Friday 26 February 2010

Thom Yorke - Cambridge Corn Exchange 25/02/10

When this one-off show (a fund-raiser for Tony Juniper's run for parliament) was announced, a couple of work colleagues were bemoaning the fact that it was taking place in Cambridge, the city from which I endure a daily commute to London. They asked if I would be going, leading me to talk about how I'd given up on Radiohead following 'Kid A' (I was quite ambivalent about 'OK Computer' as well, but its follow-up really was the last straw).

So I felt rather hypocritical when I received an email that same day from a friend offering me a spare ticket that I duly accepted. Hey, I rarely get out these days .....

But even then I almost didn't make it along. I got within a few minutes of the venue and found that my ticket, which I double-checked was in my pocket after leaving my house, was no longer about my person. Cue panic (including a phone call to my friend, asking if he ordered via the box office thus opening the possibility of getting a replacement - he hadn't), followed by the re-tracing of my steps only to spot the damn thing, face down in a puddle half-way across Parkers Piece, a park/square that was thankfully very dark and not used that heavily at night. I have no idea how this happened. And if I'd dropped it anywhere else on route, or if it had landed face up, or not landed in a puddle and instead blown away, then I would have had to have consoled myself with the knowledge that I had at least contributed towards a worthy cause.

Onto the show itself. My lack of awareness of Yorke's output was rendered partly irrelevant by a smattering of new material that featured in his set. Whether these songs are intended for new band, Atoms for Peace, featuring the likes of Flea and Nigel Godrich remains to be seen. As dangerous a statement as this may be, but as much as I enjoyed the performance (Yorke was relaxed enough to joke between songs, and even laugh off frequent mistakes he made, something I didn't expect) I didn't much rate the songs. This clearly goes against the audience reaction, the majority of which were mesmerised. I'm still intrigued enough to intend to drop by at Spotify sometime to take another listen to both his solo work and the lost (to me) Radiohead back catalogue, but last night I truly did feel I was in a minority of one.

Monday 22 February 2010

Andy McCoy - Sheriff McCoy: Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks

Andy McCoy's self-designated 'last great rock 'n' roll memoir', Sheriff McCoy: Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks, is, well, rather short to say the least. Remove the photos and use a font more typically used for (auto)biographies and this would probably run to around 80 pages.

Unfortunately it's not just the limited amount of text that disappoints - inevitably what has been written is more of a scattergun approach to a memoir, and whole periods of McCoy's career are omitted. Bar a reference to where he was when he wrote the songs and a photo caption suggesting that their one album was a forerunner to the 'Unplugged' era (I think he got that from me), the Suicide Twins don't get a look in (sorry Michael!).

The small amount of time it takes to complete the book offsets some of this disappointment; I've invested a lot of reading time to books where I've come away probably less informed that when I started. And there are some fine moments, albeit ones that leave you wanting more as you know there must be more. Having just read Watch You Bleed it's interesting that one tale crops up that offers an alternative take on the same story in Stephen Davis's book, concerning Steven Adler, Axl's wife Erin, a heroin overdose and Andy McCoy saving her life (Davis doesn't even mention McCoy).

McCoy does acknowledge that this isn't his full life story, and hints that he may write a more complete autobiography in the future. Whether you choose to wait is up to you.

Currently reading: Ric Browde - While I'm Dead...Feed the Dog

Previous posts:
Suicide Twins - Silver Missiles and Nightingales
Hanoi Rocks - Bristol Bierkeller 17/11/02
Hanoi Rocks - The Nottingham Tapes
Hanoi Rocks to split
Hanoi Rocks - heard that riff before at all?
Sloppy seconds and filthy thirds

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Stephen Davis - Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses

It's confession time again - this time, it's that I've never read Hammer of the Gods. Despite not being a huge fan of Led Zep though I've always been aware that it's one of those books that I should tick off the list. Its author, Stephen Davis, turned his attention to Guns N' Roses for his 2008 biography Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns n' Roses, published shortly before the much-delayed Chinese Democracy finally emerged that November.

Equally unauthorised as its predecessor, Davis was always going to be up against it as anyone who worked on the band's tours in the 1990s had to sign a confidentiality statement, preventing them from speaking to the media without prior authorisation (effectively Axl's authorisation). At the end of the book he remarks that thirteen people he interviewed requested anonymity and it's entirely possible that the thirteen includes former band members.

Such was the world of Guns N' Roses, the one-time LA street band that had lived and rehearsed in a storage room measuring roughly twelve feet by twelve feet before morphing into the biggest rock group on the planet, touring in a private jet - except Izzy, who insisted on travelling by road to remain grounded - but barely on speaking terms with a frontman who had virtually forced his colleagues to sign away any claim to the band's name.

In light of this it's remarkable that Davis managed to write much more than a few pages. This book has come under fire for perceived inaccuracies (and some blatant errors, eg Bon Jovi's debut album being 'Slippery When Wet') but credit where credit's due, he's made a pretty decent fist of it. I might need to read Slash's autobiography to copare and contrast - and notably there's one story in 'Watch You Bleed' that has also been told differently in Andy McCoy's Sheriff McCoy: Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks, but more on that anon.

Despite catching on to Guns N' Roses relatively early much of the detail regarding their pre-record deal activities were an eye-opener. Reading about what happened at the 1988 Monsters Of Rock show, which I attended and have some pretty unpleasant memories from during Guns N' Roses' set, left me cold. Worse still though is what it states on the Download website: "Throughout the festival’s illustrious history, there were just so many highlights ... The enormous gathering for Iron Maiden in 1988, at the same festival that really kickstarted the momentum which was to make Guns n' Roses the biggest band in the world." Can't help but feel that this misses the point somewhat.

It might be that there will never be a truly definitive Guns N' Roses biography. Given that some readers slate 'Watch You Bleed' and instead recommend Mick Wall's W. Axl Rose: The Unauthorized Biography is bizarre given that Wall was personally name-checked in Get In The Ring.

Recommended in the absence of an alternative!

Now reading: Andy McCoy - Sheriff McCoy: Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks

See also:
Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds - self-titled

Thursday 4 February 2010

Slash - Slash And Friends

As the music industry continues to look at different ways to distribute physical product, Slash has decided to make his new album available as a 'fan pack', along with a special edition of 'Classic Rock' magazine. The idea being that this will see the album available in over 3,000 extra retailers in the UK.

Furthermore this edition will be available one month ahead of the regular release.

Whether this will take off remains to be seen. Prince released Planet Earth via a giveaway in the Daily Mail in 2007, guaranteeing him significant coverage ahead of his o2 residency (and also his highest 'sales' figure for many, many years) but this isn't a move than anyone's since copied.

For those interested, the track listing for Slash And Friends (along with the collaborators) is as follows:

1. Ghost (Ian Astbury)
2. Beautiful Dangerous (Fergie)
3. Nothing To Say (M Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold)
4. Crucify The Dead (Ozzy Osbourne)
5. Promise (Chris Cornell)
6. By The Sword (Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother)
7. Doctor Alibi (Lemmy Kilmister)
8. Saint Is A Sinner Too (Rocco De Luca)
9. Watch This (Dave Grohl/Duff McKagan)
10. I Hold On (Kid Rock)
11. Gotten (Adam Levine)
12. We're All Gonna Die (Iggy Pop)
13. Starlight (Myles Kennedy)

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Lips and Robb Reiner - The Story Of Anvil

Having seen the Anvil film I didn't expect to garner much new information from its sister book - "Anvil": The Story of "Anvil".

In truth the film doesn't much give the impression that Anvil were ever that close to 'making it'. Sure it opens up with footage from Super Rock '84 showing Anvil alongside their now far-more-successful peers (Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group) but you only need to take a look at any old festival line-up (say, Monsters Of Rock) to find names of bands you've either forgotten about or never heard of in the first place. Indeed if you click the link above you'll see Anvil opened up the festival in 1982; their predecessors in that slot ('Touch' in 1980 and 'More' in 1981) mean precisely zilch to me.

What sets Anvil apart is the various talking heads that line up to talk about how much they were influenced by the Canadian rockers. Maybe if there was a 'Story Of Touch' movie, Messrs Ulrich, Ian and Kilmister would gladly wax lyrical about them too, but I very much doubt it.

Written by Anvil's two ever-presents, the book details a relationship that although clearly shown to be a close one in the movie is at times over-shadowed by the Spinal Tap-esque moments (the 10,000 capacity festival that attracted an audience of 172; the Croatian bar manager that allows them to play and then refuses to pay them as they were late). Lips and Robb could both at times have bailed out of Anvil (most notably when Lips was approached by Motorhead) but chose to stick together in the belief that the world would one day realise the 'majesty' of their music.

Along the way they make one mistake after another. They sign in perpetuity to a label than would never be able to offer them global success. When they eventually attract a high-profile manager, David Krebs, he succeeds in extracting them from that contract but fails to get them an alternative (and then drops them). Krebs did get them onto the afore-mentioned Super Rock bill, but the net effect of this is that two band members, Reiner being one of them, observe the success that the likes of Bon Jovi have achieved and take Anvil off in a very short-lived commercial direction, losing them both existing fans and a potential new manager in Jonny Z.

From this point on Anvil spent twenty years releasing albums at their own expense and gigging where possible, often to small audiences, sometimes of the 'two men and a dog' variety. A few band members come and go. The occasional light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be another false dawn - until one Sacha Gervasi comes back into their lives. The rest is now (celluloid) history.

Possibly more enjoyable than Gervasi's film, "Anvil": The Story of "Anvil" is an essential read for anyone thinking of forming a band, if for no other reason than to avoid making the same mistakes.

Now reading: Stephen Davis - Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns n' Roses