First, Last & Always with Darren Johnson

Darren writes on rock and folk and as well as being a regular contributor to Get Ready To Rock and various other publications he runs his own music blog. He has also handled PR for a number of artists in recent years, including Bernie Torme, Thunderstick and prog-folk outfit Dandelion Charm. Visit Darren’s music blog here:

The first album I ever bought…

Excluding the albums that I taped off my dad as a kid (Status Quo, Monty Python and so on) and excluding the copy of Highway To Hell that my older step-sister passed on to me when she decided she was punk and would no longer be listening to AC/DC, the first new album I bought (well it was actually a present for my 15th birthday but it was exactly what I asked for) was We’ll Bring The House Down by Slade. I have vague memories of Slade from my childhood at the height of the glam era in the early 70s but they had been out of the limelight for several years. However, I remember watching Top Of The Pops when Slade burst back on to our TV screens in 1981 with We’ll Bring The House Down and I became instantly hooked. From then on they were my favourite band (and still are!) I still play that album a lot. Probably not the best Slade album of all time but certainly a significant one for me.

Last decent album…

In terms of the veteran classic rock bands, after some ropey years in the 90’s and 00’s I generally think we’ve been seeing a real return to form from all of these bands in recent years. Rather than chasing trends they seem to have the confidence to sound like themselves once again and make the type of albums that made people fall in love with them in the first place. Girlschool, Judas Priest, Saxon, Uriah Heep et al have all made brilliant albums in recent years that stand proud against their earlier career-defining classics. However, I also follow quite a few newish heavy metal bands as well and after completely losing interest in modern heavy metal in the 00s with all of its bewildering sub-genres, there has been a brilliant renaissance of classic heavy metal in recent years where great song-writing, catchy riffs and strong melodies are back in vogue. A few bands have really impressed in recent years. Hell’s Gazelles are ones to watch and have released a couple of great EPs but for an album I’m going to go with Toledo Steel’s No Quarter released this year. Fast and furious, loud and heavy as hell but never less than tuneful and melodic Toledo Steel are everything you want from a truly great heavy metal band. No Quarter is a brilliant debut album.

An always album…

Over the past thirty-odd years there have been lots of albums that have come into my life and rapidly established themselves as favourites that I wouldn’t want to live without. However, for this one I’m going to go right back to that discarded copy of Highway To Hell that my stepsister handed on to me when I was 14. Every track a memorable classic, this album is as great to listen to now as it was when it came out. For me it shows the evolution of AC/DC from the sleazy bar-room rock n roll band of the early albums to the stadium-filling giants that they would become in the Brian Johnson era. And much as I love Brian Johnson, in spite of initial scepticism when it was first announced, I though Axl Rose handled the Bon Scott-era material brilliantly on the last tour. I’m going to be hugely controversial now and state that an Angus Young/Axl Rose collaboration album could be the long lost follow-up to Highway To Hell. I hope they record something together!

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