Neil Jenkins (and his Randy pics)

Ozzy Osboure with Neil Jenkins

Regular visitors to the Words and Music website may recall my post about the ‘disputed’ Cardiff gig on Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman tour. There are those who believe that the entire UK leg of the Diary tour was cancelled. Neil Jenkins is not one of them. Neil Jenkins was there, and has provided me with some extremely rare photos of Ozzy and the late, great Randy Rhoads to prove it. In fact, Neil Jenkins is possibly one of the most experienced gig-goers I have ever met. He is an intrepid gig-goer par excellence. If Neil was a footballer, his fans would sing: “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f****n’ where!” with both fondness and admiration.

This is clear Words and Music territory, especially given that I met Neil at a Magnum gig, and that the title of the gig chapter in Words and Music (‘This One Sacred Hour’) is drawn from a Magnum song. I spoke with Neil to find out more about his love of live music, his Randy Rhoads photos, his Blizzard of Ozz signatures and his Randy Rhoads portrait. Check out his stories and his Randy pics (you know what I mean) below.

Hi Neil, when we met at a recent Magnum gig you told me that you’d seen them 63 times, but I get the impression you’ve seen a lot of other bands too?
I’ve seen every band I’ve ever wanted to see except one – ELO. I would have loved to have seen ELO. Magnum, yes, I’ve seen them 63 times. I have been a huge fan since my school days. I still have the Kingdom of Madness tour programme!

What was your first gig?
The first gig I went to was Rainbow at the  Capitol Theatre [long since demolished – Ed] in Cardiff, on the Long Live Rock And Roll tour. Of course, Ronnie James Dio was in the band then. I still have the scarf.

What are the best gigs you’ve been to?
Well, it has to be the Ozzy gigs at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman tours … and the Donington days and Reading Rock, if they count!

Your most disappointing gig?
Sabbath with Ian Gillan. He forgot his words, and the lowest part of the night was when he swore at the audience for booing when they did ‘Smoke on the Water’.  

Best and worst venues you’ve been to?
Well, the worst venue for me is St. David’s Hall, Cardiff – crap sound, terrible acoustics for rock music, and security will chuck you out for taking pictures! The venues I’ve been to that I like best are the Hammersmith Odeon, Bristol Colston Hall, and Sophia Gardens [also, of course, demolished – Ed] which has legendary status. The old venues are the best, and I quite like venues like the Ponty Arts Centre – cracking sound.

Looking at your photo collection, you’ve met a lot of musicians. What’s your best experience of meeting a rock star? 
Ronnie James Dio - Rest in PeaceI met Ronnie Jame Dio. He was so kind and made sure everyone got an autograph. True gentleman. I told him how much I enjoyed his concerts and he seemed genuinely interested in my experience of seeing the band. I know it sounds corny but the guy said “God bless mate,” and “See you soon”. I think it will stick in my mind. It’s so sad that he’s passed away.

Has anyone you’ve met given you a really hard time?
Yes, one. Malmsteen – wanker! My wife and I had guest passes for Cardiff. I bumped into him in the corridor in St. David’s Hall, asked for a picture and autograph and he said, “For fuck’s sake fuck off”!

Tell us about the signatures you got on the Blizzard of Ozz tour and what happened to them.
I sold the signatures to a guy in Australia for £600 in a moment of madness! And I sold the programme too. I didn’t meet Ozzy then mind, and I never met Randy. Someone else got the signatures for me. I got more Ozzy stuff later, from the Ultimate Sin and Bark at the Moon tours.

Blizzard of Ozz signatures

You have some extremely rare photos from the Cardiff gig on the Diary of a Madman tour. What do you remember about that gig?
Well, mainly the excitement of Ozzy coming. I am a huge Sabbath fan. Musically the best part of the night for me was ‘Revelation Mother Earth’/’Steal Away The Night’.

Randy Rhoads portraitI’m impressed with your Randy portrait – what you can tell us about that?
Well, there’s nothing hard in what I did there. It was all done on Photoshop – send me a picture and I’ll do the same for you!

How do you rate Randy as a guitarist?
Randy is an amazing guitarist. I like his style of playing, with the selector switch and the way he fills the song with those guitar neck techniques. That’s his trade mark and he has a distinctive sound as well. I like Brian May too, he has a good sort of style, nothing too flash. I don’t really like guitarists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and instrumentals bore me.

And you’ve kept up with Ozzy’s career since?  Which tours and albums have impressed you?
Besides the Blizzard and Diary tours, I’d say The Ultimate Sin tour – I had fun that tour! I’ve seen Ozzy driving around in a beat-up Capri a few times!

I finally met him in Wembley at a Brit Awards ceremony. Magnum, Thunder and the Quireboys were on the bill and played for half an hour each. I remember buying the Just Say Ozzy CD there. I think it was around the time No More Tears was released.

To be honest, I think Sharon took pity on me and my wife outside the gates. She came out in a car, stopped and asked us what we were waiting for. I told her I was waiting for Ozzy to sign my album. She went somewhere then came back for us and took us backstage. She took us to a room where we mixed with a lot of ‘big wig’ people in suits.

You also sing in a band. Tell us about that.
Well, at the moment I’m in a duo called 48 Crash playing a lot of fun stuff like Madness and Bad Manners, and some rock like Rainbow and Sabbath – arse-moving music as I call it! Until last year I was in a band called Belladonic Haze doing Queen stuff. The name comes from a line in ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. I had a good laugh in that band, and we even managed to play the Liverpool Cavern. We sound-checked with Neil Murray too, at the last Queen Convention – though I found him quite rude, actually. He was trying to tell us we were playing a song too fast and he got really funny about it! We did, though, get quite a following among Queen fans. I think there are some reviews on Facebook!

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
Bollocks! I would ask them why they would say that and in what way they think it’s dead. I could understand a person saying that if they didn’t like the music but in no way has it died in my eyes. It’s been a big part of my life both in terms of playing and listening. I have made a living playing and still enjoy it today, so … yeah, I think I would say to them what I just said to you!

Diary of a Madman tour photos
Sophia Gardens Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Please note: Neil’s photos come from a time which pre-dates the widespread availability of mobile phones and digital cameras. In those days, you weren’t allowed to take cameras into gigs either. Getting close enough to take any kind of snap was some achievement!

Ozzy Osbourne Randy Rhoads - Sophia Gardens Cardiff 30 November 1981

Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads on stage, Sophia Gardens Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Ozzy-Cardiff

Ozzy on stage

Randy Rhoads rocking out

Randy Rhoads rocking out, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Randy Rhoads on stage Diary of a Madman tour

Randy Rhoads on stage, Diary of a Madman tour, Cardiff, Wales 30 November 1981

Ozzy with bodyguard Cardiff 81

Ozzy with bodyguard, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, 30 November, 1981

CHEERS NEIL!

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Paul Quinn (Saxon)

Paul Quinn Live Wacken 2009

“Fill your heads with heavy metal thunder!”  A battlecry that will be familiar to thousands of Saxon fans right across the globe.

Strong Arm of the Law tour, 26 November 1980, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. That’s when I first truly filled my head with heavy metal thunder. Not just my first Saxon gig, but my first ever gig.

I write about it in Words and Music. Suffice to say here it had a huge effect, not just on my life as a music fan but on my life! It was an absolute thrill, therefore, when Saxon guitarist Paul Quinn agreed to do a Q&A with me. So brew up, pop a whisky in the top, and have a read of what he had to say …

Paul Quinn Studio 2004Hi Paul! I’ve got to tell you upfront that Saxon were the first band I got into after Deep Purple, and you really shaped my conception of what rock music is all about. Can you tell us what rock music means to you?
Thanks, Michael. Heavy rock/metal is the natural conclusion and melding of black and white styles, hopefully with the exclusion of ©rap. Nothing against NuMetal, but the riffs replace the vocal melodies in intricacy. I can enjoy most styles, so I should say that many pop artists have wished they were metal – the Beatles ‘Helter Skelter’, for example. Also metallers are extremely loyal.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
As a child of the fifties, I was more interested in playing about outside than music, but certain things filtered into me that would later influence my early favourites, the Beatles and Stevland ‘Wonder’ Morris. As a lead guitarist I was listening to John Mayall, Hendrix Experience, Zeppelin and Purple.

Can you tell us about an album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
The John Mayall Bluesbreakers’ “Beano” album taught me the intricacies of the blues style I cannot leave behind. The anger in Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’ and the emotion in McCartney’s voice during ‘The Long & Winding Road’ really get to me.

An artist who has stayed with you over time?
See above, but I can add Yes, Steely Dan, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, 10cc, AC/DC, Abba, Rainbow, Dio, Heaven and Hell, The Prince formally(!) known as an Artist, Pink Floyd, The Who, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Aerosmith … (somebody stop me!)

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
Getting Rainbow anecdotes from Ronnie James Dio was cool. Meeting any hero is great if you have the courage. Lemmy has always been approachable.

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
The musicians are often the strangest of the two. A numerologist fan told me Saxon is not the best name to add up.

Saxon circa Wheels of SteelI loved the vibe around Saxon in the NWOBHM days and the feeling of togetherness you got at a Saxon gig. What makes a rock gig special for you?
We tried to make it an all-inclusive party, and I would try (and sometimes succeed) to keep an even temper during equipment failures. The audience are more than punters, they are buying into the rock ‘n’ roll dream, as are we.

Your most notable or memorable gig as an artist?
The first Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington. We were total underdogs and the expectant industry-and-crowd-buzz was loud enough to quell our nerves and helped us cruise into acceptance.

Your most memorable gig as a fan?
Taste at Sheffield City Hall. One of Ireland’s best, I unfortunately only met Rory Gallagher near the end of his life. (I was to meet him for a ‘drink’, the last thing he really needed.)

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
Have you got five minutes? I’ve got some amazing photos of you!

Saxon Live to RockSex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Sometimes one needs more than two of the above. Some bands used to smuggle drugs to and from America in speaker cabinets, but they never said if it was to sell on to others, or for their own use. I may have experimented, but I only did the rocking frequently. (I find even alcohol adversely affects performance, so prefer to party afterwards.) I think if you added cigarettes, those four would mean life.

A question about a different kind of excess. Did Saxon really drink as much tea as the anecdotes (Lemmy, Dave Poxon) and the old Kerrang! crossword clue (“Tea drinkers from Barnsley”) would have us believe?
It was both true and a gimmick. Most of us would have a beer. I liked a tea with whisky in. Most of us didn’t enjoy the coffee volatility.

How do you feel about the devilish and occult themes and imagery that some of the other NWOBHM and extreme metal bands adopted?
As long as they don’t ruin old churches I tend to take it as interesting subject matter rather than truth. I don’t have any beliefs except the perhaps naive hope that humans can do good for others.

Much has been said and written about the period in Saxon’s history – I guess from Crusader to Destiny or maybe a bit later – when it’s said you were focused on cracking the American market. How do you look back on that period now?
We had very bad advice from UK and US management, who were so old-hat that we were following their tastes, and forgetting that we were the generators of revenue, therefore the bosses of our own direction. Some of us had broad musical tastes that would permit experimentation and fusion with chart material, as Thin Lizzy did so very well. It was, and still is true that a band finds staying afloat difficult without the United States fans.

For me the problem wasn’t the slower tracks and ballads – there was always variety, melody and versatility in your music. It was more that the straight ahead rockers lost some of the rawness and passion of early Saxon. Do you think that’s a fair appraisal of your more ‘commercial’ period?
Over produced, over dubbed and over there; correct. It was like a correctional institution to wipe the Deep Purple influence from our brains.

Saxon album coverIn recent years Saxon have hit top form again and have enjoyed something of a resurgence. How do you view what you do as an artist now?
With an average of an album every 18 months for our 20 albums worth of career, I am glad we’re still careering around like lunatics. We will continue until someone buys them!

Is there a particular piece of music, or album or performance for which you would most like to be remembered?
The new album is called Sacrifice; it is where we are now – sod fashion!

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
You’re sad and tasteless. Rave music should be on a bonfire.

I’ve got to ask, as it’s puzzled me for more than 30 years. The nickname attributed to you on the first album – ‘Blute’ – what’s that all about?
I have coincidentally gone back to my Son of a Bitch image with the beard that spawned the shortening of Bluto. Both Graham and I were Popeye cartoon addicts.

And finally, what can Saxon fans look forward to in 2013?
The beginning of a new Mayan calendar, and Saxon’s ascension to the Pantheon of Rock, with your help.

Saxon Wacken 2009

CHEERS PAUL!

For news and up-to-date Saxon information, visit the official Saxon website

Photos from the official Saxon website

Paul Quinn at Wacken and Wacken crowd shot by Kai Swillus

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver

Joel McIver has been described by Classic Rock magazine as “by some distance the UK’s most prolific rock/metal author”. (“Dashed kind of them,” he says.) Indeed, if you are a reader of rock and metal biographies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid Joel McIver’s books. Not, of course, that you’d want to. Readers of Words and Music will have noticed references to both  Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica (a best seller widely regarded as the leader in its field) and Joel’s Black Sabbath biography Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. He has also written books on Cliff Burton, Randy Rhoads, Motörhead, Machine Head, Slayer, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Sex Pistols, to name a few, and he co-wrote Glenn Hughes’ recent autobiography  (see my Voice of Rock blogpiece for more on the latter). Read ’em All – that’s what I say!

Joel edits Bass Guitar Magazine, and contributes regularly to a range of other music and film magazines. Chuck in his media activity and his liner notes for CDs and DVDs and you clearly have one busy man. It was dashed kind of him, therefore, to agree to take the Words and Music Q&A.

Hello Joel, can you tell us what rock music means to you?
Music of all kinds, not just rock, is a medicine for the brain, an outlet for the soul and the best possible drug ever.

Joel McIver Machine Head book signingI’ve heard people say that working full time in the music industry and being surrounded by music all the time has stopped them enjoying it. Have you found this as a writer?
No, because I haven’t allowed this to happen. It’s perfectly possible to let yourself forget why you started doing this in the first place, but I take the time to remind myself on a daily basis why I devote my time to music, the greatest of all human achievements.

Does researching and writing about artists ever change the way you feel about their work?
Yes, sometimes. Naming no names, I have discovered certain personal things about musicians which have diminished the enjoyment of their music. The opposite is also true, fortunately.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
The Beatles, when I was seven. I became obsessed with certain guitar lines, drum patterns and vocal harmonies and was a pre-teen geek before I knew it. I’m still a geek, and proud.

Tell us about an album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
‘Tree Of Pain’ by Soulfly. Max Cavalera, whose autobiography I am currently co-writing, put everything he had into that song: you can hear his inner agony.

The Truth About Metallica Book CoverAn artist who has stayed with you over time?
Metallica. I have never fallen out of love with their Cliff Burton-era material even though it’s 25 years since I first heard it.

Dylan or Morrison?
Neither. If you want 60s names that mean a lot to me, I’d go with Hendrix or Cream.

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
“Are they working you hard today?” That is their cue to laugh and say no, or frown and say yes, either of which is a way into a personal connection.

Your best encounter with an artist?
Joel - mad monkLemmy, 1999, drinking Jack Daniel’s in a London hotel and arguing about Tony Blair.

Your strangest encounter with an artist?
Jon Bon Jovi, 2001. I had a seven-minute interview slot with him on his tour manager’s cellphone, and his attention was clearly elsewhere.

What makes a rock gig special?
At this stage, if I’m backstage with the artist, enjoying a medium level of debauchery and not standing in the crowd.

Your most memorable gig?
Donington, 1988; Clash Of The Titans, 1990; Slayer, 2004. And lots more.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Neither, just a lifestyle that some people choose to pursue. It’s not necessarily positive or negative; it’s merely one of many options.

You’ve written about Sabbath and Slayer, and know a thing or two about extreme metal. So tell us, is rock music the spawn of the devil or a force for good?
A force for good, because all music is exactly that. Anyone who thinks otherwise is uninformed, mistaken or just a fool.

Rock music – music for the masses or a tribal affair?
Both apply, surely?

Italian launch of Joel's Cliff Burton book 2008How do you view the role of the rock writer?
We are chronicling our culture for future historians, and having more fun than the average human while doing so.

Of everything you’ve written, is there one thing of which you are most proud?
My Cliff Burton book, which came closest to my objectives as an author of the 21 books I’ve done so far. Also, interviews with challenging people such as Femi Kuti.

You’re well known and well established as a writer now. Would you give it all up for a crack at the big time as a musician?
Fuck no! I’m also a musician, and there is no way I would trade my life for a daily routine involving 22 hours of travel, 2 hours of live performance and no money.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
I wouldn’t say anything to them. They’re clearly not willing to make the effort to listen, and therefore they’re not worthy of my time.

What next from Joel McIver?
Eight books at various stages, detailed at www.joelmciver.co.uk, and I’m also the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine, www.bassguitarmagazine.com. Cheers captain!

Joel with Glenn Hughes

Joel McIver’s website: http://www.joelmciver.co.uk/

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