‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 20)
This week. Mick celebrates the career of Neil Young, looks at the Grammy winners list, sees French film with subtitles, gets back into listening to Baby Animals, Mountain and Black Stone Cherry, gets a new guitar, goes back on the road with Uriah Heep… and sees Spurs slip!
I was so disappointed that my team Spurs drew 1-1 with Birmingham City last Saturday, that it has taken me until now to write about it. Jermain Defoe put us in front in the 69th minute (his 17th goal of the season) and then we had a goal scored against us in the 90th minute, which is quite simply appalling. What a lack of concentration. We are still fourth in the Premier League, but with Liverpool in fifth, and after their 2-0 win against Bolton Wanderers, they are only one point behind us. Had we won this match we would have been four points clear. It is going to be a tight run race for fourth position what with Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa snapping at our heels. That is why it is so important for us to win these games, and not throw points away as we did on Saturday. (I do apologise to those who read this blog, who are not into football, but I ask you to please allow my indulgence, as it is close to my heart. However I hope you agree that there is enough content in the blog to keep everyone happy, so please read on!)
After that bit of disappointment in the football, and as is the ying and yang of life, the doorbell rang today, and I signed for a parcel from Hofner Guitars Germany. Graham Stockley of Hofner had sent me one of their Galaxie CT retro electric solid bodied guitars, in a delicious creamy white colour. Now, this is the same guitar that I bought as my first real guitar back in the 60s, so I was thrilled to get it. My original one was bright red, and I learnt my entire Hank Marvin of The Shadows repertoire on this guitar. I used to play Apache, FBI, Man Of Mystery, Wonderful Land, Sleepwalk and many more. I am sure I have a few pictures of me with this guitar somewhere, and I will have to dig them out and show Graham.
Early in the week I had a splendid meal in a gastro pub, and then I went to see a French subtitled movie with my wife Sheila, directed by Jacques Audiard called A Prophet. The film is about Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) who is 18 years old, and is just beginning a six-year jail sentence. Malik cannot read or write, but he soon figures out the prison system. This film won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes last year, and is an astonishing and disturbing tale of this young man’s prison education. Tahar Rahim, the 28-year-old French Algerian who plays the apparently naive new inmate, is a revelation in his first film role. A Corsican mobster Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup) who rules the prison makes him an offer that he literally cannot refuse. If Malik does not murder another inmate Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), a fellow Arab, Luciani will have him killed. If he does what he is asked, he will be given the protection of the Corsican Mafia for the duration of his sentence. However Malik is a clever individual, and at the same time that he learns to read and write, he exploits a friendship with another French-Arab prisoner, now released, to pursue his own drug deals, and quietly invest in a power base within the prison. It is a compelling gangster movie that is two hours and 30 minutes long, but it holds your attention with some very powerful scenes that stay with you.
Canadian Neil Young, 64, is doing very well on the awards front, as he was given an gong in the UK New Year’s Honours list. The Queen gave him the Order of Canada, which is the second highest honour that can be awarded to a Canadian. Then in Los Angeles at the Convention Centre, Young was named the MusiCares Person Of The Year, for his influential artistic accomplishments and philanthropic work. Young was honoured by the US Recording Company for his charity work, including his support of Farm Aid and the Bridge School Concerts, which raise money to provide services for children with severe physical and speech impairments. Young has two sons who have cerebral palsy. Sir Elton John took to the stage and performed Young’s song Helpless, and told the audience that Young was his hero.
Actor Jack Black was the host for the evening, and other performers included James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Keith Urban, John Fogerty, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crowe and Norah Jones. Young’s former bandmates – Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash – took to the stage last. Crosby said: “We made some of the best music of our lives with you, man.” Previous winners of the award were David Crosby himself, Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.
MusiCares was established by the US Recording Academy in 1989 to provide assistance to musicians in times of financial, medical or personal emergency. It was typical of Young to comment dryly: “It’s been a great night. It wore me out. Now I’ve got to go back and try and write some more songs.” It has been quite a week for Young as he also won the first Grammy of his career, taking Best Art Direction on a Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, for Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972). Also at the 52nd Grammy’s, the other awards of interest to me were: Best Rock Instrumental Performance: Jeff Beck for A Day In The Life from his Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s CD; Best Metal Performance: Judas Priest for Dissident Aggressor, a track from their A Touch Of Evil – Live CD; Best Hard Rock Performance: AC/DC for War Machine from their CD Black Ice; Record Of The Year/Best Rock Performance/Best Rock Song: Kings Of Leon for Use Somebody; Best Contemporary Blues Album: The Derek Trucks Band for All Ready Free; Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Bruce Springsteen for Working On a Dream; Best Rock Album: Green Day for 21st Century Breakdown; Best Male Country Vocal Performance: Keith Urban for Sweet Thing, from his CD Defying Gravity. Urban is one of my favourite of the modern country artists, along with Toby Keith. The Derek Trucks CD All Ready Free is just wonderful, and you will find some stunning guitar playing on there.
This week being played loudly in the Box household is the wonderful Mick Ronson CD Heaven And Hull. What a cool album. Mick was an incredible talent and is sadly missed. Some of the fine musicians playing and singing on this CD are Joe Elliott, David Bowie, Peter Noone, Martin Chambers, Rene Wurst, John Webster, Mick Curry, Keith Scott, Sham Morris, Chrissie Hynde, John Mellencamp, Martin Barker, Ian Hunter, Peter Kinski, and it is all held together by Mick himself. It even includes a live version of All The Young Dudes from the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert and Wembley Stadium, with Ian Hunter, David Bowie, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor.
I have also been playing Mountain with Leslie West (guitar/vocals), Corky Laing (drums), Steve Knight (keyboards), and Felix Pappalardi (bass/vocals). Any comparison to Cream would be futile, seeing as Felix Pappalardi produced Cream’s Disraeli Gears, as well as the Mountain albums. Mississippi Queen is probably one of their most recognisable songs. What a powerhouse that song is, and right from the cowbell intro, into the heavy riff it roars out of the speakers. They did not have as many good songs as Cream, but they sure did have their moments. Leslie West is a good player, and he has always had a distinctive guitar sound.
Gave Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid the first airing for a long time, and I really enjoyed it. There is some cool guitar playing, and a really clear production. I don’t usually like productions like this but in this instance it works. The duties fell to Peter Collins and he did a great job. There are lots of guest appearances from the likes of Ozzy, Joe Satriani, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Slash, Stevie Vai21 and Vinnie Moore. On most of the tracks the band consists of bass: Hugh McDonald, drums: Mickey Curry, keyboards: Robert Bailey and guitars: Stef Burns. We have toured with Alice many times, and he is a complete gentleman. He was the first to air our Wake The Sleeper CD on his radio show in the USA. We played a concert in Estonia in a castle with Alice, and the setting was just superb. It was a magical evening, and seeing his show and the theatrics in those surroundings, was fantastic. He is the consummate professional and by all accounts an excellent golf player too.
It is nice to revist some CDs that you have not heard in a while, to find they are still as good as you thought they were when you first bought them. One of these is the Australian rock band the Baby Animals, and their self-titled CD, recorded in 1991. The band are Suze DeMarchi: vocals/guitar, David Leslie: guitar, Eddie Parise: bass, and Frank Delenza: drums. The CD was produced by Mike Chapman in New York and engineered by Kevin Shirley. I love this CD, and it is well worth a listen, as I am sure you will agree. Good songs, good playing, good vocals and this all adds up to an excellent CD. Highly recommended, and a high reading on the on the Boxometer.
They also have another CD called Shaved and Dangerous, which is worth checking out. Unfortunately, Perth-born DeMarchi’s touring schedule was cut short when she experienced throat problems, which required her to undertake surgery for her vocal cords. She married guitarist Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme, but the Baby Animals have long since broken up, which is a shame.
On a different note I also revisited Black Stone Cherry’s self-titled first CD. I heard this in the studio when we were recording our CD Wake The Sleeper. The first song, The Rain Wizard, came powering out of the computer speakers, and that got my interest. From that first song on, this CD is full of energy and great riffs. The band are from Kentucky USA, and are composed of Chris Robertson: vocals/guitar, Ben Wells: guitarbacking vocals, John Lawhon: bass/background vocals, and John Fred Young: drums/backing vocals. They have another CD titled Folklore And Superstition which is just as good too, but I do favour their first CD. Robertson has a powerful and instantly recognisable voice which is great, and it is as big as the band at full tilt.
This will probably only interest readers from the UK, but Katie Price, aka the model Jordan, has married cage fighter Alex Reid in Las Vegas after going out with each other for seven months. She was previously married to pop singer Peter Andre: looks like she is putting out the fire with gasoline in my book. Still it will keep the tabloids full over the next year, as Reid has just won the recent Celebrity Big Brother.
One of Spurs’ strikers, Robbie Keane, has gone on loan to Celtic Football Club for the rest of this season. This has depleted us in the striker department, which is a bit of a worry, as we try and keep fourth position in the Premier League. I was telling this on the phone to our manager Martin Darvill in Los Angeles (who is a Leeds fan, and Keane played for them once) and he said: “No surprise there then, as he has had more clubs than Arnold Palmer.” This did make me laugh, as Celtic will be Keane’s seventh club. However, on his debut, it did not go very well as Kilmarnock beat his new club in the Scottish Clydesdale Bank Premier League for the first time in 32 attempts. They won 1-0 with Keane missing two clear chances. Doh!
February 3 marked the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. Aged 22 years old, he died in a plane crash in the USA. He was killed alongside the Big Bopper 28 years old and Ritchie Valens, 17 years old. The single-engined Beechcraft Bonanza plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa at 01.00am local time, and early reports from the scene, suggest the aircraft spun out of control during a light snowstorm. Only the pilot’s body was found inside the wreckage, as the performers were thrown clear on impact.
Holly hired the plane after heating problems developed on his tour bus. All three were travelling to Moorhead, Minnesota, the next venue in their Winter Dance Party Tour. Holly had set up the gruelling schedule of concerts, covering 24 cities in three weeks, to make money after the break-up of his band, The Crickets. Holly is often described as the most influential of the early rock’n'roll musicians, and has been cited as such by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. He was a big influence on my own career, and his songs are unbelievably good, and they have stayed with me forever. Buddy was a great rhythm guitar player, and he played the first tobacco sunburst Fender Stratocaster I had ever seen. The solo on his song Peggy Sue, which is all on chords, was fantastic, and was always one you had to learn. He was truly an amazing talent.
Well, on to the football rematch between Spurs and Leeds in the FA Cup we won 3-0. The match was at Elland Road and Jermain Defoe got a hat trick. After striker Keane’s departure to Celtic I am delighted that he has hit this sort of form. We are now in the last 16 teams in the FA Cup.
I read an interesting article in The Times newspaper about mosquitos, and how they find some people irresistible, whereby others go unscathed. Scientists have discovered that they are attracted to chemicals in human sweat. Now when Uriah Heep play open air festivals in Scandinavia, (sometimes in wooded areas with lakes and fjords) once we hit the stage, and the lights go up, they usually have a field day. Phil Lanzon and I usually come off worse, and at the end of the show we have a John Merrick (Elephant Man) competition to see who has the worse bites. I am sure when they see us two, they start screwing on extensions to their receptors, to get us good and proper, as we really do take a pounding. It does not affect the other guys so much, even though we are all covered in that disgusting smelling spray, to prevent these attacks. However this does give credence to what the researchers have said.
As we all know, malaria is transported this way, and kills its victims by damaging red blood cells, and clogging capillaries that feed the brain and other organs. Hence my interest on this matter, seeing as we tour in over 48 countries. I remember sitting around a pool in Chicago, with a few of my friends who were serious weight lifters, and a mosquito would land on their arm, and they would pump up the muscle to overload, and watch it explode. All this while keeping a conversation going and sipping their beer. Now where’s that gym membership!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Well with bags packed and cabs booked, we were ready to fly to Greece for the start of an action-packed touring year, for the first Heep shows of 2010.
Trevor Bolder stayed with me the night before, and we travelled in together. Our cab driver Gordon (who I have used for years) arrived at 7.30am, warning us that there were huge traffic delays due to an accident on our route, so we had to take a ridiculous detour to avoid it, that made us 30 minutes late. Not the best way to start, but hey these things happen. We made the flight, so ‘appy days! The first show was in Thessaloniki, so we had to fly to Athens (three hours and 20 minutes) then have a two-hour layover, before getting the 45-minute flight to Thessaloniki. Everything went smoothly, and all of our suitcases and equipment arrived. We met the promoters, and were taken to the hotel. The weather was pretty much the same as in England, which is rainy, grey and dull.
We all checked into our rooms and dinner was arranged at the hotel. We could not understand why people were walking around the hotel in masks and dressed up in odd costumes, but we eventually found out that it was the Greek version of Halloween. I knew I did not drink that much wine on the flight over, however I did notice on the drive from the airport that there was a huge firework display going on in the main part of the city. We all had a less than average dinner, and called it a night after that long journey. It is two hours on from London time, so the best way to adjust was bed after a belly full of food and wine.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Most of us made it down for breakfast, and shortly after that the crew went down to the venue. The venue was next door to the hotel, and you could walk there so that was cool. I was able to get online at the hotel so I spent a lot of the afternoon doing my usual office duties, and keeping on top of everything. The sound check was at 4pm and it went without any problems. This is the first show of the year after a fairly (in our book) lengthy lay off, so there was an extra air of excitement, and the levels of energy in the dressing room were pretty high. Once we hit the stage, it was as if we had never been away. The Thessaloniki audience were fantastic. You could feel the energy from the audience, and it was electric. We came off stage buzzing. There were plenty of celebratory drinks all round, and a good night was had by all.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
After a healthy breakfast, it was down to reception with our bags, and jump into the waiting vans, and off to the airport. We caught the plane to Athens, and then checked into the hotel, and the band went for lunch while the crew as per usual went down to the venue to set everything up. The sound check was at 5.30pm, and we stayed down at the venue, because there were a number of interviews to do (which Phil and I did) and then we went out to dinner. After dinner it was back to the venue to get ready for the show. From the opening bars of Wake The Sleeper the audience were totally with us, and it was a fantastic vibe. I have never heard an audience sing as loudly as that, and even better they were in tune. It seemed like most of the songs had a built-in choir. It was a great night, and it is always good to play in Greece as they are as passionate about their rock music as we are about playing it.
The venue was packed with a lot of people outside who could not get in, so they left the front doors open, so that those that were outside could hear it. After the show, on the side of the dressing room, there was a shower cubicle, and Bernie Shaw decided to take a shower. When the water was hot enough, he dived into the shower grabbing what looked like shampoo and soap in little bottles. After a few moments there were some choice expletives coming from the shower, when he realised he had dowsed himself in salad dressing. The dressing had been put out separately next to our deli tray. Still after a good laugh, a quick drink, and a bite of pizza, we went back to the hotel bar for those that needed a nightcap, while others opted for the early bath and bed. Oh yes, and Spurs drew 0-0 with Aston Villa. Liverpool won, so we now sit fifth in the Premier League. By all accounts we had the better of the game, and Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: “Every time we pulled the trigger, it seemed to take a deflection or hit somebody, but overall I thought we were terrific.”
Sunday, February 7, 2010
We had our usual breakfast and then left for the airport. We arrived there in plenty of time to check in and sit down and have a coffee. The journey home was pleasant enough, and thankfully all of our suitcases and equipment arrived okay. We are leaving for Russia on Wednesday, so we were glad everything arrived back okay, as it is always a worry, that if it gets lost, we will not have it to fly to the next show.
We are glad to have those two shows under our belt, and now we cannot wait to play all the shows we have in the date-book for this year thus far! Greece was a fantastic start!
See you next week,
Tags: AC/DC, Alex Reid, alice cooper, Aretha Franlkin, Baby Animals, Beach Boys, Beatles, Ben Wells, Bernie Shaw, Big Bopper, Black Stone Cherry, Brian May, Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Holly, Chris Robertson, Chrissie Hynde, Cork Laing, Cream, Dave Matthews, David Bowie, David Crosby, David Leslie, Derek Trucks, Eddie Parise, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Extreme, Felix Pappalardi, Frank Delanza, Freddie Mercury, Graham Nash, Green Day, Hank Marvin, High McDonald, Ian Hunter, Jack Black, James Taylor, Jeff Beck, Joe Elliott, Joe Satriani, John Deacon, John Fogerty, John Fred Young, John Lawhon, John Lennon, John Mellencamp, John Webster, Jordan, Judas Priest, Katie Price, Keith Scott, Keith Urban, Kevin Shirley, Kings Of Leon, Leslie West, Martin Barker, Martin Chambers, Mick Box, Mick Mars, Mick Ronson, Mickey Curry, Mike Chapman, Mountain, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Nikki Sixx, Nuno Bettencourt, ozzy Osbourne, Paul McCartney, Peter Andre, Peter Collins, Peter Kinski, Peter Noone, Phil Collen, Phil Lanzon, Rene Wurst, Richie Valens, Robert Bailey, Roger Taylor, Seze DeMarchi, Sham Morris, Sheryl Crow, Slash, Stef Burns, Stephen Stills, Steve Knight, Steve Vai, The Crickets, The Shadows, Toby Keith, Uriah Heep, Vinnie Moore