Utilita Live from the Drive In are thrilled to announce the addition of REEF featuring Andy Taylor (Duran Duran/The Power Station) to play a special Drive-In tour this August and September.

Reef frontman Gary Stringer says, “We love playing live but at the moment that up close and personal mode of show is on hold and who knows for how long? We all felt like this was the perfect opportunity for us to get back out there with our instruments and do what we do best.

“I’m really excited about this from a performance perspective and think it’s a great opportunity for fans to escape the confines of lockdown for a night in a safe environment, drink cider and rock out with us. Plus we have a couple of brand new songs that we are all really excited about and cannot wait to play.”

Reef will be joined by former Duran Duran / The Power Station guitarist Andy Taylor, so expect a few choice Andy Taylor numbers in the set too. Plus, to round things off for this special run of dates, the band will also be joined by virtuoso drummer Luke Bullen (Bryan Ferry / Joe Strummer / Chris Squire), capping off one very special line up.

Reef will also be releasing a very special vinyl edition of their debut album Replenish on September 25th to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
For tickets, venues, dates and more info head Here

For more information and tickets go to – Facebook / Band website

REEF (featuring Andy Taylor)
Gary Stringer – Vocals
Jack Bessant – Bass Guitar
Jesse Wood – Guitar
Andy Taylor – Guitar & Vocals.
Luke Bullen – Drums
Good day to you, RPM-people – I hope this finds you well in somewhat troubled times. At time of writing I find myself at the start of some annual leave from my (key worker) day job, catching up on some isolation entertainment: the beauty of having a vast collection of physical media, I guess.
My recent reading has been music-related: the fabulous new ‘Broken Greek’ autobiography from music journalist, Pete Paphides; Garth Cartwright’s chronicle of the UK record shop, ‘Going For A Song’; and ‘Talking To Girls About Duran Duran’, the coming of age book from Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield. It’s the latter that inspired this month’s column and had me digging into the Pop Culture Schlock archive for a particular item…
After the 1970s gifted the rock ‘n’ pop culture-savvy consumer with dolls/action figures of everyone from KISS to Cher to Andy Gibb, you’d have thought that the 1980s, forever carrying a “bigger, bolder, brasher” tag, would have upped the ante considerably; the post-Star Wars merchandisers giving Walrus Man’s right arm for the rights to make small, plastic likenesses of some of the most iconic music stars ever. But, the Michael Jackson and Boy George dolls (no fear of an ‘action figure vs doll’ debate concerning the latter) from LJN Toys aside, toy companies fumbled the ball when it came to immortalising music stars of the decade into toys for children to play with, and for grown men to hoard. Ahem.
Imagine a Barbie-style ’80s Madonna doll with a bazillion Action Man/GI Joe-esque costume changes? It would take that dodgy Dick Tracy movie in 1990 to finally get a miniature Madonna Louise Ciccone into consumer’s hands. Imagine Duran Duran dolls at the peak of their mid-eighties stardom with a bazillion costume change options: from their pastel-coloured designer suits to sub-Road Warrior post-apocalyptic garb. It would take, crazily when you really think about it, until the dawn of this decade for Funko to finally capture Duran Duran in their full ’80s pomp as part of its Pop! Rocks vinyl figure line. These were released in the same wave as the retro Def Leppard Pop! Vinyls which featured one of the company’s most quirky figures – the one-armed Rick Allen figure. I’m sensing a theme here… But I digress.
I love Duran Duran. Can’t help it. I’m sure the band is a guilty pleasure for many a rock fan: John Taylor’s bass playing, Andy Taylor’s guitar, etc. – but guilty you should not feel when you feel the love for Duran Duran. Three things jump out of my memory banks when I think back to how DD infiltrated my rock leanings: the charity gig the band played at Villa Park, the home of football, in 1983 that even saw them feature prominently on the cover and centrespread of an Aston Villa match programme; the music video for ‘The Wild Boys’ debuting on the BBC on Hallowe’en night in 1984 as they tried to compete with MTV; the sounds of ‘Arena’, the album from which that classic single came, pumping out of my sister’s bedroom… on cassette. This column, of course, is dedicated to pop culture collectables and, though a tsunami of wholly unofficial merchandise swirled around the band’s success – annuals, postermags, badges, photo patches, those particularly classy screen-printed silk scarves – actual official items were in shockingly short supply. Topps, famed trading card producers, released a 33-card Duran Duran card line in 1985 complete with stickers and stick of gum (I have a sealed pack in my collection, 35-year-old bubblegum forever calling to me, siren-like, in a quest to snap my teeth at the friggin’ roots), but it would take The Milton Bradley Company, the American board game manufacturer founded in 1860, to be brave/cool enough to dip a tucker-booted toe into the depths of the band’s chart success to produce the ultimate official piece of Duran Duran merchandise.

‘Duran Duran: Into The Arena’ was released by MB Games in 1985 and it remains one of the ultimate pieces in any rock ’n’ pop memorabilia collection. A true objet d’pop. Right up there with 1978’s KISS on Tour, this board game, if you are lucky enough to have one (guilty, sorry), will mean so much to you, like a birthday or a pretty view. Getting one of these games these days, though, is about as easy as a nuclear war. If you’ve already Googled how much they go for you’ll already understand what I’m on about. This is not a pop pissing contest, however – this is a celebration!
Almost every Internet search for ‘Into The Arena’ for research purposes furnished me with beige articles about the actual gameplay of this vintage toy par excellence. That, my friends, is even too nerdy for someone like me! To me, this board game is one of the ultimate shelf pieces – meant to be looked at, to be adored, marvelled over. Okay, I’ll admit that a games night where chauffeur-driven chums laden with cans of Tizer and Top Deck limeade and lager arrived for an evening of Eighties pop-related faux combat sounds appealing, but until then I’ll just look at this game and love the fact that I have it.
That aforementioned gameplay? Go on, then. Two to four players start off in the outer circle of the game board. The aim is to collect five matching pairs of disc cards – the cards featuring the group’s most popular singles! Each matching pair provides the player with a matching video card for the respective song. Once the player has made their five matches, they are bumped-up, good-looking girl at a concert-style, to the inner circle. There, they must collect and play band member cards (Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Taylors Andy, John, and Roger for those
readers new to Planet Earth), each with a different scoring value. There’s a Duran Duran Wild Card in there too, and a points subtraction thing, with the winner being the lucky mofo whose added video- and band member-card totals are the highest.
Actually playing a vintage board game aside, the thing looks fabulous: Arena-like graphics everywhere; classic singles artwork reproduced on their respective cards; stills from epic music videos captured on theirs; the band members in all their teen idol glory on crescent-shaped cards that just feel more decadent than the usual oblong cards in your common or garden board game, somehow. There’s even a cardboard insert featuring a great band shot from ‘The Wild Boys’ photo shoot which doubles as a place to pile the game cards, but also carries a great little history of the band from 1980 to the end of 1984.
Rule #32: Enjoy the little things. You don’t need me to tell you that we are currently living in unprecedented times. People that have been a part of my story are no longer with us and, no matter how or why, we find ourselves in an uncertain place where every day feels like a fucking test. If you surround yourselves with the things you love then life, in any circumstances, always seems that little bit more manageable. And it’s never too late to start accumulating stuff – any stuff, just stuff that makes you feel better in whatever way. Trust me, I’m a master of stuff.
When this shit is all over we’ll have ourselves a Duran Duran board game night – you bring the Tizer…
Stay safe, stay sensible, stay beautiful.
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Author: Gaz Tidey

David Bowie took ‘Diamond Dogs’ out on tour around shit Island on this day back in 1974. The cover art features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog grotesque painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert. It was controversial as the full painting clearly showed the hybrid’s genitalia. A few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of release but hey anything goes in 2019 so if you want to see the originally intended artwork then here it is!

 

That was the ’70s and any excuse to show a bit of Bowie is good enough for us. Moving into the Naughties and on this day Velvet Revolver released a fine debut album ‘Contraband’ which spawned the hits ‘Fall To Pieces’ and ‘Slither’.  the band made up of Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, along with Scott Weiland and Dave Kushner.

Formed in 2002 when Slash and Duff played a benefit concert for Randy Castillo,  who died of cancer. Stone Temple Pilots had split up, so the Guns N Roses pair pulled in Scott Weiland as lead singer although it was rumoured that Marc from Peckham Cowboys was also auditioned the line up was completed by Sorum (also in GnR) and second guitarist Dave Kushner.

During the recording of the album, Weiland was ordered by the court to attend rehab and as part of the deal, he was able to record at several hours at a time in order to complete the album.

Whilst on the subject of high maintenance band members on this day in ’69 the Stones officially parted company with Brian Jones who said he was leaving the band to play his “kind of music” his departure was barely a month old before he was found dead in his pool.

Finally Happy Birthdays to Greg Ginn – Born today in 1954 in Arizona.   Ginn also owns the independent record label, SST, originally begun as an electronics company called Solid State Tuners when he was only 12 years old.  Don’t know if its a well-known fact but Ginn is the older brother of artist Raymond Ginn, who is better known using by the name Raymond Pettibon (He of the OFF! album covers and the iconic Black Flag four-bar logo)

Another iconic musician who pioneered the new romantic scene Happy Birthday Nick Rhodes (born today in 1962) who came to prominence out of the post-punk scene that morphed into new romantics  playing keyboards or synths in Duran Duran.

Born Nicholas James Bates who helped start the band in the late ’70s in Birmingham whilst DJing at the Rum Runner club in the city center. It was there he met the other members of the band who were also employed at the club. Rhodes went on to international superstardom with Duran.  He also had a successful career with Arcadia which he formed with LeBon and Roger Taylor whilst the other two went off to Rock out with Power Station and the duranies went on hietus.

Rhodes always the artier one went on to become an accomplished photographer as well as several successful side projects but he always came back to Duran Duran.  Happy Birthdays Greg and Nick.

Day 3 – San Francisco: seafood and drinking with the locals

The ride from the airport to Fisherman’s Wharf takes maybe 40 minutes. Packed like sardines, our taxi is full, there is no air con and it’s what you might call uncomfortable. We travel through some pretty rough looking areas, as we spy hammered bums staggering through the streets clutching their worldly belongings in one hand and a brown paper bag with god only knows what in the other. Groups of Hispanics and Africans hang on street corners, pimps, drug dealers or maybe even worse. Holy crap! Is this San Francisco? I don’t want to be staying here.

Luckily, our hotel is situated just off the much nicer Fisherman’s Wharf and we waste no time exploring the tourist areas. Bars, shacks and shops offer everything from the exotic to the less so exotic. Shops sell high class art, others sell tacky tat, some a combination of both. If you love seafood this is the place to be, its everywhere and it all looks and smells amazing. From fresh lobster and crab to bread bowls of clam chowder, it’s a seafood lover’s dream.

After eating, we stray from the tourist area and find an Irish bar for beer, whiskey and local company. We get talking to a regular; Phil, a self-confessed alcoholic  who loves to talk, oh how he loves to talk! He repeats himself with stories of hunting, his kids and the local area. I get stuck with him and Sedd a couple of locals, one with a strong NY accent. The alcohol and the conversation flows and by the end of the evening Paisley Park now seems a long, long’ time ago.

 

Day 4 – Bikes, bums and glorious sea views

 

As this is a rock ‘n’ roll road trip the plan was to catch as many bands as we could on our travels. After weeks of searching listings, it seems that anyone we wanted to see either had just played or were playing after we left, so we decided San Fransico would be the full-on tourist trip.

Today, as part of our holiday package we have electric bikes hired for a day of exploration. This I would highly recommend if you are coming to San Francisco for the first time. We plan a route that took us through Haight-Ashbury, the centre of the 60’s hippie movement, down through lush green parks, over sandy beaches and through dense forestry and over a coastal path to the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Thank god for electric bikes! The steep roads are unforgiving and the journey up and over to Haights-Ashbury is a long one that takes in the sights and sounds of the city in a way you just cannot experience by taxi or tram.

What we didn’t take into account was that it was Sunday morning and most of the shops in Haights-Ashbury are shut! The thrift stores, tattoo shops and even the world famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour are not open yet. But the bohemian vibe is omnipresent. Bums and aging hippies still shuffle about minding their own business, as the morning Californian sun rises above the buildings. At the street junctions, you can get great views down over the vast city and take in the magnitude of the bustling city that seems to be in a time warp. I don’t think much has changed here since the 60’s. Not much development, take away the modern cars and many areas could still be a scene from ‘Bullitt’

The homeless here are seemingly invisible to passers-by. As we stop at a park entrance to take pictures, one guy in his twenties with a massive beard and his entire belongings (including an ancient skateboard) in a bag over his shoulder, shuffles past. Sedd greets him with a “Hey!, how ya Doing?”, he walks past us with no reply. As we walk across the road he turns and asks us what we wanted, seemingly puzzled, maybe even fearful that someone actually interacted with him.

Further along the street, another guy in a massive parker (bearing in mind its probably 25 degrees by now) has his filthy jeans half-mast, the legs of the jeans flapping around on the floor. A weird fashion statement maybe, I then realised these jeans were actually acting as his shoes!

 

We rode through Golden Gate park, a 1000 acre public park that stretches from Haights- Ashbury down to the coast. If museums and Japanese tea gardens are your thing, spend time here. It’s a massive relief that it’s all downhill from here and freewheeling not only cools us down but gives a break from the peddling. We check out the Dutch windmills before heading along the coast with stunning views of the pacific to our left, before reaching the Camera Obscura, it’s not even open yet as its still only 10.40am and we have already done so much.

The chain has come off my bike and become jammed. With no tools and my hands now covered in oil, a passer-by cyclist offers some help. Our new elderly friend Bob is a local, who cycles this coastal road every weekend. He offers to cycle with us and basically, he becomes a free tour guide as he takes the best route through the various coastal paths towards the Golden Gate Bridge, giving us information and facts as we go.

Cycling across Golden Gate Bridge is an experience in itself. It’s a free for all as tourists with various cycling ability wobble about trying to check out the views, take pictures and not crash into each other or the irate professional local cyclists who zoom past, shouting at Japanese tourists to get out of the way. We cycle onto Sausalito for lunch and ice cream. We check out the rock balancing guy Bill Dan before catching the ferry back to San Francisco.

After a well-needed chill at the hotel, we head out to explore China Town for the evening. After walking for seemingly miles and not really finding anywhere to eat, a quick look on Trip Advisor, we find a cool little restaurant right on the edge of China Town where I have the best Chinese meal I have ever had.

We walk back through the streets of sleazy clubs and topless bars. We find a tiny Blues club, like a sort of Speakeasy, where older guys who never made it play endless jams of the same song, probably on a daily basis. One beer is quite enough and after a full day cycling, we are ready to drop.

 

Day 5 – Escape from Alcatraz to Lost Boys territory, Monterey and beyond

 

Our last half day in San Francisco starts with a visit to the world famous windy road of Lombard Street before catching the ferry to Alcatraz. The audio tour is great, with the headphones on a heavily accented gentleman leads you through the gloomy penitentiary step by step. Real accounts from past inmates and wardens as well as background noise and effects really take you back to those times, as they recount stories and breakout attempts, the murders and the rigours of daily life in the once escape-proof prison on a rock in San Francisco Bay.

I love San Francisco and am sad to leave so soon to be honest. The roads are busy and parking is ridiculous, the best way to explore is definitely by bike. But you should also take a tram grab a bowl of clam chowder and take a pocket full of quarters to spend in the Mechanical Museum. I think I could live here.

 

We get an Uber to the airport to pick up a silver convertible Ford Mustang that will be our transport for the rest of the trip! We say our goodbyes to San Francisco as we take the Pacific Highway down towards Monterey for the next part of our adventure.

The stunning scenery and coastal views as we drive, just put in mind the game Grand Theft Auto, if you have ever played San Andreas then you will know why. As we reach Santa Cruz, we head to Santa Cruz Boardwalk where they filmed the classic opening scenes from The Lost Boys. With it being out of season, the amusement park and roller coaster are closed, which at first is disappointing, but we are still able to walk through it and take photos. The desolate nature seems quite fitting as the sun sets in the sky behind the seemingly abandoned roller coaster.

Remember the scene where they hang from the bridge and taunt Michael to join them?  That railroad bridge is right there, behind the amusement park! We go and stand on it for photos like a real couple of fanboys. Is the car park to the left where they did that first kill on the security guard? it sure looks like it.

As we head back to the car, I see something moving in the bushes, I get closer to check out what I presume is a butterfly, to see a real live hummingbird! No one told me they were here in the wild for all to see, that was unexpected.

As the sun sets over the coastal views on the Pacific Highway drive to Monterey, again GTA flashbacks fill my mind as they will time and again on this trip. Every now and again, I get the urge to grab the wheel, veer off the highway and drive across the acres of farmland looking for hidden adventures. But I don’t, this is real life, not a game, this is the larger than life reality of California and we are finally living it.

We reach the hotel, drop our bags and find a local seafood restaurant where we dine on crab curry and exotic tasting cocktails.

 

Day 6 – Trippy jellyfish, the white sands of Carmel and LA baby!

 

There’s not much rock ‘n’ rolling to be done in Monterey, so it’s another tourist morning before heading down towards LA. After tucking into the biggest omelette I have ever seen while watching cormorants dive for their own breakfast in the crystal clear waters of Monterey Bay, we head over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Although expensive, it’s well worth a visit. Massive tanks take you to the underwater world in the largest Aquarium in the world. The jellyfish room is out of this world as crazy-colored, alien looking creatures you never knew existed bob about in front of your eyes. Hypnotising and quite trippy, it’s better than TV!

We find a second-hand record store to grab a bunch of random CDs for the road trip down to LA and onto Vegas. Our soundtrack will now be a mix of The Eagles, The Byrds, Tom Petty, Sheryl Crowe and Prince & The NPG.

We do the 17-mile drive which goes through the famous Pebble Beach golf course, with windy roads, through dense forestry with plenty of vista points to take in the stunning, picturesque views that no camera can truly capture.

The next stop is Carmel, where the sun beats down on amazing white, sandy beaches that stretch for miles. Duran Duran probably filmed a video here back in the 80’s no doubt. This small, coastal town has a completely different vibe to San Francisco. Chilled and relaxed, the cars, the building and the people tell me there is a lot of money in Carmel. Ye Olde English style shops are hidden amongst the coffee shops and restaurants and overpriced boutiques.

We grab a bite to eat and head back on the highway for LA.

 

It’s close to midnight by the time we drive up Sunset Boulevard towards the hotel. The strip is teaming with life, does it ever sleep I wonder? Too late and too tired to explore, the most we manage is a beer at a western themed bar across the road, where a dude dressed as a cowboy asks us for ID. Inside, drunken middle-aged men perform karaoke to a room packed with students and middle-aged couples, served by the beautiful people behind the round bar in the center. In the corner, a bucking bronco is in full swing, a group watch and laugh as a guy tries his best to hang on time and again. Welcome to LA!

Author : Ben Hughes