We'd arrived at Sandown well early, with
a view to doing a full sound check having been advised
it was a very small room. As it turned out, the
room wasn't all that small, but we were playing across the
width of it facing plate glass, which was always
going to make things a bit noisy.
With hours to spare before we were due on, there was
plenty of time for a wander round the place.
One of the delights of doing
these corporate jobs is getting to see places that you
would only normally see when they are packed with
people. Walking round a deserted racecourse gives
you an entirely different perspective. This was,
by far, the most pleasant part of the day.
A good 45 minutes was killed watching a go-kart race in
the in-field part of the course and then, as things
started to become a little tedious, Roy decided to use
the acoustics provided by the empty grandstand to
perform a drum solo on his thighs.
It was quite clear as we walked to the stage during the
intro tape, that the punters were not at all arsed about
the impending performance. Experience just lets
you know these things. We played well and did our
usual stuff, but the reaction was at best apathetic, and
at one point near the end from one section, downright
ignorant and rude.
Tribute to Deep Purple. Roy performs the opening bars of Deep
Purple's Fireball underneath the main stand at Sandown Racecourse.
With Dirk off on his travels again, Karl
Lornie kindly stepped into the breach to fill his Cuban
heels for this charity bash in support of The Princes
I don't think Liverpudlians are supposed to like
Manchester that much, but I have to admit I've always
liked the city centre architecture although I'm
seriously less keen on the parking restrictions. I
guess that every city centre is the same these days, and
it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to find
parking on these corporate gigs, especially for the van.
With Karl being on board, we arrived early so that we
could sound check. The Alexandra Suite had good
acoustics, so there was no problem getting a sound we
were all pleased with, and the ten minutes we spent
running a few songs was no more than a formality. The
room layout was fab, although I'm not sure why there
were shoes on all the table displays!....they looked
The waiting round for the performance is always a bit of
a pain in the arse, but we did have a huge room to share
with the dancers and the Beatle stilt walkers. Our
only slight gripe was the long delay for food, but when
it did finally arrive it was worth waiting for....a
delicious Sea Bass and perfectly al dente
A lot of these functions can be very soul destroying to
perform at. Sometimes the audience simply doesn't
give a toss, but tonight the mix of society and
celebrity were, in the main, very appreciative and we
all enjoyed the gig. Among the people dancing, we
spotted Corrie stars Kim Ryder and Samia Smith.
It's been a strange old week.
There has been a lot of fluctuations with everything,
not least of all the weather. One minute it is
fine and the next there is the sound of thunder and sky
lighting up with the most spectacular storms. By
Thursday, we finally knew who was going to be slapping
the heavier gauge strings stage-right for tonight's
As our Macca for the day, George Pool, was without user steer-able
transport, we had arranged to pick him up at Cambridge
railway station, en route to Thaxted.
We arrive in the small town of Thaxted in glorious
sunshine, and really can't miss the venue which is the
Parish Church of St. John the Baptist. It is a staggeringly
beautiful church completed in 1510, which I guess must
make it the oldest venue we have ever performed
in. As we enter the main entrance of the church,
keen to explore, we are met by Dave who has that look on
his face which indicates a problem. Well it's
pretty obvious that this is going to be very challenging
acoustically, but Spectrum have dealt with worse so the
band, at least, remain optimistic. The dressing
room is apparently "over the road", so this is
hastily abandoned in favour of a screen behind the stage
utilising the area by the main door underneath the bell
George settled himself at the magnificent grand piano
and wowed us with his ivory tinkling skills on "The
Long and Winding Road" and "Fool on The
Hill" amongst others. Dave must have read my
mind and simply came out with...."No
chance!" Shame!... if we could've miked
up that piano it would have been lovely.
As Roy hit the bass pedal for the first time, the
festival director came over to introduce himself to us
and politely point out that the drum was rather
loud. This was the first installment of the sound
check from hell. As we all cracked up with a song,
playing as softly as possible and Roy using very light
"hot rods" instead of sticks, it was apparent
that this would be useless. None of us could hear
enough of Roy to keep in time with him, he would have to
use sticks. George could not hear his bass
properly over the fold back speakers, but we eventually
got a level that we could all use on stage.
Front of house was an altogether different
problem. The director was insistent that the volume
was too loud and was just about satisfied when Adrian
turned the PA off. I tried to explain that this
was not how the band is meant to sound and we would be
massively compromising ourselves if we were to perform
like this. Things were beginning to look like they
would get really ugly when Ade marched to the
power amps at the side of the stage, switched them all
off and announced: "Right!.... that's it.....I'm
going... Goodbye". Even Dave stood with
his mouth open.
I chased Ade out of the church, where now, thunder
clouds were starting to form and a distant rumble could
be heard. I telephone the agent, as communication
was now breaking down between myself and the
director. After some five minutes of negotiation a
compromise was reached, whereby we would use the PA for
the first half, and review the situation at half time,
should there be any significant complaints from the
By now, the rain was
pouring in torrents and the thunder claps were right
overhead. We all legged it over the road to the
Swan pub for the toilet facilities. There was now
about 20 minutes to write a set and get changed.
So harassed were we, that Roy even forgot to change into
his stage shirt and put his tie on the shirt he was
already wearing. Getting ready in front of a
hand-held ladies compact mirror, two inches in diameter,
proved less comical and more bloody annoying as it had
to be moved millimeter by millimeter while everyone
"did their hair" in sections.
Taking a deep breath, and feeling more like we were
about to leap out of a plane without a parachute rather
than perform Beatle tunes, we bounded onto the stage
with far more bravado than we were feeling inside.
Amazingly enough, we were incredibly well received.
George did a splendid job fitting in with us, and apart
from the moment when he tried to share a mic with Eddie,
and realised the height differential was way beyond his
expectations, there were no dramas at all.
During the interval, Eddie and I slipped out for a smoke
and found that the weather had once again turned really
rather clement. There was no evidence that just an
hour before, the skies were dark and foreboding, it was
glorious again. The director came to me and
apologised for the sound check debacle, saying that our judgment
had been right and his wrong. I was really
impressed with this act, it was most gracious of him and
I understood that all along he just wanted what was best
for the audience. There were no hard feelings.
As we were packing up to go home and the Morris Dancing
began, we chatted to the Windsor Girls, who had made the
long trip up from Heathrow to see us. It makes us
all a bit humbled to think that people travel so far to
support us, but I think that the appearance of Eva from
Denmark took the top prize of "beyond the call of
duty", as she flew in to Stansted especially for
the gig. "Thank you" seems inadequate,
but we appreciate it immensely.
They don't build hotels like this
anymore. Like the Adelphi in Liverpool, the
Midland in Manchester and the Landmark in London, The
Balmoral was built as a direct result of the
railway. Grand places to temporarily house the
wealthy, who were beginning to travel the country on a
new fangled rail network.
These days they are more likely to be used as bases for
corporate hospitality and functions.....just like the
one we are about to perform at tonight.
We've been informed, quite late in the day, that
everything has been moved forward an hour, so we don't
have much time to hang about on the journey north.
Experience tells me that if they say we are on stage at
9pm, it's a dead cert. that this won't happen and we we
still be left hanging around for another hour. I
was half right!
We take our places behind a screen at the front of the
stage that is showing the opening sequence from A Hard
Days Night. As the film stops, the screen is
dropped and we begin our set to plenty of oohs and a
good deal of clapping and cheering. These are
Americans! Judging from the general attire, I suspect
that they are in town on a shortbread convention, but a
glance round the room leads me to deduce that the theme
of the evening is "Mad About Plaid", and where
else would one hold such an event?
The whole audience danced and sang along to the majority
of the set, with the exception of (as Karl keenly
pointed out), "Everybody's Trying to Be My
Baby".....sheesh!...but even then there were quite
a few country & western revelers.
By the time we had got changed, eaten some club
sandwiches and Karl had tried to negotiate the procurement
of four of the Balmoral's banqueting staff jackets (they
bore an uncanny resemblance to the Shea jackets), Dave
and Ade had the van loaded and we were ready to convoy
The modern Transit Van doesn't hang about, and when we
pulled into Charnock Richard services at 2am, Spectrum
were only two minutes behind us. Here, we threw
Karl and his belongings out of the car and into the van
so that he could make the final leg of his journey
through the Mersey Tunnel with Dave and Ade, who also
live "over the water".
Well Derek is now back from his
Brazilian adventure...that is to say he has been to
Brazil, rather than having a close shave! (maybe he's
had that too, that's his business).....but all is
not well. He's returned with a tropical fever,
which has left him limp, sweaty and achy, a bit like a
visit to the gym but with complimentary booze and an
in-flight meal. Anyway, he's going to be ok but
tonight he couldn't summon the strength to lift a violin
bass, and so it is once again a pleasure to have George
stand in with us for this gig right in the heart of
June is coming to an end pretty much like it has been
throughout the month....very wet, and I meet George on
Oakham High Street, as he jaunts along the few hundred
yards from the train station to the Victoria Hall.
I point him in the direction of the venue, and continue
my search for somewhere for him to stay overnight as his
last train to London goes before we are due to come off
stage. We'd all love to be able to get the train
to gigs, but the rail service is so shitty that it makes
it impossible, not to mention expensive.
The actual gig was a bit unusual for us these
days. Where now, we are much more used to having
all the seats pointing at the stage, this was set out as
a dance hall gig with chairs and tables round the
walls. George had worked hard to learn most of the
songs from our set, so we pretty much did our usual
thing and the audience seemed to have a fine time.
Eddie seemed to enjoy himself the most judging from his
enthusiasm in the car on the way home.
Oh yeah.... nearly forgot, at half time we
did an interview with Suzie Pike from the Rutland
Independent online newspaper. The article can be