Saturday, 22 November 2014

Panshanger - another old airfield gone...

I was saddened to learn of the recent closure of my 'local' airfield. I'd sort of lost touch with the place since I had to cease my activities there for financial reasons - it came as rather of a shock find out the place had closed without my knowledge - I had been meaning to go back and see how things were. A new flying club had taken it over since my days there so I doubt I would have met anyone I remembered anyway.
I thought I'd go up there and try to have a look round if I could before the bulldozers move in and another piece of history slips quietly away forever...
It was possible to get onto the old approach and walk a bit closer, but it wasn't possible to get far before finding the way blocked by security fencing and signs warning of guard dogs on patrol. A couple of the old small hangers could be seen quietly decaying....
Getting a little closer it was possible to glimpse the large old T2 type hanger rusting away and awaiting it's fate. I suspected there wasn't a great deal more to be seen as I knew many of the old WW2 buildings and the control tower had been demolished since my days there - probably around the time the previous flying club closed down.
While I was taking a few pictures a couple of locals turned up walking their dogs - amusingly they thought I was some security guy keeping an eye on the place! We chatted for a few minutes and one of them said he had signed the petition to save the airfield. From 1953 the airfield was owned by former air racer and notoriously shrewd businessman Nat Somers - a Jersey based tax-exile and former owner of Southampton airport among others. After Nat's death in 1990 the airfield passed to his wife Dame Phyllis Somers (also a former pilot) who he first met at Panshanger. Unfortunately she died in March of this year, and it appears her son wants to sell the airfield for housing development so the company owning the aerodrome declined to renew the lease to the flying club. Part of the airfield was built on in the 1960's-1970's leaving only one grass runway remaining. There is a campaign by the locals to save the airfield...

I would have liked to poke around a bit for old times sake but it was starting to get dark. I was hoping to explore and get more pictures - I wanted to record what I could before another part of my past gets bulldozed. Although the airfield didn't see any use by combat units since it opened in 1940 it still has an interesting history and was a decoy site with a large dummy factory built to lure German bombers away the the vital de Havilland factory only six miles away in Hatfield. Some bombs and incendiaries did fall on and around the site so it must have worked and probably saved some lives. Originally the airfield was called Holwell Hyde but it's name was changed to Panshanger in 1943. The original factory decoy and airfield site was quite extensive and I'm sure it could tell many stories. Now only it's ghosts remain...

Although I was hoping to explore and get some better pictures, I have since found a website with a lot of pictures of the sort I was hoping to take and also a load of interesting information on the place.

 Looking back I see that I flew from Panshanger eleven times.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The poppies at the Tower of London

I had been really wanting to go and see the poppies at the Tower of London, but wanted to wait until they were all finally in place. I knew the final poppy was going to be placed on Remembrance Day itself but realized the whole area was going to be massively crowded so decided to go the day before. On the day after the poppies would start being removed so Monday the 10th seemed the optimum time to go. Needless to say it was still crowded - apparently several million people have been to pay their respects already.

I had grandfathers on both sides of the family who were there in the trenches in the First World War - fortunately both survived so I'm glad to say that none of the millions of poppies in the moat of the Tower of London today represent their lives. Many weren't so lucky. Walking round the outside of the moat to view all the poppies takes some time because of the crowds - this makes it a more moving and thought provoking experience...

A rainbow over the poppies - a sign of hope?

One of the Tower's famous Ravens.

 It takes time to take in the sheer scale of it all.

Due to the crowds it took so long to work my way round the outside of the moat that it was getting dark before I finished - plenty of time to reflect that each individual poppy presents a life taken... It was certainly a memorable experience and I'm glad I made the effort to get down there.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

8/11/2014 Motörhead @ Wembley Arena

So it finally happens - the day some thought might never come. Motörhead are back! Yes, after the last two occasions I bought a ticket to see Motörhead they got refunded both times when tours were cancelled due to Lemmy's ill health - this time I get to see them play. Naturally I was delighted (if a little apprehensive) when a new Motörhead tour was finally announced, but a little dismayed when I found out the venue for the London show was to be the dreaded Wembley Arena. Still, if that's where they are playing then that's where I've got to go - after all you never know these days if it will be the last time. Still, I've been to see the band headline this venue before so I can do it again. I didn't have to pay last time at Wembley, but this time it's the most I've ever had to pay to see Motörhead. To be fair, a show at this venue is never going to be cheap - although I have seen bigger productions by KISS and Alice Cooper at this same venue is recent times for around the same (or less) money. The Damned are supporting so it's a good bill though.

Unfortunately I bought my ticket too late for it to be posted to me, so I had to go and pick it up in person from the West End on the day of the show. Actually that worked out quite well in the end as to get the tube to the gig I had to travel into town and then out again to Wembley anyway. The cost of my journey would have been the same regardless, and still cheaper than it would have cost to have the ticket posted to me - and my journey time was virtually the same too. Another byproduct of this was that I could have a couple of drinks at a West End Wetherspoons on the way to the gig - this was good as I had no intention of getting ripped off by the bars at the venue - £5 a pint of something horrible! I found this stuff in the pub and couldn't resist!
It was so nice I had to have another - which unfortunately led to me missing the first part of The Damned's set. However, I wasn't too disappointed as I'd read online earlier that it was only the later part of the band's set which was really good.
I arrived as The Damned were playing their classic 'Smash It Up' and things went well from there. There are only two original members of the band left these days - singer Dave Vanian and the one and only Captain Sensible on guitar, although the Captain originally played bass in the band. The other 3 current members of the band are just 'making up the numbers' to be honest, although they are good musicians. Keyboard player Monty Oxymoron can be a bit OTT and rather annoying.
The Captain gave Lemmy a namecheck and thanked him for having The Damned on the bill for the tour - he went on to say that if it wasn't for Lemmy the band wouldn't even exist as he saved them by playing bass for The Damned briefly in their early days. Lemmy has always liked this band anyway, and this isn't the first time they have supported Motörhead.
The Damned turn in a decent (although not great) show and play the expected 'Greatest Hits' type of set including the more Goth 'Eloise' cover as well as their punkier songs like 'Neat Neat Neat', 'Love Song', and of course their classic 'New Rose'. Not the best I've seen from the band, but I certainly enjoyed their set more than some of the more 'metal' support bands Motörhead have had in the past.

So, at last the mighty Motörhead take to the stage. It's well known that the band's iconic figurehead Lemmy has suffered some serious health problems over the past few years - all that hard living finally catching up with him I guess. To be fair he is now 68 years old so it's only to be expected that he is going to slow down a bit. He doesn't look like he has any intention of slowing down tonight though! Two tours have been cancelled due to Lemmy's health in the last 18th months or so, and last year he had to cut a festival set short in Germany as he hadn't recovered enough. Motörhead supported Black Sabbath in Hyde Park earlier this year and the reports of Lemmy's performance on that day weren't too encouraging either, although he got through the set (possibly against his better judgment) and said he actually felt great afterwards. He has apparently been feeling much better since then and has been making good progress regaining his strength. Tonight he seems far more like his old self, although he looks noticeably thinner now. Then again, he used to be pretty skinny in the band's earlier days anyway. So how are Motörhead tonight? They are pretty good. I've seen them better, and I've seen them worse - on one occasion when Lemmy was first starting to get health problems which have since been better diagnosed and dealt with. I wouldn't say Lemmy is quite back at 100%, but he's certainly a lot better than he has been, and remember he is 68 years old regardless of how healthy he is. He was never an animated frontman leaping about all over the stage posing and throwing shapes - he just stands there and does what he does - pretty much like he always did. He turns in a good performance in his own unique style, and sings OK - as much as he ever does anyway. He certainly plays bass very well tonight - he is bloody good at what he does. He's not quite as chatty tonight as I have seen him, but certainly getting back into form and still showing some of that attitude.
Needless to say, Phil and Mikkey play guitar and drums well as usual, although we have to put up with the usual solos from both of them. Lemmy never subjects us to bass solos, but I think he has always liked the other members of the band taking long solos as it gave him a chance for a fag break. But he's had to stop smoking now, as well as cut down massively on his drinking so maybe he's just sitting down taking a breather....  The set contains plenty of crowd pleasers as usual - 'No Class', 'Killed By Death', etc. I'm particularly pleased to hear 'Damage Case' and 'Doctor Rock', and we also get 'Stay Clean', 'Metropolis', 'Over The Top', 'The Chase Is Better Than The Catch', 'Just 'Cos You Got The Power', and 'Rock It'. Naturally there isn't anywhere near enough time to feature a song from every album and 'Iron Fist' and 'Bomber' were conspicuous by their absence - but you can't have everything. Things slowed down briefly with 'Lost Woman Blues' - considering this was supposed to be the (delayed) 'Aftershock' tour I was rather disappointed that this was the only song from the band's latest album. I was really hoping to hear a few songs from 'Aftershock' as it's a great album and the band's best for many years - the best since 'Inferno' in my opinion. Over the past year I have listened to 'Aftershock' far more than any other album by any band so I did feel a little let down not to hear the likes of 'Heartbreaker', 'Do You Believe', 'Crying Shame' or 'Keep Your Powder Dry' - all cracking songs!
As usual Lemmy introduced 'a rock 'n' roll song' (always my favourites from this band) in the form of the always popular 'Going To Brazil' before the inevitable 'Ace Of Spades' - which I didn't think Phil Campbell actually played that well tonight. Then it was encore time and the equally inevitable 'Overkill' - a lesser song than 'Ace Of Spades' in my opinion although I'm sure there are those who won't agree.

And so all too soon the show was over. It was well under an hour and a half, but I guess Lemmy is still having to take things a bit on the easy side - and I'd rather have a good show lasting an hour and a quarter than a longer one with things flagging towards the end. And I have to say that apart from the slower first part of 'Lost Woman Blues' there was no let-up through the whole show - it was pretty relentless. Which is just what we want from a Motörhead show! It was a good mixture of 'The hits' and some less often heard songs spanning the band's long career - definitely something for everybody. In fact quite a lot for everybody. No gimmicks, no fancy stage show or big production (although I'd love to see 'The Bomber' again some day) and not even any 'special guests'. Apparently both 'Fast' Eddie Clarke and Philthy 'Animal' Taylor put in appearances on stage at the previous show of the tour, although Philthy didn't play as sadly he has his own health issues these days. However, the mighty Motörhead don't need any flash props or guests - they just need to do what they do best - get up there and play their own unique brand of rock 'n' roll - fast and very LOUD! After my initial reservations about the venue, I actually enjoyed the experience far more than I have enjoyed the band's more recent shows at Brixton Academy and Hammersmith Odeon - due to the horribly overcrowded conditions in those venues and feeling I was being herded about like cattle - both those venues are awful places to drink as well and as I'd already had some quality ales on my way to Wembley I didn't really miss drinking at the venue at all. I felt I got value for money after waiting so long to see the band again. My ears haven't been ringing so loudly after a show for a very long time...

Monday, 10 November 2014

6/11/2014 Thunder @ Brooklyn Bowl

Thunder continue to be crap at 'splitting up'. They are one of the most shit at 'retiring' bands ever! Since I saw them play their 'last ever' show at the Sonisphere festival about five years ago I have seen them at the excellent High Voltage Festival and they have played several other festivals along with Christmas shows. Now they continuing to be rubbish at retiring by playing a show of their own in London featuring new songs, and next year they are going to release a brand new album and do a tour!

I'd never heard of this venue before, but apparently it opened earlier this year and it's main purpose is as an American style bowling alley rather than a music venue. However, I was quite impressed with the Brooklyn Bowl as a venue for live music. It's situated in the massive O2 Arena complex in Greenwich next to where the now closed British Music Experience was. I didn't bother checking out the bar as I was sure the prices would be ridiculous and I doubted they stocked anything I would have wanted to drink anyway, but apart from that it seemed a decent place to visit. It's a standing only venue with a low but adequate stage giving reasonable viewing. The room size looked a bit smaller than the Astoria or Islington Academy with the room being quite wide. I reminded me a bit of the Roundhouse, almost as if it had been divided into a smaller venue.

I forgot to take my camera as I left home in a rush, and then when I tried to take pictures with my phone I found the battery was too low. You know how people look right twats when they hold up a Tablet at gigs to take pictures? Well I'm afraid that was me on this occasion...
There were no tickets on sale for this show and there was no support act - the plan being to record it for a live album to be released with Classic Rock magazine in February. Thunder played a great set of old favourites, and also some new songs along with the classic 'crowd pleasers'. They also threw in a few covers - which I wasn't expecting as they have so many great songs of their own. Danny shouted out "Does anyone like Thin Lizzy?" (stupid question) before the band launched into a good version of that band's 'The Rocker'. We also got covers of the Frankie Miller standard 'Be Good To Yourself' and CCR's 'Up Around The Bend'. Of course we got the expected Thunder classics like 'When Love Walked In', 'Dirty Love' and 'Low Life in High Places' as well as some not so well known ones like 'Robert Johnson's Tombstone', and 'The Devil Made Me Do It'. Charismatic and lively singer Danny Bowes was on good form, and Luke Morley cranked out the riffs and lead lines on his Flying V (the only electric guitar he used all night) in fine style - loud and clear. The band's other guitarist Ben Matthews is having to take some time out from the band due to illness and his place was ably filled by ex-Winterville frontman Pete Shoulder - who also plays in Luke Morley's side project The Union. Luke isn't the only member of Thunder who has been busy outside of the band while 'retired' as drummer Harry James has also been playing in Magnum and Snakecharmer.
The invited crowd of round 800 mainly competition winners were well into it, and the sound quality was excellent - which was a surprise as this isn't a dedicated music venue. It was full but not too crowded, and the toilets were much better than the often terrible ones at many other music venues. Security staff were unobtrusive and the atmosphere was good. This is a venue I would be happy to return to - which is more than can be said for many of London's better known music venues which I only visit grudgingly to see my favourite bands.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween in Enfield

What with Halloween falling on a Friday this year there are too many things going on - and most of them will be full of drunken idiots out on 'Amateur Night'. Every year Halloween seems to get further and further away from it's origins - for many people it just seems to be 'Fancy dress night' now and they wear anything - with little or no regard to the actual theme of the night. With idiot avoidance in mind I decided against the more usual areas of Camden or the West End. Some good friends of mine were playing in Enfield just a bus ride away - a free entry pub gig with reasonably priced beer. And appropriately for tonight, the band are called The Haunting.
I don't normally travel to see cover bands, but The Haunting make the trip worthwhile. They are always worth seeing anyway as they are a really good band, but they make a special effort to dress up on Halloween.
The band know that they are playing to a 'rock' crowd at this venue so their set is tailored accordingly, but this is the sort of music the band themselves like the most anyway.

 BOING goes the bass player!

The harder rocking feel to the band's setlist didn't stop people dancing - a wolf being one of the most enthusiastic dancers - he must have been bloody hot!
'Bad Moon Rising' seems particularly apt tonight, as does a dose of Black Sabbath.
As well as the band dressing for the occasion, there is an appropriate theme for some of the songs too - 'Werewolves of London' being a pretty obvious one - there are two wolves in the crowd after all!
I think I made the right choice of venue for All Hallows Eve this year, although there seemed to be slightly less people in the pub than for this band's Halloween gig last year - maybe that's why the beer didn't run out this time? Unfortunately the real ale pumps remained out of use and I couldn't spot any Newcastle Brown or similar in the cooler cabinets, but at least the Flowers bitter on draught was reasonably priced. Not that I drunk that much as it often took ages to get served at the bar, although to be fair the staff were doing their best. The band were excellent, the pub was idiot free, and I was home a lot quicker than if I had gone to the West End or Camden - and I didn't feel I was getting ripped off.

Monday, 3 November 2014

29/10/2014 Bernie Torme @ The Borderline

This is the first time I've actually managed to see Bernie Torme in his own right, although I still remember queuing up outside a sold out Marquee in the hope of getting in back in the day. We never did get in that night. However,  I've managed to see him with the amazing G.M.T. three times in recent years - see elsewhere in my blog...

This rainy Wednesday night sees the Irish guitar wizard playing to a pretty full West End club to support his new double album 'Flowers & Dirt' - his first solo record in many years.
This date is part of a short tour - like the new album it's his first solo effort for many years, although he has in more recent years been active gigging and releasing albums with G.M.T. - a band who I hope we haven't seen the last of...
Mr Torme is on fine form tonight and is backed most effectively by the rhythm section who also played on his new album. Bernie has taken the Pledgemusic fan funding route for the new 'Flowers & Dirt' double album and I think has been taken by surprise at how popular this project has proved. The 20 track album that has resulted is rather good.
Guitar pyrotechnics are provided in plenty tonight - it's quite obvious why Ozzy Osbourne chose Bernie to step in after the tragic and sudden death of Randy Roades in mid-tour. No reliance on fancy modern technology and loads of effects pedals here - just an overdriven Stratocaster though cranked up Marshall amps. Let the music do the talking!
The setlist is varied and spans the man's career well - from his days with Gillan to the new album. Although Bernie could be considered a 'flash' guitarist it's a no-bullshit set. No multiple guitar changes - in fact I think the same guitar was used all night with minimal retuning required in spite of the abuse it suffered at the hands of it's owner! Bernie likes to play LOUD - just ask Jasper Carrot! This is something I noticed when he played with G.M.T. and the battered and ancient Marshall amps he used with that band have been replaced by new looking ones for this tour. One thing that hasn't changed is that Bernie manages to get the biggest fattest sound out of a Fender Stratocaster with single coil pickups I've ever heard - even Stevie Ray Vaughan's famously fat Strat sound seems thin in comparison.
This power-trio is tight and well drilled as you'd expect and obviously enjoy playing together.
I'm pleased that the band play 'Turn Out The Lights' as I still have that album on dusty white vinyl to remind me of the time vainly queuing outside a sold out Marquee. One or two G.M.T. songs get an airing too, and well as obviously some stuff from the new 'Flowers & Dirt' album. Although friendly and down to earth if you meet him in person Bernie is quite a showman - without going O.T.T. with posing and shape throwing - he manages to strike a nice balance while still giving people a memorable performance.
I'm really pleased that the last two songs in the set are ''Trouble' and 'New Orleans' - one of which was how I first discovered Bernie Torme back in the day when I saw him on Top Of The Pops with Ian Gillan's band.
At the end of the show a guest (apparently one of the 'Pledgers' for the new album).is invited onto the stage to play guitar on Hendix cover 'Fire'.
Tonight proves to be well worth the wait of all those years to finally see Bernie Torme play a solo show. Let's hope I don't have to wait so long next time - although I'd love to see G.M.T. again as well.