Tom Russell is a legend. When it comes to championing rock music in Scotland, he is pretty much in a field of his own. He’s been there, done that and, not so much bought the t-shirt, as have Lemmy throw it at him. (Apparently, Tom had been helping himself to Lemmy’s Jack Daniels when he was caught red-handed by the man himself. “Leave my Jack alone, you Scottish git!” says Lemmy while throwing the t-shirt he had just removed post-gig.) At long last, Tom has written a book where he shares some of the stories from his life… including a few more tales about Lemmy!.
I’ve never been to a book launch before but I can’t imagine that many of them are like a Tom Russell book launch. For a start, the venue was the Hard Rock Cafe, Glasgow (no library or bookshop for Tom); he was interviewed by fellow rock DJ Ted Rock and the interview was sandwiched between two rock bands. It felt more like a rock concert than than a literary event. What follows is therefore a review of the concert. A book review will follow soon… once I’ve finished reading it!
The evening started with a queue stretching down the stairs as people waited to get their book signed by Tom but it wasn’t long before he excused himself from signing duties and took to the stage to introduce the evening’s activities. He started by thanking various people for their help in writing the book and in setting up the launch event. He said that two bands that would be playing and that there would be an interview in the middle where a “secret” would be revealed. It was probably the worst kept secret ever, but more on that later. He also stated his intention to get, “pished”.
He then introduced the first band, The Audiorayz, explaining that he had asked them to play because, “I just like them.” It is his love of rock music and the desire to promote and support new talent that has kept Tom in the music industry for so long. It also helps explain why he is held in such high regard by fans and musicians alike.
The band mostly played covers which makes sense given the huge number of bands Tom has interviewed and supported over the years. The Audiorayz started with “Born To Be Wild” and took in artists such as The Cult, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore and The Doors as well as throwing in a few of their own songs. All four members of the band were great but the vocalist and lead guitarist, Iain Forbes, worked particularly hard to engage the crowd and showed he was no slouch on guitar; tackling Hendrix and Moore songs with aplomb.
Between bands, we were treated to an interview where Tom shared some of the anecdotes from his book. Memorable stories included his description of his first gig; none other than The Beatles at the Glasgow Odeon and a tale of Ozzy ignoring the mainstream media at a red carpet event, choosing instead to embrace Tom with an expletive ridden greeting. I especially like the look of glee he displayed when describing his meeting with the book’s editor. It seems the editor was concerned many of the stories were libellous and that others were simply, “Smut for smut’s sake”. The latter objection in particular didn’t seem to bother Tom and from the reaction of the crowd at the book launch, it didn’t seem to bother them either!
Towards the end of the interview we get the big announcement: Ofcom have granted Rock Radio Glasgow a licence to broadcast. Although pretty much everyone in the room already know this, it still got the loudest cheer of the night. Tom said that 96.3 Rock Radio did not just play music but created a community, more, created friends. He was especially pleased by the successful bid and exclaimed, “I’m not ready to retire. I’m ready to play more music!”. We were told that more details would be released as soon as they worked out themselves what they were going to do but while we could look forward to the return of Rock radio, there would be some changes. (In particular, we could look forward to a more powerful transmitter which will give them the same reach as Radio Clyde – a statement that drew another loud cheer!)
As well as selling his book, Tom also used the opportunity to sell some raffle tickets to raise money for Nordoff Robbins. Loads of prizes were on offer including a Christmas meal at the Hard Rock Cafe, a Rock Radio Glasgow T-shirt (“Cheers!”), a Real XS T-shirt (“Boos!) and the top prize (or at least the last one revealed) was a cuddle from Ted Rock. I can only assume that second prize was two cuddles from Ted.
Tom then introduced the second band, Loanhead. He said that he couldn’t decide whether to ask an old band or a new band to play at the launch, so he went for Loanhead who have a bit of everything. Certainly, between them, the band cover three of the seven ages of man. It was difficult to see past the baseball cap and dark glasses but the lead guitarist looks like like a slightly younger Keith Richards (no offence, Jim Keilt), whereas drummer, Mark Brown, looked like he had only just started shaving and vocalist and bass player, Martin Jenkins, fell somewhere in the middle. They kicked off with “White Room” (makes sense for a three piece with a bass playing vocalist!) and took in Hendrix, The Sex Pistols and The Who (among others). There may have been only three of them, but they sounded great and I fully intend to check out their own material on their Soundcloud page (see link below).
While Lonehead were playing, I took the chance to walk around the venue to see who was there. I recognised a good few faces from Rock Radio events of days past and a good mix of ages too. The publicity for the event claimed that various VIPs would be in attendance and certainly I recognised a few band members, DJs and entertainers hanging out and enjoying the event. For example, I had a quick word with the drummer from GUN about the #BringBackRock Radio bash. It was great to hear how much they had enjoyed it too and to hear his enthusiasm for Rock Radio in general, and Tom in particular.
So, a fantastic night with load of people enjoying the chance to celebrate with Tom.
Tom Russell: a true legend!
All photos by David Muir