R.I.P. Malcolm Young

I like many other metal heads and rockers will be cranking out some AC/DC over the next few days in tribute to rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcom Young who passed away earlier today aged 64.

The Glaswegian was the driving force behind the band with his much more visible younger brother Angus. Due to ongoing health issues he stepped down from the ‘DC line up in 2014 to get treatment for dementia – the brain disease that took him three years later.

Reading through Twitter and Facebook his band and he were huge influences on many of today’s contemporary bands which has been highlighted by the slew of heartfelt tributes paid throughout the day.

As a youngling I never paid much attention to the band. They were another one of those bands that I knew the history and hits of without owning an album. I was into things of a more heavy nature at the time and it took a while to appreciate the more rock ‘n’ roll and blues tinged artists that were such huge influences on those bands I idolised at the time.

I was fortunate enough to see the band twice. Once surrounded by a plethora of flashing devil horns at Wembley Stadium in 2015 and my debut experience was in 2010 when they brought their own stage to the Download Festival. They played their set on the Friday evening and the carcass of their own set up overshadowed the main stage for the following 48 hours. It overshadowed the other bands over the weekend in an intimidating way and reminding the likes of Deftones, Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch that they were light years behind them as entertainers.

Their Download appearance was the only time I got to see Malcolm on stage as his nephew Stevie Young was filling in for him.

I attempted to get tickets to see them the year before on an earlier leg of the Black Ice tour but we were on holiday in Florida when tickets went on sale. By the time I got around to getting online with the patchy hotel internet and the five hour time difference all the venues had sold out in minutes.

Last year I had tickets for their show at the Olympic Park in London – less than twelve months after playing Wembley. When the departure of Brian Johnson was announced and the rumoured replacement of Axl Rose was confirmed I requested a refund on my tickets as to me that wasn’t what I’d originally signed up for. In hindsight and from what friends I knew who went said, he did the material justice. One of those missed opportunities I’ll have to live with.

If You Want Blood… is taken from 1979’s Highway to Hell, the final album to feature Bon Scott on vocals who was found dead in a car in February of the following year.

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R.I.P Chris Cornell

As soon as you think the talent taking grim reaper of 2016 has melted away into the mists of history this morning social media and even Radio 2, broke the news of the passing of Chris Cornell over night. Aged only 52, he and his Soundgarden brethren from the City of Goodwill played what would turn out to be their last show in Detroit before he was found dead in his hotel room after he hung himself. 

I’m not a massive fan of the Seattle band. I just think it highlights more important issues. 

My first dabble into the band was via their Hands All Over EP that I picked up from Mike Lloyds Music in their bargain bin. It was a 10″ vinyl and the cover was pretty snazzy fold out affair. When I listened to it though I thought it was awful. 

Roll on a few years and with the 1991 album Badmotorfinger they became a monstrous band for a relatively brief period of time. Rusty Cage always seemed to be on heavy MTV rotation. That position was solidified when Superunknown surfaced three years later. All I own physically by the band are the CD singles of Spoonman and Black Hole Sun. 

Until Audioslave released Cochise from their self titled debut album in 2002 I don’t think I listened to anything new from Cornell. In 2006 he was bestowed the privilege of performing the theme for the James Bond film Casino Royale. I’d say this is what propelled him to the general public’s consciousness rather than anything he did with Soundgarden, Audioslave or prior to both Temple of the Dog. 

The whole grunge scene seems fraught with tortured geniuses. If there was an influential big five from the innovators of grunge the only frontman still alive is Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and now Soundgarden have all lost their frontmen to drugs or suicide. 


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Two things that have annoyed me a lot today is some of the attitudes towards his mental state, or mental issues in general. Firstly comments along the lines of “he had everything, how could he be depressed?” To be honest, it’s also a view point I might have had a number of years ago. 

I’m not claiming to be an expert in the field, but it is such a deep rooted affliction that it can be some of the smallest and irrelevant things that can offset someone’s mindset. They might have loads of money, massive record sales, adoring fans or a million dollar mansion. If there’s a darkness there anything could throw them over the edge. It’s probably been well hidden in public but in private things could be completely different. People’s coping mechanisms work in different ways to all situations. What you and I take for granted, i.e. receiving a negative comment, can be a tidal wave of pent up frustration to the next person and a feeling of uselessness. But do they want to draw attention to it? Maybe instead they publicly laugh out loud at it.    

Which leads me on to irritation number two. “Why not speak to someone about it?” I saw one comment about someone who has strong bonds with their family and band mates and could discuss anything. Congratulations to them. Let’s see what really happens when foresight isn’t a relevant option. 

If it’s family at the root of it all then where do you turn? If you segregate yourself from the rest of society and just “get on with it” on an individual basis day to day then you’ll have no one to speak to who you think you can confide in. It especially seems a male trait that you don’t talk about stuff like that. It’s fine saying you could, but if you are feeling that low and negative could you handle the rejection and humiliation that you will ultimately be expecting? 

Coming out and confiding in someone, anyone, is the hardest thing those with a mental illness can do. To some they might see suicide as an easier option to deal with it. They won’t have to bother someone else and unload all their problems onto someone else. If you can’t process the electrical impulses in your brain correctly the pieces others have to pick up are secondary thought to their escape route. 

Yes it’s good to talk, which in itself seems such a blasé statement. I’m pretty certain we all bottle up something, it doesn’t have to be depression, anything you consider to be a problem that no one can help you with. Broaching the subject is not as easy as you’d think. It takes much more determination to bring it to the forefront. It’s not a quick process either. The people you’ve known for years or decades could be struggling for all the time you’ve known them. It doesn’t suddenly hit you like a virus. It sits inside the darkest recess of your brain and festers away long term. 

Be proud of any one who faces their fears and be understanding. Let them talk. If someone will listen and not be judgemental it’s a positive step. 

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. 

R.I.P. Nick Menza

So 2016 continues to keep the grim reaper busy. I’ve been out for most of the day, but before I left there was speculation that ex Megadeth drummer Nick Menza had passed away.

Unfortunately these weren’t spurious rumours, and sadly Nick had passed away due to heart failure whilst on stage with his current band OHM who were performing at The Baked Potato in California. Scarily he was only 51, just nine years older than I am now.

Menza was part of the Megadeth family for a decade and played on four albums with Dave Mustaine. This period between 1988 and 1998 is probably the bands most commercially successful era in their career. He was unceremoniously dumped from the drum stool when he had to step away from the band due to having to have a benign tumour in his knee removed mid tour. When the band came to record Risk his touring replacement Jimmy DeGrasso was retained. He was invited back in 2004, but this reunion was over within a day when Mustaine said he want physically prepared for a full US tour.

Nick would have been the drummer when I first saw the band at Birmingham’s NEC in 1991.
Sweating Bullets is taken from the bands 1992 album Countdown to Extinction.

R.I.P. Jimmy Bain

  

R.I.P. Jimmy Bain

19 December 1947 – 24 January 2016

And once again a new day dawns with news of yet another passing in the rock community.

Born and raised in Newtonmore in the Scottish Highlands Jimmy briefly moved to Vancouver before returning to the UK.  Richie Blackmore saw Jimmy playing at the Marquee Club with his band Harlot and asked him to join his band Rainbow on bass.  He recorded Rising in 1976, but he was sacked early in 1977.

Six years later in 1983 he’d join up again with ex-Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio and the band simply known as Dio, is where he’d make his mark for the next 19 years and appeared on and wrote for all the classic Dio albums.

Sometime in 1987, I Could Have Been a Dreamer was one of the first four 7″ singles I ever purchased when I was getting into my love affair with heavy metal. For those interested the other three were by W.A.S.P., Whitesnake and Ratt, and I still have them all. This song and the album it appeared on, Dream Evil, was my gateway into Dio. Unfortunately I never got to see Dio play live.

After Dio’s death in 2010 some ex members of the Dio band – including Bain – joined up as Last In Line and played songs that they had recorded from the Dio back catalogue.  I did get to see them live in 2013 at the Bloodstock Festival.

R.I.P. David Bowie

More bad news broke this morning of the passing of David Bowie who’d been suffering privately with cancer for 18 months. It really is bizarre that 47 years after first putting people on the moon we are still no closer to finding a cure for cancer.

Like so many artists around before I was born, or plying their trade while I was young, I’m a bit hit and miss with their bodies of work.

I remember hearing Bowie’s stuff on the radio when the charts were all I knew. An abiding memory is probably from Top Of The Pops and that dire outfit he wore for the video when he did Dancing In The Street with Mick Jagger. When satellite TV came into the house I probably saw more from him on MTV and the “gold” style music channels. From his 111 singles the only track I own a physical version of would be his collaboration with Queen on 1981’s Under Pressure.

Over relative recent years, and as mentioned before in the blog, with the easier accessibility of owning odd songs by artists, I probably have a couple of dozen of his songs in my library that I’ve either picked up on from listening to the radio or connected with via other media, such as Life On Mars? being used in the TV programme of the same name.

One thing that Bowie’s passing has shown compared to that of Lemmy’s less than a fortnight ago is how the metal scene is so insular and we, as metal fans, think it is much bigger and important scene than we’d like to believe. Today’s news in comparison has been like a member to royalty passing. Constant reporting on news channels – rather than a token mention, a special programme on the BBC looking at the life of David Bowie within 12 hours of the news breaking and many more varied and prominent people paying tribute – they’ve even questioned Premier League football manager about his career.

Here’s probably my favourite Bowie tune, Let’s Dance from the album of the same name.

R.I.P. Lemmy

R.I.P. Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister


Born a Stokie 

Died a Legend

 

What truly horrible news to wake up to this morning, the sad passing of a real Rock ‘n’ Roll legend. I know grown men who will have shed a tear over this news this morning.

For 40 years with Motörhead and three before that with space rockers Hawkwind, Lemmy has been treading the boards all over the globe. Many expected him to be the only thing roaming the Earth with the cockroaches when the world implodes, but cancer really doesn’t care for reputations when the grim reaper is dispatched.

Very rarely seen with out a bottle of Jack Daniels or a packet of Marlboro’s, he notoriously lived the Rock ‘n’ Roll life style to the very end. By no means the right way to live, as I have seen put by some people today, but it was his way.

For me two bands with their roots in Stoke-on-Trent changed the face of heavy music to what we have had for over 35 years, Discharge – the D-Beat punk inovators, but no one more than Motörhead.

Motörhead bridged that gap between rock and punk and were (well, actually still are) embraced by all genres. Just look at at all the tributes paid to the man on social media since the news broke. Rock and metal heavyweights like KISS, Aerosmith, Nickelback, Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica. Thrash metal bands Kreator, Anthrax, Overkill and Dark Angel, prog rockers Rush. Conflict and Anti-Nowhere League from the punk world. Hatebreed, Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front from the hardcore scene. Glam metallers Mötley Crüe and Poison. I’ve even seen a tribute from indie rockers The Wonderstuff! Without Lemmy none of these bands, and countless more, would have existed and the musical landscape on the rock front might have been so so different. Even the usually stuffy Radio 2 have paid tribute to Lemmy throughout the day.