Denim And Leather


Good morning and welcome back to this blog on what looks to be a sunny St. George’s day morning. 

Yes, you read that right. April 23rd is St. George’s day here in England, not that you’d have any idea it was if you sit in front of the TV, read some newspapers, listen to the radio and so far I’ve seen no mention of the day in any of the Facebook, Instagram or Twitter posts that I’ve seen in the last couple of hours.  

I’m not sure how the Welsh and Scots celebrate St David or St Andrew respectively, but the whole world seems to know when every one seems to find that little percentage of Irish DNA in them to help to celebrate St Patrick. 

George, the man, has links with Cappadocia in what is now central Turkey and Lydda in what was Palestine. His parents were both from Greek noble families and they both died when he was a teenager. 
He joined the Roman army and his veneration was instilled when in the year 303 Christian soldiers were to be rounded up and sacrificed to the Roman gods. George, as a much renowned soldier, objected to this and claimed to be a Christian. On April 23rd 303 George was executed by decapitation by the city walls of Nicomedia, what is now İzmit in Turkey.   

The slaying of Ascalon the dragon is a purely medieval romance story. The dragon seems to be more of an analogy for marauding armies of the time and George being the saviour. 

There seems to be a complete lack of recognition to the date as the whole concept of flying the cross of St George has been tarnished by the notoriety of football hooligans abroad following the national team since the 70’s and a rallying symbol for racist organisations at a similar time. Even now, and with the impending break from the European Union, the English flag seems even more derided as a racist symbol. 

To celebrate the day musically here’s something from Saxon, what many people view as the quintessential English heavy metal band. Denim and Leather is the closing track on the album of the same name and was released in 1981. The title is a reference to the unofficial uniform of the heavy metal army at the time. Spin on three decades I wonder what the modern equivalent would be? Hoodies and combats? Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

Advertisements

R.I.P. Micky Fitz

  

Last night I went to bed with a few murmurings of the passing of Micky Fitz – the frontman of Lewisham Oi! band The Business – due to cancer. 

Waking up and checking social media over a mug of coffee this morning there are more obituaries on my time line to Micky than actor Andrew Sachs who played Manuel the Spanish waiter in Faulty Towers. Influential bands in the hardcore and punk scene have all paid tribute to the West Ham fan. Sick Of It All, Cro-Mags, Strife, The Toy Dolls, Madball, Ignite and Slapshot are just a few. 

The Oi! and street punk scene has often been misunderstood as a violent and racist style of music, fair enough there are more bands with those politics in this genre, but The Business weren’t that way inclined, even though they had that shady element in their following. Any perceived violence usually came from the football hooligan angle. One of the most poignant tributes I’ve seen today is from Knuckledust guitarist Wema, thanking him for taking them out on tour. 

I only ever saw the band once and coincidentally Knuckledust were also on the bill at the Astoria on 1997. It was an all day affair “headlined” by Agnostic Front, but due to some of the unsavoury elements in The Business’ fan base they were a surprise and unannounced headliner, the worst kept secret that had been circulation around the venue all day. I could have added to that single total over the years, but a lot of their shows I could  have been going to usually got scrapped late on and those that went ahead were shrouded in rumours of disorder, so the coward that I am steered clear. 

My favourite track by them is one of their many football themed tracks Southgate ’96, there aren’t too many songs about a footballer missing a penalty. That track also brings back memories of my first European adventure with Stampin’ Ground.  
  

Possibly the track most associated with the band is Harry May their first single released in 1981 and later found on their debut album Suburban Rebels, both released by Secret Records. 

Witching Hour

  

Another weekend is petering out with battle ship grey rain clouds filing the skies – our typical British Summers never fail to deliver! It also means we are a few days closer to another long weekend for music fans to be pitching their tents on a grassy slope and preparing for another alcohol fuelled festival. 

My next experience for three days with the smells of chemical toilets and sizzling burgers filling the air and hitting the back of your nose begins in twelve days when I partake in my annual homage to the Bloodstock Festival for the eighteenth time since its 2001 inception. I might have mentioned this festival once or twice over the last 271 posts.

Over the next few days I’ll take a look at some of the bands appearing on the hallowed Catton Hall turf imminently and some of those who graced the stage within the Derby Assembly Rooms during the festivals early days. First up one of two bands announced during last years festivities. 

Bursting out of the banks of the river Tyne are Geordie black metal protagonists Venom. Firmly ensconced within the New Wave of British Heavy Metal tidal wave of the late 70’s Cronos, Abaddon and Mantas took their crude punk infused heavy metal, added some satanic imagery for some shock value and influenced a generation of musicians to play loud, fast and heavy – and proved it could be done with a limited ability. 

Over the years members have gone, musicians have arrived. The band have split, reunited, reinvented, argued and splintered. Currently there are two versions that could claim the name of Venom, but the one using the infamous logo features vocalist and bass player Cronos with a pair of hired hands. Also performing the same songs is Venom, Inc who feature Abaddon and Mantas along with Demolition Man who fronted the “proper” Venom between 1988 and 1993. 

For some reason the well worn and beaten up vinyl version of Welcome To Hell was swapped between the few metal heads at school and I don’t think anyone found the primitive metal on offer any good. I think it ended up in my possession at least twice. 

This will be my second time seeing a version of Venom and the first time in a decade. My only other experience was during the bands Metal Black cycle when they played the Academy 2 in Manchester in 2006. I can’t remember too much about that March evening, but I’m sure there were no pyrotechnics, something they were renowned for during their most influential period. Maybe with a larger stage we might get some fire spewing from the stage. 

Witching Hour is a song that has been covered quite a few times by bands as diverse as Kreator, High On Fire, Rykers,  Slayer and Mayhem. Taken from their debut album this live version is from the bands live video Hell At Hammersmith released in 1985. 

  

Killers


I couldn’t resist two of these posts today that are in celebration of a pair of records released today that received many plays during my formative years, especially this slab of 12″ vinyl.

First up it’s Iron Maiden again. Their second album Killers was released on this day in the UK in 1981. The United States had to wait until June. It was the last album to feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals, before we got the Maiden sound that we know and love today.

Killers was also one of the first pieces of heavy metal vinyl that I purchased, and I’ve not looked back, regretted it or been embarrassed by my musical taste ever since. You would be pretty surprised back then (and sometimes even in 2016) how many people would comment that you liked heavy metal and how it’s a fad. For nearly three decades this music has taken me to places I might not have though if visiting, given me memories that will last forever and I have met some great people who will be friends when we all get our free bus passes.

One thing I’d like to do with this blog is look at some if the artists that created the artwork that adorns millions of pieces of vinyl, cassette tapes and compact discs and even more black T-shirts, with an occasional white one or red one thrown into the wash basket.  The creator and interpreter of so many Iron Maiden covers, Derek Riggs, would certainly be an artist to showcase, especially his non Maiden work.

This live recording was taken from the Live at the Rainbow VHS tape. The concert was recorded towards the end of 1980 and this version of the song is slightly different to the one that would be recorded for the record. According to legend, some of the lyrics for Killers were written backstage five minutes before show time.

Happy 35th birthday to Killers.