Frontman of the Alarm on the road with fellow 'survivors' from the Stray Cats, the Damned and Spear Of Destiny in the United States and England.
Thursday 22nd September-California
I'm driving back from the House of Blues in Anaheim. What a night. It was the opening show of the Dead Men Walking Tour 2005. The Dead men Walking are myself, Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats), Captain Sensible (The Damned) and Kirk Brandon (Spear Of Destiny). The Dead Men Walking began as an idea somewhere in the year 2000 and has gone out on tour once a year since it began with Kirk and myself and Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Pete Wylie (The Mighty Wah!).
Various other musicians / friends have dropped in for a show or a tour and have included Mick Jones and Topper Headon (The Clash), Bruce Watson (Big Country) and Billy Duffy (The Cult). The idea is to play/interpret all the songs we are known for individually but blend them with the styles and sounds that come from the personalities that you find yourself on stage with. So far, it has been a blast that has only been experienced in the U.K. and Italy but now we are in the USA making people aware of the Dead Men vibe.
On Tuesday gone, we played "Jonesy's Jukebox" (Indie 103.1 radio show) hosted by the charming Steve Jones (Sex Pistols). Ever since then the jungle drums have been beating. Tonight we were joined on stage by none other than Brian Setzer (possibly the world's greatest exponent of the hollow body electric guitar), and even though Brian was shackled by the high and heavy action of my Gibson J200 acoustic, he still managed to make it walk and talk in the famous Setzer style. Amazing. We also did a spontaneous unrehearsed version of Eddie Cochran's 'Somethin' Else' (Who needs to rehearse that song anyway...) and then a rip through Bobby Fuller Four's 'I Fought the Law'. After the show, Brian and his wife Julie, hung out with us in the dressing room and we had a great time catching up and telling 'war' stories. It was great rock and roll even if I say so myself.
After a late night in Anaheim, I still woke up early as the jet lag still has me on British time. Breakfast at Swingers' coffee shop in Hollywood always gets you in the mood for Los Angeles and so Kirk Brandon and I take a walk down Melrose to by some rags for the rest of the tour. Had some coffee in the Farmer's Market and sent postcards back to my son Dylan (I write him a card every time I have to spend a night apart). I also managed to buy him some great rock'n'roll Ts.
After an early soundcheck at the Key Club on Sunset Strip I took a run out to the Guitar Centre, I'm trying to find a replacement for my Takamine 12 string that got damaged on the plane when I was here a month ago. I don't like the cutaways that most electro-acoustics have as part of their design these days so I'm still searching. Got back to the Key Club and the place is buzzing. The dressing room is rocking even before the show has begun. Lemmy from Motorhead (who is a friend of the Captain and Slim Jim), is here and he wants to come up on stage with us for a couple of songs. So too, is Billy Duffy from the Cult. Billy and Kirk are friends from years ago when they were both together in seminal English band 'Theatre Of Hate'. Billy is going to join us onstage for 'Do You Believe in the Westworld' which they both performed together on "Top of the Pops" back in 1982.
10 o'clock and we hit the stage with the Captain singing the Damned's "New Rose." Officially, this was the first ever punk single released in the U.K. back in 1976 and it is a dream for me to be on stage singing it with Captain Sensible in Hollywood. Who would have thought? Hey! Billy Duffy comes on towards the end of the set and Kirk and Billy lead us through a dramatic version 'Westworld.' Some Spear and Cult fans are crying in the front row. Encores are demanded and Lemmy joins in the fray. We do 'Somethin' Else' again only this time it's in A! Lemmy cranks out the bass riff to 'Neat Neat Neat' and everyone goes nuts, myself included. Captain's in the audience somewhere, Lemmy and I are on the microphone, Kirk's riffing away on his 1938 black Gibson arch top and Slim Jim is playing like a man possessed. "Good night, thanks for coming to see the DEAD MEN WALKING." Afterwards it's anarchy in the dressing room. Most guys I know have roadies for their instruments but Lemmy is the only guy I know who has a roadie just to keep him topped up in Jack'n Coke. Rock and roll or what?! No time to stop now as we are flying to New York in the morning... at 7 a.m.! Back to the hotel, grab the bags and head for LAX.
Friday 23rd September-New York
Airborne. The Dead Men Walking are in the skies and New York is our destination. We'd heard about the 'Save CBGB's' campaign back in the U.K. and when we were asked to play as possibly one of the last show's ever, we could hardly say no. We arrived at J.F.K. on time and headed straight for the venue for soundcheck and T-shirt buying tourist activities.
I've only ever been to CBGB's once, years ago, to see a band that I have only succeeded in forgetting. I remember the place was packed and I couldn't get near the stage. I had a drink at the back and left. Of course, as an original U.K. punk rocker from 1976 CBGB's has always been famous to me because of the Ramones, Richard Hell, Televison etc. Although it's only in the last few weeks that I have found out what CBGBs actually stands for (country, bluegrass and blues) and it was only while I was stood on the stage for soundcheck did I find out what OMFUG means (other music from the underground).
Managed to meet up with some friends before the show and by 11 o'clock the venue was absolutely packed with fans of all our bands. We hit the stage with the tape deck running to capture whatever was going to happen for posterity. From on stage the venue looked huge. Now I understand why it is such a great gig. The audience is all around you and although it's intimate the crowd seems to go back forever with people on different levels so that everyone can see. It's so crammed down at the front that a couple of fans are sitting in a space in the ceiling above the stage!!! There's people of all ages/generations there. I spotted a 15 year-old with a handmade Sex Pistols shirt and some guy with an official Alarm shirt from 1986.
Captain's band the Damned played here in 1976 and Sensible has told us how they were greeted by none other than the Rolling Stones who sent them cakes and hookers! (I kid you not...) and Patti Smith who shouted "Get those f***in' Limey's out of my dressing room!" (True). The show was an absolute corker. In between songs the stories were flowing as the history of CBGBs got to us. The banter was as integral to the gig as the songs and the music. 'Smash It Up,' 'Spirit of '76' -- you name it we played it. We romped home with the Beastie Boys 'Right to Party' (with some suitable lyric changes... I'm sure you'll understand). Afterwards all of us band, friends and fans alike went to a bar across the street for a couple of beers. New York, New York what a wonderful town.
Saturday 24th September-New York
No show today as the concert for tonight in Farmingdale has been cancelled due to venue closure. Shame as we were looking forward to playing a show in Slim Jim's hometown. There was some talk last night of an impromptu set at Dick Manitoba's place on Avenue A, but nothing seems to have come together.
I end up going over to Radio City Music Hall where my friend Alex Coletti, is producing a major rap concert for MTV. It's weird having to go through a metal detector to enter a concert. I end up in the production truck chatting with Alex and Joe Henry, a lighting designer who helped us out when the Alarm played with U2 at Cardiff Arm's Park back in 1987. From there I went to Greenwich Village for dinner at El Dante with the gang. During the day Liam Feekery who manages the Dead Men chaos has arranged for me to get on an earlier flight out of New York at 9 a.m. so I can get home to spend the day with my family. I leave early so that I can pack my bags for the plane.
Sunday 25th September-Transatlantic
Alarm goes off set for 5:45 a.m. I rendezvous with my friend Gary Zoldos who has come down from Buffalo for the Dead Men show. It so happens that his flight back to upstate New York leaves from JFK at the same time my flight for the U.K. On the taxi ride to the airport we continue last night's discussion about the Clash. I have burnt him a copy of the new Alarm MMVI album which we are putting out next year on EMI. I want Gary's input on the running order.
Arrive at JFK nice and early and get some breakfast prior to boarding the plane. I'm a vegetarian and so I try to stock up on food before the flight leaves as you can never trust airline food. This is the best flight you can catch when you are coming back from the States. It leaves New York in the morning and arrives in the U.K. at 2100. It's great for beating the jet lag. The flight is nice and smooth and gets in a little earlier than scheduled. I pick up my car and head for home. London to North Wales should take about three-and-half hours at this time of night.
Monday 26th September-Wales
Got home around 2 a.m. just in time to give my son Dylan his night feed of warm milk. Woke up around 9 a.m. had breakfast with Jules and Dylan. My place looks out over the Vale of Clwyd where I can see all of the mountains of Snowdonia and all along the coast as far as Ynys Mon. It's great to be home.
Spent the day working on the artwork for the Alarm's 'Under Attack' tour which starts next year with the release of the new album also titled 'Under Attack'. Jules and Steve Fulton want to announce the dates on the Web site tonight and Liam wants posters and flyers for the show in Wolverhampton tomorrow. All the dates have been confirmed and before they slip out under the ever watchful eye of the hardcore fans, we want to break the news first. Finish around the middle of the afternoon and Jules and I take Dylan down to the beach.
Tuesday 27th September-Wolverhampton
Drive down to Wolverhampton for the first night of the Dead Men in the U.K. manage to catch some of the Manchester United v Benfica champions league match on the dressing room TV. Ryan Giggs scores for Man U but Benfica equalize just before we go on stage. The venue is packed and we kick off with the Damned's 'New Rose' sung by Captain Sensible. During the acoustic section of the show I sang 'Right Back Where I Started From' (I'm trying to sing a different song each night of the tour). Jim comes back on stage with the good news that Ruud Van Nistelrooy has scored a late winner for Man U. Great news. There's a Rumble in Wolverhampton tonight! Finish the set with a furious version of 'Pretty Vacant' (dedicated to Glen Matlock).
After the show we all went out into the hall to sign autographs. We signed a large amount of 'Dead Men Walking Live at CBGBs' CD's. We had recorded the show in New York and turned around the CD's in double quick time for the U.K. tour. It sounds great... very vibey if you know what I mean. Later in the dressing room, Captain Sensible and Slim Jim got into a discussion about the death of Princess Diana that was very illuminating to say the least. Just as we were leaving I get a text message from Tom Grimshaw at Dash Productions asking if we can reschedule our meeting for tomorrow so I decide to drive home instead of stay at the hotel.
Wednesday 28th September-Wales
Arrived home at 2 a.m. Got up early and took Dylan to Cylch (Welsh playgroup). Set off for the Wrexham show in time to make soundcheck. Ran through Eddie Cochran's 'Somethin' Else' a couple of times and worked out a new arrangement based on the original. It lasts until about 1:30... proper rock and roll.
Once again the gig is packed with fans of all our groups, the Damned, Spear Of Destiny, the Alarm and the Stray Cats, a kaleidoscope of tour T-shirts from the past/present. All the bands are represented including those of the Clash, the Cult, Sex Pistols, Wah! and Big Country who have all had a member on stage with the Dead Men Walking at some point in time.
It turns out to be a wild gig. Tonight I sing 'Blaze of Glory.' Captain is entertaining the audience in between songs and 'apologizing' for his outrageous solo career! The audience demand that the Captain plays his version of 'Happy Talk' which went to No. 1 and stayed, for a few weeks in the '80s. There's now way out of this one. I give Captain my acoustic and for a few minutes we are treated to a hilarious 'Happy Talk' which the crowd goes wild for... after this the gig takes off in a big way. Kirk Brandon leads us through a killer version of 'Westworld' and considering we have only been playing together fro little over a week, it's clear that we are getting better and better with each show. Once again, I head for home after the show with Jules (who has left Dylan in the care of my mother for the evening). We got home at 2330.
Thursday 29th September-Manchester/Stoke-On-Trent
Left early to go to Manchester to work with Tom Grimshaw of Dash Productions. For months now we have been putting together a DVD of the Alarm's reunion for the VH1 TV show 'Bands Reunited.' The original show was shown on TV in America only and fans in Europe have never seen it. I've never found out why it only got shown in the USA -- maybe it's because I managed to negotiate the rights to use the footage outside of the TV show. Anyway, we are putting together an uncut version which should be a very revealing piece of drama that will culminate in the entire reunion show that we played at La Scala in London. The original show only used two of the songs we played that day and none of them were shown in their entirety. The footage looks good and Tom and I managed to sort some sequential things out and worked on a way to work all the hours of footage into a DVD format which should prove to be both interesting and insightful. Before leaving the studio I managed to record some film dedications for the Gathering box set that we put together last year.
I left Manchester for Stoke-On-Trent and arrived in time for the soundcheck. The vibe within the Dead Men is really good and tonight we have been talking about going into the studio and recording some original Dead Men tunes. I must admit I wasn't quite prepared for this, so spent most of the time in the build up to the show working on a riff/song in the Dead Men style. By show time I think I have the beginnings of something cool, something that is inspired by the stylings of all the guys in the band, something simple and direct. If I keep working on it I think it could be a good one, especially if the others can collaborate with me on it and add their musical thing to it.
On stage it's a riot. I played 'Deeside' from the 'Strength' album. The set keeps changing from night-to-night. In the middle of '45 R.P.M.' we do 'Blitzkrieg Bop' by the Ramones. During our cover of the Beastie Boys 'Right to Party,' Captain Sensible ends up in the audience and hands over the bass playing duties to a member of the audience who actually pulls it off and strikes some real rock poses on the monitors. I don't know who's having the most fun, us or the audience. Drive home to Wales after the show.