‘The Voice of Rock’

It’s been my privilege in recent times to see the great Glenn Hughes (“The Voice of Rock”, as he was dubbed by the KLF) performing live on four separate occasions. Nothing particularly magic about the number 4, other than to say that each time Glenn performed in a completely different guise.

The first occasion was in July 2010 at the inaugral High Voltage Festival. Glenn hooked up with old mate Tony Iommi in Heaven and Hell to celebrate the life of the sadly departed, and much missed, Ronnie James Dio. With Glenn sharing lead vocals with Jorne Lande of Masterplan, the band ripped through a set of Dio-era Sabbath and Heaven and Hell classics. It was an emotional performance which was a fitting tribute to the late RJD.

The second occasion, the following November, saw Glenn touring in his own name with his own band. The set, as you’d expect, consisted mainly of tracks from the Hughes solo back catalogue, but they did play a full-on version of ‘Burn’ that brought the house down. In fact, it really brought home to me what a great band the Purple Mark III line-up must have been in its day. Blackmore, Lord, Paice, Coverdale and Hughes – five truly world class rock musicians, all at the top of their game; they must have been awesome. But while I can only speculate (aided by the occasional recording) about the live qualities of Burn-era Purple, without doubt Glenn Hughes was awesome that night in 2010. My wife, my cousins and I pushed as close to the front as we could get, and witnessing Glenn in full flow really was something. In fact, his solo vocal spot drew gasps of jaw-dropping disbelief and was, without doubt, the most astonishing vocal performance I’ve ever seen live. (Gillan in his prime, singing ‘Child in Time’, might have come close, but again I can only speculate about that.) ‘The Voice of Rock’ indeed!

Fast forward to summer 2011 and we’re at High Voltage again … and so is Glenn, this time fronting Black Country Communion, the so-called ‘supergroup’ that also features Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. In pretty quick time BCC have already managed to release two powerful albums (I’m listening to the second one as I type) that have already established them as one of the must-see bands on today’s rock scene. And they are, without doubt, a band for today – there’s no resting on laurels or trading on illustrious pasts here, even though they do, it must be said, an even better version of ‘Burn’ than Glenn’s solo band!

Fast forward again to autumn 2011, and a small comedy club in Cardiff. An audience, I guess, of around 200 people, all hyped-up and ready for “An Evening with Glenn Hughes”. This was a one-man show. One man, his book, his acoustic guitar and that voice. Glenn talked about his life, his music, his addictions, his survival and the kind of man he is now. He read extracts from his book, he performed songs from across his career, and, post-performance, he stuck around to shake hands, chat and sign autographs. Appropriately, given the venue, he was quite humorous too – and he does a half-decent line in impressions! It was quite an evening!

I bought a copy of his book, which he signed. I’ve since read it, and as he promised, it’s quite a read. His descent into addiction and general decadence makes for quite grim reading at times, though the book is often touching and very funny. By design, or otherwise, it also contains some very quotable lines.

Describing an early drugs experience, for example, he tells us: “I tried to take a piss, and I couldn’t find my cock.”

Post-Purple, as things got a bit wilder, he recounts his liaisons with Linda Blair (of The Exorcist fame) and various members of The Runaways (amongst others). “I ended up shagging Sandy West,” (The Runaways drummer) he tells us, “who was a lesbian.”

Of a fellow rock star’s future wife, he says: “We were buddies, really good friends. I drove her home one time and she had her ankles round my neck while I was driving the car. She was sticking her toes up my nose – she was a wild woman.”

Even the reformed Glenn is full of surprises. His wife recounts an occasion when he arranged to go out for dinner with Chad Smith (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) on their wedding anniversary: “He left a brown bag on the counter for me that had some lube and a purple dildo in it and he went out for dinner with Chad. I thought it was hilarious.”

The drug stuff is not funny though, and it’s telling that between the years 1977 and 1992 there are very few solo or band releases of any particular note. (The exception is perhaps 1982’s Hughes/Thrall album.) Glenn did do a fair bit of session work during that period, but things almost always went wrong and he often ended up pissing people off. (Gary Moore was one of those he pissed off, and someone he tried to hide his drug use from. “Gary Moore is not a man to fuck with. He didn’t have the scars on his face for nothing.”)

Only by some kind of miracle, the support of others and a lot of hard work and soul searching has Glenn survived. But survive he has, and his new found positivity is thoroughly inspiring. Since he started tackling his addiction he has been a prolific writer and performer of music. As a fan and music lover I’m so grateful that he got his act together and has been able to give us all this great music. It’s outrageous that more people don’t know more of that music. It’s also outrageous that a man who has experienced so much hard living can still sing like an angel. He really has been blessed.

They say that confession is good for the soul, and it certainly seems to be doing Glenn a world of good. If you have any interest in the man or his music, I’d certainly recommend his book, but more to the point, make sure you experience his music and, if you can, catch him singing live.

Glenn Hughes: The Voice of Rock!

Glenn Hughes: The Voice of Rock

(I was going to quip that before acquiring ‘The Voice of Rock’ mantle, he’d been ‘The Voice of Coke’ and ‘The Voice of Cock’, but my wife told me that would be inappropriate.)

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  1. Joel McIver « Words and Music

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