Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ladbrokes top 10's

Ok, for what it’s worth, here’s the first bit of my take on the year. With the assistance of my Ladbrokes Diary I’ve been able to compile a number of lists. The first one is my top ten gigs, it’s as near as I can get to the rest of your lists. Top ten Bank Holidays, religious festivals and race meetings may very well follow due to them getting a mention in the diary, albums of the year may just have to be limited to a top 5 due to a failing memory.

Top ten gigs was fairly easy to do as I tend to make a note of gigs when I book them, mainly so I don’t forget to go to them and so I’m now able to see where I’ve been. Some good ones didn’t make the cut, The Specials in Manchester, SLF in Bingley and The Young Republic in Newcastle come to mind. They were all very enjoyable and I could have made a case for their inclusion without much difficulty. Perhaps a top fifteen is the answer, although that’s probably as far as it goes, I don’t get out much and a top twenty might have to include Splodgenessabounds and Julio Geordio

So in tenth place we have Ash at Darlington in December. One of my favourite bands playing everything I liked off 1977 and Free All Angels in a venue that holds 300 people. Can’t quite see why they bothered with a small one-off show there, unless they were dropping Christmas presents off or something, but I’m glad they did.

At nine it’s From The Jam at Mr Kyps in Poole back in August. This was the last time that I saw the ‘classic’ Foxton/Buckler rhythm section together. Even smaller venue than the Ash one, it was a great place to see them. It wasn’t bouncing in the same way as last year’s Newcastle Academy gig was and being 300 miles from home there weren’t the familiar faces from 1980 in the crowd, but it was the best of the gigs from them that I saw this year. Shame it all subsequently imploded again.

Number eight was British Sea Power, Derby, February. Despite an early navigational issue with the taxi taking us to the Round House pub a few miles away from the actual Rock House venue, it was my favourite BSP show this year. Not surprising really as I fell asleep during the only other time I saw them, which was at Glastonbury.

In seventh place were Hanoi Rocks, Helsinki, April. The farewell shows. I was never really a big Hanoi Rocks fan, which was more Paul’s thing. But I did like Two Steps From The Move and had seen them three times in the mid 80’s, so it only seemed right to pop along to the one of the final shows. They did very well; I got drunk, bought a handbag and ran down Helsinki High Street joyously waving my arms in the air at how good it was. The show that is, not the handbag. Although that was ok too.

Sixth goes to The Young Republic, Middlesbrough, October. Probably their biggest gig of the year, they succumbed to popular demand and played plenty of good stuff off Twelve Tales, before exceeding expectations by encoring with a Beatles Rooftop set, played exactly as it is supposed to be. If only they would do this sort of thing more often perhaps they would make it big and their singer wouldn’t have to butcher a band member or two every year just to keep his freezer stocked.

Bottom of the top half was Boo Hewerdine, November, Kirkby Stephen – Nearly blew it by booking a hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale, but got away with it. He played a tiny venue where you had to bring your own booze. It felt like I owned the town as I walked down the main street with my Dr Who coat on and a bottle of red in each pocket. Apparently the female singer from the support band was eyeing me up which caused my companion to growl a bit, but I was oblivious to it all after working my way through the contents of my pockets. Some great new songs, particularly Geography, which I would link to if I did that sort of thing.

At fourth is Morrissey, Manchester, May – Cant remember much about this one actually, but it was his 50th birthday gig in his home town so I suppose I should include it, although I suspect I probably enjoyed The Undertones at Bingley or SLF in Edinburgh more. Regardless of that, it’s Morrissey, so he gets in. That’s just the way it goes as the man himself once sang. Fourth is too high however, but I can’t be arsed to alter it now.

Bronze medal goes to Sparks, London, March – Absolutely fantastic. I was just looking for something to fill an evening after watching the rugby and in any of the previous thirty five years this could easily have been my top gig. They played their new LP and one of their old ones and I was an instant convert. Really, really good. I wish they would play live a lot more often, because I would be there.

Runner up was Mott The Hoople, Monmouth, September. The warm up for Hammersmith, 400 seater venue, it was really odd seeing them for the first time ever. Buffin had been hospitalized so couldn’t make it. The crowd were a little subdued, staying seated until the encore, but it was a great appetizer for Hammersmith.

But the winner (and I suspect that this wasn’t much of a surprise) was Mott The Hoople, Hammersmith, October. I’ve grouped the five nights together as it wouldn’t have left much space for anything else if I had included them all separately. Mott had done some pretty high profile shows at Hammersmith in their heyday and it seemed as good a place as any for the reunion. I’d bought tickets for the Friday and Saturday shows as soon as they went on sale and then got a Thursday one when that date was announced. When they extended the run to include the following Monday and Tuesday, I got one for the final night. After all, it’s only once every thirty five years. I’ve had one or two comments that seeing them more than once is a little on the obsessional side and maybe it is, but you have to be somewhere and I reckon that for the first week in October Hammersmith Apollo was that place.

Thursday I knocked off work at four o’clock and got the train from Southampton to Waterloo arriving at Hammersmith early. I had a ticket for Row X so gave a tout fifty quid to exchange it for one in Row B, right in the centre. I had a couple of pints and watched Gideon and the Shark. They were ok, a bloke with a guitar and a girl on the drums. I can’t remember any of their songs though and, bless them, they had a bit of a thankless task. No one was really interested in the support act. It was all about Mott the Hoople.

Mott came on to Jupiter and then opened again with Hymn for the Dudes, followed by pretty much the same set list as in Monmouth. Ian had smartened himself up for a change, leaving off his usual polo shirt. The crowd in the stalls stayed on their feet for the whole two hour set and, again, the band looked to be loving it. There was a second drum kit set up next to the one that Martin Chambers was playing and it was uncovered for the encore. Buffin, looking extremely frail was led to the front of the stage and then slowly to his drum kit. It was heartbreaking to see him in that state, apparently suffering from Alzheimer’s. Martin looked after him though, supplementing Buff’s drumming and filling in for the bits he missed. Apparently he got his first drum kit from Buff forty years ago and was pleased to be able to give a bit back now that the opportunity had arisen. They got a great response at the end and I cleared off, just managing to catch the train that got me into Southampton not long after 1am.

I left work on the Friday even earlier than the previous day. I was checking into a posh hotel near The Embankment that my mate David had organised and had then had plans to go to an exhibition of photos that Morgan Fisher was showing about half an hour away. Morgan Fisher was the keyboard player on that first Mott the Hoople LP that my Mam had bought me. He took over from Verden Allen for the last year or so of the band. He wasn’t playing in the reunion but would be in the crowd for the shows, meeting his old mates backstage and taking the opportunity to show and sell some photos of Mott’s 1974 American tour. I got to the gallery about half an hour before it closed and as I went up the stairs was met by the sound of Morgan and John Fiddler playing Saturday Gigs. John was the singer in the post-Mott band British Lions. I listened to a couple more songs, looked at the photos and bought one. Morgan was very friendly, but I didn’t chat much, I always find it a little strange meeting people that I’m a fan of. I got back to the posh hotel, had a quick few beers with Paul, David and Doug and then hurried off to the gig.

I had two tickets for the circle for that night, but didn’t want to be up there. The stalls seemed to have a far better atmosphere and a much closer view, so I swapped my two for the circle with one for the stalls and then just before they came on made a dash for an empty front row seat that apparently had been set aside for photographers. Another great set, I cried a bit during the encore, shook Verden’s hand and we continued singing the ‘Goodbye’ bit of Saturday Gigs for at least five minutes after the band had left the stage. Met the lads in Covent Garden and, due to their connections, for the first time in my life walked past a queue to get into somewhere and was waved straight in as a VIP.

Saturday, I nipped off to see the Boro win at Reading before meeting up with Paul, Andy and David for seats toward the back of the stalls. I didn’t bother trying to get to the front this time, we just watched it all unfold from a distance. Another great show and with the added bonus of good company. I could have a fun time at a public execution with those lads, possibly even our own, if the weather was nice.

Monday and I was back again on the train after work. I’d swapped my spare ticket for Tuesday with someone who had a spare Monday one and that meant I’d see all five gigs. John, the bloke I was with, was an interesting character, he was driving an ice cream van to Greece the following week in the optimistic hope that there would be a big demand for 99’s over there. Glen Matlock was the support band and I nodded at Mick Jones on the way out. His arm seemed better now.

Tuesday, Joe Elliot did a covers set of Hunter and British Lions stuff as support, probably the best received support of the run. Too quickly though the final show was all over. They had got better throughout the week and seemed, like the crowd, to be having the time of their lives. It’s the little things that stick in my memory. The look on Ian Hunters face when he sang the line in Sweet Jane, ‘Me, I’m in a Rock and Roll band’ and the reaction of the crowd to the bit in Ballad Of Mott where he sings ‘And Pete’s still a Rock and Roll Star’.

I didn’t ever think I would get to see them and I’d never considered after the gigs were announced that they could possibly be so good, that they could play with the enthusiasm and vitality of a band forty years younger. Rock and Roll Queen could have been Oasis in their heyday, not a bunch of pensioners getting together for the first time in thirty five years. Let’s hope they do it all again in 2010.

Top ten lists to follow of sporting events, things I planned to do but didn’t, fishing trips and miscellaneous stuff that isn’t sporting events, things I didn’t do or fishing trips. My missed trip to the world angling championships may very well make all four lists. I hope to have them done by sometime in April.


  1. Nice Mick Jones line and I like that Boo song

  2. I thought you would get it. Well done with the photos.

  3. what happened to Mick Jones's arm?

  4. I think they put a pot on it for a few weeks. Good as new after that.

  5. Good List Sir, I used to like Ash many moons ago, so glad to see them still playing and indeed making your top ten.

  6. I go to all that effort to even put 'the link' in and I bet you didn't even click it!!!

  7. I think I was at my Nana's when it happened. I think I may have cried too.

  8. I clicked the Boo Hewerdine one, its not a bad version. Perhaps a Mick Jones link may be beneficial. Crying in disappointment at a rare Leeds success is perfectly acceptable in my opinion.

  9. I think someone should break it gently to Rick that it's not Wishbone Ash

  10. It's not Wishbone Ash? Oh, then i honestly have no idea who Craig is on about. Ash? no, never heard of them.

  11. A pity that there was no picture of your new handbag.