Saturday, 29 June 2013

Guitars, mobile phones and ZZ Top

There was a time when, as an amateur musician, you would sit and play your guitar or whatever and occasionally come up with some shit hot riff but unless you had a tape recorder to hand it would probably be lost forever as the next time you sat down to play, you'd completely forgotten what it was you played last time.

But now with computers and the internet you can capture everything and share it with the world. Whether this is a good thing or not, I don't know. There is so much to listen to and watch out there that we are spoiled for choice or, the other way of looking at it is, there just aren't enough hours in the day to listen to and watch everything we want to. Try as we might we cannot keep up with all the tweets and Facebook postings telling us to watch this music video, this comedy clip, read this blog, check out this news story, download this podcast, read this ebook, use this app on our smartphone, look at photos posted on Tumblr, Flickr or wherever.

You just want to scream, enough! I can't keep up!

I don't own a smartphone. I did have one last year but the screen kept getting stuck and after downloading the latest version of the operating system, which was supposed to fix the problem, I found that it had deleted all the contacts in my address book. It had taken ages to download the upgrade and I was now at breaking point. "Stupid bloody (insert your brand name here) phone!" I raged at no-one in particular. "What a piece of junk!" and with that I threw the phone to the floor. Or thwew it, if you're a Monty Python fan.

The screen broke and the phone had gone to meet its maker. It was an ex-smart phone, it was pushing up the daisies etc etc. So I went back to using my old phone. I use it to sent text messages and occasionally phone people. I use my PC for everything else. That's so last decade, I hear you say but quite frankly my dear, I don't give a shit.

So back to the music. On Tuesday my friend Bryan drove us down to Manchester to see ZZ Top in concert. It was the first time I'd seen them since 1985 and while they certainly didn't break any records for the longest set ever played, it was just brilliant to see them again on stage. Billy Gibbons is one of my favourite guitar players and to my delight he played a Fender Telecaster for most of the main set. This is my favourite guitar and one that I own and love dearly. If I had to choose between my guitar and my PC I'd say, stuff Facebook, I'd rather play my Telecaster. Which is what I've been doing today, partly due to seeing Billy and partly after watching Seasick Steve on TV last night playing at Glastonbury with John Paul Jones on bass.

So here is some guitar playing. It could be described at a work in progress or a first take or whatever. It was me sitting down with my Telecaster, turning my Fender amp up and just playing... and recording into Audacity. Computers have their uses.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

ZZ Top, Castle Donington, 1985

Having just seen ZZ Top this week at the Manchester Apollo on their La Futura tour, I thought I would revisit the only other time I've seen them in concert. 28 years is a long time to wait to see one of your favourite bands again but the concert passed without anything dramatic happening unlike that day at the Monster of Rock festival.

This is an excerpt from my book "Drum Solos, Bottles and Bands - Memories of a Concert-goer 1981-1999". If you'd like to read another bit from it, listen to the introduction or buy a copy please see -


1985 was the year I celebrated my 21st birthday. I threw a party in the Nite Club function room of the Edinburgh Playhouse which also doubled up as a venue for smaller bands - I had seen the boogie band Spider play there the previous year. Some friends at work had clubbed together and bought me a ticket for ZZ Top's Rocking The Castle date at Donington as a birthday present. I booked a seat on a coach and departed from Edinburgh, after a few hours in the pub, late on the Friday night arriving at Donington sometime after 7am. We were then told to get off the coach by the driver as he wanted to get some kip which meant we had a few hours to kill before the gates opened.

These days the Download Festival at Donington has five different stages but back in the 80s there was only the one stage. I wandered round and found the Motor Museum but sadly it was shut. Of the six bands that played that day, I'd have to say that Metallica certainly impressed me though this was the only time I've seen them in concert. I was a bit disappointed by Bon Jovi compared to when I saw them headlining at the Playhouse and I don't remember much about Ratt and Magnum. Marillion, however, played a good set which included material from their latest album, Misplaced Childhood.

After Marillion had left the stage certain members of the crowd took it upon themselves to hurl plastic bottles up into the air. Some of these were empty, which was fine if one hit you as it just bounced off. But other bottles had been filled by those who couldn't be bothered to traipse up the field to the toilets. If you were hit by one of those, you knew all about it as I was about to find out. I noticed two bikers in front of me putting their helmets on and sitting down on the ground, which was a good move. I decided to follow their example and just watched the bottles flying about until I saw someone not far from me lob a bottle in my direction. As this was an empty one I couldn't resist picking it up and chucking it back at the lad who'd thrown it at me. Just a bit of harmless fun. Well, it was until the inevitable happened and I was struck on the head with a bottle which was far from being empty. My hand instinctively went to my head and I was alarmed to see blood on my fingers.

I made my way to the First Aid centre where I got stitched up and I returned to the arena shortly before ZZ Top came on stage. I was one of the more fortunate ones. There were one or two lads who were lying unconscious, though whether this was from having been hit by a bottle or the result of drinking all day, I couldn't say. I stayed away from the stage as there were still some bottles being lobbed into the air. Looking round I saw a very drunk individual wearing nothing but a loose-fitting sheepskin jacket running around between the fires people had lit at the top of the field. He would fall over, get up, stagger on a bit further and then fall over again. At least that brought a smile to my face.

ZZ Top were still riding high on the success of Eliminator and their set included the singles from that album 'Legs' and 'Gimme All Your Lovin' along with old favourites like 'Jesus Just Left Chicago', 'Cheap Sunglasses' and 'La Grange'. After the firework display at the end of the night I headed back to the coach and the return journey to Edinburgh. Perhaps not surprisingly, the injury I sustained put me off such events and I didn't attended another festival until 1996 when I went to T in the Park at Strathclyde Country Park.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Folk and Acoustic Music Show playlist 24 June

Coming up at 9pm tonight on Acoustic Spectrum radio...

Slaid Cleaves - Still Fighting The war
Battlefield Band - Bagpipe Music
James Taylor - Sweet Baby James
Ralph McTell - Chattanooga Choo Choo
Steve Mayone and Kristina Stykos - Stealing Away
Pentangle - Light Flight
Tracy Moore - Bob Takes His Truck to the Dump
Kami Thompson - Little Boy Blue
Rose's Pawn Shop - The Garden
Equation - He Loves Me
Sarah MacDougall - It's A Storm (What's Going On)
Battlefield Band - Tynes in Overtime
Eric Bibb - Lovin' In My Baby's Eyes
Michael Chapman - Caddo Lake

The featured album is "Room Enough For All" by Battlefield Band.

The Equation track is from the Cara Dillon\Kathryn Roberts line-up but here is Kathryn with Kate Rusby from 1995...

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Folk and Acoustic Music Show playlist 17 June

Coming up at 9pm tonight on Acoustic Spectrum radio...

Neil Young - Comes A Time
Darwin Song Project - Heavy In My Hand
Elephant Revival - What is Time
Patsy Matheson - Shining Silver
Richard & Linda Thompson - A Heart Needs A Home
Nils Lofgren - Birds
Jess Thomas - Northern Rain
Idiot Johnson - The Great Love Scenes
Gigspanner - The Water is Wide
Elephant Revival - Barefoot Friend
Rich Tea - The Rich Tea Bouree & The Blue Ribbon
Neil Young - Old Man
Gavin Sutherland - Choir of Angels
Duncan Wood - The Clearances / The New World March / The New World Jig

The featured album is "Break in the Clouds" by Elephant Revival.

I'm currently reading Tony Iommi's autobiography 'Iron Man'. Any fans of Black Sabbath will know that they often recorded acoustic numbers on their albums to break up all the heavier stuff.

Here's an acoustic number from the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" album named after a certain BBC radio DJ...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Folk and Acoustic Music Show playlist 10 June

Here's last night's playlist and the show is now on Mixcloud for you to listen to at your leisure -

The Pogues - Dirty Old Town
The Abramson Singers - Lose-Lose
Woody Pines - Hobo and His Bride
Bryony Holden - Black Waterside
Cara Dillon - Green Grows The Laurel
Kris Drever - Harvest Gypsies
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - Raven Girl
Ruth Moody - Pockets
Locust Honey String Band - Jealous Hearted Me
Steve Knightley - The Girl From The North Country
The Abramson Singers - Red River Valley
Kate Rusby - Blooming Heather
Phil McLennan Smillie - Captain Kim Frizzell

I'm planning on playing some Neil Young on next week's show seeing as how he's currently touring the UK with Crazy Horse on what is rumoured to be their last ever tour this side of the pond. Gives me an excuse to play another track from Nils Lofgren's Neil Young tribute album and something from Harvest and Comes A Time.

Friday, 7 June 2013

The last show and the next show

Here's the playlist from the May the 27th show. Next Monday's featured album is 'Late Riser' by The Abramson Singers and also on the playlist will be The Pogues, Woody Pines, Cara Dillon, Locust Honey String Band, Bryony Holden and Ruth Moody.

Richard Thompson - A Solitary Life
Sarah McQuaid - The Sun Goes on Rising
The Deadly Winters - The Mines of Spennymoor
Cam Penner - Rivers Forgotten
The Stray Birds - Dream In Blue
Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston - Me and My Sister The Moon
Phil MacLennan Smillie - Old Pier Road
Didi Bergman - About The Outskirts
Bob Dylan - Simple Twist of Fate
Sarah McQuaid - Solid Air
Flook - Waltzes
Cam Penner - House of Liars

Listen again at

The Folk & Acoustic Music Show
Mondays at 9pm / Tuesdays at 2am
Listen online at
Listen again at