In a new band. I tried with the rock covers band I really did, but I just can’t do it like folk are expecting me too. I’m on the edge of snapping the entire time, just desperate to play a different chord or use a wah pedal or something. They knew it too. So whether I jumped or was pushed, the splash was just the same.

So, within minutes I had another band, it’s amazing how many musicians there are standing around when you need them. I wonder if the ratio is higher or lower than that of pilots travelling as passengers on board flights with ill crew members. I bet you could get funding to study that.

The band is twometresdeep and the best analogy I could come up with is Joni Mitchell jamming with Black Sabbath. We’ve been writing and arranging which has been with a mix of bits of songs brought in by the various folks and new stuff written as we played.
I am enthused. Normally I work with just my drummer buddy Craig, but this is very different indeed. There’s going to be a very diverse mix of sweet harmonies and acoustic passages to my usual grinding guitar and big beat drums. Real light and dark. I love it.

A couple of short clips from the first sessions. The songs are called one and two, or that one and the other one.



California Jam 6/4/74

Forty years ago today 17 million people descended onto Ontario Motor Speedway in California to see one of the shows that has become a solid gold music legend.
The lineup from breakfast onwards was Rare Earth – Earth, Wind & Fire – The Eagles – Seals & Crofts – Black Oak Arkansas – Black Sabbath – Deep Purple – Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
ELP and Purple were co headliners and this was Purple with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The then new Burn album is a Purple classic but one of the interesting things about the California Jam footage is watching Hughes vocally torch Coverdale every time he step ups to the mic.
Richie Blackmore had a crazy day, trashing gear and allsorts while Keith Emerson spun through the air with his piano. It’s all on youTube and worth seeking out. Black Sabbath were there as special guests and were a bit out of shape having been sitting at home doing coke and mandies for a few months but they played a blinder, even with a clean shaven Tony Iommi.
Those were the days. Let’s hope Hyde Park in July is another one.

PS I know it wasn’t 17 million people.


Ghost – Getting There

I’ve nearly finished Ghost. The drums are done, the vocals are done and I’ll just live with it for a wee while to see what comes next. A wee bit more guitar? Just some time on a final mix? Three more songs for a half arsed EP by someone who should know better?
All of the above. In the meantime I’ve put together some artwork for it. It’s 70s fonts over a photie I took in Kelvingrove with a dancing wummin I stole from google images.
Ah, I used to do this stuff with felt pens and Pritt Stick in the old days.

Time to think about other stuff and look at the bloody weather.

Front Runner2a

To The Greatest Drummer in the World

A letter arrived at the post office depot addressed “To The Greatest Drummer in the World.” There was no other details or return address so the postie just thought he’d forward onto the most obvious name, he was a big Metallica fan, so he sent it to Lars Ulrich.

Lars lifted the letter off the doormat and thought “I’m not the greatest drummer in the world.” The guys coming up behind me are much better, I’ll drop this off at Joey Jordison’s house.

Joey took the letter and looked at it later, “This isn’t right, there’s a living legend who this belongs to”. He stuck it in another envelope and mailed it to Canada addressed to Neil Peart.

Neil got the letter, opened it up and looked at the envelope inside “To The Greatest Drummer in the World.” Buddy Rich was gone, Kruppa was gone, Bonham was gone, it had to be for him, he was ready to carry the flag. He tore open the envelope.

He began to read the letter, “Dear Ringo…”


The old ones are the best and can be easily updated with whatever names you like too. It came to mind today when I picked up some sticks.
I’ve been writing and rehearsing the drum parts (which is much harder than that casual statement makes it appear as I can’t actually play the drums) for recording them next week and using borrowed sticks is both unhygienic and taking liberties as I’m destroying other peoples kit so after a wee look at the racks of what just look like big pencils to me I saw the dipped sticks which have a rubbery grip which felt good in the hand and should let me slacken my grip a little meaning less white knuckles, a more relaxed approach and fewer takes. Maybe?
The purple was a happy accident but there was even more joy when I got back to the motor and saw that the silver printed star actually belonged to the endorser whose signature sticks I’d just bought – Ringo Starr.



Ghost – Under Construction

I spent the day in Red Eye Studios in Clydebank working on a new song called Ghost. It’ll take another session to finish as I’m playing all the instruments myself and I’m ropey with all of them.
However, here’s an exerpt.

Black Sabbath

It turns out it doesn’t matter how many years have passed since I sat in my bedroom, gripped by Greatest Hits spinning on the turntable, that skinny pale faced boy’s heroes are still heroes and when War Pigs broke through the darkness and quiet Black Sabbath were watched through misty eyes. Silly auld fool.
Holly was sitting on my hip so she could see, she had a hand in the air and plugs in her ears. It sounded glorious, the guitar was just right, the flavour was of Iommi’s 70’s tones with the fatness of his modern setup which was as perfect as the playing itself. Ozzy was right on the money, note-for-note, Geezer rumbled away, head bobbing and if you didn’t look or listen too close, the bearded figure on the drums, well, if Bill couldn’t be there, Tommy Clufetos worked his hardest to fill the gap and didn’t disappoint.

The venue is okay, the Hydro does have a boomy element to its acoustics even when full of bodies, but I like it. The standing area isn’t too big and they’re not overselling it so there’s room for everyone, handy when your six year old needs a wee break at the side for juice and a sweetie. The concourse is a bit tight with lots of columns, but there’s plenty of food, drink and t-shirt stalls so queuing is minimal. Talking of t-shirts, some of them were pretty good, me in a union flag? Yes please.

Holly didn’t make it through all of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats who I thought sounded great but struggled to fill the stage and project themselves, a little bit of rabbits in the headlights going on there which is understandable. They’ll be brilliant in a club or as a support in a regular hall, looking forward to that.
Holly made it half way into Sabbath’s set, in fact it was when Ozzy’s voice crashed and burned during NIB that she put her face in my shoulder and started to crack. But, Joycee was at the door, McDonalds was around the corner and dad had the last four songs on his own. Ozzy pulled it back towards the end, some stuff he just can’t sing, some stuff he seems effortless, but he seems fragile. My heroes are getting old.

It was a joy. Holly attracted all sorts of attention, from other dads patting me on the shoulder with a knowing grin to rock chicks that loved her outfit and she did very well in a situation that was new and I’d imagine a bit scary. She did it all on her own terms and at her own pace and hopefully she’ll have good memories of the night, that and her Sabbath baseball cap.
We met Allan which was brilliant, especially as Holly got to meet my best pal from the days we were at the same school as she’s at now. It ties lots of stories from the old days together which she likes. It added to the 70’s vibe of the night as well. Nice.

Still got one foot in the 70’s

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell was a man and is also a band. Youngsters of today way well see the wacky cover above and hear the strange mix of sounds within and think they’re experiencing something entirely new. But, the auld heid knows the score.
Budgie have long been one of my favourite bands, but the man that was one half of what they were,  guitartist Tony Bourge left in 78/79 and I never got to see them live. They carried on for a few years with a more standard metal sound and still pop up now and again with various guitar players. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell know all this too and are big fans, because they’ve taken Budgie’s 70’s sound and claimed for themselves.
It’s uncanny at times, the guitar tones are perfect, the bass and drums would fit right onto an original Budgie track, but the big change is that the vocalist sounds like Arthur Brown or Captain Beefheart.
I was thinking that it’s great to hear someone ripping off Budgie instead of Sabbath just for a change, but as the album become more familiar I’m hearing note-for-note pieces lifted from Sabbath, the cheekiest ones being from The Warning.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats is a stupid name and when I saw it on Black Sabbath’s UK tour poster months ago I dismissed them instantly, Oh, what a fool am I.
Aye, it’s Sabbath from the minute they pull on a velvet jacket to leave for the rehearsal room, but it’s mixed in with something of Hawkwind and other subtle flavours that I know so well but can’t place.
Sabbath’s tomorrow night, I’ll be doing my best not to miss the support for once.

It might look like I’m a little underwhelmed by these bands because they’re really just the sum of their influences and I know it, but that’s not the case at all. Uncle Acid’s two albums and the Shovell album are pretty much constants on my iPod or on the car stereo, I love them like the recently discovered 70’s relics they’re pretending to be.
The sounds are right, the groove is right, the look is right, it’s just maybe the individual character of the songs that doesn’t quite stand up the source of inspiration.
But what the hell, it’s money well spent. Peace signs at the ready: let’s rock.


I got a late call from Gus to go and see Airbourne at the ABC in Glasgow last night. The other option was to go and see the new 90 minute Disney toy advert with the girls, but Holly was happy going with mum and Granny, so it was Frozen for them and rock for me.

Made it in to the sold out venue with minutes to spare having missed all the supports and I had no idea what I was going to see. I was vaguely aware of the band looking like Metallica and sounding like AC/DC and the wall of Marshalls on stage could have been from the 80’s tours of either band. The theme of Terminator 2 boomed out as red lights whirled and then the band came on, fell on? Burst on, that’s it. Bloody hell, the grin that lept onto my face didn’t leave for the next 90 minutes.

Aye, the comparisons above are valid to an extent, but they’re quickly irrelevant and anyway they make current AC/DC look slow and tired. Airbourne play hard, often fast and have an incredible intensity in every sound and movement they make. The crowd are pulled right into it and the band pay us back with something new in every song with one piece of madness after another from the singer/guitarist wandering past us on a roadie’s shoulders to bursting beer cans on his head to wacky singalongs and songs where I was shouting the second chorus despite never having heard any of them in my life.

It was what rock is supposed to be all about. The frontman’s banter was great too as was their fine rendition of Scotland the Brave. It was a fantastic gig and I was a 14 year old at the Apollo as much as I was a 44 year old at the ABC as I was watching the show.


13 is #1

Black Sabbath’s new album “13” is #1 in the UK charts, 43 years after their last number one with the Paranoid album in 1970.

I had mixed feelings right up until I heard it streaming on iTunes a few days before it was released where I sat cross-legged, hunched over my laptop with my earphones on. It was an emotional experience, it was new an old at the same time, the thrill of anticipation mixed with flashes back to days, places and faces long past. I never realised just how much music and Sabbath in particular had bookmarked my memories.

The CD was something else again, the liner notes a joy to read, the artwork simple and real, a wicker sculpture was burned in a field and the discs are a pair of Vertigo swirls, like the middles cut out of my 70’s Sabbath albums.
Nostalgia only goes so far, the music had to stand up by itself, and after a week of constant play, it’s something of a relief that it’s still standing.

It opens with End of the Beginning which is probably just what I wanted to hear – pure early Sabbath. Was it written to sound that way? Cynics would say yes, but then what else are they going to write? You are what you are, it would be more contrived to try and sound different. God is Dead? was the single and at nearly nine minutes long (only a few seconds longer than it’s predecessor) it’s not trying very hard to be accessible. Bless then for that.
Loner swings, Zeitgeist floats and Age of Reason grinds. The changes of mood are many, as are changes of tempo, 13 is always inventive and it feels like that’s as much down to producer Rick Rubin as it is to the band. Sabbath needed Rubin, to keep them under control, to push them back out of it and to make them work. The playing is all the better for it.
Ozzy is trying so hard, reaching as far as he can with a voice that has no high notes left to give with inventive phrasing that makes a mockery of the monotone mumblings of his last half dozen solo albums.
Geezer has written a set of lyrics that are a joy to read, he’s a clever bugger, and his virtuoso bass playing is an edgy, rumbling presence through the album and it’s deservedly high in the mix.
Iommi plays better here than he’s done since the early 80’s, everything that inspired my to pick up the guitar as a teenager comes out again and again and grabs me as hard as it did back then. Damaged Soul is a blues grind with Iommi playing off the cuff licks and solos and it stuns me every time I listen to it, his guard is down, it’s not note perfect, and Rubin must have fought for this raw version of it. I love it, even the production feel on this is different, it’s just, I dunno. Best song on the album? Maybe.

The bonus tracks are okay, I’m glad they’re on a separate disc, the album closes with church bells and rain, just as the first album opened back in’70 and extra tracks on disc one after that retro outro wouldn’t have worked. The songs have a different feel anyway, more contemporary maybe, more straight metal, more Ozzy solo style even? The 8 tracks on disc one are a fine rounded body of work as they are.
I reckon rock bands should only record vinyl length albums anyway, too much padding on CD’s, there’s inspired song writing and then there’s writing enough music to fill a CD so you don’t get complaints about lack of value.

Will I still be listening to it in a year? I hope so, I find myself singing some of the tunes, good riffs, good hooks and it’s heavy too. Not all detuned and multilayered guitar though, it’s an attitude or an ambiance, it’s what Sabbath had, have, naturally and everyone else has to try and engineer.

13 is a great album, better still it doesn’t disgrace the band or embarrass old blokes like me. #1, bloody marvelous.


Black Sabbath UK Tour 2013

It should be the Black Sabbath Trio as there’s no Bill Ward on drums, the new album snippets sound worrying, but something that says “Black Sabbath Glasgow Hydro December 16th” is something I can’t ignore. My favourite band haven’t played my home city in 30+ years.

O2 customer presale this morning at 0900, I have had two hideously overpriced tickets since five last nine. I defy anyone to navigate Ticketmaster any quicker.
Livenation presale tomorrow, general sale on Friday.

I have to be optimistic.


Ghost, Lakes, Gear, Home.

I’m burst.

I went to see Ghost last night at the Glasgow O2 which was a good choice. Gojira who were on before them had a some decent bits and pieces going on, but a terrible sound and the need to put blastbeats into songs that had no need for them had me looking at my watch and around at the crowd who were largely young folk standing around a 2/3 full venue. Status Quo filled it two nights in a row ten days ago, the old folk win.
Ghost were awesome frankly, I was worried about the sound, but for them it was loud and pretty clear. The band are so damned tight, heaviness coated in hymn-like melodic vocals. The presentation is outstanding, with an old school stage show (and incense burners…) and a band made annonymous by cowls and masks. Not dull to watch at all, you can see personalities emerging as they play which was interesting, and Papa Emeritus II on vocals is just genius.
A unique band and an unforgettable experience. So many of the young folk in the crown didn’t get it. I like that, as you get older you worry that you get all mainstream without noticing. It’s not happening here yet.

I’d met up with two of my buddies and after getting them home, then me home and showered, I had hours enough left for sleep that I could count on one hand.
I was so worried that I’d sleep in I woke up before my alarm and stuck the kettle on far too far before six. Then I hit the road for the Lakes.
I got to Staveley half an hour early, that’s including a stop on the way for a cuppa and a roll on bacon. I’m never early for anything, I was scared. However, the girls of The North Face were ready and we had a fine time fannying around with gear stuff which I’ll have up shortly, including some rather nice new Primaloft fill that thinks it’s down. Interesting. I have a hoody full of it on test, more soon.
I could have made a dash north, but I swung by Inov8 to say hello and as it turned out my timing was good, so I spend the rest of the day looking over their new clothing, shoes and scarily light packs. I raised eyebrows, enthused and took photies. More on that soon also.

I got as far as Annandale services on the way back and had to stop for a cuppa. I’ve had a cold for days and the snotters were blinding me, what’s new, and even the voices in my head were slurred I was so tired.
I got home in the dark, caught the wee yin before she went to bed now I’ve got a second wind. Too tired to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.

The Frantic Four

I spent Saturday and Sunday the weekend before last at the O2 Academy in Glasgow watching The Frantic Four, or if you like, the original 70’s Status Quo.
Back in ’84 I spent two nights in a row watching Quo at the Glasgow Apollo on their “farewell” tour and in the years since them I’ve seen them a handful of times where they were rather light on original members and unconvincing in delivery.
But all is now forgiven, by the original members towards each other and by me towards the band for tarnishing my memory of the music and making sure I hardly listened to them for 20 years.
Four old blokes in various states of repair took to the stage on the first night to a roar I haven’t heard at a gig in a long time and rocked the venue with commitment and energy I’d like to see teenagers muster.
The band were watched through misted eyes by many of those present, 40 year old album tracks were sung word perfect by a sold out audience with shaky voices. I’ve never been to a gig like it.

The second night was always going to be different, I wasn’t watching it through a filter of nostalgia and emotion, and I was a little worried. The same four old blokes wandered onto the stage and were louder and tighter than the night before. It’s chemistry, songs played by their creators just sound right, Quo always were more than the sum of their parts and that’s why they’ve been so lame for so many years, there were too many parts missing to make anything approaching a whole.
The crowd were louder, this was originally the first night of the reunion tour which sold out in ten minutes leading to more dates being added and there were more old fans in the crowd, my age and older, blokes who’s skipped work to sit on the internet and get tickets to relive dreams or memories of the Glasgow Apollo in 1976.

The tour’s now finished, Wembley Arena last night was the last show. Is that it for the Frantic Four? If it is I’ll never see Quo again, and maybe it’s better that way. If they made an album, it could never match the early 70’s classics and if they kept touring they’d have start slipping songs like Rocking All Over The World into the live set to keep the regular punters coming along, where this tour has been heaven for long term fans, no songs after ’76 in the set. Glorious.
If that’s it, my last memory of the band is now a great one, in a life of many hundreds of live shows, I’ve just had new entries into the top ten and my love of the music is fully restored.
Happy with that.



Got a few gigs coming up which is good and one is a band I haven’t seen before as I just found out about them two weeks after they left the UK last time around, they are Ghost.
Black metal these days mostly means ridiculous looking youths screaming over powerless blastbeats, but although Ghost are coming under the black metal banner because of the imagery and lyrical content, they’re miles away from any of that stuff, around 35 years away in fact. The music is pure 70’s, full of melody, harmony, drama and tastful playing with a bunch of hilarious satanic lyrics through it all. It’s an absolute joy, like discovering an unreleased album from ’74 by Black Sabbath or Uriah Heep.

I absolutely love them, their first album is a favourite and the new tune Secular Haze below, while not their catchiest song, has a hypontic, metronomic quality and sinister eeriness about it that all the family can enjoy. Except Joycee, however me and The Girl rock hard enough to make up for her lack of enthusiasm.
A lot of folk don’t get it, maybe you have to know the reference points to know that Ghost are fanboys having fun, the video below is a brilliant tribute to 70’s music slots on tv shows with the cheesy set, dodgy video tape quality and 4:3 screen ratio . Makes me smile every time I watch it, but the differences in opinion and understanding are best portayed in the comment and its reply on the video on YouTube:
What, am I supposed to be scared?
No, you’re supposed to chill out and Hail Satan.

Ha. I’ll be buying a t-shirt.


On the off chance someone near to Glasgow reads this and fancies going and seeing it: read no further than the photie below. Just go along to the Botanic Gardens tomorrow night between 1600 and 2000 (go along from 1530 to book a slot) for the last night of Heliotrope. Places are really limited, but it’s free and if you don’t get in, Byres Road is full of places of consolation, or indeed celebration as we ended up in two places, one for a chip supper and one for ice cream.
Ah, summer evenings out.

They’ve been very careful not to spill the beans about what Heliotrope actually is which Joycee knew about from one of her art pals. All I knew was it was lights, sound and I’d gone over the Erskine Bridge heading for the Winter Gardens at the Peoples Palace instead of the Botanics. Ah, the scenic route is just as good.
We signed up for the first showing and headed into the park to kill 40 minutes. The sun was coming down in spectacular style, so I was fine with the camera while the girls played on the swings.

Arriving back we were taken into a side gallery in the Kibble Palace, the domed Victorian greenhouse which is the centrepiece of the Botanics, where there was a tipi. Shoes off they said and eight of us went in and lay down with our heads at the centre pole and feet to the outside like spokes on a wheel. There were little pillows and white blankets to snuggle under and Holly wriggled inbetween me and Joycee with just a little nerves showing.
The sound of a zip being closed from outside and we were on our journey. The sun rose on the other side of the canvas and cycled through days, weeks, months and the seasons of the year as bells chimed the start and end of every change of mood and colour.

Holly lasted well, a few squeezes of hands, a few whispers and she made it to the end despite the volume which at times was getting up there and, the movement. I wasn’t sure at first, maybe ten years living on a boat makes me immune, but the floor had been moving. It was slow, but the floor revolves which places the fixed point of sunlight in an arc as you lie there. Clever.
Many will scoff at this, many will scratch their heads, some will earnestly discuss the depths of its meaning and some like me might smile at the parallels to real camping. I lay there and saw the sun and the moon of the different seasons, I felt the movement, the peace,  those little touches of nerves at times and the bell sounds were the sounds of camping when you’re on the edge of sleep, slow, distorted, distant but somehow close enough to be inside your head.
Art’s what you make it, you’ve got to give it a chance. I’m usually glad when I do. We were all whispering when we came out of the tent, no one asked us too, we’d all been affected in some way whether we’d like to admit it or not.

There’s an explanation leaflet on your way out. It’s nice, folded cleverly and I didn’t read it. It was telling me what Heliotrope was all about, light in the dark of winter, comfort and Seasonally Affected Disorder, but I didn’t want my mind changed. I’d been camping in the city. Again (London report in a day or two).
A bonus is access to the Kibble Palace after dark which is fantastic. The statues come alive in sombre reflection, the plants are still and the air is silent. Even Holly’s giggles were snatched up by the darkness. We ran out into the brightness and noise of Byres Road for dinner and Christmas window shopping.

It’s only Monday too.

Alice Cooper at The Usher Hall in Edinburgh Last Night, just after 9

I love Alice Cooper, From the Inside was the first album I ever bought and is still a favourite today. The only Scottish show he’s done that I’ve missed in 30 years is the one he played on the night Holly was born in ’07, so I can kinda see where he’s going as well as where he’s been.
In recent years the theatrics have been toned down, far fewer extras on stage to interact with and cause mayhem, favourites being the West Side Story-esque gang fights and a giant spiders web with girls in spider costumes playing on it. But Alice has always had the songs to make up for it, stick him and a decent backing band in a club and you’ve still got a winner.
Last night was different though, a basic-ish show  but with a strong start playing great tunes with a voice that sounded much stronger than on recent tours. It was all going well, although I get annoyed when he shortens songs and does medleys, until the drum solo slowed things down and he did four covers in a row.
Yes, it’s Halloween and he paying tribute to dead rock stars with big gravestones and singing their songs (The Doors, Hendrix, Lennon, The Who), but I don’t give a shit about that stuff, I want to hear Alice tunes. Those four covers could have been four more classics or even just the epic Halo of Flies on its own (from Killer, original calender sleeve below, I’m such a collector geek).
Is he bored playing his own songs? He does seem very relaxed on stage, there’s no danger in him now, he’s still playing the role of the stage Alice, but its like he’s in on his own joke these days.
When they band went back to the Alice back catalogue they did catch up again and it was a great finish with Schools Out complete with bubble blowing machines and giant balloons thrown into the crowd. There were moments of genius, musically as well as theatrically, playing the originally keyboard heavy The Man Behind The Mask – Friday the 13th soundtrack tune, with his three guitarists was pure magic and the giant Alicestein Monster lurching around the stage was pure pantomime.
The backing band are all excellent, there were laughs and smiles all night, it looks like they enjoy playing together and seem to mostly get along, something that’s hard to fake. Having three lead guitarists suits Alice’s multilayered songs and the old stuff sounded great. Great to see that blonde lassie still there, great player but the worst sound of the three guitarists, very thin and trebly.
Anyway, it was a good night, I might just have to come to terms with the fact that Alice is in his 60’s and he’s never going to be as edgy as he was and he can’t really be arsed with all the theatrics. The stage invading photographer was merely dragged away by a machete wielding Jason Voorhees, where once Alice stuck a micstand through his chest and left him hanging from it bleeding in the middle of the stage.
What the hell, I still love Alice Cooper.