The Story Of A Venue – OPEN, Norwich

Venues are often places we rush in and out of with little thought of the story behind the place in which we spend a few hours listening, waiting, moshing, watching, laughing, rocking and generally having a good time. (Ok.. there are some ‘hope they stop playing soon’ gigs as well. Best not talk about those nights.) We look around to locate the important stuff like stage, toilet, bar and merch stall. Do we really care all that much about the place, or notice much? Probably not.  One venue in Norwich, however, is a place worth investigating.

OPEN Norwich, on the corner of Bank Plain and London Street, was for many years a branch of  Barclays bank. Old School in the extreme, it had high domed ceilings of white and gold plasterwork. The presence of cashier desks, glass and corporate logos was made insignificant  by the splendour and size of the place – it was worth going in just for a look, and it was probably in some visitor guidebook, too.
In 2003, the building was bought by the Lind Trust, who established a Youth Forum.  A need had been identified – the SOS bus facility (a seriously excellent thing) was available at weekends to support young people, but there was nothing during the week and that needed to be addressed. Two years later, charity status was awarded and in 2009 the current OPEN Youth Trust was formed. Every single penny of profit made goes to youth charities. OPEN provides early intervention of all kinds to over 4,000 youngsters using the drop-in facilities, supporting the next generation from ages 7-25.

OPEN hosts every sort of event you can imagine – art exhibits, musical workshops, shows of all sorts by young people, boxing, quizzes, lectures, book launches, drop in centre, recording facilities, dance studio, conferences, Body Art conventions, life skills courses, adult education, Christmas markets (a first this year) and awards nights. It is also registered as an exam centre. Several more new things are in the pipeline for next year, too. When I visited there was a weeklong dance workshop for kids going on. There’s a café, a climbing wall, ICT facilities and a wealth of access to advice and support. The vaults are also still in use – secure storage is a steady income.

Regular music events began back in March 2012, in a main hall holding 1400, with the more intimate and rather nice Club room holding 300. The range of music is pretty varied – London Grammar, Belle and Sebastian, Craig Charles’ funk night, jazz, Machinehead and a Queen Extravaganza. This month, The Darkness are welcomed  – the fastest selling gig the venue has seen. Rick Lennox saw The Darkness in 2000 at The Barfly with 150 people, loved them, and has wanted to put them on ever since. It’s only days away…

At the time The Darkness’ tour was being mooted and promoters were ringing round venues for free diary dates, OPEN had a booking for the preferred Saturday night so Monday was arranged – the other booking then fell through, much to Rick’s annoyance – too late to change by then.  Whilst tour itineraries are being finalised, the venues will hold dates as long as possible and chase if another enquiry comes in, but confirmation from the promoter can come in as early as the next day, so things can move very quickly. Dates for official announcements from the band and ticket sales are confirmed for release after the information goes on the band’s website. After that, the venue tech team will have liaised with the band’s production team, marketing will have sent the artwork and any posters, and the venue will have made sure as far as humanly possible that everyone knows where they should buy their tickets from.

OPEN itself is hired by the promoter, Live Nation, so there is no contract direct with the band. Rick is there to communicate, problem solve and make sure that everything runs smoothly (ie not letting Justin see the balconies). Which isn’t always as easy as it sounds…

This isn’t just an excellent venue. It’s a force for good in an increasingly bleak world for the young. If you’re there for The Darkness next week, stop, look around and think. Every venue has a story – some are helping the future happen, not just the now.

OPEN has two facebook pages – one for the youth activities and one for live music, as well as twitter and the website.

Many thanks are due to Rick Lennox and Hayley Gerrard at OPEN Norwich, whose help and time was much appreciated.  Have a look at some photos they provided – it’s an amazing building!

Banking Hall then & now 1 Banking Hall then & now image1

 

Black Roses and Strong Words

Strong – in the sense of passion, commitment and conviction.
On Wednesday this week, I went to Parliament. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and MP Kerry McCarthy hosted a very special event which started with the emotionally charged radio play ‘Black Roses’ about Sophie’s life and death, then moved on to a discussion about Hate Crime. It was somewhat humbling to be in the presence of so many erudite, eloquent, downright amazing people.  The discussion was tightly focused, yet covered so many areas. Legal, health, educational and social issues were all discussed in depth by experts in their fields, giving valuable insights into procedure or problems. John Robb chaired the meeting with considerable skill.
The room was filled with tears to begin with, but it was also filled with resolve and hope.

I wanted to write a review of it, but John Robb did so rather beautifully. Honestly, I could not have put it better, so I will let you read the master’s words.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has aims and goals that make you proud. It also has some damn cool merch.

 

Immaculate Misconception x several

If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing more than once.
Splendid sentiments to take into a new Darkness tour, especially one as laden with nostalgia as this. For us and them, this celebration of Permission To Land was going to be imbued with all sorts of meanings and memories of different sorts and importances.

Small venues, back to where it all exploded – you know that’s how I love to see my bands. The Darkness do venues of any size brilliantly, but it’s a special thing to watch them play like this. The thrill of all senses being so intimately assaulted by crowd, band and speakers is a thing of sweetness and bruises. It’s real, immediate and utterly satisfying. Addictive.

We won’t dwell on the fact that a certain government agency came to inspect my other raison d’être, causing me to miss the first two days of the tour at 4 hours notice. No, of course we won’t, because I’m not bitter about that at all. I give most of my life to my job, so my job staying out of my life when necessary is a reasonable request, I thought, but no…

Oh well. It was fully three weeks more before I finally broke my tour duck. Brighton. I love the city, and I really like the venue, too. By then I was wound as tight as a watch spring, eager to shake off stresses and enjoy myself. That gig delivered. From the first sight of friends, to first note of  Second Fiddle, to last note of Christmas Time. Every elf, tree, scarf, hat and tank top was savoured and delighted in. We were so close to the stage on the front row – close enough to touch the stage with ease on our side. (To undo shoelaces and tie them together, too, but obviously that would not have been the done thing. They don’t stand still long enough anyway. ) Making Out started the energy flowing, giving several nods back to 2003. After that, the 2 set format was ably explained – first, a ‘generic’ set, then PTL from start to finish, with Christmas Time as a seasonal round up. So, we enjoyed cowbells, the operatic Tollund Man masterpiece, the pulsating Street Spirit – something from every era and album. In the midst – The Horn. Pure classic Darkness – live, it has an even dirtier sound, and is more smirk-worthy than a smirky thing. Ace!
A short break, and the now legendary monologues. Each band member outlying part of PTL’s successes before reappearing, one by one. Frankie’s listing of awards deserves a medal for ‘most record achievements spoken in one breath without dying’. The words ‘One million, three hundred thousand’ and ‘IT. FELT. GREAT. And how do I know?’ are mantras for a Darkling world.
Dan’s knee slide. Justin’s headstand. LIOAF’s atmospheric Swan poses. All part of the show… I was impressed with how little crud Dan ended up with on the knees of his white trousers.
The absolute and undisputed crowned set piece of all the shows, though, was Ed’s drum solo. It was good to see the spotlight on Ed, as he upped the solo stakes to new heights. Amazing what a difference a triangle and a gong can make to anyone’s day!

Feeling much more alive and like myself after that, there was the small matter of a wait until Northampton the following Saturday. The promise of that and meeting up with more favourite fans, American and English, saw me through. The Roadmenders is another great venue with clean toilets, plus finger print recognition systems for the cloakroom. Crikey.
The  noticeable thing was the crowd silences between songs – that’s unusual. During – that was pretty normal, though TD worked harder for it.

Beyond that, back home for Norwich and Lowestoft x 2. Norwich is always a great gig to be at, with so many home fans. More friends, more thrills to sound and light. A camera that went where it shouldn’t to take pictures of… well, to be fair, it’s not easy to tell. The details are missing. All I can say is that it doesn’t smell too bad and the poor thing is still working.

Lowestoft was very interesting. The brand new venue was rather lovely, we even sat on the floor in the bar because it was so clean. The first night seemed to be locals come to see the sons of the East, the second had more Darklings, but both were awesome gigs. They’ll be legendary. The first was HOT. Sweat did drip off the ceiling. It dripped off everywhere. We had Justin hanging off the lighting rig (an unknown and untested quantity) – he must have been missing balconies to dive off on this tour. It rocked the roof nearly off, for a night that was memorable. We must have looked sights when we left – sandblasted and coated in grit by beach and wind before, cooked, basted in sweat, then rained on. I’m surprised the taxi home didn’t drive past us.  Night two had more clement weather, and fans, and opened windows. It was no less rocking than the first, just cooler, and more of an end of term party feel. The boys’ delight to be home at last was palpable. The crowd’s appreciation matched it. Justin’s wedging the mike in the rig and having to climb to rescue it was one of those gloriously silly TD moments that seemed so inevitable and so right it could have been choreographed especially.

The tour ended there, on a singing of a real festive note – not November, like last time, but truly in season for the first in a long time. Drunk on riffs, high on notes, blissed on rhythm is where it got left. Memories and friendships were forged and tempered in the hothouse of crowds. Is that what it should be? How, truly, could it not be.

These are my impressions.
There are some things that were on people’s lips during the tour. During some gigs, cameras were not allowed. Some, they were, but no videoing. We were told no phones at Northampton but then a few songs into TD’s set, security ordered us to put cameras away. Lowestoft first night, told whilst in the queue to put cameras in our cars or they would be taken off us. Car unavailable… and the implication was ‘and not given back or looked after.’ Mine went in my hat then pocket then cloakroom. Second night, cameras allowed.
I have no problem with Justin’s wish not to be videoed, for all the reasons he gave. I applaud that, and back it wholeheartedly. I DO wish that the rules had been applied consistently from/by venue to venue, as we didn’t know where we stood each night. Advance warning by twitter would have been handy, in hindsight, I suppose, but I’ve only just thought of that.
Justin’s rants were pretty well discussed and it didn’t add to the pleasure of the gigs for some who were there. (Nor for some not present, but I’m not keen on that. Unless you were there, the context is missing and it’s impossible to truly know.) For some, it made no difference. For me – we were not in Justin’s shoes at those moments – he was not an idol, angel, saint, sinner, pariah any more than we ever are. Justin would not be Justin if he didn’t say something about what he thought, however it may come across. He’s been opening his mouth for years and causing ripples. I’d rather have that than an anodyne crowd pleaser with honeyed tones and lack of passion, whether I think he’s right/wrong/out of order/bang on.

At the end of a long tour, weeks on the road and shows nearly every night, let’s hope that a good break was had by band and crew. 2014 now stretches out before us. Where will it take us next? Dark places? Oh, GOOD.

 

 

RIP Phil Everly

by Rebecca Martin

The world lost another musical legend when Phil Everly died at age 74 on Friday, January 3, 2014. The moment I heard the news, two thoughts occurred to me. First, my dad played The Everly Brothers’ albums when I was growing up, even telling me that “Bye, Bye Love” was the very first song he learned on the guitar. Second, I used “All I Have To Do Is Dream” to catapult the love story in the novel I’m writing.

I spent an hour that night listening to my favorite songs by the duo and shedding a few tears. I continued to listen to their albums the next day while I cooked breakfast. As I listened, I was flooded with memories: listening to my dad’s albums like Herman and the Hermits Greatest Hits or Buck Owens’ album with special guest Susan Raye The Great White Horse. From a young age, I loved singing the harmonies. The songs of The Everly Brothers instilled this love in me.

Throughout the 80s, radio stations played many Everly covers, most notably Linda Ronstadt’s  1975 pop cover of “When Will I Be Loved,” Reba McEntire’s country cover of  “Cathy’s Clown, and Nazareth’s 1976 rock cover of “Love Hurts.”

I’ve spent the past 18 months reading rock memoirs, doing research for my aforementioned novel. I was surprised at how far the Everly influence reached the souls of the rockers I admired. For instance, Steven Tyler described their bluegrass-influenced harmonies as “heartrending.” Keith Richards sang Everly harmonies with his Aunt Joanna. In 1963, the Stones had the incredible opportunity to share the bills with the duo.

Where would any of us be without the sibling melodies that permeated the music industry in the 1950s and 1960s?

 

PTL 10th Anniversary – Toby Macfarlaine

Toby has been a friend and colleague of The Darkness for many years, a talented musician, and very good with words.

“At what point did you become aware of The Darkness?”

-Well, let’s start there and just free-form, shall we?

I became aware of them when Dan asked me, pretty much rhetorically, whether he should accept the offer of becoming touring guitarist with Nathalie Imbruglia or start a rock band with his brother. We were in a pub in Camden, as we very often were, and were making each other laugh writing lyrics to an as yet unfinished song entitled “The Box Of Horror”.I think I was still in a band called Thirteen:13 at that point, and I believe we were mere days away from being dropped from our deal with Polydor Records. I answered his question as anyone would have, “Go for it! What, are you nuts?!”
Despite my sage advice, he chose to start a band with his brother.

We ought to remember that the musical landscape was a strange place then.
We were still at the dreggy, bottom-of-barrel, what’s left on the ironic shirt-rail, real tail-end of the death knell of Britpop. Camden certainly was, anyway. There was still a lot of hanging around the Good Mixer trying to convince Andy Ross to hand out deals with Food Records wearing waxed-fishing-hats and Adidas shell-toes.
The big “Arena Rock” band of that time was probably Travis. TRAVIS.
The very idea of an actual rock band who played actual rock music was faintly ludicrous and one which virtually everyone thought couldn’t possibly take off, much less become successful. Which was possibly why I thought it unlikely that they could do anything BUT become huge.

Cut to a little while later, after their first show with the finalized line-up and I thought it was glaringly obvious. Everyone in the room was grinning ear to ear. They made people happy. Fuckin’ weirdos.

I asked them to play at my wedding party.

I’d got married in Finland but we were having a little bash down at Undersolo in Inverness St (next door to The Good Mixer, naturally) for those of our friends who couldn’t make it to Finland. My mum was in charge of the door so we could give the band some money for van-hire or petrol or something. Matt Mower and Graham Coxon also did acoustic sets, I should add.
It was just a little private party for our friends but people I didn’t know kept coming down the stairs and begging to be let in to “the secret Darkness show” because they’d seen “every gig they’ve done and I CANNOT miss this one”.
It was weird. What the fuck is going on?

It didn’t really seem like an awfully long time after that, I was playing bass with Graham Coxon and we were headlining the tent at Reading festival. My mates The Darkness were headlining the main stage. I was just hugely proud that what seemed like my immediate Camden “scene”, me and my shit-kicker pals, were suddenly the main draws at Reading.
On both stages.
I’m still filled with a huge feeling of achievement when I think about that night.
They had been granted permission to land and in many ways I think we all had.

Sometime later I recall being in a cab in LA and the driver turning up the radio saying, “Hey, this is the new one from The Darkness, what do you think of those guys? CRAZY, right??” My pals, The Darkness.
Enjoyed by wedding-crashers and Los Angelean cabbies alike since 2003 (or thereabouts).
Long may it continue.

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Heaven’s Basement and Max Raptor

Heaven’s Basement:

‘Black Shuck’ is a killer riff, we opened for these guys on our first ever U.S show in October 2012, awesome guys and was great to hear so many songs from Permission to Land!’ Chris Rivers

Max Raptor (Support on the Comeback gigs)

I can tell you that my great memory of the band was a show at Leamington Spa pulling Justin’s trousers off with his Tour Manager …the spandex stuck to the sweat and it took two men to pull them off…

(Something that’s been happening since 2001, no doubt…)

 

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Scarlet Page

Scarlet Page is well known for her image-defining photo shoots with The Darkness. Despite being horrendously busy, she was kind enough to note down a few memories:

I remember flying out to Australia for the ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ video and driving straight up to the Blue Mountains to meet with the boys. Jetlag was taking over but I am sure we saw a wallaby on the way up the mountains.
Justin and the boys were on fine form and it was just brilliant watching them rock out on the top of a mountain, the views were amazing and you could see storms in the far distance approaching, it was all very dramatic.
I got some staged shots of the guys too, Justin was doing headstands, rolling around on the end of the precipice and generally being very amusing. He is the best person to photograph ever, he gives so much and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I loved it when I showed him a shot of himself gurning and he laughed his head off and said ‘brilliant, let’s use that one!!” in all seriousness.
A few months later I was shooting a front cover for Kerrang and we had the idea to take the picture on the beach next to the Jones Beach venue in NY, Justin had recently been given an iridescent shell like guitar from gibson so that being the inspiration, we rented a shell like Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and were hoping to re-enact that picture to a certain extent. When we arrived the beach was one of the grottiest i have ever seen and the shell was about 2 foot high so it all became rather Spinal Tap BUT with the Darkness’s professionalism and a heap of photoshop we got some cracking shots!!
Many thanks to Scarlet for sharing!

PTL 10th Anniversary – The Webb Brothers

The Webb Brothers go WAY back with The Darkness, as you’ll see:

The moment we laid eyes on the Darkness in a dingy little bar in Austin Texas we knew they were going to be stars. They were insanely good, had great songs and most importantly they were absolutely fearless. The next year we met randomly at the same festival and learned that they were also true gentlemen. Dan and I agreed to guitar tech for each other since we were both touring with skeleton crews. I only hope I came close to doing as good a job for him as he did for me. Later they gave us the privilege of accompanying them on one of the great adventures of our lives, their first major tour after the release of ‘Permission to Land.’ I could write a whole edition here with the stories from that tour but I’m gonna do you all a favor and keep it neat. A giant congratulations from The Webb brothers on 10 years of great music and fearlessness. Thank you. The Darkness Rock!

 

The Webb Brothers were most charming – thank you for your help!

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Colin Murray

Colin Murray was a Radio 1 DJ in 2003. He was the first person I ever heard play The Darkness, or talk about them. It’s all his fault that I’m doing this for today!

I remember clearly hearing Get Your Hands Off My Woman for the first time. You have to put it in context, and consider the other British music around at the time. Along came this fucking headcase in a jumpsuit singing about love and sexually transmitted diseases, tattooing L and R on the soles of his feet.It was a breath of fresh air and, beyond the outlandishness and pantomime, here was a band who were super tight, talented and had a singer with such a brilliant voice and range. When I first started playing it on Radio 1 in the evenings I remember someone senior saying to me ”They’ll go on the playlist over my dead body”. That was red rag to a bull for me.

History can be rewritten but truth is they weren’t originally industry favourites and most people wrote them off or made fun of them, but the good people of UK agreed to disagree and bought the music. It was after ‘real’ people embraced them that the media luvvies caught up. Before long they were on ‘the playlist’ and opening the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. They finished with  Get Your Hands Off My Woman and just before the last two words they stopped dead and Justin said “Thanks to Colin Murray, by the way”, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Fast forward a little bit and they were successfully headlining Leeds/Reading, rolling out that ridiculous sparkly logo thing at the end.
I don’t look back through rose tinted glasses though. The next album didn’t deliver as it should have and after such an amazing impact it was hard to recover. Most bands would have been forgiven for the cliched difficult second album but you either loved or hated the darkness and the sharpened knives struck deep and hard after ‘One Way Ticket…’ came out.

I will alway think of  The Darkness as the band who dreamt of conquering the world without needing the right haircut or the right jeans or a certain image and, for a while, they did just that and it was a beautiful thing.

Thanks to Colin for this and kickstarting it all.

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Emily Strange/Optimum Impact

Darklove – How it all began:

Some time in May 2003, I was on holiday with the inlaws in deepest Wales. On one of those days, I was in a car between Aberystwyth and the back of beyond listening to Radio 1. Colin Murray was on, and he was talking about some band called The Darkness. ‘Funny name for a non-goth band’ I mused, listening to him enthuse about them, and the album launch party he’d been to. Dressed as pirates? Definitely not goths… The party sounded like good fun, and the band a set of nutters, so I listened with more than my usual  Radio 1 quota of attention.  A divine version of ‘Street Spirit’ ripped through the air. I knew that song inside out already, so I can say that it really was something else. It was a purer yet dirtier sounding version, soaring vocals that Thom Yorker never managed, somehow tinged with an innocence and simplicity that the original never had. My attention was caught. ‘Hmm… Will keep an eye out for them’ I thought.

The weeks after that were filled with the most boring exams related to Pensions and Finance that you could ever imagine. I missed the actual release of Permission To Land, which was on my 35th birthday. That year from then on was filled with one stressful and life changing event after another, but I found time to potter round the music channels. Ohh… Look, there’s that band. Excalibur guitars? Marshalls? WTF pink catsuit? And lo… another video, with stripes and crowds and a pink satin shirt.  I was definitely smiling and humming. Magazine articles appeared under my radar. And then… The video that captured everyone’s attention. I Believe In A Thing Called Love. I was entertained before, but never had I been so ensnared by a video’s silliness, charm, riffs and purple towelsmonster. THAT really was IT. I was a FAN.

One night, I had a dream that bizarrely involved the band standing by the canal in a Venice that looked suspiciously like Liverpool. The next day was spent googling for photos, and I came across the official website. And a forum. I joined. My first post was advising some girl that Justin’s teeth were perfectly ok as they were, and no, he did not need them fixed just because some Americans were obsessed with perfection… As I remember she was insinuating that he’d never make it over there because of them. Pfft. From then on, I haven’t failed to be a member of a Darkness related forum or community of some kind.

I didn’t get the album until the end of October – not my own copy, anyway. I’d heard it. I’d been singing it, and I have been ever since. My car had its own copy. I never have had a favourite track because they all have different ideas, injokes, reactions and emotions attached to them. When they’re played live, the sound, the crowd and the stage action all bring their own nuances to each track. They are changed and redefined in my experience of them, and become something more organic. There isn’t a single track I don’t love in some way. The joyous IBIATCL, the growling of Black Shuck, defiance of Stuck In A Rut and Givin Up. Anger, love, laughter, desperation, sadness and a great big two fingers up to whomever it may concern. I just loved it. The Darkness were clever, rock , funny and really didn’t give a shit. What’s not to like? Maybe quite possibly a certain bottom had a tiny part to play, but I wasn’t so smitten by it that I couldn’t see the brains and talent behind the marrying of word and note.

Permission To Land has changed my life. That sounds bloody stupid. It has! Here I am, ten years later, celebrating this anniversary. Nine years of that has been spent with this fanzine in my life, which led to other TD related projects and sites during the Darkless Ages. I’ve made friends and enemies, and had fun to last a few more lifetimes. I’ve even put my skirt on upside down in the back of a French taxi for the cause. Without The Darkness, I’d be truly still stuck in the rut I was in.

Thank you to them, to Colin Murray, and to all Darklings, everywhere.

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PTL 10th Anniversary – The Darkness Italia

Stefania, admin at the Italian fansite The Darkness Italia, sent us this:

Hi I’m Stefania Cobelli and I’m an Italian girl fan. My passion for The Darkness begin in 2004 when on 5th sept at the Independent Days Festival my eyes intersect 4 guys on the stage, especially one, Justin Hawkins, from then and onward I follow always them!
I followed the band on other dates in Italy and one time in London 25th Nov 2011 at the Hammersmith Apollo, special gift for my 30th birthday!
In my opinion “Permission To Land” is the best album, my favourite track is “Growin on me”. When I’m sad I listen to this song, especially before going to work in the morning.  Musically my favorite track is “Holding on My own”, especially for guitars, here Dan and Justin are so perfect together.
 Fortunately, in March 2013 I was able to hug the band and take pictures with them, I was struck by their kindness, especially also their willingness to take pictures, sign autographs, fantastic!!! 
They are my “absolute” favourite band, when I talk about music with friends, also expert in music, I defend them and defend their music. In my opinion, they are unsurpassed!!!
Personally, I was hoping they would come back together and I hope the band continue to write. I hope for a new album in 2014, more concerts and for them to share with fans all their energy. I love them!

Since they invaded the rock scene, this last has been enriched, unfortunately in Italy music trend is directed always at melodic music, I personally prefer to orient to rock bands. Yes, my favorite track has changed over the years, as my age, before I went crazy for “I Believe in thing called love” and “Love is only a feeling”, but now I appreciate most other tracks. The taste changed…

My message to TD is: 
Your songs are my mantras!

Thanks to Stefania.

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Rebecca Martin

Rebecca Martin is a long-time American fan, whose contribution Darkling life has been somewhat legendary.

The Darkness: Changing the World One Life At A Time

The Darkness is and always has been a band who, rather than listen to the suggestions of record company execs, prefer to heed their instincts about the kind of songs they write, the kind of music they compose, and the kind of the show they put on. Their fans around the world respond to The Darkness’ artistic autonomy.

It’s been 10 years since the release of The Darkness’ debut album Permission to Land. I didn’t hear of The Darkness until late 2004. I was 30 years old at that time, and heard the radio-friendly hit “I Believe In a Thing Called Love.”  I liked the song, but I didn’t become a full convert until I heard the first song on the album, “Black Shuck,” the tale of a local legend to the band’s hometown in eastern England. A searing guitar split the silence open, jolting me out of my skin. After four measures, the guitar was joined by a loud, pounding bass drum, which was followed by the bass guitar. It seemed to grab me at the base of my spine and figuratively shake me around like a rag doll. From the moment I heard “Black Shuck,” I knew I would always be a fan.

In western culture, we’re conditioned into thinking that if life doesn’t happen for you in your 20s, you’ve lost your chance at anything ever happening. But in 2004, this English band came into my life, changing my perspective. Its members were around the same age as me, and they were making a name for themselves. Seeing that gave me hope that things could still happen for people at any age, as long as they were willing to keep their nose to the grindstone and work hard to make these things happen.

 

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I was disappointed when the band split in 2006 because I had never seen them perform live. I discovered them after they had completed their U.S. tour for Permission to Land. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when they reformed in 2011. As soon as their U.S. tour dates were announced, my friends and I scrambled to make plans to go see them. On February 4, 2012, I finally got to see my favorite band perform live.

Since 2005, I’ve made friends with other Darkness fans and my life would not be the same without them. At this time, I’d also like to give a shout-out to all the friends I’ve made over the last year and half. Every time we meet up at gigs, it’s like a family reunion. Our passion for this band compels us to travel all over the U.S., catching the band on as many tour dates as possible. To the members of The Darkness, I want to say this: Thanks for the memories, and here’s to many more years of rocking out.

PTL 10th Anniversary – Thom Lessner

Thom Lessner is a member of the Philadelphia-based band, Sweatheart, who have opened for The Darkness on several occasions. But, there’s more to him than meets the eye. He has been a fan of TD since 2003. Since then, he has designed t-shirts for the band and served as the Art Director for Hot Cakes, the third album from TD.  Lessner is the creative artist of the animation from the video for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, the first single from TD’s new album. As a bonus, his niece is the star of that same video. Here’s Thom’s message to the band:

A friend from Ohio mailed me a burnt CD of Permission to Land before it’d come out in the States. It was quite random; he heard it and just assumed I’d like it. I was in disbelief. It was every sound I loved in one CD; it almost didn’t seem real. This was before I’d seen what they looked like or knew anything about them. Soon after, I drove 13 hours to see them play in a smaller club in Chicago. It was so good it didn’t seem possible. I was certain I’d be thinking about this band for some time.

I’m proud to have invested so much love into Hot Cakes and the band. Coming back with the new record and constant touring really made me feel like I’d chosen the right band to truly adore. Very  rewarding. Getting to know them, it’s safe to say as brilliant the record Permission to Land is, they’re equally brilliant humans. Being able to work with them has only made me love their records more. Mega cheers!

 

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Foxy Shazam

Foxy Shazam supported The Darkness in the UK in 2011.

To our friends in The Darkness: Frankie, Justin, Ed, and Dan – congrats on the tenth anniversary of Permission To Land. We are honored to consider such talented folks as yourselves friends and collaborators. Here’s to you on this anniversary of a record that millions hold in high esteem, and here’s to many more years of great albums, great music, and great friendship. We’ll see you the next time we are in the neighborhood.

Much love,
Your friends in Foxy Shazam

 

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Nicolai Prowse

Nicolai was the lead singer in Do Me Bad Things, a fantastically awesome band in many ways, who supported The Darkness in 2004.

The Darkness – Permission to Land

Getting to perform on a UK tour with the Darkness is without a doubt one of the biggest highlights of my life.
Hearing PTL and getting to hear those songs live again and again was fantastic…. I can not believe it has been 10 years since I first heard this truly classic piece of work, just thinking of that record sparks off nostalgia.

Happy Anniversary guys

Love – Nicolai Prowse x

 

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Tatyana Kunda

Tatyana Kunda is a fan from Latvia, who has been a regular TD internet presence for a good few years now.

I do have a strange thing about discovering and liking new music. I somehow ‘manage’ to really get into a band/group/whatever when they cease to exist. It happens to me all the time and this was exactly what happened to my ‘The Darkness’ experience. Unfortunately,  I did not really have the chance to see them in their initial full glory.

2003 was the year when I heard ‘The Darkness’ for the first time on VH1 or MTV. It was the voice that most definitely caught my attention.  As a huge ‘Queen’ fan I could not help but have this ‘Wait a minute!’ moment when hearing the opening lines.  Can’t explain all the feeling that you’re making me feel, indeed.  Alas, at that point I was too careless/foolish/insert your own word  not to find out more about the band. ‘The Darkness’ remained relatively unknown in my country, though, contrary to one interview,  have never been  hated (http://youtu.be/siee6ZV57s0?t=1m22s).  That’s the sad part of my story as I lost a couple of years of the listening pleasure. The fun part began some years later (after the group had actually disbanded). While looking for some new stuff to listen to, I remembered about a certain group called ‘The Darkness’. Hoping there would be at least 3 new albums, I , to my horror, found out that the lead singer had left the group. The rest is a series of happy coincidences – coming across Mr Hawkin’s Myspace page, meeting a lot of wonderful people and, of course, enjoying the MUSIC! Thus, I got the album much later than a proper fan should have done it.

I can’t say I enjoyed every track on the album at once, but that’s the usual course of things, I suppose. The obvious favourites have always been ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, ‘Love is Only a Feeling’, ‘Growing on Me’, ‘Stuck in a Rut’. Come to think of it, I’ll have to mention every song on the album, as each of them became a favourite at a certain moment. That’s actually the best thing about ‘The Darkness’, you can’t stop liking them in any kind of mood or life situation. Be it ‘Love is Only a Feeling’ for a more romantic mood or ‘Friday Night’ for a more playful one, or ‘Black Shuck’ when being under pressure. And another tricky thing about ‘The Darkness’- you can never be sure what the song is actually about. That kinda makes choosing a ‘personal anthem’ difficult but adds to the fun. Don’t get me wrong, the music is not a joke. However, this ‘do not take life too seriously, you will never get out of it alive’ attitude wasn’t hard to notice. At the same time, they managed to be the most positive band out there. Even having the darkest name.

The Darkness did change my life in a way, or even in a couple of ways. Musically? Of course! They were and still are a kind of breath of fresh air in the industry of ‘manufactured miracles’. Most importantly, they managed to create a community that has been with them at their highest and their lowest; and this adds even more value to their music. Has my attitude changed over the years? It would be wrong to assume the contrary. The blind fandom has been replaced by a more sensible (though not less positive) approach to music and everything that surrounds it. However, I am grateful for all the experience I’ve had. There surely is life after the darkness but why choose it if there are (hopefully) many more years of good music to come.

 

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Trina Bedden

Trina’s Welsh. I met her on the Official forum years ago, and she’s never failed to impress with her entertaining ability and her passion for The Darkness. Here’s what she has to say:

Taffy and The Darkness … A Long-Term Love Affair

I didn’t know it at the time, but 7th July 2003 was an enormously important day. It was the birthday of two very important elements of my future life – firstly, a wonderful lady who has become a terrific friend/confidante/fellow minx/bit on the side (*Rolf Harris voice* “can you guess what who it is yet?”), and secondly an album from one of the most amazing rock bands of the last 20 years, and my salvation (I’m not kidding).

Trouble was, I didn’t realise the significance of this date until four months later (fashionably late, and all that). I was vaguely aware of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ through the summer of 2003, but was in such a miserable daze that I wasn’t paying much attention. November saw me on sick leave, on the sofa, on painkillers and swathed in duvets, bawling through flu and an infected wisdom tooth. Theres only so much daytime TV a body can stand (ok, none), so music channels were my other drug of choice. And in the run-up to Christmas, they were all playing Christmas songs, with ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ on heavy rotation, back to back with ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’. And I was lost. Transfixed. Laughing my (considerably skinnier than the 2013 version) ass off. It was WONDERFUL. The music. The catsuits. The bare-faced, balls-out, laughing in the face of taste and cool attitude. The can’t give a f*ck cheek of it all.

Amazing. And I was hooked. I bought Permission to Land shortly afterwards, intended as a gift for my sister … I played it to death, then regretfully wrapped it up and put it under the Christmas tree. And then bought my own copy to play to death. We tried very hard to help ‘Christmas Time’ to the Christmas number 1 slot, only for it to be held at number 2 by the most suicidally boring and un-Christmassy song in existence. After that outrage I wandered onto the band forum and fell in love with many like-minded individuals, and my fate was sealed. A full-grown Darkling blossomed shortly afterwards, and for that I’m eternally grateful. She’s a lot more confident, bossy and tattooed than the previous version.

Without the band, their music and their ridiculous antics, life would have been so different. So boring. I’d probably have never ever gone to a gig – instead, I bought spare tickets from a fellow Darkling, spent 3 weeks designing and glitterfying (it IS a word) a t-shirt, and buggered off to Paris to pop my gig cherry. I’d never have braved the mud and flying pots of p*ss at the Reading festival so I could watch them headline. I’d never have followed the band to gigs in Cardiff, Glasgow and Wembley – 5 gigs in 10 amazing days – on the 2004 Winternational Tour, and several hotel rooms would have remained glitter-free forever.

I’d never have been invited to a preview listen of their second album. I’d never have moved an entire departmental meeting by half an hour, just so I could hear the world premiere of One Way Ticket on Radio 1. I’d never have followed the band to Dubai to watch them headline a (mostly) non-sweary set at the Desert Rock festival. The gig on my birthday in 2006 would never have happened, nor would the crazy Dublin gig weekend. I wouldn’t have the Brighton hotel room memories, or the muff giggles. I’d never have won Justin’s dartboard. I’d never have discovered my inner minx, covered her in eyeliner and leopard print and unleashed her on the world, following Justin’s mantra of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”

All of these things would never have happened, and my life would be far poorer for it

There have been bad times and sad times during the 10 years. The tensions in the band became more obvious as time went on, and the cause was easy to guess. The split wasn’t the massive shock it could have been, the solo careers diverting but nowhere near as diverting (for me) as the main event once was. Keeping the faith became our sole occupation, living on hopes and dreams of “one day

And “one day” happened. It really did. All together again, the original line-up. Older, possibly wiser, clean and sober. With more tattoos, more facial hair, more attitude, and a determination to not f*ck it up. And a wonderful third album which gets played daily, and hasn’t yet gone stale. News of what they’d been doing during the quieter times filtered out, and made me cry in public, on a train full of people (thanks Q magazine!) – but so what. The old me would have been mortified, this version has given up giving a f*ck *grins*

So, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the music, the memories, the fun, the laughter, the tattoo and the eyewatering number of band t-shirts … heres to another ten years!

Happy Birthday!

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PTL 10th Anniversary – Dave Winkler, Renegade Playboys

Darkness Rising – A view from the wings

The first time I saw The Darkness was at a wedding reception. I went to see them at the Barfly In Camden Town a few weeks earlier. A good mate of mine had been raving about them, but he generally loved every other new Camden band, so I wasn’t convinced. During the support band my girlfriend at the time complained she was ill, or maybe she had just had too much to drink, so I ended up missing them to drive her home, much to my regret. We broke up the following day, though not for that reason.

The wedding reception gig was good fun, though they only played about four songs, including a hilarious cover of Knowing Me Knowing You by Abba. However, the show that really made an impact on me was the second time I saw them, again at their second home at the time, the Barfly.

Image-wise Justin, tattooed and shirtless in skin-tight jeans and big furry boots, was the only one at this stage who had fully made the Rock N’ Roll transition from the band’s indie roots. So at first I was sceptical that this was another local alt-rock band that liked AC/DC a bit. The track, Live Til I Die, which has sadly yet to make an album, was what made me prick my ears up. However, mid-way through the set they launched into Love Is Only a Feeling. I admired any band who, much like my own, had the balls to play an full-on power ballad in the sarcastic centre of Camden in mid-2001. At this point they had entirely won me over.

I Believe in A Thing Called Love had yet to make the set, if I remember correctly, but Love On The Rocks was a great closing number, and Justin’s energy and enthusiasm throughout was really infectious. I remember having a discussion with some friends outside the pub afterwards that these guys could be the ones who really do something big, not realising it would actually happen.

After getting to know the guys, I helped promote a show in Hackney where my own band, Renegade Playboys, would support them. This would have been around the early Summer of 2002. The amusing thing was that the Darkness were not who we had planned as headliners. Anti-Product were opening the main stage at OzzFest at the time so they pulled out on us. Sack Trick couldn’t make it, we even asked the B-Movie Heroes because one of them was in a vaguely famous Wildhearts-related band. The Darkness were our last choice. Less than a year later they would be headlining a sold-out Astoria, the same month Anti-Product played to a half full Underworld.

The Hackney Ocean show was under-promoted, it was great fun but we only played to a half full three-hundred capacity room. What is interesting is that, just a month later, the Playboys again supported the Darkness at the Underworld, just five miles away, and they completely sold the place out to the extent there were queues round the block, some of our own crowd didn’t get in until the band after us had finished! I was informed by the Underworld staff that this was the largest crowd an unsigned band had pulled for over a decade, at this point it was obvious there was no turning back for the band.

It was around this time that outside the Dublin Castle, Dan and Justin were handing out demos to their friends. A demo that soon became more than a demo, as it contained the unmastered versions of Love Is Only A Feeling, Love On The Rocks With No Ice, and their signature I Believe In A Thing Called Love, the very recordings that made it onto permission to land. These were produced by Pedro Ferreira, who at the time doubled as their sound man, and tripled as the bloke who carried Justin through the crowd during the Love On The Rocks solo! I managed to get my hands on a copy, it might have been the same night that Dan was talking about having sword-fighting midgets in their first video, or something!

From this point onwards things moved very quickly for the guys, a Kerrang! Weekender here, a Wildhearts support there, the I Believe In A Thing Called Love single was released the first time round, I ended up in a 2 year relationship with a Swedish girl I met at a Darkness show in Oxford Street. Love is Only a Feeling became ‘our song’.

And then, the legendary London Astoria show. The Darkness, Ten Benson and us. We were offered it ahead of some of their label mates simply because they liked us. It was originally going to be at the Astoria 2, but that sold out in a week. I was in my parents’ kitchen when I got a call from Justin and Sue Whitehouse saying it had been moved to the Astoria. “Ok mate, great news” I said, thinking I knew what was coming next, “I guess you’ll be wanting a bigger opening band then?”. Justin replied “No you guys are still on the bill, we’re gonna pack it out anyway!” Or something to that effect. It was more than ten years ago! I was Twenty-two years old. In my naïve mind this meant I was about to become a Rock Star.

The show was amazing. We were on at 7pm and the place was already packed out. I think some of the younger kids at the front thought we were the Darkness themselves, as we got a massive roar when we walked out onstage, it was absolutely electric. Sadly my wallet got stolen that night so I missed most of their set, whilst cancelling my bank card. It was an amazing night though, and sadly the only time I would ever get to play the Astoria, which has now been destroyed by Transport For London along with two other venues where I saw the Darkness play.

Three months later, and ten years ago this week, Permission To Land was released. Thirty-eight minutes of adrenalized, kick-ass Rock N Roll (and a couple of Power Ballads for safe measure). I bought it from HMV the week it came out with a £10 voucher I got for my birthday, I thought it was fair of me to (sort of) pay for it, rather than try and blag one, given all the opportunities the guys had afforded me. I saw less and less of Dan, Justin and Frankie in real life, and more of them on TV. Ed could though usually be found at the Dublin Castle or the Good Mixer in Camden on a Friday night when he wasn’t on tour.

To my awareness, they haven’t played any wedding receptions since.

 

Thanks to Dave for assaulting his memory banks in the name of Darkness.

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