In a throwback to headline-grabbing band announcements of the past, members of the rock and metal press assembled at a swanky central London hotel this week to discover more about one of the most hotly anticipated comebacks in decades. As Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth reports, there were even bespoke woolly hats to celebrate the occasion…
The awkward juxtaposition of four raw Glaswegian rockers and a well-appointed function room in the basement of a five-star Soho hotel – replete with canapes, designer wall art and wine — surely wasn’t lost on those fans joining a global live stream announcing the return of The All Fuckin’ Mighty.
As invited hacks crammed inside the Soho Sanctum’s exclusive cinema room, it felt kinda bizarre that this long rumoured announcement was taking place anywhere other than the mean streets of Strathaven.
Then again, persuading the capital-centric music media to set foot outside the M25 is like convincing Kiss to retire. It just ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Conveniently, of course, it also happened to be the day after the night before…when frontman Ricky Warwick had successfully wrapped up Black Star Riders’ UK headline tour across town at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Name cards placed and the slide show poised, Warwick, drummer Stumpy Monroe, bassist Floyd London and guitarist Andy ‘Tantrum’ McCafferty made their grand entrance moments after the chicken and beef sliders. Following the food was a wise move. A well-fed journo is a happy journo and this was a happy occasion all round. But surely slices of fatty Lorne sausage and deep-fried Mars bars would have better reflected this very Scottish affair.
No matter. After the Soul Destruction that was host Adam Parsons’ painful reveal that this long-awaited return would amount to just three intimate headline shows, it was time for the original line-up to take centre stage. What followed was a mix of sweet reminiscence and a nod to the future when gigs in Glasgow, Manchester and London will set the seal, once and for all, on The Almighty’s much-loved legacy.
“It feels fantastic to be in this position,” insisted Tantrum. “I was having a perfectly happy life playing and recording but this is the cherry on the icing on the top of the cake. I loved being in the band first time around and we achieved a lot in a relatively short period.”
Most of what The Almighty’s original line-up achieved came to the fore on debut Blood, Fire & Love and supercharged follow-up Soul Destruction. The latter, produced by former Duran Duran and Power Station riffmeister Andy Taylor, spawned two Top 40 singles and secured the quartet supports with Motörhead and Alice Cooper prior to the coveted opening slot at Donington’s Monsters Of Rock the following summer.
“The stuff you’re going to hear during those three shows will be very close to the sound of the first few albums,” confirmed London. “The only difference is that it’s a few decades down the line.”
And that could be quite a difference. Stumpy insisted he’d get his drum parts right and Warwick claimed he’s a better singer now than he was back then. And he’s probably right. Whether that will help the talented Irishman tackle the guttural thrust of Blood, Fire & Love’s more furious anthems remains to be seen.
Warwick punctuated the formalities with hilarious tales of LSD-fuelled ferry trips with the Ibrox casuals, of partying the night away with heavyweight hellraiser Lemmy and of those formative years falling in and out of love with his best buddies and band mates.
“This has been in the planning for a couple of years,” he said. “We floated the idea a while ago and we’ve been sitting on this announcement for some time. The social media announcement on New Year’s Eve grabbed everybody’s attention but we’ve had to keep quiet…until now.
“It’s only three shows. To get together at all is a miracle so let’s just leave it at that. We’ve all got stuff going on but I get asked the question all the time about us getting back together. We decided we’d do three shows and then go back to doing what we do.”
Cue the inevitable moaning from Brummy Bill, Bev from Brighton and most of Belfast. Three gigs was never going to satisfy the demand for a band beloved by millions but it’s better than nowt. Just.
And just to add that note of inevitable finality, an almost regretful London admitted: “We haven’t spoken about doing any records. The intention this time isn’t to do any writing or recording.”
The intention, it seems, is to give it one last shot and toast the good times. Of which there were many.
“The first time we ever played Barrowlands we supported The Ramones,” recalled Tantrum. “I remember standing at the side of the stage when the lights went off and the roar was amazing. I didn’t remember hearing anything like that before for our band. It just blew me away.”
There was also a sense that four old buddies appreciate the opportunity to roll back the years while they still can. Frequent references to lost friends and funeral meet-ups led Tantrum to suggest: “We’ll probably dedicate these shows to the people we’ve lost along the way over the years.”
London admitted The Almighty could have been bigger — but never bolder. And there were no regrets as the famous four held court for an hour or more. “We were enormously fortunate to get a deal in the first place,” he mused. “But we just did as many gigs as we could and honed our craft.”
Warwick elaborated on the point and focused on the obvious career peak of that Donington set. “I’d say that was probably our finest hour,” he added. “We would go there as punters and then when we played there it was huge. Just to achieve what we’d always dreamed of doing was amazing.”
To be sat in a London hotel announcing the comeback nobody ever saw coming seemed more amazing still. Warwick has never said never. But after December 2023 it seems he’ll never say never again.