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Saturday 2nd June 07                                                                                                                                        

Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher.

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.

Roy's Tribute to Deep Purple.
Roy performs the opening bars of Deep Purple's Fireball underneath the main stand at Sandown Racecourse.

Monday 11th June 07                                                                                                                                         

The Owl Service.

This week seems to have been spent looking after a baby Little Owl that had presumably fallen out of his nest in the eaves of my house.
The first three days were spent feeding the little bugger raw chicken.  At first, he had to be force fed, by opening his beak with a pair of tweezers, but by the second day, he was able to be gently coaxed into opening it himself.  I've since learnt that the chicken is really no good for owls.  They need to be on a diet of bones, fur and feathers, as well as the flesh, else their digestive system will pack in after a few weeks.  Since my cat is getting lazy in her old age, not bringing home any mice, voles and shrews like she used to, I had no option but to continue with the chicken, as I don't have the necessary skill to catch them myself.

Each night, I made an attempt to reconcile the bird, now called Othello, with his parents.  Unfortunately, the area around my house is a minefield of predators for a young, susceptible owl, and each attempt had to be abandoned.
On Friday, I got in touch with Pam & Bill from the North Wales Bird Trust in Llandudno. On seeing Othello, they suspected that he had been "imprinted", which means that it is improbable he will be able to return to the wild. They kindly agreed to take him, and it looks likely that he will now spend the next 20 years doing gigs in schools, helping to educate children all about owls. I was sorry to see him go, but at least I know now that he will be properly looked after.  The bird has now been renamed, Oswald....Pam didn't much care for the name Othello!

The bizarre postscript to this story, is that when I returned from Wales, I walked into the living room to find the couch covered in bird shit and the startled figure of one of Oswald's siblings sitting on the window sill.  He had fallen down the chimney.  Thankfully, this chap was bigger and stronger and was able to be put back outside.

Saturday 16th June 07                                                                                                                                       

Midland Hotel, Manchester.

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 Trust.

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 cool though! 

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 broccoli....very nice.

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.

Saturday 23rd June 07                                                                                                                                       

Thaxted Festival, Thaxted.

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 performance.

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 tower.
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 congregation/audience.  

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.

Tuesday 26th June 07                                                                                                                                        

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.

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 homeward.
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".

Saturday 30th June 07                                                                                                                                       

Victoria Hall, Oakham.

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 Rutles country.

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 found here.


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