Friday, 26 June 2009


I've never been a huge fan of Michael Jackson's music, but as you know many millions of people are. Being a pathological nostalgist, I like the odd song that carries with it an enduring memory of my youth.

The Jackson 5 song ABC has always been a favourite, never failing to remind me of the times, as a younger musician, that I signed on at the Lisson Grove DHSS, where it was regularly played to remind those standing in the dole queue, that getting a job could be as "easy as 1-2-3, A-B-C...". Being a budding rock-star, I of course, didn't want a job at the time.

Beat It too holds memories, slightly fonder, of being at 6th form college, of the jukebox in the student common room there, and of the evenings I spent attempting to master Eddie Van Halen's iconic 80s guitar solo, employing my newly purchased guitar's new-fangled tremolo system. I still love that solo.

Michael Jackson, along with Prince and Madonna, is a pop icon of my generation and I can't help feeling sadness at the news of his death. I wouldn't be blogging about it if I didn't. Maybe it's that his death, and that of another icon of my youth Farrah Fawcett, who died yesterday of cancer, simply serve to remind me of the passing of youth, of life's fraility, complexity and its lottery-like odds.

So, I might just get out that vinyl copy of Thriller (acquired from my record-playerless sister, I might add!), crack open a beer, strap on my air-guitar, and give Beat It a whirl later. I did say I was a pathological nostalgist, didn't I?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Guildford 7 Borough 10

Got another venue to add to the circuit last night, The Fiddler's Elbow in Kentish Town/Chalk Farm. It's literally down the end of my road, which is handy. The promoter Dan is very friendly and is keen for me to put on a monthly club down there. They have regular mod nights and metal nights down there already. I've booked a couple of nights, a couple of months apart, for starters after the summer, so there's plenty of time to get organised.

7 days to Guildford. 10 to Borough.

Went down to the Libertine today to stick up some posters. It's not a big pub, which is alright. Looking forward to playing it actually. Looking forward to playing, period. Me guitarist has buggered his finger, so hopefully that won't be too painful on the night.

I remember a few years back playing the Walthamstow Standard a few days after slamming one of the fingers on my left hand in a car door. I took opiate painkillers, rubbed voltarol and ibuprofen gel into it, drank copious amounts of alcohol, and it still it hurt to touch the fretboard. But cos I can be a bit of a martyr and I don't like letting the side down, the show went on, and somehow I played through the pain.

I know how to suffer for me art see.

There was hardly anyone there that night either.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Mates. Who needs 'em?

I went to see I, Thalamus at the Dublin Castle in Camden on Friday night. My good friend Dove Jones was sitting in on keyboards. Now for those of you who didn't know, I first booked I, Thalamus at the Dublin Castle for a Rock-Til-You-Drop night. They pulled a good crowd that night and consequently the venue's own promoters Bugbear offered them a weekend slot.

I, Thalamus were headlining on Friday night - for what that slot is worth these days - it certainly isn't anything prestigious, as you may have picked up from my previous blogs on the subject. It is a warm night and the pub is busy inside and out when I arrive. I chat to the band and miss the first act on, but catch the end of the second act - a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Nothing special. Can't really hear him over the talking. But he has a lot of mates.

The band that follow him are 'landfill indie'. Tight jeans. T-shirts. No charisma. Shoe-gazers and boring. So fucking boring. They have loads of mates too. It doesn't matter that they talk all the way through the set. When they finish, as is always the way at the Dublin, they all file out of the live area into the bar, never to be seen again.

It's in this half-emptied room, that I, Thalamus take to the stage. Grant Gordon who has recently lost his father and his rehearsal studio is clearly honouring a booking and not really in the mood. The band, who have had their usual one pre-gig rehearsal move through a familiar set, with the addition of a cover of Green Day's When September Ends. I could imagine this version being a bonus track on the Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues album. Anyway, they alternate up and down tempo songs and a few of the females in the audience show their appreciation with a little jig here and there. The visual highlight comes when Dove Jones recovers spectacularly with a bit of a 'Keith Emerson', after his keyboard falls off the stand and hits the deck.

Unlike the youngsters, I, Thalamus can't rely on their mates to come out and see them any more. Sure, occasionally, they will come out. But not every time. But while their audience need not be older, their mailing list probably is.

Many of these people will not continue to support live music at this level once they reach marriage and parenthood. Some might. But not many. That's for sure. Why? Because many of them aren't there for the music. They're there for the atmosphere and because their mate's mate is playing. Which is fine. The more the merrier. But these aren't loyal supporters. They will not still be coming to see the band in 5 years time. Unless they're playing Brixton Academy.

What we need to do then, is get some of these late-20s/30-somethings on our mailing lists. Maybe a trendy pub like The Libertine is a place to begin picking up some younger support?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Second-to-last is the new last.

This is not good. I have spent so much time recently administrating my sites, that I simply have not had the mental energy to blog. Thankfully, Colin has been blogging away enthusiastically over the last few days.

So what's new? Well, my band has a gig in a couple of weeks (Saturday 4th July to be precise), which I'm looking forward to. It's in a boozer in Borough called The Libertine. Its run by a bunch of nice late-20s/early 30s types, who have tastefully 'trendified' it with the odd chesterfield sofa, DJs and a pizza oven - you know the type of place. It is free entry, too, so it will be interesting to see how this works out. And how the bands sound in there. The live music has to stop at 10:30 so this is perfect for all those bands that refuse to headline. There is no headline! The night ends with the penultimate band. Perfect!

I'm hoping it will become a regular venue on the RTYD circuit that I map out in my dreams at night. The Dublin Castle is nice to have but I need a bunch of smaller venues scattered round Greater London around which to circulate bands. To put on two local acts and one visiting band.

I'm starting to see a few genre-ised nights like Blues-Rock-Til-You-Drop and Punk-Rock-Til-You-Drop, too, which is exciting. Though a complementary mix of band-types is always enjoyable too.

Like Colin, I need to lay off this computer and pick up the guitar in the evenings again. He's right about the long gaps when the band is doing sod-all. It's always been hard for me to find something to fill these gaps too. For years, I'd be in my room most nights playing and writing but since the demand for new material waned, I have always found myself having to fill these 'voids' with projects. Rock-Til-You-Drop is one of those projects. It's just taking over more than most. As my wife will tell you.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Richard's records, Ken's Records, Southern Records, Rock-Til-You-Drop-Records, and more.

When I grow up I want to be just like my cousin

I want to have my cousin's records
Richard's records, Richard's records

Just a little something I wrote when I was younger. At 10 or 11, I had already started enjoying new wave, and some punk music, that I was hearing on the radio. It was '78/'79. The likes of Blondie, Police, The Ruts, Sham 69, and so on. I had already bought the first edition of Smash Hits, which at that time featured many of these bands.

I must have expressed this interest to my cousin Richard, who had a fairly large collection of punk LPs and singles, because he proceeded to feed me a series of lovingly-made compilation tapes with typed inlays of punk, and Oi!. I think there were about 12 volumes in the end. Unfortunately, none of these cassettes have survived. Thankfully though, their legacy is still apparent in my musical tastes, and in my own record collection. These tapes in many ways formed the basis of my passion for listening to and making my own rock music.

Realising a few years later that these cassettes had not survived my teens, I began the process of re-acquiring all the music that had featured on Richard's compilations, on both vinyl and CD.

This early obsession with punk, another while still at school with The Doors, a late-teens discovery of Roxy Music, and a mid-20s affair with Fugazi, formed the the basis of my musical tastes to this day.

Enjoy the show. And please keep sending me your CDs.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Relieving the babysitter

So the biggest problem I have come across since becoming involved in this promoting lark is getting bands to agree to play last on the bill. This is usually around 10:30-10:45. No bugger wants to play at this time.

I remember the days when this was the ultimate goal. The thing is, in a showcase situation with every band playing 30 minutes, the last on the bill isn't what it used to be. There's not the prestige. The importance. The band's name isn't any bigger on the gig-flyer. The room isn't fuller. The crowd aren't gagging to hear you any more than they were to hear the previous band. They're more likely gagging for some quietude and fresh air, or the opposite, some quiet and a fag. It's simply the short-straw.

The problem seems to arise for two main reasons:

1) the necessity to get home and relieve the babysitter, and

2) not playing to an empty room because the audience has gone home... to relieve the babysitter.

Every gig I book creates this problem.

The question is how to overcome it? Should we start earlier in the evening, say at 8pm. This would mean soundchecking half an hour earlier. Early sound checks though are also a problem. 6-6:30 seems to be the preferred time for this. Though I have to say, soundchecks are generally very swift when they involve mature musicians. This is mature musicians at their most mature. And polite(to the soundman). And sharing (with the other bands).

Suggestions please, on a comment board....

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Free is the new expensive

Okay. That's it.

If you didn't already know, I should tell you that I also fancy myself as a bit of an artist. Over the weekend, we opened up the art studios to the general public, sent out 1000s of invites, even invited our grannies and cousins, and guess what? We hardly sold a thing. Maybe it's the current climate? It was raining.

Anyway, after discovering at the last RTYD gig that 14 Carat Grapefruit give their CDs away for free, I have been thinking alot about music, and now even art, being free.

I've got a workspace full of art I need to get rid of so I've got room to make some more art that won't sell, and a few MBs of music just sitting here on this dusty old portable drive beneath my feet. It's a shame really.

So, that's it.

I've made a bunch of Pocket Rocket's songs available for free download to members only, for a limited time (the limited time is merely a get-out clause, in case I change my mind again, by the way) on the Rock-Til-You-Drop-Records site.

If I could get a few other bands to contribute free downloads, maybe we'll get more traffic to the site and people will get to hear some of this great music that's sitting silently in the great iTunes library in the 'Net.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

'Take the old gits gigging, take them gigging..'

Okay. The Dublin Castle. I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout. I was so pleased Colin Gillman came with his bassman Adam Donovan in tow. I was pleased to meet John Rigby - lovely guy, and local, and knows about web sites, and wants to put together a post-punk type band, if you're interested. I was pleased that the band Creak came along, it was nice to meet them, and Gray Dourson came too, as you may have noticed from his discussion on the subject entitled The Dublin Castle: A view from the floor. Colin too has written a review of his experience of the night and in particular seeing 14 Carat Grapefruit. I couldn't beat it, so read his blog Hats off to the Grapefruit here.

Now Colin arrived too late to see the Dipsticks so his blog doesn't include comment on their performance. So I will. Led by the blue suede shoed Patrick Begley, ambulance driver by trade and songwriter and guitarist by nature, and supported by the rock steady rhythm section of Mark McKendrick (who incidentally hadn't played or even been in the Dublin Castle for 32 years!) and Angie Thedrummer (who's could well have been born that same night, judging by her youthful looks), the band entertained a home crowd with their mid-tempo blues rock and Patrick's lyricism. They even had the females in front dancing in the first few minutes. It was an early goal for Rock-Til-You-Drop. Did this mean it would all go down hill from here? It did for Everton over the weekend. Thankfully it did not.

Spirit of Play also brought a decent crowd, and entertained them successfully with their witty lyrics and four-part harmonies. And Wendy wowed the McGuinn fans among us with her electric twelve string.

While I defer to Colin's review of 14 Carat Grapefruit, I do have to say what a lovely bunch of guys they were, and like all the bands on the night, punctual, reliable and very friendly. They had us all in stitches for just over 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, the division between live area and bar took it's toll on the last band The Great Outdoor Experience who played to a fairly empty room. Apparently, they'd played on the Saturday previous and therefore shot their load for that week. Naughty. Oblivious though, they played a blistering set.

Dove Jones was a wonderful MC as usual, and Steve 'Dog-Headed Man' Musham, left me singing Holiday in Cambodia and Take the Skinheads Bowling for the next few days.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Just a quick thanks or hanx! to all who came down to the Dublin Castle and made it such a successful night. I have plenty to say about it, just not the time to do so right now. Will report back soon.