Getting it Right First Time – 10 Great Debut Album Opening Tracks

First month of the year, first post of the year, let’s kick things off with some other notable firsts (Yes it’s a totally unoriginal theme for a list but trust me there are some great tracks coming up).

Whilst it is often a great debut single that really kick-starts a bands career and launches them into the public spotlight, for many music fans looking for jumping on point for an established band often a greatest hits album, their latest album or simply their top played tracks on Spotify/Youtube provide that route into the wider back catalogue. However, hopefully as the following list will demonstrate, often the best thing to do is go right back to the start.

Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle” from Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Ranked as their third most popular track, I would argue that Welcome to the Jungle is Guns N’ Roses most iconic track. Instantly recognisable. As the opening track to one of the biggest selling albums of all time, that has shifted twice as many copies as any other GNR album, it may be argued that the band owe their entire careers to this track.

Frank Turner – “The Real Damage” from Sleep is for the Week (2007)
Probably the most personal entry on this list. This was actually the first Frank Turner track I ever heard albeit in a live context. In summer 2010 Frank supported Green Day at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. His opening lyric “I Woke up on a sofa in an unfamiliar house…” echoed my own experiences that very morning. The song went goes on to tell the tale of a young man leading a hedonistic lifestyle beginning to question whether the “best years” of his life are being squandered in his pursuit of meaningless fun. Like much of Frank’s earlier work the lyrics get straight to the point with little room for creative imagery or metaphor. The first time I heard this song I was 23 years old with no real career plans and my only worry in life was how I was paying my next bar bill and as such the lyrics resonated with me more than almost any other song had at that point.

Linkin Park – “Papercut” from Hybrid Theory (2000)
After the sad death of Chester Bennington in 2017 it seemed almost every music fan in their early 30s revisited Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” album but beyond the usual collective mourning that often follows the death of a famous musician it became a nostalgia fest. For those of us in our early teens when Hyrbid Theory launched it sounded like nothing we had previously heard. For so many of us this was not just the album that got us into alternative music, it was the album that got us into music full stop. This track was provided the gateway to a whole world of music.

Foo Fighters – “This is a Call” from Foo Fighter (1995)
Dave Grohl’s* first musical output since Nirvana… so no pressure then! I am not actually a big fan of Foo Fighter’s debut album. Ultimately this was a Grohl solo project with him providing all the recorded instrumental and vocal work single handed with 10 of the 12 tracks being adapted from demos recorded during Grohl’s time in Nirvana. The two that were not were the opening two tracks “This is a Call” and “I’ll stick Around” which to my ears are the two strongest tracks on the album both in terms of recording quality and in establishing what would go on to become Foo Fighters signature musical style.
*SIDE NOTE: Today is Dave Grohl’s 50th birthday!

Pearl Jam – “Once” from Ten (1991)
I feel there is a very strong case for Pearl Jam’s debut album “Ten” being the greatest debut album of all time due in part to the immense strength of its opening 6 tracks, all of which are amongst PJ’s all time strongest tracks. If I am honest “Once” is not my favourite PJ track and in fact probably would probably fall just outside my top 10 PJ tracks (but that is a fanboy list for another day) it is however still a fantastic track that demonstrates the amazing way in which PJ can transition between raw aggression and beautifully mellow and back again.

Velvet Revolver – “Sucker Train Blues” from Contraband (2004)
Slash’s second entry on the list, the dude just seems to have a knack for kicking off debut albums with a bang (“Ghost” the opening track from his first solo album is also fantastic). VR’s entire contraband album is immense and one of the few albums that even after several years I can still listen to in full without skipping tracks or cherry picking certain tracks for compilation playlists. Quite often when members of other big name bands form “supergroups” the resulting output is somewhat disappointing (I am looking at you Roadrunner United), however in this case Velvet Revolved smashed it out of the park by setting the bar high from the start with this energetic slice of dirty rock n roll.

King’s of Leon – “Red Morning Light” from Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
Anyone reading this who knows me personally has probably had to do a double take at seeing me putting a KoL track in one of my top 10 lists. I am not a KoL fan, in my opinion “Sex on Fire” is easily one of the most overplayed and overrated songs of all time. I feel they are a band that throughout their first 4 albums got steadily worse with each release until I just gave up on them. However that decline starts at a very high point with their debut album “Youth and Young Manhood” which starts with the brilliantly fun “Red Morning Light” which provides a wondefully manic piece of musicianship which provides such a stark contrast to the dirge they were releasing just 5 years later. A couple of months ago a colleague of mine asked me to play some Kings of Leon on the office sound system, I went for this album and, with them only being familiar with the newer material, from the opening track they refused to believe it was the same band they had seen on the BBC headlining Reading Festival.

Stone Sour – “Get Inside” from Stone Sour (2002)
I know I am in a minority when I say I prefer Stone Sour to Slipknot. To many hardcore fans Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor’s “other band” Stone Sour seem to be seen Slipknots poppier little brother sounding too mainstream to be considered “truly metal” (which is a ridiculous debate for another time). However Stone Sours origins actually go back further with demo material being recorded two years before the formation of Slipknot. Whilst Stone Sour took longer to get their debut album released I feel it was more than worth the wait. Get Inside allows Taylor to display a far greater range of his vocal talents in a single track that he generally gets the freedom to do with Slipknot. Most importantly this track establishes what Stone Sour all all about – not just a Slipknot side project but a damned good band in their own right who provide a more accessible listening experience (for better or worse) and a greater sense of fun that allows Taylor to put a bit more of his own charisma into the record.

The Rammones – “Blitzkrieg Bop” from Ramones (1976)
Is there a more iconic Rammones song? With 14 studio albums of varying quality to their name there really cannot be any other starting point with the Rammones than Blitzkrieg bop. Any music crowd you find yourself in if you shout “Hey Ho!” the reply will be “Lets Go!”. Not just one of the most iconic Rammones songs but one of the most important punk songs and one of the most recognisable songs of all time.

Motorhead – “Motorhead” from Motorhead (1977)
It takes a lot of balls to open your debut album with a track named after your band on a self titled album with lyrics that state “Motorhead, remember me now Motorhead, alright”. But this is fucking Lemmy we are talking about here. When a band introduces themselves to the stage like this could there have been any doubt they would become a staple of the world of rock music for the next four decades. Never has a flag been so firmly planted in the world of music.

They were Motorhead. They played rock n roll.

Other honourable mentions:
Led Zeppelin – “Good Times Bad Times”
Neck Deep – “Kick it”
The Offspring – “Jennifer Lost the War”
Machine Head – “Davidian”
Faith No More – “We Care A Lot”
Eureka Machines – “Scream Eureka”
The Wildhearts – “Greetings from Shitsville”
R.E.M – “Radio Free Europe”
Manic Street Preachers – “Slash n Burn”
Queen – “Keep Yourself Alive”
Cheap Trick – “Hot Love” – (Although technically their self titled debut album had both a “Side A” and a “Side 1” so it may be argued this is not a true opening track, however subsequent re-releases have established it as track 1)

One week as a vegan

Nearly six months ago I went vegetarian. I didn’t do it for health or ethical reasons. It started as an experiment to see if I could I could last a month meat free. The month completed I decided to just keep going with it, partly because it was saving me nearly £50 a month on my food shopping but mainly because I was really enjoying it. I wasn’t eating healthier or losing weight (my bread and cheese intake went through the roof!) but I was loving trying new dishes and revisiting ones I had previously disliked. This was helped by having recently moved house and having an awesome new kitchen that was a huge upgrade on my previous one making the cooking process much more enjoyable.

I have fallen off the wagon twice. Once when drunk at a late-night takeaway with limited options 10 mins before my train was due to leave and once when I defrosted what I thought was a veggie lasagne only to bite into it and discover it was beef one I had frozen before going veggie (having already had a mouthful and having nothing else prepared to eat that evening I figured I may as well finish it). I have also told myself that I won’t expect any special treatment as a vegetarian, I won’t expect anyone cooking for me to change their recipe plans (no asking for a different dinner when I go home for Christmas) or be “that guy” who insists on going to a place with a full range of veggie options when part of a group deciding where to eat but I will also no longer buy or prepare meat for myself.

Last week I decided to attempt 1 week as a vegan. I began by placing an online shopping order with Tesco. I immediately noticed that the savings I had made by going vegetarian were wiped out by buying vegan speciality items (although the Wicked Kitchen vegan sourdough pizza is absolutely worth it!). Upon arrival I found several of the new items I had ordered had been replaced – particularly the frozen items. It seemed the go to “vegan replacement item” for Tesco online is Birdseye vegetable fingers of which I now have 4 boxes in my freezer as they were used to replace most of the unavailable things I ordered. Despite this setback I found the meals I was preparing were genuinely enjoyable and surprisingly filling. The fact we have been in the middle of a heatwave which usually puts me more in the mood for lighter more refreshing meals has probably helped too. Even items like soy milk and vegan cheese, whilst not as nice as their dairy counterparts were not that bad. One of the main benefits I noticed was how quick and easy to prepare vegan meals were. With raw fruit and veg needling little preparation making up a much larger portion of my diet I found myself with far more free time each evening, something I greatly appreciated whilst working full time and attempting to complete a 20,000-word dissertation.

As the week progressed things became a bit more challenging. It’s easy enough to plan meals from your own kitchen around a vegan diet but grabbing lunch or a snack on the go or just going for drinks with friends can be a bit more challenging, particularly when you are new to veganism. I found myself constantly reading the back of packets to check the ingredients list. Often with spectacularly vague results that offered no clue to whether the item in question was vegan friendly or not. I was regularly frustrated by the absolute lack of vegan lunch options available from major retailers like Tesco and Sainsburys. Even ordering a beer often required a quick “is <beer name> vegan” google search. Luckily, I was already a total beer hipster and as it turned out most of the beers I usually drink happened to be free of weird animal-based preservative and colourings. At one point a colleague offered me some Skittles which I accepted and ate before even considering that they might contain gelatin. Luckily a quick google of “are skittles vegan?” suggested I hadn’t fallen off the wagon.

Finally, tonight being the final night of the experiment I decided to treat myself to a takeaway. Since going vegetarian my go-to takeaway option has been mushroom pizza. Upon logging onto both Pizza Hut and Dominos websites I found that neither offer vegan cheese as a delivery option – Pizza Hut does actually stock vegan cheese, but it is only available as an eat-in option at their restaurants. I took a quick browse on the local restaurants available on Deliveroo – York has some great places to eat but not that many which deliver and even fewer with many attractive vegan options unless you are in the mood for a vegetable curry. Step forward Zizzi who it turns out provide an excellent range of vegan pizzas and were able to deliver a top-notch vegan zucca pizza. Although ordering through Deliveroo rather than them having their own dedicated delivery website like the pizza chains meant the degree which you can customise your pizza is limited (I am still not fully convinced butternut squash belongs on a pizza).

Whilst one week isn’t really long enough to truly judge any impact on my health my initial impressions are very positive. I have found I am sleeping much better and as such am feeling much less lethargic and clearer headed. My mood is mostly improved, and stress is decreased, this at least in part likely down to spending less time preparing meals giving me more time to go outside and enjoy this great weather we have been having.

Overall, I would say that going vegan has been a positive experience for me but not something I can see as a sustainable long-term lifestyle choice. I will continue with my vegetarianism and am considering either having a vegan week once a month or remaining vegan at home whilst allowing myself more flexibility when dining out or on the go – i.e. no more googling whether a new beer I want to sample is vegan friendly and just ordering the damned thing.

Review: Hollywood Vampires – Wembley Arena 20/06/18

I don’t write gig reviews, I gave it a go several years ago and found I was not good at it. I found that I tended to review the entire experience beyond just the performance of the band. This included everything from the range of beers available at the bar to the ease of getting a train home. For me gigs go beyond simply going to watch a band, they are about partying with my friends, maybe having a little too much to drink and any number of factors that can affect the enjoyment of the evening.

However, last week I found myself with a spare evening in London and browsing the local gig listings saw that Hollywood Vampires were playing at Wembley Arena. I was sceptical of the whole concept of a covers band paying tribute to deceased rock musicians as well as conflicted about supporting a project with which Johnny Depp was involved after some of his recent PR disasters. However, The Damned and The Darkness were the support bands which ensured there would be a high fun factor about the evening and Vampires frontman Alice Cooper always puts on a great show, so I put my scepticism aside and hopped on the Metropolitan Line to Wembley. Having arrived just only a few minutes before The Damned opened the show meaning I didn’t go through my usual process of going to the pub and getting buzzed before the show and being an all seater gig meant I was able to relax and enjoy the show with very few distractions and as such the seeds of attempting a gig review were planted. Let’s see how this goes…

Opening act The Damned came out to an arena that was still mostly empty yet still managed to blast out a high energy punk-rock setlist that would put bands half their age to shame. Guitarist Captain Sensible kept proceedings light hearted seeming perfectly comfortable sharing banter with the sparse crowd. The opening slot of a large arena gig can often see a support bands sound get lost in the cavernous space but The Damned’s experience shone through and they never once sounded like anything other than a headline performance. The only mis-step of their set being when frontman Dave Vanian ventured out into the crowd attempting to engage with an audience who were mostly unfamiliar with his work.


The Darkness may no longer be drawing crowds to the same degree they were when they headlined this venue for three consecutive nights in 2004 but it appears nobody told them that. Opening with “Solid Gold” from their latest album and blasting through an abridged setlist comprised almost entirely of material from their first and last albums. Although their role as support band tonight means they cannot bring out the flaming guitars and giant flying breasts they had during their time as an arena headline band but that just free up frontman Justin Hawkins to share a bit more banter the audience and ensure the crowd is fully warmed up by the time Hollywood Vampires take to the stage.


I wasn’t particularly familiar with the opening few songs of the Vampires set, a couple of their own originals paying tribute to their “Dead Drunk Friends” and a couple of cover versions of which the originals I have only ever heard in passing. Cooper commanded the stage with his usual style and humour whilst Depp’s early contributions seemed to be mainly aesthetic with him seemingly playing the role of a modern-day guitar wielding Jack Sparrow at extreme ends of the stage. I have ever been the biggest Aerosmith fan, but Joe Perry’s talent was simply mesmerising with this new setting seemingly freeing him up to really show off. Once they broke into cover of The Doors “Break on Through…” it was non-stop big hits. With Perry and Tommy Henriksen both on guitar, Depp did seem musically superfluous for most of the set and at times when he was jamming with his bandmates it almost appeared as if he was receiving guitar tuition from the seasoned pros. He clearly has musical talent but possibly not to the degree of playing a venue of this size. That being said, for the two songs he fronted on his ability to portray an English accent served him well. His version of Bowies “Heroes” has been pretty well documented but for me his singing on the verses of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” is where he really shines, his lack of musical experience lending itself well to the DIY punk sound of the original. Sadly this cover was let down by the rest of the band jumping in and glamming up the chorus, stripping it of that punk sound. Judging by the T-shirts on display the audience was mostly made up of Alice Cooper fans and they were rewarded with polished versions of “I’m Eighteen” and “Schools Out”. What really shone through from the whole night is that, Depp aside, Hollywood Vampires are a group of musicians at the peak of their abilities covering songs that they clearly love. What initially seemed like a middle-class audience just looking for some nostalgic entertainment on a Wednesday night were all up on their feet dancing and singing along at the tops of their voices.

People go to watch cover bands to have fun partying to familiar songs. Yes, it’s not Bowie, Lemmy or Jim Morrison singing to us, but we don’t mind if it’s being done well. Essentially what you get with Hollywood Vampires is the world ultimate covers band.


Ok, maybe a bit long winded but there we have it – my first and probably last ever gig review.

How not to be a tourist…

The two main cities which I have called home in the UK can both be described as “touristy”. Their economies reliant on both domestic and international visitors flocking to them to spend cash. I myself have worked in several tourism industry jobs. You would think that the people who live in popular tourist destinations would be thankful for the influx of people providing them with income. Sadly the growth of international tourism has proven to be anything but a positive thing for many residents of tourist destinations.

A booming tourist economy can put basic costs of living far out of reach for many employed by the traditionally low paying tourism industry. Why would developers build affordable housing when they can build holiday accommodation? Why would landlords rent monthly to local tenants when they can charge by the night as an Air BnB? I am not going to advocate cities setting strict limits on the number of hotel rooms or holiday apartments, that would just lead to a black market in unlicensed/illegal holiday properties. I feel the economic issues of living in a tourist city could largely be addressed by paying tourist industry workers a fairer wage. Much of the anger towards tourists stems simply from the fact that tourists in large numbers often make a place simply unpleasant to live.

As a frontline worker in a busy tourist city not a day goes by when I don’t see tourist behaviour that leaves me at best speechless and at worst outraged at the total disregard that tourists often show to the locations that they visit and to the people who live and work in them – even to the very staff that are working to make their visit a pleasant one. As such I have come up with a few guidelines that I feel people should attempt to follow when playing the role of a tourist at home or abroad. All of these are based on my personal experiences working in front line tourist industry roles but I would love to hear suggestions for further guidelines based on other peoples experiences

  • Be aware of other people around you – Whilst it can often be bewildering finding yourself in an unfamiliar place, particularly one that is busy or where you may not speak the language or understand the customers, you should at least recognise that you are not the only visitor there. If you are unsure about what it is you wish to do when visiting a tourist attraction maybe step aside and take a minute to make your decision rather than getting in the way of everyone around you whilst your entire group attempts to come to a collective decision. If you are in a large group all shouting over each other to be heard in a conversation then you are probably drowning out everyone else in the room too.
  • Don’t attempt to stage a full blown photoshoot – Similar to above, if you are taking two dozen shots just to get that one perfect instagram shot to impress a few total strangers online the chances are you are not considering that your fellow travellers may also want to grab a photo too and they shouldn’t have to wait for ages for that one overly vain individual who wants to try out a full range of poses and a couple of costume changes. Ditto for group shots, if your group wants to take a photo outside a famous landmark maybe don’t do it in front of the main entrance preventing your fellow travellers from getting in and out of the place whilst you all arrange yourself. Also not everyone in the group needs to take turns snapping their own photo, the joy of digital photography is that you can take a shot on one camera and easily share it with the rest of the group. Finally if you are using a selfie-stick in a crowded area then you ARE in everyones way and they all hate you for it.
  • Respect customer service staff – Our job is to help you have a pleasant time, listen to what we have to say and speak to us respectfully and we will usually go out of our way to ensure you have a pleasant visit often providing you discounts or free upgrades/extras or even just some local knowledge to help make your trip an easier one. We understand that often you may be in a hurry or may not entirely understand us but show us the respect that you would expect from us and 9 times out of 10 you will be better off for it. Ignore us, talk over us, walk away from us mid sentence and I guarantee you are getting the bare minimum service for your entire visit.
  • Tell staff what it is you want – This is not just a case of respect, we are not mind readers, if you walk up to a ticket desk and just thrust money at us without saying a word expecting a ticket you actually make our job harder. We cannot always tell how many tickets you want or if you are eligible for student/senior discounts. Tell us what you want and we will be able to serve you much quicker and sometimes may even be able to get you a better price too. Also trust that we will give you the best deal we can, if you are family with a few kids don’t stand there trying to work out all the various pricing permutations (all you are doing is holding up the queue and annoying everyone around you), just tell us how many adults and how many kids and their ages. If its cheaper to get a family group ticket we will do that for you. – I know this may not be the case at all destinations but at UK tourist attractions its a pretty safe assumption you don’t have to do all the maths yourself to get the best price, the cash register will do that for you.
  • Remember that you are in a living working city – Cities like Barcelona, York, Prague, London, Venice, etc may look nice but they are not Disneyland (or Westworld). They were not built specifically for your amusement. Walking three abreast across a narrow pavement is guaranteed to piss off the locals who are trying to get to/from work. If something is fenced off chances are its private property you are not meant to climb over that fence to go and explore it. Even many visitor attractions, particularly historic monuments, were not designed with to allow tourists to do what they please. They are managed in a way to allow enjoyment for all not just for you. Deliberate damage or vandalism will never be tolerated but also try to show some awareness that maybe the reason a historic site has lasted so long is because it hasn’t continually had parts of it kicked of it to ensure they are still sturdy

  • Read the signs – If a sign says “No entrance”, “One Way”, “Staff Only”, “Do Not Climb”, “Do Not Touch”  then do as it damned well says. It was put there for a reason.
  • Don’t litter – This should be an obvious one but sadly it still needs to be said
  • Entertain your own kids – As customer service staff are not baby sitters, many of us do not even like children. If you cannot be bothered to supervise your own children then do not expect us to do it for you. That is not our job. Childcare is not included in the ticket price.
  • Remember you don’t have to be here – It seems odd but barely a day goes by that people show up at my place of work and it seems they don’t actually want to be there, they are either totally disinterested or even resentful that they are even there in the first place. If you would rather be at home in front of Netflix that’s ok, I would rather you were there too. I know being cooped up at home with your family can sometimes seem like a hellish experience particularly on a long bank holiday weekend but if you really need to get out of the house maybe leave the attitude at home or at least go somewhere where you don’t inflict it upon everyone else.
  • Remember front-line staff don’t set the prices – If you think something is too expensive don’t go getting arsey and shouting “ripoff” at the poor sod behind the counter. If he or she is wearing a name badge and a uniform and working on a Sunday you can almost guarantee that pricing strategy is way above their pay grade. Trade secret – whilst that poor sod in the ticket booth may not have the power to set the prices they may still be able to offer you a reduced ticket price (I.e giving you a concession ticket instead of a full adult) or even sometimes just turn a blind eye and wave you in for free (In the past I have done this just because somebody was wearing the jersey of my favourite sports team). I will admit it is rare that we will do this as we are not supposed to but you greatly increase your chances of this happening if you are just pleasant to us.
  • Speak to staff as you would like to be spoken to – This is another respect issue but I feel it needs its own point. Basic polite conversation seems to be a dying fashion amongst tourists. If somebody says “hello” to you an acknowledging grunt back is guaranteed to make a terrible first impression. If you mishear or misunderstand somebody the correct response is “pardon” or politely asking them to repeat themselves. Grunting “Y’WOT?!” at them is a sure fire way to test their patience.
  • Learn to queue – I know in some cultures queuing is not the done thing but most tourist attractions require some kind of queuing system to process visitor admissions. The entrances to visitor attractions generally serve as bottlenecks to manage the flow of visitors, if you are part of a group and decide to stand three+ abreast or huddle around in a circle whilst standing in line chances are you are blocking that bottle neck. If you simply try and cut the queue then congratulations everyone now hates you. In either case it is going to take you longer to get in if you cannot grasp the concept of an orderly line.
  • Leave your personal politics at home – I accept that in a customer service job I will occasionally have to serve some racist/sexist/homophobic/generally bigoted wankers. However, if they elect to air their neanderthal views to me they can expect I will be doing everything I can possibly get away with to ensure their visit is an unpleasant one. I haven’t forced my liberal agenda on you so don’t force your narrow minded hatred on me.

I could go on adding more for days but if even half of these guidelines became more commonly followed I know my every day life both as a tourism industry worker and as a resident in a popular tourist city would be exponentially happier.

Why is it still acceptable to stigmatise an entire genre of music?

As a white male its not often I face negative discrimination but there are certain prejudices that can affect people of any race, religion, gender or sexuality. Prejudices that discriminate against specific subcultures and their forms of expression.

Yesterday I saw this advert for Virgin Trains that perpetuated all kinds of negativity towards heavy metal.

Whilst thankfully it is not a regular occurrence, I have experienced various incidents of people judging me based the various subcultures I consider myself part of, particularly when I am openly expressing my involvement in that culture. As a football fan if I go to a match wearing team colours people often assume I am a hooligan (despite the fact that real football hooligans actually frown on displaying team colours) pubs will refuse service and even the police will treat you like a suspected criminal. Once when I was 14 walking home from a match I had a police baton rammed into my ribs by an officer demanding to know where I was from. Apparently wearing a Chester City FC shirt in Chester was not enough evidence to him to suggest I was from Chester (Its not like Chester are a big enough team to have glory supporters around the country). I get similar treatment as a heavy metal fan. Recently on a route to a gig on a packed train wearing a band t-shirt and a jacket covered in various metal bands patches I noticed I was being given much more room than usual. I a large beardy guy with several visible tattoos which some people may judge me for but never to the degree of giving up valuable space on a busy train. Yet the addition of heavy metal attire seemed to be enough for people to judge me as somebody to be avoided. I will admit it was actually quite nice to have some breathing room on a rush hour train but it did make me question why do these attitudes still persist over 30 years after Dee Sniders fantastic speech defending heavy metal to the US Senate? A speech in which he showed a person can be deeply embedded into heavy metal culture and still speak with intelligence and eloquence regardless of the clothes he wears or the music he listens to.

I don’t expect everyone to start listening to metal overnight (or ever), we all have our own tastes in music and fashion and some of us chose to identify ourselves by that more strongly than others. What I find hard to believe is, that given the actual popularity of metal and alternative music, that a major national company like Virgin Rail still sees it as acceptable to risk alienating its fans. As I write this over 100,000 people are gathering for in a field in Castle Donington for the UKs second biggest music festival (second only to Glastonbury), Download Festival, a festival dedicated to metal and alternative music genres which also serves as a celebration of the culture and traditions that surround those genres. Virgin Rail likening heavy metal to stress, disorganisation, shabbiness and unemployability and openly portraying a character who chooses their described “metal” option as a “wrong’un” and being at “rock bottom” is not only an incredibly narrow minded attitude, it is also factually inaccurate and incredibly short sighed given how many potential customers they are alienating. Given the current negativity towards rail operators in the UK surely they should be on a charm offensive to win over as many customers as they possibly can rather than stigmatise a genre that makes up almost a quarter of UK music streaming and has by far the most loyal fans of any music genre.

That’s a lot of people to stigmatise in one advert

Virgin Rail are not the only company guilty of this perpetualising of outdated, inaccurate, and negative stereotypes of alternate subcultures but this particular advert is one of the most recent and blatant examples of mainstream culture stigmatising a form of expression that does not fit with what they chose to portray as “normal”. By broadcasting attitudes like this on national media it emboldens more damaging attitudes to alternative culture. I am not saying atrocities like the murder of Sophie Lancaster or the fact that punks, goths and metalheads require protection under hate crime legislation are a direct result of companies like Virgin Rail pandering to negative stereotypes of alternative subculture but they are not bloody helping either. Yes, this is an extreme example of where these ridiculous attitudes can lead but I could write for day exploring how negative attitudes to alternative subcultures can impact peoples every day lives (I am confident I could complete another dissertation just from the tattoo acceptance in the workplace debate alone). Yes many of the ways we chose to express our links to our chosen subcultures are entirely optional but if that is how we feel comfortable and we are not harming anyone then we should not be pre-judged or stigmatised for that

I accept that this form of prejudice pales in comparison to the racism, sexism, homophobia and countless other forms of bigotry that continue to plague our society but it does raise some very worrying questions such as – If mainstream society cannot even be accepting of a specific type of music what hope does any minority group have?

Oh and for the record, if anybody from Virgin Rail should ever read this – when I have used your trains in the past I have usually been listening to metal as its the only thing that makes your terrible service bearable. After seeing this excretion of an advert I will in future try to avoid Virgin trains whenever possible but should I find myself forced to suffer a Virgin Rail journey in the future I shall be blasting something like this into my headphones the whole time and enjoying every damned note of it:



Going back to the start of a most non-bogus journey…

For anyone who knows me or who has simply read a couple of posts on here it becomes rapidly apparent how important live music is to me. For me the perfect night out involves a group of friends, a few beers and, most importantly, a live band. This love of gigs has now crossed into my academic work but had it not been for the right film at the right time things could have been entirely different.

That film was Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.


The 1991 sequel to 1989’s “Excellent Adventure”, Bogus Journey follows the titular characters attempting to live up to their destiny by becoming the band whose music a utopian society is built upon whilst evil robots from the future attempt to stop them. I first saw this film when I was 8 years old and from the moment I saw that final scene in which a band consisting of Bill & Ted, the Grim Reaper, 2 medieval princesses, 2 aliens and 2 robots performed the KISS version of “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” a seed was planted. Through the rest of my childhood years and into my early teens my musical exposure was limited to my parents collection of 70’s and 80’s punk and whatever latest pop fad was playing on Radio 1. I bought some bizarre and diabolical records during those years. The first single I ever bought with my own money was Lou Bega’s 1999 hit “Mambo No. 5” and it got worse with Eifel 65s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and, to my eternal shame, The Cuban Boys “Hamster Dance”. I was buying this crap because it was popular and easily available but it never really did anything for me, not just because it was pure garbage but because that seed planted by Bill & Ted was still in there somewhere.

File under: “What the fuck was I thinking?”

When I turned 14 I was given my first Mp3 player. It held just 12 tracks but it represented freedom. Before this I would only buy CDs containing tracks I knew from the radio as I didn’t want to risk spending my limited income on something unknown.  I now had the whole internet to select music from (this being a time before Metallica told us all how music piracy was bad), no longer limited to being able to afford 1 CD a week (if I spent my money on nothing else). By this time alternative music was starting to make a comeback, nu-metal and pop-punk were the trends of the day (unless you went down the RnB and hip-hop route, but that was not for me either) but with bands such as Sum 41 directly referencing their own musical heritage with lyrics like “Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised” it was inevitable that we were soon working our way backwards down the timelines of musical history (albeit not in a time travelling phone booth) exploring bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden and suddenly I felt at home. That seed planted by Bill & Ted all those years ago started to grow rapidly. I started going to gigs (my first gig being the aforementioned Iron Maiden) and can trace a direct links between my ever growing love of rock music and live gigs and my current place in life, the friends I have met, the academic and career choices I have made, all of it directly links to that day when I was 8 years old and Bill & Ted tuned me into rock ‘n’ roll.

This little thing opened up a whole new world to me

It was also around this time I revisited both Bill & Ted films and damn they were even better than I remembered them. At this point I still saw them mainly as wacky comedies that were perfectly in tune with my slightly surreal sense of humour but as I have watched and re-watched them over the years I appreciate them even more each time. I am not going to sit here and tell you how they are under-appreciated classics, the truth is much of my appreciation of them is entirely down to the role these films have played in my life. However, in so many ways these films were so far ahead of their time.

We have seen recently how the films and TV shows of 20 years ago are being criticised by the the millennial generation for containing homophobic and sexist jokes, racist stereotypes and pretty much every other form of bigotry you can think of. The Simpsons and Friends being just two high profile examples*. Now I may be a white male whose love of these films (seriously, I have a Bill & Ted tattoo) probably blinds me to their flaws  but I would like to think that both Bill & Ted films hold up pretty damn well to modern standards of morality. I am overdue for a re-watch of them but off the top of my head the only homophobic slur in either film was uttered by the evil robots in order to demonstrate their unlikeability. The two main characters show nothing but respect for their girlfriends by honouring their wishes to wait until after they are married to have sex. The only potential racial issue in either is the portrayal of Ghengis Khan but given the historic nature of the character any cliches or stereotypes are ones attributed directly to the historic perception of one specific individual than of his people (if there are any scenes of references you feel I have forgotten or overlooked please do leave a comment and I would be happy to discuss it). But more than that the basic morality that flows through the film is something the world needs so much more of today. “Be excellent to each other” is more than just an iconic line in the first film its the mantra that the two lead characters quite clearly live by. At no point in the film do we see them act in a malicious manner or even utter an unkind word to somebody who didn’t very much deserve it (The guy who stabbed Ted absolutely deserved to be called a “medieval dickweed” and Satan is in fact the “ugly, red source of all evil”). Even when everything is going against them they take it all with grace and good humour, they remain calm and look to solve problems rather than get angry about them even if that problem is being murdered and sent to hell (In fact, if two guys as nice as Bill and Ted can be sent to hell surely thats proof that heavy metal is in fact the devils music?).

*For the record my opinion on revisionist analysis of old media is roughly in line with that of Bill Maher

We are now being told a third instalment of the Bill & Ted franchise could be on the horizon. It will feature Bill & Ted having reached middle age still not having written the music upon which the promised future utopia will be built. Personally I hope that it turns out that its not their music that saves the world but simply their attitude to life. If everyone was a bit more like Bill & Ted the world would be a much better place. If everybody would just “be excellent to each other” and “party on dudes” then maybe one day we will finally be able to accurately state that “The best place to be is here. The best time to be is now”

-The scene which started it all


Words to live by


Checking back in and a promise…

Apologies for the recent downtime on here, the recent media focus on how our online date is shared lead me to review my own online accounts and how open to abuse they may be. Its genuinely insane how many online accounts you accumulate over the years and it’s alarming that the more honest you are about who you are the easier it is to identify and track your activity across the various websites you subscribe to. We are often being warned about people hiding their identity online but it seems that if you want to protect your own privacy you have to hide who you are. As somebody who relies on social media to maintain many of my friendships such as with the people I refer to as my “gig-family” and my friends in my hometown I have always tried to keep my online persona as streamlined as possible. This is entirely for the sake of convenience, it take enough of my energy keeping track of my actual persona let alone having to maintain any additional ones. This is why my blog has been offline for a while, I wanted to review how I publish myself online and ensure I wasn’t offering up anything that could compromise my interests (particularly as am planning to begin looking for a new job later this year). As things stand I am not planning to make any sweeping changes to the content on here, I will try to be as honest and open as I can be when I am writing about anything personal, I have no intention of using this blog to throw a written rose-tinted filter over my life but I am also have no intention of dwelling on anything negative. I am probably going to focus more on non-personal posts but with my dissertation being something that has been inspired by my experiences with the gig family it is likely that I will occasionally refer to those experiences. As I am well aware that the majority of the people reading this are probably people who do know me personally I wish to re-assure you that I will not post anything that may allow others to identify you (No names, initials only) and will not post anything about you that I feel you would not want shared (Nothing that I feel we wouldn’t talk openly about in the pub). However, if any of you see anything on here that you feel does reference you that you would rather it not be on here please do contact me to remove it ASAP and I will remove or edit it accordingly.

Again, apologies for the recent downtime, normal service shall resume shortly