All Over The Road
Slowly but surely I am creating my web presence. I imagine it will take a lot of discipline to keep any blog up to date. And it probably takes a big ego to think that you have a something interesting to say every day. Well, let's hope I can find enough to keep talking - although talking to oneself is talent worth developing.
Click on the player below to listen to my selection of tunes from International Artists Company website while you browse - and support independent artists!!

Station at KIAC and

Friday, August 15, 2008

Long Live Rock :: Goldhawk Club - View Topic: on Orpheum Theater

the whoImage by Joits via Flickr

With reference to my blog on the musical ASH where I chatted with Pete Townshend, this is a review of the Orpheum Theatre that he enjoyed so much!

"As for the future of rock... Who gives a fuck?" asked Pete Townsend as The Who began their encore at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles last night. The crowd - made up of video game journalists and the folks behind the game Rock Band - erupted in cheers.

They'd been cheering for over an hour and a half already. By yesterday morning the worst kept secret at the E3 gaming convention was the fact that The Who were the 'Special Guest' at the Rock Band Bash. I don't know what the mood was like at the convention center where most of E3 was happening, but at my house it was all palpable excitement. I think some people didn't expect much from the show; while waiting for fellow CHUD geniuses Russ Fischer and Alex Riviello at their hotel, I overheard a guy in the lobby say that he hadn't bothered to pick up his ticket. Maybe people thought that The Who would come out on stage, give a perfunctory forty minute show and go home. Instead they came out and played for almost two hours, blazing through immortal classics and going to town on tracks that no one in the audience knew (there's a song in their set list I still haven't been able to identify!).

We got to The Orpheum a little after 7, when doors opened. There were a number of Rock Band 2 kits set up in the theater (not the full build of the game, though, so not all songs were available), but the lounge area had a mini stage and a full Ion drum kit, so that was where we wanted to be. Roping in a friend of Russ', we signed up our band (called CHUD, of course) and got ready to rock in front of the crowd. It was a cool experience, and I played guitar on Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue (it seemed like every other band opted to play Any Way You Want It, a phenomenon I am sure will be repeated at Rock Band parties across the nation this fall). The fact that Tangled Up In Blue is in the game is the sort of thing that makes me love Harmonix - it's not what you'd expect from a music game bearing the MTV logo and ostensibly aimed at a demo that thinks Jimi Hendrix wrote All Along the Watchtower (which is about the only Dylan song I would ever imagine seeing in a Guitar Hero game).

After a couple of hours of hanging out (and boozing. Oh and boozing), the doors to the theater opened. Alex and I got in as close as we could, but the first ten or fifteen rows of the Orpheum were closed off for VIPs. Picture our surprise when we saw Russ sitting in the last row of the VIP section, two rows ahead of us. Knowing people is key! But there were no bad seats in the house - the Orpheum seats about 2000, and in the opening banter Pete Townsend explained that Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald used to play the theater in the days before electrical amplification. Ie, without mics. So this was a fairly intimate venue (I could see every wrinkle on Roger Daltrey's face) as well as a place built to be acoustically incredible. And it was.

The Who today consists of Daltrey and Townsend as the only remaining original members ("We're a Who cover band," Townsend said. "And not one of the better ones."). Session bassist Pino Palladino, a tall thin guy who looks like Doug Jones or John Waters, plays for the late John Entwhistle, while Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr's son, sits in for Keith Moon. There is no replacing Keith Moon - and I don't know that rock has ever again seen a drummer quite like him - but Starkey, who looks like Frodo perched behind his kit, did a pretty stellar job.

Daltrey and Townsend look old. Both clad in black t-shirts and black jeans, they appeared every day of their age. The former golden boy of rock has his locks shorn close to his head, and his posture is becoming hunchback-like, while Townsend is bald, his face dominated by a seemingly still-growing schnozz and huge black old people prescription sunglasses, the kind you get after the eye doctor dilates your pupils. They don't make up am obviously dynamic duo of rock music, but there's fire hidden in those aging bodies, and they let it all loose last night.

They were rusty at first (and throughout - there were line flubs a couple of times, which I found adorable), but The Who at their best were never about precision but about power. And they had the power. It was at the third song - Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, a single the band released in 1965 between I Can't Explain and My Generation - that Alex turned to me and said 'They're playing songs people here don't know. This is going to be a real set!'

And it was. And they played it like it was. Townsend was electric, first mugging to the crowd with windmills and then really warming up, attacking his guitar up and down the neck as he tore into solo after solo. A number of the songs became long, pounding jams, and again and again Townsend would make his guitar squeal, shout, cry, stutter and explode. Jumping around, hunching over, leaning back, his face contorting, the years didn't matter on that stage. The line 'I hope I die before I get old' took on a new context - it's not about age as a number but age as a concept, and Pete Townsend is not old.

Daltrey did his best to keep up. I was reminded of the Scorsese Stones documentary, Shine A Light - the lead singers of these old man bands were able to bring what they have brought for decades, but the real love, the real fire, came from the guitarists. But I don't want to slight Daltrey - at the end of the night, as they did the final encore, an acoustic number called Tea & Theater, his voice was ragged, blown out. The Who have a tour of America (stadiums, of course) this fall, and if Daltrey gives it at every show like he gave it last night, they'll have to cancel the tour after three shows.

There I was, a hundred feet back from The Who demolishing on stage, rocking my ass off (my neck sort of hurts this morning from banging and whipping it around), but what was in my head most of the night was those first couple of rows. The good people from Harmonix were up there, seeing their hard work bear this amazing fruit. After the show I ran into Sean, one of the key Harmonix guys (regulars of their choatic message board know him as HMXSean), and he said that four years ago they would have assumed that if they had a show it would be Candlebox. And yet there they were, with The Who playing their company party. Pete Townsend talked about how his kids had gotten Rock Band for Christmas, and how he was terrible at it. He made fun of the choice of colors for the guitar frets. He told Daltrey that Billy Corgan had explained to him that the singing wasn't the easiest part, that you lost points for bum notes ("Well I'd be useles at it, then," Daltrey said). He even poked fun at the Guitar Hero Aerosmith bundle! "It comes with a pair of Steven Tyler's underwear," he said. "Your kids can put it on their head." The crowd went nuts.

But for these guys, what a night. It's hard to imagine the guys at Neversoft or the folks from Activision not only getting The Who to play but digging on having The Who playing. I would expect AFI or All-American Rejects playing a Guitar Hero event. The Harmonix folks were easy to pick out in the crowd of game journalists because they looked like rock people - tattoos, band shirts, interesting facial hair - these people write code and make video games, but they live music. When I cornered Helen, a Harmonix producer, and gave her my fanboy DLC request (Cortez the Killer by Neil Young and Crazy Horse!), she gave me her card only because she thought my suggestion was cool. I wouldn't have bothered talking about that song to a former Tony Hawk coder at Neversoft.

There are a lot of things that define the differences between Guitar Hero (post-Harmonix) and Rock Band: Guitar Hero is a game, and you feel like you're playing a game, while with Rock Band you have fun. Harmonix keeps on innovating with Rock Band, while Guitar Hero constantly plays catch-up. There's a sense of love and community you get with Harmonix. But last night the defining thing for me was watching those Harmonix people, glowing with excitement, as they mingled through the crowd, basking in the fact that they had just had their balls rocked off by The Who, The Who playing like it was the 1970s all over again. All the other stuff, the E3 announcements and the new DLC and Rock Band 2, seemed a distant thing as these guys just loved the fucking music. And that's what you want from your music game developers. You want them to love the fucking music.

On stage Roger Daltrey said he was happy that there was a game like this, that there was something bringing music to people in any form. And he agreed with Townsend about who gives a fuck about the future of rock, saying rock only has a past and a present. These music games have a future, though, and it's one that will be blazed by Rock Band and Harmonix. I'm excited to be along for the ride.

For those of you curious, here's the as complete as I can make it setlist from last night's incredible show:

I Can't Explain
The Seeker
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
Baba O'Reilly
A song from 1971 that I didn't know. A Lifehouse song?
My Generation
Cry If You Want
Won't Get Fooled Again

The Kids Are Alright
Pinball Wizard
Amazing Journey
See Me, Feel Me

Acoustic Encore
Tea & Theater
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The Marquee Club - The Who, Maximum R&B, & Me

The Marquee Club

The Who Location Guide: April 2007 (this is an excellent resource for locations linked with The Who).
The Marquee Club (one of my first bar jobs after moving back to London in 1987, pay was shite but I wanted to experience the legendary venue as an insider- also hoped to get the gig doing house lighting. Stayed on after the club moved to Charing Cross Road but left shortly after because it didn't have the same atmosphere)

In 1965 the Marquee Club in London was venue for The Who's now legendary 23 week 'Maximum R&B' residency, a major stepping stone for the band's career. Their first performance in this run of shows saw just 30 punters turn up. A couple of weeks later the numbers had risen to the hundreds, and soon afterwards The Who went on to break the Marquee's box office records.

The band's first published live review was of one of these Marquee shows.

Between 1965 and 1968 The Who played at The Marquee 29 times. In April 1968 the venue celebrated its tenth anniversary with a show headlined by The Who. The band's final Marquee performance came in December that same year at "The Who's Xmas Party".

Performances recorded at the Marquee for the 'Beat Club' TV show have appeared in various Who films including 'The Kids Are Alright' and '30 Years Of Live Maximum R&B'.

Sadly the Marquee is now all but gone. It was discovered in the 1980's that two decades of high volume music had caused the building to gradually vibrate itself into an unsafe situation, forcing the closure of the club in 1987. The facade of the club can still be seen at 90 Wardour Street, though internally it was totally redeveloped and converted into apartments.

The section of the building containing the dressing room, the main room and the stage was completely demolished. In its place (next to number 90) now stands the Mezzo restaurant. The stage and the dressing room door were sold to a private collector.

In 1988 The Marquee relocated to Charing Cross Road, just a short stroll from Wardour Street. In 1995 that building was sold to developers and converted into a bar. The rights to the name were purchased by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, who in 2001 reopened The Marquee in a shiny modern restaurant/venue combo which went out of business within 6 months. In 2004 the club reopened in Leicester Square, but again suffered business difficulties. The club is currently in the process of relocating to Soho....back to the same area as the Wardour Street club.

The "Maximum R&B" Marquee Club was located at 90 Wardour Street, London. The nearest tube station is Tottenham Court Road.
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Rachel Fuller's ASH premiere

RachelImage by Koos_Fernhout via Flickr

On Monday, August 11th a workshop performance of Rachel Fuller's ASH was at the Arcola Theatre in north London. It was a brilliant show and can't wait to see it tour! (P.S. since she got a bit bored while composing this masterpiece, she decided to write and record an entire album in one week flat - please see the Week in Kew link at the end of this entry).

Just got back to Nottingham after a fantastic trip. Had an extra ticket so brought an old friend, Hugh along to the show. He doesn't know Rachel's stuff but was well impressed.
I didn't have the foresight to make notes as James Casey did so this is all from memory (which may not be 100% accurate). It was my first Rachel event so I was a bit nervous about meeting the bloggers but was made very welome by James, Delbut, Mark T, Bob E and Suesjoy and the others.

Here's my reading of the tracks I heard (and can't wait to hear again)

"Enemy Lines" - opening number in an operating theatre. Three characters discussing why this woman, the Mother, needs plastic surgery (take it from me, she doesn't) The gist I got was that the surgery was an unnecessary attempt to hold back the years. acoustical problems with drums drowning out the weaker vocals (this also happens in the reprieve of this song entitled "God's Grace" when the mother is injured in hospital.

"Ev'ry Mirror Has Two Faces" - mother returns home from hospital and parades about her new body and face. we are introduced to the daughter, Sarah played by Kate Batter who has an amazingly beautiful voice. This song has a very strong melody - really lush. The two central characters play beautifully off each other with the shallow mother and the "old beyond her years" daughter. The Mother regails us with what becomes her catchphrase "Did you know 50 is the new 30?"

"Ash"/"Nothing Worthwhile" - title track and a duet. First time we are introduced to the characters in the crematorium. Shy Kevin really fancies Sarah and it seems like it may be reciprocal. Well acted and very powerful voices, esp Sarah. Unrequited love.

"Quick Fix" - set in a health spa where the mother competes with two other characters known as City Girl and Model Very nicely choreographed piece on the treadmills. Dance with humour, who'd've thunk it? This is also where the mother meets and starts flirting with Man. She picks him up with talk of living life to the fullest - Carpe diem -

"Ghost in the Machine" - this is where Sarah meets the character of Bill (the IT techie) who's come to fix the crematorium. Again, Kevin plays the love struck shy boy very well. Not sure Bill really adds anything to the story but is a good character.

"The Game" - no one I spoke to was quite sure why this piece was included. in it we are introduced to three young City banker/traders and the show they put on in public to impress women and each other. Characters added as a counterpoint to the maturity of the Mother ("50 is the new 30" and looking very sexy in a tight gown) and her new Man. He's a strange character. Very secretive, shallow type character. You get the feeling he is a spy or wanted criminal the way he warns her about asking questions. This is where the famous tango takes place in a song called "Dance of Death". Beautifully choreographed and sung by Vivian playing the Mother. This leads to the intermission.

"Garden of Angels" - after the initial hiccup described by James C where Sarah missed her cue, this is a touching number sung by Sarah and Charlie (a gardener) about the letting life pass you by. Sarah seems to have rebelled against her wild mother by becoming the boring adult in the family.

"Say The Wrong Thing" - performed by Ken the dottering but lovable neighbour who has a mad crush on the Mother and is always coming out with the wrong comments when he tries to impress her. Some very funny lyrics in this (when trying to console the Mother after her husband had been run over by a jet ski, he comments how "cut up" about it she must be) and a great melody. Ken sees Mother drive off with her new Man and, typically puts his foot in his mouth.

"I'm Free" - What follows is a great, driving song. The Mother (Vivian Parry) really shows off her vocal range. The Mother is a little wild by this point and is driving far too fast. There is a great piece of vocal "call and answer" with the Man and builds the excitement and carries this powerful song to it's conclusion which is a car crash. I'd like to see a bit more of the call and answer aspect developed (perhaps it was there and I missed it due to acoustics) but something along the lines of Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" where the counter play of the two singers really builds up the tension. I think this song would really benefit from highlighting that aspect of the composition.

"Ash" - Kevin and the rest of the crematorium staff try to console Sarah. At this point I had assumed that the Mother had been killed in the crash. Then there is some reference to nobody knowing who "he" was, so I thought it was the Man. Finally, we are informed that they believe there was a man in the car with the Mother but she has no recollection of him so the victim is a third party. This twist was totally unexpected and it is not till near the end of the scene that the true victim is revealed. What Sarah is so upset about is her feeling of guilt that her mother had killed (run down) a stranger by driving dangerously and her guilty relief that her mother is not dead. This is all compounded by a nagging doubt that, perhaps, she really wished her mother had been killed.

"God's Grace" - again with the Mother on the operating table, this song is a reprieve of the opening number, "Enemy Lines". Again, the drumming on this track drowned out a lot of the vocals but the gist I got was that she may not be perfect any more but she's lucky to be alive.

Jigsaw - great little high energy number with Sarah, Bill and Kevin waiting for the mother to be brought home from hospital. This song felt strangely familiar. It should, it was written by Pete and adapted by Rachel.

Ash Finale - the mother returns home but has amnesia - she doesn't remember anything from the plastic surgery to recovering from the accident (basically, the whole play). The mother seems to have mellowed a little and sends Sarah out to the pub with her friends. It seems that she may be warming to Ken a little. Rachel said she toyed with the idea of changing the mother's personality completely but decided against it - good call!

The End.

I agree with James Casey that some of the characters are superfluous (and a bit confusing since each actor usually plays 2 or 3 parts). I'd like to see a bit more of Bill and Kevin's attempts to woo Sarah. Personally, I'd prefer to see Kevin win but that's probably 'cos I'm shy and empathise with him. Plus it was nice to see the shy Ken character (possibly) win over the mother at the end.

I think the audio problems were caused by the venue and very hard to avoid - a very low ceiling, no soft furnishings to absorb the sound - and the sheer volume of the drums. Even the great Bob Pridden seemed to struggle with the mic levels at times. Even with being placed behind a glass baffle, the drums had a tendency to drown out everything. It's very hard to get radio mics to enough volume without feedback to carry the voices on top of pieces with energetic drumming. This was particularly noticed in the operating theatre with the "Enemy Lines"/"God's Grace" scenes. Again, in a larger venue I don't think this would be a problem but it may be that they need to add boom mics to these scenes. I was thinking a mic hanging over the operating table would have been unobtrusive and may have picked up some of the vocals. Now, I had had a couple of pints by then so the top end of my hearing was a bit restricted - I wouldn't place too much faith in what my ears were telling me.

At the end of the evening I got up the courage to introduce myself to Rachel and congratulate her on the show. I even got at autograph on the programme to "Dear Blogger James" and was so chuffed. She said she is going to take a nice long holiday now (I think she deserves it after Kew and this) and then see where ASH leads to next. Some I spoke to expressed reservations it would transfer well to the West End or Broadway - I suppose because the ensemble is small and not a cast of thousands like a Lloyd-Webber production. Personally, I think it would make a wonderful film musical along the lines of Rocky Horror or Little Shop. The numbers are very strong and catchy and I sincerely we get to hear them recorded soon. They deserve to be heard by a wider audience. An album would be very welcome - hint, hint!

Later I noticed Mark and Jill were the only ones talking to Pete. I had planned not to approach him since I thought he would be swamped and might want the spotlight to be on our Rach. I went over with the intention of just introducing myself, shaking his hand, saying thank you and leaving well pleased. I had decided ahead of time that I wouldn't ask for an autograph or photo on my first meeting with a hero - I was quite happy to "know" I had met him without proof and to have said hello at least. But Pete drew me into the conversation they were having and for 10-15 minutes I was chatting with one of my idols about VH1 - playing to a live audience versus an online one, the equipment from Oceanic being in storage, how the adrenaline of being onstage overrides the creaks and pains of aging, and other various topics. One of my favourite bits of the conversation was when he was talking about playing at The Orpheum Theatre in LA at a private party for the makers of Rock Band. He said he noticed photos of past great like Ella Fitzgerrald in the dressing room. And was told that Ella sat in that very chair over there. Pete said he was star struck. Here were the stars who were great when he was young and he was sharing a stage with them in spirit at least. He loved the venue and said the band were brilliant that night. He said he would love to try and stage another gig there. I mentioned to him that the few reviews I had seen were glowing but he hadn't seen any of them (so they are linked to below if anyone can forward this to him, please.,0,4059959.story?track=rss )

I am still on cloud nine having met Rach and Pete. And our girl continues to impress me with her talents no end. I would love to see some incarnation of ASH on stage again. I think it could have a bright future. At the very least, the music deserves to be recorded - perhaps a radio play). The talent were brilliant in their roles. It's so hard to believe they only saw the scripts a few days ago. The band were ultra talented. In short, this has all the ingredients. Just needs a bit of seasoning and Rachel will have created a fantastic little dish. Now I am off to sleep still with this huge, silly grin on my face. Thanks Rachel, it was a hell of a night.


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Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash - Times Online

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  (L-R) Musicians Pete...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash - Times Online

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Rachel Fuller on A Week in Kew and her musical Ash
The singer/songwriter Rachel Fuller set herself a week to make an album of songs inspired by her London village
Ken Russell

Last month Rachel Fuller, a singer/songwriter and artist, set out to spend a week writing an album of ten songs, A Week in Kew, drawing her inspiration from the shops, people and village life in Kew. Having just finished a song cycle of my own, Boudica Bites Back, about the queen of the Iceni tribe who gave the Roman invaders a bloody nose back in AD 61, I thought it would be fun to see how a fellow artist would handle a musical picture of the Kew tribe of AD 2008.

But who exactly is Rachel Fuller? On her website I found biographical details and a few revealing quotes. Fuller, 35, is a classically trained British musician. She is a successful independent pop music artist, a website host and an occasional collaborator with the rock musician and her partner Pete Townshend.

Well, that was a turn-up for the books: Pete Townshend is an old friend I worked with years ago on bringing his superb rock opera Tommy to the silver screen. Now that was promising as I know that Pete is a man of impeccable taste. I turned to her website for confirmation. Well Miss Fuller is very forthcoming about herself, admitting that, “I'm f***ing fabulous.”

So when I rang the doorbell I was somewhat apprehensive. I did not know whether to expect an arrogant tigress or a hard-nosed intellectual. But the door was opened by a radiant English rose. I followed her up a narrow flight of stairs. She was tall and elegant with shapely bare legs in her knee-length Victorian bloomers.
Related Links

* We're so in love: Rachel, Spud, Barney and Harry

I took in the attractive bijou flat whose stark white walls were partially covered in scribble both in pen and pencil. “I hate writing on paper,” she confided, “because I always end up with reams and reams of rejected versions scattered all over the floor and very mixed-up - very wasteful, very confusing. Whereas if you write on the wall it's permanent so you have to think very carefully before committing yourself. And when I finish this project I think I'll whitewash the walls and make a fresh start with my very next opus. And so on and so on, over the years, layer upon layer, until at the very end there is a complete record of all my works. By which time, there may be a method of deciphering them all one layer at a time.”

And have you any idea what might start the very next layer, I asked. “It will be the final version of my new musical, Ash, to a book by Jack Shepherd,” she said without hesitation.

When I learnt that it was partly autobiographical I urged her to tell me all about it.

Apparently in her late teens, she became an organist in a chapel attached to a crematorium. Ever conscious of the grief of the mourners, she eventually learnt to take death as a matter of course, especially with the elderly; although the demise of children caused her to constantly lament a young life cut so cruelly short.

But having witnessed through a peephole more than once the sight of a cadaver igniting into a roaring ball of fire, she grew to feel a strange sense of elation as the soul took leave of the body which she remembers as a truly majestic moment. With all this deeply personal experience to draw upon, Ash, which is to have its premiere on August 11 at the Arcola Theatre in East London, promises to be a moving event.

Later in her career, she went to Hollywood in the hope of writing music for the movies. “I love composing big orchestral stuff,” she said. “But in the event I was offered a contract as a singer/songwriter which resulted in an album called Cigarettes & Housework, two of my growing obsessions. And so to my current obsession, A Week in Kew.”

Which brings us back to the writing on the wall to be recorded the following day under the creative eye of Pete Townshend in his studio.The first song she talks about concerns the local ironmongers: a veritable Aladdin's cave of priceless junk. As for the old couple behind the counter, they were the inspiration for a song about lost love and love rekindled, in the style of a simple old folk song. The fashionable hairdressing salon up the road ended up as being a saga about Rachel's love affair with her own hair.

Then we came to the Café Saga:

“I'm going down to Starbucks

Gonna get myself some drugs

But the yummy mummys are out in force

Drinking de café soy of course

They've taken over all the tables

With their vomit baby fables

But by ten they're on their way

There's such a lot to do today

And so I'm free to drink alone

I wish I were more sociable

I observe from where I hide

The snow globe goes on inside

It never settles and nor do I,

For now my heart beats way too high.

Are we just in deep denial

With our cheery cardboard cup

When all we are really buying

Is a drug to pick us up?”

And so this musical tour of Kew went on from one delight to another until after the seventh song she stopped abruptly. “I thought you were writing ten,” I said. “I was,” she replied, kicking off her sandals and sitting down, “but it was my birthday on Thursday...” And then she fell silent. “And you had a big party I guess?” “Far from it,” she said. “Birthday me and artist me had a big argument that lasted all day...”

Here I thought it best not to pry and reluctantly bade her farewell.

And as I drove away, I thought that her website had somehow let her down, though she was definitely right about one thing - she really is “f***ing fabulous”.

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AOR (All Over the Road) by dublinjames is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.