Monday, 24 November 2014

Getting Ready, Mixing With The Stars, Getting Ready To Go Again...

I'm sitting in the overcrowded boarding area in Terminal 5 at JFK airport. This is about the most relaxed I've felt since we got home from the Ian Hunter tour last Tuesday and I realised we'd have to get ready to leave home yet again.
I always feel hopelessly ill-prepared - I make mental lists and try to hold the information in my head until the pressure of trying to remember all this trivial shit becomes too much and I succumb to making an actual list:
glasses...set list...notify the bank...gutters...dodgy volume pot...socks...
Eventually I start crossing this stuff out, either because I've done it, like climbing up a ladder and clearing leaves out of the gutter; or because I can't remember what it was I meant, like socks; or because I'm running out of time, as in dodgy volume pot, which I'll deal with when we get to England if I can locate the UK soldering iron amongst the touring paraphernalia stashed in our friend's attic.
I have to remember where I've put my passport even though I know where I keep my passport, but it seems important to remember where I've put it, so I do, and store the information in my head, and then I convince myself that I might have forgotten, so I rush home with a palpitating heart and check that the passport is where I've put it, which of course it is...
It's a bit like an Edgar Allan Poe story but I can't think which one in particular at the moment.
I've decided which guitar I'm taking - the big green Microfret. I thought of taking the Mexican Telecaster which sounds great but doesn't have quite the character and fucked-up-ness of the Microfret, possibly because the strings are all the same distance apart.

A week goes by in a blur - rounding up equipment, rehearsing, renting a van, loading it with equipment, catching a ferry in the early morning. Cologne, Nijmegan, Utrecht...

And here we are, three shows in, having a day off in Utrecht. Amy and I decided to go off in search of the old town - canals, historic buildings, coffee houses and the ubiquitous coffee shops, which of course we avoided seeing as how we're already spaced out.
We met up with Barry Payne and the three of us spent an afternoon cluttering up cycle lanes, cafes, and at one point even a camping shop, which is a good thing because now we've got the camping bug out of our systems for another year.

It's hard to believe that just two weeks ago I had a show in Huntsville, Alabama, and then we were in Nashville with Ian Hunter. That was a great show to end the tour with. Afterwards, in a dressing room full of people, I met a very enthusiastic fan called Tom who told me how happy he was to see us play, and what a huge fan he was:
'Do you live in Nashville? I asked him, feeling a bit like Prince Charles on a royal visit.
He told me he did.
'And what do you do here?' I asked, inclining my head slightly and putting on an interested expression.
'I'm a bass player'
'That's good! So am I - I play bass sometimes with me and Amy. You got a band or anything?'
'Yes, I've been in the same band for years'
'Must be working out then - what are you called?'
'We're called Cheap Trick'
It took some effort to come back from that but I managed. I told him how I'd opened for Cheap Trick at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1979, and how impressed we were by their roadies who all looked like Greek gods to us. He told me the band were all huge fans and were quite awed at having me open for them. I told him we'd assumed they were arrogant American rock stars because none of them talked to us, and he said that they'd all been too shy.
I remember that night very well - Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds turned up in just perfect time to miss my set, which was a shame because we'd actually been really good and gone down well. 
I had a halting and almost completely one-sided conversation with Roy Wood who seemed very tall and imperious, though that may have just been an illusion caused by my fan worship of the man.
The stars caroused with one another and I ended up in the corner of the backstage bar with my bass player. 
A seedy looking man, an American with a ratty moustache, beige slacks and an open-necked shirt, the collar of which spanned the width of an impossible tweed jacket turned to me:
'I love your band'
'Thank you' I said
'Caught you last night too, at the Chelsea College Of Art... amazing'
'Thank you,' I said again, and edged slightly down the bar.
'If there was anything I could ever do for you...'
What could this guy ever do for me, I thought. He looked as though he'd just come out of prison and been given some clothes.
I exchanged looks with the bass player and we edged a bit further.
'...play a little guitar myself' I hear him say '...used to have a band myself out of Detroit, name of the MC5'
We turned and looked. He held out his hand -
'My name's Wayne, Wayne Kramer'

And here I am, thirty six years later, killing time in a hotel on the outskirts of Utrecht, getting ready to drive to Hamburg in the morning.