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28th November - Band Politics and Itunes tricks

Good grief I’m angry today – I am ‘the Guns Of The Navarone’ as Samuel L Jackson put it in Pulp Fiction. And it’s not just because I’m having to write this blog again from scratch as it didn’t load first time of asking – blooming internet connection time-out nonsense….

As you’ll no doubt be aware, a couple of blogs ago, I regretfully announced that I am leaving KISS tribute DRESSED TO KILL at the end of 2010 – since that blog (which attracted the most views of any blog I’ve yet written for this site) I’ve been inundated with the most wonderfully kind messages either here or via email/text/facebook/twitter from folk who are sorry to see me go, but are full of thanks for what I’ve done for the band since November 2005 when I joined up with the lads.

All except for one miserable individual.

A former colleague of mine from a previous Kiss tribute that I helped to form earlier in the 2000’s who slagged me off on a public forum, saying he thought it hilarious and right that the band should ‘kick me out’, that I had ‘screwed his band over’ to quit it and then join Dressed To Kill 2 months later, and that DTK’s bass player couldn’t play properly.

I can’t even begin to tell you what’s wrong with that little lot – it’d take a while.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls to the murky, paranoid world of ‘band politics’ - a world where mistrust and brainless accusations are the order of the day between current and former members of bands from every genre, not just tribute acts. ‘Band politics’ can take on many forms and can tear groups apart in no time at all. In a sad way, I’m almost happy to be getting away from all this bullshit when I depart DTK next weekend after our Cardiff & Norwich shows – and it shouldn’t be like that.

I remember once years ago being the subject of huge vitriol from a band member who was sacked from a group I was in.- he believed (wrongly) that I had solely made the decision to get rid of him and not the whole band’s decision as was the truth. He then spent months slagging me off to any musician within a 20-mile radius and made my life a misery. We’re great pals again now, thankfully, but band politics got very sinister for me around that time – nobody else put the fellow right on whose decision it was to sack him for fear of upsetting him themselves, and I suffered as a result. Cheers for that.

I’m asked one question quite a lot by folks who find out about my musical history: “Ian how come you’ve been a part of so many bands over the years?” Well the answer is breathtakingly simple. I turn up on time, my equipment works and I carry spare gear in case anything goes wrong, I respect & enjoy the company of my fellow bandmates and have a great laugh and a joke with them, I play like a man possessed come showtime for the benefit of both the band and the audience, I thank the audience members I meet afterwards for coming out to see us, and then I pack up my stuff and leave knowing I’ve given of my best. And that is why Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Doors and KISS tributes, as well as a whole host of great covers bands have all used me time and time again over the last 23 years or so.

In short – I don’t do band politics.

It’s not bloody rocket science is it? It’s not right to be the sort of band member who complains the moment you collect him on the way to a gig that the band isn’t earning enough money, that the ‘look’ of the band isn’t right, that the amplifier I’ve bought with my own money specifically for him to use isn’t loud enough, that we’ve picked the wrong songs to play, that the cost of van hire/train fares/ferry tickets is too high, even when they’ve been booked on advance discounts, that the band isn’t earning enough…oh hang on, we’ve had that already haven’t we?

In truth, these particular moans and whinges I’ve listed above can be attributed to one miserable individual – can you guess whom that individual might be?...and he wondered why I quit?????? ;o)

Life in DRESSED TO KILL these past 5 years has been a total joy by comparison. Every band has its slight ups and downs but I know that the DTK lads would happily call on me if I could help out in the future were there an emergency, and I would happily be there for them too if I could, such is the respect and professionalism we’ve built up between us over the years. Life’s too short to let your own stupid agenda get in the way of what is just a band at the end of it all. Just a band. And that’s it.

I keep getting apps sent to me on facebook asking me to put my iTunes on shuffle mode (which it’s always on!), write down the 1st ten tracks that come up once you press play, and describe what they mean to you.

Well, I like the idea, but I don’t trust many FB apps incase they’re virus-ridden, so I thought I’d do it here instead…right, it says don’t skip tracks just to suit your wish to look cool with your selections…ok, here goes…

1) Living Colour – Under Cover of Darkness – It’s Spring/Summer1990 and I’ve met the love of my life (who I would eventually marry 20 years later – long story) and this song and album (Time’s Up) is my abiding memory of that summer, along with Paula Abdul’s ‘Opposites Attract’ oddly enough. Don’t ask.

Living Colour were trailblazers for black rock musicians, but that wasn’t why any of us lot liked them. They were just a fantastic group. ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ is a bit out there by their standards – funky, yes but not rocky and with a very ‘jazz’ guitar solo in the middle just after a rap by Queen Latifa. It sounds awful on the face of it, but it somehow works for me.

I hear the opening guitar synth figure and I’m transported back to my damp-ridden room at the house I shared in Hall Green with my mates Ben & Phil and that summer 1990 when it seemed the sun never stopped shining.

2) Foreigner – That Was Yesterday – What a tune. Lou Gramm’s vocals at their very best and a brilliant chorus to a song that I think I used to get over my break up with the love of my life at the time. I first heard this song played in the Drums department of Musical Exchanges where I worked during the 90’s and I loved it instantly.

Years later I was asked to join a Foreigner tribute formed by Gaz Morris who ran the guitar dept at Exchanges, which gave me the chance to play alongside some brilliant musicians – Gaz himself, Roy Davis and Paddy McKenna from Shy on bass and keys respectively, and Matt Gillespie on vocals, who sang such tough tough songs quite superbly. Paddy worked especially hard on perfecting the keyboard sounds for each song to ensure authenticity, and That Was Yesterday was always going to be my favourite song in our set.

I only regret that I don’t have any live tapes of that band’s gigs to listen back to. We were great if I do say so myself.

3) Rush – The Pass – again it’s 1990, but early that year and my buddy Phil & I have moved out of our parents’ houses for the first time and rented a flat in Shirley. It was cold, sparsely furnished and we lived on Pot Noodles, macaroni cheese, tea and toast for 6 months. Blinding.

Rush’s “Presto” album had not long been released, and The Pass was the standout track for me which I kept playing on the crap stereo we had in the cavernous lounge – a heartfelt lyric about suicide from Neil Peart and a subtle yet hard-hitting melody. I believe it became a favourite of the band themselves on that tour which I saw in Brum a year later.


4) Manics – Send Away the Tigers – I think the Manics are my guilty pleasure. James Dean Bradfield is a supremely talented all round musician and singer. ‘Everything Must Go’ is one of the great 90’s albums and Send Away The Tigers is arguably their best of the last decade. Sometimes in their long career they’ve gone all moody and released a torturous album along the way that I find almost unlistenable…and then suddenly they regain their sense of melody and occasion to release something as joyous as ‘Send…’

Saw them live and marvelled at just how good a guitarist James was too. Vastly underrated player.

5) Richie Sambora – If God was a Woman – From his 2nd solo release Undiscovered Soul, this is just a great fun track that shows just how good a singer Sambora is away from JBJ. Good riffs and nice harmonica – not much more to add really

6) Voice of the Beehive – I Walk The Earth – Now this lot were a great pop band. Their debut, ‘Let It Bee’ was chock full of great catchy stuff like this track, and I’m sure they got about 5 singles off that album in the end. I loved the way the sisters sometimes talked the lyrics rather than sang them and made odd harmonies from time to time. But mostly it was spot-on pop music, well played, well produced and to me, it hasn’t dated much from the late 80’s…which is always a feat in itself.

7) Amanda Marshall - Trust Me – I remember a guy called Karl who worked at Exchanges brought this lady’s debut CD into the shop one day and I fell in love with her voice. At the time, I was going though a female singer/songwriter phase of Aimee Mann & Sheryl Crow to name but two – Amanda Marshall was up there with both for a time.

This is just a simple love song – not the best track by any means, but pleasant enough. She did tour the UK once as a support act to Whitney Houston, but I couldn’t afford the £45 Whitney was charging for the honour of hearing her shout at me for 45 minutes just so I could watch Amanda do a 30-minute slot beforehand.

8) FM – That Girl – Ahh, FM. The British answer to Journey. This song and album were always on in the so called ‘hippie corner’ of my 6th form common room where I spent nearly all my time during A levels. We only had 3 tapes for our cassette player as I recall. Macc Lads ‘Beer & Sex & Chips & Gravy’ AC/DC ‘If You Want Blood’ and FM’s ‘Indiscreet’ which even the Hawkwind fans amongst our number thought was ok.

We saw them support Bon Jovi at the Brum Odeon on the Slippery When Wet tour and we all thought they were destined to be massive, but it just didn’t happen for them. They still tour now, thought, and Steve Overland still has a magic voice.

9) Living Colour – Solace Of You – Back To Living Colour and the ‘Time’s Up’ CD, but this conjures up another image in my mind as opposed to the other track that came up earlier.

During the 90’s Shotgun Wedding went through vocalists like Spinal Tap did with drummers and there was a time where we had no singer at all for a bit. Desperate to get some cash in, we hastily formed a covers band named TMR (Take the Money & Run) and got ourselves a bi-weekly residency at a pub in Rugby.

Solace Of You became the number for audience participation – it’s a wonderful lilting, sunshine calypso love song and we brazenly thought we could do a passable version of it. We came close. More fun was the fact that we brought all manner of maracas and tambourines with us to these residency gigs for audience members to shake about to this tune.

Gray would unstrap his guitar and pass the percussion amongst the (usually willing) punters, encouraging them with great gusto throughout and it always stole the show. Great memories.

10) Jeff Beck – Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Just bloody astonishing. The best guitarist ever. That is all.

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