Fans of Southern rock are in for a treat this month as a celebrated live performance by 38 Special is released on CD and DVD for the first time.
As part of the band’s 1981 world tour following the release of their Wild-Eyed Southern Boys studio album at the start of that year, 38 Special performed at the Freilichtbühne Loreley amphitheatre in St. Goarshausen, Germany on 29th August 1981. The concert was recorded by the popular Rockpalast German music television show. While it has lain in the archives for the past four decades, the concert will finally get an official release when 38 Special – Live at Rockpalast 1981 comes out on 30th June this year.
The 11-song collection will be available as a CD/DVD set and on digital streaming services. Tracks on the album include live versions of band classics like ‘Turn It On’, ‘Hold On Loosely,’ ‘Wild-Eyed Southern Boys’ and ‘Rockin’ Into The Night’ as well as covers of Chuck Berry’s ‘Around and Around’ and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’, the latter serving as the band’s encore.
Founding member, Don Barnes, who co-founded 38 Special with Donnie Van Zant in 1974 and still performs around 100 gigs a year with the band, commented:
“We are very proud and happy to see this historic live concert finally getting released. We had such a rockin time! It was a memorable experience for 38 Special and our first time in Germany.”
“Every song, every solo, all the energy was balled up in an explosive presentation. It felt like we had strapped ourselves in and the crowd took us up higher and higher. It was an exhilarating experience! After our full set and before the encore, I remember being soaked and toweling off before we went back out and took them for that last ride.”
“On behalf of Donnie Van Zant, myself and the band, we send our thanks and best wishes to all involved with the presentation of this show from so many years ago. We’re still out there bringing the heat and hope to be for many more years!”
In addition to Barnes and Van Zant, the 38 Special line-up at the time included Jeff Carlisi on guitar, Jack Grondin on drums, Larry “LJ” Junstrom on bass, and Carol Bristow and Lu Moss on background vocals. Fans of the band with a keen eye may notice, that Don Barnes plays the same Gibson electric guitar today as he did at Rockpalast.
Rockpalast (Rock Palace) launched as a live music television show in 1974. Almost 50 years later, the show continues to highlight rock, heavy metal, folk and jazz airing on German television station Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) and throughout Europe on Eurovision.
38 Special – Live at Rockpalast 1981 released: 30 June 2023 by MIG in partnership with MVD (US distribution) and Believe (worldwide distribution)
“Simply calling Aaron a guitarist and songwriter is a little like calling Warhol a painter. It misses the mark by miles.” Tim Carroll – FolkWords
“This album really is a proper immersive experience, way beyond good songwriting and performance.” Paul Jackson – Fatea
‘Gotta Believe’ is the latest single from guitarist and singer songwriter, Jake Aaron. Featuring a guest appearance from renowned jazz fusion guitarist, John Etheridge (of Soft Machine, Hawkwind, solo acclaim and many collaborations), it’s one of the harder rocking tracks from Jake Aaron’s newly-released album, Always Seeking . The album was released on digital formats on 17th May 2023 and is also available on CD from 7th June.
Talking about ‘Gotta Believe’ single Jake says: “I’m partial to some heavy rock now and again, so I enjoyed writing this track. In the studio, John Etheridge put aside his boutique Jazz amp which he’d used for a jazzier track on the album, and plugged his guitar into the studio’s Marshall. The solo sounds like molten lava dripping off the fretboard, lovely stuff. Kate Kurdyak, who also sings “Lupe’s Theme” on the album, is singing backing vocals. Before we recorded it I mentioned to the musicians, who are all very fine Jazz players, that they didn’t have to play this one if they didn’t want. The drummer Marc Parnell replied “jazz players are fine playing rock, it’s rock players who won’t play jazz!”
The album itself, Always Seeking, is a collection of fourteen tracks – a mix of acoustic, rock, blues, saloon piano and a Western cinematic theme. There are some characters along the way – Parnell (‘Parnell’s Last Stand’), a young wolf Lupe (‘Lupe’s Theme’) and an old dog who’s lost his way (‘Leave the Light On’).
Commenting on the album, Jake says:“I’d say it was alt-Americana rather than straight Americana. I grew up listening to bands like The Jam, Ian Dury and The Specials rather than American country – so there are other influences in there”
On the album, Jake is again joined by the excellent team of musicians from his first album, Fag Ash and Beer. These being: Steve Lodder on keyboards, Davide Mantovani on bass, Marc Parnell on drums and Steve Waterman on trumpet. “Some of the best players in the UK,” as the BBC’s Linley Hamilton noted. There are also guest appearances from the phenomenal John Etheridge on lead guitar (‘Gotta Believe’, ‘Four Coaches’ and ‘The Revenant’); and the wonderful Kate Kurdyak of Canadian noir-pop band Vox Rea (‘Lupe’s Theme’ and ‘Gotta Believe’).
The album will be available in a limited-run CD format from 7th June – with artwork by the fantastic Anthony MacBain (Grand Theft Auto).
ABOUT JAKE AARON:
A British guitarist and songwriter who has “moved among both folk and jazz circles” (‘Cosmic Jazz’ – Feb 2023) Jake’s first EP of acoustic pieces was released in 2015 to positive reviews from folk and indie reviewers. His 2018 single ‘Give Me Your Horse’ was a bigger, jazzier number which had airplay on both folk stations as well as jazz, including the BBC’s Jazz Nights. He released his first album in 2019 Fag Ash and Beer, a collection of songs, longer lyrical offerings and instrumentals which was nominated for Debut Album of The Year by Fatea Magazine. He has released a handful of mainly acoustic singles since then.
ALBUM RELEASE NOTES:
ARTIST: Jake Aaron
TITLE: Always Seeking
CATALOGUE NO: JA10
LABEL: Jake Aaron Records
RELEASE DATE: 17th May 2023 (Digital), 7th June 2023 (CD)
FORMAT Digital: / CD
FILE UNDER: Folk / Blues / Rock / Jazz
AVAILABLE: Online / CD
DIRECT FROM: iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, jakeaaron.com
Always quite a Quo fan since being a young teenager, I’d originally booked to see Francis Rossi on his ‘I Talk Too Much Tour’ back in 2020. Covid came along and that got rescheduled and then cancelled altogether but Rossi finally makes it to Hastings’ White Rock Theatre on his follow-up tour, ‘Tunes and Chat’.
The previous tour adopted that well-established format for this type of evening: seasoned music journo chats to acclaimed rock star about their life and career, interspersed with some live songs. Sadly, (for the reasons given above) I didn’t get the chance to see Rossi do this with veteran rock writer, Mick Wall, when they went out on the road but Rossi clearly enjoyed himself because he’s back for more. However, this time he’s eschewed the standard format of on-stage bantering with an established music journo and it’s just Rossi and his guitar tech and accomplished co-musician, Andy Brook.
Brook famously doesn’t say a word during the show until right towards the end when he reads out some audience questions for Rossi to answer. So the “chat” part is very much Rossi in solo mode. It soon begins to remind me of one of those monologues that Ronnie Corbett used to do sitting on that massive big chair meandering away when he did his solo segment on The Two Ronnies. It’s very stream-of-consciousness with lots of ad-hoc, one-liners interspersed with recollections about growing up in an Italian family in south London, getting hooked on music and embarking on a potentially-lethal home experiment in trying to create his first ever electric guitar.
Along with the more generic chit-chat, there’s also some fascinating insights into how certain Quo songs came about. And, my, do we get the songs. Starting off with some of the early material like ‘In My Chair’ and ‘Down The Dustpipe’ before moving on to some of the songs recorded at the height of the band’s success in the 1970s and early 1980s, there is absolutely no shortage of Quo classics, including ‘What You’re Proposing’, ‘Paper Plane’ and ‘Rocking All Over The World’.
I’ve seen Status Quo perform acoustically in the past, of course, when they did their ‘Aquostic’ project some years back but this is a much more intimate affair and Rossi is in fine voice and clearly in his element. On stage, Rossi and Andy Brook spar extremely well together musically – even if not conversationally – and the evening ends with a wonderful, communal sing-along to ‘Caroline’.
Always Seeking is the eagerly-anticipated second album from guitarist and singer songwriter, Jake Aaron. It follows his highly-acclaimed 2019 debut, Fag Ash and Beer, which drew many enthusiastic reviews. Always Seeking was released on digital formats on 17th May 2023 and is also available on CD from 7th June. Having interviewed Jake back in 2019 following the release of his debut album, I catch up with him again to find out more about the latest one.
It’s been four years since your debut album Fag Ash & Beer which attracted some extremely favourable reviews. When did you begin working on the follow-up?
Some of the music goes back a long time, a few years in some cases. I had chords without a melody, words without songs, songs without words, but an Americana album of some sort seemed to be taking shape for a while. The actual process of bringing it all together and finishing it off probably spanned two or three years.
Was this a different process to writing the previous album?
It was pretty different, yes. With the first album, only three tracks were recorded live. I started mainly with solo acoustic pieces and the players coloured some of them in with overdubs. With Always Seeking eight of the tracks were recorded live so it probably has more band energy.
How would you describe Always Seeking as an album?
I loosely imagined a noir Western, and something with a moving landscape, scenes and moods. As far as the theme goes, I suppose like a lot of people, I’m prone to follow mirages and over romanticise the future and the past.
Like its predecessor the album crosses a number of genres and takes in a range of influences. It’s obviously important to you not to be boxed in, musically?
I’ve absorbed a lot of music over the years and like lots of different music so it would be hard to stick with just one sound. As I’m an independent artist too and not very commercial, I’m pretty free to record what interests me. It’s not like a major label is locking me up till I’ve written my next hit.
Some genres probably aren’t that far removed from each other anyway especially folk, rock, and blues. John Renbourn and Davy Graham were often crossing over naturally to classical and jazzy sounds. Or, thinking of George Harrison and Robby Basho who played some sitar, into Indian Raga. Maybe it’s partly due to the instrument – guitarists can pick up a classical guitar, an electric guitar, sitar or banjo, or use different tunings and sound very different. I mean if I played the bagpipes I’d be a bit more stuck stylistically.
The album features a number of the musicians who played on your first album. Clearly, you enjoyed working with them, first time around?
Totally! Steve Lodder on keyboards again, Davide Mantovani on bass, Marc Parnell drums, Steve Waterman on trumpet and Kenny Jones engineering. They’re fantastic to work with. I think they’re a good choice too because some of my music is off-beat and, as jazzers, they’re completely unphased.
The only track I was unsure about asking them to play, was the rockier track ‘Gotta Believe’ and they were free to opt out of that one if they wanted. Marc’s response was: “Jazz players are fine playing rock, it’s rock players who won’t play jazz!” It’s true, listen to them!
You’ve also got a couple of other guests on the album, John Etheridge on several tracks and Kate Kurdyak on a couple of tracks. How did they get involved?
The character in the album artwork and music turned out to be female so it seemed to call out for a female singer. It took a long time to find the right singer till I remembered a song I really liked in 2021 – ‘Dose Me Up’ by a Canadian band Vox Rea. Kate has a beautiful voice. I had to wait a while till she got back from touring but it was worth it and I’m really glad she got involved in the album. Vox Rea recently made it onto BBC Radio 2 with their track “Julia”, so very possibly we’ll be hearing more of them.
I’ve known John a little for a few years ever since bumping into him on the tube and sharing a tube journey with him. I’d just seen him playing with John Williams at Ronnie Scott’s, and in Nottingham too, so had quite a bit to chat about the music and the shows. It so happens John also plays with Steve and were working together on some jazz versions of The Kinks which I heard when I was working on the album. It had some stunning lead guitar. Three of the tracks on “Always Seeking” needed some lead guitar and I wasn’t about to follow Steve’s solo in The Revenant – so one thing led to another and John seemed to like the pieces. John’s two solos on The Revenant are just brilliant which is partly why the track is so long! I couldn’t find anywhere to fade it. It’s a very joyous listen, very melodic, very unrushed.
The artist Anthony Macbain produced a very striking image for the album cover, full of old-style western film imagery. Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted from the outset?
Anthony’s art is fantastic and adds a whole new dimension to the music. We had some shared musical interests too which probably helped including – you’ll be very pleased to know – Iron Maiden. I sent Anthony a rough, badly drawn sketch of a rider on a ridge looking over clouds, with a guitar and rifle. Anthony took the idea and transformed it. His first sketch was of a female rider looking at the viewer. It was so good I asked him to finish it though we felt the image of the rider in the distance worked better for the album cover. The original image is now in the CD as a fold-out poster and looks terrific. It was a real surprise when I received the first copy.
What next for Jake Aaron?
I’m looking into pressing some vinyl for Always Seeking, depending on the level of interest. The feedback about the artwork and line up is so good it would be good to see it on vinyl – it might be something someone picks up in a second hand shop one day and asks what the hell was that? I had that experience a lot when I used to trawl second hand record shops. I’ve emailed a record shop in London who haven’t got back yet, so if there are any vinyl shops reading give us a shout!
Vinyl seems to be making a huge resurgence. One of my tracks was picked up by a vinyl “mixtape” club in the US, Vinyl Moon, who produce really beautiful vinyl each month with original music and artwork that piqued my interest too. Jared Sylvia designed the volume that my track’s on.
Musically I’ve got quite a lot of stuff simmering in the pot, some lyrics, chords, a few melodies, song titles. So I guess there could be a single or two, an EP and another album at some point. I’m more interested than I used to be in reworking earlier tracks these days. Sometimes you can only take a track so far at the time and then run out of time, skill or imagination and then a few years later pick it up again – you might have evolved a bit musically and can do more with it.
I did think the other day if I write more material I can do a Best Of some day which would be a great thing – it would immediately improve the overall standard of the album with a massive edit!
Radio host, YouTuber, writer and producer, Tokyo-based Mike Rogers has many incredible connections in the world of rock and roll.
I’ve been in contact with Mike on numerous occasions in connection with my music PR work, representing other artists. This time, however, I was the guest on the Mike Rogers Show, talking about my recently-published book on Slade.
You can catch my interview with Mike below, where I talk about my love of ’70s glam, my new book on Slade, my two previous books on Suzi Quatro and The Sweet and my segue from London politics to music writing.
Actually, as The Times noted last weekend I’m not the first ex-London politician to write a book on Slade. Before turning my hand to music writing, I did a sixteen year stint as an elected member of the Greater London Authority (GLA), representing the Green Party. But the first person to write a book on Slade was George Tremlett, a Conservative member of the predecessor body, the Greater London Council (GLC), whose own Slade book came out in 1975.
And below Here we have George Tremlett’s 1975 book ‘The Slade Story’, alongside my own book which came out on 26th May this year.
This week sees the publication of my third book for Sonicbond’s Decades series: ‘Slade In The 1970s’. It follows on from my books on The Sweet in 2021 and Suzi Quatro last year – a glam trilogy if you will!
Here is a round-up of reviews for my previous book on Suzi Quatro. All three books are available on Amazon and other major retailers as well as the publisher’s own online shop at Burning Shed.
“Darren Johnson focuses the same obsessive-compulsive attention to detail that he applied to Sweet in his earlier contribution” – Andrew Darlington, RnR magazine
“An interesting book which should appeal to a wide audience” – John Tucker, Record Collector magazine
“Fascinating read for Suzi Q fans, aging glam rockers and anybody who enjoys a good, informative rock biography.” Jason Ritchie, Get Ready To Rock
“One hell of a gig.” – Tim Keppie, Record Collector magazine
“Puckrik leads a performance of riotous energy and no mean volume.” – Chris Roberts, Classic Rock magazine
“If you’re my generation, this is a blast.” – Neil McCormick, chief music critic – The Telegraph
“Great gig. Great band. Brilliant night.” – Marc Riley, BBC Radio 6 Music presenter
“The show is a show you simply cannot miss. Go and see it and experience the energy!” – Danny Stoakes, Stoakes Media Music Reviews
Following glowing reviews, sold-out venues and many, many fun nights, the all-star line-up celebrating Iggy Pop’s classic Lust For Life album have announced a second UK tour. Legendary Blondie drummer, Clem Burke, will once again be joined by former Sex Pistol and punk pioneer, Glen Matlock on bass; broadcaster and Pet Shop Boys dancer, Katie Puckrik on vocals; Iggy Pop and David Bowie collaborator, Kevin Armstrong on guitar; Luis Correia, who’s toured internationally with Earl Slick on second guitar; together with classical pianist, composer, and touring member of Heaven 17, Florence Sabeva on keyboards.
The band will again perform the Lust For Life album in full, as well as revisiting songs from across the individual band members’ careers with legendary artists including Blondie, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols. Some of them will be songs the band performed on the last tour but there will be a few surprises thrown in as well.
Three of the band members, Glen Matlock, Clem Burke and Kevin Armstrong, have toured with Iggy Pop and each has made an album with him: Glen Matlock (Soldier) in 1980, Clem Burke (Zombie Birdhouse) in 1982 and Kevin Armstrong (Blah Blah Blah) in 1986.
Fronting the band, the irrepressible Katie Puckrik proved a rock ‘n’ roll revelation to many on the last tour. As Clem Burke said: “Katie is fantastic and she’s joined the ranks of the other brilliant women I’ve been fortunate to play with: Debbie, Annie, Nancy, Wanda, The Go Go’s and Joan!”
Katie Puckrik: “Touring Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life in 2023 felt like a homecoming. My broadcast career had long steered me away from my original calling as a performer, from dancing onstage with The Fall and Michael Clark Company, touring the world with Pet Shop Boys, and singing in Sparks’ opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, both on the original cast recording and in performance. So to embody the funny/dirty/tart/smart songs of the magnificent Iggy Pop was an electrifying rebirth. Every single gig was a communion with a frothing room of Pop-aholics, and it’s thanks to the crowds who danced and hollered along to Lust For Life, The Passenger, and the rest of Iggy’s anthems, that we get to do it all over again. Once again I’ll be elevated by some of Iggy, Bowie and Blondie’s most beloved players, including Clem Burke, Glen Matlock and Kevin Armstrong, and I’m warning you—this band is a joy machine!”
Glen Matlock: “To be on stage with these fellow like-minded guys and gals and celebrate our collective musical ancestries is always a pleasure, so come on down and let’s all hit the roof together.”
Clem Burke:“I’m really looking forward to once again playing with this great group of friends and musicians. All aboard for more Funtime!”
A fixture on the adjacent “festival fringe” of Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy extravaganza each year, Wigan-based folk-rockers, Merry Hell, have finally made it to the main stage and will appear there this August. With impeccable timing (and something that will sell like hot cakes at this and other festivals this summer, I’m sure) the band have released their first ever ‘best of’ compilation.
Emerging back in 2010 from the ashes of 90s folk-punk outfit, The Tansads, the band weren’t quite sure how things would take off but six albums later Merry Hell have more than proved themselves and there’s no shortage of strong material for a proper career retrospective.
Never afraid of wearing their hearts on their sleeves and standing up for what they believe in, Merry Hell have developed a strong niche as purveyors of rousing folk-rock anthems with socially-conscious lyrics, all delivered with characteristic good humour, energy, verve and passion.
In compiling the album the band had some assistance from fans, alongside each individual band member also choosing their own particular favourite. The result is a whopping 28 tracks over two discs and, for me, there’s plenty of personal favourites among the final selection: from the ecologically-themed paean to decluttering, ‘Bury Me Naked’; to the band’s self-proclaimed “alternative national anthem” ‘Come On England!’; to the rousing ‘Leave It In The Ground’ from the climate-themed Emergency Lullabies album.
With over half of the members of the eight-piece band also being songwriters, Merry Hell explore a variety of styles and influences in their output and so it’s not all rousing, amped-up sing-alongs, albeit that is very much their forte. The compilation has its mellower, tender moments, too, such as the beautifully-poignant acoustic number, ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’.
Whether you’re a long-term follower of Merry Hell or just discovering them for the first time at a festival this summer, Let The Music Speak For Itself is a strong compilation which is sure to find favour with fans both new and old. Role on Cropredy!
I was encouraged by the reaction to my Sweet book and began work on one about Suzi Quatro, another big ‘70s icon that I’ve always been a huge fan of. However, the first band I truly fell in love with was Slade said author Darren Johnson.
Originally from the North West, Darren moved to London in 1990 where he spent over twenty years working full time in politics…
My professional background was in politics and campaigning so I’d written a lot about current affairs and had various articles published in the national press – from tackling climate change to building more council housing.
After stepping back from politics Darren moved out of the capital and in 2016 based himself in Hastings, East Sussex.
When I no longer had an endless cycle of meetings to attend, one of the things I was determined to do was go to more live gigs…
Marking the publication of my third book for Sonicbond’s Decades series, Slade In The 1970s, I’ll be at the legendary Trumpet pub in Bilston on 17th June, a traditional stomping ground for the members of Slade in the early days and still a much-loved and highly-respected jazz venue.
Slade In The 1970s previewed this month in Wired Up glam fanzine:
As well as a Q&A and book signing I’m thrilled to announce there will also be a live acoustic set from Martin Brooks and Nigel Hart of the Pouk Hill Prophetz as part of the launch that afternoon (1pm-3pm) as well as a later set that evening (8pm-11pm).
Coming together through their shared love of Slade, Pouk Hill Prophetz have been together almost a decade now, bringing their own unique take on the music of Slade and other glam-era icons.
Martin Brooks, guitarist with Pouk Hill Prophetz: “Darren Johnson has been a friend of the band for many years and we are delighted to support his book launch. It is a great honour for PHP to play a gig at The Trumpet, which is such an important music venue in the Midlands and has been associated with Slade since their glory days in the 70s. It will be a day and a night to remember!”
About the author: A former politician, Darren Johnson spent many years writing about current affairs but after stepping away from politics he was able to devote time to his first love: music. His first book, The Sweet In The 1970s, was published by Sonicbond in 2021, followed by Suzi Quatro In The 1970s in 2022. Now he turns his attention to the first band he truly fell in love with: Slade. 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