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.

I Hear Voices

It was Chewy’s fault, I was looking for a CD after listening to some sound samples on iTunes. Holly had Disnae on the telly, Joycee was faffing around, but dammit there was something else going on.
I’m going “Can you hear that?” and getting very limited response. So I shushed everyone, paused the DVD (not popular) and commanded the troops to listen. They could here nothing.
There was voices, American voices, coming from the laptop. I peered into the webcam, no one there, I put my ear to the keyboard and it spoke. “Listen! There’s somebody there!
Joycee wandered off, but Holly was now interested and came over to see. She listened and looked at me like I was daft. “Wait… Listen again…” I got the wide eyes and open mouth –  “There’s somone in the computer!”
Thank you.

Joycee wandered in with earphones “Here, you can keep the voices in your head to yourself now”. Sympathy as you slip into madness is a beautiful thing.
I plugged in and listened with the volume right up. Voices, music, all old, like a I was scanning through a radio from the past catching moments of this station and that. Some chunks were longer and soon I began to recognise some of it. Is this the DVD commentary from Dirty Dancing? I checked my disc tray – empty. A disc that’s never been in this laptop to my knowledge anyway.
I had a lot of windows open, I checked them all. iTunes had Coheed and Cambria on screen, nothing playing, I closed it. Easy listening jazz poured lazily into my earphones.
I closed my photies folders, my documents and was left with two internet tabs. One was here, have I been hacked again? I closed it, an Amercian actress continued to describe a director I’d never heard of and can’t remember now.
Only Amazon was left with The Hidden Hand’s CD’s listed on screen. I shut the tab. Silence. The voices had left me.

It was Amazon! It was Amazon!  The girls vaguely acknowledged me and went about their business. I was slipping into madness and apparently the bigger danger was Belle not wanting to dine with The Beast.

I drank half my cuppa and opened Amazon again with one eye closed and my face away from the screen. Nothing. I relaxed, but I did get to wondering. Was it an odd glitch? Did I accidentally tune into the sample library or is it something more sinister? Are amazon trying to subliminally advertise or programme to you to purchase more stuff? I could believe that.
The bastards didn’t catch me though, I added some stuff to my watch list and shut the shop again. HMV store prices are matching Amazon these days, I’ll nip in during the week, Amazon can host my wants list at their expense all the want for trying to brainwash me.

Or is that what they want me to think?

Over to you Cyco Mico…
I hear voices when I’m all alone, Hearing voices but there’s nobody home, Hear the voices could it be they’re calling out to me? Hearing voices I look, why can’t I see? I hear voices, can’t stop those voices…

Dean V-Coustic

A Flying V acoustic. Oh yes.

I’ve been looking for one of these for ages, new they’re both rare and overpriced for what is essentially a pretty rubbish Made in China guitar. On ebay, while more reasonable, they tend to be posted out in cardboard boxes which is never good for a vulnerable acoustic guitar, however cheaply made.
However, this one appeared on Gumtree and was just a few miles down the road. For a sum less than the cost of a tank of diesel poured reluctantly into the hearse, it was mine in what was probably a very shady looking car park exchange. 

I was already pleased, but soon I was more pleased when it turned out the thing was actually very playable with a little work. New strings, some lemon oil on the bone-dry fretboard, a small tweak of the truss rod and 2mm off the bridge saddle and I haven’t put it down in days.
It’s an electro-acoustic, meant for easy live use I’d imagine, with it’s shallow body which gives it a tight, almost mandolin-esque tone which I actually really like. Plugged in, it sounds surprisingly good with the onboard EQ having enough sweep in its sliders to give you a deep big-box dreanought facsimile and an ear tearing modern country trebly sprrannggg if you so desire. 
I’ve been playing tunes from the Brave soundtrack on it, Holly runs away shouting Daaaaadd!

It’s light, it makes me smile, it’s a flying V. Alright!

Disnae on Ice

I always wonder of folk outside of Glasgow get my misspelling of Disney? Anyway, were at Disney on Ice last night. Holly, her two pals, the three mums, Holly’s granny and er, me.
I didn’t know quite what to expect, other than the gauntlet of merchandising on the way to our seats, but it’s a brilliant show. It’s slick, pretty well performed my most and exceptionally performed by a few. Tinkerbell was excellent and a crowd favourite, but for me Captain Hook (photie stolen from the promoters website, I wish I’d taken my camera) stole the show. Whoever was in the costume was on top form with effortless skating which gave them time and space to properly bring life to the character with lovely movement and they even managed to articulate through a full-face mask so that they seemed to be actually speaking the pre-recorded words. Just fantastic, could have watching him or her for hours. Hey, there were lots of girls with stuck-on beards playing pirates, so who’s to say.
Lots of great props, a giant crocodile, a giant Ursula from The little Mermaid, flying characters, a spaceship with skating aliens and some poor sod skating on all fours as that warthog thing from the Lion King.

A highly recommended two hours of entertainment, being a dad certainly exposes you to the unexpected. Also, our tickets were £13 each and were in a great spot, pays to search for returned kids groups etc through agencies.


Collectability and rarity ruins everything. As I said to the folks in the shop when I had one of my old guitars in for a little bit of work last month “When I bought this it was second hand, now it’s vintage”. 20 years ago I threw myself into a drum kit wearing it (it sounded great), I might think twice about that now, or at least calculate how many mortgage payments I could make selling it before deciding if the amusement was worth it.
Below is a ’58 Flying V, super rare, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaning on a tree in my garden. Or not, it was £140 on ebay.
It’s an Epiphone reissue made in China to an average-to-reasonable standard, and as such is an “official” version of the ’58 V as original manufacturer Gibson is Epiphone’s parent company.

It’s been customised quite a bit, all the black plastic I had from another long broken V and it fitted just nice with a little trimming. The big V shaped tailpiece was in the wrong place so I moved it and routed the body underneath so the strings could still reach the ferrules at the back (the strings anchor on the back of the body), the truss rod cover is now the proper tw0-hole version and there’s a tacky plastic silver Gibson logo on the headstock, just like the original.
It probably looks more like the ’83 Heritage Reissue Gibson made when they first tried to make accurate reproductions of their classics, but what the hell, it’s a flying V in a tuxedo, what’s not to like?

It’s cheap, it’s a fake, so why bother? Because it’s a joy to play, that’s why. It hangs in perfect balance with the front strap button moved to the back, the neck is chunky but comfortable and the original pickups which I had been ready to ditch sound great, medium to hot output with a warm fuzziness and fat bottom that I’m sure most folk will hate. I’ve found myself taking this into the studio ahead of far “better” guitars for months now. It just makes me glad.

Price, brand, cache, age and origin, none of it really matters. If you like it you like it and don’t let anyone tell you can’t have fun because their thing has more zeros on its price tag.
And you know that’s not just guitars I’m talking about.


All my favourite stuff this week. It’s the US music paper advert for Sabbath’s Vol4 album (40 years old today), hence the Warner Bros logo rather than the Vertigo one.

It’s such an iconic image, even though it’s actually a bit strange. Ozzy had no upper jaw, it’s lower jaw then nose. It doesn’t even look like Ozzy if I’m honest, but what the hell, I love it.
I have so many t-shirts with this on it that when we were out the other day Joycee asked me “Have you got your pyjamas on?” To which my reply was “No, this is one of my daytime Vol4 shirts…” She went back about her business shaking her head.

…and then tomorrow’s dreams, become reality to me….

Ecstasy of Gold

Holly demands to hear this when we’re in the motor and this live version is awesome. Play it loud whilst standing up.
Been a quiet week on here I see, but not in reality. I’m taking notes and I’ll catch up next week.

Norlin’s Nightmare

A Gibson magazine supplement cover from the early 70’s. This is the world I want to live in.
Live in again I should say, just not be five years old.
Actually I liked being five in the early 70’s, Dave Edmonds’ I Hear You Knockin’ was my favourite song and the telly was great, so if I can just visit now and again that would be fine thanks.

Screaming for Vengeance

It’s anniversary reissue central right now. This is another cracker, Judas Priest’s best album Screaming for Vengeance. It’s 30 years since I bought my original vinyl of this album from John Menzies in the Clydebank Shopping Centre, complete with a fold out poster of the cover art, four times the size of the album, and a lyric inner sleeve which are the two things you always wanted from an album, stick a merchandise leaflet in there and it was Christmas come early.

There’s no messing with the original album here, the songs are the same as the remastered series from the 90’s, including the pointless, misplaced and shite extra song from the Turbo sessions that they tacked on at the same time. Bonus Track my arse.
It’s a brilliant album, and a constant on my iPod. The Hellion intro into Electric Eye has to be one of the best album openers ever, best live set opener too for that matter. The whole album rises and falls, changes mood and pace and is heavy metal to its core. Proper metal too, with invention, subtlety as well as ferocious delivery, not the one dimensional parody of spoofs and possibly even Priest themselves since Halfords return.

The extras are the reason I bought this album, once again. On the CD there’s a bunch of live tracks from ’82 which are decent enough. I saw Priest in ’81 and ’83 at the Glasgow Apollo and they were outstanding, any live stuff from this era is worth a listen. But the DVD is where it’s at, it’s the whole of Priest’s set from the US Festival in California in ’83. This festival was legendary, three days of music where the metal day in the middle had the biggest audience of something around 350,000. The bands on the day included Ozzy, Van Halen and the Scorpions. A good time for metal.
Priest look young and relaxed, sound good and play a blinder. The ’83 tour programme was full of photies taken from this gig and last night was the first time I’ve ever seen the whole gig. I’m pleased, it’s worth the price of this special edition.

The cover’s had a revamp to distinguish it from the original below which is a classic piece of airbrushed art from Doug Johnson, a man who has no website to link to which is frustrating given his body of work. It was bold having something so bright at the time I think, metal is supposed to be dark, but this cover was bright, bold and confident and that’s what metal was to be from then on as it rode a rising wave of popularity, Priest’s support band the next year were Quiet Riot who were #1 in the US charts with Metal Health.

Good days, happy memories and the soundtrack to my youth sounds as good to my weathered ears as it did back then.

There’s someone at the door.

We were out of time, I had four minutes to sing a six minute song so we skipped the intro and I went for a take. I screamed so hard on the third verse that everything went black and white and I got the loading screen in front of my eyes. The stars cleared enough for me me to get the last chorus before I sat down and bobbed gently on the tide.
We had an hour and fifteen minutes to record the whole song where we eventually went back and used take 1 on the drums and then I had to rattle out the rest of it one take straight after another. Four guitar tracks, one bass and one vocal. I was burst after it and I can’t remember doing any of it, I have no idea what it sounds like or what I played and I’m not sure I want to. Rarely have I felt so out of control while recording as I tried and failed to catch up with my grand and well rehearsed plans for the song.
Maybe there’s enough, maybe we can fix it in the mix, I just don’t know.

KISS Destroyer Resurrected

I’m never very sure about bands re-recording their own classic tunes. Live albums are great, but new studio versions are invariably soulless and mechanical, better modern production, slicker and more careful playing and a singer who is obviously much older. We originally heard youth, pressure, hunger and debt, we should leave it at that and hear something new.
KISS did an album of reversions and it’s rubbish, I Love it Loud played in a light hearted fashion? Gimme a break. However, with Destroyer what’s happened is a bit different, rather than redoing it, original producer Bob Ezrin’s gone back to the masters and had a second go at the album mixing and and the results are unexpected.

Destroyer is KISS’ best album, I’m taking no argument on that. Creatures of the Night is a belter, Alive! and Alive II are awesome, but in the studio KISS usually lacked, songs, ability and production. Destroyer was different, the songs were fantastic, wrestled into shape by Ezrin and the playing was also fantastic. It’s long been said that KISS don’t play much of the album but Ezrin says they do apart from the keyboards and piano which he did himself and some guitar from Dick Wagner. You can hear Wagner’s playing, especially obvious is the solo on Sweet Pain, he has a fantastic style, it’s all over Alice Cooper’s work up to 83’s DaDa and he was Ezrin’s go-to man when band’s weren’t making the the cut due to ability of drug abuse.
The production was slick, the album has a sound all of its own but also one that is unmistakably Ezrin, something you can hear in Alice Cooper’s early albums and on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Their best album too. Oh yes. I wonder if KISS were too young to meet Ezrin halfway when they were recording the album? His influence shaped the album and KISS never sounded like that again, or indeed as good.

So what did Ezrin do with the masters? I think he made a KISS album out of it. I’ll explain that. You expect modern big budget production to be smooth, but what Ezrin has done is pull out the essence of the band from the ’76 production and let it shine brighter. The guitars have a rougher edge, a bit like you hear on the Alive albums and on Rock and Roll Over, the bass is up in the mix and edgy sounding and I swear Peter Criss is hitting the drums harder.
It’s a lovely job, it really is. The whole album sounds fresh, alive and even a bit louder. It’s not perfect though, the join between Detroit Rock City and King of the Night Time World is quite different and doesn’t sound quite right to me, it’s a mix of a car crash and guitars, but Ezrin explains why in the notes, the masters were 16 track and you can only separate those elements so far when working on it without having to make something new. To give you a clue about that, the songs you hear me doing on here have 48 or more tracks in the masters, how times change.
There’s a few big changes, one is the Dick Wagner solo in Sweet Pain, it’s still there, but the Ace Frehley solo and lead licks are there too in another version of the song. It’s rougher sounding, it’s played by a man full of vodka, but hearing it you wonder why Ezrin felt the need to use Wagner on it in the first place. Beth gets the whole original vocal from Peter Criss, it sounds different, it’s a drier production here and his voice has a lot of character in it which wasn’t so obvious before.
The other change is a mistake fix, maybe not a mistake as such, it was obviously a 50/50 call and over the years they’d wished they’d gone the other way. They hint at it in the liner notes but don’t give it away, I’m not giving it away either (partly in case I’m wrong), but if you know the album it’s really obvious. Check the vocals side one, track one. Or it could be the odd time skip in Flaming Youth. Hmm.

In short Destroyer Resurrected is brilliant, not better than the original, just different. It’s big sounding, it’s got more bottom end than the original and cuts deepr at the top too. The songs are breathing deep and shouting loud.
As a package it’s neat, a nice big booklet in the CD with the original unused artwork (above, original below) with the band wearing their costumes from the Alive! era where Ace’s face looks abit odd. The disc is printed like it’s Casablanca vinyl too, unnecessary but nice.
Highly recommended.


Okay, it is a glitch on Flaming Youth, don’y buy it until version 2.0 gets released. Universal are replacing discs already bought. Bummer.

I Can See You

We recorded this months ago, I’m bored out of my tits remixing it and I’m calling time: this as much work as it’s getting. I hope some of the subtle bits, aye subtle bits, really, are still visible to the ear.
It’s called I Can See You, it’s Craig on the drums and me on everything else. The bit in the middle should raise a smile for anyone who gets that far and my screaming on the last chorus nearly made me pass out on take 2. That’s rock n roll.

Should have put a tambourine on the outro dammit.

Laney Klipp

You know me, all things 70’s is where I’m at. So, when it came to thinking about live amplification for gigging again and I tried my Marshall JCM900 Dual Reverb from the early 90’s I was dismayed at the bright, thin, nasal whine that came out of it. I have moved both onwards and backwards from when that amp was tortured in half empty clubs on a regular basis.

I got to looking at where else to go. Modern stuff is all very nice and clever and good, but I just want a big loud clean amp that I can just plug into the front of and play, no fancy shite. I can get a modern boutique amp which will do that for me, but I’ll never be playing at the level to justify it financially.
So, I started looking at old gear, firstly thinking of replacing my much missed 70’s Marshall JMP100. A ’78 one went on ebay for £600, which is okay, the one-in one-out rule means that I could sell something musical to pay for that and in “real terms” it doesn’t cost me anything, but I hesitated on the bid button and wasn’t sorry when someone else got it. Time to look elsewhere.

I’ve always loved old Laney’s, very underrated and more than the Marshall clones they’ve often been accused of being. Laney Klipps kept coming up, an amp I remembered from a dingy studio one-up in a semi-derelict tenement on Glasgow’s Sauchielhall Street. It was super loud and clean with this wacky option to use the “Klipp” channel, which is probably the first ever separate drive channel on an amp. It wasn’t just an ordinary drive channel though, it was more of a fuzz tone sound, and exactly what you heard on Black Sabbath’s albums from ’71 to ”75.
I want that one.

The money for Klipps was looking silly, Americans are scooping them up and the 100watts were going for £600-£700 and even the 60watts were getting £400. But, there was a 100watt one on ebay with a low start price so I thought it was worth a shot. I stuck a bid on it and picked out a guitar for sacrifice if I won it.
Bloody hell, I won it and for a song too, it was looking like I could just sell a couple of pedals to get it. The bids were low because it looked a little shabby, it’s obviously been lying in a garage since 1979, and collectors could all see in one of the shots that one of the transformers wasn’t the original, not important to the sound as it was the mains tranny. But, collectors like all-original.

I was going to pick it up as it was only around 30 miles away, when I got the call. He’d tried it and it had gone on fire. My heart sank, the boy was no musician and I’ll bet it had been switched on at the mains and standby switches at the same time with no speakers connected and he’d fried it.
I did some digging about potential repairs to fore-arm myself and got as much info from the seller as I could, all the valves were still lit when he’d switched it back off, but there was an awful smell of burning. I made an offer, subtracting my likely repair costs from my winning ebay bid and the amp was mine. What’s life without a little gamble now and again? 

I brought it home an opened it up, one of the transformers is cooked right enough, but everything else looks fine, the 40 year old electronics look retro but sound. The valves all look original and do all fire up, I tried it with power just long enough to see what was going to happen. I cleaned it up, took the photies and dropped it off at Flynn Amps in Glasgow to see if it can be saved.

Maybe I’ve wasted my money and I’ve bought a black tolex foot rest, maybe I’ll have a 100watt vintage fuzz machine of joy? The font they used to print KLIPP made it worth taking the chance all on its own.
I hope it does work out, I’ve managed to find replacement knobs for it. Turns out Laney shopped at Maplins for parts in the 70’s. More later.