Tag Archives: Wilko Johnson

Talking Musical Revolutions with Zoë Howe at Kino-Teatre, St Leonards 24/11/16

My review was originally published on The Stinger independent music website here

Rock writer, Zoë  Howe, who has produced acclaimed biographies on the likes of The Slits, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Wilko Johnson, Lee Brilleaux and Stevie Nicks, dropped in at St Leonard’s’ Kino Teatre on Thursday to talk about her experiences writing those; and also about her latest book, Shine On Marquee Moon, her first work of fiction.

Shine On Marquee Moon, named after the iconic Television album, follows the adventures of a fictional 80s new romantic band, Concierge, who are enjoying something of a modern-day revival.In spite of owning up to getting Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” as the first ever single she bought with her own money (which she played us the video of, along with Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’) this is less Howe’s world than the rock world she knows far more intimately, both as a writer and a performer.

She explained that although she started out with a rock band in mind, she switched genre’s because she “didn’t want it to become too Spinal Tap.”

From the couple of readings she gives us tonight, however, it’s brilliantly observed, hilariously eccentric and caustically witty, yet at the same time it comes across as a very human and empathetic portrayal, too.


And when Howe moves on to talk about her rock biographies, it’s abundantly clear how precious to her maintaining that human element is.

Drawn to bands like The Who at an impossibly young age, Howe reveals that the first rock biography she ever read was a sordid hatchet job on Keith Moon.

She denies that she consciously set out to do this when I put the question to her later on, but that lurid account could almost have acted as her personal manifesto on how not to do it when it came to working on her own music biographies years later.

She emphasises the importance she attaches to giving her subjects a degree of dignity and respect, as well as love she’s keen to stress, regardless of whatever bizarre rock star behaviour or low points in people’s personal lives her books inevitably touch on.

Howe seems to have taken a Punk DIY ‘just get on and do it’ approach to writing: experimenting and learning as she goes along, rather than bending over backwards to fit the usual constraints of the publishing industry. And it certainly seems to be paying off.


Talking Musical Revolutions makes for a fascinating evening and with some thought-provoking questions from interviewer, Gavin Martin, a great selection of video clips (The Who, The Slits, Bauhaus and Dr Feelgood, for example – not just Falco and Duran Duran!) and some highly entertaining readings from her new book, the two hours just fly by.

Whether it’s her rock biographies or her new foray into the word of fiction, it’s clear that Zoë Howe deals with her subject matter with warmth, passion and good humour.

And at least one or two of those publications are likely to find their way on to my Christmas present wish-list this year.



Photo from event publicity promo


Status Quo at Hammersmith Apollo 28/3/14

Normally, I’m all for big named bands giving up-and -coming ones a helping hand with a support slot on tour. But when it comes to big rock reunions, and I’ve seen a few, nothing beats a well-chosen,  established act from a similar era to kick things off. Status Quo have chosen brilliantly here by getting in Wilko Johnson as the support for their “frantic four” classic-era reunion tour. Diagnosed with terminal cancer in early 2013, former Dr Feelgood guitarist, Johnson, made the brave, inspirational and utterly life-affirming decision to use his remaining time, not pursuing a debilitating and ultimately futile course of treatment, but by saying farewell to his fans with a series of live dates. There has been no sign of his being incapacitated just yet and so further dates have been added, the Quo tour being the latest. And what a magnificent performance, not only from Wilko but from bass player Norman Watt-Roy and drummer, Dylan Howe. The crowd roared its approval as the trio delivered blistering performances of Feelgood classics like Roxette, Back in the Night and She Does it right. The admiration and affection for the man tonight was moving but this was no mere sympathy vote. It was a genuinely magnificent set and the crowd responded accordingly. Quo could not have chosen a better way to open up the evening.

After a shortish break the lights dimmed, the famous spoken intro from the 1977 live album was relayed over the PA, the silhouette backdrop made famous by the “Hello” album cover came down and Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan walked on stage. The four are reunited for a second time after their reunion tour last year following a 32-year break. Since the demise of the classic line-up in the 80s Status Quo, under Rossi and Parfitt, has very much continued, of course. But what we saw tonight was something very different from the lighter keyboard-heavy pop-rock act that continues to fill arenas every year. Like last year’s  Quo re-union tour, again there was a focus on material from the early 70s albums, rather than the big hits of later years. It was a very similar, setlist too, but although lacking the emotional resonance of seeing four guys walking out on stage together for the first time in over 30 years, it more than made up for that by being a somewhat tighter performance from the band than in 2013.

As in last year’s reunion, returning bass player, Alan Lancaster, got a hefty slice of the lead vocal duties, Lancaster’s gritty vocals being something that later versions of the band have definitely missed out on. I’ve seen the post-Lancaster/Coghlan Status Quo at a couple of festivals, and while they are undeniably fun and entertaining, the quality of songs and the earthiness of the performance when the original four get on stage together provides something different altogether. Highlights for me were Lancaster opening with Junior’s Wailing, Rossi singing In My Chair, and a magnificent performance of perennial crowd-pleaser Forty Five Hundred Times. Although the focus was very much on album classics, I must confess when I saw them last year I was ever so slightly disappointed that they had chosen not to play one of their greatest ever hit singles, Caroline. Tonight, though that was rectified and the band encored with a magnificent version of Caroline, followed by traditional show closer, Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny. Definitely, a memorable night for British rock.

Junior’s Wailing
Just Take Me
Is There a Better Way
In My Chair
Blue Eyed Lady
Little Lady
Most of the Time
(April) Spring, Summer and Wednesdays
Oh Baby
Forty-Five Hundred Times / Gotta Go Home
Big Fat Mama
Down Down
Roadhouse Blues
Bye Bye Johnny