Unlucky for all you triskaidekaphobics out there but this is the thirteenth Mayhem Virgins entry. This time it is the turn of Velvet Insane who have taken Glam Rock, dusted it off, wrung its neck and made it ready for the 21st Century. These Glam Glitterati are from Sweden and take the best of the Sweet, Bowie, Mott The Hoople and others and make a sound that, while still glam based, is uniquely their own. Their social media presence and bio on Spotify describe them as “a 3-piece gang of rockers that reinvented glam rock by mixing the pop harmonies of the 70’s with the heavy sound of today” They add that they “have been moving forwards since their debut album and now they’re ready to deliver a swaggering statement” and “In fact Velvet Insane’s star is shining so bright they might be the next thing to explode!” Having listened to their debut album, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit’ a few times those statements are hard to disagree with. I think this bunch would be a brilliant support act on the next Darkness tour, so Justin and the boys, if you’re reading this please give them a shot!
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I hadn’t seen UK modern-day rock legends the Darkness for many years so I was really looking forward to a full show from them at the Barbican in York. I was there with my friend and work colleague Paul Kennedy. First on stage were Rews, the brainchild of Irish rocker Shauna Tohill. Rews are heavy but with a quirky pop edge and their energy appears to be limitless. This is the first time that I have seen Rews and I believe that anyone at this show who saw their electrifying support set will have walked away as a Rews fan, many were already Rews fans. I am definitely a fan of this band now.
So now it was the time for the Darkness. They played two sets, the first of which was a complete run-through of their new album ‘Easter is Cancelled’. This record, released earlier this year, is a towering return to form and some of the songs appear to be tailor-made for playing live, especially “Rock and Roll Deserves to Die”, “Heavy Metal Lover” and “Choke On It”. There is not a duff track on this record and that is even more apparent as the band tore up the stage with a stunning showcase of the new songs. Justin is on particularly good form during the show and his brother Dan’s guitar work is on a par with so many great British rock guitarists. The set closed with a solo acoustic “We Are The Guitar Men” from Justin Hawkins. It is a great song, but the softer style did give us all a moment to draw breath before the full-on sonic attack of the second set. It was opened by a thunderous romp through “One Way Ticket” from their second album. For me the best moments were hearing the songs from the first album again; “Growing On Me” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”. But they, probably as expected, saved the best until last with a tune that Justin introduced as their most famous song, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” which was greeted with such rapturous applause it might have registered on the Richter scale. Justin’s humour was well played, he even wore an “Aye Up” T-Shirt which seemed to please the predominantly Yorkshire crowd. The band actually played along to the “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” chant too. If anyone had told me that the Darkness might be a good choice to cover Radiohead I might have laughed. But their take on “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” was something special. They gave it a completely new lease of life and stamped their signature all over it. They also managed to include a few bars and lines of the Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Is the world ready for a Darkness covers album? I think so. It was late December and there was always going to be an encore and I think most of us guessed that it would be “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”. But what a stunning, singalong end to a night to remember. With the Darkness you don’t just get a gig, you get a show!
All the photos apart from the gig poster were taken by me on my cheap Chinese android phone. The videos were all found on YouTube if one of them is yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove it please let me know.
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Some months ago I bought tickets for Catwoman and I to go and see Lady Gaga on her Born This Way Ball show. Well the time finally came around and we were there at the MEN last night. I should say up front that as far as the music goes I have been a fan of Gaga for a while so I was certainly looking forward to seeing her. But first there was the little matter of the Darkness who were on stage when we arrived at the MEN. I have unfinished business with these guys. I saw them at the Reading Festival back in 2003 when they were easily the highlight of Saturday afternoon. In fact highlight would be an understatement, they blew the opposition away. However the following year they were elevated to headliners and they truly sucked the big one, they were awful. So whilst I was pleased that they have got back together I was a little apprehensive. In my opinion they are easily back to their best and their new album is pretty good too. Catwoman wasn’t so keen and claimed that the volume almost had her ears bleeding! possibly a little exaggeration there!
After Justin and the boys left the stage we were promised a 30 minute wait for HRH Gaga, this stretched to about an hour which is never a good thing is it? Gaga’s entrance though did tick all the right dramatic and spectacular boxes. The curtains dropped to reveal a stage set that was part Disney princess castle and part Hammer Horror film left over. She then made her way onto the stage on the back of what can only be described as a very posh pantomime horse. For most of the gig the band were hidden away in the castle; shades of Bowie’s theatrical excursion across the USA in 1974 for the Diamond Dogs tour.
I felt that all of Ms Germanotta’s influences were on show during the evening. Bowie in the theatrical element, Freddie Mercury in how she tried to manage the crowd and I suspect her loyal little monsters won’t like this; Madonna for all the costume changes and a bra with two guns pointing from it. I can’t believe that didn’t have it’s roots in Madge’s now iconic cone bra from a few years back. How did all this rate? 9 out of 10 for the theatrical set, 4 out of 10 for crowd control and 8 out of 10 for costumes. Including one dress that allowed her to move like a Dalek, now that was cool!
Her songs are very strong and the dancers and the band are also very good. All the hits were rolled out “Born This Way”, “Just Dance”, “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro” to name but a few. It wasn’t her fault but I do believe the sound from her head mic could have been better. It certainly improved when she used a hand-held or one in a stand. Keeping up the scoring theme I will award her 10 out of 10 for the songs and 8 for the singing and the dancing, including the Lady herself, gets an 8 from me. So if I add all those scores together that would be 47 out of 60. Which is not a bad score is it? However I need to adjust it with at least a minus 30 for all the pretentious crap she spouted not so much between songs but in the prolonged talking part of the show. It’s right that a good artist should change the tempo of a performance but what she did was effectively grind it to a halt just to talk bollocks for what seemed like ages. I know that one of the dancers had suffered a family bereavement, but even so this was way, way over the top.
Constant questions about whether we ‘give a fuck’ or not tend to grate after a while. For the record I purchased tickets and I own her albums so I do give a fuck. My question to Gaga is do you? The little monsters worshipping mother monster is all well and good but her pontifications were almost cult like and a little bit Dubya in the sense that you’re either with us or you’re not, no in-between. I was with her, but now I’m not. So I assume that this make’s me the Gaga equivalent of a ‘cheese eating surrender monkey’
Also how many times did she have to tell us that “Born This Way” was written at the MEN during her last major UK tour. Once would have been enough. Then there was the new song about Princess Diana. It sounds like a reasonable song, but the spoken introduction which went on and on and on added nothing to it and would have struggled to raise a laugh or excitement from someone afflicted with a disease that means they laugh all the time.
She has a fixation for Disney Princesses and a clear dislike for Barbie which surprises me given how bland, insipid and devoid of controversy most Disney princesses actually are. It was quite amusing to see Ms Germanotta struggling to rip Barbie’s limbs off though. Overall I was disappointed I expected more from someone who I still believe has much potential and talent. But she really does need to take her head out of her, albeit rather nice, arse and get real before I would ever consider seeing her again.
Gaga has left the building and seems to have at least temporarily removed her head from her arse
Getting closer to the big day by the hour now and behind one of the few remaining perforated cardboard door flaps on my UK Christmas Number Ones Advent Calendar today, December 23rd, is a song that has been the Christmas number one on three separate occasions and technically by different acts each time. It was number one firstly in the Christmas of 1984, then in 1989 and most recently in 2004. It was the last UK Christmas number one before the X Factor winners had four years in a row, finally broken last year by Rage Against The Machine. You have probably guessed that the song is “Do They Know It’s Christmas” originally by Band Aid in 1984, then Band Aid II (1989) followed by Band Aid 20 (2004). Maybe it’ll be top again for the 30th anniversary in 2014.
It was number one fora total of 12 weeks; 5 weeks in 1984, 3 weeks in 1989 and 4 weeks in 2004. The song was written by Bob Geldof off of the Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure off of Ultravox after they had seen the news coverage of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia. They had aimed to raise money for famine relief and the single and subsequent Live Aid concert probably went way beyond their initial expectations. It sold more than a million copies in its first week alone and went on to sell 3.5 million copies. It remained the fastest and highest selling UK single until Elton John’s rerecording of “Candle In The Wind” following the death of Princess Diana in August 1997. The song was recorded on November 29th 1984 at SARM Studios in London after Geldof gathered the great and good of pop music at the time. The opening line was originally written for David Bowie, who was unfortunately unable to make it, so it was done by Paul Young. The single was released just 4 days after the recording on December 3rd 1984 and remember this was way before the days of downloads.
Midge Ure produced the original version, it was offered to Trevor Horn but he was not in the UK at the time. Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced the 1989 version. Some artists such as David Bowie and Paul McCartney were unable to be at the recording of the original so provided messages that appeared on the B-Side. Members of Bananarama appeared on the 1984 and 1989 version whilst Bono sang the same line in 1984 as he did in 2004; ‘Well, tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you’. On the 2004 version Dizzee Rascal also added some new lyrics.
The artists that appeared on each version are listed below;
BAND AID (1984)
Bono, U2, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, Boomtown Rats, Tony Hadley, Spandau Ballet, Midge Ure, Ultravox, Simon Le Bon, Duran Duran, Paul Young, Heaven 17, Marilyn, Bananarama, Jody Watley, Paul Weller, Kool & The Gang, George Michael , Status Quo, Boy George, Culture Club, Sting, Holly Johnson, Big Country
BAND AID II (1989)
Bananarama, Big Fun, Bros, Cathy Dennis, D Mob, Jason Donovan, Kevin Godley, Glen Goldsmith, Kylie Minogue, Pasadenas, Chris Rea, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Somerville, Sonia, Lisa Stansfield, Technotronic, Wet Wet Wet
BAND AID 20 (2004)
Bono, Daniel Bedingfield, Natasha Bedingfield, Vishal Das, Busted, Chris Martin, Dido, Dizzee Rascal, Ms Dynamite, Skye Edwards, Estelle, Neil Hannon, Justin Hawkins, Jamelia, Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley, Beverley Knight, Lemar, Shaznay Lewis, Katie Melua, Róisín Murphy, Feeder, Snow Patrol, Rachel Stevens, Joss Stone, Sugababes, Thrills, Turin Brakes, Robbie Williams, Will Young, Francis Healy, Danny Goffey, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Paul McCartney, Francis Healy, Andy Dunlop, Dougie Payne
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Hello everybody on this glorious Tuesday 17th March, well the weather is glorious where I am anyway. Firstly did everyone see the reports about Francis Rossi of Status Quo in the press last week? He finally had his hair cut short, yes he has had his pony tail chopped off. His hair had been receding considerably at the front too, so perhaps he should have done it ages ago, but at least he’s done it now. Personally I really don’t think old grey haired men with receding hair lines and pony tails is a good look. But then maybe I suffer from hair envy as I do have a head like a billiard ball and I have also been likened before to Sam the Bald Eagle from the Muppets, so what do I know! Anyway you can read the story and see the pictures in an article from the Guardian by clicking here (or should that be clicking hair?). Either way it really does have the same shocking effect as seeing Elvis getting his hair cut for the Army in 1958.
Francis auditions for the Bay City Rollers in his younger days
On with the usual stuff now starting with just a couple of birthdays. Firstly today is the 42nd birthday of Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins. Whilst he is younger than me we do share the same first name and hairstyle! Billy was (and presumably still is) a big baseball fan. He played for his school and whilst there he also built up a collection of baseball cards that reached 10,000. Wow that even makes my CD and comic (sorry graphic novel) collections look tame! Corgan also dated Courtney Love before she came into Kurt Cobain’s life. Corgan even shared some songwriting credits on Courtney’s band Hole’s album “Celebrity Skin”. Incidentally you should check out Courtney on MySpace, in my opinion she has a fantastic presence there and uses it really well. The Smashing Pumpkins broke up in 2000 but reformed in 2006. In the ensuing period Corgan formed the rather short lived Zwan and also released some solo material. In my opinion the Pumpkins 1997 album “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness is one of the best albums to come out of the 90s. Check out “1979” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by clicking on the song title.
Billy appeared to be (s)lightly cross
Today is also the 34th birthday of Justin Hawkins off of the Darkness and Hot Leg. Since the Darkness split up and before Hot Leg came to be Mr Hawkins was quite a busy boy. He issued a solo single, a cover of the Sparks song “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”. He took part in the competition to represent the UK at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. I’m glad he didn’t win that, the voting is so political and territorial that the UK is unlikely ever to win it again. In the Film ‘Telstar’ which is based on the life of the late great (finally those l’s & g’s make a return!) Joe Meek, Justin will be taking on the role of the wonderful English eccentric, the late great (with a vengeance, l & g’s ra ra ra) Screaming Lord Sutch. I saw the Darkness live at the Reading Festival twice. Firstly in 2003 when they were about 4th on the bill and still relatively new, they were absolutely fantastic one of the best bands of the whole festival that year. However they went on to headline the following year and personally I don’t think that they were ready. Their second album still hadn’t been released and they tried out some of the new songs which seemed under rehearsed. In my opinion they were one of the worst Reading headliners that I have ever seen and I have been going for a long while, the fireworks at the end were the most exciting thing about their set that year. I reckon they peaked way to early. However I do feel that Justin Hawkins is immensely talented. I loved both the Darkness albums and the current Hot Leg album is pretty damned good too. Here is the Darkness classic “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” and a future Hot Leg classic “I’ve Met Jesus”
Justin had asked one of the audience to change the channel on his flat screen crotch TV
On this day in 1976 Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers appeared at New York’s CBGB’s club. The Heartbreakers were formed in 1975 when Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan quit the ‘New York Dolls’ and Richard Hell left ‘Television’. Hell left in 1976 and went on to form the Voidoids. The Heartbreakers were invited to appear on the bill of the Sex Pistols Anarchy Tour in 1976, although most of the dates were cancel thanks to the massive overreaction by much of the British press and many local councils. The invite may have come about because Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren had previously been the manager of the New York Dolls and he knew Nolan and Thunders quite well. The Heartbreakers are certainly unlikely to reform since Thunders died in 1991 and Nolan in 1992. My favourite Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers song is “Chinese Rocks” check it out and tell me what you think, to me it’s a punk classic.
Johnny didn't think Sid was particularly vicious
The CBGBs club opened in 1973 in Manhattan and sadly closed down in 2006. The initials stood for Country, Blue Grass and Blues although strangely enough it is most associated with punk. However it’s full name was CBGBs & OMFUG the second set of initials stood for Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers. I must confess that I haven’t got the foggiest as to what Gormandizers means, do you? The final show at CBGBs was by the fabulous Patti Smith. “Elegie” was the last song ever played at CBGBs, a very sad moment indeed
The CBGB bathroom/ toilet, moderately better than most festival toilet facilities
And finally on this day in 1997 US singer Jermaine Stewart died of liver cancer which was believed to have been complicated by HIV/ AIDS. He had a UK number two hit in 1986 with “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off“. He also worked with Shalamar, the Temptations and Boy George amongst others, largely providing backing vocals. He provided many of the backing vocals on Culture Club’s “Colour By Numbers” album. His first big break was becoming a dancer on the iconic US TV show ‘Soul Train’
Jermaine regretted falling asleep in the road just as the line painters arrived