A Night at the Ruskin Arms, 14 Years Back. . .
Fourteen years ago last month I travelled over to London to see a show. It was a pretty cool show, a tribute to and fundraiser for Iron Maiden Drummer, Clive Burr, who had been struggling with MS. His fellow drummer, and friend, Sam Hill, had put together a series of fundraisers to help the man and several related charities. This was but one of those shows. Clive sadly passed in 2013.
The show featured both Bruce Dickinson and Paul Dianno, current and past Iron Maiden vocalists. It had a sampling of British metal from the days of NWOBHM and circa 2007. And it had GMT – Guy, McCoy & Torme.
GMT was why I was there. I was happy to support the fundraiser for Clive Burr, though I am no huge Maiden Fan. I do love Killers and he was in Desperado, and was just a damn good drummer. But I was there for GMT, which as cool as it was, also was kind of a bummer. That trip was basically conceding defeat. I had told Bernie, if I don’t get you over here to the US, I guess I will just have to go over there. And that is how it played out.
And GMT was very cool. To see Bernie with John McCoy again, after how many years? I guess it had been twenty five years since Gillan. I am certain that there were impromptu stage appearances in London and the like, but now they had a proper band and album.
Add to this current reunion that they had this phenomenal drummer behind them, Robin Guy. He is one of those drummers again who I can just watch – the synchronization, the syncopation of his playing. And the three of them together were just a pleasure. To just see Bernie play again after 25 years was amazing. And flying to London to do so was even sweeter.
Add to this that Lisa found me in the audience, and pulled me back stage where I was introduced to John McCoy. I just got to bullshit a little bit him and Bernie, and just hang out. It was all very neat. Cramped but neat. John and me were talking about this and that. They were still hopeful I would get them to the states, but I told them I was just not that clever.
The best part was when Bruce Dickinson arrived in this little back stage space. He had been on stage doing emcee duties and was about to join Robin and his brother onstage in a band called SackTrick-a very not Maiden project. Robin Guy, it should be noted, had been Bruce’s drummer when he was solo for a period.
At that moment, that night 14 years ago, Bruce jumped into the conversation. The topic was John McCoy’s Angel Air releases and specifically some Samson recordings he was releasing. Samson was Bruce’s old Band. Not only was Samson Bruce’s old band, it was Clive’s and I believe Sam Hill’s old band.
Anyway, we started talking and he is asking me who I am, and where I am from. I guess my NJ accent gave me away. He discovers I am coming from NYC. He seems kind of impressed or dumbfounded that I flew in from the US to check all this out.
Now, I did not recognize him at first, even though he was emceeing the show, performing, and so forth. He was just not doing his Maiden thing that night, at least not to my ears. He was short haired and even with a mustache? Anyway, the conversation proceeds, and I realize he is someone. Brilliant deduction. So I ask him, knowing it is a silly question, who are you? Of course, as I asked, it came to me who he was. It was classic.
It was just a neat night, wandering London, seeing some guys perform who I had idolized for years, and who I had spent quite bit of time trying to get to the US only to go see them in London.
So there is that but now it is 2021. Fourteen years have gone by since that night. It has been two years now since we lost Bernie. In doing some quick searches today, I discovered that Robin Guy has been or was (hopefully it is in the past now!) dealing with some type of cancer. So one does lose track of time and what is going on.
But what prompted all of this tonight was the Ruskin Arms. Somehow it made it across my Facebook feed recently. The Ruskin Arms was the joint this show was played in. It was fairly small. It kind of reminded me of Don Hills for those who remember that venue in NYC. It turns out that venue, like Don Hills, had some serious history in the London music scene. Perhaps Ruskin has more, depending on if you factor in the Cat Club in NYC.
Regardless, it turns out it was one of the places where Iron Maiden got their start. They were routinely playing there along with others in the NWOBHM.*
Which is cool but apparently it goes back even further. It seems that is where the Small Faces got their start. Apparently, Steve Marriott & Ronnie Lane were in the same place, the Ruskin Arms, to check out another act, which included Jimmy Winston.
By the end of that night, the story goes, Steve was up on stage with this other band, playing some harmonica. After the show, Steve and Ronnie were inviting Jimmy Winston to join them and their drummer, Kenny Jones. Now it turns out that Winston’s family owned the Ruskin at the time. And the Small Faces would grace the Ruskin Arms stage multiple times. **
I knew none of that tale fourteen years ago! Sadly the Ruskin is closed today. The neighborhood in 2007 looked a little rough, but what do I know. Apparently, when the place opened back in 1899, the area was pretty affluent. Shit does change in 108 years. Shit changes in 14 years. The Ruskin is closed now. I think. Regardless, that night in 2007 was pretty cool and just neat to get the details on the place I was in. Better late than never. ***
Below is the original post in the Wild West / the Western Front regarding that trip to London and that night.
*More about Maiden and its connection to the Ruskin Arms can be found here: “Pub where Iron Maiden cut their teeth shuts down after brutal attack” at Loudersound.com.
**The tale is courtesy of “London’s “Lost Music Venues”-Part 4-the “Ruskin Arms”-East Ham and its Mod & Metal connections” which is to be found on Londonshoes.blog
***And it should be noted that the Ruskin Arms, though not open, does seem to have a website, Ruskinarms.com, and it seems someone who is cognizant of its metal history, is running it!
A Trip to London – 2007
The Wild West has been quiet lately. No blogs, no podcasts, for the last month or two. No shows for the past year and a half. All of that is changing now. A Podcast will be here by the weekend, and blogs well we have a bunch of stuff to write about too. And shows. . .well we announced last week the show at Barney McNabbs in Yonkers in March. Right now that is five bands and do not be surprised if we bring one or two others into the fold!
But all of this is not what we are writing about here. Nope not at all.
No, today we look to something completely different. Well not that different, but different.
Last week I flew into London and checked out the CliveAid show, featuring Elixir, Headrush, SackTrick, and Guy-McCoy-Torme. For the last four years I have been working to bring Bernie Torme over to the US for a tour. I always said that if I could not bring that to fruitiion, that I would have to go over to the UK and at least check out one of his shows over there. so that is what I did.
It was not just an amazing show but night, starting with Headrush, I believe an up and coming metal act in the UK. They certainly set the stage in Walthamstow that night. They were followed by Elixir, which apparently was a band that Sam Hill, the Promoter behind CliveAid was drummer for at some point. Now Elixir apparently has a place in the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) and we are talking the wave of 1980. but they kept things going. They had a special guest come out and help them out near the end of the set – Paul Dianno, the original Iron Maiden vocalist, who did the Maiden classic Running Free with them.
Cliveaid is very much a Maiden event. It started as a charity for the Clive Burr Foundation. Clive Burr was the original Iron Maiden Drummer, who today is dealing with MS. This show was in fact a birthday for Clive who was there, And this show was actually going to benefit Teenage Cancer Patients, so it was for a good cause too.
The thing that I found myself thinking was L’Amour 1985. It has just been a long time since I thought much about Iron Maiden, L’Amour, and that vein of metal, much less a venue rocking like all of that. You don’t find that or at least i don’t find that type of sound in NYC. And I don’t even mention all the long-haired dudes packed in there – it just brought me back to vintage L’Amour! It was a cool vibe.
So it brought me back to my roots and then add a GMT set. How could I lose? There was no way that this could not have been a great night! GMT jumped into Wild West and then Ball and Chain, and then onto several tracks from their first album, before wrapping up with Smoke on the Water. Mr Torme with his blue Strat that I believe Ozzy gave him on the left, and John McCoy, bald headed and bearded on the right and Robin Guy behind them just working hard and enjoying every moment of it.
Of course the solos were just amazing. The best part was when they just jammed a bit, something i rarely see and something that I usually am not racing to. Sorry – Jam bands just do not grab me. there are exceptions to everything and considering the chemistry of this band, and knowledge of what Bernie can do on a guitar, how could I not enjoy such experimentation. Summerland and Down to Here were both just amazing as far as where they went.
the last act was Sacktrick, which was Robin Guy’s band. A bit of Zappa, a bit of humor, and excellent musicians thru and thru, and the last song had them joined by Bruce Dickinson, who a few minutes before i had the pleasure of running into if only I knew it at the time. . .
Anyway, that is my view a few days after the jetlag, the countless trips to the tube, and the wanderings thru London. I can’t wait to do it again!