We stayed in Decatur GA with our friends Shawn Vinson (my art agent) and his wife, the painter Ruth Franklin. Shawn took me and my ailing amplifier to a place called Acorn Amplifiers, run by a couple of young guys - they were probably in their mid-thirties, but they're all young to me. They were into Traynor amps but understood the convenience of using a Vox AC15 and confirmed what I've been thinking, that a well set up Fender Deluxe would be much better.
The Vox starts to crush up to early and sometimes it just isn't quite loud enough. Before I know it my big fat guitar sound has turned into a wasp in a bottle and I can hardly hear it. They got it sorted out but it hasn't been ideal for these shows, next time I'll probably use my forty watt Traynor head with a cabinet.
I imagine I've just lost half my readers - no one wants to hear about amplifiers! You want to hear about clothes, and swanky hotels, and hanging out with the stars.
I could document this tour with conversations I've had with Ian, sitting on dressing room sofas. After our soundcheck at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta I went down into the dressing room and there was Ian, alone, sitting on the ubiquitous sofa.
'Hello Eric, you're looking good today'
'Really? Must be a trick of the light'
'Well, whatever it is it's working for you'
'In that case I'll stand here forever'
'No, don't do that, come and sit down'
We talked for a while about soundchecks - Ian says he has to do them. I said I just want to know that the acoustic guitar's at the right level in the monitor and check my amp's working alright. Apart from that it's really just a question of checking for holes in the stage. We agreed that it's a placebo thing really. He says he's got to do it, if only to check the vibe of the place and decide what shirt to wear. Of course, by the time he gets on the stage the band have soundchecked the whole thing into submission and it's just a question of fine tuning things.
I asked him the other day for advice on taking a band round Europe - it's been a long time and I'm a bit nervous. He said all you need are a few regal gestures and don't go near the stage until the band have finished soundchecking. I can't see that working somehow but it's a nice thought. If any of them read this they'll take the piss out of me for it.
We discussed the importance of playing something with the front of house turned off - you can always here it bouncing off the empty dance floor when the room's empty, and it sounds big and exciting, but as soon as the floor gets covered up by an audience it's like playing into a mattress, and if you're not prepared you'll suddenly find you need three times as much of just about everything in the monitors as you did at the soundcheck.
Then I came up with a great invention - the soundcheck mattress. It's a huge mattress that you wheel in and put in front of you to simulate audience bulk during the soundcheck. Ian was very impressed -
'The roadies could pump it up and deflate it when you've finished!'
'Fuck off' I said, 'I'm not having an inflatable one - I want the full Dunlopillo posture sprung memory foam job, with the reclining feature, just in case anyone wants to read during the soundcheck.'
Ian produced a pair of black jeans: 'We found these lying around, are they yours?'
'I dunno, what size are they?'
'Thirty waist, thirty two leg'
'They might be, that's my size'
'Well, you better take them then, nobody else else wants them, and they're your size'
'Thanks Ian! I didn't even know I'd lost them'
I was glad that my trousers hadn't gone missing because I was planning to wear my hand painted country 'n' western outfit, and that involves the black jeans (which I haven't got round to painting yet).
Dennis, the keyboard player, was impressed that I knew how to iron a shirt. Ian was worried that my shirt might be better than his. I offered to lend it to him when we'd finish but the offer was declined.
I went to get changed.
I found I had two pairs of black jeans.
Ian liked my outfit, particularly the bollo tie which looks like something stolen from a southern European cemetary. Jim Mastro looked worried, he couldn't find his black jeans. It's a funny thing - the whole band seemed to say at once 'Eric's got a spare pair...'
'They're mine! Give them back!'
'I don't know where I've put them' I said, 'you'll just have to go on in your underpants.'
I think I might have been set up. I found out later that on a previous tour they'd been stealing each other's clothes and sending ransom notes.