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Sunday  2nd July 06                                                                                                                                           

Tollcross Park, Glasgow.

I have to be honest about it...after Dirks birthday bash last night and the consequent level of alcohol he put in his system, I was sort of expecting him to be a few minutes late for our Phantom Winger rendezvous at 10am.  I was little prepared for a huge crash on the M6, which would divert the rest of us off the motorway at Leyland.  So it was us who were a little late.  Dirk was either bluffing, or he had made a spectacular recovery from the alcohol...he seemed in fine fettle.  Of course....  he was giving it "Zzzzzz's" by Lancaster!

It was a glorious day all the way up the motorway until about 10 miles out of Glasgow, when the sky became overcast and the windscreen wipers came into play.  This is just what you don't need for an outdoor gig.

With it's sideshows rivaling those from Craggy Island, the East End Arts festival was just kicking off as we arrived.  The weather had played it's part in keeping a lot of people away I suspect, but as the day wore on and the sun made a brief appearance, more bodies started to arrive.  Just as we were about to take the stage, there was another downpour, and we could see the brollies being put up from our dressing cabin's vantage point.

The performance itself was OK from our point of view. We had our own on-stage sound which was fine, but it was evident that there were some issues with the front of house.  Dave struggled to get the vocals through the PA in the early stages of the set, and it completely went off at one point.  In spite of it all, we had a good gig and went down well with the punters who braved the rain to stand and watch.

After noticing some heavy road works south-bound on the M74, we cleverly decided to come off the motorway and travel 13 miles on the parallel A road, thus missing all the congestion and saving us about 45 minutes on the journey.  Very pleased with ourselves, our smugness was overturned as we hit a half hour tailback just before Blackpool.  Whoopee shit!

Absolute Abba

This month sees the British Open Golf Tournament take place over the water at Hoylake.  Seems like a good time to roll out the stories about our brushes with the Golf stars at the Johnny Walker Golf Classic in Taiwan in 1999. The band played 5 consecutive nights to all the top Golf Stars including Tiger Woods, in the most ridiculously ostentatious marquee we have ever seen.  It was the perfect time to take up drinking Scotch Whisky, as just about every conceivable malt and blend was on offer.  I am more of a sour mash bourbon drinker myself, but I was more than happy to sample the rarest of Johnny Walkers distilled delights.
I have some pictures from this trip which I will post up when I get a new power adapter for my scanner.

EDIT:: I was just thinking......if there are any prospective Corporate Clients out there reading this....I'd just like to say, that we don't make a habit of getting sozzled on your expense account...despite evidence to the contrary.

10. Sandy Lyle
|| Ta Shee Resort, Taipei  :: November
We all got on best with Sandy Lyle, and we became drinking buddies over the week.  Sandy was was very interested in the band and asked a lot of questions.  I walked 36 holes with Sandy and his caddie, and got some swing tips from the US Masters winner. It was an incredible experience to have one of the greats of the game, explaining every shot.  He still has one of the longest drives in the sport.  Roy taught him to play Dance With The Devil on drums prior to our last show.

11. VJ Singh
|| Ta Shee Resort, Taipei  :: November 1999
VJ and his Missus loved the band and wanted us to play his New Year party in Florida.  In spite of him coming back to our dressing room on a few occasions, we never did tie up the gig, but it was still a buzz to have him pay us so much attention.

12. Ernie Els
|| Ta Shee Resort, Taipei  :: November 1999
Didn't get on with this fella at all!!
I can't recall the details because I think we were all a bit drunk, but I do remember some sort of altercation in the bar one night.  Perhaps we were singing that old Spitting Image song..........

"No...I never met a nice South African,
and that's not bloody surprising man,
cos we're a bunch of ignorant arseholes,
with no sense of humour"

13. Nick Faldo
|| Ta Shee Resort, Taipei  :: November 1999
Now we didn't really have much to do with Nick, but we did seem to be constantly bumping into him in the hotel lift, and he always seemed to be eating in the restaurant at the same time as us.  He was a really patient fellow who had all his meals disturbed by Taiwanese autograph hunters.

Tuesday 4th July 06                                                                                                                                            

Grosvenor House, London.

We've got this more or less sussed now!  Set off early-ish to beat the midlands rush hour traffic, and park ourselves at Oxford Services until 5.30 when we can be fairly confident of hitting Park Lane at 6.45.  Oxford is the preferred service area because it has a "water feature"...and that's ....pretty!

Dirk and I are settled at a corner table, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, when I say "look out! comes Count Dracula"  Roy is walking toward us along the decking under the shade of the long canopy next to the main building.  The instant he feels the suns rays, he turns on his heel and marches off back to the air conditioned safety of the service building, without so much as a word.  This is not Roy's season to be jolly.

Tonight in The Great Room, 2000 Texans are entertained by a speech from Her Majesty, and quite a ballsy set from The Cavern Beatles.  These Americans prove to be yet another fantastic audience for us, and we receive a standing ovation at the end.  

What a strange photograph!

Friday 7th July 06                                                                                                                                                

Richard Starkey, 7th July 1940

Sunday 9th July 06                                                                                                                                             

Grosvenor House, London.

Our arrival at The Grosvenor was a little earlier than usual (Sunday y' congestion charge)  Dirk was feeling a bit tired, so I suggested a walk round the park for some fresh air.  Unbelievably, I've never walked round Hyde Park.  As we strolled round the edge of the Serpentine, I was nonchalantly on the lookout for the spot where, Jeff Daniels fell in on his bike in 101 Dalmatians.  Didn't look too hard, as it probably wasn't even filmed here.  I did get the chance to indulge my latest hobby of photographing ducks at close quarters though!  Had we have had a bit more time, I would probably have liked to skipper a pedalo round the lake.  But I'm sure that Dirk, with his nautical experience, would've pulled rank and I'd've been left with the less satisfying duty of First Lookout.

It's a good job England haven't qualified for the World Cup Final, with the match kicking off at the same time we are due to go on stage, I suspect it would have been torture.  It's been a very disappointing World Cup for me, I've enjoyed few games.

A slightly smaller group of Americans from the Great Lakes area are our audience for tonight, but there is still about 1400 of them.  Once again the band goes down very well and there is possibly even more noise from the crowd at the end of the set.

Saturday 15th July 06                                                                                                                                         

Burnham Sports Ground, Burnham on Sea.

All in all, this turned out to be quite an odd day.  Normally on these types of outdoor gigs, we would not sound check.  Our back-line was going to be there, and so was our monitoring system, there really shouldn't have been any need.  We'd had information that a sound check was essential and it was to be at 4 o'clock, so we dutifully set off early for the trek down the M5 to Burnham, just past Weston Super Mare. (The home town of John Cleese, for any Pythonophiles - a word which, to my knowledge, doesn't exist!, but that has never stopped me before.)
Progress, in spite of unusually heavy Saturday traffic, was unhindered and we were making very good time.  Enough time in fact, to enjoy a leisurely stop at Strensham Services, which happened to be as chaotically packed as Bickerstaff during Tractor Fest.  I was going to take some photographs of the queue for the Ladies Toilet, but thought that might seem a bit pervy.....all those crossed legs and stuff.  
Eddie, Dirk and I gabbed outside over 3 Lattes, a toastie and a muffin, and Roy, mindful of the temperature, stayed indoors and thumbed through Norwegian Holiday brochures.
Back in the car, and we scuttle down to the gig, to arrive at 3.30.
We get over the fact that there is actually no sound check, and 4 o 'clock was basically a bit of a ploy to get us there early.  A specific arrival time would have been OK and we'd have agreed to that, but maybe we do need to be treated like kids sometimes.*
We utilised the time to check the monitors.  Dirk was convinced they were EAW ones (feckin' Dutch to me...but apparently they're really good!), so elected to use them, rather than Spectrums to save cluttering up the stage and making the change round more difficult.

What after that?.... ...
well there was;
the incident with Dirk and the burger wagon;

the incident with Eddie's realisation that the fella he thought looked like Roger Daltrey, could in fact, possibly be part of the group who were appearing later that night called "My Generation----  A tribute to the WHO"  !!;

the incident where three of us return to the dressing room to find our drummer in a faetal
position under a chair.....whose first words were.....  "I was....till you fuckers came in"

So basically...  I'm not moaning about having to get there so early....we had some fun.

On gigs like these we can all get on each others tits, but we can all laugh, with, about and at each other...and that makes "going to work"........not so bad!

The actual "playing" bit of the day....The bit that we've come here to do....was a bit odd.  By the middle 8 of I Saw Her Standing There, Dirk was now convinced that the monitors were not EAW, but copies of the said acoustically superb speakers. As his voice got higher in pitch, the flaws in the speakers became apparent and he was struggling to hear himself.  I think we played and performed quite well, but never really got the audience whipped into a frenzy.  It is never easy to do that with daylight still in evidence.  As the light began to fade and there was more effect from the stage lighting, things stated to get a little better.  When night finally fell and we were hitting the later songs, there was much more reaction from the audience.  I am not trying to be totally unkind about the whole thing, as we did see many faces who were really into it throughout the set.

A hundred miles or so away from Burnham, lies Reading Services on the M4, and this was our camp for the night.  We noticed that Jeff Parfrey was the General Manager here.  We all remember Jeff as General Manager of Chievley Services at the junction of the A34/M4  (see September 2004), but at least now his photo does not look like it has been lifted from a book of photo-fits.
Oh yeah....  the beds were dry!

* After saying that, come Monday morning, the promoters telephoned to thank us personally and say they really enjoyed the show.  I was very impressed with this, as I've not known that happen very often before.


Sunday 16th July 06                                                                                                                                           

Grosvenor House, London.

Not a bad day at the office!   Well actually, it looked like it was going to be fuckin horrendous.  Everything was going swimmingly until we got to Knightsbridge, and then the traffic just seemed to stop.  The journey from Harrods to The Grosvenor House, took us 2 hours, you walk it easy in 15 minutes.  It seemed that half of Park Lane had been barriered off by the Police to facilitate a vintage car rally.  This was awful, we were going to be late, and we'd already been informed that there was no acceptable excuse for lateness on these jobs.  As we had set off in plenty of time from Reading anyway, we were probably running about 45 minutes behind when we finally pulled up outside the Hotel.
Dirk & Eddie set off for Pret a Manger, while Roy and I decided to assist with the set up of the gear to make things quicker.  We got everything set in time and I set off for the park to find Dirk and Eddie.  Eddie was recovering from a near major embarrassment, having not realised that the edge of The Serpentine was quite so slippy, he was saved from falling in the lake by Dirk reaching out to grab him just in time.

The gig was another major success, this time to the smallest party yet of about 1200 from the central strip of the United States.  They seemed quite please that we finished the set with Kansas City.

Sometime in between gigs                                                                                                                                

Holiday Pics, Ibiza.

Just an experiment really to see how this will work.
These are some photographs I took at Las Dallias Market in Ibiza.



Thursday 27th July 06                                                                                                                                        

York Racecourse, York.

I've got to admit, I was quite looking forward to today.  Spending a few hours on a racecourse is not a bad way to pass the time.  I've been to most of the racecourses in the country.  As a child, my Uncle Bob used to take me all over the place, it was his great love.  He actually died at Preston Dog Track, very fitting.  Anyway, this course is one of the finest, and with the weather being so spectacularly warm, it looked like being a good day.

The three of us arrived for the sound check at bang on 2 o'clock.  Dirk had actually got his directions hideously wrong and had ended up nearer Beverley Racecourse, about 30 miles away.  There was little chance that we would get a full band check in before our curfew, so we just line checked everything and made sure the drums were ok.

There were 6 races on the card, starting at 6pm.  This was the first time in 35 years that York had hosted an evening meeting.  Oh...bloody hell!... I'm off on one!...I'll be giving you all the form in a minute.

We were to start out performance straight after the last horse had past the post in the final race and the results had been declared.  The organisers idea was, that some of the 60,000 crowd would stay behind after the racing to enjoy us and stick a few more bob into the tills of the bars scattered around the course.
Apart from quite a few crackles coming from the monitors, presumably caused by interference from the lighting system, we had a great gig.  A large crowd had stayed behind and all the balconies in the posh parts of the stands were still full, as well as a huge contingent in the "tats".  We'd guess at 10 - 15,000.  (by that I mean 10,000 to 15,000.... not just 10...that would be taking the piss!).
It might have been outdoors, but it was still incredibly hot.  We all came off stage completely saturated.  This was a shame, because it now means that my shirt will have to washed again.  It was fresh on after me mum had washed it for me last week while I was on holiday.  The whole band had commented that they had never seen me look so well turned out.  I'm sorry....but I'm just no good with me "whites"!

Big thanks to Penny Ballard for looking after us and making the event go smoothly.

Saturday 29th July 06                                                                                                                                         

Princess Theatre, Hunstanton.

We always seem to have quite a nice time here in Hunstanton.  This is the 3rd or 4th time we have been here, but probably the first when it hasn't been pissing rain.  Clare, Jean & Barbara, had made their annual pilgrimage to the local cliffs and had been playing about on the beach all day (see first photo).  After barely adequate fish and chips, Dirk and I made our way to the barely adequate sound check, where we decided it would be a good idea to run through "Let It Be", which was a contractual obligation of tomorrows gig.

Dirk was suffering from a cold, which as I type this, I believe has passed on to me - my sleeves have taken on that unusual silver appearance.  In spite of the theatre being air conditioned, it was incredibly hot on stage.  Eddie hates the heat, and was struggling for breath at times.  We were drenched before we had played a note, and there was some talk of having to throw the odd shirt out when we came off.  It was a good show nevertheless and very well received.

Our real troubles started after the show when we decided to break the back of the journey to Birchington.  Bishops Stortford Days Inn was full...and at £75 a room, I for one was a little
relieved.  They are real thieving bastards those Days Inn people.  Pressing on down the M11 and onto the M25 and after a detour trying to find Brentwood Travelodge, we came to the old favourite - Thurrock Services, with their massive Travelodge.  Once again we struck a blank.  The very helpful guy on reception said, that there were no Travelodge rooms available anywhere in the area, but gave us the number of the local Campanile.  I phoned them, they had rooms.  I put the gentleman at the hotel on speakerphone, to see if anyone else in the group could make head or tail of the directions he was giving me.  No one was able to decipher his dialect, so we resorted to asking at a garage for directions.  After about 45 minutes, we sussed out, that this place was actually on the other side of the Dartford Crossing.
The Campanile was at least clean and cheap, but serviced by the rudest staff imaginable.  The beds were very comfortable, but it was a torrid night...I sincerely hope the maids turned the mattresses in the morning!   Yuuuckkk!

Pic. Jean Herbaut Pic. Jean Herbaut Pic. Jean Herbaut Pic. Jean Herbaut

Sunday 30th July 06                                                                                                                                           

Quex Park, Birchington.

We were a little unprepared for this gig.  We knew it was outdoors, we knew we were on stage early, but we thought that it was a Caravan Park and it was going to be one of those summer outdoor shows that we would rather forget about.  It turned out to be rather memorable.

Roy and I had breakfasted at the Campanile and it was a rather harrowing experience, which brought out Roys diplomacy skills learnt at Priory Carpets.  Breakfast officially finished at 11am and we had shown our faces at 10.59 and 50 seconds.  There was a lot of muttering from the French staff, but I'm sure I heard the word "merde" mentioned.  We gobbled as much as we could from the buffet and sat patiently awaiting the arrival of our cooked breakfast.  When we politely asked "ou est nous fookin petit déjeuner s'il vous plait?", we were greeted with blank expressions and finally an explanation that breakfast finished at 11am.  It was beginning to look like this was going to get ugly.  Roy marched off to see the manager and negotiated a reduction in our bill to the tune of 50%.

No such worries for Dirk and Eddie.  The Little Thief on the A2 got their custom of the legendary 4.99 BIG breakfast.  We all ordered coffee.  We all sent the coffee back.  
"wots wrong wiv it?"...  she quibbled.
" It doesn't taste like coffee, and as such qualifies us for a full refund under your "no quibble" guarantee of satisfaction!"
We are nightmare consumers.

Quex Park has a really splendid old house turned into a museum.  We never really found out exactly what type of museum, but there were a lot of old cannons lying around the place, which really interested Dirk, who is very keen on this type of thing.

It was a bit of a douzy of a stage that was housing the National Symphony Orchestra when we arrived.  56 top musicians all making a mighty din is quite an experience.  Stage Manager Mike, had the unenviable task of keeping this whole show on schedule and did his job with great efficiency.  The Orchestra were sound checking for what seemed like an eternity and they began to eat into our allotted time.

As Mike hastily began to pack up the violinists chairs to make a space 24' x 12' for us to shake our stuff, Roy was back at the house giving the NSO's percussionist, Nigel a grilling:
"I really liked what you were doing in the Thunderbirds theme" oozed Roy.
"Oh...thanks very much" said Nigel,  ""Actually, I played on the original TV recording"
Roy and I were really excited by this.  We both have a deep affection for 60's TV themes and the Barry Gray Thunderbirds tune is one of our favourites...of course.  We enthused to Nigel that the original music used in the TV show was so much better than the re-recordings that have since come out on those compilation TV soundtrack records.  Nigel agreed.  Although we were slightly disappointed that he hadn't performed on the UFO soundtrack, Nigel placated us with his credit on Fireball XL5.

Our PA channel listings had been sent through for this event months ago, but it seems that a few tantrums and extra symphony requirements had not be taken into consideration.  The nett result was that there were not enough channels left on the mixing desk to facilitate our little group.  Fortunately, having come straight from another show, all our outboard was on the truck.  Ade and Simon worked like ferrets (or some other animal more especially known for their industry) to get everything rigged in time for us to perform on schedule.  Unfortunately, there was going to no time for a sound check.
Our set had been pre-requested by the booker, and was not what we would have chosen for this type of show, but we got on with it and finished bang on time.  Please Please Me, From Me To You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, She Loves You, All My Loving, Michelle, Day Tripper, Can't Buy Me Love, In My Life, Here Comes The Sun, Paperback Writer, Let It Be and Hey Jude.  The later two songs required that we use the services of Michel de Faraway, a pianist of some repute, whose real name cannot be reproduced for fear of contractual reprisals and spelling errors.

Of course, Hey Jude received a tumultuous reception, and much flag waving.  Mr. Elgar's similarly stirring tune would have it's work cut out to match it.  We would have loved to have stuck around to find out.....but it was a very long drive home.

Nigel at his percussive best!



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