Tag Archives: rock

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.”

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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!

Review: Giants Of Rock Weekend 2017, Minehead

Giants Of Rock took place at Butlins Minehead again this January for the the fourth year running. Apart from the first year (when I was already booked into another Butlins music weekend the week before) I’ve been each time. With three days of music, two main stages and a smaller ‘introducing’ stage there is always plenty to choose from but here are the performances that particularly captured my imagination this year.

Friday

Eschewing both main stages for the first start of the Friday evening programme, we opted instead for The Troy Redfern Band on the introducing stage. I’d seen Troy and co a couple of times before so it was less of an introduction and more of welcome re-acquaintance with the band’s high-octane brand of blues rock. It’s good to see the band go down well.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://troyredfern.com/

After Troy we moved to one of the main stages for a gloriously bonkers set by Dutch flute-playing, Hammond-pounding, yodelling prog-rockers, Focus, which gave all of us in the crowd the chance to let ourselves go wild to a suitably deranged version of Hocus Pocus.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.focustheband.com/

Former Gillan guitar legend, Bernie Tormé, is on next and delivers a blistering set as always. Consistently original, the self-styled glam punk shredmeister has been enjoying a real career renaissance of late with two very well-received solo albums and a third on the way. With drummer, Ian Harris, and bass-player, Chris Heilmann, these three make a classic power trio which is the perfect showcase for Torme’s  guitar wizardry. Not only are the Minehead crowd treated to a great selection of some of the more recent material we also get some Gillan-era classics, too, like No Easy Way and New Orleans and a stonking Smoke On The Water as an encore (the first but not the last time we would be hearing that particular song over the weekend). It was a fantastic end to the first night.

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Photo credit: Lisa Valder

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

Saturday

Live Dead 69 are a reincarnation of The Grateful Dead with original keyboard player, Tom Constanten, currently touring the UK performing the band’s classic Live/Dead album in full. The Grateful Dead are not a band I’m hugely familiar with, although I’ve long been aware of the epic jams which the band are renowned for. A brilliant bunch of musicians, I was finding the initial part of their set perhaps a little too jazzy for my tastes. But then more of a blues rock vibe kicked in and I found myself more and more drawn in. Certainly, I’m pleased to have tasted a little of what this legendary band were all about.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.tomconstanten.com/

To kick things off on the Saturday night, Bernie Marsden was an obvious choice for me. I’ve seen him solo several times before (plus, of course, I saw him with the classic Whitesnake line-up back in the day) but this is a completely solo set – just Bernie and an acoustic guitar. He completely holds the audience for the full hour: some solo blues material, some Peter Green material and, of course, some Whitesnake material, the latter turning into a beautifully intimate communal sing-along to the likes of Ain’t Gonna Cry No More and Here I Go Again. Superb.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.berniemarsden.co.uk/

With a quick change of venue we were ready for Ian Paice with Purpendicular. OK, Giants of Rock is not supposed to be about tribute bands but here you’ve got the legendary Deep Purple drummer himself, together with a cracking bunch of musicians. They absolutely nail the Mark 2-era Deep Purple sound, from the chugging bass lines, to the majestic Hammond organ, to the blinding guitar solos, to the Gillan-esque screams.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://purpendicular.eu/

To round off Saturday we had a non-stop run-through of Saxon classics by Oliver Dawson Saxon. Original Saxon members, Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson, have been touring their alternative version of the Barnsley NWOBHM heroes for twenty years now and, impressed as I am with Biff Byford’s continuing version of the original Saxon, Oliver and Dawson do also offer something brilliantly entertaining. Lead singer, Bri Shaughnessy is a powerful vocalist and a charismatic front-man in his own right and he has absolutely made what might have been a difficult role his own. And as you can never really have too many crowd sing-alongs to classics like Denim And Leather, 747 (Strangers In The Night) and Wheels Of Steel, the fact that there is not just one but two bands out on the road doing this is a bonus in my view.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.oliverdawsonsaxon.co.uk/odsroot/

Sunday

In spite of a love 60s R&B bands, I’d never actually managed to see The Pretty Things live until now or even listened to one of their albums in full. But front-man Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor still cut it live after more than half a century together. The two original members are joined by second guitarist/harmonica player, Frank Holland, who has been playing with them since the late eighties, together with a fantastically energetic young rhythm section in Jack Greenwood and George Woosey. Obviously, a band that’s been around since 1963 is going to have a hefty back catalogue to choose from and, while I enjoyed the whole set, I found they had more to offer when they concentrated on their mid 60s R&B period rather than their later stoner rock phase. Fortunately, the former makes up a significant part of the set and anyone who is currently enjoying the Rolling Stones new back-to-basics Blue & Lonesome album and wants an authentic slice of 60s rhythm and blues should certainly try and get to see The Pretty Things live.

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Photo credit: Elise Benjamin

http://www.theprettythings.com/

Still in the mood for more music after The Pretty Things, we headed off to the introducing stage and arrived just in time to see an awesome performance from the band KilliT. Great vocals. Great musicianship. Great guitar solos. Great stage presence. And, importantly, great songs, too. Instantly memorable numbers like Calm Before The Storm and Shut It Down from their debut album meant that this classic-sounding heavy metal band could wow the audience with some classic-sounding heavy metal songs. The best new hard rock band I’ve heard in ages, I was genuinely delighted for them when they were officially voted top act on the introducing stage that day. That means they will be back at Giants Of Rock to perform on the main stage next year. KilliT are a new band that have clearly arrived fully formed and deserve to go far.

killit-mineheadPhoto credit: Sally Newhouse

http://www.killitband.com/

That pretty much wraps up a brilliant weekend of music for me. There were more bands on the Sunday evening and for head-liners that night punters had a choice between Steve Hackett doing Genesis or Ian Anderson doing Jethro Tull. I looked in on both but it was all getting a bit proggy for me and I just didn’t seem to have my prog head on. Reflecting on what a great range of performances I’d witnessed over the weekend, I was happy to call it a night.

A great bunch of bands. A great crowd. A great weekend. Here’s to Giants Of Rock 2018.

Interview feature: The Stretch Report – Devon-based band opening for some of the big rock giants

Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Grateful Dead…

The Stretch Report are rapidly becoming the go-to support act for rock giants when they visit the south west of England. After well-received performances opening for Uriah Heep and then Wishbone Ash the band are now scheduled to support the latest reincarnation of The Grateful Dead – Live Dead 69, who are performing with original keyboard player, Tom Constanten, in Exeter on 29th January. Not bad for four middle-aged guys from Plymouth who got together four years ago when they met up at a friend’s funeral.

The band are Rob Giles (aka Razor) guitar and vocals; Ian Cooke – guitar and vocals
Chris Moss – drums; and Gary Strong – bass. I catch up with three of them. Bass player, Gary, is currently in New Zealand but the rest of the band assure me he’ll be back in time for the Dead gig.

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Rob works at Plymouth University in IT and research, Chris is in open-cast quarrying on Dartmoor and Gary lectures in paramedicine. Ian chips in that by contrast he is “the full-time rock-star of the band” but he also does a bit of painting and decorating on his days off from being a rock star. The four had known each other for years and had played in various bands over the years but met up at an old musician friend’s funeral in 2012.

Rob: “We talked about getting together for a jam and we met up and it gelled.”

Most part-time musicians getting together to form a new band at their age may be content simply playing the pubs and having some jam sessions together. But The Stretch Report set their sights higher and it’s clearly paying off. The band got a major boost being offered a slot supporting Uriah Heep at the Cheese and Grain in Frome back in 2013.

Ian: “Uriah Heep was our first really big gig. It was nerve-wracking before but we had a packed venue and the energy came out of the audience. It was very, very positive.”

Chris: “We learnt a lot from that gig that we didn’t know beforehand and I think we tap into some of the ethos of those late 60s/early 70s bands by not being over-rehearsed and having some spontaneity.”

More recently, the band supported Wishbone Ash when they played Tavistock in November.

Rob: “The Wishbone Ash gig went really well and the band were very generous and gave us a shout out when they came on. Then the Grateful Dead thing came off the back of that. We are really looking forward to playing Exeter. It’s a privilege to play alongside these big bands.”

The band’s musical influences are wide and varied but a little-known late 70s Stiff Records single “Police Car” by original Motörhead guitarist, Larry Wallis, came to provide a unifying template for the embryonic Stretch Report when they first got together.

Rob: “I wanted to do ‘Police Car’ even before the band got together. I’d heard it on a Mojo compilation of 70s tracks you should have heard of but haven’t.”

Ian: “That song gave us a sense of purpose. It gave us a thread we could follow musically.”

The band recorded a video of ‘Police Car’ back in 2012 and their version has won favour with the song’s original creator.

Rob: “Larry Wallis said he liked our version and gave us his blessing. He hopes he can finally earn some royalties out of it.”

Perhaps one of the reasons why the band has gone down so well with classic rock audiences is the wide variety of rock influences they bring to their music. Certainly, there’s a spiky, punky edge to some of their music but there is much more as well.

Chris: “Punk and new wave were big influences, especially The Clash and the Damned. But we all share a passion for rock in all it’s guises, from prog to punk.”

Ian: “Motown, soul and glam was the music I listened to growing up and then punk. I got my first electric guitar just as punk came out but thanks to one of the members of the band I was in at the time, I was also listening to Hendrix and Cream as well.”

Rob: “Music is a voyage of exploration. As a teenager I would go to second-hand record stores and buy old albums simply on the strength of the cover art. I would discover all kinds of different music like that. One of the albums I found was Mad Shadows by Mott The Hoople and Mott and Ian Hunter have been major influences ever since.”

Ian: “As for Gary. He saw the Clash in 1981 on the same tour as I first saw them. You know straight away then that he gets it and we were on the same page musically. Gary has a really nice retro warmth to his delivery on bass. A nice fat vintage Glen Matlock-type sound. Neil Finn is a big influence for him, too”

The Stretch Report’s live act includes covers of songs from the likes of Robin Trower, Mick Ronson and Roxy Music, as well as the aforementioned ‘Police Car’. But one of the band’s originals, ‘Six Degrees’ written by Rob, has proved to be a crowd favourite. “That’s gone down even better than the covers,” confirms Ian and a professionally-shot video of that song will be available online shortly.

So what of the future?

Rob: “I’d love us to do a festival. I think we’d be a fantastic festival band. But if you’re talking about the next major act we’d like to open for, I’d love us to support Ian Hunter and The Rant Band.”

Chris: “I’m keen we go into the studio and record an EP. We’ve got two or three original tracks we can work on.”

Ian: “Getting the video out is important so I’m looking forward to that. It’s shot by the same guy who did the ‘Police Car’ video for us. But I also always look forward to us playing together. The fact that we are very old friends, not just a random bunch of musicians that have got together, that helps – that we know each other well and we know each other’s quirks.”

A band with bags of experience, bags of enthusiasm and who are building a reputation as a reliable support act for some of the biggest rock icons of the 60s and 70s, The Stretch Report are well worth keeping an eye on.

The Stretch Report play the Exeter Phoenix on 29th January supporting Live Dead ‘69. Tickets here

Check out the band on Facebook here

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photo credit: David Reese

1985: Twenty of us in a cellar bar in Blackpool with Steve Marriott

Iconic musicians of the 60s and early 70s are rightly celebrated now. But the mid 80s could be a harsh climate for many such icons. And although the end of the 60s was only 15 years previously it genuinely felt like a different world musically back then.

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I’d got into Marriott’s former bands, Small Faces and Humble Pie, via a compilation tape that had a track from each on. It led me to pick up compilation LPs of each band’s Immediate output and I was genuinely thrilled to see that the former guitarist/lead singer of both bands would be performing at the Bier Keller in Blackpool where I had recently moved. This would be 18-year old Darren’s third trip to the Bier Keller. The first I’d gathered a group of flatmates, friends and hangers-on to come and see Brian Connolly’s version of The Sweet. But that ended in disappointment and drunkenness when Connolly never showed up. The second time was for Tony’s McPhee’s Groundhogs, where I’d managed to persuade a flatmate to come along but he left after about three songs. The third time I was on my own.

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I got there and there were no more than around half a dozen audience members and three band members. Marriott was deep in conversation in the tiny backstage area but I got chatting to bass player Jim Leverton who was hanging by the door. I fired off the titles of several of my favourites from the Immediate compilations and waited, expectantly, for Leverton’s response. “Nah, we don’t play any of those any more. But if you enjoy the blues you’ll enjoy this.”

I really wasn’t sure what to expect at this stage. The place was still almost completely empty although the crowd had grown to about 15-20. But Marriott and his two Packet of Three colleagues came on stage and launched into an explosive set: ‘Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Tin Soldier”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Many of these would be on Marriott’s Live At Dingwalls album that my dad bought for me soon after when I enthused to him about the gig.

It was incredible to see him giving it his all to no more than 20 people. It wasn’t a particularly long set but afterwards he sat at the bar while very single member of the audience queued in line to buy him a brandy, get something signed and have a chat.

I’ve still got the faded 31 year-old scrap of paper Steve Marriott, Jim Leverton and drummer Fallon Williams signed for me.

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I didn’t get to see Marriott again until I moved to London five years later and saw him at the Half Moon in Putney. Knowing the band gigged regularly on the London circuit I was looking forward to seeing quite a bit more of him. But sadly, only a few months later came the news of the tragic house fire that took his life. At least I got to see the great Steve Marriott live.

http://www.thesmallfaces.com/

Review: The Hendrix Flat at 23 Brook Street, London

One of the things that has long frustrated me about London is how little effort it puts into celebrating it’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage (certainly compared to Liverpool). This is in spite of London being (after Memphis the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll) probably the most important city on the entire planet in terms of rock history when one considers the number of globally influential bands who either formed in this city, built their reputation in this city or recorded in this city.

Hopefully, things are starting to change and that’s why, I was delighted to see Jimi Hendrix’s flat at 23 Brook Street, where he lived between July 1968 and March 1969, being restored and opened to the public this year.

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By a quirk of fate it’s right next door to the home of George Frideric Handel who live here between 1723 and 1759 . Fr years the old Hendrix flat had just been used as a storage annexe but now both homes are open to the public as part of a single visitor attraction.

The first part of the tour is the Handel house. It was interesting to find out more about the man, his music and his home.

I confess to not knowing a huge amount about Handel, prior to this visit. In fact, this quote from Hendrix in the later part of the exhibition sums it up nicely for me:

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The second part of the tour starts with an exhibition, devoted to Hendrix, on the third floor of number 25 which includes his acoustic guitar, stage-wear and other displays. It was really fascinating to learn more about his early career in the segregation-era US, prior to being discovered and brought to London for his big breakthrough by manager Chas Chandler (who would go on to manage some more heroes of mine: Slade).

After the initial exhibition you then walk through into number 23 and enter the Hendrix flat itself. In the modest sized flat the largest room which was Hendrix’s living room-cum bedroom has been lovingly restored with exact replicas of furniture, soft furnishings and a whole bundle of belongings he had in the flat at the time, including all the records Hendrix had in his collection there.

The website for the house gives some useful background:

The flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street was found by Jimi’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham from an advert in one of the London evening newspapers in June 1968 while he was in New York. He moved in briefly in July before returning to the United States for an extensive tour. He spent some time decorating the flat to his own taste, including purchasing curtains and cushions from the nearby John Lewis department store, as well as ornaments and knickknacks from Portobello Road market and elsewhere. He told Kathy that this was ‘my first real home of my own’.

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It really felt like walking straight into a slice of late 60s life and because so many photos exist of Hendrix in that flat, they have been able to do an amazing job on recreating it exactly as it was. It was a weekday and wasn’t hugely busy when I visited and the experience was made all the more fascinating by a lovely and amazingly helpful and informative guide. She was one of those rare people who seem to confound the old saying about the 60s by both remembering them (in great detail) and being there. She had loads of information to share, both on the recent challenge of restoring the flat and of Hendrix’s day to day life in it back in the late 60s, not to mention talking me through his life on the road and his many musical influences as we knelt on the floor and flipped through his recreated record collection together: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, lots of old American blues recordings and many more.

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For anyone interested in rock history who wants to get that bit closer to the life of Mr James Marshall Hendrix then the Hendrix flat is a must-see on any visit to London.

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Visit the Handel and Hendrix House website here

Book review: ‘Hastings Old Town Music Scene’ by Sean O’Shea

Having been resident in Hastings only some six months or so my perceptions of the town’s lively, thriving music scene are still those of the enthusiastic newcomer. I can’t pretend to know the scene inside out and back to front like many of the people Sean O’Shea interviews in this 140-page book, but that helped make it a fascinating read for me.

For a smallish town of 90,000 Hastings has an unparalleled live music scene, particularly in the old town which this book focuses on: dozens of pubs and bars putting on live music, a healthy mix of larger venues, too, and numerous events and festivals. And for a long long time the town has exerted an almost gravity-like pull as a place for musicians of all types to set up home here and play here. But my perception is that unless you are familiar with the town, either as a resident or frequent visitor, all of this is pretty much under the radar. I think this is probably because, although it’s long had a very healthy live music scene and is teeming with musicians, it’s not given birth to a really big name band that comes to define the place musically and put it on the musical map. Andover forever has The Troggs, Guildford – the Stranglers, Wolverhampton – Slade. Yet Hastings just seems to have dozens and dozens and dozens of very talented musicians, but not necessarily ones who are household names. This book, therefore, is not filled with interviews of mega-successful rock icons reflecting on their long-past musical roots, but rather is a series of interviews with musicians who live and perform in the town today. A few of those interviewed were born here and reflect on a Hastings childhood and teenager-dom. But most have been drawn here at some point by the pull of the town’s music and arts scene, many it appears via south-east London – a journey I, too, have made.

It’s packed with stories and reflections and covers interviews with musicians from a wide range of genres: folk, jazz, rock, blues, classical and more. Some like Lorna Heptinstall of the internationally acclaimed Skinny Lister or Liam Genockey of the iconic folk rockers Steeleye Span, both of whom ended up in Hastings, have profile and reputations that stretch far beyond Hastings. But others, like the four women who make up the a capella harmony vocal group, Rattlebag, renowned for their folk sing-arounds in the Stag Inn, are little known outside Sussex. But their passion for and insight into the Hastings music scene makes for a genuinely enjoyable read.

Whether you’re a music-loving resident familiar with scene or a curious visitor who wants to find out more, ‘Hastings Old Town Music Scene’ is well worth a read. At the back there’s a list of old town music venues as well as a calendar of the key musical events, festivals and fairs that Hastings has built up a considerable reputation for.

Published 2016 by Hastings Press

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Rock/folk: album review – Richard Thompson ‘Acoustic Classics’

My review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Richard Thompson is rightly ranked as one of the world’s greatest guitarists and is also recognised as an outstanding songwriter. There is no mystery behind the title of his latest CD. Acoustic Classics does exactly what it says on the tin, offering acoustic recordings of classic Thompson tracks. The question is does anyone with even a passing interest in Richard Thompson really need re-recorded versions of I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning?

Surprising though it may seem, however, there is no product out there that properly represents Thompson’s latter-day acoustic shows. “I really wanted to have something that would reflect the acoustic shows,” he explains, “But we didn’t really have anything like that. Just some old, slightly scratchy recordings of solo sets that I wasn’t really happy with.”

Listeners will come across a number of re-recorded versions of songs made famous by the renowned Richard & Linda Thompson albums of the 1970s, songs like Walking on a Wire, Down Where the Drunkards Roll and Shoot Out the Lights. Wonderful though those original Richard and Linda recordings are, with their full instrumentation and lush vocals, it is also good to hear those songs stripped back to Thompson’s stunning guitar and mournful voice.

Other songs on the album come from Thompson’s later solo career but, again, stripped back to the very basics in a way that shows off the beauty of the songs and Thompson’s guitar work, although the aforementioned 1952 Vincent Black Lightening differs little from the un-improvable original. It wouldn’t have been right to have missed out such a classic, however. Some particular personal favourites have been missed out, of course, but it was never going to be possible to get everyone’s favourite Richard Thompson songs on to a 14-track CD.

For anyone catching one of his excellent acoustic shows this summer, who comes away wanting a more permanent reminder, this album is ideal; and for those less familiar with Thompson’s voluminous back catalogue this is a pretty good introduction.

Released July 2014

http://www.richardthompson-music.com/

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Related reviews:

Richard Thompson live at Folk by the Oak

Richard Thompson at Royal Festival Hall

Rocking the EU Vote: Could Brexit screw British rock bands?

A guest article from me on Peter Cook’s Human Dynamics blog.

The Music of Business

A Guest Post from Darren Johnson

Rock Fanatic and former Chair of the London Assembly for the Green Party

Darren Johnson and another Johnson ... not related Darren Johnson, Rock Fanatic with Queen and another Johnson … not related

Younger voters have been overwhelmingly pro-EU. And in spite of concerns that younger people are less likely to vote, less likely to be registered or be at Glastonbury for the referendum and failed to apply for a postal vote, it seems that younger music fans are pretty much like the rest of their generation when it comes to recognising the benefits of Britain’s membership of the EU. But what of older rock fans? I’ve both heard some pretty alarming sentiments expressed amongst fellow music fans of our generation. In some ways that’s not surprising. Opinion polls are showing that while there is a massive lead for remaining in the EU amongst the 18-39 age group, when it gets to…

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Review: Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 11/6/16

Hereford: the place where it all started for Mott The Hoople back in the 60s and the venue for the 2016 Mott The Hoople Fan Convention. For a band I’d been following since my teenage years back in the 80s (although they’d already long packed up by then) this was something I decided I just couldn’t afford to miss. There’s music, of course, but there’s also Q and A sessions with key figures associated with the band, there’s a fundraising charity auction of Mott memorabilia (proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Society), there’s film screenings and there’s lots (and lots) of opportunities for fans to mingle and chat with both each other and with MTH personnel, both band members and crew. Apart from the time the musicians were actually up on stage, there’s a complete and very refreshing absence of any ‘them and us’ attitudes. And so it wasn’t just in the Q and A sessions you could get first-hand insights into life on the road with Mott The Hoople, you could also get plenty of those just sitting in the bar and chatting, too.

But the music of course, was what brought people together in the first place and the music this weekend had some pretty special moments. First up is local punk band Terminal Rage. There was always a ‘punk-before-punk’ side to Mott anyway, particularly in the early days. But of special interest to Mott fans is that this band features the younger brother of Dale Griffin (MTH drummer who tragically died from Alzheimer’s this year) following in his brother’s footsteps at the drum-stool. Griffin leaves his kit and takes centre stage for one song to sing Bowie’s Starman as a moving tribute to his two musical heroes who died within a week of week of each other this year: David Bowie and his brother Dale.

Fellow Hastings resident, Mick Bolton, who toured as part of Mott The Hoople for a period in the early 70s, is next up on stage for an eclectic mix of numbers, including some pounding rock’n’roll boogie-woogie piano, to Jupiter – from Holst’s The Planets suite, to  a self-composed song originally written as possible material for Mott The Hoople in mind. Circumstances intervened and it was never used by the band but it does capture the vibe of mid-70s Mott the Hoople very nicely and it’s great to hear it performed.

Bolton is then joined on stage by guitarist Luther Grosvenor (who, of course, went by the gloriously rock’n’roll pseudonym of Ariel Bender during his period in MTH) and an ad-hoc band assembled for the occasion. Grosvenor is marking his retirement from live gigging with a special performance tonight. This is the first time that Grosvenor and Bolton have performed on stage together since 1974 and we get a short but explosive set, revisiting key songs from Grosvenor’s long career. Simon Savage (who will return to the stage later in the evening as front-man for the tribute act, Wott The Hoople) provides some great vocals and interacts well with Grosvenor on stage. Notable song highlights include Spooky Tooth’s Better By You Better By Me (the original version of the track that saw Judas Priest up in court on that ludicrous charge where they were accused of encouraging their fans to kill themselves) and a glorious, wonderful, celebratory version of The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll. A point that was touched on earlier in the day during the Q & A was how Mott The Hoople’s first guitarist, Mick Ralphs, and his replacement, Ariel Bender (AKA Luther Grosvenor) were at opposite ends of the spectrum in their style of guitar playing and in their on-stage personality. Both the modest, unassuming but technically brilliant Ralphs and the explosively bonkers Bender were an essential part of Mott The Hoople’s history. Although sadly, and I would say unjustly, left out of the 2009 and 2013 reunion shows it’s wonderful to have the latter’s contribution celebrated here tonight. Grosvenor gives a heartfelt, emotional thank you to everyone who’s supported him over the years but I do wonder what he’s going to do in retirement. I can’t quite see him digging an allotment. So if he can be persuaded to do the odd bit of gigging here and there I think it would be glorious to see him back on stage with Simon Savage again.

Next up is Herefordshire-based The Troy Redfern Band. His brand of melodic blues rock is normally just the thing I’d be lapping up. But as I indicated earlier, the weekend was always about far more than just watching bands. So I took time out in the bar area: chatting to fellow Hoople fans (one of whom I discovered also shared my love of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny) chatting to Bob Griffin about having Dale as both an older brother and a musical mentor, chatting to original keyboard player, Verden Allen (who wasn’t performing but still came along to be part of it all) about his experiences of the two reunion shows, chatting to Luther Grosvenor and joining the impromptu lobby to encourage him not to make his retirement quite so final, chatting to Mick Bolton about making the move from Lancashire to London as a young man (something we both did) and many similar conversations besides (as well as a plethora of the inevitable selfies, of course).

It was then back to the front of the stage for the tribute act Wott The Hoople to take part in a joyful, if slightly drunken celebration (certainly on my part by this stage) of Mott The Hoople’s music. A nice touch was getting Stan Tippins up (the original band’s vocalist from the pre-Ian Hunter days, turned MTH tour manager and occasional backing vocalist). They encored with Tippins singing the harmonies on a spectacular All The Young Dudes. A fantastic end to a fantastic day.

Forty-two years after their original demise Mott The Hoople is still a band that’s loved, celebrated and cherished by its many fans – and rightly so.

Thanks to Phil John and everyone else who worked to make this such a memorable event.

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Related reviews:
Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush 2014
Ian Hunter at Minehead 2016
Mick Ralphs at Minehead 2015
Mick Ralphs at Minehead 2016
Mick Bolton at Hastings 2016

Rock: album review – David Gilmour ‘Rattle That Lock’

Only a year after releasing what was billed as Pink Floyd’s final album, The Endless River, late 2015 saw David Gilmour bring out a new solo album, too. Rattle That Lock is his first solo offering since 2006. While Sid Barrett and Roger Waters both have their enthusiastic advocates as the holder of the creative genius behind Pink Floyd, for me it was always David Gilmour I looked to first and foremost. Gilmour’s vocals and guitar are the sound of Pink Floyd for me. I found the Waters-inspired The Final Cut little more than a self-indulgent ranty dirge, but hugely enjoyed both of the post-Waters albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell. And Gilmour’s 2006 solo offering, On An Island, very much continued in the same vein.

So what, then, of Rattle That Lock? I’ve played it several times over now. All of the musical ingredients you would expect from a David Gilmore album are there: the beautiful melodic guitar solos, the lush atmospheric keyboards, the deliciously rich backing vocals and that clear, sensitive unmistakable lead vocal. But somehow, unlike previous offerings, it doesn’t quite seem to add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not a bad album and there are some really beautiful moments on it. But in places it does begin to sound a bit like Pink Floyd by numbers. On An Island followed exactly that same formula, of course, but perhaps had the benefit of featuring a number of really well-written memorable songs that added to the creative output of, rather than merely sought to copy, the classic Floyd back catalogue.

There are some lovely stand-out tracks, like Faces of Stone and In Any Tongue. And apart from the truly horrendous disco beat on Today there are very few low points on this album. But overall, although it’s mainly songs rather than instrumentals, Rattle That Lock is more in the business (like 2014’s The Endless River) of offering atmospheric Floydish soundscapes rather than genuinely classic new material. Having said that, it’s still a thousand times better than The Final Cut

Released: September 2015

http://www.davidgilmour.com/rattlethatlock/

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