Monday, December 24, 2012

Special Xmas Gigs

Meeting up on tour this week with several German visitors over for the annual Christmas Quofest, led me to ponder the whole topic of the traditional Christmas gig. Given there's still time to attend a future Quofest, which other past one would I like to have been at given the chance to board that rock time machine … Undoubtedly, being at one of the Beatle fan clubs shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in ’64 or ’65 would be high on the list – though they were actually held just after Xmas. Queen also performed a couple of special shows at the Odeon in the mid-70s that were apparently memorable ( The Who offered their fans a choice of three nights at the Odeon in 75 as ‘A Xmas Present from the ‘orrible ‘oo’. But I'd not be choosing from the Odeon gigs alone. There was the famed ‘Christmas on Earth’ gig at the Olympia ’67; Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Traffic, The Move; now that has some appeal … I’ll also wager there were some memorable Christmas parties at the Marquee, UFO and Roundhouse in those halcyon 60’s and early ’70, too. Melody Maker journo and London rock tour friend, Chris Welsh, could probably remember a few of those for us. But my Xmas Number No.1 gig? No argument; the one I’d have loved to have been at was the 'Xmas Party at the Patti Pavilion’, Swansea, 1972, thrown by Welsh rockers, Man, with the incomparable Dave Edmunds.
There’s a great live album of this available but surely no real substitute for being there. Not London, I appreciate, but Wales produces some great rock too! Happy Christmas, or as they say in Wales, Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd dda!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Master of Abbey Road

Top on the ‘dream list’ of probably every Beatle fan is a visit to the actual studio at Abbey Road where most of the magic was created (about 90% of their output). Perhaps unsurprisingly, EMI doesn’t encourage fans to get closer than the (sometime) white wall these days. However, there are two ways in… The studio offers a very narrow window of opportunity over two, three-day periods in March. For £80 a person you get to hear presentations by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan (authors of the critically acclaimed, definitive book ‘Recording the Beatles’), tour Studio 2 itself, see how mixing is done and view equipment and instruments used by the Fab Four. Tickets are available through There’s another alternative; hire the facilities! Full session hire would be enormously expensive but as Coelho, member of popular Brazilian band "Biquini Cavadão". (and friend of London Rock Tours) discovered recently, completing a final mastering there doesn’t cost much more than a couple of tickets for the ‘Inside Abbey Road’ tours. What’s more, like Coelho, you get to take a piece of vinyl home with you and your next single can boast ‘mixed at Abbey Road’ on the label!
Coelho is pictured here with a copy of an acoustic version of the single "Entre beijos e mais beijos" from the album "Roda-Gigante", using the same facilities as were used on several Beatle productions.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Capital Covered

Continuing the quest for album covers that feature London locations as part of the cover art, I stumble upon another rarely photographed site - at least when used for rock'n'roll; Olympia Grand Hall. It's often forgotten that Olympia was at one time a major rock venue. With a capacity of around ten thousand it was a favoured venue for indoor 'festivals' vying for business against the similarly-sized Ally Pally on the other side of the city. In the late 60s and early 70s it hosted some amazing line-ups including, topically, an all day and night event on 22 December 1967. 'Xmas on Earth' featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd with Syd, Traffic, The Move, Soft Machine, Tomorrow and Eric Burdon & The New Animals. Oh, for a time-machine! By 1975 it, and rock, was well established and Olympia was the venue for the Great British Music Festival. The line-up for this 4-day event included Procul Harum, Bad Company, Status Quo, Thin Lizzy and Pretty Things, along with the less well-remembered SNAFU, Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance and John Miles. Not bad at £3.50 for a day.
The Chemical Brothers 'Surrender' album captures a moment in time at the Olympia. Fans sit 'groovin' in the great hall while in the foreground a lone 'idiot dancer' does his own, probably chemically induced, 'thing'. You can see why the shot was chosen. It is rumoured, by the way, that somewhere there's film of the Xmas on Earth gig; now finding that would be a Christmas present to remember!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stones Fanatics!

When it comes to musical likes and dislikes, there are fans, there are followers and there are fanatics. I think I have just met a fanatic! And I write this in a week where London has been full of near-fanatical fans celebrating the Rolling Stones '50 Years and Counting' concerts. So what is it that makes a fanatic? Owning copies of a band's music in every format (including downloads) might be one sign. Possessing a library of books either by or about the object of their fanaticism would be another. Having a wardrobe full of branded tour shirts or jackets, to the exclusion of more normal clobber, a definite sign. But how about having seen your favourite band two hundred and four times? Yes, you read it correctly; 204 … Well in my estimation, that is what qualifies
Stones Japanese fan club organiser, Yuji Ikeda, as a true fanatic. When he told me this amazing stat while on a Stones history tour this week I didn't even bother to enquire about his wardrobe, library or music collection... you kinda know what the answer will be. We had a great tour, by the way, with a bus full of Japanese specially over for the shows. And I'd hope a highlight for Yuji might have been showing him a couple of Jagger's houses that his fanaticism must have helped Sir Mick buy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Speaking of the 'Speakeasy' ...

Information that ends up as part of the London rock tour itinerary can come from some of the unlikeliest of places! Swindon Arts Centre for example. For readers not aware of the UK's geography, the town is about 120 miles west of London; not high on the list of 'must see' towns unless you have an interest in railway history. One great attraction last week, however, was an appearance there of Andy Fairweather Low and his 'Low Riders'. Welshman Fairweather Low is one of those characters in rock whose name should be familiar to all and whose performances set in large concert venue but, inexplicably, he plays gigs like 200-seat arts centres in provincial towns. Why should his name be familar? Older rock fans will remember the great 60s pop/soul band, Amen Corner; Fairweather Low was lead singer on hits 'Bend Me Shape Me', 'If Paradise is Half as Nice' etc. He then went on to the eponymous 'Fairweather' with one hit 'Natural Born Sinner'. Then a couple of mid-70s hits as a solo performer, most memorably, 'Wide-eyed and Legless'. So far so good but there's so much more; there followed twenty-four years with Roger Waters; membership of George Harrison's band; twelve-years with Eric Clapton, including musical director on the seminal 'Clapton Unplugged'. The musician's musican. If you were not familiar with the Fairweather Low name before then you must now wonder why! One possible theory is that he's a generous and unassuming man; no 'rock star' persona, never falling for the great 'I am' role, always crediting others where due (including current band members)and understating his own amazing credentials. As this is not a 'review' blog, we'll leave the concert report to simple tweet length; 'intimate, first class night featuring an eclectic mix of blues, soul, pop and sentimentalism from a really personably man in complete command of his instrument, and showing great respect to his unaccountably small but loyal following'. But back to the reason for the blog; the discovery of new London rock tour information. Having a post-concert chat with Fairweather Low, he volunteered the fact that the photograph on Amen Corner's first album cover was taken inside the fabled Margaret Street 'Speakeasy Club'. It's so
rare to discover any photograph of a band actually playing at the 'Speak' that this fact alone will ensure that anyone taking a London rock tour will be hearing more of Fairweather Low!

Friday, November 16, 2012

London Album Photos

I love finding new albums with London featured
in the location shoot. Some are pretty obviously London sites or themes though the actual album obscure, the artist forgotten, or it perhaps simply never made it through to popular consciousness. Who know remembers Chad & Jeremy (they had a cover featuring them side by-side a couple of traditional red phone boxes)? Then there was Nancy Sinatra, 'In London', that had the thigh-booted siren sitting provocatively astride an old red Routemaster double-decker bus. With a bit of tenacity, you can find them on the 'net. Recently though I found a really obscure one; great for the pub quiz! The album was 'Sneaking Sally though the Alley', Robert Palmer's classic 1974 solo debut. What?! You don't own it! Well here's the cover art. It's a London shot, and one pretty much everyone who has ever been to the Capital City or Rock will know. Where is it? The road tunnel that brings you out of Heathrow and onto the motorway! I can just about believe that in 1974 they could either have stopped the traffic to take the shot, or taken advantage of a lull. Now, I should think there'd be splash of red, or a flashing blue light to add to the green!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Quite fitting that Screaming Lord Sutch should have a plaque unveiled to his memory at th4e Ace Café so close to Halloween night … you’d have thought London’s East End might have been more fitting given his near hit ‘Jack the Ripper’ and connections with Joe Mee’s Holloway Road Studio than this west London North Circular biker venue.
Nit-picking apart, Sutch played a big part in early rock, and in lightening up the political scene with his Monster Raving Looney Party antics. The plaque was deserved. I went along hoping that perhaps a few of his ‘Heavy Friends’ might turn out. After all people like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Bonham, Carlo Little and Noel Reading contributed to his 1969 album. ‘twas not to be. Jess Conrad was there to do the honours though. Who? I hear younger readers ask… One of Meek’s stable, Jess released a string of singles in the late 50s, early 60s. Classics, if you can count having no less than seven mentioned in the all-time worst singles list as classic! But he was one of the originals, and a sometime TV and film actor, most notably playing the part of Larry Parnes in the biopic of Joe Meek. He was also in the Sex Pistols ‘Great Rock n Roll Swindle’! Rock is made by such men! A guard of honour was formed by several Raving Loonies, including the famed ‘Toby Jug’ – I think possible ‘leader’ of the party. Lots of other old faces there too to honour the ‘Third Earl of Harrow’. Sutch never played the Ace, and almost certainly got there by bus rather than ‘ton-up’ bike, but he enjoyed hanging out there and was instrumental in its 1990s rebirth so perhaps it’s as good a place as anywhere for his plaque.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

It’s sad when a rock heritage site disappears because, with its importance never widely recognised in its lifetime, no one thinks to preserve or protect the place when its existence is threatened. Jim Marshall’s old shop in Hanwell, west London, is one example; ‘That was where Marshall amps started’. ‘Really?!’. ‘Yeh, not a lot of people know that’. And they wont, ever, without a commemorative plaque. It is verging on the criminal, however, when someone destroys a site where the history was not only well-documented but had been formally recognised. Hang your head in shame La Suites Hotel in Bayswater. La Suites was formally known as the Hyde Park Towers Hotel. In the 60s it was the hotel used as a base by visiting Newcastle bands like the Animals. It was where Jimi Hendrix first lived in London; it was where he wrote several songs, including ‘Stone Free’; it was where we had a plaque mounted in 2010 to commemorate 40-years since Hendrix’s death. Refurbishment has not only seen the historic name go, but also the plaque. ‘Hendrix doesn’t fit our new upmarket image.’ So there’s nothing to mark the place. No exterior plaque; no photo display in reception, as used to grace the old reception; no dedicated bedroom. Nada. That Hendrix lived there for 3-months while he was exploding onto the London scene and forming the ‘Experience’ is unimportant it seems. The Hendrix connection is seen as a hindrance rather than a marketing plus. One can only shake one’s head in disbelief and quietly bet that the Hendrix brand, and indeed by association the Hyde Park Towers name, will be around long, long after the pretentiously named ‘La Suites’ has been long forgotten. Forgive them, Jimi, they know not what they do. Here’s their address if you want to tell them what you think …

Monday, September 24, 2012

Burning the Midnight Lamp

Hendrix Commemoration Evening Rocks - again! Brilliant Night! We held our annual Jimi Hendrix commemoration weekend over September 22nd and 23rd - an what a weekend it was! Hendrix devotees from the UK, the USA, France, Brazil and Holland joined in the fun at London's Troubadour Club. Good to see the Rhodes Rockers once again out in force! Our guest speaker this year was Keith Altham. Keith was the journalist and PR whizz who invented Jimi's guitar burning stunt and also conducted the last ever interview with the great man. Needless to say, Keith entertained us with some fabulous, insightful and intimate memories of a man he could also call a friend. John Campbell's 'Are You Experienced' provided the music. What a band they are. Not only suburb musically, but also guys who connect with their audience and fans. The greatest accolade was provided by Keith Altham; 'these boys are the best Hendrix tribute act I've seen'. Not bad from a man who probably saw the original more times than most other people! One of our weekend rockers was Lydia Clements. This lady has talent! I opened my emails this morning to find this brilliant ball-point drawing of Hendrix that Lydia has done. A great souvenir of the night!
Rock on!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

50-Years of 'Beat', 50-years of 'Bossa'

There’s always great excitement at Liverpool’s annual August Matthews Street Festival and International Beatle Week, but this year there’s been the added spice of it being fifty-years on from a few notable Beatle anniversaries. One of the most important dates in Beatle history was the 18th August 1962, the day Ringo made his debut at a small venue in Port Sunlight, a town near Liverpool. On board the rock tour this week we had ‘Help’, one of Mexico’s top Beatle tribute bands. As part of Beatle week they are playing at the same Port Sunlight venue. Beatle week brings ‘Beatle-nuts’ in from far and wide; we also had the ‘Tefeatles’ from Guatemala on board an afternoon tour. Yes, Guatemala! Perhaps the most interesting Latin American connection, however, was a performance by the Brazilian band ‘Clube Big Beatles’ at Bem Brazil, a Brazilian restaurant in Liverpool, in a gig sponsored by The Beatle Story attraction. Just another tribute band? Hardly. Not only was the band absolutely terrific, adding Brazilian rhythms (and instruments) to the original arrangements, but Andreas Kisser from Brazilian heavy metal heroes, Sepultura’ stepped up to the plate to take on lean guitar role and vocals on a couple of numbers, including ‘Get Back’. Powerful stuff! Kisser is the first Brazilian artist to have a 'fame' brick enscribed to him on the Cavern Wall. There’s a certain irony in this Brazilian tribute. It was also fifty-years ago that the Bossa Nova was born; August 02 1962 was the day that Tom Jobin and Vinicious de Moraes launched ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. Despite this song being the second most recorded song after ‘Yesterday’, the rest of the Bossa movement was effectively drowned out by the success of The Beatles and associated beat music.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hendrix, Stones & Marley... in a day

Rock fans visiting London over this next month can visit no less than three major exhibitions – even if you have limited time and money. First up, in the heart of Covent Garden, there’s an amazing Hendrix exhibition on loan from Seattle’s Experience Music Project. Flamboyant shirts, hand-written lyrics, posters and photographs grace the exhibition space of The Hospitality Club (a cool hang-out for creative types), 24 Endell Street. My favourite piece, however, is what remains of a highly-decorated, Fender Strat that he smashed at the finale of his performance in front of the Beatles at their own Saville Theatre. Coincidentally, that theatre is only a stone’s throw away as is the Beatles first fan club office. The exhibition only runs until the end of AUGUST so you have to be quick to catch this one. And talking of stones … and indeed another stone’s throw away at Somerset House (on the Strand) is the celebratory exhibition, ‘The Rolling Stones 50 Years’. This is an amazing collection of fantastic photographs, many previously unseen, spanning their career years. There are a couple of crackers of contrite-looking Jagger post-drug bust, and a great shot of the bacchanalian launch party they had in Kensington’s Gore Hotel for the launch of Beggars Banquet. It’s not only a free exhibition, but if you can make it while the Olympics are on you get the added bonus of seeing some live Brazilian music as Rio has taken over this lovely building to host its cultural centre. Now to complete the perfect day, hop on the underground’s Jubilee Line to the British Music Experience at the O2, Greenwich. Take it from me, this is an easy run taking no more then 15 minutes. The O2 is worth visiting in its own right but until mid-October there’s the added attraction of a rare Bob Marley exhibition. In addition to lots of photographs and memorabilia, there are also panels explaining the Jamaican roots of reggae and how it became so much an integral part of the UK’s music scene. There’s a nice youtube promo for it (with apologies for my own ‘two penneth’ accidental contribution!) I especially loved the BME’s exhibition, especially recently having had the opportunity of actually seeing the flat Marley lived in for a time while recording at Island’s Sarn Studios in Notting Hill. So there you are; three terrific exhibitions in three terrific locations. That’s the thing with rock tourism – it gets you places you’d never otherwise see!

Monday, July 23, 2012

HENDRIX Bithday Commemoration Gig

It's a special year; it would have been Jimi's 70th birthday in November. But the year also marks 45-years since the Experience's first single 'Hey Joe' entered the charts and, perhaps as memorably, the year Hendrix set fire to his first guitar! Our annual Hendrix commemorative weekend is going to celebrate these events in equally memorable fashion. As with previous years, the magnificent 'Are You Experienced' will recreate the loud and steamy atmosphere of a London club of the late 60s in the cellar basement of Earls Court's Troubadour Club. But to add to the excitement, we've a very, very special guest... Keith Altham, journalist and pop PR extraordinaire, is going to be recounting his celebrated role in the events of 1967 that led to Hendrix burning that first guitar at the Rainbow Theatre. Keith is a man of a 1000 stories; not only of Hendrix,whom he also accompanied back from Monterey, but also, fittingly in their 50th year, of the Rolling Stones, who he interviewed a record number of times. He was also PR for the Who for over 20-years and was present on the roof of No. 3 Saville Row for the famed last performance. Keith will be interviewed 'live' and will take questions. The event, as is the tradition, will be raising finds for the ABC Trust, the charity fronted by Jimmy Page, so we'll have a few very special auction items and a fantabulous raffle! Oh, and the date? Saturday 22nd September. £20 to you, gov. And best be quick and get yer tickets as they're limited to 120! And while we're on the subject of Hendrix commemoratives........ there's a World Premier Exhibition entitled 'Hendrix Hits London' being held at The Hospital Club, 24 Endell Street, London WC2. The exhibition includes the guitar he smashed on the stage of the Saville Theatre, his clothes, letters and record collection! There are some excellent oral history interviews from Clapton, Beck, Joey Ramone and others. It's not to be missed and you will do so if you don't get there between July 27th and August 31st. If you're taking one of our tours through August you'll be getting a discount voucher.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Rolling Stones at 50

July 12th 1962 Lots of stuff around reminding us that it's the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary. A few new interesting bits'n'pieces (especially a new photo exhibition currently being held at Somerset House in London's Strand, and another wider exhibition of the Ealing Blues Club at Pitshanger Manor in Ealing). Most though is fairly familiar. I was thrilled, therefore, to have been involved in helping produce a recent documentary on the Stones history with Bebe Contemponi from the Argentinean TV station Canal 12. Interviews with such rock luminaries as famed journalist and rock PR, Keith Altham, and Dick Taylor, the Stone's original bass player at that first Marquee gig, provided some great new stories for the rock tour! My favourite was one provided by Dick. His post Stones band (and still currently gigging), The Pretty Things, lived at 13 Chester Street, Belgravia, during 1965. Above them lived Brain Jones. One evening the 'Things' were gathered around the 9", black and white TV screen (along with kids in a million other households) to watch the Stones play on Top of The Pops. The Stones appearance was eagerly anticipated. Brain Jones appeared sporting his trade-marked floppy hat and a new matelot-styled black and white stripped T shirt.
'Blimey' cries an excited and suddenly hip-by-association, Brian Pendleton, the Things bassist, 'Brian has a T shirt just like mine!' Inexplicably, his announcement was drowned out by rest of the band exploding into raucus and noisy laughter. Unbeknown to Pendleton Brian, Jones Brian had been riffling through his wardrobe earlier that day ... the rest of the Things knew, of course, Pendleton often being the butt of jests, and were eagerly watching the show anticipating Pendleton's discovery ... from hip to zip in 2 seconds.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

On this Spot Stood ....

Another iconic rock landmark has disappeared… no more white men in Hammersmith Palais. Actually, the last gig was in April 2007; no less a person than Mark E Smith (The Fall) was the final act to grace a stage immortalized in Joe Strummer’s lyric for the Clash, and mentioned in the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song 'Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3'. The venue had been hosting live music since 1919. Originally named the Palais de Danse, one can imagine all of the returning Great War soldiers being part of the original dancing crowd. Over the 70s and 80s it was rock’s for soldiers who went over the top to the Stones, Police, U2, the Who and Pistols, to name but a few campaigners. Now it’s apparently going to be a student hostel. And will the new façade be graced with a plaque to remind future generation of what once stood here? If organizations like English Heritage have any say, then sadly probably not. Unbelievably, English Heritage, the body responsible for placing the Blue Plaques on London’s buildings, has just decided that Brian Epstein Chapel Street house is not going to get one. Epstein, apparently, is not considered important enough – despite the Beatles referring to him as the ‘Fifth Beatle’. ‘Don’t have the budget’ is their lame excuse. fer christ’s sake!!i> How difficult would it be to raise the few hundred quid necessary from fans? They have promised to revisit their decision in 10 years… Anyway, at least there’ll soon be one on Keith Richards Dartford family flat; but more of this in a later blog.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Of All the Bars ....

London’s rock history is littered with some legendary clubs; the Scene, Studio 51, Marquee, Roxy, 100 Club, the Troubadour, Blaises, Bag O’ Nails, Roundhouse, the 2is .. the list goes on and on. But, standing out in terms of legendary status, is one name; the Scotch of St James. The Scotch, situated in Mason’s Yard just off Piccadilly, must surely claim to have witnessed more rock history in the making than any other. This tiny club, with Gered Mankowitz and the Indica Gallery as neighbours, was the favourite of rock’s 60’ aristocracy. The Beatles had their own table; Hendrix agreed terms with Kit Lambert to sign to Track records and some sources claim that Jimi played his first ever UK gig on its tiny stage. It was certainly a ‘fave rave’ with The Who, Moody Blues, Eric Burdon, P.J. Proby … it was a case of be there or be square! The rare shot here shows a Merseybeats member dancing with George's soon to be, Patti Boyd. Unlike other famed bars which were closed, demolished, or turned into offices, the Scotch, renamed as The Directors Lodge, continued as a cellar bar, albeit catering to the ‘beer ‘n’titties’ crowd. But here’s the BIG news! It’s back! The Scotch relives. The small stage is once again graced by the rock fraternity. In fact, on this very day (3rd May) a certain James McCartney is due to play. ‘Private party’, we’re told. What’s the bet dad shows up. What a blast. McCartney senior sitting at his old table. So far information about who has purchased and reopened it, and what they intend to do there is scant but we’re on the case! It’s likely to be a member’s club due to the restricted size, and there’ll probably be little change to another Scotch legend; astronomical drink prices. But if you’re taking our new evening tour, ‘Ticket to Ride’ you’ll get to see the place, and perhaps even the in-crowd filing in.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Farewell 'Father of Loud'

Sad, if inevitable news given his age, of Jim Marshall's death today.

There will be lots of obituaries on other web sites, and in papers and magazines worldwide, so I'll not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that without Marshall amps the history of rock would have been quite different.

The wide publicity that Marshall's death will get, given his fundamental place in the pantheon of rock, might also stimulate 'the powers that be' (in this case the West London Borough of Ealing) to think about erecting a plaque on the original Marshall shop on Hanwell High Street. It would be a welcome addition to one plaque that this rock heritage rich borough does have, identifying the site of the Ealing Blues Club. The history of the two sites are inextricably linked. The club was formed basically as an alternative to the more folksy Roundhouse in Soho where amplification of guitars was not allowed. Many of the Ealing club's performers (like Clapton, Townsend, Jack Bruce, Cyril Davies)later become indelibly associated with Marshall's equipment.

Incidentally, April 7th marks the 50th anniversary of Mick Jagger's performance at the club (with band Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, and the meeting with Brian Jones that would lead three months later to the first performance of the Rolling Stones at the Marquee.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ziggy - 40 years on

The current publicity celebrating the 40th aniversary of the 'birth ' of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, and the placing of a plaque at London birth site, brings back a few memories.

I saw 'Ziggy' on tour; July 01st 1972 at Western Super Mare's Winter Gardens. The show confirmed my already very positive opinion of Bowie musically, having discovered there was more to him than 'Space Oddity' through the wonderful 'Hunk Dory' album.

Those of a vintage to remember concert going in the those early 70s will also remember it being a time of IRA activity, and 'bomb scares' plaguing venues and events. A malicious, or more likely drunken, phone call would be the cue for lights up and an instruction to 'clear the building quickly, please'. Our VIP visitors from Mars were not to be spared this worldly experience on that July night. Someway through the set, I can't remember at which exact point, the lights went up and the Winter Garden was cleared; concert goers quickly finding themselves standing outside in the warm night air while the building was searched for suspicious packages. And not only concert goers; the Spiders were also turfed out onto to pavement and my pal and I found ourselves standing right next to the bizarrely clad band.

Now I have to say that while the costumes under a 'beer light' added to the stage spectacle, they looked pretty bloody ridiculous outside under the cold light of a Weston street lamp. In fact, Bowie and fellow Spiders came in for a bit of good-humoured banter and abuse from certain sections of the beer-fueled, denim wearing crowd. Me included.

Inevitably, no bombs were found and the concert restarted. Alas, the magic that might have been was lost. Although the band recovered their poise and played on, it was hard to take the Ziggy persona too seriously (if we ever were supposed to). He had taken it all too far, but boy could he play guitar.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Moist Hoist gets its plaque!

There are a number of buidings that deserve recognition of their place in London's rock history, but perhaps none more do that the Ealing Blues Club, founded by the late, great Alexis Korner exactly 50-years ago today (March 17th).

Thanks to the hard work and efforts by Bob Salmons and Alistair Young the club now has its plaque.

In its early days, the club saw Jagger and Richards being introduced to Brian Jones, thus laying claim to being a birthplace of the Rolling Stones. Other notables who graced the 'stage' (the club only held a maximum of 200 fans) were The Who (as the Detours), Long John Baldry, Eric Burdon, Manfred Mann with Paul Jones, and even Rod Stewart.

There are promises that the club will rise again with the sweet sounds of the blues ozzing from its walls. This of course will be preferable to the dripping water that came from the walls in time past, giving the club its much-loved epithet!

Next week, the 23rd, see the unveling of the plaque at the Tabernacle, Nottinghill, celebrating the UFO, the 60s psychadelia club and cradle of Pink Floyd. Be there or be square!

Rock on!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Over the Rainbow - in Brazil

Amazing what you discover relevant to your own city while exploring others… well, the second hand record stores anyway! Despite rifling through old vinyl at every opportunity I’ve never come across ‘Over the Rainbow’, a live recording of the last ever concert at London’s fabled gig, March 16, 1975. Finding it in the unlikely setting of downtown Curitiba (southern Brazil)certainly adds to the romance!

The Rainbow (formerly the Astoria) was where the Beatles played for their fan club, where Hendrix burnt his first guitar, where Zappa was pulled from the stage - breaking a leg – where Floyd premiered DSOM, where Marley … well, you get the picture. Perhaps the most iconic of the larger London 60s/70s venues. There were also a shoal of live recordings (Beach Boys, Sweet, Buzzcocks, Nektar, Van Morrison and may others).

A real find, then, discovering ‘The Last Concert, Live!’, and most especially in Curitiba of all places. I’d love to know how the album ended up there; it's a promotional copy, too. The Rainbow bowed out to the sounds of Procul Harum, Kevin Coyne, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Hatfield and the North, Frankie Miller and Sassafras. A real connoisseur’s collection. And to complete the package, The cover is a stylized drawing of the Rainbow, picked out by searchlights. Needless-to-say, a copy of the cover will be added to the our Rock Bus decoration!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

By Royal Appointment; Exclusive Gigs

Fifty-years ago rock was about rebellion. Older rockers might remember the fuss when the Beatles were awarded their MBE medals, and attended Buckingham Palace to collect them from Good Queen Bess. (October 1965). The joke at the time was would the Beatles obey the signs and 'keep off the grass'!

How the world has changed; and so, has rock. Revolt into style, as George Melly once shrewdly observed. We now have a collection of 'Sirs' as well as MBEs, OBEs, and sundry other recognitions (like honorary PhDs awarded by self-promoting universities). Buck House is now a well-established rock venue, and even Status Quo have 'gongs'. Mind you, Quo deserve them a darn site more then some other of the recipients.

All this came to mind last week reading about St James Palace being the latest Royal Palace to host a rock concert. Admittedly, this was a promotional, PR turn by Van Morrison on behalf of the 'come to Northern Ireland' tourist campaign, but it counts and adds to Kensington Palace (Elton and Rod Stewart being regular performers for Princess Diana) and Whitehall Palace (Eric Clapton at some corporate do or other).

Rock has yet to reverberate from the walls of Windsor Castle yet, but maybe this is the year with it being QE2's 60th. We have still to hear what delights are to be provided for the masses as part of the festivities - though McCartney is bound to feature somewhere! Be a bit ironic if Windsor did feature given that the great National Jazz and Blues Festivals at Richmond and Windsor were one of UK rock's founding events. Just check who’s at the foot of the 1963 festival, and who lines up for 1967.

Thinking about it; rock has yet to have its first 'Lord'. Couple of certainties; it will get one eventually but count out Bowie and Keef Richards. Neither would accept any award of this nature. So who? Well, Lord McCartney of Strawberry Fields has a certain ring to it, and he's reigned nearly as long as Liz, God Bless her (and him!).

Monday, January 9, 2012


Planning continues apace for the UFO reunion (which is on March 23rd, not the 24th as advised in a prior blog).

'Zeitgeist 66', as the event has been christened, is being held at Nottinhgill's Tabernacle. It is somewhat ironic that the event is actually being 'planned' as spontaneity was the norm at the original UFO! 'We're all getting older, admitted Mouse O'Brien, one of the original UFO regulars, 'and at our age planning becomes a bit more prudent'.

One element that particularly requires forward thinking is the siting of a commemorative plaque. A formal unveiling will be one of the day's key events if this element comes to fruition. The hardest part of getting a plaque up is getting the agreement of the building owners. In this case it is the All Saints church authorities; the ideal position would be on a church wall adjacent to the original church hall, the initial UFO venue. Hopes are high that the church will welcome the initiative of a permanent memorial given the building's significance in local social history.

Watch this space for more news and contact Mouse directly if you want tickets, or have any memorabilia from the original UFO that can be included in the planned display. Tickets will be in high demand and numbers are strictly limited;

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where have all the Bootlegs gone?

News of the surfacing of an early recording of the Stones’ ‘As Tears Go By’ secreteed from London’s Regent Sound Studio, evokes nostalgia for the old-fashioned vinyl or cassette bootleg where such illicit material often surfaced in the past. ‘Bootlegs’, by way of explanation for the younger rock fan, were unofficial releases; concert recordings or demos that, like this new Stones gem, somehow escaped the studio, were pirated, and found their way into twilight distribution channels where a lucky soul might chance upon them before the police did.

‘Lucky’ is a term to be used loosely here. In truth, the recording quality of a bootleg was often rubbish; most were taken from hand-held cassettes smuggled in past security. But some came off the mixing desk, or the artists own personal tape machines, and these became legendary and much sought-after. Certain acts were more prone to the bootlegger than others; usually those whose official output was a trifle sporadic, or whose canon failed to include ‘live’ performances when the band had a reputation for playing great live shows. The holy grails were those ‘legendary’ gigs or super-jams that were rumoured to have taken place with a tape machine left running - like the early Hendrix jams in London basement clubs with the likes of Traffic, Eric Burdon and Alexis Korner.

I remember the thrill of first discovering ‘Led Zep at the Royal Albert Hall 1970’ and ‘Hendrix at the Winterland Ballroom’. A particular prize in my collection is an anonymously-packaged, orange vinyl of Rod Stewart and the Faces. There were no liner notes, not even a track listing, so where and when this gem was recorded remains a mystery. A couple of other prized items include a range of tapes taken from the mixing desk at London’s ‘Half Moon’ pub venue. Discretion (and the fear of retribution!) prohibits a fuller explanation but suffice it say that I treasure performances from the likes of Guy Clarke and John Stewart. A similar mixing desk-sourced performance is of Julian Cope in Leicester.

Naturally, some artists fought back. The Grateful Dead allowed everyone to take in their recorders with the result that you’d see a forest of raised arms or cassettes atop of posts stretching before you. Frank Zappa took another route to ‘beat the boots’ and simply issued a zillion live albums. The quality was always excellent as you’d expect from the great man. And Dylan of course did the same by releasing the famed ‘Basement Tapes’.

It’s all too easy now. A quick trawl through the internet and you can download almost anything, and free. Pearls are truly being cast before the swine.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It Was 50-Years Ago Today that Sgnt Pepper...

It happened on January 01 1962; fifty years ago. Let me write that again; fifty-years ago...

On that fateful day four young men from Liverpool filed into the Decca studios in North London for an audition. And as everyone knows, they failed it; Decca preferred to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes to this other band who didn´t quite measure up to the promise they´d shown when playing live at Liverpool´s Cavern Club.

Fifty-years and millions of records on, The Beatles are still the biggest name in popular music.

Who would have thought on that grey, early 1960s day (we didn´t even get a holiday for New Year´s Day in those far oft times!) that half a century later their music would not only still be selling by the truckload (or more recently download) but, for example, be providing the accompanyment to the New Year´s fireworks on Rio´s Copacabana Beach? Or indeed, that one of their surviving members would still be conducting world tours? Not bad for a band that didn´t show any promise!

2012 is a big year in Beatle history. Some might argue that it is the real 50th Anniversary of the band as it marked not only the begining of their recording career but the line-up that featured Ringo. Perhaps it´s unfair to write Pete Best out of the story in this way but 1962 was certainly a momentous year as it marked their arrival in London. Liverpool was now behind them; history.

Boy, did Decca screw up.

Fairplay though, the Tremeloes did go on to have some cracking hits and Brian Poole is still fronting a band today. Not too sure that I´ll be hearing their music on Copacabana beach anytime soon though...