A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Bad Touch - rock bandWell, that’s one down. I was due to see Bad Touch next week at the Bodega. I’d heard the band were going to reschedule, and now it’s official – the gig has been rearranged for September.

Fingers crossed things are better by then. This year was gearing up to be a big one, with lots of tickets already purchased. Some of the bigger events, like Joe Bonamassa (almost certainly off) and Hollywood Vampires (later in the year), are more likely to be cancelled than rearranged. George Thorogood, who’s been on my bucket list for years, is currently booked for July, which is borderline right now.

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Brothers Osborne - wide shotI’ve been to a lot of gigs the last few years, though I haven’t posted any articles about them. I need to do a bit of catching up on that.

Anyway, I went to a brilliant show on Friday at Rock City in Nottingham. After Rush, my favourite genres have to be blues and Southern rock – both of which seem to be very popular these days, and Planet Rock covers them a lot. That was how I came to know bands like Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three, and Brothers Osborne.

Osborne Brothers - wide (2)In fact, I saw The Cadillacs a couple of months ago (hell, it was a year ago!), and Brothers Osborne were supporting them. So, Osbornes announced a headlining tour of their own, I got tickets.

Take a listen to this. They played one of my favourite songs, Copperhead Road, originally written by Steve Earle. They nailed it completely.

It came out of the blue, but I recognised it after the first few drum stomps, just as the mandolin came in.

Brothers Osborne - Jason Graumlich (I think)I have to say that it was easily the best gig I’ve been to in a long time. The crowd was well up for it, and every song was worth listening to. Lots of slide guitar, keyboards, banjos, and mandolins – and extended solos. Although officially a duo, they had an admirable backing band, to whom they gave generous room to perform – the backing guitarist in particular, who I believe is called Jason Graumlich.

The encore seemed unusually long – I haven’t listened to the full recording yet, but there must have been five or more songs. Most bands don’t go above three. But it didn’t matter. It could have gone on for another hour and still been great.

The band seemed awed by the reception. T J Osborne (lead vocals) said that they’d been over here a few times, and if people kept coming to the gigs like this, they’d keep coming back. I’ll certainly be there when they do.

Lucie SilvasThe only slight stain on the night was of our own making – well, my mate’s. That was due to his desire to drink the better beer in the Rescue Rooms instead of the weasel piss you get in the Main Hall. OK, I can relate to that, but it meant we ended up missing all but the last song and a half by the support act, Lucie Silvas. She’s got one hell of a voice, and she went straight on my watch list for her next tour.

I got my own back in the Indian restaurant after, though, where we had the usual decent curry and an argument about Brexit (which I won, as always).

Incidentally, Brothers Osborne performed at Rockstock over the weekend, and they were interviewed by Darren Redick.

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Tom Petty - Don't Come Around Here No MoreIf it’s true, it is yet another sad loss to music. Reports say that Tom Petty suffered a major cardiac arrest on Sunday and was left brain dead. As a result, life support has been removed. However, in spite of reports stating that he was dead, at the time of writing (23.30 on 2 October 2017) those reports have been withdrawn and his official death is not confirmed. If he is brain dead, though, it is much the same thing.

I’m sorry I never got to see him in concert. He didn’t do the UK much until the last two years, and those appearances were at festivals, which I won’t go anywhere near, because I can get wet standing in the rain and up to the ankles in shit right here at home without having to travel to do it. But when something like this happens, you wonder if maybe you should have.

All the legends are disappearing.

Update: No longer a surprise, but I woke up to discover the official announcement that Tom has died. RIP, Tom. Thanks for the music.

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Team Rock logoOriginally published 25 December 2016.

This is a bit of bad news. Team Rock Ltd. – the company behind Classic Rock and Prog magazines (amongst others) – has gone into administration. The administrators were called in five days before Christmas, and staff were laid off with no pay with immediate effect. They watched as locks were changed on the offices.

This is the shitty way companies operate (I’ve mentioned before how I was told to make a load of temporary staff redundant just before Christmas one year, when I’d pleaded with the powers that be to at least wait until afterwards).

Hopefully, the titles will be bought by someone, although I sincerely hope that the trend towards articles about Depeche Mode and other 80s/90s pop crap in Classic Rock magazine is arrested by any new owner.


Since I wrote this, I received the next issue of Classic Rock as usual in mid-January. Today, I got an email from the magazine with a link to a free Pink Floyd ebook and the news that Classic Rock is now part of Future Publishing again.

This is really good news (as long as they backtrack a bit on that Depeche Mode thing!)

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Peter SarstedtLast year seemed to have been a terrible year for legendary artists dying. It looks like 2017 isn’t going to give up on the trend, as I just read that Peter Sarstedt has died.

When I was very young, one of my earliest memories was of his hit ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’. In fact, I watched it on a BBC compilation just the other night.

Thanks for the great memories, Peter. RIP.

Incidentally, there will be people out there ready to take the piss when they see that video. A comment by someone under that YouTube video says it all, though.

I am 16 and this is one of my favourite songs along with Life on Mars, Sunny Afternoon and all the “classics”. To everyone on here commenting about how they remember buying this when it first came out – you are so fortunate to have experienced this live and at a time of such iconic music! Listening to these incredible songs almost makes me feel as if I lived a little slice of it myself… I’m not bashing the music of my generation, though, because I like lots of that too, but there is something timeless about this era which I really hope is treasured and never fades away.

There’s hope for humanity, after all.

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Rick Parfitt in 2013It always seems to happen at this time of year. Famous people dying – although we’ve lost a lot of them during 2016. But I was saddened to read of Rick Parfitt’s death earlier today on Christmas Eve.

I went to see Status Quo last weekend in Leeds, and though it wasn’t the same without Rick – his health had prevented him taking part anyway – it was still a good show. But yet another great band has now reached the end of the road.

Rick has had various health scares over the last few years, and although the cause of his death doesn’t appear to be directly related, I’m sure it didn’t help.

He was about to release some solo material, I believe. Shame he didn’t get to see it.

Rest in peace, Rick, and thanks for the music over the years.

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They keep going on about this topic, but here’s the latest wannabe pop star trying to make a name for himself by jumping on the band wagon and trying to ban gig ticket reselling.Horslips ad from 1970s

A bit of history. The first band I ever saw live was Horslips, circa 1977 or 1978. I found out about the tour in Sounds, one of the best music newspapers of all time, and wrote away for a ticket with a postal order enclosed (I didn’t have a credit card back then). Kids today haven’t got a clue what it was like before the internet – the only way you could hear music was by buying a record, and the only way you heard about developments was through printed media (or decent music shows on TV, of which there were a few at that time). The ticket arrived, but being a naïve teenager It wasn’t until I arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome that cold winter evening in January or February that I discovered I was on the front row. Considering the Hippodrome’s curved layout meant that there were only about a dozen front row seats – and that the show was sold out – I’d obviously got a good deal. And this was through a postal application, remember.

At the same time, I was also a Rush fan. In those days, Rush filled places like the New Bingley Hall in Stafford, which was all standing (it was a cattle auction shed during the day, I believe). Rush were my second live band, and even back then I used to go to every show they performed at the New Bingley (I think I remember a three-nighter on one occasion). Those hot, sweaty gigs with everyone packed in like sardines and jumping around to the music are something I’ll never forget. It was a great venue, and as long as you got there sensibly early, being near the front was no problem at all.Rush in the 70s

Jumping to the 80s and Rush started filling big arenas. I’d go to all the Birmingham NEC and London Wembley shows, and by then I was booking tickets over the phone (there was still no internet). Throughout those 80s arena tours, I’d either be in oxygen mask territory up the side, or on the floor about 30 rows back (on one notable occasion I’d drunk about four litres of Stella prior to a gig and can barely remember it). Even in the 80s there were plenty of “my girlfriend wants to see better and I’m hoping to have sex later, so she can sit on my shoulders – and f—k the 2,000 people behind me” types, not to mention the fact that almost everyone smoked (and not just tobacco). It’s only now, with hindsight, that I can analyse it this way. At the time it was just the way it was. Or so I thought.

For various reasons, Rush didn’t tour in the UK for 11 years from the early 90s until their comeback in 2004. When that tour was announced, I was on the phone at 9am the instant tickets went on sale. The ones I got for both nights at Wembley Arena were right at the back in the top corner, and the bloody place is longer than a football pitch which meant I was going to be a long way from the stage. When I queried this with the woman on the phone, pointing out that I must have been one of the first few dozen callers, she just said “tickets go out to the agents first”. I never found out precisely what that meant.

When I turned up for that first night at Wembley and was walking from the car park to the arena, there were the usual touts with their spiel. I’d always assumed touts were scammers selling bogus tickets, so I can’t now explain why – when one of them uttered those immortal words “anyone need tickets” as I passed – I said “what have you got, mate?” To cut to the chase, I paid him £70 for a £39.95 ticket and ended up a mere nine rows from the front!

I will declare right now that on that night – 8 September 2004, at approximately 7.00pm when I got to my seat – I experienced what can only be described as an epiphany. I said to myself: “what the f—k have you been doing all these years?” So, the next night at Wembley I walked straight up to the first tout I saw and asked him what he’d got. Same price, and this time I was only five rows back!

I kept in touch with that second one, who runs a ticket agency, and he got me even better tickets for Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow on that R30 tour. For all subsequent Rush tours (and a few other gigs), I just phoned him up, told him to do the bizzo (first five rows, centre stage if possible, not up the sides), and he came through. He’s only ever let me down once, and that was with a London O2 Rush gig, though he made amends on the next tour at the O2 with second row tickets.

More recently, he got me a ticket for Ritchie Blackmore at the Birmingham Arena. This gig – the only one in the UK – sold out in approximately 15 minutes. The ticket he’d got me made my eyes water when he first told me about it – the ones I’d been looking at had face values of around £60, but this one’s was £185. It turned out to be a VIP ticket with special parking and a meal thrown in. And it was on the second row! All things considered – and I could have simply said “no thanks” – the £360 I paid was an absolute bargain.

The nearly-a-popstar in the BBC article says:

They’re [ticket touts] making money out of real genuine fans of music.

Actually, that’s not correct. For a start off, the official beef is with online ticket sellers who often don’t come up with the goods (it’s the fact that they often don’t which caused the original uproar that this latest moan fest comes from). Furthermore, the vast majority of people who go to see most bands are not “genuine” music fans at all, and they’re certainly not serious fans of the artists in question. Ticket sales are frequently (and, I suspect, deliberately) directly influenced by publicity stunts – of which laying into secondary ticket selling is a good example. Real music fans don’t want to be stuck a quarter of a mile away from the stage at an altitude where breathing is difficult. Sea of iPhones at a gig

They don’t want to be behind several thousand arseholes with their girlfriends on their shoulders, or who stand for a solid hour and a half videoing the entire show on their bloody iPhones (one prick at Rock City a few years ago was doing it with a sodding iPad), or taking selfies and talking loudly the whole time with hardly a glance at the stage. Real music fans don’t get good seats at the expense of someone more deserving, and then leave 20 minutes before the end “to beat the rush”. Slightly more controversial, real music fans don’t take their bloody 7 year old kids to a gig, and then let them keep “going to the toilet” every 15 minutes because – like most 7 year olds – they’ve got the attention spans of gnats, and would much rather be running aimlessly around somewhere unfamiliar getting on everyone else’s nerves than sitting still listening to music for anywhere between 90 minutes and (in the case of Rush) three hours. And real music fans don’t go to gigs solely because they saw the act in question on Later… with Jools Holland and decided they were now hardcore groupies.

The bottom line is simply this. If I – or anyone else – who actually IS a genuine fan is prepared to pay to get around all that shit, why shouldn’t I be allowed to?


Incidentally, when The Darkness were an up-and-coming band the first time around, I was planning on going to see them at Rock City in Nottingham. Then, disaster struck. The Sun did a big spread on them the week before tickets went on sale, and they sold out in under 10 minutes. I’ve seen them a few times since – but I bet very few of the people who bought tickets to that Nottingham show ever have.

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