Just over a year ago I had a dream that I had written a book about The Sweet. When I woke up I was more than a little disappointed to release I hadn’t written any such book. But with the idea still fresh in my mind I decided to fire off an email to the publishers Sonicbond to see if they were interested in me writing one. Amazingly they came back and said yes.
Starting work last summer, writing and researching ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ very much became my lockdown project during the latter part of 2020 and the early part of 2021. I finished it back in February, delivered the manuscript and my mind, which had been so utterly pre-occupied with all things Sweet for several months, pretty much moved on to other things. In recent weeks, however, it’s all started to become very real again. There were proofs to read, images and the cover blurb to check through and so on. And although, it’s not in the shops until July 30th I took delivery of some advance copies this week!
I also did an interview for the excellent Glam-themed fanzine Wired Up – talking about how I came to write the book, how I first became obsessed with The Sweet as a teenager in the early 80s trawling through second-hand albums in Preston’s Action Records – as well as a little bit on what readers can expect from the book. You can find out more about the Wired Up fanzine here.
I’ve dedicated the book to my dad. I know he would have enjoyed reading it.
You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here
Sons of Southern Ulster have teamed up with The Boomtown Rats’ Pete Briquette on a new EP collaboration. The Turf Accountant Schemes EP, featuring four tracks remixed by Briquette, is out on 27th August. A single from the EP ‘Polaris’ was released on 2nd July.
Formed around the song-writing partnership of Justin Kelly and David Meagher, Sons of Southern Ulster released their well-received debut album Foundry Folk Songs back in 2016. Many of their songs reflect the experience of growing up in a small southern border town, Bailieborough in Ireland’s County Cavan. This was long before the internet and the country’s “Celtic Tiger” rapid growth period. They explore themes of regret and disappointment, interspersed with moments of light and insight.
“The first music I ever bought was the ‘Like Clockwork’ single by the Boomtown Rats when I was twelve or thirteen. I was obsessed with The Rats so when Pete Briquette reached out to ask if he could remix a few tracks from our ‘Sinners and Lost Souls’ album, we were absolutely shocked. Apparently, a mutual friend has passed the album on to him and he was suitably intrigued. Pete also grew up in County Cavan, so he’d get a lot of the references and the tone. Lyrically the songs are very “Cavan” in that they are on the surface often quite harsh but contain a lot of dark humour,” says Justin Kelly.
“I remember when the Boomtown Rats broke through. At that time it was highly unusual for an Irish band to make it in Britain. But for a Cavan man to be there!!! That was just bizarre. Cavan men were made to be farmers – not No.1 pop stars.”
The Turf Accountant Schemes EP features four tracks from the band’s second album Sinners and Lost Souls which was released in 2020. Each of the tracks is re-imagined and re-mixed by Briquette.
“In Sons of Southern Ulster, we took a very conscious decision to sing songs about Cavan as it was always a bit underserved, not just in music but in infrastructure and resources. In many ways, the Irish government ignored us and left us to our own devices – for better or worse. I think Pete picked up on that,”says David Meagher.
‘Polaris (Pete Briquette Remix)’ is out July 2. On August 27, the ‘Turf Accountant Schemes’ EP will be released across online platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify, as well as on vinyl. It can already be pre-ordered via Bandcamp.
‘Johnny’s Gone to Hilo’ is a second single from composer and folk artist Roly Witherow ahead of a forthcoming EP set for release later this year. Roly’s rendition is a characteristically inventive yet mournful interpretation of the traditional sea shanty. The single also features guest backing vocals from celebrated East Anglian folk singer, Nick Hart.
A prolific composer in the world of film, TV, and theatre, Roly’s credits have included Channel 4’s On The Edge, 2015 BIFA nominated film Gregor and David Hare’s The Permanent Way. His debut folk album ‘Ballads and Yarns’ attracted a slew of highly favourable reviews in the UK media and beyond.
As a folk musician and singer, Roly’s influences include Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, A.L. Lloyd, Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Pete Bellamy, John Martyn, Shirley Collins, Dick Gaughan, Lisa O’Neill and Will Pound.
Of the new single Roly says:
“Johnny’s Gone to Hilo is a sea shanty originating from the sailors of the nitrate trade off the Pacific coast of South America in the 19th century. Hilo likely refers to the Peruvian port of Ilo, and whilst the tone of the shanty varies a great deal in all its different versions and iterations – from drinking song to lament, I thought the melody of the song lent itself best to a sorrowful arrangement with guitar, harmonium and two voices. The backing vocals are provided by acclaimed local folk singer Nick Hart of the Nest Collective, who, raised in a family of morris dancers, is renowned for his evocative voice that is rooted in the folk tradition.”
“The recording of the harmonium with all its noisy stops, billows and pipes was a particular challenge for producer Joe Garcia, but, with some ingenious microphone placement, he managed to capture the instrument’s unique and idiosyncratic sound with tremendous accuracy and warmth.”
Speaking on his five-track EP, set to be released in Winter 2021, Roly added:
“The forthcoming album is a very new direction for me. If my first album, ‘Ballads and Yarns’ had an experimental bent, stemming from my experience as a film composer and combining traditional songs with electric instrumentation, spoken word and elements of world music, this new album has a “back to basics” approach, focussing on the song itself in its most minimal form. The vast majority of the songs are for just acoustic guitar and voice, and the recordings have a very live feel to them, realised in large part by the expert production of Joe Garcia of Joe’s Garage, in Bristol.”
“This new album also has quite a playful, innocent and childlike quality to it, influenced in part by the children’s songs of Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd, but also by my experience of recently becoming a father. One of the songs on the album ‘Ernie’s Song’ is dedicated to my son. The album is a combination of traditional songs from the British Isles and further afield, and originals, such as this first single ‘The Bird and the Frog’. There are also some collaborations on the album, including with renowned local folk singer Nick Hart. The album in general touches on themes of rural vs urban life, family and growing up, love and love lost, nature and animals, industrialisation & mechanisation, death and religion.”
What they say:
“Witherow’s resonant voice sits beautifully against a spacious guitar arrangement”– The Times
“mixes up art-rock, atmospherics and folk on his personal project” – The Guardian
“a modern yet classic celebration of the art of folk music” – Folk Radio UK
Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ryan O’Donovan, is a Sussex-based musician who has built up a solid reputation through the learning disabled music scene. Whether it’s providing backing vocals and guitar for Beat Express, vocals and lead guitar for Zombie Crash (both bands of which are managed by Brighton-based charity Carousel that facilitate learning disabled people in the arts), lead vocals for Lost Asylum or venturing place to place solo, as his favourite saying goes, he is always out to rock out.
During the past year or so through lockdown, Ryan has attracted a significant following through a variety of online events, hosted by the likes of Carousel, Gig Buddies and, most recently, Electric Umbrella – as well as his own regular ‘Rockin at Home With Ryan’ online gigs.
I caught up with Ryan recently to discuss his musical background, influences and what inspires his song-writing.
How I got into music:
The way I got into music was rather extraordinary. I did terribly at it in school and college, I’ve never done a good job of reading musical notation or scores, yet I always seemed to be able to pick up sounds, pitches and keys by ear and identify them that way, which made me a very projective type when using my voice. I can still remember one or two examples of feedback from teachers highlighting how I put the most effort in to singing during nativity plays (I was in a Church of England primary school). According to my mum, as a baby I was even able to sing back (or more so hum at that age) a tune on the radio in perfect key with it! I grew up seeing my dad’s guitars on the walls here and there and hearing him practice; around the time I was born, he had a short-lived stint as the lead vocalist of a band called Blue Parish, though he only got as far as one gig with them where he was plagued by stage fright and never performed in another gig. Still, it would later be an influence, as well as my mum’s brothers being guitar players in their own time. I even later on heard that my great-grandmother (mother to my paternal grandma) was involved in theatre.
As well as those influences, the music of Busted made me want to pick up a guitar all the more, as well as seeing the cast of Rock School get going as a group (albeit temporary) under the coaching and guidance of Kiss’s Gene Simmons. With a few pointers on the tuning of whatever guitar I could borrow from my dad, I started playing songs I knew when I was 15; not by looking up any tabs or scores, but by remembering what key the songs were in and played the notes from there. Anything else I learned in pointers here and there over the years to come.
My musical influences:
My influences as they are now depend on which band, or any kind of group capacity, that I’m active with. As a solo artist, my influences (in alphabetical order so that I don’t miss anyone significant) include the likes of Alanis Morrisette, Alter Bridge, Avril Lavigne, Black Stone Cherry, Busted, Def Leppard, Fightstar, Fozzy, Godsmack, Guns N’ Roses, Kid Rock, Linkin Park, Nickelback, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Puddle of Mudd, Saliva and Queen. It was music I grew to love that typically involved heavy guitar playing to varying degrees – and made me want to be more and more of the sort myself.
What inspires me to write:
Aside from the musical influences of artists I’ve talked about as well as my family’s influence, there are varying inspirations for me to write songs. I started by writing an abstract collection of songs that had more fun with whatever was on my mind at the time. Then I wrote songs reflecting my insecurity with being a single man, in varying tones of looking at where I was both in a positive and negative light. Now I write about my own personal acknowledgements towards seasonal traditions, when not writing about my main life experiences in hindsight. But most of all, my main inspiration is how far I’ve come along, especially now that I’ve been playing guitar for half my life and only developed along the way as a musician, performer and individual. This IS my life’s main worth, as nothing else has stood the test of time with me like my way as a musician. And I have nothing else in mind other than to live this lifestyle to the full and make the most of it all. That’s why my saying is “Always out to rock out”.
The farewell tour of glam hero and Glitter Band founder, John Rossall, due to kick off in Blackpool on 4th July, has sadly had to be pulled on health grounds.
Following a hugely well-received comeback album in 2020 John shared news with fans earlier this year that his condition was terminal but vowed to say a special goodbye to fans with a final farewell tour.
In an update shared on his Facebook page today, however, John Rossall’s backing band made the following announcement:
“We all travelled up to Manchester to rehearse John Rossall’s Farewell Tour yesterday. Very sadly it has become apparent that John is not well enough for the upcoming shows. It has been a difficult decision for us all, it is with deep regret and sadness that all shows are now cancelled. You should hear from the venues regarding refunds but please contact them directly if not. We are sure you will, like ourselves, send your love and very best wishes to John, Julia and his family at this very difficult time.
Thank you for your continued support. Dave, Chris, Bob and Corrie”
It’s desperately sad that John can’t say goodbye to fans in the way that he had hoped but he can be very proud of his contribution to UK popular music and in particular taking critics by surprise and going out on such a high point with the incredible Last Glam In Town album last year.
“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.”
When I interviewed John last year he was immensely touched by the swathes of positive reviews: “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost! It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”
Best wishes to John and his family and thank you for the music you’ve given us.
During the late 1960s, Mike Frankel was one of the most sought-after photographers for musicians of the era, his photographic style capturing the cultural essence of the decade. Images from Frankel’s extensive archive are set to be released to the public for the first time.
Frankel worked closely with bands like Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, Joe Cocker, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and many others. Most notably, Frankel was also the personal photographer for Jefferson Airplane. In addition, he worked with Bill Graham at the Fillmore East, photographing some of the most iconic images from the rock’s golden age as well as capturing iconic images from Woodstock.
Photographer, Jim Marshall, who, like Frankel, enjoyed extensive access to many musicians throughout the 1960s said of Frankel: “Mike was the photographer that brought art to our profession.”
A book of Frankel’s images is set for publication towards the end of the year. An additional volume showcasing his Beatles photos is also in the planning stages.
Four Corners Framed Art in Independence, Missouri, USA is hosting an in-person meet and greet with the legendary photographer Mike Frankel on Friday, 22nd October from 5 pm to 9 pm. The event is free, open to the public, and will be held in conjunction with the Englewood Arts District’s third Friday art walk.
“This is truly a rare opportunity to meet a living legend,” said Joseph Crownover, Owner/Gallery Director of Four Corners Framed Art. “This will be only the third time Mike Frankel’s work has ever been shown or made available to the public since the photos were taken over 50 years ago.”
With a name like that, various 70s glam heroes cited as key influences and an album due out in July entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Glitter Suit it’s probably not too much of a coincidence that the paths of Darren’s Music Blog and Velvet Insane would eventually cross.
The Swedish-based band were formed in 2013 by guitarist Jesper Lindgren and describe themselves as a three-piece gang of rockers that reinvented glam rock by mixing the pop harmonies of the 70’s with the heavy sound of today. There have been changes in personnel and switches in record companies along the way but the band’s fortunes received a significant boost when they signed to a deal with Wild Kingdom/Sound Pollution earlier this year.
On the record deal the band commented:
“It feels inspiring and exciting to have signed a deal with Wild Kingdom. After working our asses off for years jumping around on different record companies it feels like we finally found our home. Wild Kingdom got the distinct rock ’n’ roll vein that we all love. Together we have made this glammy high energy rock ’n’ roll album that we feel very proud of. A wam bam beat that will knock you of your feet.”
An initial single and video, the wonderfully-titled ‘Backstreet Liberace’, from the forthcoming album was released back in May to great acclaim. All pounding piano keys, big handclaps, infectious riffs and catchy choruses there’s plenty to love about this.
‘Backstreet Liberace’ was then followed up with a second single from second single and music video ‘Sound of Sirens’ released 11th June. With a change of pace here they define it as 60’s pop gem made for the modern day.
Of the latest single the band say:
“We feel very proud about this catchy singalong pop gem and that it shows a slightly different side of Velvet Insane. Strongly influenced by The Beatles and 60’s pop music it gives you shivers and shows our passion and love for all kinds of music. A song we really looking forward to playing live and feel the energy from the audience in the future. With the video, we want to celebrate where we come from: the 70’s. Kiss, ABBA, Slade and glam rock/pop in general have meant so much to us in our musical upbringing. 1970’s influences in pictures and music but with the sound of today.”
The track is written by the legendary Sulo Karlsson of the Diamond Dogs who also produced and wrote the tracks together with the band on the upcoming album.
German heavy metal guitarist, Herman Frank, who played with Accept on their classic Balls To The Wall album in 1983 and commenced a second stint with the band in the late 00s is releasing his fifth solo- album, Two For A Lie, which will be out on May 21st.
A key player on the German metal scene, first with Accept, and then Victory and now with his solo work, his latest solo album follows Loyal To None, Right In The Guts, The Devils Ride Out and Fight The Fear which were released between 2009 and 2019.
The first single and video from the album ‘Eye Of The Storm’ was released back in March:
A follow-up single ‘Venom’ was released in April:
Ahead of the formal album launch a third song and the album’s opening track ‘Teutonic Order’ has now also been unveiled:
Reassembling key members of the team that worked with him on his previous solo release, the album again features Masterplan frontman Rick Altzi and Jaded Heart bass-player Michael “Mülli” Müller, along with newly hired guitarist Mike Pesin and drummer Kevin Kott.
The album was produced by Herman Frank and co-producer Arne Neurand, and was recorded and mixed at the Horus Sound Studios in Hannover
01. Teutonic Order 02. Venom 03. Hate 04. Eye Of The Storm 05. Liar 06. Hail The New Kings 07. Just A Second To Lose 08. Danger 09. Stand Up And Fight 10. Open Your Mind
Two For A Lie will be out on 21st May 2021 via AFM Records
After performing a one-off gig together in November 2019 it was announced last year that three former member of Judas Priest, guitarist KK Downing, vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and drummer Les Binks, would be working together more permanently as part of KK’s Priest.
Downing, of course, had severed his long-standing ties with Judas Priest back in 2011, citing a breakdown in band relations. Owens’ own eight-year tenure in the band, came to a conclusion in 2003 when lead singer, Rob Halford, returned. Binks, meanwhile, left Judas Priest in 1979 after recording three classic albums (Stained Glass, Killing Machine and Unleased In The East) following a row over money with the band’s management.
Binks, who had already been touring with his own outfit Les Binks’ Priesthood – performing songs from his time in the band, has unfortunately had to put activities on hold due to a wrist injury. Downing and Owens, however, are now raring to go with a new single ‘Hellfire Thunderbolt’ released this week, an album Sermons Of The Sinner set for release on 20th August this year, with live dates to be announced as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Downing:“We are delighted to finally be able to release our first track to the world. It gives a real flavour of the sound and showcases the amazing players I’ve got in this band.We can’t wait for the fans to hear the record.”
Joining Downing on guitar and Owens on vocals, are Tony Newton (Voodoo Six) on bass, A.J. Mills (Hostile) on guitar and Sean Elg (DeathRiders/Cage) on drums. It is hoped Binks will make special guest live appearances when the band tours.
Downing notes that Sermons Of The Sinner is an album that celebrates his classic metal roots and encourages us to cherish those iconic pioneers whom we still have with us. He jokes that KK’s Priest is “like a new old band. Or an old new band.”
“The whole concept is the fact that I continue proudly to be who I am and what I am and do what I do,” declares Downing. “It’s been nearly 10 years. I’m back making music.”
Downing continues:“The ultimate message is we’ve moved away from this music that we loved for so long and we’re so dedicated to, and now we’re in a situation where lots of people are actually passing away. We’ve lost a lot of great people – Dio, Lemmy, I could go on – and that’s gonna be accelerated over the coming years. Basically, enjoy everything that’s left of this brand of metal including from me. It’s not going to last forever.”
The new single certainly captures a lot of the energy, attitude and sound of classic Judas Priest and there’s more than enough room in the classic rock and metal scene for bands to thrive. This has got to be good news for Priest fans. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this band as well as Judas Priest itself. Let’s make the most of them while we’ve still got them.
KK’s Priest is set to tour worldwide as soon as current restrictions are lifted. Details of touring to be announced.
‘Underworld’ is the new single from Kent-based folk-rock band Green Diesel. It’s released on 14th May ahead of a long-awaited new album scheduled for release this summer.
Written by new drummer, Paul Dadswell, ‘Underworld’ builds on the band’s signature trad folk sound. Showcasing the band’s vocal harmonies, the new single gives a flavour of what fans can expect from Green Diesel’s forthcoming album: all changing time signatures and lots of twelve-string guitars – inspired by spending far too long listening to early 1970s Genesis records, the band confess!
The song itself is inspired by Philip Glass’s celebrated soundtrack to the 1982 experimental film Koyaanisqatsi.
Reflecting on ‘Underworld’ the song’s writer Paul Dadswell comments:“When you have to choose between fantasy and reality, being born, or growing up, or moving past addiction. The moment of choice between living in the past and embracing the future. Endlessly suspended between the familiar and the unknown.”
Hailing from Faversham in Kent, Green Diesel first emerged back in 2009, taking their inspiration from the depths of English folk lore and legend, and the classic folk-rock sound of their predecessors: Fairport Convention and The Albion Band. Blending violin, mandolin, dulcimer and accordion with electric guitars and drums, Green Diesel’s sound is born from a love of traditional English music and a desire to bring it to a modern audience.
Green Diesel’s three albums to date: Now Is The Time (2012), Wayfarers All (2014) and The Hangman’s Fee (2016) have all won praise from critics and fans alike for the quality of song-writing and musicianship and the band have been a popular draw at festivals, from Broadstairs Folk Week to Beverley Folk Festival.