It’s Definitely not Grim Up North!

There are some heroes on this small island of ours. Fighters who keep the flame alive and give a platform to those of us who plow our furrow in the unfashionable and underloved arena of melodic, tuneful, punk rock, – heroes who enable weekends as fun-filled and fulfilling as the one just passed.

We’ve been guilty of ignoring the Northern end of Great Britain for a couple of years. Those Germans, Scandinavians, Spanish, Irish and even Americans are just so damn welcoming. And I don’t know what we’ve done to Rebellion but they never answer our emails. We started to put that right this week though.

So step forward  Mr Joe Maddox and his band The Breakdowns. We needed a stopover between London and Glasgow and up they came with our salvation. The Chameleon Arts Cafe: smack bang in the middle of Nottingham on a thursday night. Run by two very friendly fellas who are determined to enjoy their work and make sure their wares are up to scratch before offering them for sale. If you ask nicely they are also not backward in coming forward with the Jaegermeister post show.

Heated to a level just a few degrees below St Petersburg on Christmas eve, the Chameleon still has a warmth only the good people of Nottingham can engender. I lived in this town for a couple of years when I was helping to run Nottingham Forest FC (twice Champions of Europe!) and I love coming back to hear the dulcet tones of the local OAPs telling me: “You’re blocking the road and breaking the law”!  Well I was, but only because we had to stop somewhere in the car to telephone the venue which is hidden down an alley and up some stairs. A great crowd, a great thursday night and we were bloody good too.

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Sophie and Mauro

And so to Glasgow. Last time we were there was a Saturday afternoon matinée. Bold idea and a good one. This time it would be a friday night proper, promoted once again by the charming Alex Mainy Main, a man of many entertaining opinions, as evidenced by his blog –“Itsaxxxxthing” (Warning: do not read if you like your point of view filtered by the Daily Mail, or are of a Trumpish disposition). He is also a general doer of good deeds for struggling musicians through his local collective The New Hellfire Club. The venue, Audio, is one of the best in the UK as were the two support bands, Media Whores and Heavy Drapes.

I love a big stage. Give us a Big Stage and we’ll show you how to use it! Sophie K Powers threw her best poses, thrashing away with no regard for life or limb,  a blur of hair, white Les Paul Junior and legs.

Mauro Venegas strutted his patch, a wild mixture of Mick Ronson and Steve Jones. Our own Jones (Karen) whacked away behind. How does someone so light hit those drums so damn hard?

And me? You know what I do when you give me a bit of space.

We were shit hot that night. It was worth the long drive just by itself.

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Audio Glasgow: Brilliant Venue

Afterwards we headed off to sample the bars of Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow late on a drunken Friday night? Well why not? You only die once.

Actually it wasn’t threatening at all. We arrived in an establishment full of young bearded fellows, quite clearly off their faces on MDMA, throwing karate poses to each other in time to modern music of indeterminate quality. The girls, clearly also floating in another dimension, were together enough to be pissed off at the lack of attention from the blokes who, despite their lack of terrestrial presence, seemed to be quite aware that they looked like a bunch of bearded Craig Revel Horwoods.

And then things got weirder. The besuited DJs played first “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, then Whitney Huston, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton and a whole host of guilty pleasures from the 70s and 80s. By this time the place was heaving with hipsters all getting off to music they probably wouldn’t be seen dead owning up to on Sunday morning.

We’d been joined by Guy Jardine, boss at Rebel in Print T Shirts (Check them out), a man who wouldn’t be seen dead on facebook (cough) and unmistakably: A PUNK! “This isn’t Punk” grumbled Guy, “Punk was invented to get rid of all this”! “Don’t be a silly sausage” I said. “Yes, come and have a dance” said Sophie. So off he sheepishly trotted to have a bop whereupon the DJ took Lionel Ritchie off and put on Billy Idol to save Guy’s blushes. Hospitable people these Scots.

And so to Middlesbrough, home to Stephen Harland and his Riverside Rebellion. Well at least there’s one Rebellion festival which will have us 😉

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Riverside Rebellion

And that is what you call a line up.

We were on at the perfect time: about 8 pm. But: we followed Church of Eon and Cyanide Pills. Watching them both I was thinking, “This is going to take some serious showing off to keep up with”. Church of Eon even had a portly local jump up in his ABBA pyjamas during their cover of Mama Mia.

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Man in ABBA Pyjamas

Cyanide Pills were simply magnificent: everything you want when Leeds meets Lager.

So we really did get up to some serious, world-class showing off. There weren’t the wide open spaces of Audio so we crashed into each other a lot, I couldn’t hear a word I was singing and the mike kept flying off its stand. But I think we pulled the largest crowd of the night and kept them there to our glorious finale.

On the way back to the hotel Mauro stopped to pick up a local delicacy: the Chicken Parma. He had a half sized one which was about 4 kilos of breaded, fried chicken covered in 3 litres of melted cheese and a bucket of fries. I share a hotel room with him and was worried (having seen Monty Python’s Meaning of Life).

Back in London the next day I discovered that the first band on in Nottingham, Bones Park Rider, had kindly sent me a recording of our set. In celebration of this deliriously wonderful jaunt we offer a 15 minute extract for download here. It’s completely free (subject to Bandcamp’s monthly limit) although you can pay a little if you want to.

London, Brighton, Sheffield, Grimsby, York and Nottingham again in the first quarter of next year do you say? I can’t wait.

Post Script (3 Jan 2017) Following this post a number of people contacted Rebellion to say we are great. Rebellion have contacted us and we have been offered a slot for this summer. I love you all!

 

 

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How to be a cool Rock Star: Rule No. 1: Don’t Fall Over

In 1977 The Boys appeared in Leicester with Generation X. We’d played our set and gone down a storm underneath a shower of beer, thrown onto the stage by an enthusiastic, although not entirely empathetic crowd. Next up were Gen X to navigate the surface which resembled an aromatic, melting ice rink.

Key their intro tape and big build up to an entrance by the most image conscious of the early punk bands. Billy Idol made it on with aplomb. This couldn’t be said of Tony James who skidded from one side of the stage to the other ending up on his arse.

“You’ll never be cool”, shouted a wag from the crowd.

Oh how we laughed but, as they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Some years later, on a cold midwinter’s day myself and the family were staying with Vom Richie, ex band mate from The Boys and drummer with German punk superstars Die Toten Hosen. They were finishing up their latest mega tour with about 10 sold out nights at a 15,000 seat arena in their home town of Dusseldorf. On hearing I was coming to the show they invited me to join them in a cover of The Boys hit First Time. At the appointed time I ran on in front of a colossal crowd, onto a colossal stage which contained a colossal, eye catching drum riser.

“Oooh”, I thought. “What an excellent idea it would be to jump off there. That’ll look cool”………………..Wrong!

The thing you have to understand is that bass guitars weigh a bit. If you jump with one round your neck you fall much faster than usual. So, at the end of the song I ran up the steps to the top of the riser, pumped my fist into the air with my best rock star pose, waited as the penultimat guitar chord rang out into the night, jumped high into the air as the cue for a last triumphant final kerrang and fell flat on my face in front of 15,000 people.

This being the YouTube age it’s now impossible to be a prat and not have it recorded for posterity. You can therefore witness my clowning glory in all it’s awfulness Here.

All was not lost though. My wife and quite a few of the public thought I’d fallen over on purpose. I didn’t argue.

The same tactic couldn’t be used next time though.

Date: July 2016.
Occasion: triumphant return to my home county of Kent for my first gig there in eons.
Opening song: Can’t Stop, a new one we are recording for the as yet untitled 3rd album.

Boisterous crowd in the Lighthouse in Deal, all ready to have a great night. What more could we want? Well have a look at what happened here.

No conning my way out of that one. Full blown backward stumble taking out Tommy Lorente’s full set of guitar pedal cables and crashing into the drum kit, causing major damage. Reminds me of the time I backed my car into my wife’s, giving both a great big expensive dent. Luckily no one shouted “You’ll never be cool”, though it would have been no less than I deserved.

Moral of the story? I may, in my always humble opinion, be one of the best jumper arounders in the long history of modern music but it doesn’t come without its risks.

Will there be a third time? I’ll do my best to prevent it but I’ll keep you posted.

It Was Another Age

On our first album, Little Big Head, there is a track, Rolling On, which contains my most autobiographical lyric to date. In three minutes odd it goes from childhood, through moving to London, falling into the punk scene, settling down, family and now.

For me, the most evocative part is the early verse dealing with my upbringing in Canterbury, a sleepy, provincial town in Kent. Sixty miles from London but part of a different universe altogether.

I grew up at the edge of town on the London Road Council estate. Uniform red brick houses, three small but adequate bedrooms, sporadic traffic, apple orchards out the back and the famous Canterbury Cathedral, founding place of Christianity in Britain, visible from everywhere.

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Canterbury Cathedral looming over everything

 

Solidly working class but safe. No one was rich but no one was really poor. And from the rose-tinted perspective of many decades later, the sun, of course, always shone.

London Road Estate
The London Road Estate with sun “always” shining.

The best aspect of growing up there was that, by and large, we were free. A motley gang of 7,8,9, and 10 year olds always playing football in the street. If traffic came by, the ball would be picked up and, once the car passed, the endless game would carry on.

I say “always playing football” but that’s not quite true. There was always time for other escapades.

As July and August approached the apples in the orchards would ripen and it was time for the farmers to be on maximum guard as the “scrumping” season approached. Packs of German Shepherd dogs were bought in to patrol the crops and save them from the gangs of urchins who saw it as a badge of honour to strip the trees of their bounty of ripe red fruit. The farmers themselves would patrol with shot guns ready to fire at any tree infested with monkey like boys who were busy helping themselves to everything they could grab.

The operation was military in its precision. Small boys were sent ahead to reconnoitre for dogs and guns. If the coast was clear a Game of Thrones like charge of older, bigger, better climbers descended and the harvest began. Sometimes the dogs would hear us without the small boys seeing them, and a mad dash ensued with hounds after their quarry and shotgun blasts going off behind.

Usually though, all passed peacefully  and a procession of scamps would be seen wending their way back through the estate, jumpers bulging bulbously with their illicit bounty. Mothers would wait at the door to give each and everyone a clip round the ear for being “naughty”, but apple pie was always on for “pudding” at “tea time”. Nothing was wasted.

Or there were the bike trips. “Where are you going?” our mother would ask as bikes were wheeled past the back door. “Just down the road” was the reply. But in fact an expedition was planned to Whitstable, 10 miles away and the nearest coast. The route would involve 20 or so imps often cycling down a dual carriageway to get to the sea. Swimming would  follow, then drying off on the way back. No food was packed so we’d knock on the door of complete strangers and ask for a sandwich. An ordinary day dodging high-speed traffic, risking not just drowning but, from the viewpoint of this modern, paranoid age, abduction also.

“Where have you been?”, was the question on our return. “Nowhere”, was the reply.

I could go on with tales of organised shoplifting in the toy shops of Canterbury high street. The aim was to get one over on the security guards who knew exactly what we were there for, but never caught us. Often the booty was thrown away as it wasn’t really the point. Or playing chicken on the electrified main rail line from Dover to London. Raids to let the bicycle tyres down of kids from other streets. “Knock out ginger”, easy pickings fishing in local fish farms, fake dog turds left on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral to shock the tourists, breaking my little finger the one and only time I hit a boy who had just hit my little brother………. you get the picture: a childhood of adventure and “We were all in clover”.

But “time rolled on”, I turned eleven, and for complicated, domestic reasons I was torn from the family home and sent to a middle class world where I needed to mend my ways and hide my roots, else people would think less of me if they knew where I came from. But that’s a story for another song.

So what has bought on this orgy of nostalgic reminiscing?

Well on 23 July we play in Deal, a hop and a skip from Canterbury, in that delightful seaside town, remote enough to be saved from the weekend home buying Londoners that Whitstable has been prey to, but lively enough to enjoy a thriving live music scene. It’s also now my brother’s home and we appear at The Lighthouse, his local and a boozer I wanted to play the minute I walked in.

All sorts of family will be there and, if you want to join us at this free gig, the details are here.

So, in celebration of this rare and momentous return to Kent, may I urge you to give “Rolling On” a listen, either in pure, unsullied audio perfection here or with added audio-visual splendour here.

Thank you for your indulgence and company on this fond meander down memory lane.

They’ve Got it All -A Lost Treasure from Little Big Head

Children. Life changing aren’t they. When they’re young they think you are great. You know everything and, within reason and perhaps after a bit of coercion, they do what you say.

We’re all genetically modified to find them absorbing and would do anything to keep them safe and happy. As Billy Conolly said: “Kids are like farts. My own don’t smell bad at all”.

And then come the teenage years and you know nothing. “What do you mean?” said my 14 year old daughter, “of course I’ll be alright if go down to Camden till 3 am” and I was the fool for not letting her. But they have to do that. It’s part of the process of making you let go and accepting they’re growing up and will soon be gone. (For thoughts on a similar subject listen to “Long Long Gone” on the “Difficult 2nd Album”)

But for all the trials and tribulations, when you’ve got kids you really do have it all.

I wrote a song on the subject and recorded it for “Little Big Head”. It didn’t make the album so I gave it to a charity which supports Michael Sobell House, a Hospice for the terminally ill. They included it on the fund raising CD “A Tribute to Paul Fox”. Paul was guitarist in The Ruts and was helped by MSH before he sadly succumbed to cancer. I’m happy to say the CD, which features TV Smith, UK Subs, Chelsea, The Urban Voodoo Machine and many more, sold well and is worth checking out.

You can hear “They’ve Got it All” on Soundcloud and, if you are quick enough and get there before their free allocation runs out, download it as well.

Listen to “They’ve Got it All” here and download for free if you are quick enough

It Was Another Age

 

Oh Boy, will you take a look at this! Dunc the Hunk as they quite rightly called me. Why oh why did I do it? Publicity of course. The age old young musicians, desire for fame, fortune and girls. I wasn’t the only one either. Billy Idol and Paul Weller were regulars at the time in teen girl magazines like this and Jackie. The latter had a “Hunk of the Week” chart which we all featured in regularly with David Hasselhof and Jason Donavon.

 Oh Boy 1980b

I remember this photo shoot well. I went there with a young lady from our then management company who took along a bottle of vodka which I may or may not have sampled beforehand. In any case I had blood shot eyes the whole afternoon which caused near panic with the people from the magazine. Hunks don’t get wiped out apparently. Gallons of eye drops were bought from the local chemist and, true to the traditions of The Boys, I was never asked to be a hunk again!

 Oh “Youth”. Wasted on the young.

Kiss and Make Up

Well it happened and what a joy it did.

The ever smiling Harry Steen, arranger of gigs in far flung corners of Norway, purveyor of fresh Norwegian salmon at unexpected times, and general uplifter of the soul, sent me a text: “Is it alright if Honest John comes on the tour?”. “Is it alright?”  Bloody hell! Is it alright if all my birthdays come at once?  Is it alright if Cara Delevigne declares she’s gone off girls and would like to pop round tonight?

“Does he want to?” I replied. “He says yes”, was the short answer.

I didn’t think it would happen though.

Believe it or not, there were those who tried to stop it. To the incredulity of all in the know, there was an element (no member of The Boys I hasten to add) on the phone to John, many times a day, heaping pressure on him not to play with me. And John hates confrontation. A lover of the easy life he’ll shy away from anger rather than be the cause of trouble.

But good for him. A bang on the head and glimpse of the hereafter has given John a view of life a little above the rest of us. And: an ability he once didn’t have to ignore silliness.

I still didn’t think it would happen though.

But the week before, I was on the phone to our mutual mate Jim the vicar who mentioned with joy in his heart: “So John says he’s coming on tour with you next week”. “Did he say that?” I said.

I still didn’t think it would happen though.

But on Thursday 14 April 2016 we were in Oslo and so was John. Ready to play his classic “Where have all the Good Girls gone”, and an almighty cover of M.O.T.O.’s “I hate my fucking Job”, backed by the outstanding Oslo band, Hard Luck Street. And more importantly John was there to play “Box No.”, “Sick on You” and “First Time” with us.

I’ve spent the last 3/4 years with the Big Heads praising and promoting The Boys. In print, on the radio, and at every gig I laud their achievements and what they meant to the world. And especially John, author of so many classic songs. So what a thrill at the appointed hour as the big man stepped up, plugged in and launched into Box No. Oh how I’ve missed standing in front of that monster, world class chug. Even If you ignore all his other achievements John could take any other punk on in a rhythm guitar contest and wipe the floor with them.

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The audience were a wall of cameras and phones. Word had got around Oslo through John’s many friends that this reunion was happening and the various gadgets couldn’t hide the mile wide smiles on faces as the familiar, iconic intro chords to “First Time” rang out.

As I looked up I felt a huge wave of relief that this had come to pass. We nearly lost the fella last year and I would never have had the chance again. There’s a lot of silliness in the world but we only live once. Let’s ban silliness and, like John, rise above it.

We’d all be happier and better off.

Some things never change though. On the last night of the tour I was at the bar ordering my customary pre-show water when a familiar Londonised Yorkshire voice cut across the room: “Duncan Reid LPs; half price for cash”! Yep. Someone had let him loose on the Merch stall!

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Honest? You’ve gotta love him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honest John Plain has been fibbing again
Honest John Plain has been fibbing again

 

My Budding Radio Career

If you haven’t caught up with it yet check out our Mixcloud page here which includes my  first radio DJ job today on Soho Radio filling in for the legendary Gary Crowley.

Many thanks to the equally legendary producer to John Peel, Danny Baker, Joe Strummer and all: Jim Lahat who guided me through it.

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Scandinavians: probably the most generous fans in the world

Last summer our delightful Norwegian agent, Harry Steen, turned up to our London show with three kilos of salmon and four jars of caviar. It was a charming gift, albeit constituting a somewhat unconventional package to carry around at a gig.Thankfully he brought the fish in a cool bag so I managed to get it home without it starting to hum our tunes.

Wild Norwegian salmon. What a treat.

Stockholm last week managed to surpass that. My total haul for the gig was as follows:

1 hand painted portrait freshly arrived from Finland,
2 bottles of liquorice firewater,
2 bars of dark chocolate, and …….

the icing on the cake ……….

2 jars of peanut butter.

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Hand Painted Portrait by the effervescant Juha Rindall from Finland

 

Aren’t people wonderful?

Rock and Roll: it beats shopping and still provides the essentials of life.

Check out some steaming footage of C’est la Vie from Stockholm here

Our version of that Boys classic Soda Pressing here

Thinking

Jeepster

Long Long Gone

Montevideo

Montevideo

In about 2011, as part of a South American tour, The Boys became the first UK Punk band to play in Uruguay. It was the beginning of a love affair for me with a small country on the other side of the world. Montevideo/South America: it sounds like a swinging, lively place. In fact it’s quiet. A little like a Sunday afternoon which lasts all week.

But one small corner rocks like it’s New Year’s Eve every night: The Clash City Rockers Bar.

Once bitten -song written: click here to see it:

Montevideo

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Well I’m glad to say they liked my depiction of the whole town as ravers. So much so that on returning a couple of years later, thanks to the efforts of my good friend Hugo Gutierrez, they declared me “Visitante Illustre”, the equivalent of the Freedom of the City. The only other foreign musicians to receive that honour are Elton John and Paul MacCartney.

After another long, long night at the “Clash” we trooped over to the Montevideo Parliament where I received the medal and had to give a speech in spanish. No mean feat after the previous night. You can see it here:

The Montevideo Parliament