Category Archives: rock music

Rock bands and music

Record Store Day 2017 – live from Music’s Not Dead, Bexhill-on-Sea 22/4/17

My article was originally published by The Singer here

When he arrived at 7.30am they were snaking around the block confirms Richard, one of the co-owners (along with his business partner Del) of Music’s Not Dead. Bexhill’s independent record store was set for another busy Record Store Day.

2017-04-22 14.53.19

Going some ten years now, with the aim of championing the nation’s remaining independent record stores, Record Store Day has been coming in for a fair bit of stick in recent years. Record companies release a load of limited edition vinyl while punters out to make a fast buck snap it up first thing and then sell it on at vastly inflated prices on ebay later that day. The whole thing is little more than a cynical exercise in profiteering, so the argument goes.

The reality, however, is quite different maintains Richard when I catch up with him during a temporary lull,”There’s always one or two in the queue like that, and you know who they here, but the vast, vast majority are here because they want to buy a record from an artist whose music they love.” He is also keen to stress that it has helped them gain loyal customers who proceed to then come in throughout the year – which was the main motivation for the whole initiative in the first place.

So, in spite of some of the press cynicism, at Music’s Not Dead they are wholehearted champions of Record Store Day and are happily shifting 1,000 units of special limited edition releases to purchasers who are in the main real, genuine fans.

Personally, however, I would no more queue up at a record shop at 7.00am in the morning than I would camp out overnight to buy a cheap sofa in the Boxing Day sales. And while I’ve been a happy participant in numerous Record Store Days, my purchases in recent years have included a second-hand Status Quo Live CD, a stack of half price Blur CDs and the most recent Santana album in bog-standard format, hardly exclusive limited editions any of them. But there is far, far more to Record Store Day than queuing up for limited edition vinyl, a point Richard is keen to stress as I make my way in to Music’s Not Dead around mid-day shortly before the programme of live acts kicks off. “We don’t want it to be just about us filling the till all day. It is also about us giving something back to the community and supporting artists.”

They have an impressive line-up for Record Store Day this year: 80s/90s indie front-man, Pete Astor, performing a solo acoustic set; alt-folk band, Noble Jacks (minus their drummer due to space restrictions); guitar/double bass acoustic duo, Moss & Clarkson; solo Americana artists, Jason McNiff; Nashville-tinged country duo, The Worry Dolls; and headliner, the soulful, folky, bluesy rising star, Emily Barker.

2017-04-22 13.41.36.jpg

Trevor Moss who performed as half of Moss & Clarkson today remains an enthusiastic supporter of Record Store Day. As well as the fun of performing he sees it playing a small but significant redistributive role for “the poorer end of the music industry,” as he puts it, whether shops, labels or performers. “We know about some of the things that go on. But on the whole all the people we come across are here because they’re sincere,” he enthuses to me after his well-received performance.

By late afternoon the sun had come out and was shining brightly through the shop windows, parents and their kids lounged about on the floor soaking in the ambience, Jason McNiff gave a lovely laid-back set and somehow it all began to take on the vibe of a very, very minature summer festival.

Emily Barker, the final act of the day, gave an utterly stunning set with selections from her new album recorded in Memphis, including an incredible tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She’s appeared on the small shop-window stage at Music’s Not Dead some half a dozen times now and is also an enthusiastic champion of Record Store Day. She had already performed sets in stores at both Portsmouth and Lewes before turning up in Bexhill. “I had to leave Stroud at 5am this morning. I’ve had four hours sleep but the minute I got in the car and started up the engine this morning I was excited about Record Store Day.”

Certainly the view from where I was standing at Music’s Not Dead was that it was about celebrating independents – labels, stores and artists, it was about a genuine community event and it was definitely very much all about the love of the music.

And today’s purchase? The very unlimited and non-exclusive edition of the new Fairport Convention CD for a tenner – but with cakes, live music and friendly company thrown in for free. You don’t get that at Amazon.

http://musicsnotdead.com/

In praise of fan-led music groups: a Facebook phenomenon

From the ongoing controversy over fake news to the vicious nature of many political discussions on social media, Facebook has been facing a fair bit of criticism lately. If it’s not that, so the criticism goes, then it’s just a long series of tedious updates about what people are eating and random pictures of cats. But, somewhere in the middle there are ways in which Facebook is helping build genuine communities of people who share a passion or interest. Obviously, virtually all music acts these days have their own Facebook page where they share information with fans, but what we have also seen is the significant growth in Facebook discussion groups set up by the fans themselves.

Here we take a look at a number of such groups, from those with just a couple of hundred members to those with tens of thousands, and talk to some of the people involved in setting them up, running them or contributing to them.

Fairporters

Over 3,000 strong Fairporters is the group set up for fans of the folk-rock legends Fairport Convention and attendees of the band’s annual three-day festival at Cropredy. Iain, a regular contributor, reflects: “I think this group is pretty unique as we mostly expect to meet up at some point. It’s certainly the friendliest group of this sort that I’m a member of. Maybe this is why we have to behave! I’ve already met up with many of the people on here at Cropredy and other gigs. There are many more people we hope to meet this year and we’ve made friends with bands as well as fans. Bloody marvellous!”

In a number of Facebook groups not only do fans contribute but you will often find past and present members of the bands themselves contributing. Fairporters is no exception and original Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble is a regular contributor. “It’s a great way to keep those who are interested in my music up-dated in my musical collaborations and events and to let people know when things are happening and about releases of albums or books or err tea towels, and I try very hard not to overload people with continual repetitive updates. They bore me to bits and I’m sure it bores other people! A lot of my private life is just that – private but I don’t mind giving glimpses into how things occur and possibly why.”

You can find the Fairporters group here

1970-92 Rock & Metal Heaven

Not simply based around one band but a genre, the 1970-92 Rock & Metal Heaven group was started up just over two years ago and has grown dramatically. Founder Jeremy recalls, “I originally started the group up just for around 20 mates that I grew up with in the 80s, to reminisce about the good old days. Then within a month we had 1,000 members and within a year we had 20,000. Now 2 years in we have 32,000 members.”

A common feature of a number of the most successful groups is that even if they start of as a purely online concern they can take on a life of their own and become a community in their own right. Jeremy, “We have yearly group meet-ups for charity. The latest was last week. These also include charity auctions with donations from the likes of Thunder, Saxon, Dan Reed, Kruhser and many more.”

You can find the 1970-92 Rock & Metal Heaven group here

Gaz Coombes Fanfare Family

This is a group for fans of former Supergrass lead singer, Gaz Coombes, and his subsequent solo career. Jackie explains how she came to set up the group. “It was after I had noticed a girl on a Gaz Coombes discussion thread asking about who was going to a particular show and having a couple of people approach me about tagging along that I decided to set up the Gaz Coombes Fanfare Family.” That was three years ago. “I love this work and it felt like a good opportunity to set something up for the fans. There has been a few members that have got to know each other and have met up and become friends outside of the social media side of things. We had a couple of members who because of their similar tastes in music had met up and enjoyed a gig by the band Space.”

You can find the Gaz Coombes Fanfare Family group here

Slade

Mark is one of the co-admins of the Slade Facebook group which is dedicated to celebrating well, what else but Slade! The Facebook group has been in existence some ten years now, although Mark wasn’t actually involved in setting up the group but came in to help run it four years ago. He explains, “I was asked to become admin, after being a member for some time, to help keep some order. That is, to help reign in some of the more outlandish stories. I try to point people to verified factual information. Being a member, and admin, is interesting as there are fans from all over the world, and of all ages. It can be hard sometimes to communicate effectively in a written medium. Handling the disappointment of people when some of the long held beliefs are shattered or dispelled with facts.”

Again there are meet-ups and other real-life spin-offs, “Slade fans do get together at conventions. There was also a “Slade sight seeing tour of London” that people attended. I don’t go to conventions myself but others do.”

You can find the Slade group here

Giants of Rock Minehead

While other discussion groups are formed around a certain band or genre some form around an event. Giants of Rock is a three day classic rock and metal festival that takes place at Butlins Minehead each January. Richard, who co-founded the group after the first Giants of Rock Weekend three years ago, takes up the story of how it took off, “After an excellent weekend at Butlins GOR I, Grant and I began talking on Butlins Facebook page. Through this chat, Grant created the group and invited me to co-run it with him. We started it in February 2014 with numerous Facebook friends of mine being made members of the group, just to get the numbers up in the first place. It does bring people together outside of social media,” says Richard, “including a fan from Paris and personally I have met and made many friends through the group, to go to other gigs with. As the group continues to grow more friendships are made. Interestingly I have had people come and say hello and introduce themselves from the group at different gigs in several different locations. The group continues to grow and Grant and myself have been congratulated, which we appreciate . But it is the members who make the group and we thoroughly enjoy watching our community grow and develop. We even had a family group photo taken this year with 100+ members.”

16299415_10212183685897405_7950979667793104949_n
Photo credit: SD Photography

You can find the Giants of Rock Minehead group here

Gay Metalheads United

Some of the groups are able to bring like-minded people together who may otherwise find it more difficult to meet. From personal experience you would probably have to go to a lot of gay pubs before you met many punters who were into heavy metal. Likewise, in contrast to, say, a Beyonce gig you might not bump into too many gay guys (or gals) at a metal gig. However, lots of gay metal fans do exist out there and Gay Metalheads United, set up four years ago, now boasts over 1,200 members. Early participant, Jay, and one of the group’s admins is proud of the fact it was the first gay metal group on Facebook. His rationale for the group being set up? He says quite simply, “Metalheads are family.” James, a regular contributor to the group, explains, “Social media in general has been a great platform for interacting with people from across the globe at near instantaneous speed. It’s a good way to meet new people with similar likes and opinions, and debate those of opposing viewpoints.” On the Gay Metalheads Group, James says, “It’s liberating. In other metal groups they’re usually filled with heterosexual men, even Judas Priest. It feels like I have to walk on eggshells in some of these groups. So having a group for gay metalheads allows us to let out hair down.”

You can find the Gay Metalheads United Group here

And so…

While there can be a lot of negativity about social media let’s hear it for all of those who help maintain the vast array of music discussion groups out there: the people who set them up, the fans who contribute, the artists who engage directly with those who buy their albums and attend their gigs, and the admins who sometimes step in if things get a little heated. Thank you!

Green Diesel at The Albion, Hastings 8/4/17

My review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here 

With their lively, infectious brand of folk rock, Faversham-based band Green Diesel seem tailor-made for the Hastings old town music scene. Surprisingly, following a gig at the Jenny Lind several years ago, it’s only their second appearance in the town. As soon as they take the stage, however, the Albion crowd take to them like old friends, bopping, hollering and generally having a whale of a time.

There have been many variants of the melding between folk music and rock music over the years, including the indie-infused stylings of The Levellers and the raucous folk-punk of Hastings’ own Matilda’s Scoundrels. Green Diesel, however, take their musical cues from that classic era of folk rock, back in the late 60s and early 70s when bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the incredible String Band began making their mark. Everything you would want to hear from those halcyon days of folk rock is there in Green Diesel: lovely lead vocals from Ellen Care, beautifully melodic fiddle and accordion, loud pumping bass, hard rocking guitar and drumming that instantly gets you up and moving to the beat.

They are no mere tribute though. Having just released their third album ‘The Hangman’s Fee’ in February, for several years now they have now been applying their signature trademark sound to inventive reworkings of traditional songs and tunes as well as their own material.

Guitarist, Greg Ireland, is proving to be a very talented and capable songwriter – with songs like The Elephant Tree and To Kill The King going down extremely well, in addition to traditional favourites like Mad Tom Of Bedlam and Matty Groves. Ireland also takes lead vocals on a few numbers like the band’s feisty interpretation of The White Hare. Again, that nice contrasting mix of male and female lead vocals instantly puts you in mind of that classic era of folk rock.

Green Diesel are a hugely entertaining live band whose three albums to date have shown real musical maturity. Let’s hope they don’t leave it too long before they make another visit to Hastings. If the Albion crowd is anything to go by they have a ready-made fan-base here.

http://greendieselfolk.com/

Ellen Lying Down

Previous reviews:

Green Diesel album review – Wayfarers All
Green Diesel at Lewisham 2016

Bernie Tormé and Dublin Cowboy – story of a phenomenally successful pledge-fund campaign

Former Gillan guitarist Bernie Tormé had pretty much turned his back on the costly business of making albums prior to the making of Flowers and Dirt in 2014 and Blackheart in 2015. Both of these were released as a result of successful pledge-funding initiatives, whereby fans rather than record label bosses stump up the cash to finance the making of an album through placing advance orders.

In October 2016 Bernie unveiled plans for an ambitious new triple-album that would similarly be financed through pledge-funding. On the day the pledge campaign was announced Bernie engaged with fans directly on social media and through the special pledge-fund page that had been set up here.

Meanwhile, I worked to secure external coverage with the aim of letting as many people as possible know about the album plans and directing them to the pledge-fund page. In this we were helped by positive coverage from the likes of BlabbermouthMetal Shock Finland,  Vive Le Rock!,  Rockchickenz,  Rock Guitar Daily,  Pure Rock USHeavy Metal ITEmpire Extreme  and many others who all helpfully provided links to Bernie’s pledge-fund page as well as news about the project.

Phenomenally, the pledge target was reached in less than nine hours. Thanking fans Bernie said:

“I’m absolutely blown away by this, can’t believe it, 100% of what I needed in 8 hours 45 minutes! Man, I’ve truly got the best fans in the whole damn universe! This is going to be a great album.”

MetalTalk captured the moment nicely here. However, it was not just the rock and metal sites that were showing an interest. Roots Music Journal No Depression made it one of their pledge-fund campaigns of the week:

“On its surface, Bernie Torme might seem an odd choice for a column about roots music campaigns. This is, after all, the guitarist who is best known for his work in the hard rock realm with acts like Gillan, Ozzy Osbourne, and Desperado with Dee Snider. But Torme’s recent works have melded his hard rock roots with a love of psychedelic and blues rock and he plans to up the ante even further with his new triple-album Dublin Cowboy. The triple album will consist of a harder edged electric album, a live album, and the part of most interest to a roots fan, Torme’s first acoustic album.”

Dublin Cowboy cover

Throughout the process of making the album Bernie kept fans up to date via social media and the pledge-fund page. Explaining the approach on his pledge page Bernie told them:

“When I made the last two albums, Flowers & Dirt and Blackheart, I really loved the fact that I was able to be hands on and communicate directly to fans, as an independent musician that was a really positive experience, so much better than the past when the cold, dead, (and also pretty judgemental) hand of the corporate music industry (in the shape of a record company) laid over everything you tried to do.”

Not only is it a great way of keeping in touch with current fans, the pledge-funding process can actually be a great way of re-connecting with old ones, too. This quote from a long-term Gillan fan is a classic example:

“Thanks for this. I’m a big fan of Gillan with Tormé but never heard Bernie’s solo stuff so I’ve bought this one now!”

Pledgers got early access to the album via download at the beginning of March ahead of the official CD release date in April. Fan reaction was immediately and overwhelmingly positive:

“This acoustic one cuts me to the core. Can’t stop listenin’…Love it!!” DP

“What I’ve heard is sounding great, and Janus is just awesome!” PW

“Beyond the obligatory 5 stars!” OBN

“My favourite is the live one where it can be seen if an artist still has the “beans”. U certainly do dude, u absolutely rocked it. RS

I worked to secure a further round of publicity ahead of the official album release on April 7 as well as the accompanying UK tour. Anti MusicBlabbermouthEmpire Extreme.  Vive Le Rock,  Totally Driven EntertainmentUltimate Guitar,  Heavy Metal Overload , The Rocktologist and many others were all extremely helpful in providing preview features on the album and the UK tour.

Meanwhile, Bernie carried out a series of interviews for the likes of Music LegendsRockgig and Just For The Record as well as for a number of radio stations and magazines. MetalTalk made Bernie’s London Borderline gig on 7th April their recommended Gig of the Week with an exclusive pre-tour interview, while Ultimate Classic Rock would publish an emotional and brutally honest interview with Bernie that marked 35 years since he stepped in to help out Ozzy Osbourne following the tragic death of Randy Rhoads. You can read the full interview here.

As well as preview pieces and interviews the reviews were also starting to come in and again these have been very favourable:

Get Ready To Rock:  “The word essential can often be overused in reviews, however this album really is that and then some. Two albums to rock out to and then one to wind down and chill out with, perfect.”

Eternal Terror: “Dublin Cowboy is a stunning and fascinating release that perfectly encapsulates everything that I love about Bernie Tormé.”

Sea of Tranquility: “Fans sure as hell get plenty of music with Dublin Cowboy, a varied and enjoyable collection of material that shows off every aspect of the talented Bernie Tormé. Don’t miss out!”

Equally, fan reaction to the gigs has been fantastic and I can certainly vouch for a superb show with fantastic new bass player, Sy Morton, joining Bernie and drummer, Ian Harris, at London’s newly-refurbished Borderline venue on 7th April.

So, what conclusions can we draw from all this? Certainly, Dublin Cowboy is an incredible album from an incredible artist.The music industry has changed beyond recognition and crowd-funding in the form of pledge campaigns can provide a way financing an album. The biggest artists are never going to need it, of course. Whatever changes the music industry goes through next the likes of Ozzy Osbourne or Ed Sheeran are never going to struggle to find companies willing to finance their albums. But for smaller artists with a dedicated fan-base pledge-funding can be hugely effective. You do need to have built your fan-base first, though. It’s not much use trying to crowd-fund without a crowd. There are still hurdles then for artists just starting out their career. However, Bernie Tormé has shown that if you have the talent and you have the fans, then a pledge-fund campaign can be a phenomenally effective way of getting a superb new album into their hands.

And for me? Doing the album and tour publicity for a guitarist I’ve been following since I was at school has been a pretty amazing experience as well!

http://www.bernietorme.co.uk/

IMG_5852.jpg

Bernie with drummer Ian Harris and new bass player Sy Morton on stage in Brighton
Photo credit: Jaideep S Jadav

A love letter to The Byrds – and the part they played in a musical journey

I love folk and have attended numerous folk festivals and countless gigs, taken part in seminars on the history of English folk song and enjoy writing about it, both on here and in other publications. However, unlike rock which I loved from my early teens, my appreciation of folk came later in life. But after getting into heavy metal as teenager in the early 80s, I started exploring back – to 70s glam rock and 60s beat groups.

And the key link that took me on a musical journey that led me to appreciating what folk music, as well as rock music, had to offer was The Byrds. I knew Mr Tambourine Man, of course, that perfect slice of 60s pop-rock and so one day at Preston Record Library I happened across a greatest hits compilation LP of The Byrds, which I decided to borrow. I taped it and soon fell in love with, not only the aforementioned Mr Tambourine Man, but many other gems like Turn! Turn! Turn, Eight Miles High and Mr Spaceman.

911MPSWCLbL._SL1500_

One song, however, particularly intrigued me and that was the strangely-titled but beautifully sung The Bells of Rhymney. I learnt from the sleeve-notes that it was originally recorded by folk singer Pete Seeger, based on much older words commemorating a real-life mining tragedy in a Welsh coal mining village. It was my first taste of seeing folk songs as something that could be touching and moving and not simply something to joke about with your finger in your ear.

Over the years, I switched to CDs and began amassing the entire back catalogue of The Byrds and also began exploring other artists in the American folk rock vein, too. After a while I thought to myself that if I actually enjoyed American folk rock so much, maybe I might actually enjoy English folk rock, too. Fairport Convention followed, then Steeleye Span and then, as I got more and more enthralled with the beautiful singing of Sandy Denny and Maddy Prior and the fascinating stories behind many of the traditional songs they sung, I took the plunge and began getting into actual folk folk not just folk rock. It opened up a whole new chapter of musical appreciation.

While nothing in the world is ever going to stop me enjoying Black Sabbath’s Paranoid or Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize at full volume I am also tremendously grateful to Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke for helping open up the world of folk to me as well. In particular, a big thanks to The Bells of Rhymney which served as my gateway drug from rock to folk.

Holy Holy perform Ziggy Stardust at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 30/3/17

My review was  originally published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

“He’s fucking sacked us,” Spiders bass player, Trevor Bolder, was seen to mouth when David Bowie announced at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 1973 that it would be the final Ziggy show ever. Tragically, like Bowie, Bolder and his former Spiders colleague Mick Ronson are no longer with us. However, three years ago Spiders drummer, Woody Woodmansey, teamed up with long-term Bowie collaborator, Tony Visconti, to tour The Man Who Sold The World, an album that both played on. Now their Holy Holy outfit have done the seemingly impossible and resurrected Ziggy and the Spiders, forty-odd years after Bowie declared it would be the last show they would ever do.

Would they pull it off? I was certainly keen find out. Much as I wholeheartedly agreed with all of the tributes last year about what a truly unique, talented and infuential presence Bowie was throughout his entire career, for me it was always the early 70s glam rock period of Bowie’s work that I was truly, unequivocally a 100% fan of.

Starting out with The Width Of A Circle from The Man Who Sold The World, the seven-piece band go on to perform the Ziggy Stardust album in full, treating the crowd to blinding versions of Starman, Ziggy, Suffragette City and all the other gems from that iconic album. Once the final song of the album Rock n Roll Suicide plays out they give us to a spectacular run-through of other Bowie classics including Changes, Life On Mars and Space Oddity.

Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory delivers superb Bowie-esque vocals with the familiar phrasing that we all know and love from the records, while at the same time avoiding descending into a “Tonight Matthew I’m going to be…” pastiche. Post-punk icon James Stevenson absolutely nails the Ronson guitar licks in what is a talented band of world-class musicians. And, of course, it goes without saying that Woody Woodmansey is still an exceptionally talented drummer. The outpouring of affection for him throughout the night is thoroughly deserved.

The capacity crowd sing along to every word and the whole thing is joyful and celebratory. As we inevitably lose more and more of our twentieth century rock icons it becomes more and more apparent that we continue to have a tremendous yearning to still hear the music they made being performed live. We are no more going to forget Life On Mars in fifty years time than we have forgotten A Wonderful World almost fifty years after the death of Louis Armstrong. The challenge is to find an appropriate way of continuing to celebrate such music in a live setting. Holy Holy perhaps provides the template. They don’t claim to be the original band, although they’ve got a living, breathing direct link to it in the form of Woodmansey. They are not a tribute act, in that they avoid the role-playing and dressing up which can risk turning contemporary live performances into the musical equivalents of historical re-enactment societies. They do, however, pay tribute to the music in a way that is accurate and authentic and which delivers the songs with great love, care and affection.

In short, Holy Holy shows a way forward as to how we can continue to enjoy some of the greatest music of the twentieth century well into the twenty-first. A genuinely and truly impressive gig.

Setlist:
The Width of a Circle
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Five Year
Soul Love
Moonage Daydream
Starman
It Ain’t Easy
Lady Stardust
Star
Hang On to Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
All the Young Dudes
Oh! You Pretty Things
Changes
Life on Mars?
Space Oddity
The Supermen
Black Country Rock
The Man Who Sold the World
Watch That Man
Time
Heroes

http://www.holyholy.co.uk/

2017-03-30 18.53.02.jpg

Related:
The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences here

Slam Cartel at The Carlisle, Hastings 25/3/17

This review has also been published on the Get Ready to Rock website here

“It’s quite overwhelming having all these people singing these songs back at us,” lead singer, Gary Moffat, tells the audience at the Carlisle at one point during tonight’s gig. Clearly, the Kent-based hard rock outfit, Slam Cartel, have something of a following in Hastings and they have made regular appearances at the Carlisle in recent years. However, regardless of how many times gigs you perform, it’s not every lesser-known band producing wholly original material that is rewarded with impromptu crowd sing-alongs throughout the night. It just goes to emphasise the sheer quality of this band’s song-writing. Or, as one of their enthusiastic supporters told me afterwards, “What I like about these lads is that they really know how to write a good chorus.”

With a hard n heavy yet infectiously melodic approach, a charismatic and energetic front-man in Gary Moffat and, as mentioned, a superb set of songs, Slam Cartel are thoroughly deserving of the response they got tonight.

Combining the irresistible hook-lines of 80s metal with the down-at-heel honesty of grunge and the attachment to melody that every great classic rock band has always aspired to, Slam Cartel have created a distinctive sound and a musical identity for themselves that they carry off with self-confidence.

Songs from the band’s début album Handful Of Dreams (released prior to Moffat joining the band) dominate the set-list. Given it contains great catchy rock songs like Powerstorm, Wishing Eye and Once In A Lifetime, it would make no sense at all for the band to turn their back on these, particularly as Moffat has absolutely made them his own in terms of delivery. Songs from two more recently-recorded singles, however, also make it into the set including the superb Vanishing Worlds.

With the reception they got in the Carlisle, once again, I’m sure it won’t be too long before Hastings is treated to another energetic night with Slam Cartel. In the meantime, there’s also a new album to look forward to, currently being recorded and due out later this year.

Radio-friendly, melodic hard rock that is fresh and contemporary, yet at the same time gets you singing along like you’ve known the stuff for years, it’s immediately apparent why gig-goers in Hastings have taken this band to heart. Let’s hope the rest of the rock world soon follows suite.

Setlist:

Powerstorm
Mismatched Ties
Worldstarlove
Free Again
Vanishing Worlds
Goldenstream
Strike No. 1
Wildflower
Hold Me
Hypnotised
Wishing Eye
Handful of Dreams
Storm Seasoned
Sundown
Breathe
Once In A Lifetime

http://www.slamcartel.com/

17521957_10155191598023573_877491994_oPhoto credit: Sue Stevens

The changing demographics behind charity shop CDs

Baby-boomers, Brexit and classic rock bargains

I’ve rarely been able to go past a charity shop without having a quick browse through their second-hand CDs. To be fair this usually doesn’t take long. Shops usually have a shelf or two with around 100-150 CDs for sale and usually the majority of them hold no interest for me at all as they fall into two categories:

1. Old-time easy listening – the likes of James Last, Vera Lynn, Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe and so on. You get tons of these in most charity shops. My guess is that they belonged to people in their late 70s/80s who have either died or gone into nursing homes and their CDs have been passed on to the charity shop by their families.

2. 90s/00s chart pop – the likes of Take That, Spice Girls, Ronan Keating and numerous X Factor winners. Again, you see tons of these in charity shops and my guess is they belonged to 30-somethings or early forty-somethings who have offloaded them, either because of changing musical tastes or because they don’t want to have anything as desperately uncool as CDs in the house and have switched to downloads. Occasionally, you see some Britpop-era CDs amongst these and (particularly as I wasn’t able to afford to buy too many CDs back in the 90s) I’ve been able to pick up numerous second-hand bargains by the likes of Blur, Cast, The Boo Radleys, Ocean Colour Scene, The Levellers and so on to add to my collection.

However, what was very rarely seen, until recently, was the kind of classic rock albums that are the mainstay of my CD collection. This is starting to change it would appear and in the past year I’ve picked up numerous CDs for 50p or a pound by the likes of Ray Davies, Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, Fleetwood Mac, Meatloaf, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy.

It could be that these are the result of people either switching to digital (or switching back to vinyl) and disposing of their CDs in the process. But I doubt that accounts for the bulk of them somehow. My guess is that just as we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of rock star deaths – guys in their 60s and early 70s being tragically taken away from us, we are probably also witnessing a similar trend amongst rock fans as well. A tragedy for their families, certainly, as I know only too well. But good news,perhaps, for the quality of the CD shelves in charity shops.

The baby-boomer generation may have unwittingly cast a huge question mark over their grand-children’s futures by voting for Brexit in such overwhelming numbers but at least their impeccable good taste in music is available for the benefit of future generations and can now be snapped up at bargain prices at a charity shop near you.

2017-03-18 13.15.48.jpg

In praise of Action Records, Preston

Tales of a teenage record-buyer in 1980s Preston

Action Records is a long-running and much-celebrated record store on Church Street in Preston, Lancashire. I know it’s still going – although I must confess I haven’t been in there in almost three decades. Living in London and now Hastings for twenty-odd years it’s really not that convenient for me. And trips to Preston these days tend to be a frenzied whirl of family visiting rather than a time to browse record stores. But as a teenager Action Records was an absolute goldmine of musical discoveries for me.

actionrecords

It was the early 80s, a few years before CDs became ubiquitous, and the second-hand vinyl racks at Action Records at the scruffy end of Church Street were something I poured over at least once a week. New albums back then were comparatively expensive we must remember. Although you could see numerous name bands at Preston Guildhall for just three or four quid (tickets that would cost you almost ten times that these days) to buy a new album you were talking £4.99. My paper-round and (later) my glass-collecting job in the local pub wouldn’t run to many of those. So going to Action Records, with its huge range of second-hand vinyl from around £1.20 to around £1.80, became quite addictive.

On starting out my lifelong obsession with buying rock music not only was I able to rapidly acquire the back catalogues of bands that everyone who was into rock and heavy metal at school was talking about (the likes of Rainbow, AC/DC, Whitesnake and Status Quo), it was also a treasure trove for seeking out the more obscure stuff, too. Albums that had long been deleted from bands that had been forgotten and that 80s fashion dictated should be completely ignored could be snapped up for next to nothing. It’s purely thanks to Action Records that I got turned on to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Widowmaker and The Yardbirds.

These days it’s so easy to seek out information on vintage acts and it’s pretty easy to purchase their entire back catalogue. However, pre-internet, unless you knew your music history inside out there was quite a bit of guesswork involved. I would often go by the very scientific method of buying albums through either (a) recognising the name of one of the musicians as someone who had played in another band or (b) liking the cover. I developed a lifelong love of Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter (neither of whom I’d heard of and about whom absolutely no-one was talking about at the time) purely after being drawn to the bright, florescent pink cover of the ‘Mott’ album and being prepared to shell out £1.20 for it.

mott-53e8a4aed5f2e

Musically, for me it was an exciting voyage of discovery and Action Records made that possible. Sometimes there would be some helpful bits of advice from Gordon, the proprietor, but never in a way that made you feel small or outside some hallowed music aficionado clique that you were not part of.

I’ve still got much of my Action Records second-hand vinyl, even though I mainly listen to CDs these days, and I’m absolutely delighted that it’s still going. It certainly played a major part in my musical appreciation and, who knows, maybe it’s finally time to pay a visit again next time I’m in Preston.

Thank you Action Records.

There’s a short 2015 film celebrating Action Records’ legacy here: https://vimeo.com/125335358

Record Store Day this year is 22nd April 2017

http://www.actionrecords.co.uk/

418457903915

 

Memories of my first ever live gig – Slade at Donington 22/8/81

When I went to Monsters of Rock at Donington, aged 15, in 1981 it was not only my first ever festival but also my first ever live rock gig of any type. It still remains my favourite gig of all time, in particular the set by Slade that afternoon.

We arrived at Donington a little late and by the time we had parked and got into the arena the band More were most of the way through their set. The next band on were Blackfoot who I have no real recollection of at all. What I do remember is the anticipation of waiting for Slade to come on. After several years in the doldrums Slade had burst back into the charts a few months earlier with ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’. Their storming performance at Reading Festival the previous year (when the band replaced Ozzy Osbourne at the last minute) had already become legendary and this all meant that in the space of a few months Slade went from being a band that sang about Christmas that I vaguely recalled from my childhood to being my number one favourite band in the whole world. And that was even before I witnessed what would become (and still remains) the most remarkable live performance I’ve ever seen. Loud guitar-driven rock, commanding showmanship, unforgettable songs and sheer over- the-top-eccentricity, it was an absolute master-class in compelling live performance.

On the back of the previous year’s Reading appearance, the early 80s heavy metal crowd had really taken Slade to heart. Looking at the setlist from Donington now the songs basically fit into three categories. Firstly, there were, unsurprisingly, the 70s hits like ‘Gudbuy T’ Jane’ and ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’. Secondly, there was newer material like ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ and a sneak preview of their soon-to-be-released new single ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’. Thirdly, there were the old 50s rock ’n’ roll covers, which Slade had begun inserting in their set in their wilderness years in the late 70s but had kept in as they began to be embraced by the heavy metal crowd. Although the look couldn’t have been more different, this latter group of songs demonstrates how much late 50s rock ’n’ roll and early 70s glam rock had in common in terms of song structure, lyrical themes and instantly memorable choruses.

It was Noddy Holder’s masterful ability to connect with the 65,000-strong crowd, however, that was perhaps even more memorable than the songs. Witty, irreverent and on a mission to entertain no matter what, in spite of the non-stop rain, Holder was able to strike an instant rapport with a huge festival audience in a way that few can. And that’s before we even get on to discussing the surreal sea of moving objects that danced above the heads of the crowd throughout the entire set. Although ever-more hostile missile throwing was to mar a number of festivals around that time, with Slade it was turned on its head and rather than being fuelled by aggressive machismo, chucking stuff about became a life-affirming celebration of communal craziness. White plastic beer bottles full of beer, bundles of hay that had been laid on the ground in an attempt to soak up the mud, packed lunches, burger buns – everything that could be thrown in the air was thrown in the air . The band, of course, joined in with one toilet roll after being another lobbed out into the crowd during Mama Weer All Crazee Now. When the crowd called for Merry Christmas at the end of the set Holder told us all that if we wanted it we would have to sing it ourselves, which is precisely what everyone did…

After Slade finished, and soaking wet from rain, beer and mud and covered head to foot in hay we made our way further towards the back of the crowd to catch our breath and I wondered whether I would ever see anything on stage quite so magnificent ever again. There were more fantastic performances to come that day – with memorable sets from both Whitesnake and AC/DC (once a completely underwhelming performance from Blue Oyster Cult was out of the way). However, even though I’ve seen many exceptional performances from many exceptional bands over the years, nothing has ever quite matched the intensity of seeing Slade at Donington.

Setlist:

Dizzy Mamma
When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’
Take Me Bak ‘Ome
Lock Up Your Daughters
Everyday
Somethin’ Else
Pistol Packin’ Mama
Gudbuy T’Jane
We’ll Bring the House Down
Get Down and Get With It
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Cum On Feel the Noize
Born to Be Wild
Merry Xmas Everybody

Related posts:
Slade at Minehead 2015
Slade at Hastings 2015
Slade Fan Convention 2016
Slade, strikes and the three-day week

Monsters-Of-Rock-1981