A riproaring rollercoaster of a journey through time, space and that side road just over there...


Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 13th, 2009 @ 18:53:17 , using 71 words,
Posted in Music related

The mobile phone rings...

"Chris, I've been talking with the rest of the band all week and we don't think it's working"

Mildly stunned at the sense of what I've been told, I begin to suspect I've been the unwitting victim of a euphemism.

"We'll talk more when I get back of my holiday in 3 weeks"

I have an idea this will be a short conversation.

This does not feel good...

Three Square Meals

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 13th, 2009 @ 01:22:00 , using 0 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

Three Square Meals

Living a Dream

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 12th, 2009 @ 13:07:00 , using 1786 words,
Posted in Music related

Not so many hours back, I said that Mr Hoffman-Gill had given me an idea for a post or two, in fact there's probably material in this area for many more. The area in question was triggered by the many music related lists he seems to go in for, but I don't intend to slavishly copy an album or gig list, as I can throw my own little slant in here.

I did my 'O' Levels back in 1978 and during the following spring (April 3rd) fell into a form of gainful occupation that quite frankly I'd have paid to do if I'd had the money. At the age of 17 I was pretty much obsessed with nothing other than music, bands, concerts and anything else related. At that point, distractions of a female persuasion were only a distant concern, though I could as the need arose put on a neat turn aboard a skateboard.

The spring's highlight in Stoke-on-Trent, on the live act front, was going to be Thin Lizzy who were scheduled to perform at Trentham Gardens. Unlike most of the other venues in the area, such as the Hanley Victoria Hall, or the distant cow shed that is Stafford Bingley Hall, Trentham Gardens was actually worth visiting during the day, as you could wander the gardens for many a mile, though at that time they were somewhat dishevelled and no where near the spectacle that it is today following its recent restoration. So that day, a couple of friends and myself arrived early at the Gardens, tickets in hand and went to see what was happening. So begins my list; the recollections of a 'humper & dumper' for bands many and various:

  1. Thin Lizzy: Finding ourselves with plenty of time to kill, we naturally ended up outside the ballroom itself to see what, if anything, was happening there. Lined up outside were a couple of trucks, rear doors open and ramps running up to the cavernous interiors. Flight cases of a variety of shapes and sizes were being rolled off the back of the truck and through the open doorway of the ballroom, presumably heading for the stage. We probably stood for ten minutes or so, fascinated as we were to see real live roadies moving the kit round for a real live band, and a big one at that.

    Unbeknown to us, one of the road crew had noticed us stood there, and at a guess, rather hot in the April sun, decided to 'press-gang' us into action. "Don't just stand there lads! Give us a hand", and we were off, for the rest of the afternoon, shifting cases, lifting gear onto stage and most likely getting in the way, as we hadn't the faintest idea where anything went or what we should do with it. Out of the chaos rose the set, complete with drum risers, lights, amps, drum kits, mixers and mile after mile of cable.

    Having emptied the trucks of their cargo, there was little we could do to assist any further, so it was back to the hanging round watching the crew turn what looked a dumping ground into the recognisable makings of a live show. From somewhere, back-stage passes had appeared for us, meaning we were free to go anywhere within the venue. Down behind the stage was the food, the drink, the dressing rooms and later on, the band themselves.

    Somewhere around this time, we must have been introduced to the local promoter in town, Mike Lloyd. He ran a record shop in the centre of Hanley, though not one I frequented much. I don't recall it being a long conversation, but the end result was that if we wanted to do this again, then all we had to do was turn up at the Vic the following week at 11:00 and we'd not only get into the gig free, but we'd get paid a tenner for our trouble too. Things were looking up.

    My abiding memory though from the rest of the day was the sound check. Sat on the floor of a pretty much empty ballroom whilst Phil Lynott, Brian Downey and Scott Gorham were running through a track (can't recall which), whilst Gary Moore, who was in as a replacement for Brian Robertson, noodled away on his Les Paul playing something completely different. Whatever it was, the speed and dexterity he displayed was mind-blowing.

    The concert itself was a real treat and I seem to recall spending most of the evening on the upstairs balcony, accessible to those of us with a back stage pass only. And that, was how it all started

  2. Buzzcocks: I'm pretty sure all the other bands I 'humped and dumped' for were performing at the Victoria Hall. Nothing stands out especially at this one, but I do remember Pete Sheeley, Steve Diggle and co. arriving on stage for the sound check, and also sitting behind John Maher's drum kit and getting a few tips from the drum roadie.
  3. John Miles: Most people only remember John Miles for his single "Music" which got to #3 in 1976. In 1979, his popularity was perhaps of a lower order than some of the others acts of the time, he was though an exceptionally competent musician. The most striking feature of this concert was the sheer amount of equipment that his band arrived with. So much so that there wasn't space to put the support act on the stage, so starting a little later than normal, it was just the headline act that we got. Can't say that I recall feeling that we were in any way short changed
  4. Scorpions: You know there's something quite appealing about German efficiency, it's great of you want trains to run on time, or the streets kept clean, but behind the scenes of what would have been Germany's biggest act at the time, it translated largely as no fun at all. Especially for those helpers provided by the venue. Lets just say that this was a day I didn't enjoy behind the scenes, throughout the day we were driven hard and with no great sympathy by the German road-crew. Even given the inevitable language barriers, they were a miserable bunch to work for. As far as the promoter was concerned, we were only really required to help unload the trucks, not to help at the end in breaking everything down, it was something I often did though, it was just part of the fun. That evening I didn't bother.

    The only notable event was trying to unload, then manhandle a huge hydraulic jack up to the stage. This was to be used under the drum riser, which at the appointed time would lift the riser, drum kit and drummer up around 8-10ft into the air. The problem was its sheer weight, literally dragging the thing off the truck and across the hall was bad enough, but I watched as something like 10 of the road crew tried to haul this thing up front edge of the stage using a bunch retaining straps, in what could only be described as a herculean effort. The crew kept the likes of myself well out if the way at this point, must have been an early form of health and safety I guess. They got it up there, but how no one lost a finger or got crushed, remains a mystery to me to this day.

  5. The Damned: Nothing much about the gear moving sticks in the mind much at this one, but I do recall The Damned being exceptionally drunk on stage and the performance becoming free-form, with one member than another wandering off stage mid-song and a short while later re-joining the action. At the time, at all seemed rather fun, though in hindsight, more than a little disrespectful towards the paying public.

    The most memorable part of the day took place after the gig had finished, when for whatever reason we decided to head into the pub up the road - not something we generally did given the time it would have been by the time we usually finished. Sat in the bar as we got in there was Malcolm Owen the vocalist for The Ruts. Conversation passed over something and nothing through a slightly beery haze. but I do remember thinking what a nice guy he was; nothing about him suggested he had an ego, he just enjoyed what he was doing. It was with some sadness that I learned, a mere 12 months later, that he had died of a heroin overdose.

  6. Hawkwind: Now this one was fun. Spectacularly relaxed Yank roadies, who didn't much seem to care too much about anything to be honest. They just got on with it, had a laugh and were more than happy to involve you in stuff that, in all honesty, we shouldn't have had any business getting involved in. At one point I was handed a power plug, a cable and the soldering iron from hell, along with the instruction to join the lot together. It wasn't going to happen and my man quickly realised it and handed me a tenner and got me to find the nearest music shop and bring back a roll of gaffer tape. Not a big task, but it seemed rather flash to me to be handed an entire evenings' pay and be asked to buy sticky tape with it. This was a good one and at that point I'd have been happy to have dumped the studying what I was supposed to have been doing, and just headed off out on the road with a crew.

So then, a short list, but a fun one and one I look back on with some very fond memories. Whilst I can't pin them down to any particular concert, giving the support acts a hand breaking their gear down in the interval was a buzz (no one helps support acts), as you could almost guarantee seeing some of your friends in the crowd below your feet, me with my pass and money in my pocket, them with their ticket stub and green eyes - at that age a great game of one one-upmanship.

All too soon, it came to an end. I should have been studying, but that came to an end later that year once my parents discovered that I hadn't been in college doing my 'A' Levels for months - an interesting conversation that one! Within days I had officially left school and was working on a building site as a general labourer (building trade speak for dogsbody) and by the August of that year was signed up in the RAF as a trainee Air Communications Technician.

Now that was another story altogether...

Far too late

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 11th, 2009 @ 23:57:37 , using 50 words,
Posted in General

Well I crashed and burned tonight. A working week caught up with me and the body, mind and spirit let go on the sofa in front of the telly. Never mind, I have stuff in the pipeline for sometime tomorrow - Blurred Clarity (Daniel Hoffman-Gill) has given me an idea...

Handbags at 40 Paces

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 10th, 2009 @ 22:33:00 , using 82 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

It would appear I'm all out of words this evening, but as I've not posted any images for a few posts, it seemed an ideal opportunity to trawl the archives and pull out something you may not have seen - at least if you've not been looking at my flickr stuff. This one was taken in Hong Kong back in March. It's of the view we had from our hotel room and looks over the intersection next to the Happy Valley Racecourse. Enjoy!

Handbags at 40 Paces

Green Day vs Stevie Wonder

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 9th, 2009 @ 22:49:14 , using 519 words,
Posted in Music related

It's an unlikely combination I grant you, but with the third of the bands' rehearsals now under my belt, these two are coming closer together. It's fair to say that the former are winning out in the track count so far as we gradually construct our set. I'll not list out the actual tracks here, so as not to spoil the surprise for any who might turn up for the first of our many-times rearranged gigs. As it's on VH1 at the moment though, I can confirm that we will not be attempting Tina Turner's 'Nutbush City Limits' - good thing too...

Despite having had guitars in my possession for the best part of 30 years, this is the first time I've ever been even remotely close to being in an actual act. The first time was absolutely terrifying, but I did just about get away with it. I did though rapidly discover that playing along with other flesh and blood musicians is not the same as playing to the original artists CD. The subtle shifts in tone and arrangement of a familiar tune are rarely there when trying to make yourself heard against the massive reverb of an empty rehearsal space, and the lack of balance between the instruments that come out of this.

I'd also not appreciated how difficult it is to pick up the language of a practice session. For some of the others, who have been doing this for perhaps 20-30 years in some form, it's second nature, whilst I must look utterly bemused by is all. I know what the words mean (mostly), but I haven't a clue how they relate to an actual track, which I don't de-construct as I'm listening to them in terms of verses, choruses, bridges and so on. An instruction telling me we're going to pick up two bars before the 2nd chorus is most likely to leave me thinking "Oh fuck! I've been found out!". The may as well drop me off in Gorky Park and ask me to find the Kremlin - no doubt I'll get there in the end, but it ain't going to be quick, or by the most direct route - don't speak the lingo you see.

All said an done though, it's beginning to come together, though I've not really settled myself into a regular structured practice routine away from the band rehearsals. Better an hour a day than 7 hours cramming over a day at the weekend. What is going to be nice though will to be get some of the guitars I have out of their pristine home in my bedroom studio and out in front of an audience, an audience that wishes to be entertained and will probably be more than forthcoming on what they think of us. I'm sure it be fun when it happens and I'm hoping that someone will capture some photographic evidence of it all. It would be nice to be thought of as someone who plays guitar and not just owns a few, after all, any old idiot with some ready cash can do that can't they.

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