SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

Best years of my life? 15/16 years old, skateboarding all day and hanging around with my friends.  It was the late 1980s, and the days of the 180 Boneless, No Comply and learning to Ollie.  Back when kickflips were the raddest trick in the car park – except we called them “Ollie kickflips” back then.

This was also the time when I started to really veer off the obvious track as far as music was concerned.  Skate videos and Thrasher magazine began to open up a whole new world of music.  Sometimes these bands would enter the mainstream a couple of years later; sometimes they never did.

I remember hearing a great song on a Vision video.  I had no idea what the song was called, but worked out from the credits that it was most likely performed by the Descendents.  I recorded the song onto cassette off the TV as there was no other way to hear it.  A few months later, on a skate buying trip to Manchester, I stumbled across a record shop that stocked a few records by the band.  I had to buy one: taking a gamble on “All” as it featured a song called “Coolidge”, which fitted the lyrics of the track I loved.  I was so stoked when I got home, played the vinyl and heard the song I was hoping for!  Great album, all in all.

This practice of researching and hunting became a big feature of my relationship with music ever since.

Skating all day, then listening to music in the evening was a big part of my teenage years.  This playlist is designed to reflect those days: music I enjoyed back then and became the soundtrack to that time.

Some songs featured in skate videos (McRad, Odd Man Out).  Some were checked out after I saw them advertised or reviewed in Thrasher (The Cult, Misfits).  Others were just part of the current soundscape, and are forever linked with those halcyon days.

Here’s the playlist I made, split into a two CD format:

Part 1

  1. McRad – “Weakness”
  2. Odd Man Out – “Four Thirty One”
  3. Descendents – “Coolidge”
  4. Sex Pistols – “Holidays in the Sun”
  5. Devo – “That’s Good”
  6. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
  7. Motorhead – “Killed by Death”
  8. Faith No More – “We Care a Lot”
  9. Misfits – “Astro Zombies”
  10. Hard-Ons – “Don’t Wanna See You Cry”
  11. The Stupids – “Skid Row”
  12. Beastie Boys – “She’s On It”
  13. Circle Jerks – “Wild in the Streets”
  14. Spermbirds – “Something to Prove”
  15. Dead Kennedys – “California Uber Alles”
  16. Suicidal Tendencies – “Possessed to Skate”
  17. Generation X – “One Hundred Punks”

Part 2

  1. The Cult – “Wildflower”
  2. The Damned – “Love Song”
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Higher Ground”
  4. Fishbone – “Freddie’s Dead”
  5. Iggy Pop – “Cold Metal”
  6. GBH – “Too Much”
  7. Mudhoney – “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More”
  8. Ramones – “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do”
  9. The Stranglers – “Peaches”
  10. Bad Brains – “Soul Craft”
  11. Gang Green – “Church of Fun”
  12. Metallica – “The Thing That Should Not Be”
  13. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Purple Haze”
  14. Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  15. Jesus Jones – “Never Enough”
  16. The Skids – “Into the Valley”
  17. Fugazi – “Blueprint”

Some of the above tracks I owned on vinyl or cassette back in the day; some I found in later years.  There are still plenty of other bands from skate videos that I either still haven’t tracked down, or as I didn’t own them at the time I’ve omitted for now.

Instead, this is a basic playlist to represent my late 80s skateboarding days, boiled down to the bare essentials.  I hope you enjoy and these bring back some memories.

And this sin’t an exhaustive list: how Anthrax and Run DMC didn’t get included is baffling.  Maybe I can expand with some more for a Part 2…

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines Album Review

Here’s my recent review of the new Gama Bomb album, which appeared on the Ever Metal website.  Reproduced here with permission; enjoy! 

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines

AFM Records

Release date: 12/10/2018

Running time: 35.07

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Hello and welcome to Thrash School.  For today’s lesson, you will need:

  • Skin tight jeans (preferably with ripped knees)
  • Faded Acid Reign t-shirt
  • Studded leather belt and 1x studded leather wrist band
  • White hi-top leather Converse
  • Black leather jacket (denim vest over jacket optional)
  • Baseball cap with “NOT” written under the peak

Because today we will be listening to the new album by Gama Bomb, entitled “Speed Between the Lines”.

These merry metallers have an uncanny ability to rewind the cassette of time to a simpler age.  It’s like grunge never happened.  Instead, we get twelve face-lacerating tunes that rush by in uncompromising fashion.  This is thrash metal, kids, buckle up for the ride.

Eighties thrash was often pre-occupied with party bum-out vibes like nuclear destruction.  Apparently, it’s a post-Cold War world though, so these boys don’t wallow in misery for too long.  Not that they don’t have a social conscience: witness the admirable stab at the current political climate in “Alt Reich”.

But they’re just as happy dedicating an ode to Kurt Russell, which is perfectly justified in my opinion.  Kurt is, of course, an icon of twentieth century popular culture.  Not convinced? Go watch The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China and you can thank me later.

Back to the music.  Although diversity isn’t Gama Bomb’s strong point – Master of Puppets this ain’t – the listener is rewarded with a dozen tracks that speed by relentlessly.  The musicianship is amazing, with blitzkrieg lead guitar all over the place.

The occasional change of pace would add some additional colour, but you can’t fault the commitment and enthusiasm of this band.  This album is the full package with cool themes and some of the best song titles I’ve heard in a long time (666teen? Give them an award NOW).  The music is intense and exciting in equal measure, bringing to mind classic Overkill, Anthrax and Nuclear Assault.

So dig out your old Variflex skateboard and ask your big brother’s mate to buy you a two litre bottle of cider from the Co-op.  With Gama Bomb you can party like it’s 1987.  This history lesson is over.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Gym Playlist #1

Have you been hitting the gym since the start of the year?  Punishing yourself with cardio and weights as you fight to shed those extra pounds that attached themselves limpet-like over the festive season?

I’ve been slaughtering the gym since the start of the year, but then I always do.  Not that it seems to do any good.

Whilst I’m there, pummelling away at the flab in a vain attempt to get in shape, I need some tunes to motivate me.  The music in the gym is usually dancey disco stuff, which is fine if you’re dancing, but when I’m working out I need something a bit more aggressive.

Albums by various bands get a regular spin, but I also made this iPod playlist to help me focus like a Viking ransacking a monastery.  Sometimes I’m so amped I feel like I could run through the wall, rather than just plodding on the treadmill.

You could do worse than to listen to this cacophony yourself.

  1. Rocket From The Crypt – “Pushed”
  2. Audioslave – “Cochise”
  3. Big Chief – “Lion’s Mouth”
  4. Metallica – “Die Die My Darling”
  5. Foo Fighters – “The Pretender”
  6. Rage Against the Machine – “Guerrilla Radio”
  7. Anthrax – “Only”
  8. Corrosion of Conformity – “Heaven’s Not Overflowing”
  9. Pantera – “Fucking Hostile”
  10. The Cult – “Rise”
  11. Probot – “Shake Your Blood”
  12. Suicidal Tendencies – “War Inside My Head”
  13. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”

There you go: 47 minutes of energetic, in your face music to psyche you up and get you in the mood to destroy. GO!!!

Classic Albums #3

It’s been a long time since I wrote a Classic Albums post.  Nearly four years, sadly.  But now it’s time to get back to the heart of what this blog was supposed to be all about in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my Classic Albums.

3. Metallica – Master of Puppets

Metallica’s third album, released in 1986, has long been regarded as the probably the best recording the band ever made.  Not only that, but one of the greatest metal albums of all time.  “Master of Puppets” is a monolithic album with an immense scope; hugely varied and still surprisingly experimental.

At the time I first heard this record, around 1987, I was listening to bands like Van Halen, Queen and Def Leppard.  A friend lent me a cassette of “Master of Puppets”; I was keen to try it out as there was such a buzz about this band.

Every time I hear the opening guitars of “Battery”, I’m transported back to that first listen.  And I remember how extreme it sounded to me at the time – I’d never heard anything this brutal before.

Following that was the title track, which was the most complex heavy composition I’d experienced.  A melodic instrumental section lulled me into a false sense of security before the relentless riff attack recommenced.

It was third track, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, that opened my eyes though.  A massive, monstrous riff that hooked me straight away.  That song was heavy and eerie all at once; it became a favourite that I still love and slowly, yet with growing confidence, I began to explore this album.

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” begins with a mellower introduction and as such it’s one of the easier songs to appreciate on first listen.  Repeated plays over the years has dulled the impact of this track, for me personally – though it surprises me how good it actually is when revisited. 

Side Two of the album Kicks off with “Disposable Heroes”, is an anti war song that is intense and powerful.  One of my favourite tracks.  Then there’s “Leper Messiah”, a monster riff that incorporates faster sections as it proceeds.

The absolute highlight of the album is “Orion”, a fantastic prog-metal instrumental spanning over eight minutes.  This epic track proves beyond all others just why Metallica were – and still are – light years ahead of other thrash bands.

Finally, the last track – “Damage, Inc.” – is a violent berzerker of a song that might just take your face off.

With “Master of Puppets”, Metallica challenged themselves and their fans, as they expanded their sound and manifesto further than ever before.  If you want fast thrash, you’ve got it here.  Want heavy, down-tuned Sabbath riffs?  You’ve got that too.  There are even melodic sections that are actually enjoyable – and still uncompromising.

Metallica were utterly fearless in writing and recording this album, unafraid to try new ideas and never rest on past glories.  It’s not as heavy to my ears as it was on first listen thirty years ago, but every new spin of this record still has the power to thrill.

“Master of Puppets” is a timeless metal masterpiece.  It’s one of the essential records in my collection; it’s status a massively influential rock album – metal or otherwise – is assured for all time.

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

  1. Battery
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. The Thing That Should Not Be
  4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  5. Disposable Heroes
  6. Leper Messiah
  7. Orion
  8. Damage, Inc.

Best tracks: The Thing That Should Not Be, Orion, Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes.

Other cool points: seriously great cover – you also need the t-shirt.

Songs of the Week 04.09.2016

How’ve you been?  Well I hope.  Here are five more songs heard in the last seven days that I particularly enjoyed.

  1. The Stooges – 1970
  2. The Who – The Seeker
  3. Mudhoney – Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More
  4. ABBA – Money, Money, Money
  5. Metallica – Orion

I love ABBA, but that song earned it’s place in this weeks top 5 after my daughter sang it all week.  Good choice!

Songs of the Week 21.08.2016

Well then, I missed a week out on this fascinating weekly musical review.  And this latest edition is late.  Oh well – this isn’t about sticking to rules and regularity.  It’s all about the joy – and freedom – of music.

Here’s five songs from last week that resonated:

  1. Metallica – Lords of Summer
  2. Ohio Players – Fopp
  3. Toots & The Maytals – Funky Kingston
  4. Agent Orange – Tearing Me Apart
  5. Dinosaur Jr – The Wagon

Johnny’s Place Playlist

 

IMG_4299Johnny’s Place, Parga, Greece

My holiday this summer was another visit to Parga in Greece.  It’s a very beautiful town on the west coast; nestled snugly amongst beach and harbour.  In the bay there is a small island with white church resting on top; above the town is an ancient fort – it’s real picturesque stuff.

Parga features many excellent tavernas, restaurants and bars.  A bar I’ve now visited a few times is Johnny’s Place, where the cold beer is “cheap as chips” and the welcome is warm.

Situated in the middle of town, the people watching at Johnny’s Place is second to none.  It’s a relaxing atmosphere with some great tunes.

Over the space of a few visits to this bar, we compiled a playlist of songs that were heard.  In the spirit of reminiscing about another fabulous summer holiday, here are the songs that take me back to that time and place.

Imagine enjoying a cold Mythos (and a plate of meze, as provided gratis here!) and let the everyday stresses melt away…

  1. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
  2. Bee Gees – “Staying Alive”
  3. Boney M – Bahama Mama”
  4. The Beatles – “Come Together”
  5. The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”
  6. Aerosmith – “Dream On”
  7. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  8. Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters”
  9. Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”
  10. The Eagles – “Hotel California”
  11. Pulp – “Disco 2000”
  12. Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer”
  13. Madness – “It Must Be Love”
  14. The Cure – “Lovesong”
  15. Manic Street Preachers – “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”
  16. Rod Stewart – “Baby Jane”

If you visit Parga – and I highly recommend you do – don’t forget to pay Johnny’s Place a visit.

The website for Johnny’s Place is here.

The Facebook page is here.

Thanks to Colin for the menu board photo!

Johnnys

The Night I Played Bass for Diamond Head

DHLive

Diamond Head + The Heretic Order + Kuru + Cathar

Thursday 25th June 2015

The Live Rooms, Chester

Yes, you read that right.  For one night I played bass guitar for British Heavy Metal legends Diamond Head, and this is how it happened.

Diamond Head had three support bands, which is pretty good value for money in my book.  First up were Cathar, who were a Symphonic Metal band with two singers.  Solid musicians but not really my cup of mead; good vocals though.

Next were Kuru, who were more in the Death Metal vein.  Brutal riffs and the rhythm section were impressive.  Ferocious vocals, though I’m not a massive fan of the Death Metal Grunt.

The Heretic Order merged a more trad metal (Maiden, Priest) approach with some more thrashy elements.  Think Venom with some Sepultura and melody thrown in; they do a nice line in comedy Satanic Metal too.  At least I think it’s comedy; if not I mean no offence, honest…

Diamond Head can rock with the best of them.  Their NWOBHM anthems have become hugely popular due to their influence on those who followed.  The famous songs – “Am I Evil”, “The Prince”, “Helpless” – can be regarded as amongst the foundation stones of classic metal.  This is the music that helped shape today’s rock just as much as “Breaking the Law”, “Run to the Hills” or “Ace of Spades”.

In addition you’ve got those big, epic Zeppelin inspired songs like “To Heaven From Hell” and “To the Devil His Due”.  Monolithic tracks that really add another dimension to Diamond Head’s catalogue.

They play all the greats at the Live Rooms, and have a fantastic time doing it.  Brian Tatler is safely in the driving seat, in control and playing brilliantly.  Vocalist Rasmus Anderson has a hell of a voice on him, confidently delivering gem after gem.  The rhythm section of Karl Wilcox (drums) and Eddie Moohan (bass) are locked in and having a whale of a time.  Then you’ve got guitarist Abbz, who looks like the happiest bloke on the planet.

It’s a packed and professional set with plenty of conviction.  At the very end, I was down the front for the encore when Eddie offered his bass to the audience to strum.  So I hit a few strings – and so did half a dozen other people.  But now I’ll claim to have played bass for Diamond Head, and you can’t call me a liar.

Great gig.  My interest and respect for this band was renewed.  It was great to see a band who have accomplished so much – and still have so much to give – on my door step.  Legends.

The Diamond Head web site is here.

The Live Rooms web site is here.

The Misfits – Gig Review

The Misfits

Thursday 26th July 2014

The Live Rooms, Chester

Way back in 1988, as a young skateboarding rapscallion, I bought a vinyl copy of The Misfits album “Walk Among Us“.  I’d heard Metallica’s cover of “Last Caress” and decided to invest in some tunes by the group.  It was a gamble – I had no idea what the rest of their music sounded like.  Neither “Last Caress” nor “Green Hell” were featured on that particular platter.  Nevertheless, I decided to hand over my saved up dinner money to try it out, after some deliberation.

That was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  “Walk Among Us” is, quite simply, one of the best records ever, of any genre.  Any initial trepidation I had was annihilated as soon as the furious pace and sing along vocals were heard.  My ears were opened.  It didn’t hurt that all the songs were about cheesy old B-movies, either.

So imagine my delight when I heard that The Misfits would be playing in Chester, only a few miles from home.  One of my favourite bands ever, so close – there was no way this gig was going to be missed.  I bought tickets immediately.

OK, so Jerry Only is the only (see what I did there?) original member performing under The Misfits name.  No Glenn Danzig, no Doyle.  Even though I’m a huge Danzig fan, I wasn’t going to be precious.  This was a momentous opportunity. images

Besides, there’s Dez Cadena on guitar, who has a fine punk rock pedigree from his time in Black Flag.

So disbelievers be damned, The Misfits gig was on!

I missed the support band though.  Sorry.

The Live Rooms was previously a comedy venue, now it’s showing bands.  It’s a cool venue and worth keeping an eye on to see who to expect.  On this night, the place was absolutely packed out with all manner of black clad loons, anticipating the arrival of the legendary Misfits.  I certainly felt excitement in the air.  Everyone seemed to be hyped up for this gig, me included.  After all, a band like The Misfits playing in these parts is pretty much unheard of.

So the band arrive on stage and are welcomed like all conquering heroes.  As I was stood there, I couldn’t really believe I was experiencing this in person.  The Misfits – here and now, churning out monster hit after hit.  I’m sure others felt the same.

They start with some great tracks from the most recent album, “The Devil’s Rain“.  We also get a smattering of songs from the 90’s era of the band, with “Scream!” a real stand out.  I dig these Graves era tunes, and most of them hold up really well, even against the old Danzig classics.  Only does a fine job of howling out the vocals whilst thundering along on the bass too.

Those old tracks certainly bring a smile though.  “She”, “Bullet” and “Where Eagles Dare” practically tear the roof of the place.  But when we get to gems from “Walk Among Us“, I’m as happy as Bela Lugosi on 31st October.  “Vampira” is probably my favourite Misfits song, so a treat to hear that.  We also get “Hatebreeders”, “Astro Zombies”, “20 Eyes” – the list goes on. Misfits-promo13c

In fact it’s amazing how much material the band get through.  They play a nearly two hour set, and bombard the audience with song after song.  There’s barely a breather between each track.  The Misfits play fast and intense.  All credit to drummer Eric Arce – the Devil knows how he keeps up the relentless pace.  The audience respond with slam dancing/mosh pit craziness like I’ve not witnesses for many a long year.  It will be interesting to see whether the management have second thoughts about booking similar bands in future…

Our only down side  this evening is the sound, which isn’t the best.  From Jerry’s side of the room, where I’m standing, the guitars at the opposite side are frequently lost.  Cadena’s vocals are largely inaudible.  There was a story going round that Dez was suffering with a throat infection, hence why we get a roadie singing the (very good) Black Flag cover.  When we can hear Dez, he’s great.  Still, seems to me like there was some issue sound wise here, though.

The Misfits are exactly what I expected, and that’s fine by me.  From the dry ice enveloped opening, through raucous punk rock and over the top delivery, this is what I paid my money for.  More than just delivering the goods though, The Misfits were genuinely exciting to see.  I’ve seen novelty bands before and while they were fun, they were nothing like this.  This isn’t a tribute band, it’s a well honed, obliterating machine.  It drags us through all eras of The Misfits’ revered history and leaves you grateful to have been a part of it.

Absolutely phenomenal.  Thank you Jerry, Dez and Eric.  Long live The Misfits!

Please check out the Live Rooms soon – if they’re going to support bands like this, you need to support them!

The Misfits web page is here.

The Live Rooms web page is here.

Elvis Lives!

What if… Elvis Presley hadn’t died in 1977?

Another great thing about the White Bear in Mancot is that they have live music on Saturday nights.  Whether it’s a full band or a lone artist, there’s usually some entertainment on.  And very good they are too.

One night I witnessed an Elvis tribute night, which was excellent.  Andy Wright was the performer, and he put on a great show.  Two sets of classics from the King, complete with jump suit outfit and giant lit up Elvis back drop.  He had the voice and mannerisms dialled, not being afraid to stay in character with his between song banter.  Brilliant fun.

Another section of the performance intrigued me.  For the encore, Andy sang several songs that Elvis hadn’t actually performed*.  The reason that they hadn’t been covered by the King was that they were, for the most part, songs written after his death.  Thus, we were regaled by songs such as Purple Rain and Folsom Prison Blues.  A fantastic idea – very different and thought provoking. 2013-11-30 22.52.14

It got me thinking.  What if Elvis Presley hadn’t died on August 16th 1977?

What if, in an alternate reality, Elvis had lived on?  Maybe the 1980’s would have been a barren patch creatively.  Perhaps a half hearted come back tour, a residency in Las Vegas.  Perhaps the Elvis show would run to parody and be devoid of both true spectacle and triumph.

Perhaps in the 1990s, Rick Rubin would have decided to record something stripped back, honest and gritty with Elvis?  To put the King back on his throne and return him to his glorious past?  Used contemporary songs to showcase the immense talent that this fallen icon still possessed?  Remind us all why we loved Elvis in the first place, and what a force to be reckoned with he still was?

Something vaguely similar happened in the 90’s with Elvis’ contemporary Johnny Cash.  In another dimension, would the King have recovered his cool in the same way?

This thought led me to create the playlist below.  Twelve songs by newer artists that I think would have been fantastic for Elvis to cover.

Just imagine: Elvis Presley – and his recent Rubin produced comeback album “American Recordings: Long Live the King”.

  1. “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak)
  2. “American Nightmare” (The Misfits)
  3. “Mama Said” (Metallica)
  4. “Crazy in Love” (Beyonce)
  5. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC)
  6. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (U2)
  7. “Blood and Tears” (Danzig)
  8. “When the Going Gets Tough” (Billy OCean)
  9. “Mystify” (INXS)
  10. “Stranger on the Town” (The Damned)
  11. “Mysterious Ways” (U2)
  12. “Hip to be Square” (Huey Lewis & The News)

Some of those choices may not be obvious, if you’re not familiar with the bands.  Take my word for it, Elvis singing Misfits and Danzig songs would be awesome.  Glenn Danzig reminds me of Presley anyway, a lot of the time.  And The King’s voice would be perfect for The Damned and Metallica tracks.

Disagree with my song choices?  Have more ideas for songs for Elvis?  Leave a comment and let me know.

You can visit Andy Wright’s Facebook page here.  Get in touch and book him.