Category Archives: Music culture & history

Book news! Coming soon: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published 29th July 2021

Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam icons The Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. I’m therefore very pleased to be announcing the publication of my first book due out this summer: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’.

It’s published by the excellent Sonicbond Publishing who’ve been running the On Track series, where they look at a band’s entire recorded output track by track, and more recently the Decades series, where they look at a band’s history and development through a key decade. I’d already reviewed a couple of Sonicbond publications (on Fairport Convention and Hawkwind) when I had a dream that I’d just written my own book about The Sweet. With the dream still fresh in my head the following morning I thought it might actually be an idea to see if this could perhaps be turned into reality.

I emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond that morning with the synopsis that was formulated in the dream still in my head to see if they were interested. Happily, he came back and said that they were and a contract soon followed. It became my lockdown project starting last summer and after several months of feverish writing, researching and listening I completed it at the end of February.

Amazon are already taking pre-orders here

From the Amazon synopsis you hopefully get a taste of what’s in store:

The Sweet’s look, sound and attitude became an instantly recognisable hallmark of the early 1970s glam rock era. But the band did not start the 1970s as a glam band and certainly didn’t finish as one. This book charts the band’s journey through the decade that made them a household name, from their initial rise as purveyors of manufactured, bubblegum pop to their metamorphosis into harder-edged glam rock icons. The Sweet in the 1970s takes a look at both their successes and their struggles in their quest to be recognised as a more serious rock act in the latter part of the decade, once the sparkle of glam and glitter had begun to pale. The decade saw them score fifteen UK Top 40 singles, release seven studio albums and tour several continents. Unlike many bands of the era personnel changes were few. The Sweet begin the 1970s with the arrival of new guitarist, Andy Scott, and end the decade with the departure of frontman, Brian Connolly, and an ultimately ill-fated attempt to continue as a three-piece. This book is an unashamed celebration of the music of the Sweet and charts the lasting impact they had on many of the bands than followed them.

And of the author, Amazon has this to say:

After acquiring a second-hand copy of Sweet’s Give Us A Wink album from Action Records in Preston as a teenager in the early 1980s, Darren Johnson has been a dedicated fan of the band ever since. A former politician, he has written for a number of UK national newspapers but after stepping away from politics, he has been able to devote more time to his first love: music. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex, UK

Other outlets:

Alternatively, the book (and all others in the series) will be available from ‘all good bookshops’ and via Sonicbond’s own online shop at Burning Shed here

‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published by Sonicbond 29th July 2021

From sea shanties to glam rock: five music acts who have had a good lockdown

1. The Longest Johns

I’ve been following Bristol-based acapella group The Longest Johns since they sent me their first album to review back in 2016. Following the tiktok sea shanty viral sensation that is ‘Wellerman’, however, they now find themselves in the Top 40 – with a lovely rather dumbstruck announcement on their Facebook page giving their reaction as follows: “BY POSEIDONS BEARD! It’s only gone top 40! We did it everybody, thank-you to all our families, the mod’s and the fantastic discord community, Thank-you to Anna for singing it with us and thank-you to EVERYONE who bought Wellerman and got a (Can’t believe i’m typing this) SEA SHANTY IN THE CHARTS. Ohhhh!!”

Read album review here

2. Slade

2020 was looking like a terrible year for glam veterans, Slade. Guitarist Dave Hill sacked drummer Don Powell from the continuing (ie: post- Jim and Noddy) version of the band. Bass-player Jim Lea had his prized guitar stolen and Noddy Holder exchanged a few sharp words about his former song-writing partner Jim in press interviews. All that was put to one side, however, as all four original members expressed their joy at their greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz going straight in at No. 8 in the UK album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974!

Read more here

3. AC/DC

Only a few short years ago the wheels well and truly seemed to be finally coming off the AC/DC machine. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had tragically passed away, drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to home detention after an unedifying case involving drugs and threatening behaviour, vocalist Brian Johnson ended up being replaced by Axl Rose following major hearing problems and bass-player Cliff Williams saw the writing on the wall and decided he, too, had had enough. However, with Stevie Young replacing his late uncle, Malcolm, the classic post-Bon Scott AC/DC line-up (or as near as humanly possible to it anyway) was resurrected and a brand new album Power Up ended up reaching No. 1 in twenty-one countries.

Read album review here

4. John Rossall – ex Glitter Band

Glitter Band founder member, John Rossall, released a wonderfully menacing twenty-first century reboot of classic 70s glam rock with his The Last Glam In Town album. Released back in October last year, it picked up favourable reviews everywhere. All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre.  “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost!” he told me when I interviewed him late last year. “It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”

Read full interview here

5. Tim Burgess of the Charlatans

While there has been no big Charlatans comeback (their most recent album was back in 2017), Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic. The idea was a simple one: an album and a time would be chosen and fans would converge on social media to exchange their memories, reactions and appreciation of said album. Soon there was a queue of artists eager to get involved and, for me, one of the highlights was when they featured the album by Heavy Load, a band which was composed of people with and without learning disabilities, of which my current boss was the former bass-player. You can find out more about Heavy Load, the award-winning film of the same name that was made about them and the charity that they inspired here.

Tim Burgess // Piknik i Parken // The Charlatans // 2019-06-13 18:19:07 // Grünerløkka, Oslo, Photo credit: Tore Sætre / Wikimedia

Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water: so who actually was the “stupid with a flare gun”?

As most rock fans know, Deep Purple’s most famous song ‘Smoke On The Water’ was based on an actual real life event. In December 1971 the band were planning to record their forthcoming album Machine Head at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. Used for live concerts throughout the year, Frank Zappa’s performance on 4th December was to be the last of the season, after which Deep Purple would be able to have the run of the place to themselves and the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio would be parked up outside to capture everything on tape.

Unfortunately, as we all know, it didn’t quite work out that way. As the song goes:

Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

But who was the “Stupid with a flare gun” who burned the place to the ground?

Step forward one Zdenek Spicka, a Czechoslovakian national living in Switzerland at the time. According to a local newspaper article published later that month Spicka is alleged to have fired some capsules and then a small flare into the ceiling of the venue that started the fire and cause the entire place to have burnt down. Spicka fled the scene immediately afterwards and although a police ‘Wanted’ operation was mounted he was never located.

The above cutting was tracked down and posted to a Spanish Deep Purple blog back in 2009.

It was subsequently translated into English by another Deep Purple fan as follows:

“Here is the release concerning the Montreux Casino fire. As previously already stated in the press, a fire completely ravaged the Montreux Casino on Saturday, 4 December, 1971, at the end of the afternoon where a pop concert had attracted some 2000 listeners. By exceptional luck, this accident did not claim a victim. On the other hand, the damage in numbers was between 12 and 15 million francs. The investigation performed by the police can identify the perpetrator of the act that caused this catastrophe. It was one Spicka Zdenek, born 4 November 1949, Czech refugee, previously of Epalinages, currently on the run (see photo). He was placed under arrest by the [local judge] in Vevey.

The matter is that Spicka fired a flare gun in the [concert] hall, first some [capsules] and then a small flare that lodged into the ceiling which set it on fire. The cause of the accident is therefore clearly established. Although his details had been widely circulated in police bulletins, no trace of Spicka has been found in Switzerland. It has been suggested that he shaved off his beard and mustache. Anyone who can give information regarding Spicka should contact the police…

It is practically certain today that Zdenek Spicka, who had elected to live in a small commune established in a villa located near Epalignes, took flight the same night of the fire. According to his Czech compatriots, he left as soon as possible because he was afraid of being lynched by the crowd–understandably afraid of the consequences of his actions–even if he had not had the intention of starting the fire. Intentional fire can bring 20 years confinement with a minimum of three years, whereas fire due to negligence can bring a maximum of three years.

Regarding the pistol, it is a firearm that one can obtain without authorization in large stores, for example. It was an Italian-made device which could be adapted to flares used to signal distress.

What happened next…

Such an incredibly dangerous, foolhardy and unbelievably selfish thing to do at a packed gig, it was a miracle that no-one was killed.

However, the incident did, at least, leave the world with an unforgettable song and an immortal riff.

Sources:

Discussion Thread: “Did they ever identify the “Stupid with a Flare Gun” who started the fire in the Montreux Casino, and inspired “Smoke on the Water,” a song which has probably made enough to rebuild the casino twenty times over?” on Quora

Newspaper article: Deep Purple – Curiosidad “The Stupid” of Smoke on The Water

Translation: It died with an awful sound on the Deep Purple blog The Highway Star

Related Posts:

Book review: ‘Chasing Shadows – The Search for Rod Evans’ by Adrian Jarvis

Glenn Hughes, Bexhill 2019

Glenn Hughes, London 2015

Deep Purple, London 2015

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Birmingham 2017

Whitesnake – The Purple Album

July Morning – a fifty-year-old British rock song and an annual celebration of life and summer in Bulgaria

July Morning is a 1971 song by English hard rock band Uriah Heep. Written by the band’s keyboard player, Ken Hensley, and vocalist David Byron with its distinctive organ sounds it has remained a significant highlight of the band’s live set. In most places the song is taken at face value for what it is – a classic slice of early 70s hard rock with lyrics celebrating the beauty of an early morning sunrise. In Bulgaria, however, the song has taken on a significance all of its own.

Every year on 1st July thousands flock to the Black Sea coast before dawn for their own ‘July Morning’ celebrations built around that 1971 song by Uriah Heep.

in 2012 some 12,000 people were said to have greeted the sunrise at Kamen Bryag where July Morning was performed live by former Uriah Heep singer John Lawton and his band.

Here is a July Morning celebration from 2015.

It is said that the song grew in popularity during the 1980s and became a feature of impromptu summer gatherings of young rock fans. Although formal protests were banned under the Communist regime, the gatherings and by extension the song, were seen as a subtle way of expressing one’s defiance towards the authoritarian regime and celebrating life and freedom.

Bulgarian communism may have collapsed in 1989 but there is no sign of a collapse in the popularity of the song – or indeed of the dawn gatherings which have remained an important part of the summer calendar each year.

Now the song has never enjoyed anything like this degree of significance in the country where it was actually created. It’s loved as a great rock song in Britain but that’s as far as it goes.

How appropriate, however, if this July 1st Uriah Heep where to actually play the song at a dawn gathering here Britain – celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the song and paying tribute to the life of of one of its creators, Ken Hensley, who sadly died last November.

Uriah Heep – let’s do it – we can even have the gig socially-distanced if need be!

Ken Hensley 1945-2020

Ken Hensley image by Paul Hasselblatt

Related posts:

Uriah Heep’s 50th anniversary – interview with Mick Box

Uriah Heep, London 2014

Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Uriah Heep, Bexhill 2019

Mick Bolton: 1948-2021

Some sad news to start off 2021 was waking up on New Year’s Day and finding out, via social media, that Mick Bolton, the talented pianist who played with Mott The Hoople in the 70s and Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the 80s, has passed away.

Following the departure of Verden Allen and his eventual replacement by Morgan Fisher, Mick ended up touring with Mott The Hoople throughout the second half of 1973 and can be heard on the much-celebrated ‘Mott The Hoople Live’ album.

Reflecting on his introduction to the world of Mott, Mick wrote on his website:

“In May 1973 I auditioned for Mott The Hoople as piano player. They had a huge hit in 1972 with David Bowie’s song All The Young Dudes and, following the release of their 1973 album Mott and the departure of organist Verden Allen, they were about to take on a piano-player and a Hammond organist to promote their new album. I didn’t get the piano job – it quite rightly went to Morgan Fisher. But a couple of days later Stan Tippins the band’s manager phoned to ask if I could play Hammond organ. When I answered yes I was told I had got the job.”

“The US and UK tours were virtual sell outs and we played some memorable concerts with some great support acts.”

Former Mott The Hoople colleague, Morgan Fisher, paid tribute on social media, writing:

“RIP Mick Bolton. My organ buddy in Mott the Hoople, 1973. One of the sweetest of men, and a fine musician.”

I met Mick at several Mott The Hoople related events over the years, where he was always happy to discuss his time with Mott and his fond memories of touring with the band.

However, when I moved to Hastings in 2016, where Mick and his wife also lived, I would see quite a bit more of him. He was a much in-demand performer on the local music scene around Hastings and Rye. Indeed, the first ever gig I attended as a Hastings resident, as opposed to occasional seaside visitor, was seeing Mick perform at a local bar. You can read my write-up here.

I’d often see Mick and his wife Carol out and about, walking along the seafront in St Leonards or enjoying gigs from a plethora of visiting bands at the De La Warr and other local venues, spanning everything from classic rock to folk.

A talented pianist and a warm-hearted man his passing is a real loss to music and to the local community here in Hastings.

https://www.mickboltonmusic.co.uk/

Further reading:

Mick Bolton and Simon Shaw at Gecko, St. Leonards 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention, Hereford 2016

Mott The Hoople at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2019

News: Grand Elektra, Hastings on Music Venue Trust’s critical list of 30 UK venues facing imminent closure

Throughout the Covid crisis the Music Venue Trust has worked to help secure the future of hundreds of grassroots music venues that have been hit by the catastrophic economic impact of the pandemic. The campaign is now focusing efforts on those venues under most imminent threat of permanent closure, ones where all other avenues of available funding from government schemes have been exhausted. Grand Elektra of Robertson Street, Hastings is one of thirty such venues on the #SaveOurVenues Red List of grassroots music venues most at risk of closure, nationally.

A number of major acts, including Ash, Muse, Kasabian and The Kooks as well as jazz icon Gil-Scott Heron, have all played there. Previously known as ‘The Crypt’, the 450 capacity venue was brought back from closure and fully refurbished back in 2015 and rebranded as the Grand Elektra. With the support of the Music Venue Trust a crowdfunding appeal has now been launched to save it.

Venue operator, Paul Mandry, told me:

“Grand Elektra fund raising via crowdfunding is so important to grassroot music venues, especially ones like us that didn’t successfully get the governments arts recovery fund, due to not ever filling out these forms before. As an independent I’ve never assumed we were viable and on top of the first lockdown, not getting certain information from accountants left us non eligible. Since that deadline we’ve had no signs that we could reapply which is a double blow because now we would be eligible as we know how to make a better case and have all the details from accountants ready to resubmit.

Not having the support from the arts council left us not being able to cover fixed bills like rent and lease hire which are mounting up daily, putting the venue in to the critical zone with #saveourvenues. The Crowdfunder is to cover these costs until March 2021 so we can stay open and entertain the town community like we want to do, without crippling debt, which could push us off the cliff edge we are on.”

Paul is full of praise for the role the Music Venue Trust have played throughout this crisis:

“Without the support of MVT this dreadful situation could have been a lot darker and harder to circumnavigate through to this point. We are not alone Beverley, Mark and Gang at MVT should be knighted for what they’ve accomplished throughout this global crisis. So many of us are forever grateful for their relentless energy to support and help save as much as they can of this decimated sector. I personally can’t thank them all enough.”

Donate to the crowdfunder here.

Music Venue Trust is a UK Registered Charity which acts to protect, secure and improve UK grassroots Music Venues for the benefit of venues, communities and upcoming artists. Read more here.

“We were never about making the same album twice” – Led Zeppelin III: 50th anniversary interviews

October 2020 marks fifty years since the release of the Led Zeppelin III album. Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Stewart Taylor recently devoted one of his ‘Classic Albums’ shows to celebrating the album’s anniversary. The show included exclusive interviews with all three surviving members of the band. GMRR have kindly shared those recollections from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for this piece.

Led Zeppelin III showed a marked progression in style from the previous two albums where the hard rock and blues influences were accompanied by folk influences and acoustic-based tunes. To begin preparing for the band’s third album Page and Plant had decamped to the isolated Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales:

Jimmy Page: “The creative process for Led Zeppelin III changed because the first album had been – I wouldn’t say in a hurry because it was done efficiently and from the period before that we had already started doing a few dates in Scandinavia – and we didn’t stop! We didn’t stop working, all the way through 1969. And we’d managed to do the second album and we were also doing dates and tours in America. And we got our first – what you would call a break. And it was nice because it was fabulous all the energy of being on the road. But it was nice to breathe a sigh of relief and take in the general scent of the countryside… There was still writing going on but it wasn’t the frantic pace of having to do a show that night. The cottage in Wales was one of Robert’s ideas… It was good because it was acoustic guitars and whatever. There was literally no electricity. It was log fire, gas lights and little tape recorders. So the electricity that was in that place was the electricity we were producing with the music if you like.”

Robert Plant: “It had been a real fast quite a rollercoaster to get to that point. From what I remember we really needed to take stock and we were very aware or wished to make a departure of some kind and to calm it all down a bit….We wanted to try and break off, break away and we had an affinity he and I. And even if it wasn’t absolutely the most fruitful moment of the time, it at least allowed us the space to have space. And that meant that when we went on to write further on down the line we had developed the ability to create more space in the music.”

The pair were then later joined by John Bonham and John Paul Jones at another location, Headley Grange:

John Paul Jones: “I suppose it was the first time we’d ever we just sat down together and just tried things, you know, tried lots of different things. We had acoustic instruments as well hanging around. And it was just really nice to sit around a stretch out a little bit I suppose and just experiment. The band was never about making the same album twice.”

On the decision to plant themselves firmly in the ‘albums band’ camp:

Jimmy Page: “It was really apparent what was going on in America. There’d been a number of FM stations that had been established. And these FM stations were playing what we’d now call alternative music – to the singles. And you’d even get to hear them playing a whole side of an album. And I thought – oh boy! This is wonderful. This is the area to go in. Not the singles market because the problem with the singles market, you’d have a single that everyone has worked on… and you’d find bands who did that, the rest of the album material wasn’t very good.  Because they were a singles market band. Not only that you’d find when they did the next album… they have to do something that sounded very much like the single off the first album so everyone knew who they were. We didn’t do that.”

Led Zeppelin III saw the band exploring more acoustic material:

Robert Plant: “The thing opened up much more then. Although it was there – I mean on the second album there was ‘Ramble On’ and on the first album there was ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. There was the kind of acoustic element. The variety was there. My performance I wasn’t that pleased with on the first and second but by the third… ‘Gallows Pole is one of my favourite tracks and ‘Immigrant Song’ is, too. They were just so far between the two. And that to me was the beginning of me actually saying yep, boy, you can do something. Rather than it all being in the one idiom if you like. So yeah, I started getting a bit of pride then”

At the end of the hour-long show each of three are asked for their final thoughts on the album, listening back on it now:

John Paul Jones: “Well it reminded me how good a band it was. Also, it reminded me how much I miss John Bonham.”

Robert Plant: “All we wanted to do was keep stretching. This is the whole thing about Led Zeppelin.”

Jimmy Page: “If the band was going to stay together then you could really start going on this road where these initial ideas are expanded…right over the horizon in every direction.”

Thanks to Greater Manchester Rock Radio. You can listen to the full hour-long programme on Soundcloud here:

Related post:

The night Jimmy Page asked if he could hang out with me

Photo Credit: cottage via Andy c/o Wiki

Book review: ‘Noise Damage – My Life as a Rock ‘n’ Roll Underdog’ by James Kennedy

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

I’ve not just got a passing interest in rock autobiographies. I positively devour them. Pretty much anyone I admire who puts one out these days will tend to end up on my reading list sharpish. Usually, though, it’s people whose careers I follow, whose albums I buy and whose concerts I go to. James Kennedy is none of these. I was vaguely aware of his former band Kyshera but they were around at a time when I was insanely busy in my work life and any downtime would be spent listening to familiar favourites rather than seeking out new bands. To be honest I had to google Kyshera to give myself any idea of what they sounded like or, indeed, who the aforementioned Mr Kennedy actually is. His memoir turned out to be every bit as gripping as those of my heroes, however.

Born in 1980, Kennedy is a talented kid from a poor background in South Wales. “I am thankful for having cultured, lefty, weed-smoking atheists for parents, continually blasting out Pink Floyd, Zappa, Kate Bush and Stevie Ray Vaughan,” he shares with us, nicely dispelling those tedious one-dimensional caricatures of working class culture that are constantly being sold to us by Red Wall-chasing Tory politicians these days.

Kennedy then finds himself entering a world of professional music at a time when the traditional industry model as we knew it was rapidly imploding. He is not one to get nostalgic for the old ways, however. Fairly early on in the book he sets out his stall thus:

“We have the ability to create, record, produce, release and promote our art, all from our bedroom with no interference, censorship or bullshit from any third parties, and share it with the world for hardly any cost. How we make any money doing this is the new problem.”

The subsequent two-thirds of Noise Damage is then pretty much devoted to that very problem of not making any money. From heinous scams by criminal promoters to unfeasible hours holding down a multiplicity of jobs Kennedy paints a detailed picture of a life that, while bursting with creativity, friendship and critical acclaim on the one hand, gets worn down by years of grim conditions, constant back-stabbings and an absence of anything approaching stability on the other.

The book is an absolute must-read for anyone attempting a career in music (certainly anyone without wealthy parents or an independent income). However, there’s enough self-reflection, critical evaluation and good-natured humility to make this a genuinely powerful testimony on a highly personal level. Noise Damage is Kennedy’s first book. Let’s finally hope he makes some money out of it.

Published 18th October 2020 by Eye Books

http://eye-books.com/books/noise-damage

‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography

I’ve read enough rock autobiographies over the years to know the score: boy from working class background, boy joins a band, struggles along for a few years, makes it big, fame, alcohol and/or drug addiction, groupies galore, several wives, numerous girlfriends, sobriety, reflection and, finally, publishing deal. Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford’s ‘Confess’, however, is a rock confessional with a difference. The wives and girlfriends are notable by their absence and Halford tells his tale as an out and proud gay man.

As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir.

Halford’s down-to-earth-working class upbringing in Walsall is easy to identify with. Coincidentally, although the two have never met, he lived just a couple of streets away from Noddy Holder’s family home, another musical hero of mine. Indeed, many of the place names were already familiar to me from Holder’s own autobiography. (The pub that Halford mentions as the location of his local bus stop as a kid is the same pub where the classic Slade foursome held their first ever rehearsal – trivia fans).

As Halford starts to metamorphosis from council estate kid to heavy metal rock god I certainly felt a sense of exhilaration as his dreams are achieved – such as the era-defining success of that iconic British Steel album, for example.

For much of the book, though, I also felt a sense of immense sadness. This paragraph, where he reflects on the state of his life in 1980 – by which time he was in his late 20s – is a telling one:

“It was five years since I’d been seeing Jason. Apart from the odd snatched random fumble I had been alone ever since… not just alone but forced to supress my longings, my needs, myself.”

When I think back to my own life at that stage, I had already met my partner. We’d bought a flat and been living together for several years by then. I was born fifteen years after Halford and my modest brush with life in the public eye never obliged me to hide my own sexuality. However, it’s not difficult to really grasp the pain and evident loneliness that Halford was going through. He does eventually find personal as well as professional fulfilment albeit that there are dysfunctional relationships, tragedy addiction along the way.

There is also a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour to keep the reader entertained. However, there are a many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too: Halford’s obvious joy at the emotions he experiences performing sober for the first time, the palpable relief he feels when he first publicly comes out back in the late 90s and the excitement he feels reuniting with Priest in the early 00s.

‘Confess’ does not always make for easy reading. There is a real sadness to parts of it but Rob Halford’s warmth and humanity shine through. Absolutely one of the best rock biogs in ages.

Published: Headline Publishing 29th September 2020

Related posts:

Album review : Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

Live review: Judas Priest at Brixton Academy 2015

Live review: Les Binks’ Priesthood at Minehead 2020

The day my dad went on Radio Lancashire to talk about Dr. Feelgood

BT payphone engineer, music fanatic and familiar figure around many Preston pubs, but until then someone with zero broadcasting experience, some time in the early 00s my dad found himself being invited on BBC Radio Lancashire for a one hour special on Dr. Feelgood.

My dad was, indeed, a huge fan of Dr. Feelgood just as he was a huge fan of many bands but I think one of his regular drunken Saturday night conversations about bands and rock music ended up with an invitation from one of the presenters to take part in a show.

Happily, a friend of his recorded it at the time and I recently rediscovered my copy.

“Alan Johnson has popped in to see tell us all about Dr. Feelgood. We’re doing a feature on Dr Feelgood and he’s ably assisted by Andy Stones,” the show starts off.

As well as playing tracks like ‘Back In the Night’, Down At The Doctors’ and ‘Milk and Alcohol’ the discussion meanders through the band’s early years with Wilko Johnson, then the illness and death of frontman Lee Brilleaux as well as the continuation of the band by Brilleaux’s former bandmates and a new frontman.

My dad reminds the presenter they did, in fact once make the Top 10 singles chart before being asked whether what they play is blues. “Not in the true sense,” is my dad’s rejoinder. “It’s just really good-time music, blues or not.”

The show draws to a close. There’s time for my dad to choose one last song. He says it has to be ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and he recounts his abiding image of frontman, Lee, on stage.

The hour is nearly up.

“Thanks for coming in,” says the presenter.

“I’m getting used to it,” says my dad.

“It can be a bit daunting sitting here with all the microphones and the gremlins,” the presenter says reassuringly.

“Without a pint,” my dad observes.

And with that the show comes to an end. I believe this was the sum total of my dad’s entire broadcasting experience. But I’ve got a recording of the show for posterity and it is comforting to be able to hear his voice. Here’s that clip of him talking about that abiding image of Lee Brilleaux on stage.