ufoIt’s a new year but we’ve retained the same old Self Made Man and he’s firing on all cylinders with his first column of 2014.

Look out for our very own classic rock hero’s expert views and opinion exclusively on RUSHONROCK every week. 

 

 

Sky Arts’ ‘Talk Music’ is one of the best new programmes I’ve seen in years.

The show is hosted by Malcolm Gerrie, the 63-year-old former Newcastle teacher, who co-founded the legendary Tube which was beamed out of Tyne-Tees studios during the 1980s.

Gerrie has not been seen on telly since those halycon days but despite his lack of recent air-time, he proves an excellent presenter, combining boyish enthusiasm with a probing interviewing technique.

Of course, it has helped that he’s been fortunate to attract such top-quality subject matter.

I’ve caught three of the hour-long programmes and each one has had me hooked.

His first guest was Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, who talked about his days trying to make ends meet with then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks before Mick Fleetwood persuaded him to join the Mac and him insisting that the couple came as a double act.

He then goes on to explain the shift in style from Rumours to the new wave-influenced Tusk and even treats the invited audience of music students to a lovely rendition of Big Love from the Tango In The Night album.

Jeff Beck was Gerrie’s next guest and he too had an incredible story to tell, playing with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page with the Yardbirds and then Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood as he went solo.

Beck too demonstrated his incredible talent, leaving Gerrie open-mouthed in admiration as he showed just why he’s one of the world’s  finest exponents of the Fender Stratocaster.

Only this week, Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame came into the Sky Arts’ studio to discuss his musical life.

And while I’m not familiar with all his music, his tale was arguably the most fascinating of them all.

He talked about his days with The Hollies before heading to California, meeting David Crosby, falling in love with Joni Mitchell and ultimately becoming a standard bearer for the hippy movement.

His advice to budding lyricists in the audience “keep it real, write about real things,” was informative and to them, probaby inspiring too.

I don’t know who Gerrie has planned for his second series but he’s set the bar high so far. I’d love him to interview Richie Blackmore, one of rock music’s most mysterious figures.

If there was a common thread to the three programmes I’ve watched, it was in the change in direction Buckingham, Beck and Nash took in their own musical journeys.

The three never stood still, always searching for something else, even if it meant, quitting a band, turning their back on the mainstream or emigrating in the case of Nash.

Blackmore is perhaps the ultimate musician who always believed the grass was greener on the other side.

He left Deep Purple to form Rainbow because he didn’t like the direction David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes were taking the band.

With Rainbow, he released Rising, one of the finest classic rock albums of all time. And it’s follow-up, Long Live Rock n’ Roll wasn’t bad either.

Blackmore, however, wasn’t satisfied and sensationally sacked vocalist Ronnie James Dio, replacing him with the short back and sides, Hawaian-shirted Graham Bonnet in his desperation to break the US market.

Rainbow sounded very different but he probably felt vindicated when Down To Earth spawned too hugely successful singles in Since You’ve Been Gone and All Night Long.

Bonnet, however, was not to feature on album No. 5 with the American Joe Lynn Turner taking the mic on songs such as I Surrender and Can’t Happen Here.

And so it went on and on and on with Blackmore searching for some sort of musical crock of gold at the end of the mythical rainbow.

Eventually, he departed the rock scene to form Blackmore’s Nights with his wife Candice. They now play Renaissance music – a genre invariably prominent in his song-writing – but a million miles away from Smoke On The Water and Stargazer.

Only rarely have I heard the publiciity-shirking Blackmore talk about his own musical journey and I’d love to find out more.

So bring it on, Mr Gerrie.  Book Blackmore.

And while you’re at it John Paul Jones, Paul Rodgers and Eric Stewart (10cc) would be pretty good guests too.

Ian Murtagh