Urge Overkill & The Spanish Hustle Part 2

Being as today is apparently Nash Kato’s birthday, it seems somehow appropriate that I’m finally getting around to completing the story of  The UO Spanish Hustle. It also seems somehow appropriate that I’m also three weeks overdue with it.

Now, when I packed Aspinall Miles off into a cab on the morning of the UO gig, that’s when the whole escapade started to seem foolhardy. Armed with Google Translate, I tackled the shopping and tourist spots of Léon, during which the local shopkeepers were very indulgent as I thrust my mobile phone into their faces in an attempt to be understood. I soon learned that in Spain, you don’t get milk with your tea. Which is weird. IMG_0162

It was also going to be weird to watch Urge Overkill when it was still daylight. The gig had been moved to a different venue due to the date change, and apparently the band were due on around 5.30pm. IMG_0169 Having killed all the time I could, I set off early from the monastery, trying not to appear too much like a keenie by being the first person queuing outside. It turned out that the Espacio Vias was literally two minutes round the corner, so I did actually look like that stalker anyway. As I was wearing a vintage fake leopard print coat that you could practically see from space, I decided that I couldn’t sit outside like a lemon until they opened the doors. So I retreated to a cafe across the road, just as what looked like Nash Kato emerged from the soundcheck to have a ciggie.

And yes, I was far too chicken to approach and say hello. I’d only gone across an entire continent, after all. I just buried my nose in my tea. Mujer estúpida!

(As it later transpired that the poor bloke had contracted food poisoning, it was probably the right decision. Getting tapped up by an eccentric British barrister wouldn’t have helped.)

It still seems bizarre that an hour or so later, I was at the front of a packed room, having elbowed my way through the mod throng, watching Urge Overkill kick off with Positive Bleeding. For once, the sound didn’t seem as if it had been run through a washing machine. For once, there was no seven foot high bloke blocking my view. For once, they played three of my absolute favourite of their songs in the same set (you can see their awesome setlist from that night here – I wasn’t taking notes!). Slap my thighs, but I was in the middle of Spain, on my own, watching UO doing Woman 2 Woman! Take Me! Last Night/Tomorrow!

I’m far too much of a fan gurl to review the gig, because in the circumstances I couldn’t possibly be objective. But I can report that it was Well Worth The Effort we’d put in getting all those planes, trains and automobiles to the middle of nowhere. IMG_0178

This was my first opportunity to see UO with the Arling brothers’ rhythm section, which was impressive. And whoever the bloke playing cowbell was – heroic.

Feeling uncharacteristically bashful, I didn’t stick around after the set. Besides, having only eaten bread and tortilla during the day, I was starving, and I had to get up at 5am to make it back to Madrid in time for my flight. So I hotfooted it back to the monastery to see what the evening menu had to offer. Tongue salad, apparently. (The last time I had that offered, it was a totally different context. But that’s Another Story, from when I was a Much Younger Woman.) So I made do with some pudding.

Next time, you know, I might actually say hello. After all, The Stalker was definitely not written about me. Honest. Even though it was the encore.

(You can hear some classic live Urge Overkill here, hopefully.)

Urge Overkill & The Spanish Hustle Part 1

I can’t remember now precisely whose brainwave it was. It was either my fault, or it was Aspinall Miles. One of us was to blame for the hair-brained scheme for which we were both probably officially Old Enough To Know Better.

After all, who amongst you wouldn’t say to yourselves: “I know, Urge Overkill are playing an obscure mod festival in December somewhere in a little known part of Spain that’s nowhere near an airport. Let’s go!”

It’s not like I hadn’t done a road trip before. There’d been plenty: Senseless Things to various toilets across the kingdom. Girls Against Boys to just about everywhere in the UK, not to mention a foray to Chicago. Pitchshifter to all over Europe. (But those are all Another Story.) The difference was, this time it would be less We Are The Roadcrew, more The
Random Jottings Of Hinge And Bracket (see their excellent website here). Hinge & Bracket.

After a great deal of talking, planning, synchronising of watches and reconnoitering the area via the internet, I finally had my tour manager head on. Flights? Booked. Trains to get us from cosmopolitan Madrid to the wilds of historic Léon? Booked. Hotels in both locations which weren’t going to leave us bankrupt? Booked. Four-hour bus ride back to Madrid because all the return trains were full for the Spanish Bank Holiday? Booked. Google Translate? Downloaded. Oh, and somewhere along the way we’d managed to lay our hands on tickets to the all important Urge Overkill headline slot, set for 7th December.

Aspinall Miles: three weeks spent trying to get a small court in the South West to move a trial back a day so she could get a weekend pass from law and kids. Me: telling my clerks I’m playing hooky, booked. And relax.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now, this is the world of Urge Overkill we’re talking about. As can be seen from Keith Cameron’s excellent recent Mojo piece (follow the link here), things in Urgeworld don’t always go according to plan.

About 36 hours before we were due for Gatwick lift-off, a notification pinged into my Twitter. The UO tweeting team DM’d to alert me to the fact that the band were now having to play on 8th December, due to some sort of ‘immigration issue’ (I didn’t ask). This was awkward, since Aspinall Miles and myself were booked to fly back that day, several hours before the band would be taking the stage about 400 miles from Madrid airport.

Now, I’ve not spent the past decade grubbing about in court and prison cells and giving lip to Old Bailey judges simply in order to cave in at the first sign of trouble. FFS, this is Urge Overkill. No UK shows on the horizon. Never know when you might get another chance.

At the Easyjet check-in I was soon relieved of £70 or so to change my flight back. The monastery I’d booked in Léon could accommodate me for a second night. Nothing was going to foil me.

Only problem was, I was going to be on my own. Aspinall Miles was still going to have to get her original flight back. It would be up to me to report back on the full majesty of the UO setlist.

As we landed in Madrid and headed to the hotel like a couple of spinsters on the WI’s annual outing, I did seriously begin to wonder if I’d lost my marbles. This had better be worth it. (Our hotel had some interesting door signs as well, though the chances of either of us being ‘molestar’ on this tour were admittedly slim.) IMG_0150

After a whistlestop tour of the sights of Madrid – lovely, but a touch tricky if you’re vegetarian, since every other shop seemed to be a ham vendor – and a train ride across country during which we were taught some rudimentary Spanish by a charming five year old child, we’d landed in Léon.

I’d somehow managed to book us into a monastery. Well, a hotel with no bar. (An amazing place, which you can see here – well worth a visit.) Fine for me, not so great for Aspinall Miles, who was by now gasping for A Drink. Since this was the night we were meant to be seeing UO, but weren’t, and since AM had to fly home in less than 24 hours I decided it was only fair that we went out on the town. We ended up in a sports hall somewhere across town watching some American bands we hadn’t heard of, which was pleasant, with a bizarre drinks purchasing system involving tickets that Aspinall Miles never did quite work out. Her thirst was, presumably, not helped by the fact that she confessed halfway through the night that she had a handbag full of unwrapped proscuitto filched from the restaurant earlier. No, I didn’t ask.

In order to obtain some accompaniment for her ham, we decamped back into town, and somehow ended up in fantastic dive bar yards from the monastery until the early hours, where we were fed ginger cake (me – about the only thing I could eat out there, as it didn’t come with meat accompaniment) and red wine (Aspinall Miles) by the owner, an eccentric mod whose hostelry fitted about six customers, including us, but had a stonking stereo system pumping out a sensational Hammond based 60s soundtrack on repeat.

I think Aspinall Miles sampled each of the various house reds (as you can see here, below left), IMG_0156whilst I sampled each of the house mineral waters. But we had to make a sharp exit from the lock-in when funny cigarettes starting coming out, in order to maintain our dignity as barristers obviously. And so Aspinall Miles wouldn’t have the smell clinging to her jacket as she went through airport security in less than 12 hours.

As I waved her off in a taxi to the bus station a few short hours later, I was officially On My Own.

Part 2: I did actually see Urge Overkill play. Of which more later. Meantime, you can enjoy one of their classic numbers here. (They don’t have a song about ham, mind.)


Lemmy and the Offensive Weapon


Waking up this morning to the news that Lemmy had shuffled off this mortal coil aged 70 was a little surreal. The infamous Motörhead frontman was at once both one of those people who you’d never think would actually make his three score years and 10 and the sort of permanent fixture who seemed to be immortal. Like they’d be here for ever. Growling, warts twitching, glugging Jack Daniel’s, fantastically unrepentant.

Obviously during the day a good many people who knew the Lemster well have written, spoken and blogged about their personal knowledge of the man whom no one thought would ever be, well, killed by death. In particular, my old boss at Kerrang! Towers, Phil Alexander, has written a very moving tribute to his idol here for Mojo magazine. Phil (or The Gumby, as he was and is still known to me) has been a huge Motörhead fan for probably almost 40 years and came to know the Lemster well. Many was the morning when I would arrive at K! Towers to find Gumby blasting out Overkill or Ace Of Spades while he tried to think up cover lines which didn’t contain any swearing.

However, thinking back to those days brought to mind my own particular encounter with Mr I.F. Kilmister, and as many people have nagged me to blog over the past few years, I thought this is as good a start as any. It was the day of one of the early Kerrang! Awards, the now legendary Bacchanalian events from which many people never came out alive. The year was either 1994 or 1995, I’m not sure which (it was held at the Cumberland Hotel two years in a row, and I’m sure someone else who was there will confirm the year. I know it wasn’t the year that I spent the evening trying to evade the attentions of a member of W.A.S.P., but that’s another story). A number of infamous and potentially troublesome rock overlords were expected to attend. The Gumby was like a cat on hot bricks because, in particular, members of the notoriously party-shy AC/DC were set to attend, which was regarded as a bit of a coup.

The hotel was already getting packed and I’d been tasked to do a spot of meeting and greeting in the lobby. Normal people were actually still staying at the hotel, and the looks of horror on the faces of the foreign tourists as the line-up of usual suspects stumbled in already the worse for wear mid afternoon was pretty entertaining. All was Under Control when The Gumby sidled over and informed me sotto voce that I needed to look out for Lemmy because word was that he was “on his way over”, “in a taxi” and had “just come from his dealer”. His antiques dealer, that is. And that he might “have something on him”.

The info appeared to have come from a  reliable source, probably Ross Halfin, the famously obstreperous photographer who knew everything about everyone. (Halfin’s recent classic Motörhead box set can in fact be seen here, though I’m guessing he photographed Lemmy and the band hundreds of times.) Halfin was also the only person I knew then who had a mobile phone which they actually used rather than just kept for emergencies.

The Gumby was concerned that Lemmy might already be three sheets to the wind, and could I ensure that he was met and escorted to the right place on arrival? Phil had enough on his plate trying to spot the AC/DC lot when they arrived, bearing in mind they’re the size of garden gnomes and the venue was now heaving. On the basis that I was possibly the soberest staff member apart from big G, I was placed on Lemmy Watch.

Sure enough, a few minutes later Lemmy was uncoiling himself out of a cab, white winkle pickers first. He was plainly (a) three sheets to the wind and (b) concealing something up his leather jacket, as he weaved his way through the hotel lobby and towards the function room.

I strode purposefully across the lobby in order to meet any problems at the pass. As I was wearing a very tight long dress and a very high pair of platforms, neither of which I was used to, I’m not sure whether the purposeful bit actually came off, but that was the idea. I intercepted the Lemster before he could get too far, and enquired politely as to whether I could help him find his table and get where he needed to be.

At which point, he yanked open his jacket and hoiked out a very large, and very sharp, knife which looked about two feet long and nearly cost me the front of my hair.

“Yes, you can, darling,” Lemmy guffawed. “You can tell me where I can stash this, for a start.”

Pursing my lips, I said firmly, “I think I’d better take charge of that.” I then discreetly disarmed the gruffalo of an antique Third Reich dagger which was clearly worth a packet and had just been collected from Lemmy’s regular artefact supplier. Behind him I could see the hotel manager blanching as I grasped the weapon and scuttled over to reception to find out if they had a safe in which it could be temporarily deposited.

Lemmy cackled and clearly found the whole thing mightily entertaining, and after I directed him towards the vodka luge I lost sight of him for the rest of the day. I hope he actually collected it.

It’s not every day you get to disarm a heavy metal legend. It’s not something I’ve been called upon to do since. But when I heard the news this morning, the memory of it did raise a chuckle.

And Lemmy, if you’re still at the vodka luge, mine’s a mineral water.

(There’s some classic Motörhead here.)

Can I Scream?

IMG_0109I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said to me, “You should do a blog about that.” I always wondered whether I would actually get round to it.

As someone who can waste time for Britain – especially having discovered Spotify and the fact that I can open four different internet browsers at once on my computer – it always seemed like I would never get around to it. I’ve spent so much of my working life writing or talking, or both. Blogging always seemed like the last thing on the list that I might actually do for fun.

Maybe it’s age creeping up on me. Maybe the urge never left me. It must have been buried somewhere, probably in the crates of CDs and LPs that I increasingly return to as I hurtle kicking and screaming into middle age.

But middle age is for old people. Not for me. I’m not ready to pack away my seven inchers and go quietly just yet. Just because I now spend my days arguing with people for a living while dressed like an 18th century vicar doesn’t mean that I’m ready to start ordering elastic waisted trousers and wide fitting shoes from the back pages of the Radio Times.

Will anyone actually want to read about my bonkers life? From teenage years as the small-town weirdo in the flat Lincolnshire fens, with John Peel in my earpiece under the bedclothes for company, to pitching up in London at age 18 with the pages of NME and Melody Maker as a guide, to ‘working’ at Paul Raymond’s girlie mag empire. From an insane decade trampling through grunge and hardcore via nu metal and emo in the pages of Kerrang! in my DMs, to an equally unbalanced rollercoaster existence at the criminal Bar. Would anyone actually give a shit what I did or what I think?

Probably just me then.

Don’t let the costume fool you. I never, ever expected to be someone who actually wore a suit to go to work. But the beauty of a suit is that no one can guess what’s hidden underneath. I may look the same as the people I’m up against in court, but they don’t know the half of it. They can’t guess the soundtrack that’s in my head. They can’t hear that, as I’m stalking the corridors of Woolwich or Snaresbrook or the Old Bailey or whatever other Palais de Justice I’ve been dispatched to, in my head I’m still kicking against the pricks.

Or, as per my current new ear worm track, I’m waging war on the palaces. (You can hear some blokes who also do that rather well here.) That’ll do me for now.