Wit, Wisdom & Whiskey

Ramblings from the band.

'A Few Thoughts On My Favourite Films (Pt.1 )' by Luke Morley

Apart from music, my other big obsession is films. One of my earliest memories is being taken to the cinema to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the first Beatles film when I was four years old and I’ve loved movies ever since.

My Father was and still is particularly fond of ‘westerns’ so in the sixties when this genre of film was still massively popular I went to see many a classic. The ones that still stand out for me are ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (the title of which will be familiar to anybody interested in Thunder), ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ and ‘Rio Bravo’. Interestingly they all have a similar theme running through them about disparate people coming together to do something they wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own.

All these stories are about friendship (‘Butch Cassidy’), redemption (the alcoholic ex-gunslinger played brilliantly by Dean Martin in ‘Rio Bravo’) and the sum of the parts being a greater force than the individuals (‘Magnificent Seven’). The relationships between the characters in all these films are all multi-layered despite the stories being essentially very simple. Bit like being in a band really! Talking of westerns and teamwork leads me neatly into ‘Way Out West’.

I can still remember a TV series presented by the late Bob Monkhouse that featured clips of silent movies and as a little boy I was intrigued by all these comic characters and the strange, speeded up, grainy films they all appeared in. None however, made me laugh like Laurel and Hardy.
The enduring popularity of their work is testament to the fact that they were way ahead of their time. You can see their influence down the years in everything from Morecambe and Wise to Little Britain. What made ‘Way Out West’ particularly special were the musical moments. The dance routine Stan and Ollie perform outside the saloon (Ollie moves incredibly daintily for a big man) and their duet on ‘Trail of The Lonesome Pine’ (which went to number one in the singles chart fifty years later!) are both timelessly magical.

The fact that good comedy is timeless is reflected in two of my other favourite films both of which share the same director, Billy Wilder.
‘Some Like It Hot’ is a film I’m sure nearly everybody is familiar with. It stars the beautiful and incandescently sexy Marilyn Monroe as a singing ukulele player (!!) and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as two cross-dressing musicians on the run from the Mafia. I suppose you could call it a romcom with a twist but it’s so much more than that. It also has the most memorable last line of any film before or since!
‘The Fortune Cookie’ is slightly more obscure but equally funny. Jack Lemmon also appears in this but the overwhelmingly brilliant performance in the movie is by Walter Matthau as a crooked lawyer. There’s a thick seam of Jewish New York humour running through the heart of this film and you can see similarities to Woody Allen and even hints of Larry David.

Being a musician means films about or concerning music are always of interest. Unfortunately, because there’s been so many appallingly bad ones made, I always approach them with a great deal of caution. To be fair it’s not so much the films in general, it’s how they deal with the act of making music that is so badly handled. For instance, ‘The Doors’ movie; I think Val Kilmer does a pretty good job of bringing Jim Morrison to life but the parts of the movie where the band are rehearsing or recording are frankly, unrealistic and embarrassing.
The genre has thankfully improved over the years and recently both ‘Ray’ (Jamie Foxx is so good you actually forget you’re watching an actor) and ‘Walk The Line’ are a lot more believable.
A music-based movie I love is ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’. Despite being dated, the film manages to weave great footage of Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran into a very funny romantic comedy. It also features the ultimate pneumatic, platinum blonde in Jayne Mansfield.
The last word in music movies however, is still ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. Everybody that’s ever been in a rock band will recognise a situation or a character they’ve encountered on the way to rock’n’roll glory. Whether it’s getting lost on our way to the stage or the in-store appearance where nobody turns up, we’ve all been there! The other remarkable thing about this film is the quality of the English accents. There have been so many American-made films over the years that have been terrible in that regard.
I also happen to have it on good authority that a certain internationally renowned band (who shall remain nameless) sat down to watch this and did not laugh once! Oh dear…if you don’t get ‘Tap’ you really shouldn’t be in a band!

Speaking of music-orientated movies, ‘The Last Waltz’ which is arguably the best ‘documentary’ type film ever made about a band, was directed by somebody more commonly associated with another genre of films, Martin Scorsese. Apparently the money he was paid to make ‘Last Waltz’ financed the making of ‘Meanstreets’ which was the movie that made people sit up and notice him.
Scorsese went on to make a lot of great films. He’ll always be associated firstly with ‘Goodfellas’, which is magnificent although I happen to like ‘Casino’ just as much. He has the ability to create absolutely believable characters (the bad guys have good points and the good guys are all flawed in some way), put them in an entirely credible situation even though it’s often a world most people have never and will never inhabit. His work with Robert De Niro and more recently Leonardo De Caprio has produced brilliant three-dimensional characters although when it comes to a pure acting tour de force, Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’ takes some beating. It’s amazing that such a tiny man with such a high, whiney voice can be so convincingly psychotic and terrifying.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on and I’m sure I probably will at some later stage.
In the meantime if you haven’t seen some of the films I’ve droned on about please do check them out; I promise you won’t regret it!

'How I Got In A Band...' by Danny Bowes

I've told this story many times, to a great many people over the years, so if you've heard it please hit your back button or skip on to the next chapter.

Way back in 1876, a short while after The Battle Of Little Big Horn, when Luke and I were 15, we were at school together. We went to Haberdashers' Askes Hatcham Boys School in the sunny and quaint parish of New Cross, South East London. It's a bit of a mouthful isn't it? Imagine what it was like to have to tell people when we were kids! We just called it Askes. He was in a band, with one other kid from our class called Malcolm (singer), and a kid I didn't know called Paul (drums). They had another member, but he left before I got there, so as I don't know it, he shall remain nameless. I was aware of the band, but for some unknown reason, not particularly curious.

I was however, seriously into music, and spent all of my money on records and concert tickets. I sang along in my bedroom to everything I heard, and lent and borrowed records like everyone else. I wore out my old cassette recorder, building up a veritable library of dodgy hissy and occasionally wobbly sounding recordings. I had no thought of being in a band.

One Thursday lunchtime, a bunch of us went back to Luke's house for a packet of crisps, a wagon wheel and a smoke (I didn't smoke but they did, and he lived the closest). Once in his flat it became clear to me that his place was nothing like mine. His Mum was an art historian, and had sculpted a life-size model of his head when he was a child. Mine was a real Mumsy type Mum, who offered a boiled egg as the remedy to almost every ailment. His bedroom had a giant baked beans billboard poster on the wall (to cover the cracks he said), mine had a couple of Sounds front covers.

Not being a smoker, I escaped the pong in the front room, and fled to Luke's bedroom with my cup of tea and wagon wheel. That's where I saw it. It was red and sparkly, and probably very cheap, but it glowed and shimmered as I sat on the bed looking at it (probably not true, but it felt like a special moment). I was blown away by all the shiny chrome hardware, and the sheer size of it. It was magical, it was a drum kit, and I was smitten...

Now being smitten is all very well, but having no money, and no chance of getting money, it was clear to me that owning a drum kit wasn't going to happen. I accepted that immediately, but the thought of it wouldn't leave me alone, I just had to be near it again. I sat up all that night thinking about it, and eventually made what turned out to be a life changing decision...

Next day, I sat next to Luke in Economics (I never sat next to Luke in Economics, but I'm not really sure why, as we were both useless economists). Anyway, during a break from something I'm sure I found very very dull, I told him I was a singer (I played no instruments so with no money, this was the only way). He told me to bugger off (or words to that effect). Unperturbed, I gave him chapter and verse about how good I was. He listened, then repeated his earlier reply. It was not going well. Eventually, having exhausted all other avenues, I told him I had a microphone. Bingo! It worked. You have to understand that in 1876, 15 year olds had no equipment, so saying I owned a microphone practically made me a pro in his eyes. The fact that it was a poker faced lie was irrelevant. He told me I should collect some records from his house after school, learn them on Saturday, then return to his house (with my microphone of course) at 11am on Sunday morning, when he would give me an audition, and he would tell me if I was a singer or not. Job done, I was in...

So let's just recap: - I'd lied through my teeth to get an audition to be the singer in a band I'd never heard. I had to learn a load of songs I'd also never heard, and then sing out loud in public for the first time, with a microphone I didn't own. None of this occurred to me at the time.

As luck would have it my uncle had been in a band years before, and he had an old microphone (which sounded so terrible, it improved to sounding plain awful if you put a cloth over it). I told him about the audition, and he agreed to lend it to me. I learned the songs, and felt very confident when I got to Luke's place on the Sunday. We then got in a car with Paul's uncle Alf and he drove us to Paul's house in Ladywell. Suddenly, sitting in the back of the car, the enormity of what I was about to do hit me, and I got very nervous. My confidence just drained away there in the back seat, my mouth went dry, the lyrics and melodies I'd learned deserted me. By the time we got there I was a nervous wreck.

Paul's place was more like mine than Luke's, but he had a really cool attic bedroom, with the drum kit in it, and loads of Who posters on the walls. I was introduced to Tony, a black kid who was Luke's best friend and also a guitar player, with a WEM Dominator guitar combo (I was impressed). It had 2 inputs (places to plug in), and we had 2 guitars plus "my" microphone, so after doing some nifty calculations, we decided the best plan was to alternate, while Paul played drums with each combination. I sang with Luke and Paul, then with Tony and Paul, and then I sat and watched while they did instrumentals. I couldn't believe how different it was to sing out loud, and how hard it was to hear what I was singing. It was nothing like singing in my bedroom, and I thought I sounded awful. We were at it all afternoon, and I hated it. Well that's not strictly true; I didn't hate it, just me really.

When they'd had enough, I was sent to make a cup of tea while they talked about me. It's true; they said it just like that. I made the tea and fretted. When I came back with the tray, they asked if I'd ever been in a band before, and I was honest (for the first time) and said no. They told me I was really good, and I could be the singer if I wanted.

I was chuffed, but also slightly perplexed. They were musicians, they had equipment, they could play them, so logic told me they must have known what they were talking about. But I was still convinced I was rubbish, so as I sat on the bus on the way home, I couldn't help wondering if they actually knew anything about music. I came to the conclusion that if I couldn't hear what I was singing, then perhaps they couldn't either. I have no idea why, but that somehow made it alright.

In case you're wondering, Luke had a word with Malcolm, and he moved sideways from singer to bass player, and then sideways again out the door a few years later, but then returned eventually as our manager when we became Thunder. Funny old game...

'Childline Rocks Diary' by Luke Morley

Monday 10th March 2008

First rehearsal day. LM, HJ, BM & CC meet Terminal Studios 11am. Run through Thunder set (Loser, River Of Pain, Low Life In High Places, ILYMTR+R).
DB arrives 12pm. Run Loser, ROP and ILYMTR+R again but we decide to leave ‘Low Life’ until production rehearsal at the venue on 12/03.

Looking forward to playing a couple of Who songs with Roger Daltrey who’s due in today @ 3pm. I spoke with Bob Pridden (Roger Daltrey’s right hand man) a few days before and agreed we would routine three Who songs; ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘5.15’ and ‘Substitute’. Bob calls me at 1pm to say Roger wants to do ‘Kids Are Alright’. I dash home to collect my Who collection then back to the studio and we quickly learn ‘Kids’ with Danny singing Roger’s part.

Bob arrives @ Terminal 2pm. Bob has been sent on ahead by Roger, presumably to make sure we’re not crap! By the time Roger arrives we’ve also re-learnt ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. We run through ‘Kids’ and Roger adds an ad-libbed section to the end of the song that works well. He is quite nervous which is I suppose understandable considering he doesn’t know us from Adam but, slight awkwardness notwithstanding we get through ‘Kids’ and ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ before jamming the old Elvis song ‘Train, Train’. He says we should do it on the night. I’m not convinced. He leaves a lot less tense then when he arrived which is a relief.

Tuesday 11th March 2008


Arrive Terminal 10.30am. Quick update conversation with our production manager Adrian Basketfield. He and I have been speaking several times a day for the last few weeks. He is dealing with all logistical aspects of the gig and I’m in charge of co-ordinating the musical content. Everything is running smoothly so stress levels remain thankfully low.

Check guitars. I’m using more than usual due to the varied styles of the artists involved.

Ian Paice arrives @ 12pm and begins to set his own kit up which is not what I expected! I’d met Ian before albeit quite briefly, when we’ve worked with Deep Purple and he’s a really genuine and funny guy. He explains that 26 hours earlier he’d left Venezuela where Purple had just finished a South American tour. He’s obviously a bit spaced out so we ply him with strong coffee. It’s really good of him to have volunteered to do the gig and he doesn’t stop cracking jokes all day. Nice man!

Glenn Hughes arrives @ 1pm. He hasn’t played with Ian for 30-odd years and it’s 34 years since I saw them playing together in Deep Purple at Lewisham Odeon on the tour to promote ‘Burn’…….. weird!

We run through ‘Mistreated’ and Glenn finishes the song with an ad-libbed vocal work out as only he can! He sings so high that most of the dogs in London SE1 must have been very confused for a while. We then take on ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ and Danny assumes the David Coverdale role. It all goes so well that we only need to run the two songs once. Very strange how I get to be Pete Townshend and Ritchie Blackmore in the same 24 hours!!

Russ Ballard arrives @ 3pm. Russ has written so many hits that it must have been difficult for him to decide what to play but he plumps for ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’. I’m sure the irony of playing a song most people associate with Rainbow wasn’t lost on Ian but you’d never have known. Chris takes over bass duties for Russ’s song along with the legendary Steve Smith on keyboards and the lovely (and currently brunette) Tara McDonald gives us a backing vocal boost as well as lending some much-needed glamour to the proceedings.
We rattle through ‘SYBG’ a couple of times and it all sounds lovely.

Ian, Chris and I run through an instrumental version of ‘Faith Healer’ which we’re going to be playing with Fish. He can’t make rehearsal as he’s in the middle of a tour so we have to try and imagine a very tall Scottish man singing!

Ian heads off home for some much-needed kip and Harry takes over behind the drums for the rest of the day.

Lulu arrives @ 4pm along with her MD (musical director) Mark Taylor. Mark is a great piano player. Danny and I worked with him on ‘Mo’s Barbeque’ (he plays the beautiful solo at the end of ‘On A Day Like Today’).

Lulu has an amazing energy about her. She has all the men in the room eating out of her hand in minutes. It really is quite something to observe. She’s instantly likeable and very funny with a wicked sense of humour. She also, it must be said, has a lovely bottom!
We successfully negotiate the newish arrangement of ‘To Sir With Love’ then ‘Shout’, which is great fun to play. Lulu seems to enjoy herself and dances around while flirting with everyone at the same time. She really is great fun. We finish around 5.30pm and head off for a well-earned pint.

Wednesday 12th March 2008


Set up day at the Indigo2. The crew are still tweaking things when we arrive just before 4pm for Thunder soundcheck. The venue is very impressive and nicely designed. We run through our set, then the Roger Daltrey songs before ending with the two Lulu tunes.

Thursday 13th March


Show day. We arrive at the gig 3pm. Marillion are soundchecking. There are only three of them today as they’re performing a short acoustic set.
Pop into the production office to see Adrian and it’s a hive of activity. Trudi Harris (Bob Harris’s wife) is a very important part of the team and she and her girls are sorting out the grizzly business of the guest list, which is never a pleasant task at a gig like this! Say hi to Bob who’s his usual, amiable self.
We start to soundcheck the ‘all star band’ around 3.45pm. Ian checks his kit before Russ, Glenn, Fish and finally Lulu (who arrives late after being stuck in traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel; funny that!) all run through their songs. We then attempt to rehearse the finale ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. I chose the song for a number of reasons; i) the sentiment of the song seemed to fit a charitable occasion like this; ii) everybody knows it; iii) there are enough lyrics in the song for all the singers to be able to sing a couple of lines each. I even printed off several lyric sheets to pass amongst the vocalists in a schoolteacherly way in the vain hope that it might promote a hint of organisation….ha ha ha!! After a fairly shambolic run through we huddled around the drum riser and I allotted specific lines to specific vocalists. Everyone got into the spirit of ‘organised chaos’ with the exception of Colin Blunstone of The Zombies who simply ran away! Somebody remarked that I might have frightened him with my school-masterly manner!
All the artists were then gathered together for a five-minute photo call and then it was dinner time.
I retired to the Thunder dressing room and slipped into my sparkly boob tube in preparation for the show. After Bob Harris’s opening words we took to the stage and did what Thunder do. It went very well bar an exploding guitar string and the four songs flew past. Fish followed us on to the stage although I didn’t get to see any of his set.
I watched The Zombies who were terrific and a bit of Marillion’s well received set before it was time to get up again for the ‘all star band’ section of the evening. Everything went very smoothly and every artist raised their game. As is always the way with these things it flew past. I did however look around the stage several times during the evening and take it all in. Let’s face it it’s not everyday you get to play with so many great musicians and I didn’t want to not enjoy the moment.


'Hands Up If You're Proud To Be British' by Harry James

It may or may not surprise you to learn that I’m very proud to be British, and I’m certain that even if I could have my pick of countries, I could never live anywhere other than the UK. I hear people constantly moaning about the state of GB: - the government, Tony Blair, the National Health Service, interest rates, the Royal Family. I could go on but I’m sure you get my point. I wonder if other countries have similar kinds of issues? All information would be welcome.

We’ve produced some of the best footballers the world has ever seen, great inventions and amazing scientific advances, not to mention some of the best rock’n’roll & pop bands, the list goes on and on. So there are clearly lots of things to celebrate about being British.

Now you should know I’m not one to moan, anyone will tell you, but…

I tried making an appointment with the doctor the other day and I was told I could have an appointment in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s a good job it wasn’t urgent! It was only a minor ailment, but it wound me up a tad. Like I said I’m not one to moan, but the little episode with the doctors' appointment set me thinking, so I had a trawl around the internet. Here are a few amusing things I found….

Being British is about driving in a German car, to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, and then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry, or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

And the most British thing of all: - Suspicion of anything foreign! Oh the irony.. Ha ha!

Only in Britain…


1. Can you get a pizza delivered to your house faster than an ambulance.

2. Do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

3. Do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a Diet coke.

4. Do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive, and lock our junk and cheap lawn mowers in the garage.

5. Do we use answering machines to screen calls, and then have call waiting, so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.

6. Are there disabled parking places in front of a skating rink.

(It may not be only in Britain but help me out here..)

And Did You Know?

3 Brits die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.

142 Brits were injured in 1999 by not removing all pins from new shirts.

58 Brits are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

31 Brits have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.

19 Brits have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.

British Hospitals reported 4 broken arms last year after cracker pulling accidents.

101 people since 1999 have had broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.

18 Brits had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth.

A massive 543 Brits were admitted to A&E in the last two years after Opening bottles of beer with their teeth.

5 Brits were injured last year in accidents involving out of Control Scalextric cars.

And finally...

In 2000 eight Brits cracked their skull whilst throwing up into the toilet (ouch).

I sincerely hope other countries have similar statistical figures, but I had a good look and I couldn’t find them.

Don't get me wrong..


I know I'm coming across the moaners I was knocking earlier, but I'm only teasing. I love my country, I love the history, the geography and of course the Great British mentality (most of the time). I love The Premiership, Crystal Palace FC (of course), and a traditional sunday roast, and like a great many Brits, I also love to travel. Luckily for me, being in a band has enabled me to visit lots of countries in this ever shrinking world, but no matter where I go, I always look forward to arriving back on British soil. Perhaps the flaws are what make it more appealing?

Now in the absence of a magic wand, I'm going to click my red heels together twice and say “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.. C'mon Toto!”.

Thanks for reading...

'A Strange Day' by Ben Matthews

A while back someone asked me, via the website, what my connection with JJ Marsh was and reminded me that I had promised a piece for the Wit, Wisdom and Whiskey section of this site. The story is a part of a rather strange day I had at a festival in Holland (I’m sure I’m not the only person in History to have had a strange day at a festival in Holland); the story goes something like this.

It was a dull, grey morning and I had just got off our tour bus. I found myself backstage at the Arrow rock festival (2005) and I was hungry so I started looking for Catering.

Catering is the most popular place at any festival, a bit like the kitchen at parties. In fact if you ever ask the whereabouts of someone you’re looking for, the most likely answer you’ll receive is “Have you tried Catering?” This is not, as it would appear, career advice for, as the capital C denotes, Catering is a place and deserves proper noun status.

So there I was, standing backstage in a field, looking a little lost when I heard a voice behind me say, in a heavy Glaswegian accent, “Is that you Ben Matthews?” I turned round and standing in front of me was a real blast from my past; a guy called Mick Boyle.

Now I need to wind the clock back to the mid 1980s when I was a young lad working for the English office of a Swedish based record company known as Sonet Records. Sonet decided to buy their very own English recording studio, handed over the keys and told me to go and run it. Their reasoning was that I had been in a few studios as a youngster in various bands I had played in, this was hardly a qualification but hey! – I had my own studio to play with.

Here I met a chap who became one of my best friends – Kenny Denton; he is an engineer and producer and taught me everything I know. One of the first sessions I did with Kenny was a band known as Glasgow, they were from Glasgow and the album we did was entitled “041” which was the telephone area code for Glasgow at the time, you can see the theme here right?



These boys were a lot of fun and we had a great time making the album, unfortunately fame and fortune eluded the band and they broke up and went their separate ways. But now, here, standing in front of me in a field in darkest Holland was the singer of Glasgow – I hadn’t seen him in nearly twenty years. He now drives a big black truck for a rock and roll trucking company known as TransAm Trucking, I’m sure you’ve seen them parked outside music venues or on a motorway somewhere. He was driving a truck load of gear for the band Dream Theatre who were on the bill that day. We had a good chat about old times and agreed to stay in touch; he checked directions on his trucks satellite navigation system and showed me the way to catering.


“Can you spot anyone familiar playing on this album?”
(click to enlarge)

Not the most amazing coincidence in history of coincidences" I hear you cry; but the day continues:

As I was sitting in Catering later on that day, I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard someone say “Hey – Ben Matthews” this time in a Spanish accent. I looked up from my Dutch scrambled eggsh and baconsh and there was another ghost from my past, a Spanish journalist who actually lived across the road from and worked at Sonet twenty odd years ago. This was getting a little strange I thought to myself, what are the chances of meeting two people you haven’t seen for twenty years on the same day, in Holland? But there was more to come.

We played our set and came off stage to tremendous applause – I'd had a couple of beers by now, and as we walked into our dressing room, full of adrenalin and alcohol, I could hear people singing in the dressing room next door. They were singing “You Fool No One” which happens to be one of my favourite Deep Purple songs, I realised that this was Glenn Hughes and his band warming up as they were on next band on stage.

Not being a shy person after a beer or two I decided that I would go into their dressing room, listen to the song and wish them good luck, so off I trotted, opened the door and said “Hi – love that song, have a great show”, then to my surprise I heard for the third time that day “Hey, Ben Matthews”

This time it was an unmistakeable Swedish accent (bear in mind we can spot one a mile away because of Mickey Höglund our dear old friend and previous Thunder bass player from Sverige).

I looked round and there was another blast from the past – JJ Marsh

So let’s wind that clock back again to the very same period in the 80s. One of the first bands I ever worked with as an engineer and indeed got my first ever album credit for was a Swedish band called Spellbound. They were signed to Sonet on the Swedish label but wanted to come to England to record their album with the legendary Vic Maille. Vic was responsible for many a great album including Motorhead and Dr Feelgood and was great friends with Kenny Denton. I was to be the engineer for this particular project and was really looking forward to working with Vic. During the recording it came to my notice, being a guitar player myself, that the two young Swedish whippersnappers in this band were both very talented guitarists indeed, it also came to my notice that these guys ate nothing but McDonalds for six weeks during the album recording. The guitarists were called Al Strandberg and, of course you’ve guessed it by now – JJ Marsh.


“JJ is in the pink jacket – Al in black PVC bondage gear” (click to enlarge)

  I had often wondered what became of the pair of them as they both really could play and talent has a tendency to stick around so it was a real great surprise to see this old friend about to take the stage with Glenn Hughes. I watched the set standing next to the Spanish journalist whilst Mick from Glasgow tooted the horn on his big truck and wondered if it was all some kind of sign, my past catching up with me… Nah, just a coincidence, but a nice one at that.


“The 80’s, a decade of questionable fasion” (click to enlarge)

JJ now plays guitar and co writes with Glenn Hughes’ band and for those of you that don’t know (shame on you – you know who you are); Glenn played bass and sang in both Trapeze and Deep Purple before embarking on a variety of projects collaborating with the likes of Pat Thrall, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chilli Peppers).



Click below to hear one of my favourite
JJ Spellbound solos

Windows Media
mp3


'Something Missing?' by Ben Matthews

CLICK ON IMAGES BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSIONS.
All Thunder photos copyright 2006 Les Linyard


I suppose you think being in a band is all limousines, luxury hotels and free hair product? Well you’re right, it is and it’s brilliant – apart from the free hair product unfortunately.

On the first day of a tour, I step on board the tour bus, and all my worries disappear as I ease back into the luxury leather bound sofa, kick off my boots, and browse through the DVD selection.

I have a tour manager to point me in the right direction (physically not morally), and I never have to remember where the hotel is (because it’s always just outside the tour bus!). He will make sure I'm in the right place at the right time, wearing the right attire, he'll have my laundry done, and keep me up to date with the latest on England’s progress in the cricket – usually delivered as an exceptionally bad Richie Benaud 1 impersonation.

I have a wonderful guitar tech 2 called Brian to look after all my guitars, amps and keyboards, if I break ‘em he can fix 'em. He’s even been known to walk on stage during the show and give me the correct guitar as I've been known, on occasion, to forget to change guitars at the right time.

I seem to remember that we played “Moth To The Flame” on one particular tour, and it required a guitar change (we had our guitars tuned a step down 3 just for this song). I started the song by myself with a little bit of guitar noodling 4, oblivious to the fact it was on the wrong guitar. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there was Brian with a bemused look on his face and the correct guitar in his hand.

So, on the face of it, you can see that it would be difficult for anything major to go wrong. This is true – until you take the professional out of the equation and leave it to the musician.

It was the rescheduled Norwich show that caused the problem, let me explain. I always take one of my own Gibson Les Pauls on tour in Japan and rent a spare, this means when I fly home the guitar travels with me and ends up at my house, instead of in the band's storage unit.

Our next show was in Norwich two weeks later, and Luke and I decided to drive up in my car. I spent the entire morning doing the pre-show preparation essentials (i.e. choosing my sparkly costume, polishing my boots, and stocking up on hair products). Eventually I was ready; Luke was knocking at the door, so we jumped in the car and headed for Norwich.

I was meeting Charlie Cash at the venue. He's a friend of the band, and we like to call him Charles because it sounds posh and we’re convinced it annoys him. Now excuse me if I digress, but let me explain a little bit about him.

Charles has two strings to his bow, first of all he's a Sports Injury Therapist who quite often comes to a show and gives us a few sporting injuries before we go on. Well not quite, but he gives us the once over to loosen up our tight spots.


Too heavy to stand up with


Too valuable to stand up with

Secondly, he owns a splendid collection of rare Ibanez guitars, which he was very keen to show us. On a dual purpose trip to Charles’ clinic we had an extensive tour of the said axes 5 and he had a slightly less than extensive but altogether more painful tour of our anatomies. I found a couple of guitars that fitted quite nicely, but Charles insisted they were not for sale; one was an Ibanez Explorer 2459 from 1977 and the other an Ibanez 2675 custom agent.

Charles told us that he would love to hear what they sounded like through a large sound system, so we duly arranged for him to bring a couple of my favourites from his collection down to Norwich, where I would put them through their paces during our soundcheck 6.

It was early afternoon when I arrived at the venue, and I walked into the hall and onto the stage to be greeted by Brian, after a hearty handshake, and a quick look at the equipment Brian asked me if I had remembered to bring my main Les Paul….

… well you can guess the answer, I looked at him in a slightly puzzled and a slightly concerned way, and the conversation went something like this:

“Have you got the Black Les Paul with you?”
“What do you mean Brian?"
“The Les Paul was at your house, you did bring it didn’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You were going to bring the guitar with you in the car, to Norwich – remember?”
“I was going to bring what, in what, to where?"
“The guitar you took to Japan that ended up at your house, you had it on the plane”
“Oh yes, you mean the Black Les Paul?”
“Yes”
“The one I was bringing with me today?”
“Yes”
“In the car?”
“Yes”
“To Norwich?”
“Yes”
“For the show tonight?”
“Yes, have you got it?”
“No – I forgot!”
“Mmmm! Houston I think we have a problem”


“Not sure about the shape”

.
“sssh I know it’s a Telecaster but I don’t think anyone’s noticed”


Luke: “Where’s Ben”
Chris: “Gone home - something about a Black Les Paul”

So, as you can plainly see, it was all Brian’s fault, as he forgot to remind me to bring it; such is the lot of a guitar tech. It’s really no good relying on a musician to remember such a trivial thing as bringing a guitar to a show. And that concludes the case for the defence Mi'Lud.

This meant that I didn’t have my main Les Paul for the show – not a major problem as Brian had brought another Les Paul which would do the job nicely, but I had no backup – this could prove to be a bit tricky if I broke a string or something major went wrong with the guitar. At this point I had considered the following:
 
  • Driving home to get it
  • Sending someone else off to get it
  • Getting a taxi to get it
  • Becoming a drummer (yes things were that desperate)
     

Then I noticed Charles sitting on the edge of the stage and in his hand was my salvation. He had brought the rather splendid Ibanez Explorer; this was a Gibson clone, and a very fine instrument indeed. He was oblivious to the crisis situation, but his eyes lit up when I told him my predicament, and that his guitar would be my spare for the evening.

“Now I’ll really get to hear what it sounds like!” he said, as he handed it over to Brian.


"Cheers Charles"

     

     
The Ibanez Explorer in action

I tried it out in the sound check and it sounded perfect (he had also brought the another Ibanez 2675 but that was a little too valuable and far too heavy to be played, so I just played with that during soundcheck) – In fact it sounded so good I used the Explorer towards the end of the set during Dirty Love and it performed admirably, shame the same couldn’t be said for me!


All’s well that ends well


Thanks Charles, you and your trusty Ibanez saved saved my bacon....



Hi everyone, great story isn't it... and you thought they were professional!! Watching them is just like being at a race meeting with the superbikes (just as chaotic) which is where we met them through Hawk Kawasaki (who I work with). Let me tell you a bit about the guitars. The Destroyer is a copy of the Gibson Explorer which, this one was made in 1977, and is part of the Golden Oldies Series. The wood is referred to as African korena, but is actually Japanese sen (ash). A bit about the law suit era which these guitars come from. A lot of companies were making Gibson copies at this time, and as you can guess Gibson where none too pleased. As Ibanez were the biggest producer at the time Gibson wanted to make an example of them, so they were taken to court on June 28 1977. The basis of the claim was the infringement of trademark, based on the copying of Gibson headstock logos. When these guitars were made retailers kept hearing players say their Ibanez Les Paul plays better than their real Les Paul, also, Gibson ended up giving Ibanez an unintended tribute by all but admitting that their was no perceptible difference between an Ibanez and Gibson guitar. The 2675 guitar is the jewel in the crown of our collection. We have been informed that there is only a hand full of these known of in the world. I feel sorry for the person who painstakingly took hours to inlay all the mother of pearl into the body, just look at the pictures. It sounds as good as it looks. Isn't Benjamin a lucky boy, all these toys to play with...see below pictures of our collection...
Cheers
Charles...









 


Key:

1
A legendary Australian cricket commentator
2 Guitar technician, used to be called a roadie but they get a bit sensitive about it these days
3 To make them sound really butch
4 Fiddling about on the guitar, occasionally to the pleasure/amusement of the audience
5 Colloquial term for guitars
6 Checking the sounds but really just messing about before dinner is ready
 

'Japan Tour Diary' by Luke Morley

CLICK ON IMAGES BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSIONS.

27/06/05
Convene Heathrow Terminal 3 at 5.30pm to check in for JAL flight 422, departing 8.00pm and arriving tomorrow 4.10pm in Osaka.
Traveling party consists of the band plus tour manager Mark (Chopper) Harris, front of house sound engineer Big Pete Russell and cameraman and part time member of the magic circle Mark (W.W.W.) Wilkinson.

Amy & Tom

I love going to Japan but the prospect of 12 hours in economy with its lack of leg room isn’t filling me with joy. I manage to drift in and out of sleep for maybe two hours. I was hoping there’d be a couple of decent films to watch that I hadn’t yet seen but there’s only ‘Hitch’. I watch it anyway and it’s very predictable. I also watch ‘Million Dollar Baby’ which I have seen already but it helps to kill another three hours for which I am grateful.

Osaka Station

28/06/05
Arrive Osaka at 4.10pm exactly on time. We’re met at the airport by our old friend Tom Tao (interpreter and co-ordinator) and Amy Ida (promoter’s representative). We’ve not met Amy before but she is very friendly and speaks great English. Just as well as our Japanese is rubbish despite having been there many times (16 in my case).

Magic Toilet

We’re transported by minibus to our home in Osaka, the Nankai Swiss Hotel. We have stayed there before but it’s been revamped and redesigned. It used to have enormous bathrooms furnished decadently in sumptuous black marble. Unfortunately they’ve made the rooms smaller and the bathrooms are now spectacularly ordinary. The one thing remaining the same is the hi-tech toilet. I kid you not, these contraptions are truly amazing. Apart from performing the usual functions, they have heated seats (the temperature of which you can change according to your mood), they have an internal ‘shower’ and they serve as bidets. They still fascinate me as much as they did when we first came here fifteen years ago.

Magic Toilet

At 7pm we congregate for the mandatory production meeting with all the Japanese crew who will be working with us. We run through our individual needs and wants while Tom translates furiously. He is an accomplished guitar player himself so he has a good grasp on everything.
 

We then head out for dinner. This is always a highlight of our tours here. We’ve learned to trust our hosts’ judgement on where and what to eat and they never let us down. Tonight’ sparticular highlight was the minced pork and garlic dumplings which were so popular we kept ordering more until we had to scream ‘Please, no more!’ Everything is washed down with copious amounts of beer and then a little hot sake.

Osaka

We finish the evening in our favourite Osaka watering hole ‘Club Rock Rock’ hosted by the lovely Yoko, another old friend. Rock Rock is a little bar that plays great music. The staff are very friendly and always seem to be enjoying themselves. The walls are adorned with polaroids of all the bands who’ve popped in for a drink over the years. Myself, Danny and WWW are the last to leave at 4.30am. Must be the jet lag!!!

29/06/05
Wake up around 12.30pm which is amazing for me. I usually get awful jet lag when I arrive here. My hangover is mercifully mild and we meet in the hotel lobby at 2.15pm to travel to tonight’s gig, the ‘Big Cat’. Soundcheck is a little fraught as Harry’s drum kit has a piece missing which won’t be turning up until we get to the next show in Nagoya. We’re on stage at 7pm with no support band which is how it’s always been here. Throughout Japan gigs always take place earlier than they do in England. This is to accommodate people catching the train home because trains don’t run very late here apparently. It always feels a bit strange sitting in the dressing room at 9pm having already finished a 110 minute show.

Osaka

The show itself goes very well considering. My roadie is a bit confused about when to remove my acoustic guitar and it disappears into the wings at the wrong point in ‘Love Walked In’. He apologises profusely afterwards but there’s really no need. All in all he did a great job for me and Harry. The only other minor complaint was that the air conditioning in the dressing room wasn’t working. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but when the temperature is in the high eighties with 90% humidity, it’s a little sweaty to say the least. The only good thing about this is it’s great for Danny’s voice, so he doesn’t mind one bit.

We do a post show meet and greet as always but it’s organized differently here. We sit down at a table and the punters come through one door, file past us in an orderly fashion then file out another door and that’s it. It’s very precise and very Japanese in its style. Nearly all the fans in the meet and greet are female and some are very nervous. They love to present us with photographs of themselves with us which has always struck me as a little strange. We are often given gifts as well which is very sweet.

Dinner tonight is ‘Shabu Shabu’. This is a traditional Japanese style of cooking where you cook thin slices of beef and vegetables at the table in pots of boiling water and stock before dipping them into various sauces, one of which consists of nothing more than a raw egg! It is truly lovely and we all stuff ourselves. We wander along to ‘Rock Rock’ again for a drink or two and I get to bed at 3.30am.

30/06/05

Day off.
Leave the hotel at 1pm and catch the Bullet train to Nagoya. The journey takes around an hour and a half. The Bullet train is a great way to travel. It goes up to nearly 200mph and is more like being in a plane than on a train. It’s clean, very comfortable and always on time. I watch the Japanese countryside flash by while listening to my iPod and fairly soon doze off, waking just as we arrive.

The obligatory minibus takes us to the ‘Trusty Hotel’ and we check in. Our rooms are compact and bijou to say the least. I ponder the question of how and where to open my suitcase and conclude that if I rest it across the armchair and stand on the bed, I should be able to do it without actually leaving the room. ‘Bloody rock musicians,’ I hear you say; ‘always complaining about something.’ Well, when you’ve stayed in as many hotels as I have, believe me it is irritating when every time you walk into the bathroom you nearly decapitate yourself. Still, at least the bed is comfortable and we are situated in the middle of town.

Do nothing all afternoon and in the evening Tom takes us to a restaurant specializing in chicken wings which apparently is a local speciality. Very nice they are too. The local promoter has invited us to a beer garden which we walk to.  Tom's sense of direction is rubbish however and we end up taking a circuitous route. Nobody minds as it’s good to walk off the dinner and take a look around downtown Nagoya at night. Get back to the hotel at 2.30pm for a relatively early night.

01/07/05

Nagoya Mall

Sleep late again waking at midday. Pop out to find something to eat for breakfast. Expecting the same hot, humid weather I’m wearing
t-shirt, shorts and sandals. It turns out to be drizzling and overcast; bugger! Meet Harry on the street and we go for a walk to find a bank with an ATM machine. Pick up some interesting looking things to eat in the local 7/11 shop and head back to room.

Chis backstage at E.L.L.

Leave hotel for gig at 2.15pm. We’re playing in a place called ‘E.L.L.’ which we discover stands for ‘Electric Ladyland’ as in the Jimi Hendrix album. Sound check is more relaxed. The venue facilities are up to the usual excellent Japanese standards. There are enough lights on stage to light Wembley Arena and during sound check the lighting man is referred to jokingly by Danny as ‘the chef’ due to the fact that we know he’ll be cooking us later.

Danny at Temple Nagoya

After sound check we wander a few hundred yards along the road to a local temple to take a few photographs. As we leave the venue, twenty or so fans that have gathered outside follow us taking photos and thrusting various things into our hands to be signed. We climb the steps to the Temple and look inside. I automatically assume that it’s been there hundreds of years when in reality it’s a replica built in the 1970’s on the sight of where a temple used to be. A lot of Japan was bombed very heavily in the 2nd world war and precious few of its ancient buildings remain. Gig goes very well and after another stunning meal we end up in an Aussie bar for a few beers.

Mark (W.W.W.) Wilkinson

02/07/05
Leave hotel at 10.45am and take Bullet train to Yokohama (suburb of Tokyo). From there we’re taken by minibus to Kawasaki (another Tokyo suburb) where we’re playing the next two nights in ‘Club Citta’. We’ve played the club many times over the past ten years or so but they’ve rebuilt it since the last time we were here which was Bowes & Morley in 2002. The new building is marvellous. It has a fully functional 24 track studio attached and a video editing suite. The gig itself looks very similar but has improved acoustically and the dressing rooms are greater in number and less cramped.

Club Citta fans!!

Sound check runs very smoothly and as there are a couple of hours to kill before showtime (6.00pm tonight), Harry and I both decide to have a quick nap on the huge sofas in the recording studio control room.

The gig is fantastic. The audience is phenomenally loud in all the right places and silent in all the quiet bits. During the first verse of ‘Don’t Wait For Me’ you could’ve literally heard a pin drop. It’s a respect thing but it is strangely off-putting when you’re used to people screaming and shouting stuff throughout the set everywhere else in the world. Both our Japanese labels (Toshiba/EMI and JVC/Victor) are in attendance this evening so we’re naturally very pleased the show went so well.

Roppongi Prince Hotel

We’re driven from the venue to our usual hotel in Tokyo, the Roppongi Prince. Roppongi is Tokyo’s cosmopolitan party district. It’s the equivalent of Soho in London; all bars, clubs and restaurants.

Spirits are high over dinner which is Korean barbecue, another cook it yourself at the table type thing consisting of various thinly sliced cuts of beef cooked with vegetables on a grill pan. Danny and I investigate the precise origin of the meat which is mouth-wateringly tender and extremely tasty. It turns out to be cow’s diaphragm which we decide to keep from the rest of the boys until after dinner as some of them (WWW and Harry) might not have been tucking in so heartily had they realized what they were eating.

After dinner all of us (apart from Danny who very conscientiously makes his way back to the hotel to look after his voice as we’re recording tomorrow’s show) walk around the corner to our favourite bar in Tokyo, the ‘Sports Bar’. A couple of us were hoping they’d be showing the one-day cricket final between England and Australia but unfortunately they weren’t. The bar is full of ex-pat Europeans, Aussies and Americans and you truly feel like you’re in an international city. The manager of the Bar recognizes me from a previous trip and we chat for a while. He’s called Pete and he’s from Sheffield and he insists on serving us huge gin and tonics; good man! End up leaving the bar very late; not sure how late but it was daylight!!!!!

03/07/05

Meet WWW for a cup of tea before we leave for the venue. Both of us are a little grey around the gills so I search my trusty travel bag for aspirin and we’re in luck. It’s Sunday so driving to Kawasaki doesn’t take as long as it would on a week day and we’re there in 40 minutes or so. During sound check we decide to change the set around a little bit (the set is the same as it was on the UK tour) so we substitute ‘River Of Pain’ for ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Until My Dying Day’ for ‘Love Walked In’. We also include ‘She’s So Fine’ as the first encore as we haven’t done it for ages and we busk our way through ‘All The Young Dudes’ and ‘Pinball Wizard’. In the end we opt for the latter as it’s a bit more ‘up’.

The show goes very well once again and our old friend the journalist Masa Itoh very kindly presents us with a bottle of Champagne with which we toast the end of the tour.

The after show meet and greet goes on for nearly two hours after which we’re whisked back to our hotel and then out for our last dinner. We’re taken to an amazing Japanese restaurant which looks like a set from ‘Kill Bill’. We subsequently find out that Tarantino was taken to this restaurant and based the restaurant scene in Kill Bill on this building. Apparently it’s also where the Japanese Prime Minister had dinner with George W. Bush the last time he visited Japan.

By the end of dinner it’s 2.30am and everyone is truly shattered. We say our goodbyes to all and sundry and head back to the hotel tired but happy.

04/07/05

Check out of hotel at 9.00am and arrive at Narita airport 10.15am to check in for flight JAL401 leaving at 12.00pm.

The usually efficient JAL staff are obviously having a bad day. Check-in goes on for an hour because they can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that we’re travelling as a group. It transpires that Monday is training day when all new employees get a chance to practice their newly acquired skills on the general public. Eventually we get past the check-in desk, say goodbye to Tom and Amy and head through into duty free. The plane is delayed 40 minutes which seems longer due to a young child who insists on screaming loudly all the time. When we do board the plane Benny, Pete, WWW and I make our way to the back of the extremely full flight only to find that we are in the row directly behind the screaming child who is already well into his full repertoire of screaming and jumping up and down. His parents seem incapable of restraining him so he just continues. Pete is incandescent, WWW is threatening strangulation and Benny and I are pretending it’s not really happening. I scan the seats in front of me for any empty space not quite so in the line of fire. There isn’t one.

We take off and experience some of the worst turbulence I’ve ever felt. I’m not normally a nervous flyer but this was fairly serious. WWW was screaming every time we hit a bump, Pete loved it and I was clinging to my chair hoping it would stop but at the same time laughing at WWW. Chris was sitting in the row behind us and when I looked around at him he was looking straight ahead, saying nothing and turning a very strange colour. Amidst all this panic, unbelievably the screaming child was silent.

The rest of the flight passed without incident bar the odd scream from baby Satan and occasional turbulence, albeit not as severe as it had been during take off and we arrived back in London around 4.35pm.



'Hair Today, Gone Later Today - A Rather Bizarre Night Off' by Danny Bowes

WARNING – THE FOLLOWING TEXT MAY SHATTER SOME PEOPLE'S ILLUSIONS, AND REVEAL ME TO BE THE CRUEL AND HEARTLESS SADIST THAT I AM… YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…

In April 1993, Thunder were on tour in Europe. I know it was April as this story took place on the night before my birthday, and I’m fairly sure it was 1993. Sorry to sound a trifle vague, but there have been many tours, and many “interesting events” have taken place over the years. What follows is one of the crueller incidents:-

We were in a hotel in the south of Germany, about 4 weeks into an 8 week tour, so we were all very much in the swing of touring. It was a day off, and the band and crew had made various plans. Some did their washing (the glamour), some played golf, some did physical exercise, and some (mentioning no names) did some very professional lying around. We’d agreed that most of us would meet up for dinner in the hotel restaurant, before meeting everyone else in the bar much later on.

As I mentioned before, it was the night before my birthday, and we were all set to welcome it in style. The restaurant was pleasant enough, and the food tasty, but a bit on the “designer” side (i.e small portions). When the meals came up to the table, we spent most of our time trying to decide between eating them, or framing them and hanging them on the wall. Mark Lathan (our guitar tech and a bodybuilder, let’s say a man in need of a healthy plate) was most put out at the size of the portions, and gave the waitress the benefit of his infinite Geordie wisdom on the subject, much to the amusement of the rest of us. The beer and wine flowed copiously, in preparation for the moment the clock struck midnight, and so, having eaten but still feeling hungry, we adjourned to the extremely busy bar.

As there were loads of us, we split up into various factions, so whilst some sat at tables, Harry, Ben, Mikki, Ross (Tour Manager) and I sat at stools up at the bar. There is no delicate way to say this, so I won’t try, we were really quite paralytic, but we were amiable enough with it…

In the champagne induced haze, someone commented on the barman’s hair, or rather the thing on his head masquerading as his hair. I shall say no more. The area behind the bar was lower than the area in front of it, so the barman’s “hair” and its obvious features were clearly visible from pretty much all angles. The drunken talk up there on the stools was of nothing but the “hair”. It was such a dodgy one, we just couldn’t take our eyes off it. The barman carried on his business, blissfully unaware of the misery that was soon to come his way….

Now I must point out at this time that I am not proud of what happened next, and I have no intention of making you laugh when you read it. Indeed, in the interests of good taste I think it best if you do not even titter when you read the rest of this sordid tale, in case someone reads it over your shoulder and the game will be up. Anyway, back to the “hair”…

Ross and I decided in our alcohol induced wisdom that someone should relieve the poor barman of his dodgy “hair” as soon as possible, to help make him realise once and for all that baldness is something to be proud of, not something to cover up, and especially not with something so awful. The demon alcohol plays a huge part in such decisions as we all know, and so to make it extra worthwhile, a bet was agreed, whereby Ross was to remove the said “hair”, and exit the bar “mucho rapido”. If he did this and was out of the bar before my good self, I was to pay him £50. I know, it’s incredibly horrible, but I did warn you, and I have grovelled mightily to my maker since that night…

There followed several “trial runs” where Ross stood up on his seat, leaned across and almost took it whilst the barman cut up lemons in front of us. I had my heart in my mouth, my bottom half on and half off of my stool, almost on the starting blocks every time, not knowing if this time was going to be the one. The tension for us both was immense, unlike the barman, who was quite literally none the wiser, and nice and warm under his “hair”.

When it finally happened, it was like the whole world suddenly went into slow motion:- The hand across the bar, the excruciating ripping sound of the wig (oops) pulling way from the criss-crossed double sided tape on the barman's head, our cries of “ooohhh shiiiiit” as we left our seats and flew out of the bar, just like a slow motion scene from a Sam Peckinpah western movie… Suddenly it all came back into real time as I entered the lobby, with first the little black wig, and then Ross, following me out of the bar.

It turns out he’d caught his shoulder on a pillar as he ran, jolting his arm and causing the wig to fly out of his hand and land right at my feet. I shrieked with laughter, and said something about not having to pay him… We both ran as fast as we could to my room, giggling like the idiotic kids we were, leaving the whole bar speechless, and the wig behind on the floor of the lobby, where it lay warm and still until it was picked up by one of our crew, who’d just returned from doing his washing…

“What’s this?” he said, looking at the desk clerk. “It iz ze barman’s hair” said the clerk (with a very understandable German accent) “can you take it back to him please?”……

There is of course a lot more to this story, but I’ll spare you the gory details (and hopefully preserve what’s left of my reputation), and give you the highlights only:-

Immediately after it happened, the barman asked Harry if he could help him get his hair back. Harry rubbed his shaved head and said “sorry mate, I’m the last person that could help you”. Ben retrieved it in the end (nice guy), and having handed it over, the wig was apparently back on top and perfectly in place again in a thrice, and normal “hair” order restored…

Sides aching, I eventually went back to the bar to see what had happened, my curiosity having gotten the better of my fear. The barman was naturally very upset and lectured me endlessly about how it was cruel, and how this was his business etc. I listened and made soothing noises, bought him several drinks etc. Then Ross came back too, and the barman tried to knife him………………….

Moral of the story: If you do something bad, don’t go back to admire your work…

As I mentioned, I’m not overly proud of that incident, and I’ve never been involved in anything like it since (honest), but it was very funny (for me), and I know I’ll go to hell for it, but I can safely say it will go down in my memory bank as one of the most bizarre nights off I've ever had.



'A Tour Diary' by Chris Childs

Prior to joining Thunder, I did many different tours in various locations throughout the world, the most bizarre of which has to be a 1993 tour with Samantha Fox, which took me to Estonia, Russia and Lebanon.
Think of Sam what you will, but I very quickly found her to be totally professional, unfazed and intent on putting on the best possible show under any circumstances – which was just as well, considering what we were about to undertake.

The first show of the tour was a festival in Tallinn, Estonia, which was very well run and very well attended. All went smoothly. ~

 

The next part of the trip took us to a place called Ishevsk, in Russia, which, until a couple of years prior to our visit, had been a ‘closed’ town to western visitors, due to the sensitive nature of the factories surrounding it. In fact, we were the first western act to play there.



The flight wasn’t without incident – it was a chartered plane, ex-air force, still retaining the Perspex bubble at the front from which the bombs would be aimed, with strips of canvas and wire showing through the tires where they had worn. Inside, I was alarmed to see a box next to the window with a sign saying ‘Escape Rope’. Still can’t imagine what use that would be.

The plane was so overloaded with equipment that there were people standing on takeoff and landing, holding down flightcases and guitars. During the flight, I was asked if I wanted to go upfront to see the pilots. I poked my head into the cabin to find that John Tonks, the drummer in the band and a very dear friend of mine, was sat at the controls, grinning hugely. We arrived early morning, very dishevelled and bleary-eyed, to be greeted on the tarmac by a tv news crew, complete with cameras and lights. John whispered jokingly in Sam’s ear as they approached: “You know what this town used to be called before they renamed it Ishevsk? Chernobyl!” Her exclamation echoed around the airfield.

We were driven through the forest to the closest thing to a hotel they could manage – the Hilton it wasn’t.



We did two shows in Ishevsk, the first indoors to the local dignitaries and local mafia. It was obvious that there had never been anything like us there before – they were doing ballroom dancing while we were playing.

The second show was an outdoor festival to 27,000 people, and there seemed to be almost as many outside the gates. As I recall, it went very well.



After the show, in search of a party, John and I ended up in a car with a number of Russians, being driven deep into the woods. After about half an hour we arrived at a house only to be told by the one English-speaking person there “This isn’t a good place to be – there are gangsters here.” We took no notice and proceeded to partake of the local vodka. When we decided it was time to leave, we were walking towards the car when we were confronted by three large men, who offered us “drugs for Samantha Fox” (to be spoken in a heavy Russian accent). Quick-thinking John immediately and politely declined, and we got into the car, only to be surrounded by a crowd of people shouting at us. Two girls that were also in the car were dragged out, and I clearly remember John saying “I hope you’re good in a fight, or you can run fast, because I think we’re in trouble” Of course, neither of those applied to me, and I was feeling a long way from home. Eventually, our English-speaking friend calmed the situation enough for the driver to leave, and we got back to our ‘hotel’ without further mishap. Afterwards we were informed that we almost fell foul of a setup that had caught a few bands in Russia – being given drugs and then subsequently being busted by the local police, and then released after a hefty fine – cash, of course.

The next step of the tour took us to Beirut via Damascus airport in Syria. As we landed I was alarmed to see tanks dug in around the runway. We made our way through to the baggage reclaim area, and we might as well have just landed from Mars, the looks we were being given. All the local women were covered from head to foot, with only their eyes visible through the little letter-box, and of course Sam and the other girls on the tour were wearing shorts and skimpy tops. It caused a bit of a stir, as you can imagine.
The drive from Damascus down to Beirut through the Bekaa Valley was long, hot and uncomfortable – the checkpoints at the border took forever, with police in Hawaiian shirts and big guns wandering around the bus.



When we finally got around to doing the first show, it was an outdoor gig, but seated. The Lebanese idea of stage security consisted of twenty armed soldiers sitting on the front of the stage, with others dotted strategically around, including two standing either side of the drum kit. As we came on stage, the audience jumped to their feet and rushed to the front, only to be told by the soldiers to sit down. This happened several times until Sam tired of the game and left the stage, after announcing to the audience “We’ll come back on when they let you stand up”. The organisers complied, and the rest of the gig went without incident, except for Sam’s bodyguard Lloyd having a wrestling match with a guy at the front with a camera, who had exceeded the ‘three song’ rule (no photos to be taken after the third song). Lloyd finally emerged triumphantly holding the camera above his head. We found out later that it belonged to the Chief of Police….

We travelled in a convoy of a stretch limo and minibus, escorted by a jeep with four soldiers and a police motorbike, lights flashing and sirens on wherever we went, whether it was to a gig, or down to the local restaurant. There were checkpoints manned by Syrian soldiers with machine guns every few miles – travelling anywhere was a stressful event. During our stay, the Israelis started shelling southern Lebanon, and from our hotel on the hills above Beirut I could see right across the city. One day I spotted a huge pall of smoke hanging above where I assumed the airport to be – I began to despair of getting home in one piece. We all suffered from sickness and diarrhoea whilst we were there, so a lot of the time was spent moaning in bed watching CNN for hours on end.

  

The final show in Beirut was outdoors, and the guys on our crew were concerned the pa might not be big enough, so they went to the hire company and took everything they had in the warehouse – it ended up looking like a Pink Floyd gig from the seventies.
The final show in Damascus was in a basketball court – us playing on the seats on one side, the audience on the seats on the other, nobody actually in between on the court. Bizarre. When we eventually left from Beirut airport I’ve never been so pleased to get airborne.



It really was an experience – a very intense two weeks. It was hard at the time to take in all that was happening, there were too many guns, too many Lebanese men of undetermined sexuality (all the guys in the band had long hair at the time and attracted many whistles and comments from male admirers – our driver told me I had a lovely body – I told him he needed to get out more often) but it was a trip that I’m really glad that I took. Don’t know if I’d do it again, though….


 

'Misery With An L Plate - Learning To Drive' by Danny Bowes

The process of learning to drive was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life! I was so desperate to learn, even from an early age I was obsessed with cars. I wanted to drive so much it hurt.

I started my Grandad's car once, having offered to retrieve stuff from his boot. I was no philanthropist, I had a plan! I got down to the car, got the stuff out of the boot, then sat in the driving seat and imagined myself in a fantastic place, zooming down the road at a million miles an hour. I couldn't resist putting the key in the ignition, I had no free will, the car wanted me to drive it, I could feel it urging me on. Please bear in mind at this point that I had no absolutely no idea how to drive a car, I was 13, but I knew everything, and nothing, and it didn't matter.

I turned the key one click (mistake # 1), the dashboard lights came on, my heart was beating so fast it was going to jump out of my body. I turned the key one more click (mistake # 2), the car leapt forward into the back of the car parked in front, the crashing noise was huge, I was terrified. I now know my Grandad had a tendency to leave his car parked in first gear (years of old bangers with defective handbrakes), but at the time in all the sheer panic I assumed the car had to be faulty. I jumped out and surveyed the damage, there were bits of broken glass from the smashed headlight all over the floor, I ran inside and composed myself, gave my Grandad the stuff from the boot, and acted as if nothing had happened. I have carried the shame of that event to this day, and it feels good to confess it now.

I had my provisional licence on my 17th birthday, and immediately took as many lessons as my meagre wages would allow (1 x 60 minute session per week), and soon discovered I was getting nowhere. I spent most of the lesson each week trying to remember what I'd done the week before, it was hopeless, but I persevered. It was the most important thing to me at the time, it consumed my thoughts, for I knew that if I could drive I could get a driving job, and with it a van (the equation for the more scientific amongst you goes like this:- driving licence = job = van + band = more gigs = girls + sex = joy unconfined). They said it would be ages before I got a test appointment, so I decided to get ahead of the game, and applied before I was ready, in the hope that when the test came through, I would be the most competent learner on the earth (mistake # 3). This turned out to be a terrible plan, as the test came through really quickly, I was too desperate to admit I wasn't ready, so I took the test and not surprisingly, I failed dismally. I was bereft, miserable for weeks, nothing could cheer me up. My life was over.

Eventually I surfaced from my Pit Of Doom, and decided to try again, but this time I was going to do it differently. My Mum had decided to learn to drive also, and my Dad bought her an old mini (just like Mr Bean's to look at), so we both got to practice in it. I went out with my Dad once, and only once (mistake # 4), he rather unhelpfully laughed his head off the whole time, and I was instantly plunged back into the now familiar Pit Of Doom and self loathing. Weeks passed where I hated the world, especially all the people who could drive. I kept wondering why they could do it and I couldn't. I watched them driving about happily, blissfully unaware of how much I wanted to kill them all, but eventually (and thankfully) this phase passed, and not being the type who gives in easily, I decided another tack was in order.

I persuaded a friend from work (who had a full licence) to let me drive him to work each day, and this was how I got my much needed practice. I became pretty confident after a while, and decided to try another test. The day came and all was well, and I felt supremely confident of success as I left my friend Ronnie at the test centre, and drove off in my Mum's mini with the examiner. The test went perfectly, until near the end when he asked me to turn left (mistake # 5), I did all the right things and duly turned left, but the car carried on straight (the steering rack had broken). He looked angry and asked why I'd ignored him, as we drove at 30 mph along the road. I (panicking slightly now) explained that I hadn't ignored him, and showed him how I'd turned left by doing it again, still with no change in direction. He shouted "Oh my God! stop the car!". I duly stopped (under control, having looked in my mirror and indicated first) and we sat there, neither speaking, for a lifetime. He eventually informed me that I had failed the test, due to the fact that my vehicle was clearly unfit to be on the road. We walked back to the test centre in complete silence, but my Pit Of Doom was calling once again.

I applied again, and this time the test was called off on the day because the examiner was sick (they said he was sick, I believe he saw the mini in the car park and didn't want to take the chance). Back to the Pit for 6 more weeks until a re-scheduled test date arrived.

As you have gathered, getting my driving licence was not the happiest of experiences for me. Even on the day I passed, the moment of supreme joy was tinged with negativity. When the test was over, I got my bit of paper to say I'd passed, and ran into the test centre to my Dad who'd been in the waiting room. I burst through the door and shouted "da-daaah!" in true show biz big band stylee, only to find the room was empty.... My Dad had gone to the cafe with all the instructors. My examiner came in behind me and told me where they were, so I had to do the "da-daaah!" moment all over again, in the cafe, which somehow wasn't the same the second time. But they did all clap, and the Pit Of Doom disappeared.

I've had bad times since then of course, but nothing has been as excruciating.

Moral of the story, if at first you don't succeed, take the bus....



'Tour Diaries, Some Excerpts from 1995' by Danny Bowes

It’s been a while since I made a contribution to the WW&W pages, as I’ve been extremely busy lately, combining singing in the band and running a record company. Excuses aside, my poor show has played on my mind. Not having the headspace to write something from scratch, I’ve decided to give you some selected passages from my tour diaries. I’ve edited it here and there, to avoid lawsuits and protect the innocent etc, but even so, I’d say it’s a pretty honest account of how it went down, seen through my eyes of course. You won’t know who everyone is, so have some fun trying to work it out. I hope you’re not too disappointed, for as you’ll see, it’s not all glamour, beer and skittles…

LONDON to TOKYO - 22+23 Aug 1995
TRAVEL DAY (& NIGHT)


The start wasn’t too bad, not too early at 7am. Cab arrived early, so we made him wait. Mikki and I were both feeling ropey, but for different reasons: - He because Luke had taken him out for a friendly drink and wasted them both, and I because it was so upsetting leaving home again. It gets progressively harder to leave the family each time, there’s no doubt in my mind. Cab seemed to take forever to get to the airport, although it actually only took an hour and a quarter. The sun was out again and burning hot by 9am. All was fine at the airport, checked in straight away, got out of the excess baggage charge (phew), with all the guitars etc, it would have been a few bob. We flew out of Heathrow to Brussels, sat there for 3 hours then changed for Tokyo. Finally boarded the plane at 2.45pm. Mo and I were in economy, but sitting in business class type seats. He denied a plot, but I wasn’t having it, he said Brocky had pre-assigned the seats, but he must have had a word. The others were none too pleased.... Still, do I seem like a man who’s overly concerned?

Narita was all change when we got there next day (23rd), a brand new terminal across the road from the old building, much bigger and spacious inside. Usual hassle with the customs men at the last fence before the door, Sniffer dogs akimbo, wasting their time and wearing out their noses. The first thing that hit you as you left the air conditioned terminal was the heat and humidity (unbelievable), but the crowning glory after the flight was the drive into Tokyo from Narita. The promoter had sent two vans for us, one for equipment and the other for people. The problem was that we needed both for people, so the equipment driver had to get some of us to the Roppongi Prince Hotel. He didn’t know where it was, and after desperately trying, and failing, to keep up with the van in front, he tried a short cut and got us lost. Two and a half hours after leaving the airport, we got to the hotel. Mo, Stew and I were most definitely un-chuffed, especially after the flight, but now I think about it, it was probably payback for getting the nice seats on the plane. C’est la vie, Karma and all that....

Slept immediately my head touched the pillow, as soon as I got in the room. Woke up 3 hours later, felt a bit groggy, but ok. Met up with gang, went to dinner with the promoter Yoshi (nutter). Had a typical Japanese dinner, ate too much, enjoyed every second of it, drank beer, felt bloated and woozy when we went to Pip’s Bar (where Snake & I had previously had the row that led to his sacking at the end of the 92 tour). Bush was there as usual (his hat stuck to his head like glue, covering his bald spot), he seemed in good form, although he said his marriage had broken up, and he was going back to the UK in three weeks. Felt sad for him and his troubles. Dave Murray and Blaze Bayley were in town doing promotion for the new Iron Maiden LP, they arrived and the beer began to flow like water. Oh Dear...

Lexington Queen next, the usual bunch of w*****s in there, including the Bananarama girls with their team of dancers, mincing around the place. It was great fun to watch Murray lose the plot and argue with all and sundry. He definitely needs to have a word with himself, he’s very tense, the words “bear” and “sore head” spring to mind. If he doesn’t calm down he’ll give himself palpitations.

Left the LQ at around 03:45 (I think), far too relaxed, saw Luke zig-zagging his way down the road, and caught up with him, then we both zig-zagged to the hotel. Had the distinct feeling breakfast was going to be funny.

TOKYO/NAGOYA - 24 Aug 1995
TRAVEL DAY


A day to savour, all felt extremely rough. A concoction of jet lag, beer and lack of sleep meant no one was particularly jolly as we met up the lobby at 12.15. The station was very hot and sticky, Harry went green, then puked into a plastic carrier bag in the minivan on the way there. At the station the stealth autograph hunters popped up out of nowhere as usual. The funniest bit was watching Harry make the guy hold his bag of puke while he signed his albums. The silly sod took it back afterwards! We missed the 1pm train, and had to wait for the 1.30. We stood around on the platform, feeling a bit like goldfish, as the fans watched, giggled and took photos. As we got on, Harry did it again, just as the Shinkansen lady representative was welcoming him aboard, up it all came, all over the train, the lady, and Mikki’s leg. Cleared out, he groaned as he said “Sorry about that!”, staggered to his seat and promptly fell asleep. The boys fell about laughing, but I was already in my seat, settled down and almost asleep. Strange thing, none of the locals reacted in any way, the business men just looked up briefly from their papers, then looked back down again, expressionless. The Shinkansen lady immediately shot off for a second or two, then returned with cleaning stuff and sorted it all out. Hmmm.

The scenery was amazing pretty much all the way, the industrialization was vast and went on for ages, then the countryside and farming did the same. The train was incredible, fast, comfy and civilized. Three hours later, we arrived at Nagoya. At the hotel, the van driver opened the back up before I could say anything and my computer bag fell 4 feet to the ground. I shouted out with concern, but my hangover prevented me getting more animated. I got to the room and turned it on, it was fine. Big relief… The bed looked extremely welcoming, and so, exhausted, I immediately fell into it and then a coma. Three hours the phone went, I almost fell out of bed getting to it, it was Pru at the office. She asked if I wanted to take out the Japanese no show insurance cover. I told her I’d already confirmed it with Steve last Thursday night. She said she’d get Steve to call me, but the call didn’t come. I spoke to Michelle, she seemed OK, the girls were shouting and screaming in the background.

Evening came and we went out to eat, Yoshi and Tom (our interpreter) were very gracious, took us to a nice restaurant specialising in chicken wings, which were fantastic. Boys hit a club after we got back to the hotel, but with a show tomorrow, I returned to my room for some work and bed. Felt very saintly but a bit miserable to be missing out. Ho hum..

NAGOYA - 25 Aug 1995
SHOWDAY - BOTTOM LINE


Woke up to the sound of the phone at 9.25am, it was Ben, asking if I wanted to go out for a walk around town. Having seen on the way in from the airport that we were nowhere near anything interesting, I thought my time would be better spent studying the back of my eyelids, so I declined and slipped back into slumber. This travelling lark is exhausting..

Worked after I eventually woke up and then showered, basically caught up on all the stuff I hadn’t done in the mad 3 days before we left the UK. Went out for a 20 minute jog to clear the cobwebs. Met the others for the sound check at 3pm. The fans, by now, had found out where we were, and they were camped out all over the lobby and the street outside. Fly On The Wall and River Of Pain have apparently both been number 1 on the CBC Top Requests Radio Show here in Nagoya (FOTW 3 weeks & ROP 8 weeks), so the positive effects of radio play are plain to see, because there were so many more fans than last time. Not only that, but they’re so much more excited and determined to get your autograph, photo etc. Poor old Mikki is finding it all a bit much already, he can’t seem to get his head around the Japanese fans’ devotion. Still, I’m sure he’ll get used to it quick enough, rest assured that good old human nature will take over...

Having fought our way through the fans (1 boy, rest girls), we walked round to the club, 5 minutes away. All was up and just about running when we got there, Stewart was as headless a chicken as I’ve seen him, definitely on fine form and very amusing to watch while he had Tom running around all over the place. Pat the monitor engineer was local as was the LD, so communication was limited to signs and thumbs up and down sort of stuff, but we seemed to muddle through. Luke was jet lagged and edgy, the initial sound on stage was atrocious and he was a bit twitchy with all and sundry. The rest of us were fine, Pete got over his low end 80k rumble after 3 or 4 songs, and we left the stage with a due sense of dread for later. Not so much a technical or musical dread, but a “loads of guitar changes, acoustic on and off stage, time for Pete to reset his effects” sort of dread.

We needn’t have worried because, even before we went on, the crowd was so bloody loud that they wouldn’t have noticed if we’d have played all the songs backwards. Seldom have I heard screaming like it, as we stood by the steps waiting to go on, I was convinced someone had jumped onto the stage and took their clothes off. The show was brilliant, they screamed and sang and clapped at all the requisite times, louder and with more passion than most audiences I’ve heard anywhere. This was up there with Rock City! The band was very much spurred on by this, as you can imagine, and despite the Tropical + Nuclear Reaction + Erupting Volcano = Seriously Not Funny At All-type heat, we played a blinder.

Afterwards we had the usual Roger (Mellie not Melée) in the Dressing Room, the CBC Top Requests chap was there with his radio crew for an over the top noisy interview, followed by some of the fans who’d called in and made us number 1 (love them!!), then we had the Fan Club reception. The end result of all this was that despite going onstage at 7pm, we never got out of the venue until 10:30pm. Back to the hotel, lobby ambush for autographs, photos etc, then showers and calls to the office, and finally back to the bar & grill underneath the club for dinner. The Club Manager (Mr Kobiyashi) was very nice and hospitable, lovely food galore followed by drinks akimbo, then the entertainment: A nutcase acoustic guitar player (Japanese), with a pick up stuck on his guitar and an amp, and a portable radio, wired up for maximum tuning type interference. He was like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan rolled into one (no not dead), but on the fastest medication known to Man. Twenty five songs segued into each other at breakneck speed, interspersed with foot and hand controlled, distorted radio tuning. I’ve never seen anything like it, luckily I had my video camera. It was all over in 15 minutes, but you felt exhausted just watching him. Mikki got all excited about him (Muso!) and decided Tequila was in order, ordered loads and drank himself into that Swedish condition again. Dinner done, I went back to the hotel with Pete, did autographs and photos again, hit the room, spoke to the office, then out to the club.

SETLIST - NAGOYA, BOTTOM LINE
25 Aug 1995


Dirty Love
Stand Up
Higher Ground
Castles In The Sand
Gimme Some Lovin’
Until My Dying Day
‘Til The River Runs Dry
Backstreet Symphony
Moth To The Flame
Low Life In High Places
River Of Pain
Ball & Chain
(Encore)
A Better Man
Brown Sugar

'Spam' by Ben Matthews

Spam – don’t you just hate it in all its forms? As food it is inedible, in email form it’s a time consuming nightmare. Spam fritters, who thought of those? The texture of Tiger Wood’s odour eaters and all the flavour of polyfiller. I know that during the war there was a need for it but they were still serving it to me when I was at school.  

But the worst kind is the kind cluttering up yours and everyone else’s inbox, acres of tempting Viagra offers, do they really believe we will buy anything from such people. 

There are some fairly scary statistics about the amount of spam circulating on the Internet such as:

In 1999, the average consumer received 40 pieces of spam. By 2005, the total is likely to soar to 2000.

AOL estimates that spam already accounts for more than 30% of email to its members – as many as 24 million messages a day.

However you must always bear in mind, 32.88% of people don’t believe statistics and 23.6% of statistics are made up on the spot. It’s about time someone did something to rid us of this virtual avalanche of rubbish, just imagine the number of hours wasted reading and deleting these irritating messages but…

… every now and again a little gem pops into your inbox, something you want to forward to a mate just to prove you have a “real good” sense of humour. Well I don’t have any mates so I’m going to show a couple to you instead. 

The first was sent to me by my brother who happens to live in Houston, Texas. It was just after the farcical attempt of George “www” Bush to kid us that he really was elected and that he didn’t cheat in the slightest by moving the goal post several times to suit his campaign. It still makes me laugh when I read it now, the very reason I kept it in the first place. NOTICE OF REVOCATION OF INDEPENDENCE
To the citizens of the United States of America

In the light of your failure to elect a President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The rt. hon. Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the
need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules
are introduced with immediate effect:

You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed".

There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.

You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard.

Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys.

You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US rugby sevens side by 2005.

You should declare war on Quebec and France, using nuclear weapons if they give you any merde. The 98.85% of you who were not aware that there is a world outside your borders should count yourselves lucky. The Russians have never been the bad guys. "Merde" is French for "shit".

July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 8th will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".

All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

Thank you for your cooperation. 

The second, I was assured, are actual logged maintenance complaints by pilots and the corrective action recorded by mechanics. Taken from a major airline, I won’t tell you which one but it would be a half decent Scrabble score.

P stands for the problem the pilots entered in the log, and S stands for the corrective action taken by the mechanic;

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except Auto land very rough.
S: Auto land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield
S: Live bugs on backorder.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on the ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause the throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for!

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windscreen.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
(Note: this was for a piston-engine airplane; the pilot meant the engine was not running smoothly)
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Radar hums.
S: Radar reprogrammed with words.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

Lastly it’s time to test your sense of humour. I was recently looking at some photos from the Loser video shoot and came across this one. It is just crying out for a humorous caption, so email your answers to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll try and figure out a small prize for the best one. Best of luck. 

(Please note that the caption competition is now closed. Read the winning entry below - Thinny)


The winning caption by John D:
Thinny: 'So when will I get my cheque for running the website lads?'

'Wit, Wisdom & Whiskey' by Harry James

Unaccustomed as I am, I'd like to welcome you to another in the series of Wit Wisdom and Whisky. Please stop me if I ramble on - oh sorry you can't really can you! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their fantastic support. It's great to be back with the boys again - hope you enjoy the new album and see you on the road soon. Cheers!

I spend a lot of time and energy following the fortunes of my beloved "Crystal Palace FC". It's a bit of a roller coaster ride, as is football in general.I do sometimes think I'm wasting that time and energy, when I read about all the scams in the game - on the transfer market, and the ridiculous sums of money that circulates within the game. It shocks me to think that just one player's National insurance contribution for one year, is approximately equivalent to eight/ten times of the average yearly wage! (and the player in question can't even get into the first team!) No wonder some football clubs in this country are finding it difficult to survive. Easier said than done I know, but there should be a happy medium between player and club. A player's "shelf life" is reasonably short I know, so he has to make his money whilst he can. Therein lies the problem, which a mere mortal like me, cannot solve.

As a CPFC fan, I've recently enjoyed the successes in the FA Cup - Sorry to you Liverpool fans out there but.....hey! No actually I'm not sorry at all. Gave me a hell of a lot of satisfaction and a rather large hangover too! And as for the game against Leeds !! "We woz robbed guvnor!" Can't believe the ref didn't see the ball crossing the goal line. Maybe I AM in support of video replays during the game after all. Play-offs are a definite possibility this season for the "Eagles", and I sincerely hope it happens - but I can't help casting my mind back a few seasons ago, when we had a reputation for being the "yo-yo" club - The seasons we spent languishing at the bottom of the Premiership, hold no fond memories for me at all - Just pain and more pain!! Why do I take it so seriously? It's only a game after all!

Recently, I offered my services to Tony Blair and George Dubya Bush - All they need to arm me with, is an acoustic guitar really. Don't think that Saddam would appreciate my rendition of "Close To You". What do you think? Would it do the trick? Would I be offered a peace prize after that!? "Sir Harry James"- I can picture it now. Don't make me come over there!

And to those of you affected by London's Congestion Charge - I'm sorry! I can't get my head round paying to get into London - I know the Congestion Charge has it's pros and cons, but I can see it having an adverse effect on a lot of people and their business'. The jury's still out for me and I foresee massive problems round the corner. It was very cleverly introduced at the same time that schools took their half term break; quite a few commuters may well be off on holiday at this time. I think it could get very messy in the next few weeks! Let's see. I shall be watching with interest.

If, like me, you're fed up with all the bad news that you read or hear about, don't buy a newspaper or watch the news-simple as that! Why not bake a cake? This little gem was sent to me a while back by Mike Fraser who engineered a couple of albums for Thunder. Thanks Fraze!

Tada for now

See you soon



"If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake"
"Baked a cake"
"Baked a cake"......

Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 Large eggs
NUTS
1 bottle Vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

Preparation:
Sample the vodka to check quality.
Take a large bowl, check the vodka again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
Repeat.
Turn on the electric mixer.
Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Beat again.
At this point its best to make sure the vodka is shtill OK. Try another cup.... just in case Turn off the mixerer.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick fruit off floor.
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who giveshz a shit.
Check the vodka.
Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven and piss in the fridge.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the tumer.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and kick the cat.
Fall into bed.
 

'Desert Island Discs' by Luke Morley

One of the questions I get asked with astonishing frequency is ‘What are your favourite albums of all time ?’. Usually this produces a fairly glib response from yours truly as I don’t spend my life worrying about something so subjective and to be honest I’ve never sat down and really thought about it. However, whilst glancing through the Radio Times my beady eye chanced upon that English institution which is ‘Desert Island Discs’ and I thought ‘What the hell…..you only live once so why not have a go?’. I can’t remember exactly what parameters are placed upon the show’s participants but, having decided to undertake this shamelessly nostalgic odyssey through and beyond my CD/record collection, I thought I would impose a ten-album maximum on myself. Sounds easy doesn’t it? 

Well, let me tell you that it’s an incredibly hard thing to do when you get to my age simply because of the number of years I’ve been listening to and collecting music. So picture the scene………there I am washed up on an uninhabited island somewhere in an as yet undiscovered part of the Pacific Ocean with nothing but 20 cigarettes, a six-pack of beer, an immaculate hi-fi system and a convenient power point……..

Assuming my sense of humour was still intact (unlikely, I know but bare with me) I would definitely reach for ‘The Beach Boys’ 20 Golden Greats’ first. I can’t think of anything more perfect for lifting the spirits than sitting there with a cold beer and watching the waves roll in to ‘Surfing Safari’. I might have to skip ‘God Only Knows’ though as it’s probably my favourite ballad of all time and it wouldn’t be conducive to producing a mood of optimism.
Being in this hypothetical situation I can only guess but I would imagine a degree of sifting through one’s past is inevitable and music is the most powerful enhancer of memory, therefore I think I would use my selection of music as a sort of virtual photo album. For this reason I can think of nothing better than ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles to remind me of my family and my early childhood. This album captures the mood of sixties England as well as Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy or Harold Wilson and his pipe, not to mention the fact that ‘A Day In The Life’ is still one of the finest pieces of music ever written.
Without the luxury of a guitar I would have to have the next best thing; ‘Are You Experienced’ by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hearing this album for the first time was a defining moment in my life inasmuch as I knew what I was going to do for a living from that day on. I persuaded my poor Father to part with the necessary cash and I remained surgically attached to my first cheap Spanish acoustic guitar for the next three years, fingers bleeding in an effort to work out how the Great Man weaved his divine magic.
Speaking of defining moments the next one came along about a year later when a kid at school lent me the first Led Zeppelin album, ‘Led Zeppelin’. This coincided with my first memory of being interested in girls who up until that point were little more than an irritation, squealy things who got in the way of the lunchtime football match in the playground. I think it was due to the fact that the rush I got listening to this record was as real as the hormones that were rushing about my hapless body mischievously. That voice, that drum sound, that guitarist, those rocked-up blues songs………it was all a bit too much. I think I actually played it ten times in a row much to my Mother’s annoyance.
Adolescence was the usual mixture of feeling like a grown up trapped inside the body of a spotty mal-proportioned stick insect and not understanding my Mother’s attempts to grind some sense of responsibility into my unreasonably opinionated mind. The problem was that my opinion was constantly changing, particularly as far as music was concerned. A lot of my mates were listening to Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and whoever else was around 1973-1975. As much as I liked all of those bands none of them have made it to the Desert Island selection. It wasn’t until I heard ‘The Free Story’ by Free that I had my next moment of revelation. Their stuff was so laid back and had this tremendous economy that nobody since has equalled. Paul Rodgers’ voice had a brooding, understated sexuality unlike most rock singers of the time and Kossoff’s guitar almost seemed to be crying, so emotional was his playing.
Becoming a more mature individual as I was at the age of fifteen (yeah right!) I was allowed to go to Reading Festival in the summer of 1975 with two mates from school (one of which was Danny) and live in a tent for three days. There were many great bands on that year (I won’t bore you with the list) but nothing excited me as much as this song that was played over the PA system during one of the many change over periods between bands. I remember sitting in that muddy field while this piece of music washed over me. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before; cool, sophisticated, jazzy even but it was also very exciting. John Peel was the D.J. that year but he hadn’t announced who’d made this amazing record. I turned to my other mate Jon who told me it was Steely Dan and that the album was called ‘Countdown To Ecstasy’ and he would lend it to me next week when we got home. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already heard this band. Suffice to say Jon didn’t get the album back for months!!
Around the ages of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen I seemed to spend every other Saturday night at a party. You know how it goes; “My folks are away for the weekend. There’s a party at my place.” Like everyone else I would usually arrive with a bottle of something ghastly (Blue Nun, a Party Seven, Cinzano Bianco, Strongbow or whatever) and spend the rest of the night desperately trying to pull some girl who was more interested in the Rugby playing types from school or inflict my taste on everybody else by taking over the record player. The music being played at these teenage parties would oscillate between Punk and Rock during the early part of the evening and then when the vomiters amongst us had passed out or been picked up by some irate parent who’d had to leave their weekly appointment with Match Of The Day, it would become ‘Ballad Central. We’ve all been there; that time in your life when you think that turning in badly described circles desperately clinging to some poor young girl while attempting to eat her face off is the height of masculinity. Whenever I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of the circling snoggers and gropers I found myself listening to the usual selection of 70’s soul ballads that were playing; ‘Easy’ by Lionel Ritchie (a big favourite of mine but we’re talking albums here, not singles), ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green or ‘Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. Gradually I began to get into more soul stuff but it wasn’t until I heard a song called ‘Hope You Feel Better’ by The Isley Brothers on the radio that I’d found the kind of soul music that moved me as much as rock had done a few years earlier. After some hasty research I found an Isley Brothers compilation called ‘Forever Gold’ in the local record shop that had the afore-mentioned song on it along with classics like ‘Harvest For The World’ and ‘Summer Breeze’. This became my ‘welcome to my bedroom’ album for some years so it would be extremely useful for jogging the old memory cells during those long, lonely nights on my desert island………….
It’s just occurred to me that whilst I wouldn’t be in possession of a guitar on my island, I could always revert to ‘air’ guitar. Yes, it’s very sad I know but when you think about it, there wouldn’t be anyone there to see me make a complete twat of myself. I could prance around to my heart’s content pretending to be Pete Townsend
which is a neat little segue into my next choice ‘Quadrophenia’. I was a bit of a latecomer to The Who and it wasn’t until I listened to this album at deafening volume that I really got what they were about. This coincided with me beginning to write songs seriously and Townsend’s genius was something to aspire to. Brutally powerful music and genuinely inspired lyrics that weren’t about the usual romantic Mills & Boon vision of love; this guy was ANGRY and I loved it. I admired the attitude of Punk but it was always too crude musically for my sophisticated palette (just joking) and The Who had both rage and accomplished musicianship in equal amounts. Townsend looked dangerous, like he really wanted to hurt the guitar. I’ve never been an angry kind of bloke but P.T. looked to me exactly like what a rock’n’roll guitar player should look like; all arm twirling and star jumps. Naturally a lot of these moves were incorporated into the Morley book of rock-star posing. Benny then nicked all the same moves from me years later….oh well ! At least I was unoriginal first ! 

Just when I felt like I was getting to grips with playing the guitar (about ‘79/80) along came a band that changed the map of rock’n’roll forever and caused every aspiring lead guitarist to contemplate an alternative career working in McDonalds ……Van Halen. Just the name creates equal amounts of envy and excitement to six-stringers of my generation. As well as Eddie they also had one of the truly great frontmen (he couldn’t sing but when you’re that funny who cares!) in David Lee Roth and their debut album is an American rock classic. It’s inventively called ‘Van Halen’ and I don’t think they ever bettered it.
I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of 80’s music probably because the guitar all but disappeared from most of the records made at that time. There were a few rock bands coming out of America like Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue but I thought they were all a bit lightweight and poppy. It wasn’t until I heard ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ by Guns & Roses that something clicked. They were nasty, cool and uncompromising and ‘Appetite For Destruction’ was full of great rock’n’roll songs. I remember when we were starting Thunder I found that album very inspirational and original. They had a distinctive sound unlike anything else coming out of America at the time and they looked great. They also opened the door at record labels for other rock bands like ourselves at the time.

Well, there you have it. I’ve finished my six-pack of beers and my pack of cigarettes, contemplated my life up until 1990 and I’ve already run out albums. Only one thing left to do then...................Hang on, is that a ship in the distance?............................HELP!! HELP!! HELP!! etc..............................................................


'Into Every Life Some Pain Must Fall...' by Danny Bowes

Here's a slightly reworked version of a piece I wrote for a Thunder tourbook a few years ago. Apologies is you've already read it but I couldn't think of anything to write, and it still makes me laugh....

As a small boy, I was curious, boisterous, and always up for anything (easily led) as well as being extremely accident prone. I was always in some sort of trouble or scrape. A few examples follow :-

Three Years Old - The Big Black Car Incident

The big boys wouldn't let me play football with them because they said I was too small. They did however let me retrieve it when the ball went into the road. Eager to please, I ran after said ball with blind enthusiasm, not noticing the oncoming motor vehicle. Sufficed to say I was hit by the car and dragged along for several yards with the front bumper lodged in my lip. Back to West Ham Hospital (where I was born) for stitches in mouth, head and lip. Still have the scars today (oh and no feeling in the left side of my mouth).

Five Years Old - Swimming
The older boy next door decided to introduce me to the wonders of swimming. I was very excited as we changed into our swimming trunks and got into the water. He held me very carefully with my head above the waves, as he waded further and further into the deep water. Having got to what seemed to the very deepest part of the pool, he told me to think like a fish, and promptly let me go! I splashed a lot, panicked more, gurgled even more than that, then sank! The lifeguard who saved me was very professional as she pumped the water from my lungs by the side of the pool. Not having told my mum where I was going, fairly major league punishment ensued when I was brought home.

Six Years Old - The Old "Bike Under The 122" Chestnut

The older boy next door (same boy) came by and decided to remove the brakes on my three wheeler bike with his dad's pliers (What's wrong with that? He said it would make it a drag bike, and he did teach me to swim). I of course agreed. My family lived above a shop in Plumstead High Street, South London, at this time, and the whole area around the High Street is hilly and steep.
We decided the perfect way to test my new mean machine would be for me (not him) to ride from the top of the hill down to the bottom, turning the corner as quickly as possible, then race back home for biscuits and milk. He waited at the bottom and watched me start off. I can still remember that twisted glee in his eyes as he watched me (unable to turn the corner), shoot off the pavement and straight into the High Street traffic, under the 122 (heading for Forest Hill SE23). Luckily for me, the bus was just leaving the bus stop, and the driver managed to brake quickly. My bike was destroyed, and I was bruised and shocked, but that wasn't the end of it. Two public spirited old ladies dragged me out, marched me home, then proceeded to scold my mother for not exercising control over her son. This all resulted in yet another early night and the obligatory clip round the ear. I never played with that boy again. In fact....

Eight Years Old - Pugilism For Beginners

Looking back, I suppose it was inevitable really, he'd done so many things to me, it seems perfectly natural that I would have my first fight with the boy next door. Only now he didn't live next door, and I was much bigger. I hadn't seen him for ages when he made fun of me in front of a crowd of my mates, thinking things would be the same as ever (I would be scared and back down),
but the mouse roared (me being the mouse), I lost my temper (properly I think for the first time) and beat him to a pulp. He ran away, I was victorious, I was popular, his older brother came round, I was beaten up. I learned then that fighting is all a bit futile really. I also learned that it would have been very handy to have had a big brother....

A Compendium Of Pain

Okay, pretty normal so far, my childhood seems much the same as any other small boy, but there's more. As far as accidents and injuries go, let's face it we all have our share, but I think you'll agree that the following list goes a long way towards proving the theory that if pain was a tuck shop cream cake, I would have been the fattest kid in the class.....

Run Over By Cars/Buses:
Run Over By Motorbike:
Broken Arms:
Broken Toes:
Broken Thumbs: 
Broken Shoulder blade:
Cracked Kneecap:
Broken Finger:
Screwdriver Through Face:
9 times (this is absolutely true).
1 time.
1 (fell from coat hook in school locker room)
2 (see motorbike).
2 (one from rugby and one from football).
1 (football).
1 (ran into iron girder).
1 (trapped in train door).
1 (ignored father's warning not to touch, got trapped behind chair).

The Insult to Injury List
As if that lot wasn't enough, I have also:-

Fallen off a two storey roof.
Piloted a supermarket trolley into a canal.
Been thrown head first through a plate glass shop window.

I bet you're wondering whether I was:-

A. Just plain unlucky?
B. Gullible?
C. Simply stupid?
or
D. Mentally unbalanced?

These are all valid questions, and I suppose the answer is probably ALL OF THE ABOVE.

I can swear categorically that this tale of woe is all true, in actual fact there are many other pain filled events I've omitted, but I'm sure that by now you must be thinking you can have too much of a good thing, and I think I hear a storm coming, I wouldn't want to get electrocuted whilst typing......

Pip Pip

'World Cup Fever' by Luke Morley

Aaah yes…it’s nearing that time again when everybody who’s even vaguely interested in the beautiful game puts normal life on hold and gathers round the living room/pub T.V. to watch our boys take on the best in the World. Alternatively you could call it the biggest load of hype and torture by television ever contrived; whatever point of view you subscribe to personally, one thing’s for sure…there’s no getting away from it!!!! Sadly if you’re a football fan (I apologise to those of you who aren’t) around the same age as me (21 obviously!) your life has already been permanently scarred by England either not being good enough or getting knocked out in the unluckiest and unfairest circumstances (the Hand Of God incident featuring Maradona or the penalty shoot outs in 1990 and 1998).

Football like music does have the ability to punctuate our lives. Anybody old enough to clearly remember 1966 will never forget where they were the day England won the World Cup. It’s as potent as a lifetime memory as Live-Aid or for obviously different reasons September 11th 2001.

We did actually attempt to arrange our Japanese shows for sometime in June so we could get to a match or two but our promoters were extremely nervous that attendances would be down as a result of the football. We did try to argue that as there would be more Brits around we would in fact sell more tickets but they were not convinced!!!! Bugger………

We were in Japan during the last World Cup and on the night the English team went out of the tournament to Argentina, we were in a bar owned by a friend of mine in Nagoya (Hi Steve). The problem was that the match didn’t kick off until 5am Japan time and my buddy was plying us with booze from around midnight; you can imagine the state we were in by kick off! I remember leaving the club in daylight feeling very miserable and Harry and I trying to console each other after a thoroughly undeserved exit from the tournament by penalties.

Anyway, enough of my watery-eyed memories and on to the serious business of unqualified and pointless speculation!!

This is the big week when Sven announces his squad. All the fringe players are probably in a terrible state wondering whether or not they’ll make the cut. I don’t envy them; it must be awful to get so close and then have your dreams shattered by one phone call. Even though the wages they earn are more than adequate compensation for the stress incurred by this, playing in the World Cup Finals is the highest peak of what can be an even briefer career than that of the humble musician. Clichés are unavoidable in football but it really is the chance to measure yourself (don’t titter) against the best and such are the vagaries of being a professional sportsman that it might be your only chance.

Anyway back to that barroom speculation…

So who do I think will make the 23?
 

Goalkeepers:
Seaman
James
Martyn

 

Defenders:
Ferdinand
Campbell
Bridge
Hargreaves
Carragher
Cole (A)
Southgate


Midfielders:
Beckham
Scholes
Gerard
Cole (J)
Dyer
Murphy
Butt
McManaman
 

Forwards:
Owen
Heskey
Fowler
Sheringham
Vassell

Potential winners (apart from England obviously) ?
Argentina
Brazil
Italy
Portugal
Spain
These teams are all capable of winning but I still think the team to beat is going to be France; winning against any team with Zidane, Henry, Viera, Petit, Desailly, etc. is going to be very difficult and they will score goals from every position on the teamsheet.

So what realistically are our chances?

Well, I think you have to say that 2 years ago we would have all said virtually none but thanks to the genial, low-key (apart from Ulrika!!!! What was all that about????)  sensible Swedish gentleman at the helm, we are now in the game at least. Sven has had the common sense to ask the players to do the same job they do at club level and simple as that sounds, the two previous managers seemed incapable of seeing what we, the punters already knew. We have in Beckham, Gerard, Scholes and Owen four genuinely proven world-class players, which would indicate that going forward we will be a match for anybody. The problem lies in defence where we undoubtably have talent but of the raw, inexperienced kind with the exception of Sol Campbell and Gareth Southgate who have been there before. Weighing all this up, one can’t help but reach the conclusion that if we make it through the group stage in second place behind Argentina as everyone is suggesting and we come up against the French we will need a minor sporting miracle to progress further. However if we can play the kind of high-tempo destructive attacking football as we proved we can on that wonderful night in Munich when we thrashed Germany 5 - 1, then anything is possible.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, all that remains for us to do is to fill our glasses and scream at the top of our lungs ‘COME ON ENGLAND!!!!!!’




'Wit, Wisdom & Whiskey' by Luke Morley

Welcome everybody to the bit of the site where myself and Mr. B get to rabbit on and on about whatever nonsense happens to be drifting through our conscious (or unconscious) mind at that particular time. It might be funny, sad, peculiar, obscure or just plain stupid but it WILL be us ! As I have the honour of being first to bare my innermost thoughts to the virtual voyeurs amongst you, I’d like to tell you about my recent adventures in Texas….Austin, Texas to be exact. Every year in March the Great and the Good (and the bloody average) from all over the Music Industry globe descend on this fairly quiet and laid back city for a jolly old knees up called South By South West.

It purports to be a conference but basically it’s an opportunity for bands to come and play and hopefully get noticed, and record company employees, managers, agents, lawyers et al to shoot the breeze, make contacts and get royally wankered !!!! Think of the Cannes Film Festival wearing a cowboy hat and you’ll get the picture.

My main reason for attending was I haven’t spent much time in the USA recently and whenever that is the case I always feel like I’m a bit out of touch with what’s going on. Whether we like it or not, it is the country that has the greatest influence on the rest of us, be that for better or for worse.Over the four days about 300 bands/artists get to perform in and around the plentiful supply of local venues and bars. Of course what this means is you can’t possibly take in everything that’s going on; it just wouldn’t be physically possible. I was being guided by a publisher friend of mine who had been to SXSW before and therefore knew the ropes. We convened in the bar of the Four Seasons hotel around 6pm every day and tried to pick up a vibe or an educated opinion on who was worth going to see that evening or where the best free grub and beer was. Obviously some of the gigs were ‘cooler’ to be seen at than others but in my ignorance I just tended to follow my nose up and down 6th Street where a good percentage of the venues were.I saw some terrific bands (Kinky from Mexico, The Revs from Ireland, Big Bang from Norway and The Webb Brothers from Chicago) and some who were plain fucking dreadful (no names here but a few of them were British I’m afraid). The thing that disturbed me more than anything was the wealth of talent around. Living here in the UK I’ve got used to the charts being so full of total excrement that every time I saw a great band I was shocked and energized all at the same time and that worried me for several reasons. As a musician/songwriter you can’t afford to shut yourself off from new and exciting things that are going on and the truth is that in the UK we are prevented by the arbiters of taste (UK record labels, media and press) from hearing about any of this stuff. All we ever get fed is characterless inoffensive boy bands manufactured by some bullshitting svengali type or even worse Pop Star where it’s rammed down our throats from ALL angles for months on end. The only thing these people are proving is that it’s possible to create celebrity by careful manipulation of the media but let’s face it talent and celebrity are not the same thing. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against something that gets young kids into listening to or buying music but there should be room for other genres as well.I suppose what I’m getting at here is that I had to go to Austin to find out that there are still young people all over the world making great, exciting and original music. That is something to be very happy about. The sad thing is none of the bands I saw that excited me (with one exception) were British and I suspect the reason for that is that kids growing up in this country never get to hear quality music that inspires them to pick up a guitar in the first place and that’s not only sad, it’s WRONG !!!!



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