A Driving Instructor's Blog


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.


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.


The Met Office has revealed the names it will be assigning to storms during 2017/18. Here they are:Storm Names 2017/18 - Met Office

You could just leave it at that. If you’re like me, though, you might see something a little more sinister.

Once upon a time, hurricanes were always given female names. In our modern PC world, though, this is totally unacceptable, and nowadays they use a mixture of male and female names. I believe that they alternate – so one hurricane will be female, the next male, the next female, and so on.

The Met Office – which started naming “storms” in the UK last year – has been giving them both male and female names from the start. As you know, all science in the UK simply has to involve children (and people with the kinds of children), which explains why you get names like Oisin and Wilbert.

I mean, there have been about six people named Wilbert in the last 100 years. Most of them are dead (a bit like the name, really), and those who aren’t nearly are. And although Oisin is apparently a top choice for Irish language boys’ names in Ireland, I can honestly say that the only time I’ve ever come across it is in ancient Irish literature (Oisin was the son of Fionn MacCool) through one of my favourite bands, Horslips.

The sinister part to my mind is that there are 11 male names and only 10 female ones. Can you imagine the uproar and demands for resignations that would follow if it was the other way around? And I reckon it’s only a matter of time before they start naming them retrospectively – or renaming them after the event – so that damaging ones don’t go down in history as having female names.

I’d bet money that someone somewhere has already raised that one in a meeting.


Tickets for this sold out in about five seconds, so I had to use my ticket guy to get me in. He came up trumps, with a second-row VIP ticket (free parking and free meal thrown in).Mostly Autumn - support act

The last time Ritchie Blackmore played rock was almost 20 years ago, but up till then he made his reputation as the main man in Deep Purple and Rainbow (they were his bands at the time). Since then, he’s pursued his love of folk and mediaeval type music with his band, Blackmore’s Night.

No one imagined he’d come back to rock – always aloof, with a reputation of being difficult to work with, he had always said he never would. Then, last year, he suddenly announced three one-off gigs around Europe (don’t get me started on Europe), one of which was in the UK, nice and central in Birmingham.Ritchie Blackmore - Birmingham 2016

You have to put this into perspective. Ritchie Blackmore doing this show was pretty much equivalent to Led Zeppelin’s one-off gig in 2007. Perhaps not exactly the same, but definitely up there. The cosmopolitan nature of the crowd showed this, if nothing else: there were Americans, Japanese, and many Europeans present. Deep Purple and Rainbow were that big in the 70s and 80s, and Ritchie Blackmore is considered a guitar-god in the rock world.

The support band was Mostly Autumn (well, mostly – four of the six-strong line up). I’ve seen them before, at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, but this was a huge step up from the couple of hundred capacity there to a sold-out 15,500+ arena. They did bloody well, too.Ronnie Romero

Ritchie had caused not a little consternation in the music world by refusing to use any of the people who’d been in either Deep Purple or Rainbow in the past in this new incarnation of Rainbow. Some quarters of the music press were suggesting he’d go down like a lead balloon as a result. Ever outspoken – but logical with it – Blackmore had explained his reasons, which were sound if you looked at them objectively, objectionable if you hankered after the past. I initially had an open mind on the subject, but sided with Ritchie when I read that he doesn’t like hip hop music (well, not in 1995 he didn’t).Ritchie Blackmore

It should come as no surprise to learn that the media were wrong. As the band came on stage to the strains of Over the Rainbow, and to rapturous applause and cheers, they burst into Highway Star. In vocalist, Ronnie Romero, there is someone who could match Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Graham Bonnet,  Joe Lynn Turner, or anyone else, note for note. And it quickly became clear that keyboardist, Jens Johansson, they have a player who could definitely do justice to the late, great Jon Lord’s legendary finger work.Ritchie and the band

Over the years, I’ve read a lot about Ritchie Blackmore, and something which always intrigued me was how many previous band members (Deep Purple) have said that Ritchie would go off on lengthy improvised solos, and it became a skill to work out when he had finished and they should come back in. A lot of years have passed since those days, but obviously – in order to duplicate classic songs – there had to be some showboating. You could see Ritchie keeping an eye on his band, and then giving them the nod when he was coming to a point where they should continue with the song.The lights

The full set list was as follows:

  • Over the Rainbow (intro)
  • Highway Star
  • Spotlight Kid
  • Mistreated
  • Since You Been Gone
  • Man on the Silver Mountain
  • Soldier of Fortune
  • Difficult to Cure
  • Catch the Rainbow
  • Perfect Strangers
  • Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Child in Time
  • Stargazer
  • Black Night


  • Burn
  • Smoke on the Water

The light show was also quite spectacular. And one of the backing singers was Ritchie’s wife, Candice, with whom he works in Blackmore’s Night. You can hear a bit of the show here – this is Since You Been Gone/Man on the Silver Mountain:

I got my usual collection of great pictures, and I’ll always be able to say “I was there”.The end?

Ritchie had originally said these gigs were “just for fun” and not to be repeated. More recently he’s been quoted as saying he wanted to see if he could “still do it” (after his reception at one of the Euro gigs). It appears that he isn’t now against doing a full tour.

Here’s hoping.


A number of my pupils (or their friends) attended the Download festival last weekend. I remember saying to one of them last Wednesday that it looked like they were going to have good weather for it (at the time, it was in the high 20s and very sunny). Note to self: stick to your day job and leave bad weather forecasts to the Met Office and Exacta.

You see, on the morning of the first day of the festival we had one of those downpours that needed a whole chapter to itself in The Bible. And then we had some more throughout the weekend. Download was under about a foot of what they were calling “mud custard”, and as long as I live, I will never understand how anyone can have a good time in such conditions.

The very idea of standing in a field for three days, unable to go to the loo, does nothing for me. Doing it in mud, the liquid part of which is going to be around 10-20% human urine (let’s not speculate on how much of the solid part is… no, let’s not even go there), trying to eat while covered in it, and sleeping in a tent in a similar state does even less. But as this video clearly shows, not everyone feels the same.

The video of this guy’s wacky dance moves has gone viral. TeamRock has apparently tracked him down and named him as Aaron Woods. He has become a worldwide celebrity overnight.

Good luck to him! He was enjoying himself.


Although Florence and the Machine aren’t really my cup of tea, this story – in particular, the YouTube videos – honestly brought a tear to my eye.


The young girl she visited is apparently called Karinya, and she’s in a hospice suffering from a rare form of cancer (and most people will realise what that means as far as life expectancy is concerned). Karinya couldn’t attend a concert the band gave in Austin, Texas, due to her illness – so Florence and the band’s guitarist, Rob Ackroyd, went to her.

Best event of the year.



ZZ Top have announced a gig in Birmingham at the O2 Academy in June 2016. I’m definitely going – I saw them a couple of years ago in Manchester and it was a great show.

ZZ Top Tour Dates & Tickets

Tickets go on sale Friday, 15 January. I’ve got mine.


Sad to hear that Lemmy, iconic Motorhead frontman, has died from cancer at the age of 70.Lemmy from Motorhead

He’s had to cancel gigs over the last few months due to ill health, yet he was only diagnosed a couple of days ago.

He was a hard drinking, smoking kind of guy, and if the interviews are anything to go by he didn’t ease up much right to the end.

And yet another one bites the dust. There soon won’t be any decent rockers left.