Tag Archives: classic rock

April 16TH: Story of an 80s heavy metal band – new CD out ‘Epitaph’

Playing their first gig in April 1985, the band April 16TH were late to the party in terms of the UK’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. By then many of the bands that had started up in the late 70s and early 80s had either packed up, moved on or dramatically changed their style – bringing in keyboard flourishes and, with an eye on the more lucrative American market, a more commercial sheen. April 16TH resolutely didn’t go down this route, opting for a gutsy raw feel reminiscent of the likes of early Tygers of Pan Tang et al.

April 16TH at the Marquee

April 16TH were John Fisher (drums), Chris Harris (guitar), Lawrence Mills (lead guitar), Eric Puffett bass) and Dave Russell (vocals) – and unlike many bands of the era their line-up remained stabled throughout their entire tenure 1985-91.

“Musically APRIL 16TH always preferred a raw guitar base sound to that of the cleaner and ‘less real’ sound afforded by keyboards. The bands rough edge was further enhanced by the use of a single vocalist instead of the more traditional backing vocals set up,” states the band’s retrospective biog.

“Philosophically the band truly believed in the power of rock music as a form of expression. Their stage presentation was a totally unpretentious and honest, yet powerful and exciting experience. “APRIL 16TH” despised the use of stage clothing and over-hyped theatrical performances with larger-than-life egos. At gigs you could find and could talk to the band at the bar or the pub next door, not locked away in the dressing room.”

APRIL 16TH meet Lemmy

Gigging extensively around the south east the band’s early recordings began generating interest from regional radio stations and bookings started to come from further afield. An album Sleepwalking followed in January 1989 which led to further exposure for the band.  Radio One invited April 16TH to record a session for the Tommy Vance Rock Show and there was also a slot for London Weekend Television. Sadly, however, financial woes put paid to any future success, bankruptcy forced their departure from the music scene and April 16TH played their last ever gig at the Cartoon in Croydon on Saturday 13th July 1991.

The story doesn’t quite end thee however and thirty years later we now have a newly released CD chronicling all of the band’s studio recordings.

Why now? I asked guitarist, Chris Harris, who kindly sent me the CD.

Chris: “During our ‘career’ we produced two audio products. The first was a C60 cassette recorded at Cherry Studios in Croydon that we called the Cherry Jam tape. The second was a vinyl LP also recorded at Cherry Studios entitled Sleepwalking. The Cherry Jam tape was essentially a gig getting Demo tape but the Sleepwalking album was a ‘FOR SALE’ LP released by our record company – High Dragon Records of Paris. After the band went bankrupt it was always my intention to self-release a CD containing all the tracks that appeared on both the C60 and the LP. But this dream did not become a reality until July 2021.”

The Cherry Jam tape cover

 “I don’t like the word compilation,” adds Chris. “The title Epitaph was chosen to reflect the sombre memory of our demise and to present all the (recorded) material that the band had available. And so Epitaph was compiled by using the original 1986/87 master tapes. The CD is an exact duplication of the original sound of the band and was not enhanced or re-mixed in any way.”

The Sleepwalking vinyl album

Although not one of the big names of the era Epitaph is a hugely enjoyable compendium of April 16TH’s recorded output and should be of interest to anyone with a love for the NWOBHM scene and in particular those who enjoy those bands who went for the hard, rootsy, gutsy approach and weren’t like the proverbial kids in a sweetshop when they got inside a recording studio but stuck to the basics.

Visit April the band’s Facebook page at April 16TH

And join their Facebook group here

Original Vanilla Fudge line-up reconvene one final time to release ‘fudged up’ version of Motown classic

In the late ’60s Vanilla Fudge were known for their slow extended heavy rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs, including their take on the Supremes smash ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’.

Now all of the original line-up have come together to release a ‘fudged up’ version of another Supremes classic in tribute to departed bandmate, Tim Bogert, who died in January.

The original Vanilla Fudge line-up of Mark Stein, Carmine Appice, Vincent Martel and Tim Bogert, came together one final time for a psychedelically-tinged version of the ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’.

Vocalist and keyboard player Mark Stein put the idea to the others back in 2019 with the idea of recapturing some of the magic of their classic arrangement of ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’, which has enjoyed an extended life thanks to it’s appearance in the soundtracks of several Hollywood blockbusters.

Stein: “So back in mid 2019, I put together a blueprint for an arrangement for ‘Stop in the Name of Love’, while the Fudge was out there doing shows later that year. We went into the studio and recorded the track. We planned to complete it, there were delays, and then the pandemic put everything on hold.”

They planned to complete the recording with bass-player Tim Bogert on the track. However, the band ran into some unavoidable delays due to the pandemic but Bogert had been living with cancer for some time and didn’t know how much time he had.

Drummer, Carmine Appice took the matter into his own hands and when he went to Los Angeles’ NAMM show in January of 2020; he arranged for Tim to record at Jorgen Carlsson’s (the bass player for Gov’t Mule) studio in LA.

Vince Martel: “It was very cool that we were able to get Timmy on the track. I’m glad he was strong enough and gracious enough to record with us one last time – he gave me a great template to build on with my guitar. I created an East Indian raga intro in the spirit of our early albums and rocked out at the end. Hold on tight everybody,’ cause here comes The Fudge…”

Pre-Save/Pre-Order ‘Stop In The Name of Love’ HERE

Following Bogert’s passing the band also recorded tributes to their departed bandmate with producer Leslie Gold and a special tribute recording ‘To The Legacy Of Tim Bogert’ aslso scheduled for release.

Stop In The Name of Love’ released September 6th 2021

facebook.com/VanillaFudgeOfficialSite

This week’s featured artist: Big River – new single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ out now

Kent-based blues rock band Big River were formed back in 2016 with their debut album Redemption released in 2019. The band took a fair bit of inspiration from that early seventies golden era of blues rock and turned out a nice line in meaty rhythm, soulful vocals, catchy hooks and big fat riffs and lush guitar solos.

Since then there’s been a bit of a shift in personnel with Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass) and Joe Martin (drums) now being joined by new boy Adam Barron who takes over from former vocalist Adam Bartholomew. This is almost certainly the best career move a band like Big River could possibly have made.

Barron came to prominence as a contestant on The Voice and then secured the lead vocalist position fronting Mick Ralphs’ solo band. Sadly, that venture came to an end with Ralphs’ debilitating stroke but Barron teaming up with Big River is a stroke of genius. One of the finest blues rock singers around these days, Barron is the perfect fit for Big River and takes the band to new heights.

The new single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ sets an exceptional standard and was released on all platforms for digital download on 20th August. Written by Barron is an old school classic rock song with a summer vibe and a catchy hook with singer’s soulful, emotive, bluesy vocals taking centre-stage. 

Barron says: “I love my family, I love my friends and I love life, even with all the complications and shit that comes with it. I really believe we have to grab any and every bit of joy we can every day, because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, (last couple of years have certainly shown us that!) and that’s what this song is about.”

Big River are currently working on a second album and preparing for tour dates in Summer / Autumn 2021. 

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Related posts:

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016

‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ now also set for publication in the US on 24th September

I’m delighted to report sales of my book, which was published in the UK by Sonicbond on 30th July, have been brisk.

Amazon and other retailers will be dispatching to customers in the US from 24th September. When writing the book I did take care to ensure the book would be relevant to US readers – putting Billboard chart positions in as well as UK ones, for example, as well as explaining some peculiarly English turns of phrase like w*nk and Sweet FA…

My book also picked up a very nice review from Jason Ritchie at Get Ready To Rock recently:

“An excellent overview of The Sweet, appraising the band’s 70s output and tracking the band’s ups and downs during that decade. Well researched and referenced too, with the final part of the book giving a whistle stop tour of what the band did from 1980 to the present day.”

Full review here

Over on Amazon it’s been picking up some very encouraging customer reviews, too:

“The Sweet In The 1970s is an excellent and concise book about rock’s most underrated band who transformed from ‘bubblegum’ to ‘glam rock’ to ‘hard rock’ to something a little more progressive throughout the aforementioned decade. It also reminds the reader how Sweet managed to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’ on many occasions.”

“Fabulous book. It does what it says on the cover it tells the Sweet story in the 70s. That doesn’t mean that the 60s and 80s are totally ignored.”

“Whether you a big Sweet fan or not this is a really interesting story written and presented very well. I’ve learnt a lot!”

At one point it made it to number three on Amazon’s UK best sellers list for music history and criticism, as well number ten in its popular music books and number fourteen in its rock music books. All beyond my wildest dreams really. When I began writing and researching the book it very much became my lockdown project. Any success in terms of sales was going to be the icing on the cake rather than the main reason for doing it.

However, I’m really pleased it’s selling so well and it’s been a very positive experience working with Sonicbond Publishing who have an excellent range of other music books in their portfolio.

On with the next one!

‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ is available from:

UK

You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here

It’s available from a number of other UK retailers including: WH SmithWaterstones, and Bookshop.org

You can order from Amazon UK here

US

You can order via Walmart and Amazon.com

Sweden

You can order via Adlibris 

Book review: ‘How To Think Like David Bowie’ by Jonathan Tindale

I’m generally more one for Viz Top Tips than anything approaching self-help literature but when I was offered the chance to review a book entitled  ‘How To Think Like David Bowie – Habits of mind for leading a more creative and successful life’ my curiosity was piqued.

By sheer coincidence the book arrived in the post about thirty minutes before I was due to head off on a trip to Essex with former Bowie guitarist, Kevin Armstrong, who had worked with Bowie on Absolute Beginners and Tin Machine and played with him at Live Aid. I hadn’t even had time to open the book before he arrived but I mentioned it to a bemused Kevin on the journey up to Colchester and asked for his thoughts. “I think there’s very few people who ever really knew what David Bowie was thinking,” was Kevin’s response, saying that Bowie was always welcoming and warm-hearted but rarely shared his inner thought processes, concentrating very much on the task in hand and getting the best out of everyone present.

In the book itself, Kevin Armstrong’s own sentiments are very much echoed by an earlier collaborator, Rick Wakeman, whose recollections of recording ‘Space Oddity’ back in 1969 are reproduced in the book:

“He was always incredibly prepared in the studio. He never wrote in the studio; everything was already done. He was always what he called ‘75% prepared’. You’d go in and he’d get the piece that far, and then the studio would take it that extra 25%.”

So does author, Jonathan Tindale, really attempt to get inside the head of Bowie and tell us how to think like him? In truth, although the book references Jung and Myers- Briggs and ‘The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’, the title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and it’s more philosophy than psychology. Bowie’s approaches to numerous projects throughout his five-decade career are analysed, dissected and cross-referenced and various life lessons drawn from them. Tindale, whose previous publications have included travel writing and parenting, draws on a wide range of Bowie-related sources to derive a number of key lessons from Bowie’s career.

Arranged across twelve chapters, themes include Bowie’s individuality, his work ethic, his approach to creative collaborations and his attitude to the business side of things. The book is not a long read but it’s well referenced and entertaining and avoids falling into the cult-like demagogic devotion that some of the more hagiographic pieces written after his death have fallen victim to. Moreover, it doesn’t shy away from looking at some of Bowie’s flaws and the odd creative troughs in his career as well as the many peaks. Quirky and thought-provoking How To Think Like David Bowie will be of interest to more than just the most hardened Bowie devotee.

Published: 18th June 2021 and available to order here

Related posts:

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

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

Mike Garson performs Aladdin Sane at Birmingham O2 2017

Holy Holy at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2017

Holy Holy perform The Man Who Sold The World & Ziggy Stardust De La Warr Pavilion 2019

The Sweet in the 1970s: publication date for my book is getting close – out on 30th July!

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.

UK:

You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here

A number of other UK retailers are also taking orders including: WH SmithWaterstones, and Bookshop.org

Amazon are also taking orders here

US: you can order via Walmart and Amazon.com

Sweden: you can order via Adlibris 

‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published by Sonicbond 30th July 2021

Let there be drums! interview with Slade legend Don Powell

I catch up with founding member of Slade and drumming legend, Don Powell. Don’s band have just released a brand new single, a cover of the instrumental classic ‘Let There Be Drums’ featuring eighteen of the UK’s leading drummers with all profits going to We Make Events, raising money for crew, engineers and technicians hit by the pandemic and the cancellation of live gigs. Via Zoom in Don’s home in Denmark we talk about the new single, about the old Slade days, about working with Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott, about recovering from a stroke and much, much more besides.

DJ: I want to talk first about the new single ‘Let There Be Drums’ the cover of the old Sandy Nelson instrumental which was released just last week. It’s already made quite a splash I believe. Can you just say a bit about how that all came about?

DP: I tell you what, Darren, it’s funny how these things stick with you. It was before I was actually playing drums it was like in my youth club days when it was first released in ’61. So, I’d be 14/15 then and it was like the youth club. You know playing table tennis and we used to have the old Dansette record player and some of the older members of the club brought this record down and it just freaked me out. I’d never heard a drumming record before – just a solo drumming record. And I thought, blimey, this is incredible. It sort of stuck with me.

DJ: Were you already drumming by then?

DP: No, no, no.

DJ: So that’s what got you into the drums then?

DP: Maybe, I was playing drums in the boy scouts. But it just freaked me. It floored me when I heard it because I’d never heard a drumming record before. Anyway, it’s always been in the back of my mind. Then Craig Fenney, who was the bass-player with Slade when we went back on the road in 91/92, me and him were talking about it. It came up in conversation. I think it was Craig who brought it up in conversation. I said, “Actually, Craig…” What I did I recorded drums – do you remember that solo artist Jona Lewie? He had a couple of hits – ‘You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties’ and ‘Don’t Stop the Cavalry’. Well, he’s got a 48-track recording studio at his house. And he invited me down and I started playing around and I recorded one or two drum tracks. And when Craig brought it up, I said, “Actually Craig, I have got some recordings of the drum track.” Because the way technology’s gone sky-high, I got the old 24-inch master-tapes and had them transferred digitally. And then it was Craig’s idea who said, “Why don’t we try and get lots of guest drummers. Let’s throw some names in between us and do like a cover version.” I said, “That’s a great idea.”

And we started throwing names about and I mentioned Brian Bennett from the Shadows. Because about three or four times a year about 35-40 of us have a lunch in London – like musicians, actors and people like that. And Brian’s always there so we made contact like that. And he said straight away, “No problem.” And the idea was, Darren, was for them to record about fifteen seconds – and also film it so we could put it all together like a montage-type thing. And there was Bev Bevan who was originally from the Move, and then ELO and he did a stint with Black Sabbath. Everybody was so gracious and then we decided to donate all this to charity – for all the road crews and technicians who’ve really suffered with the pandemic catastrophe. And it just came together really quickly, Darren. They all put their oar in and got themselves filmed while they recorded it and sent it to us. And we just put it all together and we’ll just see what happens with it, mate.

‘Let Their Be Drums’ limited edition CD

DJ: Well it’s a great track and it’s a great cause so let’s hope it’s going to be a real success.

DP: I don’t think people really realise the work that these guys do. I mean without these guys the show wouldn’t go on.

DJ: Hopefully, when things do go back to normal we’ll start to appreciate them more – as ordinary punters.

DP: Can you see light at the end of the tunnel yet? There are a few concerts in the offing but we’re just going to have to wait and see, Darren.

DJ: It’s been quite an exciting time for you because you formed the Don Powell Band last year. You had the project with Suzie Quatro and Andy Scott a few years ago. There seems to have been a burst of new projects that you’re involved in these days.

DP: Yeah. I’ve been pretty lucky really, Darren. The Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott one was quite nice because what it was there was Slade, Sweet and Suzi Quatro band did a few shows together and Suzi, Andy and myself are sitting in the hotel restaurant one day and Andy Scott said, “Now this will make a good band.” And everybody’s sort of yeah, I wonder, I wonder… And we kept on mentioning it and it came about and we said let’s get together and do some recordings. And so what we did we went down to Peter Gabriel’s place. He’s got a massive studio complex over in the west country. And so we went down there and what we did you live there – sort of live, eat and record there. And that’s when we did the album really. We had a great time doing it. And then it got released by Sony in Australia and it charted. So we went over and tour there. Because what we did, Suzi Quatro goes over there every year anyway and she has done for the last thirty years. And we were the opening act. Andy, Suzi and myself were the opening act. It was a great tour. And it helped with the album really.

Quatro Scott Powell album

DJ: So all these new things that you’ve been doing – was it starting to get a little bit frustrating before? Because I know you went out with Dave Hill for a good twenty-odd years. Was it starting to get a bit frustrating just going out there and doing the hits? Were you starting to feel that you wanted to do some new things?

DP: In a way yes. Apart from doing the Slade material with Dave Hill – but that’s what people wanted to see. It’s like with any band that’s had an amount of success, it’s hard to get out of that hole that you dig yourself into. I mean, we had it with the original line-up with Noddy and Jim – what do we play or what do we leave out? It’s a hard thing to try and decide. Everyone’s got different ideas or different choices you know but we all have to try and find out or work out what the audience want really. But we came to an end in a way. Noddy Holder didn’t want to tour anymore so it was just a matter of looking for things and Dave Hill and myself were still keen on touring which we did. And actually it was great because we went to a lot of territories like Russia and the old Eastern Bloc which we couldn’t do in the 70s.

DJ: The world opened up more I suppose?

DP: Oh yes. We had some great shows in Russia. It was incredible. And it’s not until you go there that you realise how big that place is.

DJ: You were massive there but at the time you could never really get there.

DP: No, we couldn’t get there. There was no record deal. We hadn’t got a clue what was going on release-wise you know, for obvious reasons. And it’s amazing when you realise – we flew from Moscow to Dal’niy Vostok on the east coast and it’s like thirteen hours. That’s like flying from Los Angeles. It’s incredible – but we’ve had some great times there, Darren.

DJ: Yes, I only saw the original band three times in the early 80s but then I saw you and Dave many, many times after that. But there seemed to be a time, only a year or two ago when it all seemed to be going wrong for you.  You had the email sacking you from Dave Hill. That was after your serious tendon injury that put you out of action for a while. And then to cap it all after that, you had a stroke. It all seemed to be going wrong for you?

DP: Yeah. It was a weird thing. There was no reasoning for it. With the stroke it was strange. I was here at home. We all were here at home, and I was just watching TV and I went to sort of grab my cup of tea and I couldn’t get the cup. I couldn’t grab the cup or hold the cup. I had to hold my hand and then I came downstairs to speak to my wife, and it was a problem coming down the stairs and luckily our daughter is a doctor. And she said, “You’ve had a stroke. You need to go to the hospital. Because my speech is a bit blurred sort of thing.

DJ: I thought that was just the Wolverhampton accent!

DP: Oh no! Or it could be my drinking days! That would have been normal then. If it was my drinking days I would understand – but that’s all gone! But we just sent for an ambulance, and they hooked me up to some machines and checked me out and they said, “You’ve had a stroke. We’ve got to take you to hospital.” And that’s what it was. It was just a small stroke, and I was at the hospital. Luckily, it was our daughter who said, being a doctor, who said, “If you were my husband I would send you to the hospital.” Anyway, it was all sorted out and everything was ok. Apparently, it wasn’t that serious but I’m glad I got the advice. So yep, everything’s ok.

DJ: Because there was like a twelve-month period where just everything was going wrong for you. There was your tendon, then there was the Dave Hill thing, then there was your stroke. Was there a time when you just thought about packing it all in and knocking it on the head?

DP: No. No.

DJ: You always stayed positive?

DP: I was very positive. Actually, that came from my wife as well, Darren. My wife, Hanne, she was great you know. She made me practice going upstairs and I had a practice kit and she made me get on that and she said, “I love to hear you play.” And that was ok, actually. It was strange. There was no problem playing drums or anything. And it was just a matter of this little minor stroke happened if you like – and that was it. I’m on tablets for the rest of my life but apparently that’s just like the norm these days. But it’s ok. It was a bit scary at the time.

Watch our full Zoom chat on Youtube here

DJ: And a high point last year, it must have been really nice for you after all these years seeing Slade back in the album charts?

DP: Yeah incredible. You see, I looked at the CD and I thought, “Blimey. It ain’t bad is it? A nice bit of history there.” But also, when it went back in the charts I thought everybody had got this stuff, you know! How much further can you go, you know. It is incredible but I tell you what people always talk about the – we call it ‘that song’ – the Christmas song. No matter where we go around the world, no matter what time of year – they wanna hear that song.

DJ: But do you think this has helped broaden people’s memories and recollections of the band now? I mean, that compilation must have helped.

DP: Oh I think so. I think the general comments I’ve been getting, Darren, is people saying, “Oh, I didn’t realise you had so many hits. Oh, I forgot you had that one. Oh yeah and that one.” I mean I do myself as well. I’m looking thinking, wow I forgot about that. So it’s nice compliments and it’s nice bit of history on the CD really.

DJ: The hit that really got everything going for me in terms of Slade – because I was like 6 or 7 when ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ and those hits came out and I was more into the Wombles than Slade at that age – but by the time I was 14 ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ came out. That was your big comeback single. That was the one that really turned me into a lifelong Slade fan.

DP: That was a great record. Obviously, with Nod’s lyrics that’s how it came about. It’s all about a concert. And what we did, when we recorded that I just went to the toilet and I made a loud cough and I thought, “Ooh, that’s a nice echo in here.” And I thought, “I wonder, how would it be if we put the drums in here.” Because it was all tiled and everything and it was like a thunderous sound in the toilet – absolutely incredible. But we never thought – I was halfway through this incredible take and the automatic flush went off. I thought, “Oh shit!” you know. And we had to turn the water off – it’s those things you don’t think about. It was a great comeback record that, though. It was a nice record to come back with actually.

DJ: It must be a brilliant record for a drummer, too, because the drums are so centre-stage.

DP: Oh yes. It’s great to play on stage, Darren. Because the thing is I can just keep on playing while the other guys just talk to the audience and just mess around and all that. It’s a great stage song, especially for me anyway.

DJ: As a drummer which is your favourite Slade song to play?

DP: Oh, there’s a couple really. I mean ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ I always love playing and ‘My Oh My’. If you listen to that at the start it’s basically just bass drum and snare drum. And I come in with the drum fills afterwards. It was a great song to play and also ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ is one of my favourites as well.

DJ: Definitely. That would be one of my favourites as well.

DP: It’s incredible. There’s another one when you think, Darren. We released that in the States at the same time in ’73 and it never saw the light of day – nothing. And then Quiet Riot recorded it and it goes to number 1.

DJ: And then gave your career a boost because you started having hits for the first time ever in America as well.

DP: Oh, that’s what happened there. It gave us a boost. All these record companies over there were after us and we signed with CBS. And MTV had just started as well, Darren, which helped a lot. That video was on MTV all the time.

DJ: The ‘Run Run Away’ video?

DP: Yep. ‘Run Run Away’ was released first because they used that castle as the back-drop. Of course, like typical Americans they all thought that’s where we lived.

DJ: Slade’s castle!

DP: They thought it was our house.

DJ: That’s even more bizarre than Vic Reeves really.

DP: Yes. We just played along with that one, so it was quite good.

DJ: Well, yeah, every rock band in Britain has their own castle. And if we can go back to the very, very early days of Slade now. In the early days you actually wrote quite a bit for Slade at the start but when the hits started coming you stopped. I think that was a shame, personally, because while I could see your lyrics were not hit single material, I would have thought for album tracks they would have been perfect.

DP: I’ve started writing again now but the thing is Noddy Holder and Jim Lea started writing and they were doing it like that [clicks fingers] and they were coming out with the hits, and it was so easy for them, Darren, so I just let them carry on with it.

DJ: Oh right, you just thought let them get on with it.

DP: Yeah.

DJ: They didn’t actually tell you to stop writing or discourage you?

DP: Oh no, nothing like that. They were coming up with this great material, so I just thought, you know, “Let them carry on with it.  They’ve got the formula now so great just let them do it.” But I’ve started writing again over the last few years for the solo stuff I’ve been doing so we’ve just got our fingers crossed with the Don Powell Band really when we start doing some more recordings. But then again, Darren, it’s amazing how technology’s changed. Because of this pandemic crap, you know, I haven’t been able to travel. The rest of the guys have been recording stuff in England and sending the files to me and I just go to the studio I use over here, put the drums on and send it back. It’s not the same as all being in the studio at the same time because there’s that rapport you have that sort of feeds itself when you’re all playing together. But at least we can do something while this is going on around us, you know?

DJ: It’s something really positive to focus on.

DP: Yes, there’s a guy in Australia who I met when I toured there with Andy and Suzi a few years ago and he was doing some solo stuff and he asked me to play drums on it and I said yes. And he’s doing the same. He’s sending the files over from Australia. I’m waiting for them. And I’ll put drums on and send it back.

DJ: So can we expect an album from the Don Powell Band then?

DP: Oh yes. For sure. For sure…

DJ: And when..?

DP: Hopefully – they’re all writing stuff, which is all of us – as soon as possible really, Darren. At the moment with this pandemic, as I said, at least they can send me material, I can put drums on and send it back, you know. But it’ll be nice when we can all get in the studio together at the same time. A great bunch of guys and they’re great fun to be with. We only had two rehearsals together before all this lockdown came.

DJ: So you know each other better on Zoom than you do in real life!

DP: Exactly! It’s strange it is.

DJ: Although, obviously, you and Craig (Craig Fenney – bass player) go back many years.

DP: Oh yes. We go back even before we were back on the road – Dave and myself when Craig was in the band – I’ve known Craig even before then. So it’s not like we were total strangers so that’s good.

DJ: And still just on Slade, I’m not going to dwell on the Dave Hill thing, but do you still hear from the other two members of the band – Noddy and Jim?

DP: Yeah, occasionally we speak and like I said we’ve got one coming up in September. There’s like 35-40 of us have a lunch together in London. There’s like musicians, drummers. And it’s great. There’s like Bruce Welch from the Shadows and Brian Bennett. I mean there’s Clem Cattini. I don’t know whether you know of him, Darren?

DJ: Oh yes, big session player – yes.

DP: Oh you know – and he’s such an unassuming guy because you know he started with ‘Telstar’ from the Tornadoes, that’s how it started with him. And he went into studio work and do you know he’s played drums on over 200 hit records? 55 number ones he’s played drums on.

DJ: That’s more than you!

DP: Yeah. It’s phenomenal.

DJ: I mean you’ve not done too bad playing on number ones.

DP: The thing is when you’re talking to Clem, Darren, you talk about records and, “Yeah, I played drums on that. Yeah, I did that one as well. Yeah, and that one.” He was telling us he never knew where he was going in those days. He’d have a contact. Go to so-and-so studio. He said on one day he did ‘Lilly The Pink’ in the morning by Scaffold and in the afternoon he packed his drums away and went to Decca studios and then he did ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones. So he did two number ones in one day. And he got something like sixty quid. [laughs] But that’s what it was then.

DJ: It’s more the legacy than the money.

DP: Yeah, course it is. He’s got some great stories though. And it’s why I like talking to Bruce Welch as well because I asked, and I didn’t know whether Cliff Richard and The Shadows actually toured America – but they did. Back in the very early ‘60s they were on one of those package things with people like Dion and the Belmonts, all those kind of people. But then again, travelling on a greyhound bus. No private jets then. It was just travelling on a bus. But yes, it’s great talking to those people. And those people I look up to those people.

DJ: And Noddy and Jim, do you still hear from them?

DP: Well, as I say, Nod’s always at the lunches.

DJ: So you keep up with Nod.

DP: And Jim – Jim’s not on email. Jim never bothers with email or mobile phones or anything like that.

DJ: He has spoken to me. I interviewed him a couple of years ago.

DP: Oh good. I mainly contact Jim through his brother now. His brother’s on email so I make contact like that through his brother. So I’ll see Nod – if the lunch goes ahead in September, Darren, I shall see Nod there. We always have a good laugh you know. The thing is no-one knows what we’re talking about. We’re just on our own talking and killing ourselves laughing. And no-one knows what we’re talking about. Well when you think, when we’ve been together so long – like I’ve always said I probably knew the rest of the band Nod, Dave and Jim better than I knew my own brother.

DJ: Because you saw a lot more of them.

DP: Oh, just in the back of the van and sharing bags of chips and things like that. I mean we went through so much together really and that can never go away.

DJ: Yes, and that’s a really nice note to end the Slade memories on. And just looking to the future now what next for the Don Powell Band?

DP: Well like I said, it’s all frozen with this pandemic that’s going on but hopefully, as you know, because we’re recording at least we can do some recording. Like I said they send the files to me and I put drums on and send it back. So, hopefully, when all this clears we can get together. We only had two rehearsals together before all this started. So, hopefully, we can just get things sorted when all this pandemic stuff’s done.

DJ: And you are planning a tour then?

DP: Well we would like to, but we will see how it all sort of channels out really. So it’ll be nice. It will be the usual thing. They be asking for ‘that song’. Merry Christmas!

DJ: Presumably, you are going to do a mix of new material and Slade classics?

DP: Oh, I suppose we’ll have to do. Because one of the guitarists is Bob Wilson from Steve Gibbons Band. So we’ve started rehearsing some of Steve Gibbons’ stuff as well. So there’s a lot of material to choose from, Darren.

DJ: And if I can ask one final favour as well. I work for a learning disability charity called Stay Up Late and what we do is help people with a learning disability get out to gigs.

DP: Oh nice! I do that kind of thing over here, Darren.

DJ: Yeah, I knew you did. And one of our participants Daniel is a massive Slade fan, so if you can give a message of support to our charity Stay Up Late that would be brilliant.

DP: Hi there people. This is Don Powell from the Don Powell Band and I’m sending a message to the Stay Up Late people just keep on trucking and keep on going guys. It’s going to be fantastic.

Fantastic. Thanks Don!

‘Let Their Be Drums’ released 18th June 2021

Available via: https://donpowellband.company.site/

Related posts:

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

EP review – Jim Lea ‘Lost In Space’

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Jim Lea at the Robin 2, Bilston 2017

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015

Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Slade at Brighton 2019

Artist of the week: Velvet Insane – new album ‘Rock ‘n ‘Roll Glitter Suit’ released 16th July 2021

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.

The album Rock ’n’ Roll Glitter Suit will be released via Wild Kingdom on 16th July and can be pre-ordered via: https://orcd.co/sound-of-sirens

Forty years ago this week: how a birthday gift of Slade’s eighties comeback album kick-started a life-long obsession

This week I celebrated my 55th birthday which means it’s exactly forty years since a rather significant album first arrived in my record collection. For my fifteenth birthday I had asked for a couple of albums: Status Quo’s latest release ‘Never Too Late’ from my mum and stepdad and Slade’s We’ll Bring The House Down from my dad and stepmum. I was actually away on a school geography trip to Wales for the day of my actual birthday and didn’t arrive back home until the following day but by the time I got home both gifts were waiting for me.

I vaguely remember Slade from my early childhood the previous decade but they had certainly not been on my radar for a long time. Not until I saw Noddy, Holder, Dave Hill, Jim Lea and Don Powell appearing on Top Of The Pops a couple of months earlier. After years of flops the ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ single had taken Slade back into the Top Ten.

The song immediately grabbed my attention and I was now a firm fan. Asking for this album for my birthday was the obvious choice. Quo’s Never Too Late was very much the poor relation as far as birthday gifts went that day. The Slade album, though, I positively devoured, lapping up the likes of ‘Wheels Ain’t Coming Down’ and ‘When I’m Dancing I Ain’t Fighting’ and the rest.

Before long I was making numerous trips to our local second-hand record store in Preston to seek out Slade’s 70s back catalogue. This was 1981. Everyone else was into heavy metal, punk and new wave or the about-to-be-massive new romantic scene. But I was developing this obsession with 1970s glam rock. And it wasn’t just Slade. During the course of year I’d bought up much of Sweet’s back catalogue, too, not to mention albums by T. Rex and Mott The Hoople.

But the best was yet to happen. In August of that year, I tagged along with my dad and stepmum to see AC/DC headline at Donington. AC/DC were superb, of course, but even more of a revelation were Slade. This was my first attendance at a live rock gig ever but is undoubtedly the finest live concert I’ve ever attended. The Slade component in particular remains the most entertaining sixty minutes of my life.

And so, 1981 was the year that kicked off my Slade obsession and my love for all things glam. Glam was never really my era but musically it will always be my first love.

Related posts:

Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

EP review – Jim Lea ‘Lost In Space’

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Jim Lea at the Robin 2, Bilston 2017

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015

Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Slade at Brighton 2019

Metal: first single from KK’s Priest out this week and debut album set for release in August

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.

Sermons Of The Sinner released 20th August 2021

Connect with KK’S Priest via:

Website – www.kkspriest.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/KKsPriest

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KKsPriest

Instagram – www.instagram.com/kkspriest

Related posts:

Album review : Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

Live review: Judas Priest at Brixton Academy 2015

Live review: Les Binks’ Priesthood at Minehead 2020

Book review: ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford