Sunday, 20 October 2019

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children at Slussens Pensionat and a Reflection on the Importance of the Stunning Venue

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children at Slussens Pensionat
When Sweden's Psych-Rock legends The Soundtrack of Our Lives sadly called it a day in December 2012 there were many things I was dreading losing out on. It goes without saying that I would miss the music and their incendiary live shows but there was also the travel, the social life with the great friends and acquaintances that I had made along the way since I first saw the band. It’s not overstating things to say that TSOOL pretty much changed my life, or at the very least, set it on a different course. After all, they re-energised my passion for music and inspired me to recreate my old-school 1980’s cut and paste fanzine "Out of Step" which I renamed "Retro Man" after my favourite TSOOL song. However, it was the thought that there would no longer be any more gigs at the beautiful Slussens Pensionat that most filled me with regret. TSOOL first started playing at the stunning waterside location run by the lovely couple Vibs and Robert Sohlberg on the island of Orust in 2001 and word quickly spread that these were gigs and a music venue like no other. 

Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat with The Soundtrack of Our Lives by Paul Slattery
The band used these shows at Slussens Pensionat as a kind of summer break for themselves; you could sense they were a release from what was possibly a very stressful time. Their profile was getting higher internationally due to the breakthrough album “Behind The Music” and they had to deal with all the pressures that success can bring - major record labels, PR, management and such like. The Slussens Pensionat shows stripped away all the corporate bullshit and just allowed the band to relax and enjoy themselves. I was to get my first taste back in August 2003 and was immediately hooked, travelling over as many times as I could after that initial mind-blowing experience. It was a fan's dream. The band played sprawling sets that could last over three hours stretching into the early hours of the morning. They would play obscure album tracks, B-sides, cover versions and try out brand new, often unfinished songs alongside their more familiar numbers. Sometimes, they played whole LPs in their entirety, such as the Winter Lucia show in December 2008 promoting the release of “Communion” where we were treated to each song in sequence. 

Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat with The Soundtrack of Our Lives by Paul Slattery
Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
The Slussens shows usually started rather sedately, with the audience enjoying dinner while the band sat on stools playing acoustic guitars. However, the nights would inevitably end in drunken chaos with tables moved out of the way and the crowd getting up to dance. Vocalist Ebbot Lundberg would climb over tables, sending drinks, bottles, glasses (and sometimes people!) flying all over the place. Microphone leads would often get wrapped around people’s legs and necks and mic stands went crashing all over the place. It was always great fun. One year I was there, they were filming the fantasy/documentary “Ebbot the Movie” and I make a fleeting appearance in it. It’s a great film that really captures the true essence of the Slussens Pensionat experience, as well as highlighting some rather suspect acting from the band members themselves. Another year, Ebbot invited my Retro Man Blog colleague photographer Paul Slattery along and he documented the proceedings with some superb photos, which you can see in the archive here. I met other TSOOL fans from all over the world, not just from Sweden or England but also from Norway, America, Scotland and as far away as Peru. I even met the actor Lars Melin, who appeared in one of my favourite Swedish TV shows, “Wallander” and he seemed a bit surprised that his fame had spread over to the U.K. There are many other great memories, for example, I saw Ebbot duetting with the fantastic singer songwriter Martin McFaul and on separate occasions interviewed both Ebbot and Ian Person for Retrosonic Podcast on the terrace overlooking the beautiful Orust scenery. 

TSOOL with Robert from Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
The last photo of TSOOL together at Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
Yes, indeed, when TSOOL split up you can probably now understand why I was so sad at the thought that I might never get the opportunity to return. However, the good news is that Ebbot has continued the tradition and has since returned to play at Slussens Pensionat for his own TV show “Ebbot’s Ark” as well as with his current band The Indigo Children. Therefore, in August I found myself once again returning to what had almost become my spiritual home and the weather was thankfully perfect, it was so great to be back. Since TSOOL split up, Ebbot has become a bit of a TV celebrity in Sweden, appearing in the popular music show “Så Mycket Bättre” and his own show “Ebbot’s Ark”, as well as various daytime programmes and cooking/travel shows and the audience demographic on the night probably reflected this somewhat. Ebbot appears and is in a cheerful and suitably summery mood, wearing a brightly striped nightshirt, shorts, crocs and a Hawaiian flower garland around his neck. 

Albert, Billy & Ebbot of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Anton of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
There has been a slight change in The Indigo Children line-up again, following last year’s shift from the members of Side Effects to members of fellow Stockholm based band, EKEN. There are some familiar faces from my Retro Man Blog night for Ebbot & The Indigo Children in London last October - Oskar Nylén and Billy Cervin on guitars, Alfred Holmgren on bass and the powerhouse drummer Anton Fernandez. Then, there is the latest recruit, newcomer Albert Lorenz on keyboards. We have already featured the incredible story of Billy Cervin, who was barely in his teens when he started taking guitar lessons off a neighbour who just happened to be TSOOL’s Mattias Bärjed. Under Mattias’ tutelage, Billy quickly graduated to forming his own band, Side Effects (named like this Blog, after a TSOOL song) and this led to him standing in for Mattias at some TSOOL live shows to eventually teaming up with Ebbot in the Indigo Children. Billy was also recruited into the Union Carbide Productions line-up for their amazing reunion gigs last year and has proven himself to be the perfect foil and ally to Ebbot and his musical adventures. 

Ebbot, Billy Cervin (guitar) & Albert Lorenz (keyboards) by Retro Man Blog
Albert Lorenz of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
But back to the new keyboard player Albert, who has a similar fairy-tale story to Billy. A few years ago, I met up for a beer with him at Pustervik in Gothenburg; he was a big TSOOL fan from Spain who had just landed a dream job at ex-TSOOL bassist Kalle’s Svenska Grammofonstudion, now Sweden’s most sought after recording studio. We also went along to see Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat and one of my lasting impressions was of Albert, a few beers down, enthusiastically joining in on backing vocals after an impromptu ‘stage’ invasion! This could have been an early audition and I think Albert was as surprised as me to find out he would end up as an official member of The Indigo Children. Albert admitted to me that he was a bit concerned about following in the footsteps of previous keyboard player Elias, but he did just fine. He brought an energetic stage presence, encouraging people to join in and clap their hands, wading into the audience with his tambourine. 

Alfred & Oskar of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
EKEN by Retro Man Blog
Although I was nervous when I found out that the Indigo Children line-up had changed literally days before my show with the band in London last year – the new recruits did a superb job at such short notice. Thanks in main to Billy’s organisation, they did not let me, Ebbot or the London crowd down and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. However, let’s get back to the Ebbot’s Slussens Pensionat gig, and what followed was a mammoth set crammed full of The Soundtrack of Our Lives songs, yes, this was definitely a night for all TSOOL fans. Ebbot always throws in a few TSOOL numbers into in his solo sets but I don’t think he has ever played so many of their songs at one gig and I am transported back to all those great TSOOL Slussens shows over the years. For example, there’s the classic “Galaxy Gramophone” from the “Homo Habilis Blues” EP along with “Rest In Piece” and “Century Child” and songs cherry picked from every TSOOL LP.

Billy & Ebbot of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Anton & Alfred of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Tonight though, there is just the one new unreleased song “Comfort Zone” from the forthcoming Indigo Children LP, it’s pretty much the good old familiar favourites all the way. There is a break half way through and Eken come on and play two excellent songs, I love this band and played a track in an early Retrosonic Podcast episode about my favourite Swedish music at the time. After this nice unexpected bonus, Ebbot then appears on his own with an acoustic guitar and runs through a long story, humorous apparently to those that can understand Swedish! He plays his first solo single “Wishing Well” and we all join in on the Burt Bacharach style-backing vocals. There’s Union Carbide Productions “Can’t Slow Down” and great versions of The Beatles’ “Day In The Life” and Bowie’s “Five Years”. The band come back and run through another set packed full of great songs from all aspects of Ebbot’s career that include the cover versions “Don’t Blow Your Mind” and “Calling From Heaven” which the band have made their own. Of course, there’s the stunning singles “To Be Continued” and “Backdrop People” that all feature on the excellent debut Indigo Children LP “For The Ages To Come”. The set draws to a close with raucous attacks on “Bigtime” and “Mantra Slider” and despite the clock approaching 2am, they still come back for more. The encores are a blur, Ebbot climbs over me to stand on the table, I do remember “Sister Surround”, “Firmament Vacation” and what must surely be Sweden’s unofficial national anthem, “Instant Repeater ‘99”. The show finally draws to a close with an emotional and moving singalong of “The Passover” and it proved to be a truly memorable night that lived up to all those old classic Soundtrack of Our Lives shows at Slussens Pensionat. If you ever get chance to visit this magical venue then please don’t hesitate, you might end up like me, hooked for life.
Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Ebbot has been busy provided vocals once again for the ‘super-group’ 5 Billion In Diamonds who will be releasing their second alum early next year. The band is masterminded by Garbage drummer and Nirvana producer Butch Vig, James Grillo and Andy Jenks and features Damian O’Neill from The Undertones, David Schelzel, Damon Reece and Helen White among other special guests. Ebbot also spearheaded the Union Carbide Productions reunion last year with Billy joining original band members Patrick Caganis, Per Helm, Adam Wladis and Henrik Rylander and we were lucky enough to see a stunning show in Gothenburg which you can read about in the Blog archive here. There’s also good news that a documentary on the band is currently in production. The other members of TSOOL have been equally as busy. Following one superb album of classic Rock with the band Free Fall, Mattias Bärjed has become a critically acclaimed movie and TV soundtrack composer and has combined this with touring with Refused. Along with Martin Hederos, he got Nymphet Noodlers back with original members Mattias Hellberg, Jesper Karlsson and Jan Martens, who has also recently released his own debut solo LP “Voices”. Martin Hederos has also just simultaneously released two brand new albums, one of piano music “Era Spår” under his own name and another “Master of Fog” with Tonbruket. Ian Person is currently in the excellent Punk Rock band Pablo Matisse with Per from Division of Laura Lee and has also been working on a TV soundtrack with Kalle. Ian also produced and played on the “Ghostrider” album by Swedish Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Jerry Williams along with TSOOL’s drummer Fredrik Sandsten.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives at Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
So, there is plenty of great new music from all the ex-TSOOL members to fill that void left since the band finished. With sincere thanks to Hasse & Liselott, Vibs & Robert and best regards to Ebbot, Albert, Billy, Anton, Alfred and Oskar. You can check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page for more photos of the show and there are also videos up on our YouTube channel here. Check the Blog archive for loads of Soundtrack of Our Lives related features including the band’s last ever London and Slussens shows. There’s features on the Nymphet Noodlers and Union Carbide Productions reunions and don’t forget our Retrosonic Podcast special editions featuring interviews with Ebbot, Ian Person, Fredrik Sandsten, Mattias Barjed and Mattias Hellberg and much more. Thank you to Paul Slattery for his photos, copyright Paul Slattery or Retro Man Blog where stated.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - New Retrosonic Podcast with Rock Photographer Paul Slattery & Lee McFadden

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery: A New Book of Iconic Photos Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "Unknown Pleasures". In the latest Retrosonic Podcast episode, rock photographer Paul Slattery, talks to Lee McFadden about his brand new book of Joy Division photography out now via Legends Publishing. The book not only includes his iconic photo session of the band outside Strawberry Studios in Stockport but also from the Stuff The Superstars gig that very evening along with rare shots of their headline show at the Electric Ballroom in London. In this entertaining episode Paul also discusses his partnership with music journalist Dave McCullough for Sounds magazine and the excellent work done by the Stockport Museum in preserving the legacy of Strawberry Studios. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS Certificate. Podcover photo copyright Paul Slattery. The book can be ordered from Legends Publishing here. Listen/download from our Soundcloud site below or subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast on iTunes.

Lee McFadden is currently playing in The Cult Figures and their latest LP can be ordered here.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford, Sunday July 21st

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Here's some photos and a couple of videos from Robyn Hitchcock's superb gig at the Boileroom in Guildford last Sunday. It was my first visit to this intimate venue and I really liked it. The sound and lighting were excellent and the attractive outdoor terrace with it's own pizza shack, all helped to add to the atmosphere. Robyn Hitchcock appeared on stage in customary dotted shirt and treated us to a two hour set packed full of pleasantly surprising song choices and in-between song chat that was often as psychedelic as his music. The more familiar songs from The Egyptians such as "My Wife And My Dead Wife", "Madonna Of The Wasps" and "When I Was Dead" nestle alongside unexpected solo treats such as "Cheese Alarm" and the new single "Sunday Never Comes", which was available as a lovely pink vinyl single at the merch table. His humorous and bewildering instructions to Spencer, tonight's sound engineer, were worth releasing as an album in their own right.

Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford

Half way through the set Robyn was joined on stage by the mightily impressive Australian guitarist Davey Lane, who has also previously played alongside Todd Rundgren and is in the line-up of the popular Aussie Alt. Rock band You Am I. Davey somehow managed to coax some remarkable effects from his guitar that added undercurrents of pedal-steel, cello and psychedelic organ sounds to the stripped back acoustic performance. He also chipped in with some nice vocal harmonies and obviously has a great rapport with Robyn, in fact their on-stage chemistry made for a thoroughly heart-warming evening's entertainment. My personal highlights included a beautiful "Autumn Sunglasses" from Robyn's current self-titled album and a rare outing for a Venus 3 song, a rollicking run through of "Adventure Rocket Ship". There was even a nod to The Soft Boys with "Queen of Eyes" and a raucous crowd singalong to the classic "Brenda's Iron Sledge". It was just one of those great nights of live music, enjoying a true British musical legend at the top of his game in such intimate surroundings with a nice crowd of people. You really can't get much better than that.

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford
All photos copyright Retro Man Blog 2019.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery: New Book of Iconic Photos Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "Unknown Pleasures"

Joy Divison at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery
To mark the fortieth anniversary of Joy Division’s seminal album "Unknown Pleasures", Paul Slattery, the celebrated rock photographer (and my Retro Man Blog colleague...) travels back in time to Saturday 28th July 1979. His new book, published by Legends Publishing, features the iconic images of the photo session of the band which he took on the streets around Strawberry Studios in Stockport (where the band recorded the album) and later that day at the legendary "Stuff The Superstars" gig at The Mayflower Club in Gorton. This is the first time all the images have been published in one volume. Paul also shares his memories of the day and the photographic locations, along with some never-before-published images. The limited edition author-signed copies of the book come with three postcard sized prints and an exclusive Joy Division badge – while stocks last and not sold separately. Please note, the official book launch will take place on Saturday 27th at the Stockport Museum and books will be posted out on or around that date. Overseas purchases are possible but extra postage charges will apply – the publisher will advise details after an order has been made. You can order the book directly from Legends Publishing here.

Joy Divison at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery
Paul was invited to give a talk about his Joy Division photos at the Stockport Museum during their "I Am In Love" exhibition back in December 2017, you can read a report on the event, along with an interview with Paul by Lee McFadden of ATV, in the Blog archive here
- All photos copyright Paul Slattery.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Ranking Roger “I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life in The Beat” co-written with Daniel Rachel and published by Omnibus Press - Feature Including Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos

I went along to the launch party for Ranking Roger’s autobiography “I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life In The Beat” at the Heavenly Social recently. Of course, it was a very poignant affair as sadly Roger passed away before he could see the book published. Co-writer Daniel Rachel took part in an entertaining interview and Q & A session and did a great job in what must have been difficult circumstances. Daniel has already had books published on subjects that include Rock Against Racism, Britpop, 2 Tone and Red Wedge so he was a good choice to work with Roger on his autobiography. The book was available for sale on the night prior to publication so I picked up a copy and have just finished reading it. First of all I must say, that there are some fantastic photos throughout and it was great to see a couple of my Retro Man Blog colleague Paul Slattery’s pics inside, including the famous one of Roger with Joe Strummer backstage at the Mogador Theatre in Paris. Here, Paul shares two of his own favourite photos and gives us some background behind them.

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Paul Slattery
“I took this backstage photo of Ranking Roger with his top hat after a gig in late 1979 at The Subscription Rooms in Stroud. He was still only 16 at the time but for a young man he was loaded with charisma, good looks and a lot of talent. Although the gig was nearly forty years ago, I’ll never forget it. A cold winter’s night was turned into a cauldron of heat in the upstairs room of the Subs and I felt the floor bounce up and down with the rhythm of the dancing. Ranking Roger was a smiling genius, his toasting on such numbers as “Tears of a Clown”, “Whine and Grine” and “Big Shot” was a real treat – he certainly earnt his “Ranking” moniker in my opinion, comparing with the likes of Ranking Trevor and Ranking Joe. The Beat were certainly one of the best and most exciting bands I have ever seen and Roger’s toasting, along with the legendary Saxa, added a real slice of Jamaica to what was an incredible live act. The second photo is of Rog, still only 17 years old, and Dave Wakeling blowing the crowd away at the Hammersmith Palais in the spring of 1980”.

The Beat - Photo copyright Paul Slattery
Thank you Paul. The book starts with Roger on stage with The Beat. He stops the band three songs into their set to confront a gang of skinheads in the crowd who are sieg-heiling and shouting National Front slogans. Roger gets the crowd to chant “Black and White Unite” until the offending Nazis disappear and the show goes on. The NME ran a review of the gig in which the writer noted that Roger was “almost hysterical with rage and emotion”. Roger’s no-nonsense attitude towards racism and his mantra of “Love, Peace & Unity” are at the heart of this thoroughly entertaining memoir. Gigs in the late 70’s and early 80’s were a hotbed of violence, a fact that we discussed with Buddy Ascott of The Chords in our special Retrosonic Podcast where he reminisces about the time that skinheads disrupted one of their shows with The Undertones. Sadly, a lot of this violence was of a racist nature. There are similar themes explored in “Day-Glo”, the recent emotionally charged biography of Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, which we reviewed in the Blog here. Whereas Roger had the character that could deal with the situation head on, Poly had her own mental health issues, which saw her struggle with the violence and racism of the time. However, both saw in Punk a scene where individuals/outsiders could thrive creatively regardless of their sex or colour. 

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Steve White
Roger Charlery was born and raised in Birmingham, quite literally in the heartland of the National Front. Their Headquarters were close to his family home and he would often run outside to abuse the regular marches that passed his house. Roger’s parents had come over from St. Lucia, which was a French speaking Catholic country and I’m sure this background must have had some bearing on his open-minded attitude. He mixed easily and enjoyed playing cricket and football with kids from Asian, White and Black backgrounds. He developed a love of music, inspired by his musician father who had a big record collection that encompassed an eclectic mix such as James Brown, Motown, Manfred Mann and even Country & Western. Roger is also exposed to the sounds of Calypso and Ska from various house parties and later on, shebeens and sound systems. Roger talks about MC’s such as Big Youth and U-Roy and the impact of hearing John Lydon talking about Reggae on the radio. He starts to frequent local pubs and venues popular with Punks and at Barbarella’s in Birmingham he gets friendly with the DJ who allows him to toast over Punk records including, rather bizarrely, Angelic Upstarts “I’m An Upstart”. He gets an early taste for toasting in a live environment when he grabs a mic during a stage invasion at a Specials gig. Roger joins a band called Unity as their drummer and later The Dum Dum Boyz, who like many other Birmingham bands at the time, were multi-racial. Soon, another local multi-racial band were bugging The Dum Dum Boyz for a support slot – this band was called The Beat and Roger finds himself drawn to their more Punky take on Reggae, Ska and Soul. He goes to see them support The Au-Pairs and just can’t stop himself from getting on stage to toast during one song. There's an immediate chemistry between Roger and The Beat and soon afterwards he gladly accepts the offer to join the band, but not before turning down a similar offer from UB40. It’s all go from there, Jerry Dammers snaps up the new Beat line-up for his 2 Tone record label and within nine whirlwind months of joining, Roger finds himself on Top of The Pops performing their debut single “Tears of a Clown”. 

What follows is a conversational, unpretentious and honest autobiography where Roger not only takes us on his journey with The Beat, but also throws in many of his observations on the prevailing attitudes towards racism, sexism and the politics of the time. He talks warmly about John Peel, R.E.M and of touring with Talking Heads and The Police and you might be surprised which of the peroxide haired three-piece was the least friendly. However, The Clash really make an impact. He talks in depth about the band and their 8-night residency with them at the Mogador theatre in Paris, which Roger claims were among the best gigs the Beat ever played. The later chapters suddenly take a slightly darker turn and Roger discusses drugs and groupies. He also admits that the fame and adulation, particularly in America, did start to go to his and Dave Wakeling’s heads. He is particularly honest and open about the reasons for the break-up of The Beat but you will just have to buy the book to find out the whole story. Following the split, Andy Cox and David Steele went on to form Fine Young Cannibals with Roland Gift who commercially outstripped The Beat with two superb LPs. Roger and Dave formed General Public, initially with Mick Jones who had left The Clash. They were both persuaded some years later to get back together for a Beat reunion show at The Royal Festival Hall. This was followed by a couple of ill-fated gigs but things didn’t work out too well between them and Dave went back to live in California where he continued playing gigs as The English Beat. Roger carried on with the Beat name over here with his daughter Saffren and son Matthew, otherwise known as Ranking Junior, joining the line-up. The book ends sadly with Roger saying how much he still loved performing with The Beat “The only things that would make me stop are illness or war, it’s a compulsion, I just can’t stop it”. Sadly just days after finishing those lines, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on March 26th 2019, aged only 56. Despite the ultimately tragic outcome hanging over the book, it still manages to be a hugely uplifting and positive read. You can feel the warmth of Roger’s huge smile radiating through each page. 
- RIP Ranking Roger. Love, Peace and Unity.

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Steve White
“I Just Can’t Stop It” is available as a regular paperback here and as a special limited edition, which you can ordered from Rough Trade here. Daniel Rachel’s other books can be ordered here. With thanks to Paul Slattery and Steve White for the excellent photos. Paul is currently working on a book and exhibition of his early Joy Division photographs and we will be sure to give you more details in due course. Please do check out Steve’s Flickr page for his superb archive of live music photography and you can see more examples for his work in our feature on the recent Buzzcocks and Guests tribute gig to Pete Shelley at the Royal Albert Hall here

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Buzzcocks, The Skids, Penetration & Special Guests - A Celebration of Pete Shelley's Life at The Royal Albert Hall June 21st - Feature with Photos by Steve White

Buzzcocks and guests at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
“From the Roxy to the Royal Albert Hall..!” Penetration’s lead vocalist, Pauline Murray, sounded incredulous as she gazed out at the beautiful auditorium. I doubt many of the bands who played at the legendary Roxy club over 40 years ago would, at the time, have imagined that they would one day get to play at such a bastion of the musical establishment – home of the Proms. Penetration were the opening act of this very special event to celebrate the life and music of Pete Shelley and they were a great choice to get everyone warmed up for the evening’s entertainment. After all, they did take the unusual step of including a version of Buzzcocks “Nostalgia” on their 1978 debut album “Moving Targets” and it’s rare for someone to record a cover by one of their contemporaries and turn it into something special, but Penetration did just that. 

Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Penetration open the show with “Nostalgia” and tonight it sets the scene for an evening that was packed full of emotional appreciation of Pete Shelley's consummate and enduring song writing. Sadly, they only had time for a short sharp shock of a set that included just the eight songs, taking in “Come Into The Open” and “Shout Above The Noise” from their second album “Coming Up For Air” along with a pick from their debut. The double hit of “Silent Community” and the classic single “Don’t Dictate” went down a storm and lifted the good-natured enthusiasm a notch higher. The whole band really were superb, Pauline Murray particularly so, she discards her wide-brimmed hat to reveal a shock of peroxide blonde hair; she looks great and is in mighty fine voice too. They end their set with “Beat Goes On”, a song from their current must-have LP “Resolution” and the fact that it’s one of the highlights of the night speaks volumes for what a good place the band are in right now. No need for nostalgia when the age to come looks so promising.

Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
I've never really liked the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a Rock gig and although Penetration's sound suffered accordingly, I have to admit that The Skids suited the Royal Albert Hall down to a tee and their familiar anthemic songs filled the place perfectly. The band were passionate and heartfelt and like Penetration before them, seemed to be revelling in playing live and were bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Talking of energy, Richard Jobson in particular didn't stop moving, treating us to his whole repertoire of unique dance moves – part aerobics, part high-kicking karate and part dad-dancing - I was exhausted just watching him. At least he can laugh about it too as he mentions he saw a guy outside the venue who asked him if he was going to do some of his weird dancing tonight, “too right!” Jobbo says “and I hope he lost his ticket!” Jobson is humorous and sincere and he paid tribute to Pete Shelley before reminding us that his band had also suffered their own sad loss with the suicide of guitar genius Stuart Adamson. 

The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
“TV Stars” may well be ‘the worse song The Skids ever wrote’, as Jobbo informs us tonight, but to see a huge crowd screaming “Albert Tatlock!” at the top of their voices is a sight and sound to behold. I reckon if you did a poll at the end of the night you might find a huge percentage voted “TV Stars” as their best song. Big Country’s Bruce Watson and his son Jamie take on the guitar duties and they are both bursting with a sheer infectious joy as they leap about the stage and throw shapes, doing justice to Stuart Adamson’s unique guitar sound, in particular on an atmospheric “Scared To Dance”. The great songs keep on coming “The Saints Are Coming”, “Of One Skin” and all those fabulous hits that wowed me on Top of The Pops when I was a kid – “Animation”, “Charade”, “Working For The Yankee Dollar” and of course “Masquerade” are all superb. Even two of my least favourite tracks, “Woman In Winter” and “Hurry On Boys” from their “Absolute Game” album are transformed into emotionally charged sing-alongs that send a shiver down my spine. Willie Simpson’s thunderous bass intro to “Into The Valley” may well be one of those iconic musical moments from any era or genre but like Penetration it’s not all about nostalgia. The Skids have an excellent new album out now called “Burning Cities” and they play a track from it tonight called “Kings of The New World Order” which shows that all those vital elements of the band that we have loved over the years are still very much alive and (high) kicking!

Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Captain Sensible with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Buzzcocks had actually booked this show at The Royal Albert Hall before the unexpected and sad death of Pete Shelley last December. It was decided that the show must go on as a tribute to Pete and his legacy with the Buzzcocks. Original manager Richard Boon introduced the show and from then on, it was compèred by Paul Morley – whose first piece of music journalism was to write about the band for the NME. There is a nicely worded video message from Howard Devoto played over the big screen and he gives us an exclusive play of a rare track by Buzzkunst, the project he put together with Pete Shelley. It’s a nice touch despite the disappointment of realising that Howard would not be making an appearance. Buzzcocks appear on stage - Steve Diggle and the current bassist Chris Remington and drummer Danny Farrant along with guitarist Noko, who played in the re-formed Magazine and Luxuria with Howard Devoto, taking on Pete’s guitar parts.

Steve Garvey of Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Dave Vanian with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
It dawns on me just how vital Pete’s guitar parts were to Buzzcocks; it wasn’t just his instantly recognisable voice, Pete added a touch of the avant-garde that was a perfect counter balance to Steve Diggle’s more straight ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll Power chords. Shelley was an extremely underrated guitar player. “Fast Cars” is followed by “Promises” and then Diggle’s own “Why She’s a Girl From The Chainstore”. Much to everyone’s delight the ‘classic rhythm section’ of bassist Steve Garvey and drummer John Maher join in too and they were both superb and occasionally, there were times when the two drummers and two bassists were on stage together. We saw Steve Garvey and John at the Malcolm Garrett exhibition the week before where they joined Steve Diggle for a signing session. Buddy Ascott from The Chords finally managed to get John Maher to sign his bass drum skin, which he is going to auction off for the Roll out the Barrel Trust charity. You can read more about the exhibition and signing session at the Blog feature here

John Maher of Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Tim Burgess with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Next up come the guest vocalists although I think it’s a bit strange as Steve Diggle stays centre stage and the singers are shunted to one side. Captain Sensible comes on and fishes a lyric sheet out of a plastic bag before singing "Boredom" in his usual audience baiting style. His colleague Dave Vanian hadn’t even learned the words to “What Do I Get?” but luckily, 5,000 people knew the words all too well. Thurston Moore added a much-needed shot of manic guitar energy to “Time’s Up” and aptly enough, “Noise Annoys” and his appearance was a real highlight. Pauline Murray and Richard Jobson returned to the stage and sang “Love You More” and “Fiction Romance” respectively but for me the highlights were Peter Perret of The Only Ones who performed “Why Can’t I Touch It?” and Tim Burgess of The Charlatans on “Sixteen Again” and “You Say You Don’t Love Me”. Maybe it was because their voices were more similar to Pete’s – but it just seemed to work and they both seemed thoroughly appreciative to be part of the show. 

Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Thurston Moore with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
At the end of the set, Pete’s widow Greta takes the stage to thank everybody but her appearance is overshadowed by a music journalist interrupting her with a drunken rant that leaves Greta standing there unsure of what to do next. It’s awkward and quite a few members of the crowd voice their displeasure at the situation in no uncertain words. It didn’t seem to show much respect for Greta or the occasion. Anyway, it was a small blip on an otherwise very special and emotional night and I hope that this will be the perfect opportunity to see the dignified closing of the Buzzcocks name. 
- RIP Pete Shelley 1955-2018.
Peter Perrett with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Buzzcocks & Friends at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Photos copyright and courtesy of Steve White. Thank you Steve. I hope that I will be able to include more of his excellent photography in the Blog in future and I would recommend checking out his Flickr page to see his stunning portfolio of live music photography. Some more photos (although not as good as Steve’s…) can be found at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are videos of all the bands and most of the Guest vocalists at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Fans of The Skids might like to check out our past features on the band at the archive link here. They include many superb Paul Slattery photos from 1979 and his "Scared To Dance" photo book and also from The Skids stunning 2017 reunion shows, including a trip down Dunfermline's memory lane with Richard Jobson.