Tag Archives: NWOBHM

131. STEVE ‘LOOPY’ NEWHOUSE’s “LOOPYWORLD: THE IRON MAIDEN YEARS” (2016). + A trip down Memory Lane for The Quill.

Loopy's book coverBook review.  When Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse told me he was writing a book about his time as a roadie for Heavy Metal maestros, Iron Maiden; I was very keen to have a read. So he sent me a pre-publication PDF of his work, Loopyworld: The Iron Maiden Years, from which I could write a review. I was keen because I was a big fan of Maiden long before they had achieved their international mega success; and I saw them innumerable times – mostly at The Ruskin Arms PH in East London, throughout 1979.

I know Loopy; so when I read the book, I could hear him narrating it in my head. It is written really well and flows easily, like a mate telling you a long but fascinating series of anecdotes down the pub! Its an easy read. He writes just as he speaks – in a relaxed London / Cockney accent. Fine for me because I’m of the same stock; but English speakers outside the UK may have a bit of a problem with some of the colloquialisms contained in it. At the end of the day though, its a book about a Rock band from the East End of London, so what could be a more appropriate lingo to use?

The book sets out Loopy’s time with Iron Maiden from September ’78 to July ’84 – with a break of two years in the middle when he got sacked, then later reinstated. The band were of course one of the leading lights of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM); a serious back-lash against the New Wave/Punk aberration of the mid-70s. By using his old diaries, Loopy describes the highs and lows of his career as a roadie/drum tech for Maiden (and other bands). It is not just a memoir, but a valuable history of Maiden in their earliest years; and an eye-opener for life on the road. He is refreshingly honest, and undoubtedly accurate; and has brought to light many anecdotes and observations about Maiden – and the Rock scene in general – that may have otherwise been long forgotten. It is a fascinating read.

(Pic: Loopy)

Loopy with his magnum opus!(Photo: Loopy)

The book comes as a paperback of 200+ pages. It has a very clear format and typesetting. It contains some great photos, although unfortunately without captions which I think would have been very useful (but that’s the only, minor, complaint that I’ve already mentioned to Loopy). The flyers, ads and posters shown from the time are interesting too; as they mention other artists that I’d seen and forgotten (For example: Zaine Griff, who I saw at Reading ’79; and Lea Hart, supporting Judas Priest at Hammersmith in October ’78).

The cover illustration is by none other than Derek Riggs – the man responsible for bringing ‘Eddie’ to life on numerous Maiden album covers. Loopy also tells me that there is a secret code contained in the book – but I’ve yet to suss it out! The book is out now and is available from Loopy’s website. If you’re a Maiden / NWOBHM fan; or you were a London gig-goer in the late ’70s; it is definitely a must have. Put it on your Christmas stocking list! Highly recommended. PTMQ

Link to Loopy’s website where you can order a copy of the book

Link to Loopy’s Facebook page

(Photo: PTMQ)

Loopy kindly signed the book for me. (Photo: PTMQ)

My own memories of Iron Maiden.  Reading Loopy’s book initiated a trip down Memory Lane for me. I found the earlier chapters particularly interesting because Loopy mentions many of my old haunts: The Ruskin Arms, East Ham of course (which is now an hotel); The Rabbits, Manor Park (now a chemist); The Green Gate, Newbury Park (now a MacDonalds); The Green Man, Leytonstone (now an Irish theme bar); and The Red Lion, Leytonstone (still a pub!). All good Rock venues of the time. He even talks about Bonzers Farm, where I used to go to pick up bags of spuds for my Mum – precariously strapping them on the pillion seat of my motor bike!

Apart from the dozens of times I saw Maiden at the Ruskins, I also saw them in other places that Loopy mentions: I was at Neal Kay’s Bandwagon HM Soundhouse, a Rock club in Kingsbury, North London a couple of times; at the Reading Rock Festival (August 1980); the long gone Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park where Maiden played as part of that venue’s anniversary celebrations (With Praying Mantis support, June ’80); at The Music Machine, Camden Town (also August ’79; supported by Angel Witch and Toad The Wet Sprocket); their famous charity gig at the Ruskins (April ’80) – which is the only time I remember having to buy a ticket in advance for the venue (and boy it was packed that night!); and their gig at Hammersmith Odeon supporting Judas Priest (March ’80).

(Pic: PTMQ)

Some old IM tickets I sold on Ebay a few years ago. Top: Music Machine, Aug 79. Middle: Ruskin Arms, April 80. Bottom: Rainbow Theatre, June 80.  (Pic: PTMQ)

But it was the Ruskin Arms that will be forever synonymous with Maiden. I first saw them in April ’79, and I must have been present at almost every gig they played there throughout the rest of that year. A couple of mates and I would always be seen doing the ‘Transylvania Boogie’ (as we called it) at the front of the low stage. Occasionally we’d help shift the band’s gear too. I seem to remember they played three consecutive nights there at Easter, and I went to all three. Before and after these gigs, we would have a chat to the band and got to know them quite well – especially Steve HarrisDave Murray and Paul Di’Anno I also remember being pulled up and searched by the Old Bill on the way home from a Maiden gig at the Ruskins – I remember because it was my birthday in January ’80! But the last time I spoke to any of them was at a Radio Caroline Roadshow in April ’80 when I bumped into singer Paul (I mentioned this in an earlier article #41).

There was one particularly good gig at the Ruskins, when the band (and I think I’m right in saying this, not having kept a diary like Loopy!) debuted ‘Running Free’, and it went down a storm. Then it was ‘Remember Tomorrow’s debut, and after rapturous applause, I recall Steve Harris saying from the stage with a big grin on his face, that he didn’t know how the crowd would like it – he needn’t have worried; because for my mates and I it was the best thing we’d heard Maiden do! It may have been at this same gig that the band played a blinding cover of Van Halen‘s ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ as a second encore.

I’d say I’m not so much a Maiden fan these days, although I have a great deal of respect and affection for them, and always keep an eye on what they’re up to. They are certainly responsible for providing me with a great deal of good memories, and I met lots of interesting people at their gigs. Back in ’79 I always said they’d hit the big time. It was obvious right from the start – although I don’t think anyone (even the band themselves) were prepared for just how far and how quickly their career took off. Long may they continue! Cheers Loopy! PTMQ

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41. “RADIO CAROLINE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE BOAT THAT ROCKED” by Ray Clark. Plus, a personal voyage down the piratical sea-lanes of my memory!

I’ve just finished reading the book Radio Caroline: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked (History Press, 2014) by Ray Clark. My copy is the paperback version, with 256 pages; and it is a bit larger than a standard-sized paperback.  There is a Foreword by EMPEROR ROSKO and KEITH SKUES. It tells the history of the pirate station in great detail, from its inception in 1964; to its current on-line format. It details the planning; the ships; the equipment; the legal and financial wrangles; as well as the less savoury shenanigans that went on –  the plots, the back-stabbing, and even a murder! And there are some fantastic photographs throughout; including a magnificent colour section in the middle. This is a very good book indeed; and I really enjoyed reading it. I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in pirate radio; in broadcasting in general; or in the history of British pop music. At all times it is easy to read and interesting. It is extraordinarily well researched. The author is to be congratulated on a fine piece of writing.

'Radio Carolin: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked' by Ray Clark. (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Radio Carolin: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked’ by Ray Clark. (Photo: PTMQ)

My only complaints about this book are: (1) That I think an appendix containing a definitive list of all the Caroline DJs who ever broadcast, and their dates of service would have been very useful. (2) That some sample play-lists from the various periods of the station’s history could have been shown to illustrate the varied and changing styles of music played – there were so many DJs that I’d bet some of them kept some play-lists as mementos, and would have been only too pleased to lend them to the author. There is one play-list shown but it is from a Radio Atlanta programme from the early 60s. And finally (3) one or two maps showing the positions of the various transmitter ships that Caroline used could have been included; showing broadcasting positions, wreck sites and the three-mile limit.

Personally, my first memory of the pirate radio station is from c.1967. It seems ridiculous now, but as a family, we’d often go on holiday to Felixstowe in Suffolk – only an hour’s drive from where we lived at the time; but it seemed like another world to we kids then!  I remember my Dad saying that there was a pirate ship just off the coast and if they came ashore they’d be arrested. As a seven year-old I didn’t have a clue what pirate radio was; but I knew what pirates were! So I imagined the Old Bill fighting it out with a lot of cutlass-wielding thugs in tri-corn hats! Sadly that was a spectacle that I was never to see!

Then in my mid-teens (mid-70s), searching for more interesting music than that which I was hearing on Radio One and TOTP, I discovered this station playing exactly what I wanted to find out about – album tracks from bands that I’d maybe heard of, but knew nothing about. This was for me, totally new and musically stimulating, and opened my mind to a new world – particularly of Prog-Rock;  with some meaningful Folky stuff there too.  I can still hear the jingle ‘Three One Ni-ine Caroline!’; and the oft-played narrated excerpt from the MOODY BLUES album On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969)  – ‘There you go man; keep as cool as you can….’ They also plugged the concept of what they termed ‘L.A.’  (‘Loving Awareness’ – but I was never really sure exactly what that meant!)

I particularly liked listening to the personal Top 30’s that the listeners sent in to the Caroline HQ based in Spain. Two of these were broadcast each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings between (I think) 6pm and Midnight. Many of these Personal Top 30’s would culminate in Led Zep’s ‘Stairway…’ which I never seemed to tire of; and was always surprised if it didn’t reach their respective No.1 spots!  Other very commonly played tracks I remember, were BJH’s ‘Mocking Bird’ and LONE STAR’s ‘Bells Of Berlin’. I recall scribbling out my own Top 30 with a view to sending it off; but never got round to it because I couldn’t decide the best 30 from hundreds of new songs I’d heard in the previous few years. I think RUSH’s ‘Xanadu’ was my No.1 from early ’78 though; with maybe STRIFE’s ‘Sky’ at No.2.

When I first started listening to Caroline; both it, and Dutch language Radio Mi Amigo, were both broadcasting from the ship MV Mi Amigo simultaneously. But then they merged due to financial woes and began to share the same wavelength – R.Caroline by night; and Mi Amigo by day. Even though I couldn’t speak Dutch, it was still worth listening to during the daylight hours, as they played similar sounds that I could relate to.

In order to publicise themselves and make a little dough, there were also the Radio Caroline Road-shows. These took the form of a rock disco.  I remember attending several of these from about ’77 to ’80 in various locations across London and Essex (one in Southend-On-Sea, I recall – and more on this later). These were normally hosted by two or three of the well-known Caroline DJs who’d play everyone’s favourite up-beat rock songs; and sometimes a band would agree to play too. They’d normally finish with Led Zep’s ‘Stairway…’ or Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’.

I particularly recall one Road-show held upstairs at The Red Lion PH in Leytonstone, East London. This was hosted by three DJs – I think they were: Rob Eden; Robbie Day and ‘Harvey The Rabbit’  (now I need that appendix of DJs to be sure!) I remember the sprung wooden floor in this pub started bouncing alarmingly due to all the dancing about! And I can date this gig quite precisely because I remember one of the DJs playing a track from the latest BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW album, Long Live Rock And Roll, which had just been released; and he asked if anyone had it yet. I was one of only a few who’d got my hands on it at the time; and I know it went on sale in April ’78. I also remember my mate Mark (whatever happened to him, I wonder?) impressing some girls with a great impersonation of Leonard Rossiter’s character ‘Rigsby’ from the 70s TV sit-com Rising Damp – and it paid off for us too! Nice one Mark!

Something that regularly used to occur at these road-shows, was when one of the DJs would ask for a volunteer among the young ladies present, to come up on stage, and change into a Radio Caroline T-shirt  – rendering her topless for a few seconds whilst she changed in public. This would bring about great cheers of approval from all the blokes in the audience!  At the Southend gig that I attended, I remember a certain young lady who willingly climbed on stage, but bottled out of getting changed at the last minute (to great Boos from all the libidinous teenage boys in the crowd); but she was given the T-shirt anyway. I remember because I knew her (and no, I never did get to see them either!)

Then in 1980, the rusting Mi Amigo sank in shallow waters in the English Channel; taking Radio Caroline with her, and leaving only her mast above the waves. A campaign was started to raise money to re-float her – or buy a new ship. Part of this campaign was a new road-show. I went to one of these new series of gigs at Ilford Palais, in late April 1980. I seem to remember that the NWOBHM band, TYGERS OF PAN TANG were on the bill. They and some other bands had agreed to help get Caroline on-air again, and I heard they were playing for free. Incidentally, whilst I was there, I bumped into Paul Di’anno – original singer of Iron Maiden; who I knew from The Ruskin Arms, East Ham – and we talked about their debut album Iron Maiden which had just been released.

I think the biggest name that Caroline had on board for this fund-raising tour, was GILLAN. They too had agreed to help out and were booked for a show somewhere. I remember this because I bought a Radio Caroline sweat-shirt at the Ilford gig, with all the other dates printed on the back of it; but I never saw Gillan at that particular road-show unfortunately.

Then, when they finally got their new ship fitted out and started transmissions once again in ’83, I eagerly tuned in; but they seemed to be playing stuff that I really didn’t want to listen to, so I gave it up for yonks and never gave it another thought. Circumstances in my life changed my priorities at around that time too, and I found less time to go to gigs or listen to the radio anyway. From reading the book though, I realised that there was a show on the new Caroline that would have suited me – Caroline Overdrive. But, sorry to say, that passed me by!

Well, that’s about it. Radio Caroline is now on-line of course; and I listen in occasionally. Their website has a lot of interesting info on it. They have a 50th anniversary 500 albums list, as voted by the listeners. Floyd’s Dark Side… is No1; with The Beatles at 2 & 3. I was disappointed to see Wishbone Ash’s Argus (my personal No1 album) at a lowly 68 though! They also have listeners’ personal top 15 album tracks listed.  – a bit like the old days! I’m listening to Caroline as I write this, and they’ve just played Led Zep’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ followed by The Moody’s ‘The Actor’ – I could be back in the 70s again!  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! PTMQ

Here is a link to Caroline’s website…..

http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/#home.html

Here is an excellent compilation of Radio Caroline jingles…..

‘Climb aboard the Love Ship and sail away!’ PTMQ

26. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex. Friday, 24th October, 2014; plus chatting with the band pre-show.

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat  (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve been aware of VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS (VATA) for a couple of years or more now; but never seen them live before. Their album The Radium is a brilliant debut; and their second, Army Of Three which has recently been released, (to paraphrase one of their songs) ‘takes them higher’.  I’ve been listening to both albums a lot lately; and enjoying them. So I was honoured when VATA’s guitarist VIRGIL McMAHON said he’d put me on the Guest List for their gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, in Hullbridge, Essex.

My sports journalist son, James and I, turned up at the venue nice and early; and were warmly welcomed by club proprietor DAVE KITTRIDGE and his wife Trudy. Virgil himself soon appeared and invited us back to the Green Room to meet the other two members of the band – younger brother and drummer, GABRIEL McMAHON; and bassist JACK ALEXANDER TIMMIS. And three more welcoming, friendly and articulate young musicians you couldn’t imagine. (They are 22; 21; and 25 years old, respectively). An immediate comparison of Virgil and Gabriel with the guitarist and drummer Eddie and Alex  VAN HALEN is obvious. (And even the band’s ‘VA’ logo is reminiscent of Van Halen’s famous ‘VH’ symbol, I noticed).

As the brothers originally hailed from South Africa (although living for some years now, in Wales, and more lately, Birmingham), we started the interview by asking Virgil about the music scene in their homeland. Apart from traditional tribal; or Afrikaans Boeremusiek, there is apparently little in the way of a home-grown blues or rock scene – guitarist DAN PATLANSKY  being a rare exception.

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

What then, you may ask, are their influences? No doubt their first was their father HENDRY McMAHON, who introduced the brothers to blues-orientated rock music from a very early age; encouraging them to learn to play instruments, and sit in on his gigs. Consequently the boys have a fantastic knowledge of rock music that was old, long before they were born. And listening to their conversation – and of course, their two excellent albums – this becomes very clear. And for an old rocker like me, its nice to see! For example, when Virgil saw my Twitter moniker (Phil The Music Quill@ptmq2112) on my calling card, he immediately recognised the 2112 as a RUSH album title from ’76 – not many people get that these days! Away from the band, each member listens to a wide variety of sounds too – not just Rock or Blues. Personally, when I listen to the band, I hear bits that remind me of all sorts of other artists; and James hears other things too. This may be coincidence of direct influence; but at all times, VATA’s music has its own style and vibe to it.

An observation I made to them, having listened to their work, is their (sometimes) similarity to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) which emerged from late ’78 onwards. For those not familiar with it; this was the inevitable back-lash against the Punk/New Wave aberration of the mid-70s; where young rock bands influenced by late-60s / early-70s rock bands, suddenly took off – led by such luminaries as my old mates IRON MAIDEN; and SAXON. With VATA being influenced by some of that same earlier music, I’m hearing a similar fresh and exciting interpretation of the old vibe, with an energy, enthusiasm, and sound, reminiscent of the NWOBHM. VATA also have the added advantage of  35 extra years of Rock since the NWOBHM to draw upon now too.

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of  Virgil's Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of Virgil’s Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

Like those earlier bands, their music has a Blues base, of course, but VATA are feeling more comfortable as an out and out Rock unit. James asked if they thought their style was changing. They confirmed this. The second album has certainly moved away from Blues to a large extent. This is something they think has evolved rather than been designed: ‘It wasn’t intentional – its just how it came out…’ Virgil explained, ‘…we always liked the heavier side of Blues anyway’. They feel that Rock gives them more scope to experiment  – as Jack pointed out ‘I think all three of us want to get away from the Blues world….. there’s only so much you can do with a 12-Bar Blues’. Saying that though, they all have a great deal of respect for the Blues genre. And they are not too concerned with what other young Blues-Rock bands are up to – as Virgil said ‘All we’re focused on is The Accelerators’.

Virgil and Gabe’s Dad Hendry in fact, was the founder of the Accelerators; and brought his sons into the band one at a time; before departing himself, and leaving the group in their precocious, and highly capable hands. So from 2006 the group was called Virgil And The Accelerators. Brummie bassist Jack joined later to complete the band in its current form. At first they were, of course, just playing pubs on Friday and Saturday nights ‘for a couple of quid, and a bit of fun’. But once they met manager MARTIN LEWIS (at the ROBIN 2 in Brum), things started to take off.  Since then, they haven’t looked back; and have supported veteran bands like URIAH HEEP and CHICKEN SHACK among others. In fact, they are at pains to point out how much they owe to Martin and his wife Kate; believing that they’d be nowhere without their guidance – ‘Guardian Angels’ is how Gabe describes them. These days the brothers even lodge with the couple at their house  in Brum; which is in a good central position in the UK for gigging.

New material is usually written by the group collectively from jams in their converted garage at home, where they can play in as near concert conditions as possible; bouncing ideas off each other.  This arrangement is not only conducive to the development of new material, but also facilitates the revision of their earlier stuff too: ‘We try not to carry on playing the older songs the same way for any extended period of time’ says Virgil. Therefore their songs are constantly evolving. They are a kind of tri-partite democracy that refer to themselves, as  ‘VATA Band’ Gabe explains. Its a great dynamic that works very well indeed.

Virgil's geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by  PTMQ)

Virgil’s geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by PTMQ)

Inevitably, with both James and myself being guitarists (although not in Virgil’s league, of course!), we asked about the small collection of geetars that he’d brought with him to the gig. It soon became clear that he has a comprehensive knowledge of the instrument in general; and specifically of his own.  He brought with him: a GIBSON FIREBIRD 7 (limited edition);  two GIBSON LES PAULS (a JOE BONAMASSA signature edition Gold Top with ‘relicked’ finish;  and a Black Beauty known as ‘The Preacher’. Two distressed FENDER STRATOCASTERS  were also present: one a ’62 Custom-Shop model,  signed by PHILIP SAYCE and known as ‘Alice’.

I asked the band if there was anything they’d like me to say (or not say) when I wrote up the interview. They merely wished me to thank all those who have come to their gigs and bought their albums. Interview completed, it was time for the lads to get ready for their performance; so James and I decamped back to the auditorium in anticipation of a great show. In fact, my friend and fellow music-writer NIGEL FOSTER had seen the band the week before at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton; and described how they’d ‘blown the bleedin’ roof off!’  So we were expecting something good. Most of the audience were twice the age of the band – rock fans who’d have loved VATA at any time in the last 30 or 40 years; and still appreciative of good music.

Before long, Virgil And The Accelerators climbed on-stage to great applause – Virgil armed with the Gold Top –  and immediately launched into the opening number from the new Army Of Three album, ‘Take Me Higher’, with its  reverb’ed arpeggiated intro. It was a great start, and a mere taste of what was to come. The aptly named ‘Blow To The Head’ followed, hitting hard as the name suggests!  Its also from the new album, and is a great head-banger (reminiscent of Maiden) with fine solos and  good use of the wah-wah pedal.  Changing to his Firebird, Virgil continued to lead the assault with my favourite track from the first album: ‘Backstabber’. An excellent rendition it was too. A guitar change was again required (this time to his Black Beauty, aka ‘The Preacher’ with capo on the 3rd fret) for ‘Give It Up’ – again from the latest collection.

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

‘Racing With Life’ from The Radium was next up. With ‘The Preacher’ still in hand, Virgil used this song as a show-case for his astounding axemanship. A lengthy solo section has been added to this piece to facilitate this. With a jazzy bass-line from Jack; and tight drumming from Gabe; Virgil launched into a lead solo that was at times Bluesy; at times almost psychedelic; but at all times sublime, with a beautiful tone; and executed with consummate ease. Now there are some who call this type of thing self-indulgence, but personally I love to see it;  and so did everyone else as far as I could see – that’s why we were there!

The scope of VATA’s song-writing was evident in the next track: the thoughtful ‘Through The Night’. After the first five rockers, it was a fine contrast. It is a melodic rock song that has had an interesting reverb’ed intro added to the original. Unfortunately the FX pedal died soon into the tune, forcing the band to start again – but that’s Rock’n’Roll for you! Problem solved, the piece continued. I particularly enjoyed the quiet Bluesy solo section.

From the first album, they then played ’88’ which included an interesting Stones motif; and ‘Low Down And Dirty’ which always puts me in mind of BLACK SABBATH, and which also included a nod to ERIC CLAPTON  in the form of a few bars of the classic ‘Layla’ riff, during another very lengthy – but excellent – solo section. Good volume-swell technique on this one too. What struck me on this song too, was how tight the band are as a unit – completely in unison at all times during some complex rhythm changes.

Virgil then asked the audience to show their appreciation of Gabriel and Jack’s work. Surprisingly, neither did a solo themselves. Changing axe once again back to the Firebird, Virgil and the boys gave us a final song in the main set: ‘Free’ – another new one. To me this has something of the ambience of a Southern-Rock song; reminding me of MOLLY HATCHETT; and a little of some of JEFF HEALEY’s work too.  It included an ALLMAN BROS ‘Jessica’ motif nicely worked in to it too.  Its another melodic rocker, and went down a storm. The band left the stage to rapturous applause.

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

The only question now was: Would encore be required? Well, what do you think? The lads returned to the stage (Virgil armed with one of his Strats) for a final offering: an excellent cover of the classic  JIMI HENDRIX song ‘Are You Experienced?’ Phew! Only eight songs in over two hours unbroken; shows not only the length of some of the songs, but the remarkable energy of these fine young musicians. I was knackered just watching! I glanced at the roof – it was still there but  was showing serious signs of distress!

Virgil himself is a consummate axe-master. Not since I saw a young EDDIE VAN HALEN at the old RAINBOW THEATRE in London back in ’78, have I personally witnessed such a gob-smackingly remarkable string-smith at close-range.  It is clear that when Virgil plays solo, the  fret-board becomes an extension of his mind. Eyes closed, he is in another world – and as the audience witnessing his performance, we are privileged to see, and be privy to part of that world!  And he’s still only 22!

Skin-beater Gabriel was barely visible behind his kit, which was half surrounded by Perspex. This is to protect the ears – ‘My big Ride Cymbal is a real beast…’ he explained. The Perspex is  ‘… just there to improve sound on and off stage, and to offer a little protection to people’s ears’. Well, we may not have been able to see Gabe at work; but we sure as Hell knew he was there! He’s a powerhouse of precision percussion – reliable and unwavering in intensity for over two hours!

In my previous blog entry (#25), I said of Martin Turner, that ‘a busier bassist you’ll not see outside the Jazz world’. Well I take that back! Jack Alexander Timmis was exceptionally busy on his LAKLAND 5-string bass. I always admire bassists in 3-piece bands – the poor sods have to work really hard; especially when the guitarist switches from rhythm to lead. But JAT showed us that he was far more than equal to the task; performing his bass chops with confidence and precision; always there as a reliable back-bone for Virgil’s inventive, lengthy solos to refer back to.

As we’ve seen, each of the band members is highly proficient in their own chosen instrument; yet together they are more than the sum of their parts. On stage they are musically so tight that they become as one – highly practiced, and seemingly telepathic in anticipation of each-other’s next move.  They are not so much three musicians in the same group; rather, they are more like three facets of the same being: that entity is ‘VATA Band’ – an ‘Army Of Three’ about to conquer the Rock World!

My only disappointment was that they didn’t play ‘Silver-giver’; but that is an, oh so minor complaint! As James and I left the venue, we saw the band having a smoke outside the stage door. We offered our congratulations and after another brief chat, said our farewells. I understand that roof repairs are currently being carried out at Touchline Live Music, Hullbridge; and at the Boom Boom Club, Sutton. And that roof reinforcement works are taking place at every venue where VATA are due to play next! Go and see this band if you get a chance – if you love guitar-based rock, you’ll love it!  Once again, thanks to Dave K and his Mrs; and all the staff at the Touchline who made this evening possible. PTMQ