E N D O F T H E Y E A R S P E C TAC U L A R
GUNS N’ ROSES JEFF LYNNE THE WILDHEARTS THE STRUTS STEVEN WILSON DEF LEPPARD THE DAMNED ALLMAN BETTS ROLLING STONES MARILLION GLENN HUGHES KISS & More…
As usual, the past 12 months have seen the release of excellent albums from both veterans and newcomers, and also some surprises. Here are the 50 that Classic Rock writers deem the best. Words: Fraser Lewry, Dave Everley, Ian Fortnam, Polly Glass, Henry Yates, Paul Elliott, Stephen Dalton, Rob Hughes, Johnny Sharp, Tim Batcup, Rich Davenport, David Sinclair, Grant Moon
50 DREAM THEATER
48 MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST
When nu prog’s poster boys convened in upstate New York for their fourteenth album, the keywords, according to guitarist John Petrucci were ’heavy’ and ’proggy’, perhaps a tacit response to the mixed reviews for DT’s 2016 album The Astonishing. From the moment the curtain rose on the pummelling Untethered Angel, this was Dream Theater returning to (relative) basics, walking a careful tightrope between brain and brawn. HY Killer track: Untethered Angel
Revelation NUCLEAR BLAST In 2012, Michael Schenker told this writer he’d entered a phase of his career centred on celebrating his legacy while seeking “to make something more out of it”. Accordingly, Revelation sees Schenker and bandmates from MSG’s classic 80s line-ups (including Gary Barden and Graham Bonnet) and Doogie White progressing from 2018’s Resurrection amid an abundance of sharp riffing, anthemic choruses and characteristically eloquent guitar solos. RD Killer track: Behind The Smile
46 MICHAEL MONROE
OF 49 TYGERS PAN TANG
47 THE HU
45 THE RACONTEURS
Distance Over Time
Ritual MIGHTY MUSIC One of the NWOBHM’s most promising hopes, the Tygers had the potential to go the distance alongside Iron Maiden and Saxon, only for bad breaks to derail them. With founding guitarist Robb Weir still at the helm, Ritual dispels any notion of coasting on nostalgia, mainly matching vicious riffs with radio-friendly choruses, edging into heavier territory on the pummelling The Art Of Noise. RD Killer track: Sail On
The Gereg ELEVEN SEVEN MUSIC A 2019 story if there ever was, Mongolian rock/folk hybrids The Hu harnessed the power of the internet (40 million+ YouTube views and counting) to build an international profile before they’d even left Central Asia, a testament to the power of a well-made video. The band’s power didn’t fade once the visuals were vanquished, and The Gereg was released as a regular, old-fashioned – and extremely lively – album. FL Killer track: Wolf Totem
One Man Gang SILVER LINING With only the main man’s name on its cover, it’s easy to not realise how much of a team effort One Man Gang actually is. That’s possibly because co-writers/ guitarists Rich Jones and Steve Conte are so perfectly attuned to Monroe’s characteristic modus operandi of highenergy, good-time party rock. Live dynamo Monroe perpetually peaks, mirroring Hanoi Rocks’ finest moments, while stamping on the record a solo personality that’s all his own. IF Killer track: One Man Gang Help Us Stranger THIRD MAN Jack White and Brendan Benson reconvened after much too long spent doing their own thing, and seemed hell-bent on making up for lost time by pulling out all the rock’n’roll stops on this, The Raconteurs’ third album. On Help Us Stranger the raw attack of AC/DC and the Stooges vied for prominence with Stonesy rock’n’roll, bluegrass folk, raucous blues and even hints of southern rock on a joyous comeback. JS Killer track: Bored And Razed
YOUNG 44 THE GLORIOUS SONS 41 NEIL & CRAZY HORSE A War On Everything EARACHE With their third album, Canada’s the Glorious Sons reaffirmed their status as the greatest rock band the world continues to ignore. That situation is everyone else’s loss. A War On Everything adds Springsteen-y blue-collar heft to modern rock tunefulness and an unabashed pop sensibility. Something that’s easy enough to get down on paper, but much harder to perfect in real life. Glorious Sons have nailed it. Now it’s down to everyone else to do the right thing. DE Killer track: A War On Everything
Undaunted by ‘Poncho’ Sampedro’s absence, Young merely brought in former Horse guitarist Nils Lofgren to plug the void for the first Crazy Horse album for seven years. Colorado bucked and roared like vintage Young, gloriously untamed on epic jam She Showed Me Love and uncompromisingly direct on Shut It Down. Personal themes of loss, love and regret were offset by wider preoccupations with ecological collapse and political dissent. RH Killer track: She Showed Me Love
43 BLACK FUTURES
How to describe the racket created by this mysterious, hazmatsuited pair of studio mavericks? Something like: pre-apocalyptic synth-metal glam-punk that invites you to party like it’s 2099, preferably intoxicated by the mind-altering effects of a communal rock’n’rave happening? But whichever way you spin it, this is one earth-shaking blast of a debut album. JS Killer track: Love
The Swedish metallersturned-prog overlords’ thirteenth album was also their first to be sung in their native tongue (it did also come with an English version). Tender and intimate in places, heavy and bombastic in others, In Cauda Venenum was the sound of a band at the height of their abilities doing exactly what they wanted – and thoroughly enjoying it. A rousing, luxurious affair, brilliantly executed. PG Killer track: Svekets Prins
Never Not Nothing
MUSIC FOR NATIONS
42 PHIL CAMPBELL Old Lions Still Roar
For those of us who believe Motörhead are for life, not just for Ace Of Spades, it’s been heartening to see longserving guitarist Phil Campbell thriving with the Bastard Sons since Lemmy’s passing. His debut solo album channels his ferocious guitar tone into bluesy hard rockers, framed with weightier, more intense tracks and acoustic interludes. Guests including Rob Halford and Alice Cooper bring their A-game. RD Killer track: Faith In Fire
In Cauda Venenum
39 JEFF LYNNE’S ELO
From Out Of Nowhere COLUMBIA No matter how uncertain the times, you always know where you stand with ELO. The latest from Jeff Lynne’s one-man operation (except for Steve Jay’s percussion and a cameo from longtime pianist Richard Tandy) continued the stellar work of 2015 comeback Alone In The Universe, delivering a blend of heart-stopping chord changes and spacey concerto pop, perfectly illustrated by the sublime title track. RH Killer track: From Out Of Nowhere
‘HU ARE YOU?’ Horse-head violins, throat-singing, Mongolian warriors, biker gangs… Step inside the world of one of 2019’s most compelling bands.
Words: Fraser Lewry
ack in June, these rising stars of Mongolian music performed a short, one-song set at their nation’s embassy in West London. They’re the kind of events diplomats specialise in, designed to introduce an aspect of a nation’s culture to the citizens of another country: invitees enjoy some local delicacies, drink too much, exchange business cards, and go home having learned a little about something new. This was how Classic Rock was officially introduced to The Hu, although we’d had our eye on them for some time. Back in 2018 they released two videos: first Yuve Yuve Yu, a widescreen epic that looked like an advert for the Mongolian tourist board, followed by Wolf Totem, an equally epic, stunningly shot clip aligning Mongolian warriors with Western biker gangs. But beyond the spectacle – and both films are genuinely spectacular – what captured the attention of the millions of viewers who shared the videos was the music. A beautifully choreographed mix of Central Asian folk and Western rock, The Hu’s songs covered subjects not normally associated with the bands covered in these pages: the power of nature, respecting one’s elders, the beauty of a mother’s love. Rich in spirituality, it also celebrated Mongolia’s history as a great warrior nation. And it struck a chord. Perhaps, in an age of fake news and Facebook and deep, rabid division, we really do need music to be the thing that connects us to each other. The Hu aren’t doing anything revolutionary. The great Tuvan band Yat-Kha were ploughing a similar furrow two decades ago, and Chinese metallers Tengger Cavalry spent years working on a similar hybrid. But The Hu are getting it right. They haven’t moved too far from their folk roots, and have avoided the temptation to switch local traditional instruments for their modern equivalents. So the morin khuur (horse-head violin) is front and centre, the jaw harp boings, the rhythms canter like wild horses, and the throat singing and its mysterious harmonics give Western audiences a taste of something that feels free, and wild, and deeply connected to something they might have lost. It’s also music that somehow paints a dramatic picture of the land from which it came. And debut album The Gereg carries on where the videos left off. It feels heroic. And we all need heroes.
ALLMAN BETTS BAND
On their excellent new album there are similarities between their music and that of their fathers' legendary band, but they're adamant that “we’re not the Allman Brothers Part Two”. Words: Dave Ling
evon Allman is extremely proud of the Allman Betts Band. Justifiably, given that the group’s introductory statement, Down To The River, ranks among the finest debut albums of 2019. What the 47-year-old guitarist doesn’t like too much is people comparing the Allman Betts Band to the Allman Brothers Band, the legendary southern blues-rock band formed 50 years ago by Devon’s late keyboard-playing, honey-voiced father Gregg. His frustration is understandable. Devon, who didn’t even meet his father until he was 17, has spent two decades carving out a career of his own, in a solo capacity and with the groups Royal Southern Brotherhood and Honeytribe. Eighteen months ago he reached out to another descendent of the ABB dynasty, Duane Betts, son of their co-founding guitarist Dickey, to form the Devon Allman Project Featuring Duane Betts, which became the Allman Betts Band when the duo committed to what Devon described to Classic Rock as “the goal of making a classic record,” adding: “We know that’s a tall order but we’re up for it, man.” The Allman Betts Band name was retained even after the integration of yet more of the ABB’s ancestral roots: bass player Berry Oakley Jr, whose father was also in ABB. The conversation with Devon begins good-naturedly enough. We share a laugh over the improbability of having called the group the Devon Allman Project Featuring Duane Betts And Berry Oakley Jr (“There’s only so much room on a marquee”), and he talks with fondness of the Allman Betts Band’s triumphant appearance at Ramblin’ Man Fan Fair this summer, and voices his disappointment that the band had to cut short a further run of dates after he was hospitalised to have his appendix removed.
“This is a brand-new band, but we know we have a lot to prove. The cool thing is that there are so many places we can go” Devon Allman
ALLMAN 18 THE BETTS BAND
Down To The River BMG The pre-eminent southern rock dynasty does more than simply renew itself with the debut album by Devon and Duane, the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts respectively, it grows vigorous new branches and bears sumptuous fresh fruit. Both the bandleaders have fine singing voices, and the title track is a stunningly soulful tune in a Robert Cray vein. But it’s the duo’s long, free-flowing guitar exchanges, rising and falling like ocean waves, that truly set band and album apart. Glorious. DS Killer track: Autumn Breeze
Allman talks animatedly of the instant chemistry he discovered with Betts, and how the songs that appear on Down To The River began to flow out of them almost immediately. “I think the first thing we wrote for the record was Long Gone, and All Night and Melodies Are Memories weren’t too far behind, so we ended up riding the wave,” he explains. “Right from the start it felt natural and authentic. Both of us know that there’s a million people in the world that would like to hear an Allman and a Betts doing a project and being on stage together, but if there’s no real spark then what would have been the point? But luckily it felt organic and the material came real quick, otherwise Duane would have been off making his second solo record and I’d have begun my fourth. And that would also have been okay; our friendship would have carried on.” Allman expresses happiness that with Oakley in the band Allman-Betts signed a worldwide deal with BMG Records. Oakley joined too late to make any meaningful contribution to the writing, but, as Allman points out: “He’s such an incredible player. He holds down the bottom end and, unlike so many bass players, he knows when to play and when lay back. He’s a consummate musician. The Oakley thing [the name] is great, but if he wasn’t such a wonderful musician then we wouldn’t have invited him on board. “It all goes back to 1989, when I met Duane for the first time on the Allman Brothers reunion tour,” Allman continues. “That’s also where I met Berry too. So it feels like going back in time to come forwards again. We’re the three amigos.” Nevertheless, a discernible coolness enters Allman’s voice when mention is made of the presences of Peter Levin (his father Gregg’s Hammond organ player) and Chuck Leavell (current keyboard player with the Stones and a member of the Allman Brothers Band throughout the 70s) on the album, and how they could CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM 33
ALL HAIL THE RENAISSANCE MEN! Given a career in which they've constantly hit the self-destruct button, itâ€™s surprising that The Wildhearts are still here. Not only that, they've also released the best album of the year. Words: Dave Everley Photo: Will Ireland
Renaissance men: (l-r) Ginger, Danny McCormack, CJ, Ritch Battersby.
s the first decade of the current there’s a lot of people who haven’t been let down millennium ended, so did The by the band. A lot of people consider it’s a career Wildhearts. This shouldn’t have worth following. Like, The Damned, Mötorhead, been a surprise to anyone who Ramones, I never gave up on those bands.” had followed the band for the first It’s half-one in the afternoon and the singer is 20 years of their career. A group for whom still in bed, drinking an Irish coffee. His daughter, volatility was as natural as breathing, they had split the singer Jazmin Bean, has just put out a new up many times before, sometimes for weeks, single, Saccharine. “It’s got over 400,000 views on sometimes for years. YouTube,” he says with a father’s pride. “That’s But this was different. It was final. Their most more than any single I’ve ever made. I’m glad I was recent album at the time, the anaemic Chutzpah!, useful for something, even if it’s just my sperm.” had come and gone with a whimper – a far cry I talk to CJ a few days earlier. The guitarist is from the fuck-the-world roar of their audacious, in the basement of his flat in Harrogate, North brilliant 1993 debut Earth Vs The Wildhearts and Yorkshire. The sump pump broke just before its follow-up PHUQ. Their latest tour had ended The Wildhearts embarked on their most recent three days before Christmas 2009 with an tour, and the flat was flooded, causing a couple of undersold gig at London’s 800-capacity Islington thousand pounds’ worth of damage. “I was up all Academy. They had reached the end of the road, night bailing out water,” he says, sounding more broke, demoralised and ultimately kaput. “The chipper than a man who had to chuck out a load Wildhearts was over,” frontman Ginger says now. of ruined carpets should. “So I got on with loads of other things.” Irish coffee and soggy carpets is the story of Guitarist CJ, who co-founded the band with The Wildhearts right there. Their whole career Ginger in 1989, went even further. He didn’t just has been a patchwork of glorious hedonism and quit The Wildhearts, he also quit music. He ended inglorious pathos. The Hollywood pitch would be up “running a couple of cleaning crews”, clearing 24 Hour Party People-meets-Carry On Camping. the houses of hoarders and taking care of the But the second half of this decade has brought aftermath of suicides. “I earned some unlikely stability, more doing that than I did something that has intensified in The Wildhearts,” he with Renaissance Men. Their first says wryly. studio album since the ill-fated Ginger and CJ might Chutzpah! a decade ago, it's not have been done with just the artistic high-water mark The Wildhearts, but of this umpteenth act of their The Wildhearts wasn’t career, but the commercial done with Ginger and one too. When it was released CJ. Two years later they early this summer it reached were back together. No.11 in the UK chart, their Now, a full decade highest position since PHUQ. on and several more According to Ginger, it would corkscrew turns along have gone higher, except the the roller-coaster that label didn’t press enough is their career, they physical copies. Ginger have reclaimed their “We ran out of CDs,” he says. crown as the greatest “We were doing signings all over British rock’n’roll band of the modern the country in HMVs and there were no copies era. Their new studio album, this year’s of the record. It would have gone a lot higher had Renaissance Men, is the first to feature the anyone cared. I didn’t.” classic Wildhearts line-up of Ginger, CJ, Ginger and CJ agree that they could never have drummer Ritch Battersby and long-absent made this album earlier in the decade. They know bassist Danny McCormack since 1995. More this because they tried, sometime around 2017. importantly, it’s the most exhilarating and “We got around to booking studio time, we brilliant album of 2019, and one that could go toehad a producer, but we never turned up,” says to-toe with their own early-90s peaks and come CJ. “Me and Ginger had a big falling out in Japan out triumphant. and we didn’t talk to each other for four months.” “Yeah, I’m surprised about all this, cos we never This happens a lot in The Wildhearts, obviously. thought we’d still be alive,” says Ginger. “But put it “Oh yeah, we routinely fall out. It’s nothing new. this way: I’m fucking delighted we are.” There’s always going to be drama with us.” The spark that lit the touchpaper that fired he resurrection of The Wildhearts is only Renaissance Men into life was the return of Danny unexpected if you haven’t paid any McCormack in 2018. The bassist last played in attention to the previous 29 years of their The Wildhearts in 2005; the interim years had career. Still, it’s a cause for celebration, even though seen him battle heroin addiction and endure the the wider world will do what it has always done amputation of his leg following a brain aneurysm. and ignore them completely. But rock’n’roll needs McCormack’s first show back with the band bands like them: crazy, passionate, mercurial, was at a 2018 benefit show for one his own always a Rizla’s breath away from flying off the replacements, American bassist Scott Sorry, who rails, punching each other out, or serving up the was undergoing treatment for a brain tumour. greatest anthem you’ll ever hear. In rehearsal, Danny told CJ and drummer Ritch “There’s always a few people always waiting Battersby he needed a quiet word. for the car crash,“ Ginger says today. “But then CJ recalled: “He said: ‘I’ve been shitting
“Our ability to hold a grudge was f**king Olympic. But we got together again and said, ‘Why the f**k did we fall out?’”
He never got a proper job, much to his mum’s chagrin. Instead the songwriter, singer and multiinstrumentalist can look back at a long and hugely successful rock’n’roll career. One that has seen him lead ELO, work with The Beatles, be in a band with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and so much more.
Interview: Rob Hughes
Out Of Nowhere, is essentially a one-man operation. It’s a sumptuous addition to his extensive recorded catalogue, bursting with semi-symphonic goodness and melodies to melt the stoniest of hearts. “Chords are my favourite thing, really,” Lynne enthuses. “There aren’t many left, but I still keep stumbling across little strange quirky ones and big fat juicy ones. Finding them is so much fun.” What’s the story behind From Out Of Nowhere? The title track just literally came from out of nowhere. It was the first tune I sat down to write, and nearly all the chords came to me at the first sitting. And that’s really how the whole album came around. I wanted to put some kind of optimism in there too. It’s a reaction to the way things are in the world at the moment; it’s a very upside-down situation. At the same time, I didn’t want to get into politics whatsoever. Jeff Lynne in the Idle Race, circa 1968.
projects and 1995’s Anthology, for which Lynne oversaw a fresh version of John Lennon’s ‘lost’ demo Free As A Bird. Although Lynne re-formed his old band for that Hyde Park show and beyond, the studio remains his preferred environment. Nowadays billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO, their latest album, From
One of the new songs, Time Of Our Life, is about ELO’s Wembley Stadium show in 2017. It’s like a diary of the Wembley show, which turned out to be absolutely fantastic, because I was still worried about trying to fill up these great big places. But there they all were. I’d played there with ELO once before, about thirty-odd years ago [in July 1986, supporting Rod Stewart], but I’d never done it as top of the bill. Everyone seemed to be having a fabulous time. It was just a marvellous experience.
was worried that there weren’t enough people who knew about us,” says Jeff Lynne, explaining his anxiety over reviving ELO to headline at an all-day festival in London’s Hyde Park in September 2014. “We took a big chance. The crowd could’ve gone home any time, they didn’t have to wait around for us at the end. But it was still full. I remember looking through a little gap in the curtain and going: ‘They’re still here!’” Of course they were. The festival was a sell-out, shifting its full quota of 50,000 tickets in just a quarter of an hour. It seems ridiculous that one of the most bankable stars of all-time ever doubted he still had an audience. But then Jeff Lynne isn’t your typical rock star. Modest and self-effacing, it’s difficult to equate the soft-spoken 71-year-old – his Brummie accent still intact despite living in Los Angeles for many years – with his status as the head of ELO, with record sales of well over 50 million and counting. Indeed, from 1972 until their original dissolution in 1986, ELO scored more transatlantic Top 40 hits than any other band on the planet. There’s more to Lynne than just ELO, of course. Since emerging with the Idle Race in the late 60s, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has passed through The Move, co-founded supergroup the Traveling Wilburys (with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison) and produced a host of A-listers, including the three remaining Beatles, both on solo
A LOT BETTER THAN WE DID TEN YEARS AGO”
We collar Rival Sons’ sharp-dressed Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday to talk about the last decade, fashion, latest album Feral Roots and playing ballads at metal festivals. Interview: Polly Glass
ival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday’s handlebar moustache – part Poirot, part Captain Hook – is impressive. It’s fair to say it’s made him one of rock’s more recognisable figures. The Ray Brown suits and striking Gibson Firebird guitars also help. Jay Buchanan joins us looking similarly chic in a long coat and matching boots. The singer delights in customising clothes from high-end designers, although years of dues paying in rock’s underworld mean he’s relaxed in today’s grungier settings while the Record Company (Rival Sons’ support tonight at London’s Brixton Academy) sound-check downstairs. To put it simply, Rival Sons put rock’n’roll back on the map at the start of a decade that seemed to have forgotten it. Since then they’ve rekindled classic rock fans’ passion for new music, and raked in fans from younger generations. Most recently they were signed to Atlantic Records for this year’s game-raising Feral Roots.
Rival Sons have been a hard-touring band for just over ten years now. How does this way of life sit with you? SH: We love this lifestyle. It’s what we’re made for. It’s what we do, and if we don’t do it we feel strange. It was ‘us’, I think, since we were teenagers, and it’s grown and grown, and we’re getting to focus our statement, and the whole thing is just becoming very friendly. It feels like your favourite coat. I can’t have it any other way and I never want it to end. JB: I was talking to my wife last night, and I said: “Y’know, I have to say this is probably the best job I could ever think of.” Are the shows physically taxing? Yes. I walk off stage completely exhausted and I’m ready to lay down for a couple of hours. It’s extremely draining, but it’s so fun! I can’t complain about how hard it is, because people pay to come and watch us dick around on stage and have fun.
way we did it, where we got out and away from everything, staying up late, really sharing ideas, it felt like a really great reset. We talked about what we had done, and not wanting to repeat ourselves. JB: We were resetting, establishing whatever we were doing. This whole thing is a different journey. So we went out there and we didn’t have wifi, we didn’t have cellphone service. We’re both very busy, we’re very bossy people, so for us to come together, just us, and sitting there philosophising about whatever. It’s not as if we uncovered a bunch of answers, it was just setting the tone for what the next six or seven months would be. At the start of the decade, Rival Sons were in the minority in terms of new classic rock-inspired bands. Since then things have changed considerably. JB: When we first came over here we definitely felt the minority status. And signing to Earache Records, when we came over here they were using all the assets that they could to try and break us, but all of those assets were metal, because we were their first non-metal signing. So they were trying to figure out what to do with us. SH: They put us on tour with Judas Priest. That was our first UK and European tour! JB: And we did a whole bunch of metal festivals and we were thrust into the metal world and thinking: “How do we fit? I don’t know, but we’re in front of people so let’s keep going…” SH: We were playing ballads at Hellfest… We realised that fans of extremely heavy metal music are the most loyal and the most wonderful fans, they’re just really great people. Once they adopt you, you’re in with them. And a lot of those people who like heavy music are our fans.
“I can’t complain about how hard it is, because people pay to come and watch us dick around on stage and have fun.”
How do your pre-show habits today compare to those of ten years ago? Jay Buchanan: I’ve never really been one to warm up vocally, except for maybe screaming a couple of times before I go on stage. Back in those days we didn’t have any room, we didn’t have much of a rider and we were in a van. Most of the time with the gruelling touring schedule we had, you’re just trying to stay alive and doing whatever you have to do to make sure the show didn’t suffer. A lot of long drives, a lot of unnecessary hangovers… Scott Holiday: And just focusing our heart and energy into the show. In a way it’s not that different now, but our pre-show rituals are different; we had a meet-and-greet earlier, we have a photoshoot after this. It’s much more structured. JB: And we smell a lot better than we did ten years ago. We’ve both had showers and our clothes aren’t dirty. So that’s a big difference. 52 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
Jay Buchanan When it came to writing Feral Roots, you took your first proper pause from touring since the band began. What did you glean from that time? SH: We were busy the whole time. We got some things in order, but we were writing, we were in the studio recording. More than gleaning, we were preparing to come back out. JB: What Scott says is very true. And also just getting that time at home and not being on the road, because, believe me, we stayed very busy. It was constant, every day. It was writing all night, every night, for months on end. You went off to a cabin in the woods to work on the record. What was that like? SH: I think that the lake and the setting and the
For a generation of rock fans who thought they were ‘done’ with new music, you made them excited about it again. SH: For us it was… I don’t want to say
Fashion, turn to the leftâ€¦ Jay Buchanan (left) and Scott Holiday.
“AS LONG AS THE LABEL KEEP WRITING CHEQUES,
WE’LL JUMP OFF BUILDINGS” With The Struts, frontman Luke Spiller has gone from playing tiny shows for crazy French fans to rubbing shoulders with rock’s A-list – not wasting a single opportunity along the way. Interview: Polly Glass Photos: Kevin Nixon
uke Spiller doesn’t ‘do’ understated. When we meet The Struts’ frontman pre-gig, in their dressing room at London’s Forum, he’s wearing a sheepskin jacket, leather trousers and huge pink-and-black platforms, his black Noel Fielding crop shaggy from the tour bus. Like so many rock stars, he looks in proportion on enormous stages, but larger than life off them. It’s curious to think that The Struts have been going for nearly a decade. Having dived into our line of vision in 2016 with the album Everybody Wants (which they followed up with last year’s poptastic Young & Dangerous), they’re one of the best things to happen to rock’n’roll in years. All glam threads and supersized tunes, they manage to seem lovably old-school and à la mode at the same time.
Probably a bit more egotistical than I am now, if that’s even possible. But ‘naïve’ is probably the operative word. Before The Stuts you went to university briefly. What did you study? I took media studies and… something else. I’d been working as a cleaner on my gap year in Clevedon for just over a year. My band at the time all took a gap year just to see how far we could take the band. That started to fizzle out as September was looming. I wanted to stay in the Bristol area, and I kind of just rushed into UWE [University Of
One of the first countries to really embrace The Struts was France. What were those first tours there like? Fantastic. We started touring France pretty much after the line-up change was made [original bassist and drummer Jamie Binns and Rafe Thomas were replaced by Jed Elliott and Gethin Davies in 2012], because Kiss This and Could Have Been Me were done in the transitional phase between the old members and the new, and those were the songs that would then go on to get us a load of airplay. But the tours were great. It was a true rock’n’roll rite of passage that everyone has to experience as a young band. We would go into the shows, drink a shedload, jump up on stage, make loads of friends with these crazy French people.
“It’s cool that we seem to be associated with this resurgence of rock music.”
How has 2019 been for you? Well, we’ve pretty much done two laps all over the world. This has definitely been our most successful year to date in terms of attendance. We did Pier 17 in New York, riding a Harley-Davidson on to the stage and having pyrotechnics, and a helicopter filming us. Our videographer had a team of, like, eight other camera people running around like his minions! Have you been able to have a holiday? We literally just had seven days off, which was really nice before the start of this tour. When I’m at home and it’s quiet all the ideas start to come.
West England]. I was thrown into this environment where everyone was in lectures, taking notes, and I was like: “What the hell is this?” So I grabbed the loan, the first instalment. Then I quit university and moved back to my parents’ house and tried to figure out what I was going to do. I was going to audition for drama schools in London, and that’s when I got a message on MySpace from my soonto-be manager at the time.
What are the best things to have happened in music in the past decade? It’s been interesting how all these biopics have been coming out, and people seem to have a thirst for that era of music and the iconic people that come with it. I think that goes hand in hand with a lot of the bands that have been coming up in the last two or three years. We’ve noticed it in America with bands like Greta Van Fleet, White Reaper, Glorious Sons… All of them have come out on tour with us. I think it’s cool that we seem to be associated with this resurgence of rock music, people just doing it and having that oldschool flavour. Since the band signed to Interscope Records, what have been your biggest extravagances? The way that we travel. It’s nice to know that we can stay in a gorgeous hotel and float down a lazy river with a couple of cocktails, or go and have a nice boat day and things like that, which years ago we wouldn’t have conceived of being able to do. And I think
Back in 2010 you were twenty-one and had met Struts guitarist Adam Slack, both of you having been in bands since your teens. What were you like back then? I was definitely hungry. Very naïve, bit of a reckless idiot at times. 64 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
Spiller giving it his all on stage with The Struts.
creatively as well it's broadened our horizons. I mean, I earn a little bit more money now, which I’m consciously spending on upgrading my tickets when we fly. I enjoy that. Any more than a sevenor eight-hour flight, I’ll do Business. Going and playing in the US for the first time must have been exciting. It’s hard to describe what four guys in their midtwenties will do with a tour bus and good shows. Like the back lounge, you’d be riding along and you’d hear this ‘sshsshsshssh…’ – every single drawer was just filled with those empty nos [laughing gas] canisters you get. It was like a giant fucking maraca going off on the bus every night. And some of the guys were newly single, so there was a lot of mischief to be had. American girls… I don’t know what it is. Were you with Laura Cartier Millon (his model girlfriend) at this point? I was, yes. But I witnessed a lot. I’m no longer with her, so I’ve been kind of… making up for lost time [laughs]. The band work and tour constantly. The last time we spoke, you said: “If our label asked us to jump off a bridge, we would seriously consider it.” As long as [the label] keep writing cheques, we’ll jump off buildings. I mean, we need them to be the vehicle for our dreams. And to be honest, for the most part they’ve given us nothing but love and freedom to go out there and push ourselves and do what we want. Obviously you take into consideration our work as well, and our effort that we put in on stage every night is obviously going to play dividends. But I’m proud to be on Interscope. I think we’ve got so much more to go. I hope and pray that they keep us until we can really bring in something. Thinking about other bands for a minute, as a serious Queen fan yourself what do you think of the Queen + Adam Lambert partnership? For me it’s… I don’t want this to sound insulting, but I think they present a lot of the music now in a sort of Disney aspect. Adam Lambert has a fucking fantastic voice, his pronounciation is en pointe, it’s borderline musical theatre, and he’s hitting every single note – notes, for example, which Freddie would never have hit. I think they’re preserving that legacy in a superdigestible way, which I think is what they want. And that’s great. What advice would you give your twenty-one-yearold self? You’ve got to be in it for the long haul, and I would say be patient. The most important things are the music and your live performance… [pauses] and speak your mind more. I think I was pushed around a bit more in the early days. How are you spending Christmas? With my mum and dad in Devon. I’ll be travelling to Heathrow on Boxing Day and flying out to the East Coast, where we’re doing a couple of soldout shows in Philadelphia, and then finishing off with another fantastic show for New Year’s Eve in Nashville.
NO WIZARD OF OZ BEHIND THE CURTAIN WITH ME” Glenn Hughes, the Voice Of Rock, on living in the moment, beating his demons, the challenges of a vegan Christmas, and how he’ll be “going global” in 2020. Interview: Henry Yates Portrait: Joby Sessions
sk Glenn Hughes if he’s clinically hyperactive, and the veteran foghorn gives a chuckle of admission. In the past 12 months alone, the 68-year-old has put in another shift that would give lesser road warriors cold sweats, with his Classic Deep Purple Live itinerary taking him deep into Europe and across the States. The tour ties a bow on a triumphant – and occasionally tumultuous – decade in which Hughes has chalked California Breed, Black Country Communion and more on to his chaotic résumé. How has 2019 been for you? I’ve never been so busy. I’ve had another long year with the Classic Deep Purple Live shows, performed by yours truly. Come Taste The Band, Stormbringer, Burn – those are three magical pieces of music. If you go on to YouTube, you can check any era you like, and I’ve never ‘phoned in’ these songs. But lately I think I’ve honoured the legacy more than ever.
and still, for me, the best new rock band in the last ten years. Years ago, I was hosting a party in Hollywood, and these two fellas come up to me, and it was Scott [Holiday] and Jay [Buchanan] with their Pressure & Time CD. I didn’t know who they were, but I didn’t even have to hear the music before I played it on my radio show. I just looked at their faces and I’m thinking: “These dudes look serious.” So I put it on, and I went: “Wfft. I was right!” What are the best and worst things about living in this moment in time? Well, I live in a country where I don’t think the president is the right guy, but… It’s a dark time on our planet right now. And I choose to be happy. I bring something into that room that needs to be brought. That’s the love factor. People can talk about me all they want, but if you know me and
Did Black Country go as you expected? When I started working with Joe, he said to me, very calmly: “My career is built around my solo career.” So we all knew going in that we had to keep ourselves busy while Joe was doing his wonderful solo work. I just think – as a lot of people think – that if Black Country Communion had been a band that was always working for at least six months of the year, it would have been different. But it was never meant to be that way. All I can say is that there’s only love in that camp. We are dear and best friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What are your hopes and fears for 2020? I have zero fear of 2020. I’ve joined forces with the Dead Daisies, and we’re going to the South of France in the next few weeks to start the album. We’ve already done a couple of songs. So I’m going to put that at the top of the list next year. I think we’re on to something special. The new music is something special to hear, and what we have planned is the next level. We’re gonna be going global, literally. This band is pulling out all the stops. It’s another opportunity for me to shed another layer of skin, show people who I am, again. Because every year, I become this other Glenn.
“Before I started speaking to you, I was a different Glenn. I believe I’m growing every hour, becoming somebody else.”
You still seem happiest when you’re on stage. I love to make records. I write literally five days a week. But if you’ve seen me sing live, that’s who I am. I was born to sing. What you see with Glenn Hughes live is very honest. There’s no Wizard Of Oz behind the curtain with me. I have no fear up there. When I come off the stage, I’m liable to trip on the first step. But when I’m up there on the deck, it’s where I’m supposed to be. Myself and my manager thought this summer was the best series of Glenn shows I’ve done in decades. Something happened to me this year, and it’s all ‘inner’ stuff, not ‘outer’. I wasn’t thinking about the past or future. If people were there at those shows, they saw someone who was in the moment. Which is your rock album of the year? My friends Rival Sons have always delivered, and I think the last one [Feral Roots] is a magnificent piece of music. They’re neighbours of mine, 68 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
you’ve met me, all I care about is bringing love into every venue I go to. You won’t see any loud, Jack Daniel’s-drinking, swearing dude up there. That’s not who I am, never was. Before I started speaking to you, I was a different Glenn. I believe I’m growing every hour, becoming somebody else. Most people will remember this last decade of your career for Black Country Communion. Are you proud of that band? Joe [Bonamassa] and I put Black Country together overnight, and it was a beautiful experience. What I’d like people to do for me, before the end of the year, if they wouldn’t mind, is play each song in order from those four Black Country records. Because when you play all those songs back-to-back, it’s all right there in front of you. It’s a beautiful thing.
Honestly, were there times when you thought you wouldn’t make it to 2019? When I got sober, all those years ago, I changed my life completely. And the last few decades, I’ve been crazily honouring my health. I’ve taken some time this decade to take care of myself. I’ve got everything I need, if I just live in the present. Getting older, what you have to realise is that, look, we’re all gonna die. Life is too short, so live each day. What’s Christmas like at Glenn Hughes’s house? My wife and I are vegan. It’s difficult. But there’s a lot of great faux-meats here in LA now.
“LIFE’S FULL OF
CURVES AND SWERVES”
After early days as a signwriter, Ronnie Wood joined the Jeff Beck Group, the Faces and the Stones. More recently he's beaten cancer, recorded a Chuck Berry tribute and fathered twins.
Interview: Ian Fortnam
onest Ron – Rolling Stone, ace Face, patron saint of smokers, artist, broadcaster, Jack the lad, all-round diamond geezer – bounces into the Presidential Suite of the hotel like a bright-eyed endless party in skintight black strides. Ebony thatch tilted skyward, open black shirt over Chuck Berry T-shirt, bright red sweater draped over his shoulders, Ronnie Wood, addiction-free, cancer-free, is as close to the living, breathing embodiment of rock’n’roll as one might expect. He did it all so you wouldn’t have to. What’s the strongest memory you have of your childhood? Up in my bedroom with my Dansette player, learning Chuck Berry licks.
decision to choose between art and music, but I get the impression you never did. I tried to make my money as an artist when I was young, tried to get into scenic design at the film studios, but it was a closed shop, you had to be a member of a union. There was a lot of red tape to get through for commercial art jobs. And the interviews? I don’t know how anybody ended up getting a job in the graphic field I was trying for. That’s why I took the signwriting route, a looser way in but still some form of draughtsmanship. I’d develop my freestyle of painting, while getting my letter shapes dead right. But the struggle I had
There’s been a lot of speculation since that had the Beck Group played Woodstock (which they turned down), been in the film and reached a wider audience, they wouldn’t have left the vacuum later filled by Led Zeppelin, and would have gone on to attain the enormity latterly enjoyed by Zeppelin. But could you have stood being the bass player in the Jeff Beck Group for the rest of eternity? Would we have been more famous if we’d played Woodstock? We’d have certainly carved our notch in history for being part of Woodstock, but I think as fate had it, it was what was
You’re often asked if it was a difficult
Obviously the Jeff Beck Group were a fearsome unit, but you were on bass. Although it was Jeff who ultimately split the band, were you getting a bit itchy to move on yourself by then? Yeah, because The Birds, The Creation and the Jeff Beck Group were my stepping stones towards the Stones, and then the Small Faces split up right before my eyes, which wasn’t long after the split-up of the Beck Group. [JBG drummer] Tony Newman put the cat among the pigeons, saying: “Unless we get more money we’re going on strike.” Suddenly Jeff’s not there. We weren’t really surprised. We were used to him not turning up for the odd show. But when he went back to England, we thought: “Oh.”
“The Stones never make an album overnight, but we’re just fitting studio visits in and it’s shaping up nicely.”
Where did you get your first guitar? During my colourful childhood my brothers, Art and Ted, got me my first guitar. It was lent from a guy called Davey with art was eclipsed by my musical freedom Hayes. But when he got called up for the army he within my garage band, rehearsing in the garage said: “I’ve got to take my guitar with me.” So I only with my mates. We’d get a fiver a gig, and before had a guitar for a few months before it was taken you know it I could make five quid a week and away. I was only about seven, and it was really give my mum two-pound-ten, which was heart-rending to have to do without a guitar. So unbelievable. I was the main breadwinner in my my brothers saved up the deposit and got me one family in my teens. on hire-purchase. That was the first one I owned, which I swapped-up for The Jeff Beck Group, ’67: (l-r) my Rogers guitar when I was doing Aynsley Dunbar, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood. my signwriting job. You seem to have always put yourself in the way of opportunity, and never just stood back and waited for good luck to happen. Were you always naturally confident? Yeah, I suppose I was, in a very humble way. I’d always go in through the back door, always make sure I was in the right place at the right time, I’d feel the situation.
You immediately recognised the Stones as being your people. When I first saw them I said: “I’m going to be in that band.” I never doubted it, and that was it. I reckon if you have a big enough belief in something, it’ll happen. It was the same with my art. People would say you’ve got to be up to such a high standard, you’ll never make it. I was like: “Yes I can. I can be an impressionist, a draughtsman, I can be whatever I want.”
GARETH CATTERMOLE / GETTY / CONTOUR
CANNIBALISM, DEATH, RUBBER FETISHES...
These are just some of the topics covered on Lindemann’s compelling new record. But from the men who are the main brains behind Rammstein and Hypocrisy, you shouldn't be surprised.
Words: Dannii Leivers
n December 4, 2018, Rammstein’s Till Lindemann strode into a Moscow book signing accompanied by a gimp on a leash. As he sat down to sign copies of his poetry collection, Messer, his companion knelt dutifully on the floor beside him. It takes him a little while to recall the incident when we bring it up. “Ah, the bondage woman!” he finally remembers. “Book signings are so boring. It takes forever, standing in the cold and rain… so we brought something to entertain the people.” Bringing a gimp to a bookshop is actually one of the meeker stunts Lindemann has pulled over the years. As a trained pyrotechnician, his flame-throwing antics with German metal behemoths Rammstein have made him one of rock’s most controversial characters. So on deciding that Russia was a long way to go just to sign some books, he used it as an opportunity to take Lindemann – Till and his bandmate, multiinstrumentalist, producer and Hypocrisy and Pain frontman Peter Tägtgren – an equally provocative, pumping amalgamation of Eurosynth and industrial crunch, on the road for the first time. “It was a new start, an experiment,” he tells us today. “We needed to find out if it worked, if we had the right chemistry on stage. It was very crazy, small clubs, small venues.” Today Lindemann are back in Russia, shooting videos and conducting press for their second album, F&M. We meet them in St Petersburg, in the glass-walled roof restaurant of the plush Kempinski Hotel. Just one block away, the brightly coloured onion domes of the Church Of The Savior On Spilled Blood rise into the air. It’s the perfect place for an interview with two of rock’s most unique characters. As we drink it all in, the duo, tucking into plates of fruit and cold cuts, recall how they met at the MTV Awards ceremony in Stockholm almost 20 years ago. “You were still fresh in the game. [Rammstein] only had the second album out,” Peter remembers. “You opened Pandora’s Box. You were like: ‘Do you have any schnapps in Sweden?’ Because Germans always have apple Schnapps…”
“For digestion,” Till says seriously, nodding. “I’m like: ‘No, vodka maybe?’” Peter continues. “And he’s like: ‘No, it’s too much. Let’s do a couple of Jägermeister.’ It took a few hours, and then the war was on.” “We puked, and then the same night we decided: let’s do music together,” Till says with a chuckle.
two halves. In 2016 the duo were approached by the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, who asked them to score the soundtrack for their modern adaption of Hansel And Gretel. The five tracks they wrote and recorded for the production (Blut, Knebel, Allesfresser, Schlaf Ein and Wer weiß Das Schon) add much needed depth to F&M, touching on cannibalism, death and child abandonment – all topics Till has explored ue to Till’s Rammstein commitments and with Rammstein. Peter’s numerous band and production “My whole history inspires me, good and bad committments, it took them 15 years to times,” he explains. “I take a lot from television, record their first track together. Once they started actually – from news, of course. Take cannibalism recording, though, the project snowballed, leading [talking about Rammstein track Mein Teil]. People to smutty debut Skills In Pills in 2015. While Peter were like: ‘You crazy motherfucker.’ This is not handled the music, Till’s perverse, ludicrous a story, it happened! There was a case in Germany – tendencies ran amok on tracks with titles like Fat, somebody ate the dick from another guy! You don’t Ladyboy and Praise Abort. New album F&M is no less have to be sick and crazy in your mind all the time.” outrageous, with multiple songs about oral sex, as As fun as it was, at times the sheer silliness of well as Gummi, a track about a rubber fetish. Have Skills In Pills made Lindemann seem like a novel they received any complaints? concept, rather than something to properly plug “Of course,” Till shrugs. “The Christian groups, the gaps between Till and Peter’s day jobs. “You set a standard with the first album, and then people think: ‘Oh, this is how the rest of the career is going to be,’” Peter, says clearly aware of the questions surrounding Lindemann’s longevity. “We want Peter Tägtgren to prove to ourselves that we can write different kinds of music. It’s they come of course. But kids these days, they’ve important for us to develop.” seen everything.” Accordingly, F&M feels like a more serious Dressed all in black and towering over his artistic endeavour, a far more varied record than its bandmate, Till has an imposing presence. Yet as predecessor – which, bar two ballads, was about he repeatedly, perhaps nervously, removes and as musically subtle as Rammstein’s penis-shaped replaces his dark sunglasses, he’s a contemplative canon. Ach So Gern is a folky waltz, Peter describes and quiet interviewee. And while Till procrastinates Platz Einz as “Pet Shop Boys on amphetamine”, over our questions, Peter fills in conversational gaps while Mathematik – written by his son Sebastian, with quick, sharp answers. Despite their differences, Lindemann’s drummer – features German though, the pair have an easy rapport that comes rapper Haftbefehl. Tapping into the unpredictable from decades of close friendship. personalities of its creators, it feels like Lindemann Peter, what was your reaction when Till brought have progressed beyond tongue-in-cheek laughs to you a track like Gummi? something deeper and darker. “Normal life at work,” he replies, unfazed. “I think a lot of people might have a hard time Till starts laughing. “In the beginning, the first accepting it because it doesn’t go the way you think song [we recorded] was Ladyboy, and he was: ‘Are it’s going when you listen to it the first time,” Peter you serious? Are you for real?’ He gave up on me says firmly. “But we don’t write for anybody. We a long time ago.” write for ourselves.” While six of F&M’s 11 tracks are right out of F&M is out now via Universal. Till’s mental gutter, it is undoubtedly an album of
“We want to prove to ourselves that we can write different kinds of music. It’s important for us to develop.”
Peter TÃ¤gtgren (left) and Till Lindemann: no songs about cars and girls.
‘The audie nce nearly soil themse lves with excite ment.’
The horse-drawn funeral cortege heads towards the Palladium.
Dave Vanian: yes, he sings as well! 106 CLASSICROCKMAGAZINE.COM
Dead ringer: Vanian in his coffin.
The Damned London Palladium
Britain’s first punks pull out all the stops, dive into the dressing-up box, slap on the slap and deliver a truly spectacular show. Oh, and they play some great and classic songs too. There’s a horse-drawn funeral cortege slowly processing along Argyll Street towards the London Palladium. It’s being followed by a veritable horde of vampires. Hundreds of them. There are top hats as far as the eye can see, a significant acreage of capes, phalanxes of fangs and more tourniquet-tight corsetry than even Soho is accustomed to. Baffled tourists gape at the unexpected prevalence of freshly drained Victorian virgins and make-up-caked walking dead. “Is London always like this?” “And who’s in the casket?” There’s a floral tribute; white wreaths fashioned into nine letters that provide a solution: THE DAMNED. “Well,” observes Dave Vanian, driving force behind the audaciously ambitious Night Of A Thousand Vampires, of which this mock ceremony is only the initial instalment, “they’ve been trying to bury us for years.” While The Damned have had more than their fair share of detractors since their formation in the white-hot crucible of 1976’s UK punk rock explosion (forever fending off accusations of being a mere pantomime approximation of the genre from those with neither sense of humour nor perspective), the veteran combo’s star is very much in the ascendent. Again. You probably don’t need a recapitulation of how we all got here, but life’s a bitch, so here goes. The Damned were the first punks to vinyl, with the timeless seven-inch New Rose. Their debut album followed in short order, and they played their first farewell gig in April ‘78. They returned the following year without main songwriting guitarist Brian James. Captain Sensible switched from four strings to six, Smash It Up followed Love Song, and the rest is history (including a Sensiblefree mid-80s when they enjoyed their second batch of Gothdefining hits, most prominently Eloise). Anyway, while the world at large dropped an E, put on an anorak and looked the other way, 30 more years passed until, even with the good Captain firmly re-established under the red beret of destiny, The Damned looked to be ‘Sensible’s-A-Wanker’-ing their way towards the end-of-thepier legacy punk circuit. “We were spiralling down,” Vanian admits, “and I wanted to make one last really good Damned album.” And, having crowdfunded through PledgeMusic, that’s exactly what they did. 2018’s Evil Spirits, recorded with Bowie/Bolan producer Tony Visconti in New York City, gave the band their first UK Top 10 album. It took them to the Royal Albert Hall, Madison Square Garden and, oh yes, the London Palladium. But it’s not the first time that Vanian and Sensible have been to this venerable venue of variety. They’ve both attended shows here as punters. In the 60s, Dave was treated by his parents to a performance of The Black And White Minstrel Show. And Captain? “In 1974 I went to see The-Glam-Rock-Star-WhoseName-We-Dare-Not-Mention.” Moving swiftly on… Organising The Night Of A Thousand Vampires (so named after it was decided to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most confirmed vampires – or at least people dressed as vampires – extant in a single location) turned out to be a mammoth task, and much of the responsibility fell on Vanian: “Obviously, Halloween is my favourite holiday, so I wanted to do more than just a normal gig; a more
theatrical show. Originally the idea was much more expansive, it was going to contain elements of theatre.” The Night Of A Thousand Vampires doesn’t give any impression of being a compromise. Vanian “wearing quite a lot of different hats” has worked closely with both The Circus Of Horrors and Hammer House Of Horror to deliver the most immersive experience possible. The CoH provide an apposite warm-up slot with a supporting extravaganza which is, just as Vanian describes: “An old-fashioned, un-PC dangerous circus”. Swords are swallowed, ‘freaks’ caper, burlesque and circus skills collide in a flaming orgy of murderous camp and pierced everything. Later the CoH’s performers interact with The Damned in a succession of set-pieces during the band’s extensive two-part performance. Hammer allowed Vanian unlimited access to beautiful film stills from Christopher Lee’s Dracula and beyond, which (when backprojected behind the band) add a touch of old-school cinematic class to proceedings. There’s also a string section, additional musicians, actors, an unfamiliar set-list, ornate stage set, costumes, hair, make-up and miscellaneous special effects to contend with. It’s no surprise, then, that the hectic sound-check (which marks the string section’s first full rehearsal with the band) goes on for so long that Vanian ultimately misses his own funeral. As the doors open and the ghouls begin to mass around the Palladium’s bars, the band – completed by Black Album veteran Paul Gray (bass), Monty Oxymoron (keyboards) and drummer Andrew ‘Pinch’ Pinching – disappear into dressing rooms, to be transformed into cosmetically created creatures of the night. This is far from just another night on the road. Especially for Pinch, who announced it was to be his last performance with the band, after two full decades in the stool, just a couple of days ago. “Twenty years he’s had to put up with us,” considers Captain, still reeling from Pinching’s shock announcement. “He’s a little bit younger, so he’s probably not ready to be part of me and Dave’s gentleman’s club of the road. I mean, we used to complain if the booze wasn’t right, now we complain if the tea bags aren’t the right brand.” And they’re not just losing a drummer. “He does so much,” says Sensible. “Not just stick-twiddling. He’s in charge of lots of aspects of the live show.” During the chaotic sound-check, Pinch (perched high above the Palladium stage atop a makeshift tomb which one imagines was probably mapped out on a napkin à la Tap) doubles as ever-so-slightly tetchy musical director, pointing out that classically trained string sections need actual written cues rather than a distracted “after the next bit”. And that somebody (mentioning no names) is playing climactic show closer Black Is The Night in a completely alien key. Oh yes, he’ll be missed. After seats are taken and expensively secured views of the stage blocked by ornate hats and hairdos, the Circus Of Horrors take to the stage for half an hour. Thirty eye-boggling minutes during which one discovers there can be a lot more to hoop-spinning than Grace Jones would have you believe, and that limbo-dancing is apparently still a thing. As topper-ed Monty ramps up the atmosphere with solo piano piece Beauty Of The Beast, The ed Damn Using his head: veteran Paul Gray.
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