Waterfront Camden Electric Ballroom Bierkeller
Oct 30 Oct 31 Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 7 Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 11
ABC Institute Trinity Shepherd’s Bush Empire Albert Hall Guildhall
Dec 3 Dec 4 Dec 5 Dec 7 Dec 9 Dec 10
CREEPER Glasgow Birmingham Bristol London Manchester Southampton
BLOODBATH, SODOM, PARADISE LOST, NORDIC GIANTS, MORE Leeds
Southampton Manchester Blackburn Leeds Newcastle Glasgow Stoke-on-Trent Nottingham Norwich Guildford Margate Southend-on-Sea Birmingham London Brighton Cardiff Bristol
Guildhall Academy 1 King George’s Hall Academy Academy Academy Victoria Hall Rock City UEA G Live Winter Gardens Cliffs Pavilion Academy Hammersmith Apollo Dome St David’s Hall Colston Hall Barclaycard Arena Arena Motorpoint Arena The Hydro O2 Arena
Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 20 Nov 22 Nov 23
DELAIN, MARCO HIETALA Camden Koko
DIAMOND HEAD Oct 15
Voodoo Lounge Dolans Warehouse Beat Generator La Belle Angèle HRH Festival Robin 2 1865 Club
Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 30 Dec 1 Dec 2 Dec 7 Dec 8
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS Dublin London York Glasgow Manchester
Bluesfest Bluesfest Barbican Academy Apollo
Oct 28 Oct 29 Oct 31 Nov 3 Nov 4
BRIAN DOWNEY’S ALIVE AND DANGEROUS
Kensington Nell’s Jazz & Blues Nov 24, 25
DRAGONFORCE Birmingham Cardiff London Portsmouth Tunbridge Wells
Academy 2 Globe Camden Electric Ballroom Wedgewood Rooms Forum
Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 15
ELECTRIC BOYS Sheffield Newcastle Glasgow Wolverhampton Chester Porthcawl Nottingham London
Local Authority The Cluny ABC 2 Slade Rooms Live Rooms Planet Rockstock Festival Rescue Rooms Camden Underworld
Nov 26 Nov 27 Nov 28 Nov 29 Nov 30 Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 4
Islington Assembly Hall
ENSLAVED EXTREME, DAN REED NETWORK
Nov 23 Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 27 Nov 28 Nov 29 Dec 1 Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 5 Dec 6 Dec 7 Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 11 Dec 13 Dec 14
DEEP PURPLE, EUROPE Birmingham Manchester Cardiff Glasgow London
Belfast Limerick Dundee Edinburgh Sheffield Bilston Southampton
BERNIE MARSDEN, DR FEELGOOD, DANNY BRYANT, MORE Clitheroe
JOHN COGHLAN’S QUO, Minehead
BROTHERS OSBORNE Belfast Cardiff Nottingham London Norwich Birmingham Manchester Newcastle Glasgow
Dust down your medieval garb, grab a horn of mead (drink responsibly, okay?) and get down to a Tull gig near you.
IAN ANDERSON & JETHRO TULL
BLACK STAR RIDERS, TAX THE HEAT, BLUES PILLS, DIRTY THRILLS
Rock City Brixton Academy
Newcastle Glasgow Leeds Birmingham Bristol London
Academy Academy Academy Academy Academy Brixton Academy
Dec 13 Dec 14 Dec 16 Dec 17 Dec 18 Dec 20
FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM London
Kentish Town Forum
FISH Leeds Manchester Leamington Cardiff Bristol London Cambridge Newcastle Glasgow
Metropolitan University The Ritz The Assembly Tramshed Academy Islington Assembly Hall Corn Exchange Wylam Brewery ABC
Dec 8 Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 12 Dec 13 Dec 15, 16 Dec 19 Dec 20 Dec 21
The Stables The Cluny Gaiety Theatre The Ferry Green Hotel Old Courts Robin 2 Oxford Street 100 Club
Oct 9 Oct 10 Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 15 Oct 18
FOCUS Wavendon Newcastle Ayr Glasgow Kinross Wigan Bilston London
LIVE! Cardiff Fletching
The Globe Trading Boundaries
Oct 19 Oct 20, 21
Whelan’s Dolans Warehouse Cyprus Ave Picturedrome Mr Kyps Boom Boom Club Robin 2
Oct 24 Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 29 Oct 31 Nov 2
Academy Brixton Academy Wulfrun Hall Rock City Academy Academy Queen’s Hall The Ritz Tramshed O2 Arena Bluesfest
Oct 22 Oct 24 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28
Barrowland Club Academy Camden Electric Ballroom
Shy, retiring Blackie Lawless (not his real name – not a lot of people know that) and co. return with their metal mayhem.
Dec 2 Dec 8 Dec 9
HARD ROCK HELL
See opposite page for dates, currently October 12-27.
AIRBOURNE, BLACK STAR RIDERS, Y&T, DEE SNIDER, MORE Pwllheli
Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park
HARD ROCK HELL NWOBHM
RAVEN, DIAMOND HEAD, LIONHEART, AVENGER, MORE Sheffield
HARD ROCK HELL PROG
CARL PALMER’S ELP LEGACY, CARAVAN, FOCUS, MORE Pwllheli
Glasgow York Nottingham London
Town Hall Forum Cathedral Royal Albert Hall
Glasgow Bristol Manchester Birmingham London
Oct 30 Nov 1 Nov 3 May 4
The Diamond Oct 19 Con Club Oct 20 Club 85 Oct 21 Chinnery’s Oct 22 Old Courts Oct 24 Bannerman’s Oct 26 Audio Oct 27 The Assembly Oct 28 The Cluny Oct 29 Yardbirds Club Oct 31 Continental Nov 1 Cheese & Grain Nov 2 The Hub Nov 3 Talking Heads Nov 4 The Carlisle Nov 5 Sin City Nov 6 Bierkeller Nov 7 Iron Road Nov 9 Oxford Street 100 Club Nov 10 Doghouse Nov 11 Robin 2 Nov 12 The Musician Nov 13 Brickmakers Nov 14 Bootleggers Nov 16 Hard Rock Hell Prog Festival Nov 17 Live Rooms Nov 18 Marrs Bar Nov 19
H.E.A.T, DEGREED, BLACK DIAMONDS Slade Rooms Cathouse Rescue Rooms Islington Academy
Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 21
HELLOWEEN’S PUMPKINS UNITED Brixton Academy
Barrowland Rock City Academy Chalk Farm Roundhouse
Dec 14 Dec 15 Dec 16 Dec 17
HIM Glasgow Nottingham Manchester London
ILFRACOMBE BLUES FESTIVAL
THE BLUES BAND, THE PRETTY THINGS, SNAKECHARMER, MORE John Fowler Holiday Park
IN FLAMES, FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH Birmingham
Oct 10 Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 20
ABC Academy The Ritz Institute Kentish Town Forum
Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19
Islington Assembly Hall
THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS, BAD TOUCH
The Cluny ABC2
Oct 9 Oct 10
THE KILLERS Birmingham Newcastle Manchester Dublin Belfast Leeds Glasgow Aberdeen Nottingham Sheffield London
Nov 6 Nov 10 Nov 13 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21 Nov 23 Nov 25 Nov 27, 28
L.A. GUNS London
Nov 2, 4
JONNY LANG London
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
MARK LANEGAN BAND Bristol Norwich Wolverhampton Newcastle Liverpool Aberdeen Edinburgh Belfast Dublin Leeds Oxford Southampton Brighton London
Trinity Waterfront Wulfrun Hall Boiler Shop Academy Garage Liquid Room Mandela Hall Academy Church Academy Engine Rooms Concorde 2 Camden Koko
Nov 27 Nov 28 Nov 29 Nov 30 Dec 1 Dec 3 Dec 4 Dec 5 Dec 6 Dec 8 Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 11 Dec 12
THE LEMON TWIGS Manchester Sheffield Glasgow Birmingham
The Ritz Leadmill QMU Institute 2
Kentish Town Forum
Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14
Exchange Brudenell Social Club SWG3 Gorilla Institute 2 Camden Electric Brixton O2 Arena The Hydro Arena Genting Arena
LYNCH MOB, ROCK GODDESS, WILD LIES
MIKE + THE MECHANICS London
Slade Rooms Local Authority Islington Academy
Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 12
Apollo Academy Civic Hall Centre Wembley Arena
Dec 4 Dec 5 Dec 6 Dec 8 Dec 9
London London Manchester Gateshead Cambridge Birmingham Brighton Bristol Reading Liverpool
Royal Albert Hall Palladium Academy The Sage Corn Exchange Symphony Hall Dome Colston Hall Hexagon Philharmonic Hall
Oct 13 Nov 7 Nov 8 Apr 11 Apr 13 Apr 14 Apr 16 Apr 17 Apr 19 Apr 20
Cardiff Wolverhampton Nottingham Newcastle Glasgow Manchester London
Great Hall Civic Hall Rock City Northumbria University Barrowland Academy Brixton Academy
Dec 2 Dec 4 Dec 5 Dec 6 Dec 7 Dec 9 Dec 10
JOHN MAYALL Crawley Llandudno Stoke-on-Trent Liverpool Birmingham Tunbridge Wells Sheffield Norwich Salisbury Truro Frome Portsmouth York Southport London Cambridge Bristol Ipswich Oxford Southend-on-Sea Guildford Canterbury Blackpool Gateshead Halifax High Wycombe Basingstoke Dartford Torquay Manchester Buxton St Albans
The Hawth Venue Cymru Victoria Hall Philharmonic Hall Town Hall Assembly Hall City Hall Theatre Royal City Hall Hall For Cornwall Cheese & Grain Kings Theatre Grand Opera House Theatre Cadogan Hall Corn Exchange Colston Hall Regent Theatre New Theatre Cliffs Pavilion G Live Marlowe Theatre Grand Theatre The Sage Victoria Theatre Swan Theatre The Anvil Orchard Theatre Princess Theatre Bridgewater Hall Opera House Arena
Oct 17 Oct 18 Oct 19 Oct 20 Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 24 Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28 Oct 29 Oct 31 Nov 1 Nov 2, 3 Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 7 Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Brixton Academy The Hydro
Dec 15 Dec 16
MOTORPSYCHO, SLEEP TOKEN London
MOUNT HOLLY London Mansfield
Oct 22, 24 Oct 26 Oct 28 Oct 30
MOGWAI London Glasgow
MARILYN MANSON Manchester Glasgow Wolverhampton Newport London
Oct 9 Oct 10 Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 31
METALLICA, KVELERTAK London Glasgow Manchester Birmingham
Wolverhampton Sheffield London
MASTODON, RED FANG,
Genting Arena Metro Radio Arena Arena 3 Arena SSE Arena First Direct Arena The Hydro GE Arena Motorpoint Arena Arena O2 Arena
Bristol Leeds Glasgow Manchester Birmingham London
King’s Cross Water Rats Old Library
Oct 18 Oct 21
Recommended MR. BIG, THE ANSWER, FASTER PUSSYCAT
Nottingham Newcastle London Manchester Glasgow Wolverhampton
Rock City Northumbria University Shepherd’s Bush Empire Academy ABC Wulfrun Hall
Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 19 Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23
Great Portland St 229 Club UEA
Oct 13 Oct 14
NAZARETH London Norwich
OPETH, ENSLAVED Manchester Glasgow Belfast Dublin Nottingham Bristol Birmingham
The Ritz Barrowland Limelight Academy Rock City Academy Institute
Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 21 Nov 22
PAPA ROACH London Manchester
Brixton Academy Apollo
Oct 10 Oct 11
PARADISE LOST, PALLBEARER London
Camden Electric Ballroom
MIKE PETERS & THE ALARM Aberdeen Edinburgh Bristol Wakefield Birmingham Liverpool Norwich Sheffield Oxford
Assembly Liquid Room Thekla Warehouse 23 Academy Academy Waterfront Academy Academy
Oct 6 Oct 7 Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 18 Oct 19 Oct 20
ROBERT PLANT, SETH LAKEMAN Plymouth Bristol Wolverhampton Llandudno Newcastle Liverpool
Pavilions Colston Hall Civic Hall Venue Cymru City Hall Olympia
Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 20 Nov 22 Nov 24 Nov 25
Dec 18 Dec 20 Dec 21
Classic Grand Fibbers Rescue Rooms Camden Electric Ballroom
INSANE CLOWN POSSE,
Sutton-in-Ashfield Lewes Hitchin Southend-on-Sea Wigan Edinburgh Glasgow Aberdeen Newcastle Grimsby Preston Frome Plymouth Southampton Hastings Swansea Bristol Evesham London Nottingham Bilston Leicester Norwich Kendal Pwlhelli Chester Worcester Wolverhampton Glasgow Nottingham London
The Hydro Arena Wembley Arena
Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park Nov 16-19
BETH HART Leeds Bath Coventry London
Glasgow Leeds London
Dec 2, 3
Oct 20 Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 27 Oct 28 Dec 10 Dec 14 Dec 15 Dec 16
THE MELVINS, RED KROSS
GUN Glasgow Manchester London
Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 6 Nov 7 Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 11 Nov 13
Aberdeen Café Drummond Inverness Ironworks Glasgow ABC 2 Morecambe The Platform Keighley The Octagon Bristol The Tunnels Derby Flowerpot Barton-upon-Humber Ropery Hall Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Dec 12 Dec 14 Dec 15 Dec 16 Dec 17
GOV’T MULE Dublin Edinburgh Manchester Cardiff London
Huntingdon Hall Citadel Robin 2 Fruit Islington Academy The Greystones Blues Festival The Tunnels
GOGOL BORDELLO Manchester London Wolverhampton Nottingham Glasgow
Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 26
SIMON McBRIDE Worcester St Helens Bilston Hull London Sheffield Ilfracombe Bristol
ERIC GALES Dublin Limerick Cork Holmfirth Bournemouth Sutton Bilston
Weston-super-Mare Playhouse Theatre Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre Folkestone Leas Cliff Pavilion
TOUR DATES Glasgow Perth Manchester Belfast Sheffield London Portsmouth Birmingham
SEC Armadillo Concert Hall Apollo Ulster Hall City Hall Royal Albert Hall Guildhall Symphony Hall
Nov 27 Nov 28 Nov 30 Dec 2 Dec 6 Dec 8 Dec 11 Dec 12
THE WHITE BUFFALO
Manette Street Borderline The Musician Slade Rooms Highbury Garage
Oct 27 Oct 28
ULU Folk And Roots Festival Nov 28 Trades Club Nov 18 La Belle Angele Nov 19 Club Ifor Bach Nov 20
PROPHETS OF RAGE London
Kentish Town Forum
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE London Manchester London Edinburgh Dublin
Wembley Arena Arena O2 Arena Usher Hall 3 Arena
Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 21 Nov 23 Nov 24
QUICKSAND Nottingham Manchester London
Rescue Rooms Sound Control Islington Academy
Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 26
Newcastle Gateshead Glasgow Harrogate London Birmingham Liverpool Manchester Sheffield Belfast Oxford Brighton Bournemouth
City Hall The Sage Royal Concert Hall International Centre Hammersmith Apollo Symphony Hall Philharmonic Hall Apollo City Hall Waterfront New Theatre Centre BIC
Nov 20 Nov 22 Nov 23 Nov 25 Nov 26 Nov 27, 29 Dec 1 Dec 3 Dec 5 Dec 8 Dec 10 Dec 11 Dec 13
ROMEO’S DAUGHTER, HAND OF DIMES London Stoke-on-Trent
Manette Street Borderline Eleven
Nov 3 Nov 4
ULI JON ROTH, ALI CLINTON Chester Aberdeen Dundee Glasgow Bilston London Stoke-on-Trent Wakefield Oldham Sheffield York Newcastle Edinburgh Blackpool
Live Rooms Assembly Venue The Ferry Robin 2 Islington Academy Eleven Snooty Fox Whittles Academy Fibbers Academy Bannerman’s Waterloo Music Bar
Dec 6 Dec 8 Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 11 Dec 12 Dec 13 Dec 15 Dec 16 Dec 17 Dec 18 Dec 19 Dec 20 Dec 21
ROYAL BLOOD, AT THE DRIVE IN Cardiff Reading Manchester Leeds Birmingham London Glasgow Nottingham Dublin Bournemouth Brighton
Motorpoint Arena Rivermead Centre Arena First Direct Arena Barclaycard Arena Alexandra Palace The Hydro Motorpoint Arena 3 Arena BIC Centre
Nov 13 Nov 14 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 20-22 Nov 24 Nov 2 Nov 26 Nov 28 Nov 29
ROYAL REPUBLIC London
Dec 1 Nov 23 Nov 24 Nov 25 Nov 27 Nov 28
SEETHER Kentish Town Forum The Ritz ABC Institute
Oct 15 Oct 16 Oct 17 Oct 18
KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD Bournemouth London Leamington Spa
See page below for dates, currently April 15-21.
Mr Kyps Bluesfest Assembly Rooms
Tramshed The Ritz
Oct 31 Nov 1
JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR, The Sage Corn Exchange Bridgewater Hall Royal Concert Hall Colston Hall Royal Festival Hall Symphony Hall
Nov 7 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 20
Running Horse Katie Fitzgerald’s Chichester Inn Barnes Bull’s Head
Dec 13 Dec 14 Dec 15 Dec 16
Academy 3 Garage Institute SWX Concorde 2 Camden Koko
Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 4 Dec 6 Dec 7 Dec 8
SIKTH Manchester Glasgow Birmingham Bristol Brighton London
STATUS QUO Manchester Sheffield Cardiff Reading Bournemouth Wolverhampton Glasgow Newcastle London
Apollo City Hall St David’s Hall Hexagon BIC Civic Hall Clyde Auditorium City Hall Hammersmith Apollo Barclaycard Arena First Direct Arena Centre Brixton Academy Motorpoint Arena The Hydro
Nov 29 Nov 30 Dec 1 Dec 4, 6 Dec 5 Dec 8
Manette Street Borderline
Oct 27 Oct 28 Oct 30
Bristol Birmingham Manchester London Leeds
Fleece & Firkin Hare & Hounds Ruby Lounge Chelsea Under The Bridge Brudenell Social Club
Hard Rock Hell Prog Rebellion Islington Academy
Nov 17 Nov 18 Dec 10
Oct 28 Oct 29, 30 Oct 31 Nov 2-4
Voodoo Lounge Audio Ruby Lounge Fleece & Firkin Camden Underworld
Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14
Dec 15, 16
Hard Rock Hell Prog The Musician
Nov 18 Nov 25
TRAIN Sheffield Newcastle Manchester Glasgow Birmingham London
City Hall Academy Apollo Academy Academy Hammersmith Apollo
Oct 16 Oct 17 Oct 19 Oct 20 Oct 21 Oct 23
TRIGGERFINGER Manchester London
Deaf Institute Oxford Street 100 Club
Oct 9 Oct 10
STEVE ROTHERY, TOUCHSTONE, MORE London
Islington Assembly Hall
WALTER TROUT, SARI SCHORR & THE ENGINE ROOM
Southampton London Wrexham Wakefield Preston Bilston Harpenden Bristol Swansea Pontypridd
The Brook Oct 9 Chelsea Under The Bridge Oct 10, 11 William Aston Hall Oct 13 Warehouse 23 Oct 14 Guildhall Oct 15 Robin 2 Oct 17 Public Hall Oct 18 Bierkeller Theatre Oct 20 Sin City Oct 21 Muni Arts Centre Oct 22
ROBIN TOWER Islington Assembly Hall
Oct 20 Oct 9 Oct 10 Oct 11 Oct 12 Oct 15
Recommended THE TUBES
THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT Chester York Hull Stoke-on-Trent Leicester Wolverhampton Cardiff Plymouth Brighton Colchester Milton Keynes London
Manchester Newcastle Swansea Stoke-on-Trent Milton Keynes Bilston Sutton-in-Ashfield Grimsby
Nov 6 Nov 7 Nov 8 Nov 9 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 19 Nov 20
Rescue Rooms Rebellion Leadmill Think Tank G2 Hard Rock Hell Fleece & Firkin Waterfront Studio Talking Heads Highbury Garage HRH Prog 6 Slade Rooms
Nov 5 Nov 6 Nov 7 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18
White Rock Pavilion Rock City Academy Academy ABC Limelight Academy Wulfrun Hall The Ritz Tivoli Tramshed Academy UEA Kentish Town Forum
Oct 12 Oct 13 Oct 14 Oct 15 Oct 16 Oct 18 Oct 19 Oct 22 Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 24 Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27
W.A.S.P. Hastings Nottingham Leeds Newcastle Glasgow Belfast Dublin Wolverhampton Manchester Buckley Cardiff Bristol Norwich London
WEDNESDAY 13 Civic Hall
Southampton Bristol Reading Newcastle Edinburgh
Live Rooms The Crescent Fruit Sugarmill Dryden Street Social Newhampton Arts Centre Club Ifor Bach The Hub The Haunt Arts Centre Craufurd Arms Manette Street Borderline
Nov 21 Nov 24
Booking Hall West End Centre
TRINITY LIVE Nov 26 Nov 27 Nov 29 Nov 30 Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 5 Dec 6 Dec 8
STONE SOUR, THE PRETTY RECKLESS Birmingham Leeds Brighton London Cardiff Glasgow
Pwllheli Manchester London
IAN SIEGAL Nottingham Stourbridge Chichester London
Gateshead Cambridge Manchester Glasgow Bristol London Birmingham
ROYAL THUNDER Manchester Deaf Institute London Tufnell Park Boston Music Room Glasgow Audio Birmingham Mama Roux Southampton Joiners Arms London Manchester Glasgow Birmingham
We’re not suggesting you head to the zoo or the plains of the USA. Check out Jake Smith and share in his cool music.
RNCM Saint Luke’s Olympia Highbury Union Chapel
VON HERTZEN BROTHERS Nottingham Manchester Sheffield Newcastle Glasgow Pwllheli Bristol Norwich Southampton London Pwllheli Wolverhampton
CHUCK PROPHET London Hebden Bridge Edinburgh Cardiff
VENOM INC Dublin Glasgow Manchester Bristol London
Dec 15 Dec 22
THE PROFESSIONALS Wolverhampton London
Winter Storm Festival
FOY VANCE Manchester Glasgow Dublin London
THE PRETTY THINGS London Leicester
Engine Rooms Fleece & Firkin Sub 89 Boiler Shop Liquid Room
Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 6 Nov 9 Nov 10
TYGERS OF PAN TANG Rebellion Think Tank Three Lamps Eleven Craufurd Arms Robin 2 The Diamond Yardbirds Club
Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23
Manchester Glasgow London
Club Academy Garage Islington Academy
Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28
Academy Apollo Academy Wembley Arena
Oct 23 Oct 25 Oct 27 Oct 28
WEEZER Leeds Manchester Birmingham London
THE WHITE BUFFALO Manchester Glasgow Birmingham Oxford Bristol London
The Ritz ABC Institute Academy Academy Kentish Town Forum
Apr 15 Apr 16 Apr 17 Apr 19 Apr 20 Apr 21
WISHBONE ASH Wavendon Dorking London Aberdare Frome Swindon Shoreham-by-Sea Southampton Wimborne Plymouth Newmarket Hunstanton Wirral Buckley Whitby Salford Derby Kendal Edinburgh Aberdeen Glasgow Morpeth Stockton-on-Tees Blackpool Holmfirth Clitheroe
The Stables Dorking Halls Islington Academy Coliseum Theatre Cheese & Grain Arts Centre Ropetackle Arts Centre The Brook Tivoli Theatre The Hub King Edward Hall Princess Theatre Floral Pavilion Hall Tivoli Pavilion The Lowry Flowerpot Bootleggers Jam House Lemon Tree The Ferry Riverside Lodge The ARC The Layton Picturedrome The Grand
Oct 17 Oct 18 Oct 19 Oct 20 Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 24 Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 29 Oct 31 Nov 2 Nov 3 Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 7 Nov 9 Nov 10 Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 14 Nov 15 Nov 16 Nov 17 Nov 18
WOLFSBANE Winchester Edinburgh Birmingham London Pontypool Bolton
The Railway Bannerman’s Asylum Islington Academy The Dragonfly Bar Metro Rocks
Dec 15 Dec 16 Dec 17 Dec 21 Dec 22 Dec 23
DWEEZIL ZAPPA Gateshead Salford London Birmingham Bexhill
The Sage The Lowry Royal Festival Hall Town Hall De La Warr Pavilion
Oct 8 Oct 9 Oct 10 Oct 12 Oct 13
LIVE! Dan Reed London St Pancras Old Church Having successfully battled his demons, the late-80s nearly man is back with a damned fine show in this most religious of settings. Dan Reed is trying desperately not to swear. He has already let loose with an accidental “crap”, and looked mortified despite the mildness of the profanity. But it’s a battle he’s always going to lose. The singer is fiddling with the acoustic guitar hanging from his shoulders halfway through tonight’s strippeddown solo performance when he accidentally utters “shit”. He looks upwards and tries not to laugh. “Oh man, it’s the Catholic in me,” he says. At most venues, this would barely even register on the obscenity scale. But St Pancras Old Church isn’t some vast corporate hanger or sticky-floored sweat-pit. This tiny building is a working house of God, and here “shit” – never mind “bollocks”, “fuck” or “soapy tit wank” – feels like blasphemy in the ears of even the most Godless heathen. It isn’t Reed’s first time playing in a church. He’s previously appeared at the Union Chapel a few miles up the road. Neither is he here for religious reasons – the singer’s personal spiritual map takes in several different paths, including Buddhism and Judaism. “Churches were designed with acoustics in mind, so the priest could be heard without any amplification,” he says. “It’s nice that these places that were so revered and sacred back in the day are shifting their energies to art.” We’re sitting in the church’s side room, a study-come-library filled with ecclesiastical paraphernalia and the faintly musty smell associated with most places of Christian worship. Reed is friendly and attentive. The tumbling hair that was his signature when he first started out is long gone, and he’s sporting a baggy grey sweatshirt, but he still has a rock-star aura. When he was 14, Reed wanted to be a priest. He was raised a Catholic by his adoptive parents on a farm in South Dakota. As a youngster he served as an altar boy, played the church organ and read scriptures. And then he heard Van Halen’s first album. “That kind of changed my thought process,” he says with a laugh. “I discovered rock’n’roll and stopped going to church. I gave up on religion for a long time.” Nearly 40 years on Reed has returned to the bosom of the church, physically if not spiritually. Perched on a green verge between Camden Town’s cramped red brick flats and skeletal gas tanks and the gleaming modern rail terminus at St Pancras, the venue belongs to a different age. There’s evidence that worship has taken place here since at least the seventh century, if not longer. Tonight, 150 or so people will cram inside this tiny church to pay a different kind of devotion to a man whose own journey has been studded with its share of trauma. In the late 80s, Reed was tipped to become rock’n’roll’s next big star. His band, the Dan Reed Network, were pitched as Bon Jovi meets Prince – stadium-ready funk-rock anthems with an undercurrent that was one part soul, one part sex. Except it never happened for the Network, and Reed disappeared from the public eye into his own personal hell. By the mid-90s he had embarked on a career as a nightclub owner in Portland, Oregon. Music took a back seat as he focused on his new vocation. Drugs were part and parcel of the job – he moved from spliff and ecstasy to liquid acid, crystal meth and cocaine. When the septum part of his nose gave out he graduated to smoking crack. It took the death of his father in 2003 to bring him back to reality. “It seems like a dream now, like some kind of film that I watched as opposed to me relating to it directly,” he says. “But I know he’s always there, lurking. I’m not afraid of that person. I don’t think that he will come back again. Especially with my son in this world.” These days, Reed lives in Prague with his partner, Katka, and
Reed and CR’s Dave Everley engage in some backroom banter.
It’s only the soundcheck, Dan. There will be people later…
‘In this sett ing Reed’s voice, allow ed to shine , sounds ste llar.’
REVIEWS Reed greets his congregation.
‘Indestruct ible and Champion crackle wit h hope and o ptimism.’
The ravages of time – and crack – have thankfully left Reed’s voice untouched.
that moment that I realised I should helped me when I was an addict,” he says. “And I was never have turned my back on music.” thinking about the Tibetan monks who took me into He slowed clawed back his career, the monastery as well, when I was trying to get over first as a solo artist and then with my guilt at being an addict. I felt like my soul was dirty the reactivated Dan Reed Network. and I didn’t belong there, but they welcomed me.” Salvation is a theme of his latest he latest stop-off on Reed’s 15-year road to album, Confessions (an apt title, given salvation has brought him to this tiny church. our surroundings). Stripped-back, Fittingly, tonight’s show is a small-scale one. low-key and played mostly by Reed The church nave holds around 150 people, half of himself, it’s unashamedly an album them seated (chairs not pews, sadly). Reed supported about love, an old-fashioned concept the Stones and Bowie back in the day, but he says a in 2017. Not that Reed cares. gig of this size makes him way more nervous. “It’s just “I’ve always tried to walk the line so intimate,” he says. “Every note you play, every lyric between trying to say something you sing, the intention has to be so honest and pure if political or socially conscious and you want to effect emotion.” writing love songs,” he says. “Rather than bitch Still, it isn’t like he hasn’t played shows this and moan about stuff that was going on yet again, up-close-and-personal before. Reed was invited to I thought I’d write something that was a sanctuary, play a series of fundraising an escape from that stuff. shows for Barack Obama This is the first album when he ran for President where I went: ‘Every song for the second time in is going to be about my 2012. Someone involved relationship to romance, in the campaign had heard whether that’s the pain his most recent album that’s been caused in my Coming Up For Air and life and that I’ve caused to Dan Reed figured his message of others, or the joy.’” optimism chimed with what Obama was saying. On the album, Reed doesn’t shy away from his “You’d play for twenty rich people who wanted to mistakes, addressing the demons he once battled. throw down two grand or five grand for election. I’d Some of the songs are clearly about his current play for half an hour, unplugged and no PA. You’d get partner, but others hark back to past lovers. Day feedback: ‘That was really lovely, you really touched One (‘You took care of me when I was broken’) was my heart.’ Or you’d have grown men crying.” written with an ex-girlfriend named Jen in mind. “She
their son, although he’s taken the long way round to get there. After his father’s death, he decided to clean up and travel to India. There, he found himself living in monastery in Dharamsala with a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks (he had first visited the monastery a decade earlier to interview the Dalai Lama for Spin magazine). “They put me to work cleaning dishes and picking vegetables,” he recalls. “We started doing meditations, and I’d go off and meet families that had just had children or lost love ones, doing meditations for them.” Ironically, it was in the monastery that he rediscovered his love of music. One of the monks asked Reed to teach him the lyrics to Queen’s We Will Rock You. “He didn’t know what the song was called, he just knew the rhyhtm – the du-du-DUH,” he says. “It’s very much like a Tibetan prayer rhythm.” Reed bought a cheap guitar from a nearby town. “It was at
“I would tell the 1987 me to relax, it’s all going to be okay in the end.”
St Pancras Old Church is a wonderful setting in which to play live music.
Reed tries hard not to swear in a house of God, but can smile at the odd slip.
Reed enjoyed the intimacy of these shows. He decided he should do more of them, and not just for political reasons. Over the past few years, he has played birthdays, wedding celebrations, even a couple of funerals. “For me to go and play someone’s home, it’s an honour,” he says. How much would it cost for you to come and play my front room? “A thousand pounds,” he says, without hesitation. “If people charge twenty pounds to come, and there are forty or fifty other people there, they make most of their money back. I cover my flights to get there. I know people that are in bigger bands who charge more, but it’s more than enough for me. I used to do construction work for a hundred and fifty bucks a day, hauling sheetrock and risking sawing your fingers off with power tools. I’m always grateful.” Tonight’s show has the same feeling as a living room gig, albeit in slightly holier surroundings. But there’s one difference: a pair of video cameras are perched at either side of the stage, here to film the show. The reasoning is, quite rightly, that fans would want their memories of the night preserved (a DVD download is included in the £20 ticket costs). Reed has certainly made a sartorial effort, swapping the grey sweatshirt for a smart shirt, though the nerves remain. “I’m trying a few different things tonight,” he says, before launching into the opening track,
a cover of James Taylor’s Fire And Rain. “I’ve never had the courage to sing this, cos it’s a finger-picking song. I’m going to try and get over the terror and play it for you.” The show is essentially in two parts. For the first third, Reed sticks to something approaching a set-list, mixing solo songs with the odd cover, notably a lovely, lilting take on Elvis’s Can’t Help Falling In Love (“The first song I learned to play as a kid”). But for the rest of the night he throws the set-list to the wind and takes requests from the audience. Predictably, there are plenty of shouts for songs by his old band. Stronger Than Steel and Lover, Don’t Betray Me strip back the studio gloss, showcasing the pristine songwriting at the heart of them. But it’s not just
a nostalgia trip – post-redemption solo and Dan Reed Network numbers Indestructible and Champion crackle with hope and optimism, even in their starkest form. In this setting, Reed’s voice sounds stellar. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, it was half-buried amid the Network’s supple, elastic funk-rock, but here’s it’s allowed to shine. The ravages of time – and crack – have thankfully left it untouched. Vaulting but never showy, it bounces from the wall to the ceiling even when he pulls away from the microphone. Not everything is perfect. Whatever Dreams May Come, inspired by the death of comedian Robin Williams and named after one of his films, is the wrong side of mawkish. The same goes for Jerusalem Sky, with its we’re-all-children-of-the-same God message (Reed studied Judaism in that city in the 00s). But the sheer honesty and utter lack of cynicism with which both are delivered are impossible to fault. He ends with Tiger In A Dress, the Network’s 1989 hit-single-that-never-was and a song that is far too salacious for these surroundings. “It definitely wasn’t designed to be played in a church,” he says. Blasphemy be damned – if nothing else, it’s a reminder of the potential he once had and, in a weird way, still has. But which Dan Reed does he prefer: the thrusting young buck of 1987 with the world at his feet, or the older, wiser, more spiritual version of today? “Oh, definitely this one,” he said before the show. “That one was so obsessed with trying to make it off the farm, to be Eddie Van Halen or David Lee Roth. I just wanted to make it. I didn’t care about sex or drugs or money, I just wanted to be accepted by the world. After everything I put myself through, I can see how hollow that was. If I met that guy, I’d tell him to relax, it’s all going to be okay in the end.” Words: Dave Everley Photos: Alison Clarke
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS WITH: MAGMA, RADIOHEAD, BRAND X, SONS OF APOLLO + MORE…
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‘A stompin g wall-ofsound six-p iece with driving dy namics.’
The Psychedelic Furs London Kentish Town O2 Forum The ever-underrated art-rockers play all the hits and more. Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler doesn’t say much when he’s onstage, but that’s fine. He plays the charismatic rock star with aplomb: pacing, crouching, theatrically acting out every line with fluid arms, hitting those crucifixion poses to perfection. Insanely fit for a 61-year-old, his unique, rolling rasp of a voice seems at first irrationally high in the mix. Then it becomes clear that everyone at this sold-out The Singles Tour show is bellowing along to his cryptic couplets, so it makes sense. Forty years ago the Furs’ witty, poetic onslaughts emerged from punk and then sidled into New Wave with a Bowie-esque knack for gorgeous/gritty hits. Success in America and the co-opting of their song Pretty In Pink disrupted them, and a 90s hiatus ensued. Now re-established as a killer touring band, they’re a stomping wall-of-sound six-piece with driving dynamics, Richard’s brother Tim still on bass, and a twist of saxophone mania from Mars Williams. So in random order we get early snarls such as We Love You, their evolution through Dumb Waiters and Mr Jones into measured, haunting reveries like The Ghost In You and Love My Way, and semi-dance bangers like Heartbreak Beat. There’s the ideal mix of nostalgia and energy in the air and their first London gig in five years goes supernova with a titanic, topical encore of Sister Europe, President Gas and India. Heaven. Chris Roberts
Junkyard, Spread Eagle, Shark Island
The Babe Rainbow
The Kings are now more majestic than ever.
London Camden Underworld What kept everybody?
The ironic hipster boogie: seems so wrong, feels so right.
They’ve been here before, of course. Voodoo Six have packed this venue and seemingly been on the verge of big things, yet each time previously, they’ve contrived to blow it. This could be their last chance to achieve something special, and what Voodoo Six do tonight suggests they’ll grab this opportunity and make it work. Whereas in the past, bassist Tony Newton has appeared to be the band’s focal point onstage, now the combination of guitarist Matt Pearce and vocalist Nik Taylor-Stoakes is very much the fulcrum of it all. The former is a virtuoso who is clearly a team player, while the latter’s a singer who has an Eddie Vedder edge with the power of Ricky Warwick. All this means there’s a renewed vitality about the five. The show is an album launch celebration, so inevitably they showcase a significant chunk of Make Way For The King, and nobody complains. These songs have a contemporary groove, yet also a timeless sense of tune. And the band are clearly in the mood to give these tracks their full attention, while not forgetting about past glories. This makes the performance nicely balanced. “We can play all night,” exclaims Taylor-Stoakes. Sadly, he’s thwarted by a dreaded curfew. However, Voodoo Six pack their 80 minutes in the limelight with an exciting sense of destiny.
Some 28 years after their major-label debut Law Of The Order was released, Shark Island – well, frontman Richard Black and hired hands – finally arrive in the UK. It’s appropriate that they begin with Make A Move as Black, who claims that Axl Rose ripped off all of his stage mannerisms, still sashays, twirls like a spinning top and works every inch of stage. The music sounds great too. Tonight also marks the first time that Spread Eagle, featuring current UFO man Rob De Luca on bass, have performed outside their United States homeland. Back On The Bitch, Switchblade Serenade and Suzy Suicide are embellished by flashy stunguitar runs, reminding us why the New Yorkers are regarded as slightly glammy, hard rockin’ cult heroes. Back in the UK after more than a quarter of a century since their last visit, Junkyard have hardly changed, save for the absence of co-founding guitarist Brian Baker who now plays with Bad Religion. Each member sports a denim cut-off held together by patches, spit and sheer optimism. The music is a formulaic mix of southern rock, punk and rockin’ boogie. Had the members of the Quo met in a truckstop in Tennessee they might have sounded something like this, but Junkyard can still tear it up like few others, a finale of Girlschool’s Emergency hitting the right note.
From Australia’s hippie idyll Byron Bay via the same people who bought you King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Babe Rainbow are an enticing prospect. Ridiculously good looking (singer Angus Darling has the boyish charm of a young Kurt Cobain, while guitarist Jack ‘Cool-Breeze’ Crowther looks like a man Cecil B. DeMille would cast as God), they’re in town to promote their debut album, and they’re not playing by the rules. Starting with a new song, in near darkness, it’s quickly apparent they don’t have to: the venue is sold out, everyone seems to know every word, and the audience groove and jive and shimmy in a way that hasn’t been seen in the wild since the late 1960s. The shuffling Peace Blossom Boogy is a highlight. The stunningly funky Monkey Disco is another. Hell, they’re all highlights. It’s like Canned Heat playing Abbey Road-era Beatles, via an excursion to Studio 54 at the height of disco. There’s crowd surfing, and a lazy swing through Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, and it all feels like it could collapse at any minute, but it doesn’t. There’s no doubt that there’s a hipster element to the band’s audience. But if we’re going to start dismissing musicians because some of their followers serve lattes or develop mobile apps, then we’re doomed. The Babe Rainbow are brilliant.
London The Underworld
Richard Butler: playing the charismatic rock star with aplomb.
London The Moth Club
Heavy Load Heavy questions for heavy rockers
Ricky Warwick on the bands he’s been in, getting drunk for the first time, life, death and uncomfortable clogs. Interview: Michael Hann
icky Warwick has spent 30 years at rock’s coal face, as frontman, sideman, solo artist and hired hand. He’s been a punk with New Model Army, a rocker with The Almighty and the designated filler of some very big shoes as the man who stepped up to front the post-Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy. That Lizzy reunion evolved into Black Star Riders, who tour the UK in November. Warwick spoke to Classic Rock at his home in Los Angeles.
What were you like at school? There were two stages. When I was at school at Northern Ireland I was pretty quiet and withdrawn. Then when I turned fourteen or fifteen I started getting a bit more rambunctious. And then we moved to Scotland and it all went downhill from there – starting fights, getting into fights, messing around. A lot of underage drinking.
I’d made into it, and I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t be doing this any more. After that I don’t think I touched my guitar for a year, and I seriously questioned whether I wanted to carry on making music. It was a really shitty time. Did The Almighty fulfil their potential? That’s a really good question. We definitely reached a peak around ninetyfour/ninety-five, and then I think we weren’t getting along and that was the main problem, more than the music. In hindsight, maybe we should have taken a break for a year and a half instead of splitting up. But I don’t have any regrets. And then into Thin Lizzy. Standing in for Phil Lynott must have been difficult. I knew how hard it was going to be, and how certain people would feel about it. But I felt I could do Phil, Thin Lizzy and the legacy justice. At no point was I stupid enough to think I could stand in those shoes, all I can do is stand beside them and try my best, without trying to be a clone of Phil.
Can you remember the first time you drank yourself sick? Absolutely. It was an under-eighteens disco, and we’d snuck in a litre bottle of vodka mixed with Coke. I remember the hall starting to spin wildly. Next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees and there was vomit flying everywhere.
Do you believe in God? I would call myself a humanist – I believe in a higher power, but I think it’s Mother Nature or karma. What’s your biggest regret? I don’t have too many. I would have loved to have spent more time with my father before he passed away.
When you played guitar in New Model Army did they make you wear clogs? [Laughs] They didn’t make me wear them, but I wanted to. I wanted to fit in. I was so in awe of the whole New Model Army thing – the band and the following. I was so thrilled to be a part of that. But clogs were uncomfortable, so I didn’t wear them that much and went back to the motorcycle boots. When did you first realise you could be a frontman? Seeing Stiff Little Fingers in 1980 was the defining moment. I went to see them in Belfast and it literally changed my life. I walked out of the concert going: “That’s it. Forget about the football. Forget about schoolwork. I need to be up on that stage.”
And your biggest waste of money? I just bought a new car. It might be that. A Ford Mustang. The family’s getting older now, so I’ve indulged myself. I’m not a very materialistic person.
“Seeing Stiff Little Fingers in 1980 literally changed my life.”
When death eventually comes, how would you like to go? Quickly, in my sleep, and at a good old age. My father went out in the perfect way. He was eighty-four. He had a heart attack and died in my mother’s arms, the woman he’d been with for sixty-five years. He just went. If you’re gonna go, that’s right up there – in peace and with as little fuss as possible. What words will be engraved on your tombstone? “Here lies Ricky Warwick. Cum On Feel The Noize.” Black Star Riders’ U K tour runs from November 8 to 19.
In the late nineties you had a fraught time with The Almighty: in and out and in and out. Did those experiences make you question whether you should be in a band? They absolutely did. When The Almighty split in 1996 I jumped straight into a three-piece. And we were doing really well. We went to Japan, recorded a record, we were getting great reviews, a lot of interest from labels. I don’t want to cry ‘poor me’, but we had one label pull out the night before we were about to sign a big deal. I was starting to get very disillusioned with the whole business. When that ended I was in Dublin, going through a divorce. I’d put all the money
A rock singer and a Mustang. What are your insurance premiums like? It’s okay in the USA for an old rock musician and a Mustang. I’ve been driving for thirtythree years and my licence is clean, so it’s not that bad!