Saturday, 27 January 2018

Is my luck finally starting to change?

Yesterday I found 5p in the gutter outside the station. Today I found 20p on the platform at another station. Things are looking up!

Monday, 15 January 2018

How come it never rains...

So on Sunday I finally started to feel really positive about things for the first time in months. Back at work and earning again for a few weeks. Continuing to make a good recovery from breaking my wrist in a motorcycle accident and now almost back to normal. Playing the guitar again and finally getting back to full reach in the fingers and nearly full flexibility in my wrist. I'd even managed to get to a couple of 'proper' gigs in December. I won't be back on two wheels for a while, but for financial reasons rather than any fears of getting back on a bike - I'd get back on one tomorrow if I had one available. However, it's the middle of winter and even if I won the lottery I wouldn't think about buying another bike before spring - I don't like being cold and/or wet - or getting my machine covered with all that salt shit they cover the roads with at this time of year that makes it go rusty and corrodes the aluminium. Besides, freezing myself on a bike isn't going to help me recover from my recent injuries. At least I still have the car....

My life seemed to be on a downward spiral since the motorcycle crash in September with the loss of my bike along with five gigs I had to pull out of - four as a bass player in someone else's band, and one with my own band which was particularly important to me. But finally things seemed to bottom out and I began to pull out of my dive. At last I was starting to feel positive about things again.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it wasn't an oncoming train. Or was it?

So feeling much better about things I drove off to work on Monday morning. I'd only gone a couple of miles when as I negotiated a tight corner I saw a Range Rover apparently cutting the corner off and crossing over to my side of the road. BANG! We collided head-on. Fortunately neither of us was going very fast and there were no injuries to either party. We pulled off the road to exchange details. She said sorry and admitted it was her fault - without any prompting from me. She blamed her door mirror for obstructing her view, but I suspect she wasn't looking where she was going or wasn't paying attention for some reason - on the phone? It was still dark, and it was raining but the road was lit and visibility wasn't bad. I didn't notice much damage to her motor, but the high Range Rover bumper had gone right over my bumper and dented and distorted the bonnet, as well as knocking out one of my indicator lights.. Well at least her insurance would be paying for it all. She said I'd get a phone call later today or tonight after she'd spoken to her husband.....

I heard no more so I phoned my insurance company to find out what was going on. They informed me that she was now blaming me for the accident and claiming that she had stopped and I had crashed into her - virtually the opposite of what had actually happened! After admitting responsibility at the scene she had now completely changed her story! I can only assume that her husband (probably the owner of the vehicle) had talked her into changing her story and blaming me instead. It get's worse. My insurance company arranged to have the damage to my car inspected. It was declared a write-off straight away due to the age of the vehicle. In my opinion it wasn't too badly damaged and wouldn't have been that difficult to fix - but they decided it would cost too much to put right. To be fair, parts for a 20 year old car might have been difficult to obtain - especially if it needed a new bonnet - and the labour costs would have been high. They only valued my car as worth £450 - a fraction of what I originally paid for it when it was fairly new. I couldn't really complain too much being offered that for a 20 year old car that was visibly past it's best, although I was hoping it still had a few more years life left in it. However, my insurance policy has a £400 excess! So if they wrote the car off and the other party's insurance didn't cough up I'd only get £50 for having my car written-off even though it wasn't my fault! And of course I'd lose my 20 year's worth of no-claim bonus and have to pay a lot more for car insurance in future! There were no witnesses to the accident, or none that stopped anyway - so it's my word again's her's. I told my insurance company there was no way I was accepting any of the blame as it was completely her fault, but they said it would probably end up settled as being duel-fault or split-blame or something. So she will end up fucking me over big time and I will lose my car and get paid next to nothing for it even though the accident was totally her fault. And I have no money to buy another car. Even if I got paid the full £450 'value' for my car - what could I buy with that these days? Looks like I'm totally screwed. I think I'll be having to get the train to work for the foreseeable future...

The following day I was hoping to go to a gig down Holloway Road - some good bands and plenty of my friends there, but I'd been getting some aches in my side and back during the day possibly as a result of the accident - so I didn't go in the end as I didn't fancy travelling far on public transport and possibly ending up feeling pretty rough on a night out.

"How come it never rains?
It only pours....
...Well into the bright lights,
The rain in the gutter's still the same"

Tyla - Dogs D'Amour

One week later. My car is taken away for scrap - 15 years almost to the day since I got it. I could have cried. I don't think I've had any other car longer than four years or so. Another link with my past gone. So many memories - times out going to places with my dad. So many places I went in that car, I drove it nearly a hundred thousand miles - and it never broke down or failed to start. Not even once. On Sunday I drove it knowing it was for the last time ever - it felt very miserable. I got home and took all my bits and pieces out of it - quite a lot of stuff. On Monday morning I took one last forlorn look at it as I headed off to work - knowing it would be gone when I got home. I could have cried, but I think I've forgotten how....

Back on my downward spiral I go. Within the space of a few months I've broken my wrist, been off work for a long period and lost a lot of money, lost my bike, and now my car. I feel like I've lost part of my identity. I feel one part of my life may be drawing to a close, and I'm not sure what the future holds.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

21/12/2017 Wolfsbane & Last Great Dreamers @ Islington Academy 2

On paper it seemed like an odd bill, but as I really like both bands I'm not going to complain! Both bands might have been playing in the same era when they first appeared, but putting a Glammy old school rock 'n roll band on with an out and our heavy metal band might not seem a natural choice? In spite of this strange pairing the venue is packed out - with fans from both bands.

I've been wanting to see Last Great Dreamers again since being very impressed by their live set at Camden Rocks festival last year.
Tonight they are again very good., and they also have some new songs to play from their latest album '13th Floor Renegades'. If you like The Quireboys (who they have supported on tour) and The Faces then you'll probably like this lot too, although they have their own character and can't be accused of ripping those bands off. Although they have a very gritty rock 'n' roll vibe they have a more pop and commercial feel in their songwriting - and they really know how to nail a catchy chorus!
Last Great Dreamers are seasoned and polished live performers too, and you can't help wondering why they've never managed to crack the big time when so many lesser bands have got lucky.

Wolfsbane got a lot closer to cracking the big time - signing to Rick Rubin's label and having him produce their debut album - rather badly in my opinion as it's the least good sounding record they ever made with it's horrible lightweight tinny sound. They made by far their heaviest and meatiest sounding record after escaping Def American for Bronze Records with Simon Efemey producing - they released their self titled album and promptly split up after Iron Maiden poached their singer. And that appeared to be that. And for a few years it was - until some time after Blaze Bailey was ousted from Maiden to made way for the return of the 'Air raid siren' and the totally unexpected happened - the classic (and only if you don't count early drummers before the band were signed) lineup of Wolfsbane reformed! There were some live dates playing old material, an EP 'Did It For The Money, and then a brand new album Wolfsbane Save The World appeared - and it was actually very good! Odd live dates and tours have followed since, and also some newly discovered old recordings have been released - along with a new EP Rock! - which does exactly what it says on the tin and also contains some interesting topical and autobiographical songwriting. Guess what? Wolfsbane are still really good live!
A current Wolfsbane live show contains songs from across their career right up to date. Blaze Bailey is still one of the best frontmen out there and retains a terrific voice and very powerful stage presence! Also a self deprecating sense of humour along with his larger-than-life stage personality. Come to a Wolfsabane show and you will be entertained - whether you like it or not! The band's songs are great too - many that are heavy and intense, but also great really catchy tunes you can sing along to - there is always a terrific atmosphere at their gigs! The band may not look like they used to back in the day (apart from bassist Jeff Hately who still looks exactly the same) but they still play as well as ever.
A Wolfsbane show is enormous fun, and you can be pretty sure you will hear most of, if not all your favourite Wolfsbane songs. There are very few metal bands who can be so downright entertaining - even if you are new to the band and not familiar with their songs you will be entertained - as well as being a great singer Blaze is also very funny! He takes the music deadly seriously without taking himself seriously - which is very refreshing as well as being fun!
Wolfsbane gigs aren't that common these days, but they do seem to have got into the habit of getting out to play around once a year - usually shortly before Christmas. I recommend you catch them if you get the chance.

Monday, 18 December 2017

18/12/2017 A trip to Westminster

The Dark Lord finally takes his seat in the House of Lords? Not quite, but I had a most interesting tour the House of Commons courtesy of my local MP. No politics involved I'm glad to say. As you might expect these days, security is very tight. There were airport style scanners and the expected searches among other things. Much interest was taken in the contents of the pockets in my leather jacket, and I had to take my belt off to be scanned due due it's metal buckle. I was most disappointed that the equipment didn't start bleeping due to the metal plate I now have in my wrist! Maybe it's calibrated to ignore certain things.
The place is absolutely fascinating - this part is nearly a thousand years old and still in use. The Great Hall has seen countless significant events in our history from trials to weddings and funerals - it's quite something just standing there trying to take it all in.
The tour includes places that are regularly seen on the TV news like the famous lobby where politicians get interviewed. Photography is only allowed in certain places though, so there is much that I can't show you...
The atmosphere of the place is amazing. I didn't take many pictures as I was more interested in just soaking up the feeling of history. There are those who say that it should all be torn down and replaced with something more modern and efficient, but I think if those people had actually visited the place they would think differently. It does cost a huge amount to look after and much work is needed to maintain it and fix problems that have appeared due to past neglect, as well as bomb damage from WW2 - some parts aren't actually as old as they may appear. I think you ignore history at your peril. Some may think that history isn't important, but ignorance of it only insures that the mistakes of the past will be repeated again.
I finished my visit by going to the House of Commons to observe what was going on. No photos are allowed there, but it was fascinating to sit quietly and watch the debate in progress. It was quite something to sit there so close to the scene that appears on the 6 O'Clock News populated by famous (and infamous) politicians both now and back over hundreds of years of history. To actually be almost in touching distance of the benches, despatch boxes and the famous mace. Although the actual debate taking place was concerning a finance bill and rather dull, I stayed there for quite some time soaking up the history and atmosphere of the place. If you ever get the chance to go I can highly recommend it.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

17/12/2017 Ginger's Birthday Bash

Ginger's Birthday Bash is always one of the highlights of the year, and this was no exception! For 2017 the event is back to a smaller venue - which is a surprise after the same event proving capable of selling out the Kentish Town Forum previously. However, I find the show more enjoyable is this more intimate venue - which also gives a nice sense of Deja Vu as I remember being as Ginger's very first Birthday Bash at this very same venue in 2001. Although I have really enjoyed the shows at the Forum and other venues in the past, I really don't think The Garage can be beaten for intimacy - without being overly cramped and uncomfortable. It's got great transport links too, and is almost next door to a Wetherspoons - making it hard to beat in most respects.

It's been a very challenging year for Ginger on a personal level. He's had his ups and downs, and some of the downs have been very down. Fortunately things seem to be looking up for him and hopefully tonight will be a tonic for him. The show starts very early, but with no support acts there is a lot to cram into the show - with so many guest spots. I spot Alex Kane coming in the front door with a guitar on his back just after the show starts - so I already know who one of the guests will be, and have heard hints on who one or two of the others are...

Ginger opens the proceedings with a song from his latest solo release 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' his so- called 'Country' album of acoustic material. Emily Ewing joins Ginger on vocals. After starting with 'The Daylight Hotel' he treats us to a few more of his solo songs from various albums as more of the long procession of special guests take to the stage.
We are treated to some songs by Ginger's other recent projects G.A.S.S. and Hey! Hello! These go down a storm with the crowd in this packed venue. Cat Southall takes lead vocals for some songs - Ginger's fans have certainly taken her to their hearts after seeing her filling in the vocal slot in Hey! Hello! at live shows and she has tons of energy and personality. The rest of Hey! Hello! join Ginger on stage as well - The Rev on guitar, rhythm section Toshi and Ai, as well as Kelli Compulsive and Givvi Flynn on vocals.
After the show going 'electric' for a while there is an 'acoustic' interlude for a few cover songs with Maya McCourt on cello. Incuded are Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin' and 'American Girl' to pay tribute to the legendary songwriter we lost earlier in the year.
The energy level get's cranked up again when Jim Jones is brought on stage to sing AC/DC's 'Live Wire' in tribute to rock's best ever rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young who we also lost recently. The excitement is heightened even more by the arrival of AntiProduct frontman Alex Kane on guitar for this song! I know Alex is a huge AC/DC fan, as is Ginger - The Wildhearts even toured (very briefly!) with AC/DC back in the day. But that's another story.... Other guitar guests include Andy Brook from Shush (and Milena too I think) Rich Rags of Role Models, plus on vocals Tracie Hunter and Phoebe White of The Rebelles,  and Ray Zell from Marionette as well as Jason Knight rocking out on bass!
The 'Special guest' musicians are coming thick and fast by now, and Rachel Stamp's David Ryder Prangley arrives to sing a great version of the Silver Ginger 5 song 'Girls Are Better Than Boys'. Ginger swaps to bass guitar at one point for a few songs as there are so many amazing 6 string players doing guest spots.Then, just when you think the guitar energy level can't be cranked any higher - on strolls Bernie Torme! He rips through 'New Orleans' which he played in his time with Gillan. Then when you really think things can't get any hotter in the guitar stakes - on comes Dregen from Backyard Babies! Any more guitar pyrotechnics and the venue will surely spontaneously combust!
We get a tribute to another recently departed guitar legend with Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode', and also an incendiary 'Ace Of Spades' in tribute to the much missed Lemmy - who was a particular inspiration and personal influence to Ginger. I can't believe I have just seen Bernie Torme, Dregen, and Alex Kane all ripping it up together on the same stage at the same time! Guitar pyrotechnic Heaven!
Ginger, Dregen, Alex Kane, and Rich Battersby on drums then play a few Super$hit 666 songs - something nobody thought ever likely to happen as that band only recorded a single mini-album but never played any gigs. This night is turning out even more special than I expected! Needless to say, the atmosphere in this sold out venue is amazing - and it's just about to get even better. Yes - it's Wildhearts time! Ginger is joined by CJ as well as Rich Battersby, with Toshi filling in on bass. Also guesting on the set closing Wildhearts songs are Chris McCormack, Frank Turner, and Lauren Tate from Hands Off Gretel. 'My Baby Is A Headfuck', 'Sick Of Drugs', 'Caffeine Bomb', 'Suckerpunch', 'Greetings From Shitsville' and the inevitable fan favourite '29 x The Pain' round off the evening perfectly. Maybe the best Birthday Bash yet?

Let's hope 2018 is a better year for Ginger on a personal level - I think good things are on the way. And The Wildhearts are coming back!

My photos are crap - I didn't really bother as I wanted to enjoy the show instead. Messing about with my digicam was a pain and I didn't want to risk dropping my phone in the crowd (again) as it's already got a cracked screen. If you want to see some decent pictures of the show go and look at Trudi Knight's pictures 'cos she took loads and they are really good! My only decent quality picture is of my spare ticket - I found myself on the guestlist and couldn't find anyone who wanted a free ticket at short notice.
Same time next year then?

Monday, 20 November 2017

25/10/2017 Gary Moore album launch and Q&A @ The Gibson Guitar Studio

Due to having a broken wrist I wasn't able to get out to any gigs in October, but I was invited to an album launch playback and Q&A session to promote the forthcoming Gary Moore box set and new album 'Blues And Beyond' at the Gibson Guitar Studio.
It proved to be an interesting event - and yes, there was free booze! I found I wasn't the only member of 'walking wounded' present as I also spotted a certain well known rock DJ hobbling about on crutches after a recent accident - but he'd been thrown from a horse rather than a motorcycle! Things started with a presentation from various figures involved with the late rock/blues guitar legend. Among these was his former guitar tech Graham Liley, who had some interesting information about Gary's guitars.
Also talking to us was Harry Shapiro - author of the new 'Official' Gary Moore biography 'I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow'. He also had many interesting stories to tell.
We then had BMG's Director of Design Neel Panchal tell us about how the whole design for the new box set's packaging was put together.
The Q&A session at the end was interesting and revealing. For the guitars geeks present (me included) there was also a selection of Gary's guitars on display - some of which where a surprise to me and not guitars that's I'd normally associate with him. Needless to say (given where this event was being held) there were all Gibsons!
The guitars were of much interest to me, in particular the ES-335 and ES-345 models. I didn't realise that my small guitar collection includes three models that were played live by Gary Moore. Also included were some one-off prototype Les Pauls which had been specially made by Gibson for Gary - mouth watering stuff! There was a selection of other Gary Moore memorabilia on display as well as items related to the new box set - which includes new live recordings on CD as well as a new 'best of' spread across four vinyl discs and the new biography - certainly a desirable package for any Gary Moore fan!
Naturally, with this being the Gibson studio there were many of the company's products and those of it's associated brands in evidence although not connected to the event - including one or two I'd certainly like to get my hands on!
Back upstairs there loads more highly desirable Gibson's on display, including one or two models that I already own.
Finding myself in something approaching 'Guitar Heaven' I didn't have much time to enjoy the spectacle as a smartly suited Gibson security man was regarding me with deep suspicion - and slowly but subtly trying to edge me towards the door as the event was now over and I was the last of the guests to leave.
I'd managed to get a few free cans of cider down me, but the booze ran out by the end of the event, so it was off to the pub before heading home - the pub in this case being the former Marquee Club in Charing Cross Road. After many years, I can now finally go in there without feeling the twinge of sadness that used to prevent me going there as I remembered what the place used to be and the bands I saw there.

Starting to get out and about a bit....

So I'm off work for over two months, but not actually able to take advantage of that and go out much. I can't drive at the moment, and I no longer own a motorcycle. My financial situation is uncertain and I could soon be relying on Statutory Sick Pay - which certainly isn't enough to pay the bills and mortgage. Going to gigs that are likely to be crowded doesn't seen a good idea with an arm in a sling and a wrist in plaster - particularly the more 'punk rock' gigs that are likely to have loads of pissed-up people dancing and jumping around. Usually I have no problem taking care of myself in such situations - but with a broken wrist I don't really want to take the chance of drunken idiots barging into me at gigs. So although it's nice not to have to worry about late nights and then having to be up early in the morning, I have to pass on a few gigs I would have liked to have gone to....

My first night out since my prang is actually less than a week after the accident and wasn't really planned. My mate John asks me if I feel like going to a local jam night as he's driving up there to play. Seeing as I am offered a lift there and back I might as well take him up on his offer. It's good to see many of my local muso friends again, even though I am unable to play myself as I would normally be doing at such an event. I'm still on painkillers and antibiotics but still decide to risk having a few pints - having done a little research online on the drugs I'm on and their possible consequences. I am absolutely fine, and I don't even have a hangover the next day.

Over the next few weeks I continue to avoid going to any proper gigs, but as my legs are working fine in spite of their still healing deep lacerations I start allowing myself to go and see one or two bands in local pubs. It's good to be able to get out and see people again. It's not like I'm housebound or anything - I get out regularly to do a bit of shopping. My usual big weekly shop in the car is out of the question as I'm not fit to drive at the moment, and I wouldn't be able to lift my big box of groceries out of the car. So shopping is now done on foot but little and often - it get me out in the fresh air and I get some exercise - which can only be a good thing as I can't do my usual daily workout at home. What with doing a few odd other local errands as well on some days I walk several miles.