Life is great when the unexpected happens and expectations are met and exceed. Let's do it...
Thursday 27th October-Portsmouth
Arrived at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms around 4:30 p.m. Spent the remainder of the afternoon in the dressing room working on the Alarm b-side songs. Managed to come up with a chorus for one of them.
Hit the stage at 9 p.m. Straight away, Captain winds the audience up by saying "It's good to be in Southampton." They love his humour and before the laughter has died down Jim is pounding out the 'New Rose' beat. Half way through the song Captain pulls another surprise and sings the last verse/chorus with a set of Dracula fangs in his mouth. Hilarious.
Normal service resumed during the acoustic part of the show, I sang 'Breathe' and Kirk pulled out an amazing version of 'Pumpkin Man' and Captain sang his anti-war song 'Glad It's All Over.' Before 'Rumble In Brighton', Jim again asked me once again if I was "ready mod?" Tonight I replied with a few bars of the Jam's 'This Is the Modern World.'
Lots of stories are being bandied around the stage, Captain tells a funny story about bribing Damned fans to sing insulting songs to their original drummer Rat Scabies. I tell a tale of a show I played with the Stray Cats back in 1980 at the Mayfair in Newcastle when a mob of Teddy Boys came in early to see my band 'Seventeen.' Somewhere along the line they thought we were going to be a 1950's style 'Doo Wop' group. You can imagine their horror when we turned out to be a mod/punk/powerpop band. We only lasted one song before being bottled off the stage!
Tonight's concert finishes with an impromptu 'Happy Talk' and a Kirk Brandon reworking of the British national anthem sung as 'God Save the Captain.' After the show we mingle for a while with the fans signing autographs and chatting. There's a good feeling in the air.
Friday 28th October-Ebbw Vale
Set off from Portsmouth at 11 a.m. and stopped in Newbury for lunch. Got to Ebbw Vale in the South Wales Valleys about 5 p.m. Spent the time before the gig in the dressing room with Slim Jim and Kirk.
Slim Jim has written a set of lyrics for a song called 'Monster Wagon.' Kirk has come up with a great guitar riff and so we set about marrying the lyrics and the riff with a melody. Once again the lyrics point the way to a tune and after a few passes we start to get some shape. Kirk suggest leaving more space for the guitar in between the lyrics which makes the melody work even better. I suggest going to some other key for a chorus based on Jim's lyrics. Kirk puts together a C, A, G pattern and all of a sudden it comes together. We will definitely record this song soon. We record a rough outline of the song into my laptop.
Just before we hit the stage, I come up with a riff and a melody that sound really vibey. Jim wants to write the lyrics to it. That's fine by me.
A good tight show tonight. We take the stage early at 8 p.m. and, as we are in Wales I sing the Idris Davies poem / Pete Seeger tune 'The Bells of Rhymney.' Somehow I manage to get some of the words wrong although the audience don't seem to mind.
Someone hands the Captain a pair of white underpants with coloured balls tied to them (a tradition in this part of the world I find out later). By the end, the crowd are out of their seats and down the front pogoing along to tonight's set finisher 'Neat Neat Neat.' We all sign autographs for the locals after the show and by 10:30 we are in the tour bus heading for London watching a DVD of 'Layer Cake' all the way down the M4.
Saturday 29th October-London
I got to Euston station for midday in time to meet Jules off the train from North Wales. The train was late, so whilst I was at the tea bar, I met a couple of fans who were going to the show tonight. Jules arrived and we went into the West End of London for some lunch and a bit of shopping. Looking forward to the show tonight.
Arrived at the Shepherds Bush Empire with plenty of time to spare. The dressing room is full of people including Lloyd Johnson whose Kings Road clothes shop -- Johnson's -- was a magnet for rock and rollers in the '80s. Lloyd is trying to help save Cox's shoe factory as they are the last shoe manufacturer in Britain who specialise in rock and roll footwear! He wants me to wear some of their shoes in the upcoming Alarm videos. No problem.
Ian baker from XFM radio in London was spinning records before the show and whipping up a storm with his unique blend of the new and the classic. At 9 p.m. we were on stage and blasting out 'New Rose,' 'Rock This Town,' 'I Can See' and 'Strength' in that order. I slipped in 'Mercenary Skank' during the acoustic section.
No surprises tonight just a really solid concert. Shepherds Bush Empire is the biggest venue of the tour and when the venues get bigger, you need to work a lot harder as a band, things you can pull off in clubs don't often work in front of a bigger audience so we just kept the show real tight and let the music do the talking.
It would have been cool to finish the tour tonight, especially as we had a great show and the added bonus of an aftershow party in the backstage bar. It was a special night in the aftershow, not too crowded for a change which meant we got to talk to all our friends who had come to the show. C.J. from the Wildhearts was there, Jay Aston from Gene Loves Jezebel. It was nice to have a chat with Rusty Egan whom I met years ago when he was drumming for the Rich Kids and more recently at the Stuart Adamson (Big Country/Skids) tribute concert. Alarm guitarist James Stevenson was there too with Tony Barber from the Buzzcocks. I was also pleased to see Danny Farrand, who has played for both the Alarm and Spear Of Destiny (in times of need), and is one of the best drummers I have ever worked with. A friend of mine, Steve Kirk from Portsmouth, also came by with a bag full of Clash DVD's for me to enjoy (thanks mate!).
The drinks flowed and the night wore on and it was back to the Hilton for a last drink at the bar before turning out the lights.
Sunday 30th October-Burgess Hill
And so what was begun in California six weeks ago comes to an end tonight in the Martlets Hall, Burgess Hill (nr. Brighton).
Set off from the hotel at midday and made the concert in time for the Captain to meet up with his family who all live in the area. Jules and I went off to stay with friends in nearby Steyning where we were treated to a right royal Sunday lunch by our hosts Laurie and Jamie Cohen. Jamie and I spent the afternoon looking through the Clash DVD's -- amazing.
Arrived at the show and had a few minutes to ourselves before going onto the stage. It was quite an emotional moment. New friends made, a new vision shared and a future to aim for. Life is great when the unexpected happens and expectations are met and exceed. Let's do it...
What a great gig it was. There was a lot of humour with it being the last night and all that. Kirk played 'Pumpkin Man' and as he sang the song a huge orange pumpkin was lowered from above the stage where it sat for the next few minutes directly over his head. Kirk didn't realise what was going on until it was too late... by the time he had realised, the audience and ourselves were splitting our sides laughing. You should have seen Kirk's face when he spotted it and tried to touch it only to see it pulled up into the roof of the stage. Brilliant.
It's a touring tradition that the crew get to play tricks on the band on the last night. During the encore we found that all our instruments had been replaced by Brushes, Axes etc. etc. The audience were with us all the way and the show finished the tour on a real high note.
Pandemonium in the dressing room afterwards as goodbyes are said and arrangements to see each other soon are made. The Captain and the Damned start a U.K. tour in a week. Slim Jim is flying back to Hollywood. Kirk is recording a new acoustic album, 'Dutch Masters,' in Manchester (I am hoping to add some harmonica to one of the tracks) and Jules and I have to head back to Wales because I have an Alarm B-side session and video shoot to attend to.
We are all hoping to play some U.K. Dead Men shows in December and finish what we started... a Dead Men Walking album of original material... See you on the road soon.
Read Mike's previous entry.