Goddammit, that headline is so obvious I’m almost ashamed. Almost.
Sometimes what’s obvious is what’s right, and what’s undeniably right is that this morning in old London town Mr Lee Rocker more than lives up to his name.
The bassist, who made that name with the Stray Cats in the early ’80s, is here at the London Bass Guitar Show, at the Olympia Conference Centre in Kensington, to perform for around 400 fans and other interested parties. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last saw Lee play live – at Dingwalls in Camden, a gig that had a completely different kind of atmosphere from today’s theatre show. Back then I had to abandon my place near the front when the dancing got a bit boisterous (to say the least). Today, with theatre seating and a sober audience – at least I hope they are: it’s 11.20am when the set kicks off – I enjoy a more civilised experience and get to hang on to my position in the front row.
As an 11-year-old, my record collection was small but proud. It was funded largely by my pound-a-week pocket money, and deciding what to buy – mainly from Woolworths in Aldershot – was a serious business. One of the singles that found its way into my record box was The Race Is On by Dave Edmunds with the Stray Cats (as it was billed on the exciting picture sleeve). I had no idea who this Edmunds fella was but I knew that the Stray Cats rocked, as I’d bought their debut album with some holiday money after the hits Runaway Boys and Rock This Town had captured my ear.
Fast-forward 27 years, to 2008, and I’m standing in Brixton Academy awaiting the on-stage arrival of Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom – the three cool Cats who’d stared out at me from those early record sleeves. After two decades of Stray Cats abstinence, I caught the bug again in 2004, when the band reformed for a European tour. I saw them at this very same venue that summer – a stunning gig that was captured on both tape and film and released as Rumble In Brixton. After hunting down the albums I’d missed (and I do mean hunting – at the time, the majority were out of print and scarce), I fell for the band’s charms all over again and, like most fans, really hoped that they’d cut a new studio LP to solidify the reunion.