The Stranglers, G Live (again)


Ahhh, The Stranglers – Guildford’s very own men in black are back for another trip down memory lane at G Live.

In fact, it’s their fifth March gig in five years at G Live – and it kind of shows, just a little.

Tonight, after a turn by tour mates The Alarm, we’re treated to the band’s 1978 album Black and White in its entirety.

Never ones for airs and graces, it’s 45 minutes until Stranglers frontman Baz Warne so much as goes near the mic between numbers.

“If you were a bit confused by that, you didn’t buy the f*****g album in 1978, did you?” he sneers in a broad, Mackem yammer.

Turning to JJ Burnel, bassist and RGS old boy, Warne adds: “He [Burnel] says you’re a bit less constipated tonight.”

It’s the closest thing this crowd are going to get to a compliment tonight.


The music’s as good as ever though. Raw, raucous and simmering with the same righteous anger that so defined the band during the late-70s.

Tank’s driving chords, manic keys and yelps of “I can drive [drive!] my very own tank!” segue effortlessly into the brilliantly grotty Nice N’ Sleazy, propelled by one of Burnel’s signature bass riffs.

It’s undoubtedly a treat for devotees, but it comes at a price. The first half of the show, illuminated only in monochrome, just feels a little flat.

The bonkers Norfolk Coast and gnarly Lose Control get things back on track, followed up by a boisterous rendition of Always The Sun, heralding the first singalong of note of the evening.

And it’s to the band’s credit the momentum only builds further, closing out the main set with I Feel Like A Wog and the anthemic Something Better Change, which feels as relevant now as it did in 1977.


There’s no Jet Black tonight, the band’s septuagenarian drummer and founder member above whose offie in Guildford the band formed in the 70s – and whom they welcomed back for a few numbers during last year’s show at G Live.

Equally conspicuous by their absence are a handful of the band’s best known songs, namely Duchess, Hanging Around and Golden Brown.

The biggest cheer of the night though is reserved for encore opener Peaches. It’s a filthy tune, underpinned by another one of Burnel’s masterful squally basslines and Warne’s sleazy snarls.

There’s just time for No More Heroes and that’s it. It’s another typically brash, brusque and belligerent Stranglers performance.

But it’s hard not to feel this annual pilgrimage may just have lost its way a little – and that the band’s hometown faithful deserved a little bit more than they got.

James Chapple

Originally published on Get Surrey, 15/03/16

Bowling For Soup, G Live

Good old Bowling For Soup, the Texan pop-punkers who just wouldn’t let 2002 go – and are still steadfastly refusing to do so if their latest How About Another Round? tour is anything to go by.

“I read an article recently that said pop-punk was DEAD,” muses frontman Jaret Reddick during the band’s typically playful show at Guildford’s G Live on Wednesday night (February 10).

He’s barely changed a jot since the band got together in the mid-90s, save for the paunch – that’s new: “I have to share the fat guy jokes with Chris [Burney, guitarist] now,” he jokes.

“Well we’re here to show pop-punk is NOT dead – it’s just on viagra,” roars Reddick mid-set, launching into a medley of classics from Blink 182, Green Day, New Found Glory and Jimmy Eat World, not to mention a full rendition of Fountains of Wayne mega-hit Stacy’s Mom.

The band’s high-octane show is, however, tempered throughout by their impeccable stage patter – and the fact they have a fully functioning bar up on stage with them.

Indeed, the whole show is set in their very own Ye Olde Soup Inn, complete with darts board and beer kegs that shoot flames 20ft into the air. Cerebral it is not, fun it most definitely is.

While it would be easy to dismiss the band’s puerile musings (expect knob jokes and fart gags) and childish antics (Reddick announces himself by belching into his microphone) as crass, it’s impossible to fault the band’s infectious enthusiasm and lust for performance.

The show has more than a whiff of cabaret about it, which is all-pervasive from opening act Lacey through compere MC Lars, who does his best to get the crowd onboard by rapping Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven (“who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping at my chamber door?” – you get the joke) and finally main support The Dollyrots.

The trio bound onstage with all the gusto you would expect of a band who have long been touring partners with the Bowling For Soup guys.

Almost completely hidden behind her faintly ridiculous over-sized bass guitar, diminutive singer Kelly Ogden yelps and wails like a banshee through the band’s short and sweet set alongside partner and guitarist Luis Cabezas.

Introducing a punked-up cover of Melanie’s Brand New Key, Odgen jokes: “In our country, this song is about sex – not farmyard machinery,” referring to The Wurzels’ classic “Combine Harvester” cover. It’s a remarkably acute reference, particularly for an American act.

They make a decent racket though, and even bring their young son River on for a quick word with the Guildford faithful. It’s that kind of show, although River is far more interested in licking the microphone than chatting with the audience.

After another slightly laboured stint by MC Lars, Bowling For Soup – Reddick, Burney, bassist Erik Chandler and drummer Gary Wiseman – take to the stage and tear into The Bitch Song, followed up by Emily – two of the bands biggest hits.

“I know we’re just two songs in, but would you agree Bowling For Soup are already the greatest band you have ever seen?” asks Reddick. G Live largely agrees.

Fan favourite Punk Rock 101 soon follows, sped up what feels like ten times, as does the band’s cover of SR-71’s 1985 and the aforementioned pop-punk medley.

They’re joined by The Dollyrots on Love Ya, Love Ya, Love Ya before closing out their main set with High School Never Ends, culminating in a slightly demented singalong as the crowd bellow the main riff back at them.

Rather than disappear back stage for a breather ahead of the customary encore, the band instead simply sidle over to their stage bar for a beer and a few shots.

“We’ve solved the encore,” claims Reddick, and he’s right, to an extent, as any Bowling For Soup fan worth their salt could tell you what was coming – a twin sucker-punch of Shut-Up And Smile followed by Girl All The Bad Guys Want, without a shadow of a doubt the band’s finest hour.

It would be churlish to call it an anticlimax in much the same way it would if you didn’t expect Wheatus, for instance, to close out their shows with Teenage Dirtbag.

The first note of Girl… alone sends everyone bananas. Writhing mosh pits seethe with sweaty, smiling Guildfordians while the pyrotechnics lick at the rafters.

It may well have been the finale everyone was expecting, but it’s nonetheless absolutely the right one.

Not much has changed about Bowling For Soup since they rode the wave that was pop-punk the best part of 15 years ago.

They’re fiercely proud of their Texan roots and it’s heartwarming to see the band met with such affection, albeit despite not quite managing to sell-out G Live tonight.

Bowling For Soup certainly achieve what they set out to show. Pop-punk is most definitely not dead; in fact, it doesn’t even need viagra yet.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 11/02/16

Farewell Starman


There really is a starman waiting in the sky now.

David Bowie died on Sunday aged 69. He had cancer.

The news was broken on Monday morning on Bowie’s official Facebook page and confirmed by his son Duncan on Twitter.

Already, hundreds of thousands have paid their respects. Millions more around the world will continue to do so in their own way.

Flowers have been laid outside Bowie’s old apartment in Berlin; outside his home in New York; there is even a street party planned tonight just a few hundreds yards away from where Bowie grew up in Brixton.

It comes just days after his 69th birthday, on which he released his 27th studio album Blackstar, and a fortnight after we lost another rock and roll legend – Lemmy – to cancer.

Wishing absolutely no disservice to Lemmy, Bowie was more than just a rock and roll legend. Bowie was simply without parallel.

He wasn’t just ahead of his time throughout his near 50-year career, he was effortlessly ahead of his time. He was utterly unique.

Even on Blackstar, which is every bit the mysterious, challenging, thought-provoking listen you would expect from Bowie, he was still pursuing what was zeitgeist.

Taking the title track alone, the shuffling, skittish, tribal beat is evocative of Thom Yorke; the tension wrought by the fusion of gnarled samples and swirling synths of Burial and Portishead; the otherworldly lyrics of Bowie himself on Space Oddity.

The point being Bowie’s music never suffered from not being of its time. You can hear its wax and wane as the 60s psychedelia flowed into the 70s pomp, via prog and glam, 80s new wave, dance and disco, 90s alternative rock and industrial before eventually winding up somewhere distinctly avant-garde.

It’s hardly surprising when you’ve dabbled in just about everything that could be considered ‘popular music’. And I am by no means a qualified enough Bowie fan to take you through his experiments with jazz and classical music.

I write this listening to Aladdin Sane. I don’t know why I picked Aladdin Sane. I could just as easily have chosen Ziggy Stardust, or Hunky Dory, or The Man Who Sold The World.

There is something chillingly discordant about the chorus, if you can call it that, of Aladdin Sane itself. It makes my hairs stand on end. I consider myself lucky there are probably 20 Bowie albums I still have a lifetime to digest.

Bowie was the soundtrack to many a formative summer holiday – still is in fact.

I was lucky enough to enjoy 20 years of long, hot, sultry summer days in France listening to Queen Bitch, Starman, Ziggy Stardust, The Bewlay Brothers, Changes, and so on.

Like my other great passion, food, music is evocative of memories and emotions I am otherwise unable to access any other way, particularly those associated with childhood. I’m sure many others feel the same.

That’s why I have very much enjoyed digesting other people’s experiences of Bowie. The Guardian, in particular, has done a terrific job today of curating a necessary ourpouring of collective grief and mourning.

Each and every one of these stories is special to just a handful of people, many just to individuals. Scale that for the hundreds of millions of people Bowie’s music has touched across the world and you begin to understand the enormity of his contribution to music and popular culture.

His long-time collaborator and producer Tony Visconti said this today, which I feel is a particularly fitting tribute.

“His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be.

I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

David Bowie was as much a cultural phenomenon as he was an enigma, and he remained so right to the very end. I have little doubt had he lived another 20 years we would be any the wiser.

Time takes another cigarette.

Happy New Year


Dawn breaks on another New Year. There’s no real reason I chose this picture taken from our office in Guildford, other than it looks pretty swish.

Anyhoo, Happy New Year everyone. I’m not one for New Year’s introspection. What’s done is done, what’s not done is left to do – ideally well.

These are some 2015 ‘things’.

  • The best thing I listened to last year was My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice. Honourable mentions include Vulnicura by Björk, The Magic Whip by Blur, The Demon Joke by Mike Vennart, Undertow by Drenge, Kablammo! by Ash, and Born Under Saturn by Django Django.
  • The best thing I watched last year was Mad Max: Fury Road. Honourable mentions include The Martian and The Usual Suspects, which I had somehow neglected to watch until 2015.

Some of the coolest things I did last year were:

  • See three of my favourite bands, Muse, Amplifier and Ash, in tiny venues
  • See a load of other great bands/artists; ASIWYFA, Arcane Roots, Ash (another four times), Baroness, Ben Ottewell (of Gomez), Blur, Faith No More, Gogol Bordello, Marmozets, Metallica, Royal Blood, The Stranglers, Mike Vennart (of Oceansize), Wheatus
  • Go to a really awesome wedding in Finland (and just go to Finland in general)
  • Visit Scotland, climb Ben Nevis, go to the best beer garden ever, get plastered in a folk bar where we met a totally sound guy called Wallace
  • Finally trek but a fraction of the breathtakingly beautiful Lake District, climb Scafell Pike, make a ridiculously abortive effort to climb Helvellyn
  • Visit Munich, drink all the weißbeer, eat all the pork, tour FC Bayern, pay our respects at Dachau
  • Experience a new festival, namely the barmy BoomTown Fair
  • Reported on the Dalai Lama‘s visit to Aldershot
  • Take an exclusive tour of the famous Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldeshot

And a quick mention for some of those sadly lost in 2015:

  • Lemmy (of Motörhead)
  • Wayne Static (of Static-X)
  • Chris Squire (of Yes)
  • Sir Christopher Lee

Over and out. See you in 2016.


Get Surrey
Get Surrey

Lemmy died on Tuesday.

Everyone was pretty shocked. Cancer’s a bastard though – it’ll cut anyone down in a stroke, even the world’s hardest rock star.

People paid their respects to Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister with all the usual platitudes. I recall ‘RIP Lemmy’ trending on Twitter for a while. Well, if there’s one thing Lemmy’s definitely NOT going to doing in death, it’s ‘resting in peace’.

This is a man who drank a bottle of JD every day since the age of 30, a man who smoked like a top, a man who slept with thousands of women, a man who sung on his biggest hit:

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

In fact, a man who – legend has it – had actually already died a few times, only to repel Beelzebub’s advances and cling onto this mortal coil. Probably chased him off with his bitchin’ Rickenbacker bass guitar.

Yes, Lemmy will be raising hell in an afterlife of his choosing. I’m quite sure of that.

He found fame with his vocal on Hawkwind’s 1972 classic Silver Machine, only to be kicked out of the band a few years later for his drug habits. It was a blessing in disguise.

Lemmy founded Motörhead in 1975, who went on to become one of the most enduring rock and roll bands of all time.

It was a pretty simple formula – distort everything; growl over the top of it; look really REALLY cool on stage, in interviews, on telly, etc. And then keep doing it for 35 years.

I saw Motörhead back in 2006 supporting the Foo Fighters and I swear my ears are still ringing from the experience. They even teamed up with Dave Grohl and co for a rendition of Probot’s Shake Your Blood. It was gnarly.

And in a bizarre feat of billing, Motörhead brought untold hedonism to clean-cut Guildford institution GuilFest (RIP) back in 2009 (retrospective penned in the wake of Lemmy’s passing by yours truly).

While I can’t profess to being a Motörhead afficionado (their ‘best of’ is quite enough for me), Lemmy was emblematic of a rock and roll ethos, spirit, mystique – call it what you will – that simply does not exist any more. One that likely dies with him.

Yes, his chums Ozzy Osbourne and Dave Grohl will carry the flag in his stead, but they don’t make them like Lemmy any more – and they never will.

While Motörhead were undoubtedly influential to an extent; Lemmy was more than just influential.

He was an institution. He embodied the rock and roll myth. He proved it could be true. The revelation this week he was nothing more than a mere mortal is not a comfortable one.

Like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, it was good to know Lemmy was out there, ‘takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners’.

Anyhoo. Here are my three favourite ‘Lemmy things’ that weren’t to do with Motorhead.

  1. Probot – Shake Your Blood
  2. His appearance in the Foo Fighters’ White Limo video
  3. Hawkwind – Silver Machine

I don’t want to live forever either, frankly.



A little adventure, 25/11/15 to 28/11/15.

We crammed a lot of things into four days; a tour of FC Bayern, a visit to Munich’s amazingly macabre Bier and Oktoberfest Museum, a stroll around the actual Oktoberfest site, a sombre, eye-opening moment of contemplation at the Dachau concentration camp – and mounds of pork and litres of weißbeer.










Ash… in Ash


I wrote a little ditty about this earlier this year – essentially, a man from the newspaper patch area I cover won a competition to bring the band Ash to his back garden… in the Surrey village of Ash. It was one of the most fun mornings I can recall, and a real treat for me as a big Ash fan.

So here are some of the pics I took that morning that have been lurking on my phone for quite some time, and a few courtesy of one of our photographers.

Absolute Radio Breakfast Show broadcasting from Ash, Surrey, with the band Ash performing after a competition was won by a local listener. James Chapple with Ash




Absolute Radio Breakfast Show broadcasting from Ash, Surrey, with the band Ash performing after a competition was won by a local listener.