Status Quo – Ingliston 2016

Status Quo – Ingliston Showground, July 23rd 2016

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Sadly an era is coming to an end for me. The Quo are hanging up their electric guitars and are due to do their final dates as an electric band at the end of this year. I believe they have some ill thought out plan to continue touring as an acoustic act which would be such a sad way to go from a band that played such great hard rock boogie in the 70s. They were my first music love and will always have a special place in my heart.

This whole situation has now been complicated somewhat by guitarist Rick Parfitt suffering a 2nd (may even be a 3rd) heart attack in May which he is now recuperating from. In the short term the band have recruited the bass player Rhino Edwards son Freddie to take over guitar duties and on this date they had brought in Irishman Richie Malone, who I believe plays in a Quo tribute band, to do the honours.

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I was in two minds whether to go as Quo without Parfitt & Rossi is not Quo for me. The real Quo, imo, is the Frantic Four line up including Lancaster and Coghlan but I’ve made do with the Rossi/Parfitt line up for over 30 years and only go to hear the classic songs up to 1982. Anything after that, apart from one or two exceptions is a bit crap.

Anyway I decided seeing as I had a ticket anyway and I was a bit curious I’d go. This involved a mad dash up the road from Blackpool after an unplanned extra day on our holiday which involved a Pleasure Beach visit and then an even madder dash from home to Ingliston. I made it with 4 mins to spare.

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The familiar drone heralded the band arriving on stage and regular set opener Caroline pierced the air. All the chords sounded in the right place but it wasn’t right. Not seeing Parfitt standing legs apart, his arm a blur as he thrashed out the opening chords to Caroline was just wrong, wrong, wrong. If you closed your eyes it sounded ok but watching the stage you knew someone was missing. That said I tried to enjoy it for what it was, one step away from a tribute act. They did an excellent version of Paper Plane that saw my trusty air guitar get an airing. One other downside of Parfitt being absent is we don’t get my favourite Quo song Rain but Don’t Waste My Time does get a welcome return. The middle of the show is a struggle as it usually is as we are subjected to the ‘newer songs’ which do seem to be crowd pleasers but I really don’t like them and don’t come anywhere close to the classics. And we get a drum solo, its 2016 and people are still doing drum solos. Why?

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The closing run of Roll over Lay Down, Down Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin All Over the World was pretty decent before the band go off and come back and do Burning Bridges. A song that encapsulates everything that went wrong with Quo when the classic line up split. It was my cue to get a burger and head for the exit pausing just long enough to watch the band close out with Bye Bye Johnny and thinking, this might be it. The very last time I see Quo on stage 37 years after I first saw them live and my life changed forever.

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Overall, for what it was it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, the new boy did well under the circumstances. The show was kind of short though at just over 90 mins and I’d expect a bit longer for £45 although I got a ticket for £20 so can’t complain too much. I have a ticket for the Final Electrics tour in December but if Parfitt isn’t there then I don’t think I’ll go having now witnessed the Parfitless Quo. I hope he makes a full recovery and we can finish our live love affair with one final flourish and with Parfitt in his rightful place and me with my air guitar going for it one final time.

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The Wimbledon Experience

Soaked and Sunburnt

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I have to admit straight up I’m not that much of a tennis fan.  Over the years I’ve watched the odd Wimbledon match but it’s been no more than a passing interest and has never been a sport that I’d normally make much of a special effort for.  Although back in the very distant past I do remember watching the likes of McEnroe, Connors, Nastase and Borg when tennis players had a personality but that seemed to be part of the school summer holiday ritual where you played tennis for a couple of weeks then golf for 4 days before you returned to your first love of football and clubs and rackets were placed at the back of the cupboard until the next year.

So I approached a trip to Wimbledon with an open mind but there was always a lingering doubt that this might be akin to watching paint dry or even worse, watching cricket.  The reason for the trip was a 40th birthday present to my wonderful wife who had always wanted to go to Wimbledon and as I got to stand on the hallowed turf of the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon for mine it was only right she got to go to Wimbledon for hers.

On the face of it this seemed quite a simple proposition until I started to investigate how you got tickets.  It turned out I’d already missed the December ballot.  Options for tickets were fairly limited once you dismissed the prices on the legalised touting sites.  A small number of tickets are put on sale 24 & 48 hrs before each day’s play but you’d have more chance of winning the lottery than getting a pair of those or the final option is you go and join the famous Wimbledon queue to get a ground pass.  There can’t be many major sporting events these days you can rock up on the day and get a ticket, all be it you have to put a bit of effort in.

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Fortunately I had factored in this option when booking a hotel.  The obvious trick is to get to the queue as early as possible that is if you’re not mad enough to camp out overnight.  So I chose Kingston Upon Thames as our base which was only 15 mins away by train and crucially,  the Kingston train gets into Wimbledon ahead of the first tube from London.  Although if you follow the same plan as we did get a taxi from the station as it’s a bit of a trek on foot.

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After getting up at 5am, I’ll repeat that, 5am, in the morning we arrived at the queue around 6.30 and welcomed with the sight of 1,000s of people already there. The stewards issued us ticket numbers 5,024 and 5,025 which sounds quite high but was actually ok as there are approx 1500 tickets available across the three show courts and around 5,000 for the ground on sale each day so it was looking good for us getting in but we weren’t taking anything for granted at this early stage.  We got ourselves settled for the long wait in the queue just in time for the first downpour of the day.  Fortunately I had packed a couple of plastic ponchos courtesy of Magners from The Waterboys Kelvingrove gig a few years back and they turned out to be an inspired last minute packing item.  We would have been completely drenched and miserable otherwise.  Even with them and a ground sheet to sit on it wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs as the downpours arrived at regular intervals but given it was the 100th anniversary of the Somme that morning our small gripes really were fairly insignificant.

The queue itself was brilliantly managed given the thousands of people already there and the thousands who arrived after us.  Also it might be the kind of people tennis attracts and the early hour but the arsehole count was thankfully almost non existent.  Apart from the people throwing umbrellas to each other to try and entertain themselves.  Although I’m not sure I was up to quaffing champagne at that time in the morning like some were.  So for about 3 hours or so it was enjoying the odd break in the rain showers, trying to stay as dry as possible and resisting the temptation to not constantly check the time.

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The queue did eventually start to move and although the gates to the ground open at 10.30 we didn’t get in until after 12.  I did enjoy the stewards stopping people who tried to queue jump and hold them back until their queue number came up.  As we got into Wimbledon proper we just headed for the nearest court which was 17 as play was due to begin and we’d decide where to go after that.  Our game was a men’s single match between Frenchman Lucas Pouille and American Donald Young and after a few mins they appeared on court but there were more dark clouds ominously heading our way and about 30 secs before the game was about to start play was suspended as the rain came down and on came the covers. This was to be the story of our day.  I think we must have chosen one of the wettest days Wimbledon has seen for a long time.  At this point we decided to invest in Wimbledon ponchos as we didn’t think ones emblazoned with Magners would be acceptable.  We did look like muppets but at least we were dry muppets. So for the next 3 hours we became experts in the cover system as we watched them coming off then going back on again about 5 times before finally, we saw some tennis.

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My early worries about being a bit bored were soon dispelled.  When you are up that close to the action you realise how fast these balls are travelling and although the players we were watching were not in the same league as Murray or Federer they were in the top 100 players in the world and no slouches.  The margins of error were so fine it was fascinating to watch.  Pouille was seeded 32 and even to my untrained eye he clearly had the edge when it came to the range of shots and accuracy.  Young was the bigger hitter but more erratic and was starting to lose the rag through the 2nd and 3rd sets.  He changed his racket 4 times, moaned about the bounce, moaned that this was the worst court at Wimbledon and added a few expletives under his breath.  He did rally slightly but class won through in the end and Pouille saw the game out and we had finally seen our first game of championship tennis.  It’s also became a apparent that it was a dangerous job being a ball boy/girl.  During the Pouille game one of the ball girls took a serve full in the face and had to retire hurt and in a later game one of the ball boys dislocated his finger.  Tough shift.

I also had my first taste of Pimms, well we were at Wimbledon, I’ve tasted worse although at £8 a cup I was going to drink it no matter how it tasted. I had expected prices to be extortionate but they were actually fairly reasonable overall and you are also allowed to take a small amount of alcohol in with you which we didn’t bother doing but regretted later.

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lucas 2After our first game we then had a stroll round the rest of the grounds and courts.  Wimbledon is a bit of mix and match when it comes to the layout of the courts.  There are three show courts comprising centre court and courts 1 and 2 which are ticket only courts. Court 3 is a mix of reserved and unreserved seating and all other courts are first come first served.  Although some of these have very little seating and you just watch from the walkway and you could watch several games at once depending on your position.  As we walked around watching a few games here and there the dreaded rain came on again and on went the covers.  We decided we’d head for court 12 to see men’s ninth seed Cilic’s game and sat there waiting on the rain to go off but the announcer said there would be no play for at least 40 mins so we went off to see Henman Hill/Murray Mound.  Which both of us originally thought was outside the grounds but is actually behind court 1.

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We sat and watched the Williams/McHale game taking place under the roof of centre court on the big screen before the weather cleared and the covers started to come back off.  We headed back to the Cilic’s game but stopped off at court 3 where British player Tara Moore was playing 12th seed Svetlana Kusnetsova.  We thought it would be all over fairly quickly and we would still get to see most of Cilic’s game afterwards.  Moore lost the first set 6-1 and looked to be well out of her depth but came out and took the 2nd set with some great tennis that had the Russian on the ropes.  There was plenty home support with folks irritatingly shouting out ‘come on Tara’ between every shot and a bit of terracing chant when swapping ends. It did seem to galvanise her but she just couldn’t quite sustain it and the Russian won through with the match winning point coming seconds before the rain came down again and play was suspended for the final time and tennis on Day 5 was over.

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So a mere 14 hours since we had started queuing our Wimbledon experience finished much as it began in a downpour.  Given the unpredictability of the weather we were probably lucky we saw two games to their conclusion and although it was a frustrating day weather wise it was still a great day out and one I’d highly recommend, especially if you are a big tennis fan.  The ground pass was £25 which gives you access to all the courts bar the show ones and there is a re sale ticket office where you can queue to get tickets for the show courts at a reduced price after 3pm.  If the weather had been kinder to us we could have seen 8 or 9 hours of tennis which would make the ticket great value for money.  We’re already talking about coming back next year and now we know how the land lies we’ll be much better prepared and hopefully get better queuing weather if we don’t get tickets any other way.  We did think about going back on the Saturday later on as they do a reduced ticket after 5pm but we saw on twitter people who had queued since 7 in the morning were only getting in about 5 and also the weather was still pretty changeable so we thought better of it.

So I may not be a tennis convert just yet but all in all for me it was a surprisingly good day out and one I’m more than happy to repeat and even better the other half really enjoyed it as well which was really the purpose of the whole trip.

 

Week 18: Judas Priest

British-Steel - cover

British Steel

Hard rock and heavy metal were my first real music love and as Priest in the 80s were one of the biggest metal bands of the time they were a regular spin on my turntable. They were the self proclaimed ‘Metal Gods’ and no one was going to disagree with them.  Albums like Stained Class and Killing Machine, (released in limited edition red vinyl dontcha know) and live release Unleashed in the East were the albums that made me a big Priest fan and I still am to this day. Amazingly both studio albums were released in 1978 only 8 months apart, you don’t see that these days and how much of the live album was actually live is open to question but whatever they did it still sounds great.

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At the end of the 70s and the early 80s heavy metal/hard rock actually wormed its way into the mainstream for a while with Priest, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and many others all appearing regularly on Top of the Pops and being played on day time radio.  The fame was short lived though and rock music soon slithered back into the shadows where it felt more comfortable. It is very unlikely anything like that period would happen today, despite rock music containing some of the world’s biggest selling acts you’d never hear a heavy metal or hard rock song on mainstream radio these days.  Also around this time there was a music movement called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the easy to remember acronym of NWOBHM which saw the likes of Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head and 100s of others of varying talent suddenly getting their time in the spotlight.  There were some great bands who never made it and there were some real clunkers who were just awful but it coincided with my growing love of metal music and many of those bands I still listen to today.  Some weren’t very good but had a certain charm like Witchfynde, some bands who should have been huge inexplicably didn’t make it like Diamond Head, others set their course and never deviated and were rewarded with success like Iron Maiden.

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Priest’s rise to fame just preceded this era but they could be regarded as not quite the fathers of NWOBHM but maybe considered the big brothers as their most successful period happened during this time and there is no doubt the NWOBHM phenomenon helped them along the way.  The British Steel album produced 3 hit singles that saw Priest appear on TOTP.  Breaking the Law, complete with one of the worst music videos you’ll ever see, Livin’ After Midnight and football terracing chant song United.  Considering the album only had 9 tracks that was a pretty good hit rate.  British Steel was regarded as a much more commercial album than previous releases but without losing the power that made Priest the band they were.   There were better songs on the album than the singles, in my opinion, Metal Gods, Grinder and The Rage which was a little darker and a little different to the usual Priest.

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Live was where Priest excelled though.  The twin guitars of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton produced mighty riff after mighty riff with solos being traded throughout the songs.  Ian Hill stood pumping his bass at the back providing the solid back beat along with drummer Dave Holland who had replaced Les Binks drummer on the aforementioned albums.  Out front we had Rob Halford who possessed the most incredible voice.  From ear piercing scream to guttural growl his range was quite astonishing.  My one major gripe with Priest was when they decanted to the US and tours in the UK became quite a rare occurrence until relatively recent times.  The band also went through a few line up changes with only Tipton and Hill retaining their places through the years.  Founding member KK Downing left in 2010 and even singer Halford left in 91/92 before rejoining over a decade later.

I remember when Halford finally announced officially to the world that he was gay and everyone shrugged and said, yeah we knew.  It was metal music’s worst kept secret. In the macho world of heavy metal where the narrative is often all about partying and sleeping with women it could have been a career destroying moment to admit you were gay but it turned out the metal community didn’t really give a feck, it ‘is’ really all about the music.  Although songs like Turbo Lover certainly took on a different slant.

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In 1990 Priest were subject to a court trial when 2 young men tried to kill themselves, one of them successfully, after listening to the Priest version of Spooky Tooth song Better By You Better Than Me that was claimed to have had subliminal messages when played backwards telling them to commit suicide.  It was complete and utter nonsense but it still went to trial but was thrown out.  I still remember watching a programme about heavy metal that included a story about the trial and Priest decided to play some of their other tracks backwards to see what came out.  Most of it was of course garbled nonsense but some phonetic recognisable words and phrases could be heard like ‘Hey ma, my chair’s broken’ and ‘Give me a peppermint’ and ‘Help me keep a job.’  It was a all a bit Spinal Tap without the humour.

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More recently Priest threatened to do a farewell tour which then became a new album and a further tour.  Live they are still great to see, Halford’s vocal power may not be the power of old but it’s still pretty formidable and with KK being replaced by an almost identikit younger version of himself in Richie Faulkner complete with flying V in 2010 and drummer Scott Travis who has been on drum duties since 1989 still going strong Priest seem good to go for a few years yet.

There may have been faster, heavier bands who came after Priest but they will always be the Metal Gods for this Metal Head.

See you on week 19.