- June 2012
Were you a dream?
I am working harder now than I have at any time in the last 10 years and I am happy about that! Steve is doing a great job and there are times when I think Monica is glad to see the back of me! (Before you gasp in wonder, fear, shock, horror, remember... you don´t live with me!)
It´s peak vacation time on the Costa Blanca so I wrote a poem to describe what I see at the airport ...
¨The whites are arriving, full of delight while the pinks must depart with a heavy heart¨
Not exactly a Pulitzer Prize contender but I couldn´t resist!
Alicante to Oslo is 2529 kms but the flight was trouble-free and, after collecting my bags from several places, I transferred to the domestic terminal where I met the band, except for Sid who was driving. ... Oslo to Alesund is about 50 minutes and, after navigating the tiny airport, we were on our way to what is a truly beautiful fishing village. They call it a village but, with a population of 40,000, that´s a pretty big village.
We checked into the 100% non-smoking hotel and went to our pre-arranged dinner. All was well in our lives at this time, except that I had to hang out of my room window to smoke! But even that was kind of okay because we were located over a river that runs through town and I got to see all the boating people doing their boating thing (seems everyone´s a sailor here) and extremely cute families of ducks paddling serenely around the water. Must be nice to be a duck ...
But the weather didn´t look good at all and there´s nothing that destroys a festival more than rain. Can´t control the weather though so ... off to bed!
It´s still raining which can only mean one thing ... Breakfast! For this show we were contracted to play 75 minutes so we could compress our usual 90-minute set into 75 minutes. Problem was that they were just kidding about the 75 minutes ... we were only playing an hour, plus encore. Time for a ¨meeting of the minds¨. Solution ... drop one song and cut the jamming a bit ... a big bit! That hurts ... I love it when we jam, especially at festivals!
I started my journey in 38 ° C and now it was 12° and raining so I was glad I brought my big jacket! We left the hotel for sound check and, despite the weather, our outlook was bright and cheerful. I love my Vikings! Sound check was soggy but really awesome! Tom Arne actually did sound check on a right-handed kit and considering he sets up left-handed that was pretty amazing. All the people setting up the festival stopped and clapped as we finished The Curse. There is definitely something magical about this band! Of course we had to do sound check without Eric who was back in the hotel recovering from a Sudoku overdose. We expect him to be fit for the show though.
Once we found someone willing to drive us back to the hotel (no mean feat!) I took my siesta and we gathered for our 20:30 start ... which inevitably became 20:45 but we were ready. The audience was totally prepared for the rain and simply didn´t care. They were used to it but, by the time we started, the rain had stopped (of course) and the energy on stage was amazing from the very beginning. Our super-efficient, no over the top jamming, maximum compression, 66-minute set blew everyone away and made life very difficult for the bands that followed us.
I wouldn´t want to go on after Live Fire when we are in this kind of a mood!
Time for a little celebration in our back-stage tent and that was the moment my world changed and Maria Lisa became a new song. We left for dinner and drifted in our different directions and I left for Wonderworld, which would never be the same again.
This was the longest day!! And I had a show to do too! Once the promoters found a vehicle or two that worked we left for the airport and our flight to Oslo. Sid left on a short vacation, Eric was headed back to Iceland and I was headed for Plovdiv, Bulgaria, almost 4000 klometers away!
This would involve three flights ... Alesund to Oslo (which we all flew together), Oslo to Vienna and finally Vienna to Sofia. Already a pretty exhausting schedule but then came the 75 minute drive to Plovdiv!! But, just to make it more interesting, the Air Traffic Controllers at Gardemoen Airport staged a go-slow in the build-up to their full strike the next day. So we were late leaving and late arriving and I had to run to the gate for my next flight. I don´t do running very well but I made it, although I was seriously concerned that my luggage would not. But it did!!!
Toni and J were there to meet me and we drove to to the Park Hotel Sankt Petersburg, a very beautiful hotel just outside the centre of Plovdiv. I had time for a quick shower and we ran to the venue (not actual ¨running¨ ... just driving quite quickly. The Antique Theatre is thousands of years old and very well-preserved (a bit like me really J).
We had to wait until the final of EURO 2012 ended! It was being shown on 2 big screeens mounted either side of the stage.
This was annoying and I think we lost some of the audience because of it. So I hung out backstage with my 20 security people (I am not kidding!) until it was time to go and do what I had travelled 4000 kilometres to do. Considering we had no time for rehearsal or even a sound check it went well and we completed another ¨July Morning¨/1st of July concert. I turned down some invitations to party and went gratefully to my room. (It was a very nice room but had nowhere enough electrical sockets!!!)
The story is that this celebration is closer now to becoming an official ¨event¨ in the Bulgarian calendar and I am not sure how I feel about that! I commend George for his hard work and his commitment to peace but I am just not sure the ¨official¨ version will manage to retain the purity or innocence of what has been happening for more than 20 years already ... Food for thought.
We had talked about an acoustic show this evening but, due to the unusually high level of Bulgarian confusion, along with an overdose of administrative incompetence, it never materialised! But the Press conference was great!! With nothing else to do, we just lounged about the 5-star hotel (3.5 stars in Western Europe) and chatted about future events, while George waited (as usual) to get paid!
I slept a good siesta, packed a bit, worked a bit and then went to bed.
Slept 7 hours, gave Caca her wake-up call, finished packing, did a little work, checked out, took pictures with everyone (most of which are already on the web site!) and headed back to the airport in Sofia. They sent a car that wasn´t even big enough for my luggage and we ended up in a taxi!!
There is a serious musical plague in Bulgaria and its name is ¨Chalga¨! I am not even sure if you spell it this way but, if you say it as it is written, people will understand. It is relentlessly dreadful crap but it is poisoning generation after generation of young and early-middle-aged people in Bulgaria! We have to stop this before it starts to leak into neighbouring countries, TV stations and the like!! How? Play more rock music. Cut off the electrical supply to radio and TV stations that feature Chalga. Tell people that the word means something dreadful (which it does of course) or have it classified by The World Health Organisation as an official and malignant epidemic! I don´t know but ... Do something!
Following neatly up on this, I had to laugh at the wannabe ¨Chalga Plague¨ people roaming around the airport. You can spot them a lifetime away! They are infected and they need the cure. Me? I went to the VIP lounge, had a mystery pastry and finally went to the gate where the flight was delayed for 90 minutes. Oh Joy! I didn´t have a connecting flight to worry about, I was headed for London but there is no smoking in Sofia airport. They are trying to join the Eurozone and therefore need to kiss some EU butt!
But, if you know the right person, there is always a solution. And I did!!!
What was cool was that the captain left the plane and came to the departure lounge to tell us all what was happening. He did this in a very British way (it was a British Airways flight). He was accompanied by the purser (that means the person in charge of money!) of the flight, whose name was Amanda and who could only have been British! They explaned that the plane had a small oil leak in the port (left) engine and that they were working on it. I think it was jolly good of them to do this ... we were better off being in the departure area than being stuck on a hot aeroplane!!
We finally got going, I had a snack and went straight to sleep! I like Business Class and I am not ashamed to admit it!! It was 2585 kms to London (Yes, I am counting them on this trip). Obviously we landed a bit late but it wasn´t too bad and when I got to my Heathrow hotel, one or two of my expected guests were waiting in the bar. I spent this evening with some of the great people I used to work with back in the 70´s and it was really special to see them and to share some great memories and updates with them. We had met, for the first time in many, many years at Gerry Bron´s funeral and it was there that we vowed to meet again ... so we did! And we will do it again! We shared a very special time in the history of rock & roll and they were all important to my personal and professional life.
Wow ... it´s raining ... how unusual! The English weather was one of the reasons I left in 1981 and again in 2002. I just don´t know how people deal with it or plan anything. It´s dreadful ... not as dreadful as Chalga but dreadful nonetheless.
Anyway ... today will be different.
First I have to be at the BBC for my first interview with them in more than 35 years and then Steve and I are going to Metropolis Studios but not for mastering this time. He picked me up right on time and we got through the traffic well and even found a parking space right outside the door of this particular BBC studio!!
We went in, collected our badges and entered the studio area. We were eventually asked to enter the studio where I would be doing the interview with Roger ¨Twiggy¨ Day only he wasn´t there!! He was in another studio in Kent (never found out why) but this was set up as a ¨remote¨ interview. Okay with me, no problem and it was actually fun, quick and painless ... just like me.
I had to go to the Apple store and then we wound our way back to the hotel for a quick shower before leaving back to west London for dinner with some of our Russian friends. They showed up in a couple of Rolls-Royce Phantoms and the evening began with a guided tour of the mastering rooms at Metropolis where they each received a vinyl pressing of "The Curse" from the "Faster" album, which of course we mastered there originally. Lee joined us, we talked, ate some delicious food, drank a little wine and bailed out at around 11pm, by which time fatigue was catching up with me! A good time was had by all but my bed was calling!!
Steve and I were planning to fly to Hungary today for the Gastroblues Festival in a little town named Paks but, for some unknown reason, we were on different flights! In any case all of this was upset when Steve got an early morning call that his apartment building was on fire so he had to drop everything and rush back to Winchester.
In the end, everything was okay but he was unable to re-book his flight so he wouldn´t make it to Hungary. My flight was later so I continued to get ready and checked out of the Radisson. I left myself plenty of time to navigate the complexities of Terminal 3 at Heathrow and made it with a little time spare. And the flight was smooth, arriving in Vienna just about on time. Unfortunately, the 3-hour drive to Paks was not so smooth as we had to drive through 3 or 4 very heavy thunderstorms along the way, but we arrived in time to meet the guys, have a snack and see what this bed would be like. It was big and it was good!
We were without Eric here. He is now in Sudoku rehab and we all wish him well! I had been studying my own lyrics so I could sing the songs Eric normally sings (which is most of them) and we re-configured the stage a bit. Sound check was routine, the car picked us up 35 minutes late (also routine) and we were ready to rock. And we did. I did my best to manage the vocals and later everyone said I did fine, but it´s alot of work doing what I normally do and trying to deliver the lead vocals. I hope Eric gets better soon!
Our efforts were not helped by a large lady in the front row that decided to take all of her clothes off and throw them at the stage ... I felt a bit like Tom Jones there for a moment, before the security guys decided to remove her! A happy after-show and back to bed. I have an early start tomorrow.
Sometimes I look out of my window (especially, early in the mornings when I am packing and preparing for the next flight) and I see all the people leading what appear to be ¨normal¨ lives and I do wonder what that is like. Except for the fact that I am sure, in one way or another, their lives are not actually normal at all.
I just heard from a good friend that her life is ¨complicated¨ and that came as a suprise to me, even though it shouldn´t. Life, for all of us, can be complicated but we live on and, to make things a little less difficult, I think it is wise to identify the things that complicate our lives and just cut them off. Perhaps this is easier said than done ...
As promised and as divinely reminded, I went to the little local church and sang four songs for them. I tried to get out of this but I heard a loud voice and obeyed it ... and I am really glad I did. I reached for a topic and was given ¨love¨ so I played songs of love and forgiveness to this enraptured gathering and it was really nice. I signed some stuff, did a short TV interview and left with Robert for the airport in Vienna, almost 300 kms from where I was.
Finally we were on the road. Robert is a very interesting person and I enjoy travelling with him. He is Polish and he travels a lot so we enjoyed sharing ¨war stories¨, pretty much the whole way to the airport. And he doesn´t mind stepping on the gas either! I had been booked to fly with Iberia but of course this was code-shared down to Vueling so I had to prepare for war! I was flying out of Vienna which also meant I couldn´t check in on-line (I must remember to find out why this is).
The lines were long but my swords were drawn though, as it turned out, I didn´t need them. I absolutely beat them on this first leg of my journey home. Even the snooty busy-body flight attendant who challenged me on board couldn´t do anything, but I knew that once I got to Barcelona my victory might be short-lived.
(I saw a nun in the departure lounge with an iphone and this made me chuckle ... don´t really know why.)
Anyway, we landed in Barcelona and I had to find the smoking area (between terminals B and C, by the Haagen-Dazs concession, in case you are interested).
I did manage to get something extremely average to eat and boarded my flight to Alicante. The most noticeable thing about this moment was the absolutely dreadful music they played as we boarded and left the plane. Some awful high-pitched squeaking female that could win a war if used as a weapon!
By now I was dangerously tired but looking forward to getting home.
We landed at Alicante airport where most things don´t work (picture) and after getting my bags (which were still with me!)
I met Alberto for the drive home, which seemed to take for ever.
Home! Late and exhausted, but happy. Nine days, four countries and almost fifteen thousand kilometers ... That´s a lot!