Christmas greetings to all! (I’m just not sure how many “all” are, nowadays). 2011 beckons.
Even though I made it back for Christmas (only just – arrived back into Edinburgh mid morning, on the 24th), we still played four shows in this last week of “Phase 1” of the tour, namely Manchester (Monday past); Birmingham (Tuesday) and two London shows, this time at Wembley Arena, on Wednesday and Thursday just gone - the first time I’ve played the “re-worked” Wembley set-up.
Even though the plan is to take it fairly easy over the coming days, I nevertheless intend to sneak in a few hours of work-related time, just to ensure that I’m fully caught up, prior to the start of Phase 2 of the tour, scheduled to kick-off on Monday 3td January, “next” year.
The last time I combined both jobs (Tour Management and Tour Accounting) on the same arena tour, was back when I worked with Westlife. However, at that time, the Westlife lads were regularly playing three or four shows in the same city, meaning that – not having to travel each day – I was able to keep on top of both areas of work (essentially by coming into “consecutive” venues early afternoon and dealing with the accounting administration, before the general mayhem of a show day kicked into gear). As the JLS lads are just working up to that stage – although six London shows on their first arena tour is no mean feat – added to the amount of album and book promotion that was involved at the beginning of the tour, means that it has taken until now for me to find myself in a position where I truly believe myself to be completely on top of things.
More on the domestic front now: we went out for Christmas lunch yesterday (“we” being myself, Alice, my daughter Jade – and Alice’s children Sarah and David, with David’s girlfriend Katrina) to the Grosvenor Hotel in Edinburgh. As I only arrived back late Friday morning to Edinburgh – and having been unable to have my dodgy cooker repaired during my absence – I took the easy route and asked Alice to find somewhere in town that was reasonably priced. The girl done good!
Bradley is still in Australia - so another year without both children together at Christmas. I don’t suppose for a minute that I am enduring anything different than most other parents do, at this stage of their children’s (and their own) lives. In my case, however, having not seen them for extended periods while they were growing up, it makes it just that little bit harder to bear, at times. I’m hoping we will be in a position to have both of the children together next Christmas.
So, a new year is just around the corner – and something of a transitional year awaits me, I suspect. Having taken two years of solid work to clear my football debt, I’m now of course looking to financially build up a head of steam, with a view to moving house as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Time to sit with my mortgage broker and take a long considered view of things.
Having now caught up with my tour work, means I have freed up some “head space” to put some thought into the coming months and whether a change of direction, career-wise, might just be on the cards, as the year progresses. I have to make a conscious effort to free myself from the minutiae of detail that consumes every minute of my working day: therein lies a challenge!! For the time being, I have a tour to manage and a mortgage to pay. See you next year, as they say. BFN
Did I ever tell you about my favourite hotel in Manchester? Maybe it’s because the property used to be a music venue (where I actually did some shows, a fair while back) or maybe it’s because there is a cool bar and restaurant on the ground floor, which positively glows red. You know, lighting is a science and the reason I figure that is because so few establishments get it right.
Check out this hotel if you have a chance (it’s The Radisson, on the site of the former Free Trade Hall, by the way!) and let me know what you think. I also remember my son being here, one time.
We have no show tonight and therefore I’m actually sitting here in the Radisson restaurant, my keyboard reflectively red from the feature lighting in here. I could watch the world from here.
Tonight finds me in a somewhat melancholy mood: no idea what has brought it on, but I’m not going to fight it, I’m going to go with the flow, I’m going to see where it may take me. Who knows?
Having completed shows this week in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Manchester, Sheffield and (last night) Newcastle, we now have only a further four shows to play, this upcoming week, before we complete “Phase 1” of the tour – the last being Thursday 23rd, at Wembley Arena. I’ve already booked a hire car to enable me to drive up overnight from London, to arrive back into Edinburgh in “the wee hours” of Friday morning – just in enough time to throw up the Christmas decorations, in pursuit of makeshift festivity. I’m thinking of the time when both of the children will be together once again on Christmas morning. Hopefully that can be managed next year.
Alice and I “crashed” the Christmas party at our Newcastle hotel last night, after the show – all done in the best possible taste, you understand. Newcastle, as you may or may not know, is a hell of a party town (I often think of it alongside such other cities as Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, where the worries of the week are left behind and the youth – scantily clad, where the female of the species is concerned – take to the streets for forty-eight hours of unbridled revelry). This was certainly in evidence around 1.00 am on Saturday morning when, travelling back from the Sheffield show, to our Manchester hotel, the latter city was hit with a heavy snowfall, late Friday night. As we inched our way through the Manchester streets, we witnessed heeled and hapless (and, in some cases, strapless) girls tottering aimlessly along the blanketed city streets.
Jade, who has broken up from University for the Christmas/New Year break, informs me – on visiting my snowbound property yesterday – that it won’t be this year that I’ll be digging my car out of the driveway! I will only actually be home at the house for four days, before heading south again for Cardiff, from where we kick-off phase two of the tour, on January 3rd.
I’ve been toying with the lingering notion, of late, that I really don’t want to be touring after the age of 60 (around a year and a half from now). However, what else is there out there for me? I need to take a view on this subject when I’m enjoying more of a buoyant mood. I’m going to throw a few ideas around in the upcoming break and look to establish some new guidelines. What has gone before has gone before and it’s therefore imperative that I concentrate on what I can do with what I have now. However, on the positive side, my diary entries are right up to date!! BFN.
In the past week, since my last diary entry, we’ve managed shows at Birmingham, London’s O2 Arena (twice) and – last night – at Nottingham’s Ice Arena. Today, being a travel day, I jumped in the “escape vehicle” at 10.00 am this morning, in Nottingham, and headed north here to Glasgow.
By all accounts, the weather has been atrocious (used that word last week as well – apologies), – bad enough to have caused the Glasgow/Edinburgh motorway (M8) shut down. I cannot remember that ever happening, in all the years that Motorway has been operating (all the way back since the early sixties, if my – fading – memory serves me well). Now, what was that I just said?!
Our shows at London Arena – as is typical with any headliner shows in the capital city – were fairly well overshadowed by the requirements of the associated “guest-list”. It’s not a subject you would want to get me started on: I always find it ironic that we have to pay an extra person, on our London shows, to administer a situation where we give tickets away for free. Sure, close family members and relations of the four lads should certainly be accorded the courtesy of a complimentary invitation for such a prestigious show. It’s all the rest of the “free-loaders” that get my goat: many of who could easily pay to see the show, but consider it “uncool” to do so. On the last tour in Manchester, one notable Man United player, who will remain nameless (until I publish my auto- biography, of course) tried to purloin 11 (eleven!) free tickets for his party of people. Some of those overpaid football players could “buy and sell” this band, several times over!
The major diversion of the guest list aside, the two London O2 shows were extremely enthusiastically received and the lads are obviously buzzing at having played such a huge venue. Even better, is the fact that we are back there for another two shows in January, as well as playing London’s other (possibly more) noted concert venue, in the shape of Wembley Arena, where we spend the last two nights of “Phase 1” of the tour, namely 22nd and 23rd December.
Last night we played our first of three shows (all on different dates!) at Nottingham’s Trent Arena, formerly known as The Ice Arena. Now, maybe some of you more knowledgeable readers can help me out on this one: is there any truth at all to the rumour that Nottingham has three women for every guy?! (I can just here Alice saying “typical of you to pick up on that”). This information was given to me many, many years ago, when I was doing a show at the infamous “Rock City” venue, which I’m not even sure still exists! Fear not - I’m not moving to Nottingham, just yet.
As for myself, I am valiantly battling “the tour cold” that has leeched itself onto me with a vengeance. It’s obviously the last thing I need right now, however being in the close proximity of so many “run-down” individuals, it was always going to be difficult to avoid catching something. The key here is to steer clear of the four principal JLS members, at all costs. You may recall my mention of the flu-jabs, administered to the band party during production rehearsals: however, while such inoculations ward away any flu viruses, they are not guaranteed to deal with the common cold. Ah, well: once I shake it, I should be cold-free for the rest of the tour! BFN.
This city of Cardiff is indeed a wild place, on a Saturday night – and I’m here to tell you about it.
Although the lads have been through in London today, appearing on the “Jingle Bell Ball” at London’s O2 Arena (where JLS will, next week, headline their own 2 shows), I begged off making the journey back to London from here in Cardiff, as I need to catch up on the tour accounts. The relentless promotion of the new album and single – as well as the lads’ second book launch – has swallowed every spare minute of my time, to date: time that I would normally, preciously, require to stay on top of the various fiscal processes, on the tour, linked to my Tour Accountant’s role.
Having one day “gig-free”, and relatively undisturbed, in the one place – with no associated travel for 24 hours – has been key to me making the necessary inroads into a fair mass of paperwork.
So, looking back towards the beginning of the past week, we finally played our first live date of the JLS UK Arena tour, on Monday past (29th Nov.) at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), on a bitterly cold evening. We are well aware of the fact a hundred or so fans could not make it to the show, as a result of the fairly severe road conditions, however – particularly when almost four thousand of the lads’ faithful followers were able to make it to the AECC – the show must go on!. And it did - to the undisguised delight of an ecstatic audience.
Although the dramatic weather conditions threatened to disrupt the Aberdeen shows’ final preparations, it was actually the Glasgow show, scheduled for the following evening (Tues. 30th) that almost didn’t happen. There are only three possible, reasonably direct, main routes south out of Aberdeen that can be utilized and two of those were impassable for most of late Monday night/early Tuesday morning. Thankfully, our promoter’s rep for Scotland’s DF Concerts, Crae Caldwell, became an unwitting guinea pig in setting off early evening for Glasgow, once the Aberdeen show had started. Crae was able to report that both the M90 south from Perth to Edinburgh (from where the trucks could have headed east towards Glasgow) and the A9 via Stirling were still blocked. That left only the one route through Dundee, over the Tay Bridge and then down to the Forth Road Bridge, via Glenrothes and Cowdenbeath. Somehow, we made it!
The day after the Glasgow show, myself the four boys and their two security made a “detour” through Birmingham, on our way to Liverpool, to attend the launch of their theatre tour DVD: this was staged in a very appropriate venue, in Birmingham, known as the HMV Institute. I meant to research the history of the building (an enquiry that is currently stuck in that increasingly-long “Google Queue”!), but definitely a venue that could lend itself to a variety of “launch-type” events.
After two consecutive shows in Liverpool’s Echo Arena (Thursday & Friday nights) I drove down to Cardiff yesterday morning, in our “escape” vehicle – more details after the tour! – and checked into the Park Plaza hotel (a cool establishment, to be fair, however right across the street from one of the more wild districts of the infamous Cardiff nightlife). I have spent most of today locked away in my hotel room here, catching up on the afore-mentioned accounting processes. Suffice top say that I’m in a far healthier state, with the various tour financial issues, that I was twenty-four hours ago – and word has it Eileen has coped admirably at the Jingle Bell. Result! BFN.November
Well – and this is not the first time I have employed this particular turn of phrase – what a difference a week can make! I write today to you from the northern (Scottish) city of Aberdeen where, tomorrow, we will officially kick off the first date of the JLS 2010/2011 Arena Tour!
I have to tell you, however, that the weather is fairly severe right now, in this part of the world: heavy snowfalls, plummeting temperatures and treacherous road surfaces. The show must go on!
Most of this last week has been spent in a formidably large, custom-built, rehearsal facility on the outskirts of Wakefield, in West Yorkshire (you see, I do let you into the odd secret, albeit after the fact) where we spent a few long days – and nights in conjunction with the road crew – knocking the various aspects of the production into shape: and, I can tell you folks – you’re going to love it!
First thing on Tuesday morning, our Production Manager, Karen Ringland, was charged with the ominous responsibility of “tipping” twelve articulated trucks of staging, sound, lights, video, props, wardrobe and on-road catering onto the floor of this huge facility and shaping it into a show. As a result of further promotional activities during the day and early evening of the 23rd (Tuesday) the guys themselves did not have the opportunity to view the complete set-up until late that night.
Old road-dogs like myself have been involved in many a huge production in our time, however there remains something refreshingly awakening about witnessing a bunch of young ambitious musicians, awestruck for the first time at the sight of such a complex technical extravaganza – of which they are about to become an integral part. It’s hard to appreciate how that must actually feel.
Throughout our five-day stay in the Wakefield area last week, I managed to locate a country-house hotel property within a ten-mile radius of the rehearsal facility: enough out of the way where the lads could be guaranteed some peace and quiet (for the relatively few hours they actually spent on the hotel premises). Although the guys are very considerate towards their fans and the general public alike, whenever they are approached by them, I still feel strongly that they need time on their own. The demands on them, from this arena show, both in a physical and mental sense, are far beyond what was required of them on this year’s, earlier, theatre tour.
Tonight (Sunday) we will go over to the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre and run through the show one final time, prior to tomorrow’s tour-opening performance. The weather up here could be fairly described as atrocious. Last night, on the drive up here from Wakefield (we had to call a halt to production rehearsals yesterday at 4.00 pm, to allow the technical crew enough time to load the trucks) we found ourselves “crawling” through a blizzard, at barely 30 m.p.h., for the last 40 miles.
There was no point in me trying to operate with my lights on full beam (‘brights”, as my US readers would say) and be faced with a hypnotic barrage of mesmerizing snowflakes: I’m sure any regular drivers amongst you can relate to what I am on about. To make matters worse, the driveway up(!!) to the hotel was about a foot deep in snow, by the time we reached there, just a few minutes on the good side of midnight. However, we are here and we are “chomping at the bit” Aberdeen may be cold but we’re hot and we’re ready to roll. May the God of weather be with us!
Well, gang, that’s us out of dance rehearsals, as of yesterday at 6.00 pm.
There has rarely been a day in the past week, where our daily involvement was limited to dance rehearsals only: most days have featured some form of promotional activity, be it either earlier in the day, before we due in – or some form of evening activity, immediately after the studio session.
Monday morning past (with the lads having found out that the new single had attained a number one chart position, late Sunday afternoon) found us making an early – and slightly fuzzy, for some! – start to a whole raft of “ISDN” radio hookups, from one central London “feeder” studio. The regular porridge run, to the Caribbean restaurant, was particularly welcomed on Monday morning.
Another early start followed on Tuesday morning, finding us pitching up to the BBC TV Centre, not much after sunrise, for both an appearance on “BBC Breakfast”, as well as a pre-record piece for “Blue Peter” which featured the lads demonstrating the art of making some form of “neck warmer” apparel. What?! Without using a washing-up liquid bottle?! Blue Peter has come a long way! We then scuttled across town to ITV’s Upper Ground location, just south of the river, to complete our morning of promotional appearances, by recording in an interview for “This Morning”.
Thursday had something of a “Groundhog Day” feel about it as we once again found ourselves on the BBC’s doorstep, shortly before 8.00 am – this time for the “Children in Need” extravaganza, due to be aired on Friday evening, last, 19th. That studio was indeed one serious hive of activity: there are that many personnel associated with live TV presentations (as compared to – say – the amount of staff we have on the road, with a twelve-truck tour) that it never ceases to amaze me how it all suddenly gells, within twenty minutes of such a show going live to air. But, yes, it does.
On Friday the lads were fully immersed in the live transmission of “Children in Need” with a host of other celebrities on show, and all supporting the cause, admirably: some of the stories that were narrated on that show – often by the unfortunate person themselves (detailing the heartache and suffering that many children have endured as a result of a particularly debilitating illness) are truly heartbreaking. All the more so if you are the parents of young, healthy, children.
Yesterday, Saturday, called for us to be at Earls Court (once we had completed our final day in the dance rehearsal studios) for the rehearsal of today’s “T4 Stars of 2010”, featuring such other acts as The Wanted, The Saturdays and Jason Derulo. Earls Court has struggled over the years to deliver decent concert sound, due to the sheer cavernous nature of the venue: however, in fairness to their in-house technical people, there have been significant improvements made over the last twenty years or so, to “deaden” the venue, through the use of draping and sound baffling.
We returned to Earls Court, today, for the live transmission of the show, with a “luxurious” call time of 2.00 pm! Tomorrow, we have one last London-based event (in the shape of a CD-signing, for HMV, at the “Heaven” nightclub where, coincidentally, the lads appeared at the “G.A.Y.” club night, last night). So, another energy-sapping week is put to rest. Further reserves of that same energy will be required for the upcoming week, as we commence full production rehearsals. BFN.
Although it is certainly not one of my regularly used words, on this occasion “knackered” is arguably the most apt description of my current physical state, as I slump here at my desk.
Today was a major date in JLS’s end-of-year promotional calendar, being that we were the special guests – in conjunction with “Take That” and “Westlife” - on the TV show with the largest viewership, currently, in the UK: “X Factor”. Estimates of the potential audience, during this evening’s show, appear to vary between 14 and 17 million: so, 1 in 3 people in the UK tuned in!!
As expected, there was an atmosphere of organized chaos, down at Fountain Studios at Wembley, throughout today, however I actually believe such a “buzz” only serves to augment the general air of anticipation, as the remaining acts in the competition pace the corridors, praying that they will not exit the competition this week. As it turned out, Katie Wassell and Aiden Grimshaw ended up in the “sing-off” with Katie once again remarkably surviving. Personally, I believe that if one particular act has “fought their way” out of the bottom two, on three consecutive occasions, they should surely be rewarded with a “wild card” on the fourth week, to bypass the same situation.
The most satisfying aspect of today’s X-Factor appearance was the chance for me to hook up with the “Westlife” lads once again, as I hadn’t seen them in over two years. Sure they drove me demented at times, but I can still warmly recall many memorable occasions in their company. In a similar vein to the JLS guys, when Westlife were in “full flight” (with a few choice tipples aiding the party mood, for the evening) it was a joy to be around them, and a time not to be missed.
However, that was then and this is now: we all move on and wander into pastures new - I can only wish Nicky, Kian, Marcus and Shane continued success in the years to come. Sure, it’s no secret that JLS may possibly be bathing in the spotlight of celebrity to an apparent greater degree, currently, than Westlife are. However, let’s not forget that Westlife have shifted around thirty times the product that JLS have to date. Even the JLS lads would be the first to say “Respect”.
Apart from the activity surrounding the lads earlier appearance today on X-Factor, we also managed to slip in a four-song “Radio 1 Teen Awards” appearance, earlier today, at the iconic Hammersmith Apollo (on several occasions, over the past couple of days, I found myself referring to the venue as Hammersmith Odean – showing my age – only to have several younger faces looking at me, going “where?”: we all have to go down the “aging” road in life, there’s no escape from that.
Today also heralds the release of the new JLS single, “Love You More”, the official single of this year’s “Children in Need” campaign. There are great hopes the song will be a weekend No. 1. The keenly anticipated second album is released on 22nd November, eight days from now. A frenetic four weeks of album promotion kicks-off tomorrow, the majority of which will be woven into our touring schedule. That’s OK – I wasn’t planning to have much sleep anyway, in the upcoming weeks.
Next week, we are into our final week of dance rehearsals, before “upping sticks” and heading north, to a secret (sorry) soundstage rehearsal facility, where we will “tip” ten articulated trucks of miscellaneous technical gadgetry and attempt to piece it together into a credible show. BFN.
Raise your glasses – the first week of tour rehearsals is under our belt. We’re on our way!
It’s what I do best really: Tour Management and Tour Accounting. All this promotional work is undertaken with my usual professional aplomb, but – and this is no secret amongst my co-workers work – it just don’t float my boat quite like being on the road does. Now, where’s my tour bus gone?
Anyway, more about that in my long-awaited (and probably career terminating!) autobiography.
Boy, have I struck it lucky with this rehearsal period, in respect of what could have become a fairly sticky – and fairly expensive – exercise: a good friend of mine, and fellow Tour Manager, Rebecca Travis, just happens to be off in the States, Tour Managing the singer/songwriter K.T. Tunstall, during the same period that I am involved with the JLS rehearsals. Believe it or not, Rebecca’s apartment – wherein I sit at this very moment - is just over a mile from our current rehearsal facility. Result!!. Rebecca is happy to have someone in her premises while she is away, and I’m not facing four weeks in a box of a hotel room. Meanwhile, Jade’s Edinburgh University friend continues to stay at my house 4/5 nights a week, in my absence, so all is good home-wise.
I have to say we have put in some long hours at rehearsals this past week, due to the fact that on several of the days we have either had an extraordinarily early start or a substantially late finish.
On Tuesday evening, following a daily eight-hour shift of dance rehearsals (not me personally, you understand: however, for a guy in his fifties, I can still cut a few shapes on the old dance floor) we motored across town, to BBC TV Centre in Wood Lane, for the lads to appear in the popular TV programme “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”. Now, keeping in mind that I really don’t watch much television, however – and some of my (17?) UK readers may have to keep me right on this – I’m sure said TV programme featured a “resident” host for a good few years, although – typically – I can’t recollect who that person was. Of late, it would appear the programme now features “guest” hosts and – from what I can see – some fall into the role naturally, but even more don’t. Enough.
Wednesday through Friday, the JLS lads again put in some solid, energetic, daytime dance rehearsal stints, after which – on each of those three evenings – we spirited ourselves away to a variety of locations, to allow filming of the final content for the upcoming JLS TV Special. As I mentioned last week, I thoroughly believe this will turn out to be a very “watchable” hour of TV.
Yesterday and today will definitely rank as the “quietest” Saturday and Sunday that we will have for the rest of this year, save possibly the Saturday and Sunday of Christmas and “Boxing” day (don’t know why it’s called that – so much more still to learn!). Sure, the boys nevertheless spent ten hours, the last two days, working through the proposed running order for the upcoming tour, however it was quite refreshing not to have to race away to evening promotional activities.
We are now just three weeks away from the first show (in windswept Aberdeen!) but all is going according to plan, although we can’t risk easing up on the schedule, lest we find ourselves lodged behind the eight-ball, as you yanks would say. But, you know I love you all equally! Until next week.October
Back in the highlife again (coincidentally, the name of an excellent album by Stevie Winwood - with whom I was very fortunate to work, a good few years ago: check it out).
Have just returned to my London hotel, this evening, following two hectic days recording the JLS ITV Special, due to be aired, I believe, around mid December. Definitely worth watching. In fact – trust me – there’s a piece of classic television in there, catching the lads completely by surprise.
Earlier this week, having returned from my vacation on Monday morning (25th), I bid goodbye to Alice as she connected through Gatwick and on up to Edinburgh – whereas I was heading for central London and straight into some JLS location filming, in respect of the forthcoming “Special”. The producers of this JLS Special appear to have spared no expense, to deliver a very entertaining hour of programming: we must have been in at least six different locations to date.
On Wednesday morning I caught the train back north to Edinburgh where (as someone who has certainly been critical, in the past, of the winters in my locale) I was pleasantly surprised to find mild temperatures and a little sunshine upon my back. Chalk up two days of decent weather!
Much as though I am indebted to Jade’s university friend for occupying my premises in Edinburgh, for a few days each week while I am away, there invariably remains a few hours of domestic paraphernalia to deal with, each time I’ve been away for any longer than a week or so: the mail of course (groan – the bills); the requirement of a general dust and clean of the lower floor (I don’t get this situation where cobwebs don’t form, when you are around); the decanting of the out-of-date food from the fridge; the monitoring of a stream of – mostly inane – voicemail chatter on the landline phone and several other minor chores. Unbeleivably, that can take up to half a day.
The above was all the more poignant this week, as I was back on a train late Friday afternoon, heading back to (you guessed it) London, in preparation for two days rehearsing and recording, located at ITV’s Upper Ground studios, just south of the river, re the already noted TV special.
Now guys, I wouldn’t say I am old (inescapable, really) however those ITV studios share the same distinction with their counterpart – the BBC TV studios in Wood Lane – in that I was visiting them with an Artist, before any of the current Artists I work with had set foot on this planet! I just stopped tapping my laptop keyboard there as the significance of what I said actually hit home. Some might say that there are few of my entertainment contemporaries can equal such a feat, however such an assertion doesn’t always serve to lift my spirits. The realization (with increasing regularity, of late) dawns that I can’t pursue this line of work indefinitely and I must therefore discipline myself to take a little time (time?!) to ascertain what else could be out there for me.
Currently, I am involved with the hottest entertainment property in the UK and – while going about my job in an unquestionably professional manner and giving sterling service to the boys – I need to take advantage of the doors such a position could open and root around out there for another line of work that I could turn my hand to. The football? Ah, I have to take care that the football does not become the death of me. I’m ready to expand upon that somewhat, next week!
“Homeward bound, I’m kinda glad I’m …. Homeward Bound” (I believe that was a Simon & Garfunkel track of bygone years – with a leaning towards poetic license, on my behalf).
However, the above contains more than a grain of truth, as I sit here at 36,000 feet, on BA 2756, heading homewards from Punta Canta (via Antigua) towards London Gatwick. The end of a holiday is always something of a reflective time for the homeward bound holidaymaker. My reflection, as I recline here, may take a slightly different path than most. Mines relates to the millions of hard working people in this world who - apart from those said two (three, if you’re lucky) holiday weeks, and the odd smattering of public holidays - have to knuckle down to an inescapable degree of routine for the rest of the year. Sure, I work my ass off in what is (correctly) presumed to be a high-pressure business, but I thank the Lord for the scope of variety that my job entails.
I recall cautioning my son on the respect that money deserves and coming up with the nugget that “it’s not the rich that make the rich rich – it’s the poor that make the rich rich”. Fairly philosophical, (even for a mildly melancholy soul as myself) but possibly not too far off the mark.
So, what of the vacation? (BTW – I’ve always wondered this: is there a difference between a “holiday” and a “vacation”? I note the Americans using both words fairly liberally and I may have finally – as I’m nowhere near as quick as I used to be – figured it out, in that “vacation” is when you leave home and “holiday” relates to the likes of Xmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, etc.).
So, what about the vacation? Well, call me irresponsible (Fwankee) but – having first checked that we weren’t arriving in the Dominican Republic during the high season – we pre-booked only the first night of our arrival into Punta Cana, last Thursday, the 14th. We then took the most unnerving, four hour, bus ride south-west to the “nightlife” town of Boca Chica, where we spent five days. From there we took a forty-minute taxi ride into the sprawling, capital, metropolis of Santo Domingo (spending two night’s at the Fiesta Hotel and Casino) before making the return bus journey yesterday - driven by a guy with a fatal desire to meet his maker prematurely – and stayed last night, for our final night in the Dominican Republic, at the Bavaro Catalonia Hotel.
Would I go back there again? I would have to be honest in stating the negative. I can’t wholly put my finger on why. One obvious reason being that, as a (professional?) wanderer by nature, I always like to hire a car for a couple of days and go check out the surrounding environment of my holiday base. Only if you have past experience as a stock-car driver, would you be experienced enough to take to the roads of the Dominican Republic - particularly if you happened to be making your roadtrip on the same day as our bus driver was careering along the road in the opposite direction.
Sure, we had a good time, as we tiptoed around their somewhat unique culture, but I just didn’t feel as much at ease as I would (say) in the likes of Thailand. They are big on personal security in the DR, to the extent that every large, gated, house boasts one or two (worringly young) private security men, often with a pump-action shotgun lazily slung over their shoulder, carried with the same nonchalance as might be accorded a bag of shopping. Hey, if you’re up for a resort-based, beachside, all-inclusive, two weeks of sun-soaked rest, then go for it! Just not quite for me. BFN.
OK, so which of you excelled at Geography? I’m in Boca Chica this evening. Any ideas where I am?
Yes, Jake, tonight …. you are in (drrrrrrrrrrrum roll) – The Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.
Contrary as to how it may appear – and I wouldn’t blame you for such an assumption – I do actually manage to slip away on vacation once in a while, hence the reason I’ve been out here since Thursday past (14th). ‘Tis indeed an enchanting place, however I’ll elaborate on that in next Sunday’s diary, as I am spending the whole of the upcoming week here as well.
This past week (work-wise) saw me travel down to London early Tuesday morning to oversee a major magazine shoot with the guys in the morning, the location for which was the “ONANON” bar/club, almost on Piccadilly Circus itself: hardly the best place to sneak Artist in and out of. Also, “ONANON”, is situated on three floors, with several “ante” rooms, each with a different theme. Of course, we were there on a weekday morning; therefore it’s impossible to gauge the popularity of the place. I don’t miss clubs like that. It’s less about being older – just being wiser.
Surely, I say to myself, it can’t be London people – in the main - populating such a bar? No, being in the heart of central London’s tourist zone, the vast majority of the clientele must be foreign. I’ll bet it’s seriously pricey – but that’s always the case, as you know, in the centre of a capital city. In the afternoon, following the above photo-shoot, we crossed over town to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, to enable the JLS lads to record an edition of the UK programme “Celebrity Juice”. If you are one of my UK-based readers, then it is definitely worth catching when it airs on Thursday night, 9th December - very funny indeed (however, if you are also a committed, London-based, JLS fan, then you’ll probably be unable to do so, as that – coincidentally – is the date of our first London “02” gig. Ah, the science of video recording will probably save the day for you there!
Wednesday saw me working with the guys, on location in and around London, for a future transmitted television show which, I’m afraid, I can’t say too much about at the moment: suffice to say you will see the guys excel in different roles and in a host of diverse locations. I’ll try to advise you of the transmission date, once the TV company “go public” on the nature of the show.
As mentioned earlier, young Alice and I boarded the BA flight out of Gatwick, mid-morning on Thursday, bound for the Dominican Republic, specifically the Punta Cana region. The flight goes via Antigua where, to our surprise, around 80% of the passengers (on an almost-full flight) disembarked. There must have been about only forty of us left to make the flight to Punta Cana!
I’ll be able to fill you in a little more, in the course of next week’s diary, as to how things generally unfolded in the DR. For the moment I will tell you that – while we all pray for favourable weather conditions on our vacation – the combination of 30º degree heat and 90% humidity, borders on the “oppressive”. There are those who will quite happily “lie and fry” – but, folks, that ain’t me. While it’s definitely very relaxing to just chill and reflect (in our case, in the shade), I revel in the opportunity to be able to wander around the locality and discover what maybe makes the place tick. We’ll get into detail next week, as to what actually went on there, down in ‘ol Punta Cana. BFN
And what was the high point of today, folks?
That’s easy: I stood at the side of the London Palladium stage (as part of the Radio Two “Children in Need” live show) and witnessed “Status Quo” running through a three-song live set. Brilliant!
For those foreign readers of mine, I probably need to explain that “Status Quo” are legendary in British rock music (another one for you definitely to Google!) having endured for over thirty years in a business when many – unfortunately – don’t even make it to three. It’s a fickle business indeed.
Today was a most enjoyable for another reason. Upon arrival at the theatre at 0745 this morning (first in, last out – you’re dealing with a professional here, guys) and browsing the schedule for today’s show, I was pleasantly surprised to see “KT Tunstall” (another possible Google?) featured within the lineup of Artists. I’m sure I’ve made mention, in the odd past Diary entry or two, of Rebecca Travis, KT’s Tour Manager, who I worked with on a couple of Franz Ferdinand tours.
Well, you should see Rebecca now! She has shed around 40 pounds and looks great. I suspect there is a man in her life – and not a personal trainer. So hectic was today – and so surprised was I to see the new-look Rebecca – that I actually forgot to ask her how she managed it! They were all off to Heathrow immediately after their performance, to catch a flight to the States, therefore I’m hoping to catch up with Rebecca next week when we are both down in London. Hoping.
So, what’s been happening in JLS world? Well, today’s performance aside (of the new single “Love You More”) we also spent most of Friday past, involved in additional “Children in Need” promotion, commencing with a fairly early morning start at Radio One – on the Chris Moyles show – then onwards to Radio 2, Kiss FM, etc. Then a late afternoon at a North London photo shoot.
Otherwise, as touched upon in last week’s Diary, I spent the day – Thursday past – in Leeds, in the company of a good friend of mine who has spent almost as much time in this business as I have: we know we can’t be running around the world forever, at our now-tender age, therefore it was good to throw around a few (what we believe to be) innovative, event-orientated, ideas for development somewhere down the line, when we can both clear our desks of a myriad of current projects. In many cases, it’s just the initial steps – to ease these embryonic ideas from the “drawing board” to the elementary production stages – that actually convince you that they could be a “goer”.
I have a few days break coming up, from the middle of next week onwards, and this will be a good time (with most of my current projects up to date – including the weekly Diary!) to hopefully take a long look at where my life is – and the general direction in which it appears to be heading, in the coming years: to go where no Tour Manager has gone before (“it may be life Jake, but not as you know it”) to capture the final touring frontier. My life has been something of a “Trek”, has it not?
First up (in recalling the words of one Nicky Byrne of Westlife: “your health is your wealth”) will be to take care of myself a little better in the future. Not that I’m poorly in any way, but re-establishing a regular gym regime, for example, would do me no harm at all. That’s the plan! BFN.
This is becoming something of an all-too-common occurrence. To what do I refer? I refer to writing my weekly Diary column as a guest of East Coast trains, heading to Scotland. Again.
Why, oh why, did I ever come back from England, all those years ago? I’ll tell you why: because I foolishly believed – being, apparently, very successful at my own job at the time – that I could turn my hand to anything I could put my mind to. I should have used that very “hand” to slap my “mind” good and hard, in the forlorn hope that it might have knocked some sense into me. Alas, here I am – in the present - with no hope of altering the past. I can only hope to make amends.
So, to the future, the immediate part of which sees me gainfully employed through until at least the end of January, as a result of a myriad of JLS commitments, primarily their UK arena tour. Between now and then, I have to streamline the football side of my business: although I’ve learned my lesson in respect of the money I once spent on ferrying continental players back and forward to Scotland, I now have to stringently limit the time I spend around these lads, trying to fix them up with deals because (as you know folks) time is money - and I’m fast running out of both!
I may have mentioned my intention to take a break between 14th and 25th of this month; therefore I’m currently racing to tie up a bunch of loose (administrative) ends prior to then. The plan is to leave the UK on the 14th with a clear head and a blank notepad. While I’m away, I’m having some minor constructional alterations done on the house, mainly in relation to the heating system, which now needs something of a serious overhaul. I want to be warmer this winter, for sure!
I have to believe that, agonisingly slow as progress appears to be at times, I am working my way towards a situation whereby I’m as up to date as I can be, on the domestic and office fronts. Brave Alice has hesitantly agreed to partner me in the administrational gutting of the office: the time has come for me to face up to the fact that I’m unlikely to ever read – or refer to – half the paperwork crammed into several archive boxes. You just can’t take it with you when you go. Not that I’m planning to go anywhere at this moment, however – in my case anyway – a clear office will definitely lead to a clear head. After which I can start to plan the next stage of my career.
Next Thursday, I will spend the day with a close confidante of mine, who has spent a similar amount of time as I have, in and around the concert touring business, and who has also worked with a diverse array of talent. For a while now, we’ve believed that our accumulative experience can enable us to branch out into other fields of live entertainment, producing commercial live events with a difference. We are not phased, in any way, by the minutiae of detail that is required to get it right (we’ve been dealing with that all our professional lives) as we look to implement fresh and innovative thinking to touring projects that won’t necessarily feature notable Artists!
This is not new to me – I have been playing around with such ideas for years now. However, the painful truth starts to dawn, that what has continually dogged me - when it came to trying to at least take those ideas to drawing-board stage – was severe time constraints, either in the form of my touring work (which at least makes me money) or my football involvement (which, invariably, doesn’t!). Some hard decisions need to be formulated in the coming months. Don’t move that dial!September
Greetings all, to what has been something of a “multi-activity” week – and a notable one at that.
On the music side, I’ve spent time with both JLS and Paul Potts this past week (more of that to follow) and – on the football side of things – I finally managed to extricate Jonathan Toto from the morass of red-tape that was preventing him from doing what he does best (play football) and, subsequently, sign him to a professional club. I’m entitled to feel a sense of accomplishment today.
Now back to my wild Rock ‘n Roll lifestyle (that makes me sound like something of a “rebel rouser”, however as my regular readers will have long ago ascertained, I am indeed a gentle soul, just going about my job untroubled. My wildest days are firmly behind me but the poignant memories remain.
Off I went to London last Sunday night, the 19th (this “last daily train South” thing is becoming something of a habit, over the past month) in preparation for two days book-signings with JLS: Monday in Birmingham and Sheffield, with Tuesday spent in Bristol and Reading. I remained down in London for an advertising shoot with the lads on Wednesday, however I’m sworn to secrecy on the actual product involved, until it’s official launch, later next month. Sorry about that, folks.
Having stayed in the Ramada hotel at Heathrow, on Wednesday night, I made my way over to Terminal Five, early the next morning, to hook up with none other than Paul Potts! When Paul arrived at the airport, his wife Julie-Ann, and Julie Ann’s parents, David and Maureen, accompanied him. Being that we hadn’t seen each other for almost five months, we were soon all engaged in animated catch-up conversation, before David had to move the vehicle, for fear of a parking ticket. I had hoped I might have met the Pott’s dog (Caesar) however it appears he may have been grounded for chewing Paul’s wallet – I’ve seen the teeth marks in Paul’s credit cards!
Departing Heathrow at 10.00 am, Copenhagen bound – and with almost two hours flying time ahead of us, it gave me a good chance to catch with Paul’s “recent” exploits, the focus having been on the production and release of his third album, “Cinema Paradiso” a thoughtfully – and, in several instances, imaginatively - arranged collection of infamous movie soundtracks, to please all ears.
Our (Paul’s!) first task, upon arrival in Copenhagen, was to proceed to the “Nordic Film Studios”, in the city’s suburbs, to shoot a TV advertisement for the new album, which will probably be utilized to market the imminent release throughout Scandinavia. As always, with such projects, many set-ups and differing angles were required, in order to have sufficient footage to compose the final edit. Nevertheless, Paul professionally stuck to the task steadfastly, resulting in the director calling a “wrap” within three hours of our arrival at the studios. When you consider that Paul and I (both individually and collectively) have observed the sun coming up, on video shoots that we have been involved with in the past, then Copenhagen definitely qualifies as a “result”!
Friday – a full promotional day – was divided equally between the Plaza Hotel, adjacent to the main station, and the infamous “Tivoli Gardens” where – in the interests of “solidarity” - your intrepid author had little choice but to venture onto the fairground’s “Big Dipper” (although, thankfully, not in the “Six Flags” league). All in a day’s work for a versatile Tour Manager, such as yours truly!
For probably only the sixth or seventh time in the last three years (excluding “Christmas weeks”), I have spent the last full week in Scotland – main reason, in this instance, being that the JLS lads all took a well-deserved ten-day break from their professional commitments. Only slight problem for me however – as alluded to in last week’s diary entry – was that it was the one-week Alice could not escape from her University management position, because of “Freshers Week”.
So, what have I done with myself over the past seven days? Well, mainly, my year-end accounts which – this year – consisted of gathering and collating a bulging file of invoices, receipts, VAT payments and various other related documentation, into some form of “understandable” package and then passing it over to our company’s accountants to make some sense of it all! That took up most of my time, Monday through Wednesday, subsequently delivering them on Friday past: still, that’s it over for another year, although – admittedly – I left it kind of tight for our accountants, being that the audited accounts have to be submitted to Companies House by the end of the month. Of course Jane, who directly handles our company’s account, has pulled it off once again! However, I kind of promised Jane that I will have next years books to her by June 1st. Honest.
On the footballing side, I have spent much of my available time (once again) trying to find an equable solution to the complications surrounding the compensation nightmare that dogs my bright, young, talented Cameroon player, Jonathan Toto. He continues to benefit from “Hearts” hospitality, while they allow him to make use of their training facility on the outskirts of Edinburgh. However, I am slowly (and inevitably) concluding that we be unable to make this happen at Hearts, until the “transfer window” opens again, in January of 2011. We have finally located his “International Clearance” papers – however, not in Cameroon (as we were advised – welcome to the murky world of African football!) but, in fact, in Italy, the second last club where Jonathan was supposedly registered. Well - that's us over the first hurdle, with two bigger ones still to come!
Juggling my football and music business interests has lost me a fair amount of sleep over the last two months, however as the transfer deadline date slowly recedes into the mists of time (poetic, huh?), we will now be very fortunate to stumble upon a talented, free-agent, and – almost more importantly - match-fit player, in the thirteen weeks ahead, before the transfer window re-opens.
If the truth be known, I’m kinda glad in a way: my involvement with the JLS lads will certainly step up a gear, come the middle of October, when the first of several stages of rehearsals (from vocal through to full production) will commence. I need to be fully focused at that point because – let’s face it – that is where the majority of my income is derived: that is my “real” job. Thankfully, even after all these years (and probably because I spent a few years away from that side of my business, deluding myself that I could turn my unskilled hand to operating a bar and restaurant) I still derive enjoyment from my touring work. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Simple.
Next week, in addition to a few days looking after the JLS boys when they undertake more book signings at various provincial locations, I’m actually booked to spend a few days with Paul Potts, in Denmark!. It will be good to hook up with Paul again, as it’s been a good few months since we spent any time on the road together. You can read all about it here folks. Don’t move that dial! See ya!
Look, it’s time to come clean with you. You need to know right now – today - that I am a Virgin.
A “Virgin” traveler that is, as I sit on one of their technologically “tilting” trains, homeward bound to Edinburgh, from Euston station in London, after spending most of the week down there, working with the lads on the launch of their “JLS Foundation” charity, primarily with the announcement of their involvement with the “Durex” company, in the form of their “Just Love Safe” campaign.
The upcoming week is a crucial one for me, as I endeavor to bring all matters JLS (mainly of an accounting nature) smack bang up to date. I’m acutely aware that – within my music and football businesses – I need to find the time to slow the pace of my frenetic lifestyle somewhat. It’s less an age issue, as it is an outlook issue: I truly believe there are other creative – and reasonably lucrative – avenues of opportunity that are out there for me, however I need time to pursue them.
I go back to my very basic analogy of the comparison of my head, to an office, four-drawer, filing cabinet: the cabinet is currently stuffed to the point of drawer-jamming overflow, with all manner of archived detail and minutiae tightly packed into a relatively small space – there is even a teetering pile of assorted files stacked atop the cabinet itself, with no foreseeable organizational route other than to spill to the floor at some point. Where is the opportunity to create any space to create? None. That, loyal readers, reflects the state of my head. There is not only a major housekeeping operation to be mounted here: many “files” requiring emptying should equally be disposed of altogether. Let that process – if only very gradually at first – begin this coming week!
The root of my current “time-of-life” dilemma still seeks a workable answer: I can’t run around playing celebrity Tour Manager for too many more years – but what, after that? When I’m brave enough (and can find the time) to very occasionally sit back off this lifestyle of mine, the inescapable realisation washes over me that too much of what little spare time (and, yes, money!) I have is lavished on my football interests. So, some serious soul searching required next week.
I’m hopeful of (personally) escaping out of the country for a week or so in mid-October (to coincide with certain modernization work being carried out in my house) by which time not only will any football activity have tailed off, with the “transfer window” having been closed for a good six weeks by then – but, as mentioned earlier, I will be up-to-date with all JLS-related matters. Cool.
When you consider the amount of time I have been involved in the entertainment business, I know I have to be some form of marketable commodity – hopefully much more so than just reeling out a tiring string of career anecdotes. Question is: could I transpose such “marketability” into some form of tangible income – and how close would it come to matching what I presently earn?
Are there those persons out there, occasionally scanning these weekly (often haphazard) notes of mine, that might have the answer to all this, that might steer me in a more “learning” direction? Alice remains a dependable – and informed – confidante, however the occasional, trusted, morsel of additional, insightful, guidance might just aid us to propel our thoughts in the needed conclusive direction. Boy, did I get deep – and revealing – this week, or what? Ah, you love me for it! BFN. xx
As mentioned in last week’s diary entry, this past week (Wednesday through Saturday , anyway) has revolved around promotion of the second JLS book, “The JLS Diaries – Just Between Us”.
I travelled down to London on Tuesday evening’s last train – 7.00 pm – in readiness for a fairly early start the next morning. Said schedule actually enabled me to attend a friendly game on Friday afternoon, at Hearts training ground, against the Premier League side, Motherwell. The game was of course of particular interest to me as Hearts were giving Jonathan another “run out”.
Well, I don’t really know how to put this any other way, but Jonathan had a “stinker”! You know, I’ve come to learn that every player, almost irrelevant of his status – and, in most cases, for some unaccountable reason - has a bad game every so often: and that’s the way it is. Sure, Jonathan was feeling fine at the start of the game, he had enjoyed a good night’s rest and was looking forward to another ninety minutes of competitive involvement. Even after all that, it just didn’t happen.
However, in the car on the way back from the game, Jonathan resolved to put the experience behind him (“Maybe that’s just what I needed to wake me up” he reasoned) train even harder – and then come back stronger for the next game. So we’ll see how he does in next week’s friendly game.
My proper workweek kicked off at 09.00 a.m. on Wednesday morning (1st September), not a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square in London, in the lounge of a fairly well-known hotel, where I met up with the lads, and their management, for a production meeting, in relation to the upcoming arena tour, which kicks off at the end of November – and continues until the end of January 2011. The initial building blocks, for such a major operation, require to be put in place at an early stage, witnessed by the fact that this is probably our third/fourth meeting to date, regarding the tour.
Then off to “Selfridges”, after that, for the first of several “book signings” relating to the lads latest publication. If you are a non-UK reader, then I can tell you that Selfridges is one of London’s largest department stores (not quite Harrods, but fairly close) in one of London’s busiest streets – Oxford Street. You can therefore imagine the media attention such an event attracts.
However both Graham Quinn (JLS Security Chief) and myself have attended countless such events, therefore we are extremely well-versed in the policing and the management of large numbers of shoppers (mainly extremely excitable in this case) intent of having their newly-purchased book personally autographed to them. Outcome? Everyone happy – every book signed.
Next day we were off to Welwyn Garden City (27 miles north of London) to the UK headquarters of “Tesco”, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, who have heavily supported and promoted the lads new publication. A full turnout of staff, all individually clutching a copy of the lads book, gave us a very enthusiastic welcome, and it must have taken us over two hours to complete the signing. The day was then rounded off by, firstly, a live appearance BBC’s “The One Show” and secondly, a pre-record for “The Michael Ball Show” due to be screened, I believe, on 16th September: if you are in the UK, be sure to try and catch the broadcast of the latter – very entertaining indeed! Well, folks, another topsy-turvy week draws to a close in the world of Jake Duncan. I’m still here, baby!August
Having returned from New York on Tuesday past (24th) - but only making it back to Edinburgh by Wednesday morning, as a result of taking the overnight train north – I set about trying to unravel the complexity of paperwork surrounding a very talented player that I have on trial at “Hearts”, namely Jonathan Toto (I’m sure I’ve made mention of Jonathan, over the past couple of weeks).
This boy definitely has an impressive amount of ability; he is of an age where he can still be “coached” and - just as important as all that, if not more, for me – he is a good guy with a surprisingly good sense of humour. He is going to need all of those traits, where he is headed.
However, for Jonathan to be able to play for Hearts, in an official, competitive, game he needs the “approval” of every one of his previous football clubs, since he was twelve years old. That “approval” needs to come in the form of official letters from each of those former clubs, stating that they will not seek compensation from any club (Hearts, in this instance) who wishes to offer the player his first professional contract: it would appear that Jonathan’s status, to date, has been as an “amateur”. The Scottish Premier League’s rules state that their clubs – of which Hearts is one – cannot feature an amateur player in the first team lineup of a championship game.
FIFA (world governing body of football) have decreed that any club signing a player, under the age of twenty-three, to his first professional contract must be prepared to pay up to 60,000 Euros per year, for each year that the player has been at another club (where he has been “trained and developed”) since age of twelve. Therefore, transposing these regulations to Hearts current situation with Jonathan (Hearts being rated as a “Category 2” club, within FIFA’s rating system) this could effectively mean that – worst case – Hearts could find themselves facing an aggregated compensation bill of Euros 480,000.00 for the last eight years of Jonathan’s career!! So, now you can understand why Hearts are treading carefully and trying to secure all the correct paperwork.
Anyway, enough of all that. How goes things in the glitzy, glamorous world of those young whipper-snappers, JLS, I hear you ask?
Well, I have to honestly report that their career ascent continues on an upward trend, most recently with the imminent release of their second book “The JLS Diary – Just Between Us”. Next week, I will be involved with a fair amount of promotional activity surrounding the book’s launch. It is absolutely no secret that I would prefer to be involved with touring – rather than promotional – activity: however, being a professional, I always give everything I do my best shot. I know that.
These last few days I have continued the gradual – yet noticeable – re-organisation of my domestic environment. With young Alice’s sterling assistance and domestic goddess abilities (no un-roasted chicken is truly safe from her clutches) it would appear that some headway is being made. In a couple of weeks, the JLS boys are due to take a week’s well-earned break: however, as luck (or the lack of it) would have it, that coincides exactly with “Freshers Week” at University, meaning it’s the one time Alice can’t get time off. I will therefore look to that period to further bring my domestic situation back onto an even keel. So hang in there, valiant readers, a possible new dawn beckons where – finally – I may be able to give vent to my creative abilities. Stay tuned!
Well, I skipped gaily into New York this afternoon, emphasis on the word “skipped”, as an indication in the vast improvement of last week’s “Gout Flare”: there still remains a dull ache, underneath the joint of my big toe – but the good news is that I’m well on the mend.
This last week has seen us undertake only three actual performances, being that the lads also appeared on two breakfast TV shows, the first in Washington, last Monday (16th) and the second in Dallas, the following morning. Being that our actual Dallas concert was scheduled for Thursday past, I decided to keep everyone in the same hotel (give a shout out for the Westin in Dallas City Centre – a lightning check-in and super efficient staff!) for three nights, meaning that we would be “commuting” to San Antonio, on the Wednesday: sure, it was a distance of almost 300 miles each way, but – hey - any day you don’t have to check-out of a hotel is, indeed, a good day.
Now, on this eighteen day trip, we have experienced some fairly warm weather, however Dallas wins the day, hands down folks, for the hottest day of the tour: 102 degrees Fahrenheit, with the additional burden, humidity wise, akin to walking around draped in a heavy, sodden blanket. Such intense temperatures – twinned with the oppressive humidity – soon take their toll on one’s energy levels: there were some sound sleepers on that tour bus, on the overnight run to Atlanta!
The Atlanta show (last night, 21st) was the last of this “Six Flags” tour and today (as I write) we are inbound to New York’s La Guardia airport, as the lads have various business meetings to attend tomorrow, before we catch the first flight back to London on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, I’m unable to divulge the name of one of the 2/3 New York hotels that we regularly frequent, however on the “Up it’s Own Arse” scale (where 1 represents imminent entry to that dark place and 10 represents a choking sensation) this one is sitting at around the “6” mark for me. I mean, maybe it’s just that my eyesight is not as Zeiss-like as it once was, but what’s with the dark reception areas? Is natural light just not cool anymore? Weird doesn’t always translate into Welcome.
It’s now late afternoon, here in Noo Yok City (buddy) and there is a torrential downpour currently bouncing off the Manhattan concrete: from nowhere, enterprise raises its questionably ethical head in the form of instant umbrella sellers. Do these guys sit poised in hidden back alleys with their iPod FM radios tuned constantly to the weather channels (oh, yes, our US cousins have dedicated, 24-hour, radio and TV weather channels) - just poised for the first precipitous sign?
Anyway, the rest of the day for me is earmarked for tour accounting, which I can’t say I’m gleefully looking forward to but which, of course, has to be done: and best to make a start to it now, while most of it is still fresh in my mind. The frantic nature of touring decrees that certain incidental day-to-day expenses will slip under the radar (where North America is concerned, one has to keep a strict record of the various gratuities disbursed, in this service-expensive land). Do you recall my mention at the beginning of this week’s entry, in regards to the Westin hotel? Impressive as both the staff and facilities were, the whopping addition of a 22% gratuity on room service prompted me to ask the waiter if his name wasn’t Dick Turpin?! You may have to Google it!
It’s off to bed with me now – perchance to dream of a gratuity free world. Not a hope. BFN.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, haa! I’m up to date with my “Diary of the Road” entries. Well, to be technically correct, I will be when I reach the end of this week’s addition – currently being penned on a Washington/Dallas flight, early Monday afternoon on the 16th August.
This past week has seen us undertake a further five shows on the “Six Flags” tour, out here in the US, with a further appearance, Saturday past, at “Musikfest” in Bethlehem, where Selina Gomez was the headliner (now, if you’re saying “Selina who?” well – fear not – that’s exactly what I said when I first came across her name). However, the power of Google has since enlightened me!
Therefore, with six shows in the past seven days, there has been little time spent on any additional activities: just travelling and performing. To give you some idea of the distances involved, in this “frighteningly” vast country, our tourbus journey after the show in Gurnee, Illinois (essentially a suburb of Chicago) to Springfield, Massachusetts, consisted of a 19-hour trek! In this case, we thankfully had a travel day to accomplish that, however our “back-to-back” mileage can often figure upwards of 500 miles, just to let you know that this ain’t no picnic, folks.
In nearly every one of those “Six Flags” locations in which we have played, there has always been a few UK tourists in attendance - in the case of the likes of Chicago and Los Angeles, those numbers have been notably swelled. Of course, it’s a great buzz for said UK tourists to be able to get “close and personal” with the JLS lads, as the opportunities to do so, back in the UK, would be almost non-existent. We can’t go wandering around theme parks and shopping malls, back home!
In checking in to the Washington hotel around 1.00 am on Sunday morning (having driven direct to Washington, after Saturday night’s show in Bethlehem) I was confronted with one of those “pre-programmed” hotel reception staff who – despite having charged my seven rooms to my credit card, before I have even arrived – would not issue me with the room keys, without seeing some form of photo ID. Now – get this – they don’t need any photo ID to arbitrarily take the whole cost off your credit card, but they do need it, before you can benefit from what you’ve paid for! I have to confess to losing my temper with the front desk staff (to the point where they summoned one of the hotel’s security staff to subtlety monitor the proceedings!) but it dumfounds me a s to why, when they are force-feeding the training manual to the Marriott staff – and they are not the only guilty hotel chain – that they appear to discourage any use of personal initiative! I’m calmer now.
Finally, on more of a downbeat note, do any of you recall the first-time attack of Gout that I suffered almost two years to the day, when out on a promo trip with Paul Potts, in Germany? You may recall that initially – having no experience of the above condition – I was convinced I had broken my left two, in forcing off my right cowboy boot, the previous evening. Well, it’s back!
A “Gout flare”, it is commonly known as and – damn – it’s painful. A “rich man’s” condition is how it is sometimes referred to (definitely wrong in my case, then) being that the over-indulgence in the likes of red meat and alcohol tends to trigger its occurrence. Even more mystifying in my case, as I haven’t touched red meat in two years! The build up of Uric acid in the body is another contributory factor, therefore I need to have this checked. See you next week, in less pain. BFN.
Yes, I know this weekly diary of mine (which I’ve now been penning for almost the last six years – can you believe that?!) is meant to focus mainly on my touring exploits – hence the “Diary of the Road” title – rather than banging on, as I am wont to do, about my occasional footballing interests. However, I have good reason to continue last week’s tack of the Jonathan Toto’s progress, as he played yesterday, briefly, with Hearts “first” team, in a friendly game against Blackburn Rovers!
OK, enough: now back to the real road – and the events of the past week (no more football talk).
Today finds me just outside Toronto in a suburb known as Vaughan where, earlier this evening, JLS were one of several acts on the bill of an event called “Summer Bash” for the station Z103.5.
Slowly but surely, the band are building a solid following within this region, and hopefully throughout greater Canada. “Breaking” North America – as many “unfulfilled” acts/artist will know – is a major career challenge that requires a similarly major commitment and belief in the cause. Well, no shortage of those attributes around the JLS camp, folks: this is a big and bold country and it equally requires a big and bold approach to conquer such a diverse – and lucrative – market.
I was originally due to fly out to Los Angeles - from where I flew yesterday, to arrive here in Toronto - on Tuesday (3rd). However – with the boys’ manager in attendance during the two-day video shoot on 4th and 5th, this week in Los Angeles, I would have been slightly surplus to requirements: so, I decided to hang back a couple of days to work away on my domestic backlog, the most concerning of which is an “overgrowing” garden. This is in huge contrast to my neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawns and neatly trimmed foliage (correct gardening terminology?). Typical of me, I never even looked at the extent of the work involved in keeping the garden areas “up to spec” when I moved into the house – actually, did I look at anything closely? No, I don’t think so.
The day and a half spent in L.A. earlier this week was something of a polarizing (might not be the right word!) experience, however I think I’ve finally stumbled on the reason why. This time around, we were lodged in one of those – in my opinion - “too cool for it’s own good” hotels: actually, I can’t hold back on this - “up it’s own arse” is a more accurate description. Being located south of the general West Hollywood area in which I – personally – feel more comfortable (it’s not a danger thing – it’s a “vibe” thing), said hotel was also smack bang on the side of a fairly busy thoroughfare, with everything a fair walk – and several pedestrian crossings – away. What’s with these dimly lit hotel receptions, particularly when the hotel itself is located in one of the sunniest cities in the world? Much as I love the Yanks – and I am able to fall into their culture with the ease of Britney Spears falling into trouble – the phrase that springs to mind is “Only in America”.
It’s the oddest thing – it was almost as if, not being located in the Hollywood that I am most comfortable with, I did not conduct myself in my normal “Hollywood manner” (that being to look up a couple of very special friends I have in the locality, and then visit some of the unique bars/restaurants on the strip – all normally within walking distance from the likes of the Sunset Marquis hotel). Are you following me here, as I’m uncomfortably aware that I’m not at my most articulate this week? Regular readers may be thinking “not for the first time”! Until next week.
On the subject of football (where we left off last week) - and about being careful not to become too financially involved again - we may just have found a rather unique player, in the shape of a young 20-year old Cameroonian (French-born) striker, recommended to me by a one-time French striker that I endeavored to help find a club, many moons ago: the latter player is called Alain Amougou and I brought him to trial almost ten years ago for the English club, Preston North End.
At that time, back around 1991 as best I can remember, Alain unfortunately went over on his right ankle, about twenty minutes into the trial game and – mirroring just how cruel football can be at times – the player had to return to France. Alain had subsequently been ordered to “stay off” his ankle for at least three weeks, by which time Preston North End had engaged the services of another striker. Then, as is often the case, I drifted out of contact with Alain.
Lo and behold, towards the end of last week – as I may have already mentioned – I received a phone call out of the blue, from none other than Alain himself, eager to forward me the information on the above-mentioned player, whose name turned out to be Jonathan Toto. Alain was willing to pay the player’s fare from Johannesburg, where he was on trial with one of that city’s three prominent teams, namely “Orlando Pirates”. Figuring that A) Alain must know a decent striker when he sees one (Alain gained 10 international “caps” for Cameroon, during his own career) and B) the cost of a return ticket from Johannesburg to Edinburgh is no mean cost, I took Alain at his word and decided to source a Scottish Premier League club that could offer a trial.
Being that nowadays I reside only a matter of ten minutes from “Hearts” (full name of the team – Heart of Midlothian) training facility on the outskirts of town – and also keeping in mind my vested interest of having supported them since I was a boy – I decided to seek a meeting with the Academy Director, a long-time associate of mine called John Murray, in the hope that he would agree to “run the rule” over Jonathan and give me some sort of idea as to his level of ability. My luck was in, with John agreeing to take Jonathan into training Monday last (26th),
It appears that Jonathan did enough in training on Monday morning, to warrant his inclusion in an Under-19 friendly game against a junior side (a team from a town south of Edinburgh, called Penicuik where, co-incidentally, I spent the first four years of my life!). Well - even though Jonathan did not feature until the second half of the game - within the first ten minutes of his appearance he had scored an opportunist goal; hit the post with a speculative left-footed shot and slightly “fluffed” a blistering run through the opposition defense, when the ball became caught under his right foot (keep in mind he was wearing a borrowed pair of football boots, as Emirates somehow construed to lose the boy’s luggage somewhere between Johannesburg and Manchester).
Earlier today, I witnessed Jonathan play a full ninety minutes – again with the Under-19 side, versus a junior side from a Scottish borders town called Coldstream: a thoroughly enjoyable game on a thoroughly pleasant afternoon, made all the more pleasant by Jonathan managing to bag another two goals, with an additional two “assists”, with the Hearts side running out comfortable 7-1 winners! So, after years of trying to unearth that unique “diamond” of a player, are we on the verge of something special? Time – and the next few weeks – will tell. Don’t move that dial! BFN.July
Ah, the summer may not be over yet – but the JLS Summer shows in the UK sadly are!
This week saw us play the final four shows of “Phase 3”, namely at Epsom, Hamilton (that’s in God’s country – Scotland – for our foreign readers!) Pontypridd in Wales and – finally – earlier today, at Margate in Kent. These last four days the weather has “held” admirably for us (I forgot to mention, in the text of last week’s diary, that we encountered a serious downpour, during soundcheck, at the Westonbirt Arboretum show on Friday 16th July). Not so, this last weekend.
Last week, I decided, during the three day “break”, between Phases 2 & 3 of the outdoor shows, to pay a flying visit to Paris, to check out a game organized by my friend Jean Evina, featuring many of the young players that he has been coaching twice a week, over the last year or so.
Therefore, upon my return from Peterborough, last Sunday night (18th) I holed up at a small guest house in Sussex Gardens in Paddington, rose early on Monday morning and then made my way over to Kings Cross station to meet Alice arriving down from Edinburgh on the first train: we then took the Piccadilly underground line out to Heathrow Airport and boarded a flight for Paris, where Jean kindly picked us up and took us to our small hotel in the 17th arrondissement area of the city.
Having an appointment later that evening with some of his football players, I agreed with Jean that he would swing by the hotel later in the evening, to look at a few DVD clips of the players featuring in the next day’s game, and also to run through both teams of players. Obviously Jean and I differ somewhat in our definition of “later in the evening” as – dozing on my hotel bed around 12.30 am that night (Monday) past, I was surprised to find the bedside phone ringing and Jean informing me he was now downstairs for our meeting! What can you do? Downstairs I went
Attending the game the next day, with my old friend Russell Mason (a man with an eye for a player, whose son has just signed for Blackburn Rovers, at the age of fourteen) – who had also flown in from London for a couple of days – we unfortunately discovered that the better of the players were those without French passports! As you may or may not be aware, a football player - unless he is a recognised and regular member of his international footballing side – must possess a European Union passport, to be able to ply his trade as a footballer, within the United Kingdom.
The most notable of the younger players is a good two years from obtaining his French passport (he currently holds the passport of The Ivory Coast) therefore – if we can somehow find the time – I’ll try to locate him with a small Belgian club, until such time as he procures French nationality.
However, back to the business of music, to which I returned on Thursday morning (22nd), to commence the final four-show run of the summer outdoor shows (Phase 3) with JLS consisting of the locations as mentioned at the start of this entry. Tomorrow, I head back up to Scotland for a welcome few days at the house where (as usual) a small “trail” of domestic chores awaits me. Next week will also prove to be my last chance to introduce a couple of notable young players to one or two of the small Scottish clubs, in the hope that they can build a name for themselves over the next few years. No, I haven’t given up on the football dream yet. Will I ever learn? Mmmm ….
Arrived here into Peterborough (85 miles north of London) about 4.00 a.m. this morning, as best I can remember! When the “overnight” tourbus journey takes anything longer than three hours – and, therefore, when the guys in the band cannot resist climbing into their bunks, once the show induced adrenalin has finally worn off – there is always the dilemma as to who is woken from a deep sleep, when we reach the hotel, and who is left to come around, of their own devices.
To a man, our four guys always want to be made aware of our hotel arrival and – once I have paraded the upstairs corridor of the bus, to gently rap on each bunk’s wood paneled fascia, upon pulling up at the hotel - the lads rarely hang about in transferring to their hotel rooms.
If the bus can be vacated entirely, at times like those, in the wee, wee hours if the morning (look that expression up!) then this enables the bus driver to continue on to the festival, park up for the night and procure his legally required nine hours “away from the wheel”. In the old days, prior to the introduction of Tachographs, and the associated stringent regulations, many bus and truck drivers just (somehow) kept on going, until they reached the next destination – and I was one of those such truck drivers. The things I could tell you (that I’m not terribly proud of)! Wild stuff.
This past week we have completed “Phase 2” of the summer outdoor shows, comprising: Warwick Castle; Westonbirt Arboretum; Escot Park (near Exeter, in the South West of England) and –finally, today – Peterborough “Embankment”. “Phase 3” commences next Thursday (22nd) after which, ten days later, North America once again beckons, with a “Six Flags” amusement park tour.
Does the mania surrounding JLS show any signs of abating? Is there any indication that their hero-worshipping fans might just be cooling their ardour and taking a more relaxed view of the proceedings? Don’t be daft! They are as excitable as they ever were. This train ain’t slowing, folks!
In all the years I have been doing this (and with a few diverse boy bands, along the way) I’ve yet to really get my head around many of the customs that spring up around such bands. Autographs? Surely that’s just a way of saying (proving?) that you actually came into contact with celebrity, that you were there – and some of your buddies were not! Does no one believe anyone nowadays? Not surprisingly – being that they have grown up with it all their lives – my children have never seen the need to pursue an autograph from any of the acts I have been contracted to, surmising that, yes, they were in the presence of celebrity but, no, proof of the fact was not necessary.
After the show tonight, we leave the festival site directly and head back to our drop-off point in London (oh, wouldn’t some of you like to know where that “secret” location is!!) which should see us all tucked up in our respective London beds - temporary in my case, but don’t take that wrongly! – by 1.00 am tomorrow morning. Admittedly, four “back-to-backs” is fairly hard work. Particularly, when one is dealing with the vagaries of outdoor appearances, the biggest drain on one’s time undoubtedly being dealing with the guest list. It’s a labourious process, made such by the fact that – try as most of our intrepid promoters do, to clearly signpost the guest/VIP entrance(s), the majority of those collecting tickets/passes on the day of show, still struggle to find a way in. Yes, I’ll be keeping my distance from that department, come the arena tour at the end of this year!!
Well, technically, not quite: it’s actually 01.55 am on Monday morning, 12th July. Oops.
Where has the day gone? Alice and I certainly ploughed through a host of domestic chores earlier in the day; initially concentrating on the top floor of the house and then working our way back downstairs - mainly dealing with all clean-up jobs, kitchen related. Glamorous? I don’t think so.
Undoubtedly, the house is too much to handle on my own, even with the assistance of Jade’s Edinburgh-based college friend, who has now “lodged” here, for well over a year now. Even though one can hardly expect the “lodger” to assist with domestic spring-cleaning tasks, the girl has been staying at her parents home, in Aberdeen, for a good part of the Summer break.
My property is considerably under-maintained: all cosmetic I have to say – and nothing that a “regular” family would not have managed to stay on top of, being that they would have been living here all year round – but, nevertheless, time consuming when you’re on the premises as little as I have been, over the last 2/3 years. Normally, one would not be overly perturbed by the continual succession of minor jobs, that a property such as this generates, figuring that a few hours each weekend would allow one to keep on top of things. Not so, of course, with the life that I lead.
However, enough of my domestic niggles: what has happened in my life this past week? Well, first thing to mention is that I have been cocooned within my little office in the house, since Tuesday morning past, concentrating mainly on “advancing” the upcoming eight outdoor JLS shows in the UK, and the twelve North American outdoor shows that we will play, during the first three weeks of August (although much of that time will be spent on the tourbus, there’s still work to be done).
I have to admit to having a small “dabble” into the football side of things this past week, by fixing up a trial, at an ambitious Scottish second division club (Livingston, located only twenty minutes from where I live) for a young, talented, French Left Back, called Thierry Emmanuele.
Thierry came through his first day’s training without much difficulty, at Livingston’s training ground. However, Livingston – having been placed into administration just over a year ago (due to gross mismanagement by the previous ownership regime) are working now to very strict budgets and the manager, Gary Bollan, was honest enough to inform me that they are currently well served in the Left Back position, but would certainly give me a call if that were to change. One can’t really ask for more than that: now we have our “foot in the door” with the player and a respected Scottish manager has observed him – albeit during a fairly low-key training session. It’s a start!
Having a little timer to spare in the evenings this past week, I took the opportunity to make a start to my last years’ accounts – which have to be submitted within the next eight weeks – and also to prune my overstuffed filing cabinet. It was during this little exercise that I happened upon my Visa bill from three years ago, a credit card statement that documented – within the month of January 2007 – that I expended over £1,500.00 on player hotels alone, at a time when I had three players on trial at the Scottish First Division side, Dundee. Never again (NEVER) will I allow my heart to rule my head to that extent. I’m extremely lucky that didn’t “drag me under”. BFN
A warm good evening to you all, as we (myself and the JLS entourage) head eastwards back to London, following an appearance earlier today at Channel Four’s “T4 on the Beach” programme, staged at Weston-Super-Mare - that’s the town’s name, honest! – in England’s west country.
The lads were featured as the headline act on the show, therefore we had to do an immediate “runner” at the end of our performance, to attempt to beat the traffic leaving the concert site: an exercise that was only mildly successful – as one of the concert-goers’ cars had broken down in the middle of the highway, just outside of town. At least we were at the front of the “hold up” queue, and thankfully soon on our way. We’re now halfway to London, on the M4 Motorway, and – provided there are no further traffic holdups – we should be back in London by 10.00 pm tonight.
However, we were party to a little drama earlier this evening when one of the “Jedward” brothers (any non-UK readers may have to revert to Google or YouTube to familiarize themselves with the act) managed to tear ligaments in his knee, as he fell awkwardly during one of their notoriously energetic dance routines. The Jedward boys’ dressing room was actually directly opposite the JLS dressing room, within the Artists’ compound and – as on several recent occasions, when both acts have featured on the same bill – they always wander over for a bit of banter. Decent, well-meaning lads was my immediate first impression when I first met them in Dublin recently, therefore I hope Edward makes a speedy recovery, from today’s earlier mishap. Chin (and leg) up mate.
We actually arrived down here at Weston-Super-Mare yesterday, part of the deal with this show being that the major acts have to sound-check on the day previous to the show, in our case 7.30 pm last night. We then took the tour bus back into Bristol, where we stayed down near the river, returning this morning just after 11.30 am, to commence the various promotional activities.
As for the earlier part of the week: having not returned from Split – into London’s Gatwick airport - until Wednesday evening, I elected to stay put in London, having booked the Royal Norfolk Hotel in London’s Paddington district, through “Laterooms.com”. I chose Paddington as it was the first ever area of London I ever stayed in, when I first came to London with the Bay City Rollers back in 1973. But, how about this for a spooky experience? After trudging upstairs to the third floor of the hotel (elevator out of service: “You get what you pay for”, I hear some of you saying – your dead right!), I found myself in a shoe cupboard of a room, whose window looked directly across Norfolk Square to my first ever London bed & breakfast hotel, The Cardiff Hotel! Wild, huh?
I stood there for a while, worryingly transfixed, wondering if someone, somewhere, was trying to communicate some form of sublime message to me. They (who are “they”?!) say that everything goes around in circles, however that’s one particularly elongated circle, that finds me back within 200 feet of where it all started for me, thirty years ago. Food for thought, indeed.
Many years have passed since then, most of them lived at the frantic pace which has become the trademark of this business that I (unwittingly) chose for a career, way back then, the previous three years to now being easily the most “taxing” (in more ways than one!) I have experienced. By the time JLS’s arena tour tails off in late January next year, I’ll be a touch worse for wear! BFN.June
It was all becoming too much for me: I needed to get away, needed a change of environment. There was nothing else for it – I had to split (man), so I chose somewhere out of the way: Split!
Split in Croatia, that is. Did I have you “going there” for a minute? To explain: as I had a few days to spare, upon my return from Canada ( I arrived back from Toronto last Wednesday evening, 23rd – more about the Toronto trip later) – and Alice had a few days holiday coming to her, we jumped on the internet on Tuesday night – either side of the Atlantic - and looked for the availability of a “mini break” that departed early Thursday morning, the only criteria being that it was not more than three hours flying time from London and – oh, yes – somewhere the sun was shining. So here we are in Split, in Croatia, having departed London’s Gatwick Airport at 06.05 a.m. on Thursday.
As you will have gathered from last week’s diary, we flew out to Toronto last Sunday (20th) to jump straight into three days of intense, Toronto-based, TV and radio promotion. Looking back on the beginning of this past week, it still beggars belief as to what we managed to accomplish in the space of just over seventy-two hours. Massive credit is due to Sony Canada, for their planning (and execution) of a very comprehensive schedule, which saw the lads not only present an award at the Much Music Video Awards last Sunday night – on national TV – but also featured them on some major radio stations and satellite TV programmes.
Of course, I know many of the guys (and gals) at Sony Canada as they became – and still are – very involved with Paul Potts career, as a result of which we were able to experience some great opera houses, all across Canada, in such unlikely “opera cities” as Edmonton and Calgary.
Coincidentally enough, the “G20 Summit” was due to begin in Toronto, Thursday past, only one day after we flew out of the city. However, there was much evidence of an ever-tightening security operation throughout the city centre, during the three days we spent there. Even arriving from the airport, early last Sunday afternoon, we were unable to directly access the street in front of our hotel (“Le Germaine”) without our driver producing satisfactory documentation to the city cops managing the access to an adjacent, closed-off, street. A little over the top, methinks.
Over-sensitive civic security measures aside, I enjoyed our three days there, particularly – in this case – as our brief visit coincided with some excellent weather. If I was to perfectly honest with you, I would still have to cite Vancouver as my all-time favourite Canadian city, however Toronto is right up there on my list, as a worthy second.
My only regret – even though we hardly had a second to ourselves during the whole three days – was being unable to catch up with my sister while I was out there. Lynne has recently changed addresses in the Toronto “suburb” of Wyeville, where she resides, and – through a combination of changed phone numbers, and – on my part – poor timing, I was actually unable to speak to her at all. Madness, really – and a poignant reminder that I have to better re-organise what little personal time I have on the road, to avoid a recurring situation such as that. Thankfully, we are back in the Toronto area on 7th/8th August, as part of the lads “Six Flags” North American tour: so I need to make contact with Lynne, in the next couple of weeks, and put that situation to rights! BFN.
Here’s a chance for you to gauge just how crazy my lifestyle can be at times: last Sunday night, I signed off the diary, sat in my Chicago hotel room, determined to complete it before midnight. This week (Sunday again) I am down in the lobby of the Le Germaine hotel in Toronto, finishing of the current entry, as I write. Therefore, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve been in the States for the last week (and maybe no great hardship either, as Toronto is only 504 miles distant from Chicago). But – get this – we’ve done four outdoor shows in the UK, in between times!
Yes, having flown out of Minneapolis last Monday evening, the 14th (coincidentally on the very same flight we traveled by, on 20th May, following the completion of “Phase 3” of the US promotion), we connected through London at midday on Tuesday past, en-route to the first of two shows – Wednesday and Thursday – at Cork’s Marquee venue in the Republic of Ireland. We then traveled to the unique island of the Isle of Man (another worthwhile “Googling” exercise for any of my foreign readers), positioned halfway between Ireland and the west coast of the UK. Finally, on Saturday evening (last night!) the guys entertained a sold-out crowd at Haydock Park, one of the largest racecourses (horses) in the UK. Then straight down to Heathrow, to catch a flight “today”.
I use the word “today” loosely, as we have enjoyed part of “today” in both the UK and Canada: to explain, we boarded our London flight at 08.30 this morning, at which point it was only 03.30 in the morning in Toronto. Add another eight hours to the local Toronto time (when we departed Heathrow) and you’ll understand why we landed, a short while ago, at 11.00 am, here in Toronto.
I have to say, here and now, that – even though I managed only about 20 hours sleep over the four days of the Irish/UK outdoor shows – it was good to be involved in my stock and trade once again: rock ‘n roll touring (even if only for a relatively short period, at this juncture of the proceedings).
As always, it was good to catch up with my fellow professionals who – to a man – know exactly what they are doing. Furthermore, our technicians all respect the guys in JLS who, somehow – no matter what time constraints they (JLS) may find themselves under, in respect of sound-checks and doors-opening times - always find the time for a quick word and a brief catch-up. There’s many a band out there who’ve been going three or four times as long as our lads, who have still not mastered the importance (and, let’s face it, the long-term benefit) of such a respectful approach.
In referring to this past week’s four outdoor shows as “Phase 1”, we have two more four-show runs (Phases 2 & 3) to complete during July, the first of which (Warwick Castle to Westonbirt, Gloucs., to Escot Park in Devon then, finally, to Peterborough) kicks of on the 15th of next month.
Today, we already started an intense, three-day, Canadian promo campaign, based here in Toronto – the most notable event during those three days being the lads’ attendance this evening at the “Much Music Video Awards” – from which we returned only an hour ago! I know: shouldn’t I be keeling over right now, from severe fatigue, keeping in mind the past weeks schedule? Fortunately, – for some inexplicable reason, I have found my “second wind” and that – along with the realisation that I am on the brink of having my diary entries smack-bang up to date in the next ten minutes – has driven me through the exhaustion barrier. I can’t tell you how good I feel right now! Love y’all.
“State Street, that great street – I just wanna say: they do things they don’t do on Broadway.” My more (shall we say) mature readers will at once deduce that, yes, I am in Chicago!
Over the past three/four years, since I was able to spend a little more time in this city – primarily while Franz Ferdinand took five days out from their (then current) North American touring schedule to record some tracks in a studio just outside Chicago – I have definitely warmed towards it. It’s like New York with a calming influence. Of course, I’m penning this particular diary entry as we head into summer - with today’s weather in the city having been refreshingly pleasant: believe me, that’s not the case in the depths of winter where temperatures – hastened by the “windshield factor” can plummet to minus 30. I happened across a quotation attributed to this fine city, when I was researching some basic facts on the city, where one observant resident of the “windy city” opined that “Chicago is a great place to visit – except in January or February”.
This past week has seen us back in North America, on “Phase 4” of our US promo schedule which has – this past week – taken in Rochester (8th); Buffalo (9th); Detroit (10th); Columbus (11th) and - yesterday and today - Chicago. The JLS train of love keeps on rolling out across the country, with everybody the guys meet – professionals and fans alike - jumping on for the ride. No one, be it the lads themselves, their UK and US management or Jive Records here in the States, is under any illusion as to the commitment and work ethic that will have to be adhered to, if JLS are to “crack” this market: even though said train is on an uphill climb at the moment, our rate of acceleration continues to marginally – almost imperceptibly – increase. Choo, choo – we’re coming through, baby!
Buffalo brought back some poignant memories for me, not the least of which was the few days we spent, at the commencement of a “Jethro Tull” tour, back in the summer of 1976 while, when staying at the Executive Hotel in the city, I was astounded to discover the night club annexed to said hotel was called the “747 Club” – featuring the shell of an American Airlines 747 jet, even to the extent that the VIP part of the “club” was ensconced in the upstairs lounge of the plane! Even better – and just as memorable (although beyond my pocket, when I was only on £67.50 per week!) was the fact that Chubby Checker – you need to Google him!. – was appearing at the same hotel.
Right – let’s spin forward thirty-four years to the current week, before the tide of nostalgia pulls me under. Our appearance yesterday in Chicago, as part of the B96 Summer Bash event, meant that we were able to stay two nights at the same hotel (always a welcome occurrence) – in this case, the Sax Hotel, right next to Chicago’s “House of Blues” venue: on our arrival there, on Thursday night, we met up with Lisa Wolfe, the guys US management representative, whom we joined for dinner at the Smith & Wollensky restaurant, adjacent to the hotel where, as a result of Chicago’s excellent spell of weather over the last few days, we were able to dine “Al Fresco”.
Today was taken up, mainly, with a live appearance at the Orland Mall, about forty minutes northeast of the city, where – because of the guys impressive performance at yesterday’s B96 Bash, a crowd of around five hundred people amassed to witness a rousing, four-song, set. Tomorrow morning we are off to Minneapolis for another Mall appearance (the oldest mall in America, apparently) and then straight back to the UK tomorrow night. Hold on to your coat tails!
Honesty being the best policy, I’ll tell you that I’m sat on the BA 175, New York bound, at the completion of a hectic weekend, the details of which will unfold throughout this week’s entry.
Rolling things back a little to the beginning of the last week, Monday 31st to be exact, I managed to sneak away for the day, Alice the navigator in tow, for a day’s driving in the highlands, which ended up in the England’s Lake district, as a result of Alice’s sense of direction! Just kidding.
You know, when the weather is as pleasant as it was last Monday, the Scottish countryside comes into it’s own: however, sadly, such impressive weather conditions do not prevail nearly enough.
On Tuesday, it was back to London to oversee three days of JLS rehearsals in East London, specifically aimed at Friday’s guest appearance on the “Britain’s Got Talent” semi-final show. I jumped on an early train out of Edinburgh, which enabled me to make to rehearsals for just after 1.00 pm. The lads, typical of their at-times-uncanny punctuality, were already sat in the studio “shooting the breeze” in true JLS style. The majority of the bands I’ve worked for all enjoy a certain “internal” humour base. As opposed to many “outsiders” who try to ease themselves into that circle (and invariably become a cropper, as a result of it) I just leave them to themselves.
I recall George Michael, many years ago, confiding to me over dinner that (up until that point, I take it) he had never allowed anyone to make a major creative decision on his behalf. Something tells me that’s how it works in JLS world: they have good – and highly professional – people surrounding them, however it is as much (more?) because those people compliment the lads intended career path, rather than directing it. Everyone has their own agendas – I’m no different.
So, what of the last three frantic days? Well, I mentioned the focus of the rehearsal preparation being geared towards the “Britain’s Got Talent” appearance on Friday evening past, where the lads performed with twenty additional dancers, all “glammed up” in black and red, acting out a very impressive routine, for the July 5th soon-to-be-released new single “The Club is Alive”. Within minutes of us being given the all-clear at Fountain Studios, we were on our way out to Heathrow, to check into an airport hotel, with us booked onto the first flight out to Dublin in the morning.
Our appearance in Dublin, at the infamous Croke Park stadium, was as the special guests of “Westlife”, who made a similar appearance at the same venue last year, selling it out on that occasion also. Sadly, I was unable to catch up with the Westlife guys, initially because their dressing room area was way over the other side of the stadium from where we were located and, laterally – with the Ryanair on-line ticketing system freezing up on me, when I attempted to print out the boarding passes – because I found myself leaving the facility as soon as the guys (JLS) had taken the stage, to run out to the airport and make the necessary ticketing preparations.
We had to take that last flight out of Dublin to the UK, Saturday night, so that we could make a 09.00 am sound-check yesterday morning, at Wembley Stadium, for the lads’ appearance on Capital Radio’s Summertime Ball. Fairly hectic weekend, huh? Now, I’m going to put this laptop down, order a glass of wine, and choose a movie. Why? Because I bloody well deserve it! Love y’all!May
Dear tolerant readers, I am reporting to you this week from most unfamiliar surroundings: home!
No more for me – for the time being anyway (unfortunately?) – the luxury of just picking up the phone and calling the reception of the hotel, when something doesn’t work. No, I’m back in the environment – the real world - where things that are needing fixed, need me to fix them.
Of late, I just can’t be fully sure of the exact nature of my present relationship, with the country of my birth: does it inspire me? (truthfully, I don’t think so). Does it restrict me? (only when I see how much work is still required to bring my property up to spec!). Does the inclement climate disappoint me? (absolutely!).
I’m steadied by the wise assertion (not from me, of course) that “you rarely choose what you do next – you invariably react against the last”. Like millions of other UK householders of late, I’ve suffered from the severe downturn in our economy, the most obvious outcome of which is the (alarming?) slow-down of the property market. My master plan, three years ago – again, no doubt, like many others, was to move up the property ladder, by investing in a more valuable property – and reaping the benefits a few years down the line. Like many others, I’ve painfully discovered that I would have been better off staying where I was! However, it is what it is and life goes on.
On a more positive note, you should see my garage now! Young Alice put her best foot forward and assisted me in instigating a major clean-up, which – as an off-shoot advantage – enabled me to garage the car for the first time in a long time. What’s with garage design nowadays? There was barely four inches to spare, either side, as I eased the old Jaguar into it’s “new” home.
This past week, having enjoyed something of a let up in my normally frenetic lifestyle, I’ve had the brief opportunity to stand back off things and reflect a little on where I’m at in life – and where I want to be, a couple of years from now. Is our infamous inclement Scottish weather, which I am keen to get away from, or is it just me I need to put some distance between, for a while.
On this highway of life that I am presently driving along, I can just about discern a sign in the distance, on one of the overhead gantries, that simply says “60”. Part of me feels that, before I reach that sign, the time may come, in the not-too-distant-future, when I decide I want to take an exit ramp, onto another road, just to see where it may lead me. In the meantime, once I’ve shaken myself out of this melancholic state of mind, and start booking flights and hotels.
The main advantage of being home, of course, is that I’ve had a chance to spend a few days around my daughter (it may be a while before I experience the same with my son, as he continues to live the idyllic life in Byron Bay, up near the Gold Coast of Australia. Still, what can a father do, to persuade him otherwise? He’ll come around in his own time, I’m reliably assured by fellow parents, so I’ll just have to allude to those trusted friends’ judgment on that. He’s well and he’s healthy and I am certainly glad of that: naturally, I quietly await the day when he looks to re-enter the real world and return to the land of his birth! The longer he leaves it, the harder it gets. Tomorrow, I’m off back to London to commence show rehearsals, so I’ll keep you posted on events!
From Las Vegas to Bangor: what a difference a week can make in the world of JLS.
Last Sunday, as you may recall, I left off in Las Vegas’s Hard Rock hotel, desperate to finish my diary entry prior to having to take a crack-of-dawn flight from Vegas to Phoenix, at 06.30 am.
Having arrived in Phoenix before most normal people have even left their beds in the morning, we jumped into a rental car and motored the two hours over to Tucson to hook up with one of the main radio stations in that region, namely KRQQ. We enjoyed a pleasant twenty minutes or so, en-route, sat outside a breakfast-bagel restaurant, basking in the mid-morning sun. Brief bliss.
Returning back down to Phoenix – and arriving in the city mid afternoon - we visited another couple of major FM stations, prior to checking into the “Aloft” Hotel (quirky, but cool – check it out on the internet) and then heading out to dinner with the PD of KZZP, Mr. Mark Medina
Ok, so I need to pause here to inform you that when – as I have averaged over the last three years on the road – you eat out upwards of 250 times a year, it’s rare that you will be able to recall any particular restaurant, unless something different happened – or was happening – there. In the case of this past Monday night in Phoenix, it was one of those “memorable” nights, a night when a combination of the company, the music, the food and the ambience all gelled, to leave you in no doubt that you will recall the warmth of the experience for many years to come. Deep, huh?
Back to Los Angeles first thing Tuesday morning (however, landing at the “quaint” Burbank airport) where our first stop was Rick Dees’s syndicated radio programme. Rick is a legend in radio circles in California – and wider afield, I’ve no doubt: it is personally encouraging for me to find a fellow peer-professional with as much (possibly, even more) enthusiasm for his craft as he had thirty years ago: and can I tell you? the inflection in the man’s voice hasn’t changed in 30 years!
After spending Wednesday morning in the Disney building in Burbank, we headed down to LAX to catch a flight to Minneapolis where, late Thursday afternoon, we completed our final engagement of “Phase 3” of our US promotional campaign with an appearance at the warm-up party at the “Target Centre” (mainly for the lads to introduce themselves to the city’s main FM station, KBBD).
While the lads have spent a very productive six weeks in the US (and laid many a cornerstone for their future success in that territory) there was a definite sense of anticipation to set foot back in their homeland, particularly with today’s appearance, at the Radio One event here in Bangor, North Wales, giving them the golden opportunity to showcase the soon-to-be-released new single, “The Club is Alive”, in a live audience situation, for the first time, in the UK. Being the professional outfit that they are, the lads – typically, only the day after arriving back from the US – spent an exhaustive day yesterday, in a central London dance studio, honing the their dance routine for the afore-mentioned new track. This is JLS folks: we leave nothing to chance! I’m now sat on the tour bus, on our way back down to London to drop everyone off at their respective abodes, after which I have a 5.15 am train back to Edinburgh from King’s Cross. Glamorous? Not, today, I fear, folks. This is your intrepid roving reporter signing off, from another wild JLS week.
JLS finally make it to Las Vegas!!
Having arrived into Vegas late morning today – and already having undertaken a lunchtime promotional meet with one of the major FM stations here – the lads are now enjoying a little mid-afternoon R ‘n R (rest and recuperation) down at the “Pool Party” here at the Hardrock Hotel.
Me, I’m trying to make a start to this week’s diary entry now (mid afternoon) as A) I’ve done a few pool parties in my time and B) we have a 5.00 am departure, from here, in the morning to Phoenix.
The past seven days has been something of a “half and half” week, as I was not officially back on the clock until this Thursday past, when the lads baled back into town from New York, where they had spent a few days catching up on business matters, mainly meetings with their record company.
You may recall that I left off last week, high up on the fringe of the San Bernadino mountains, in picturesque Lake Gregory: picturesque yes, wi-fi and cellphone friendly – not so much. I therefore once again encountered a situation where I found myself sitting in the guesthouse composing, and replying to, a bunch of e-mails, and then jumping in the rental car and driving half a mile to the nearest McDonalds. There, I proceeded to piggyback onto their free wi-fi network and up-and-download, on line. (albeit sat in same rental car, in their car park – well, how many Chicken McNuggets can a boy consume in one day?). Ronald McDonald to the rescue once again.
While I would have liked to hang in at Lake Gregory for Monday evening as well, I really needed to be contactable on the cellphone so it was back down the mountain to hopefully find another guest house/small hotel in the general San Bernardino area, where I could be in more worldly contact. I drove around for a fair part of the day before settling in at “The Mount Baldy Inn”, about twelve miles north west of San Bernardino, on a mountain road which ultimately led to skiing country. Next day I returned to the Sea Shore motel in Santa Monica, where Alice and I resided for a couple of days, prior to her returning to the UK, after her “extended” stay in the US. Finally, my last “non-JLS” night was spent back at that old Studio City favourite of mine, the “El Patio” Inn.
Next day, Thursday last, I handed my rental car back into Enterprise at LAX, around 9.45 pm and then caught the courtesy bus round to the Continental Airways terminal, to meet the lads coming in off their New York flight. Then back to our West Hollywood hotel for the night. Shazaam!
The main events this week, for the lads, have been yesterday’s downtown-LA performance at KIIS-FM’s “Wango Tango” event and Friday’s appearance, in San Diego (well, Chula Vista, to be geographically correct) at the 933 Kicker event, at the Cricket Amphitheatre, headlined by Usher.
I was again able to lay my hands on a tour bus for this short run, which makes a huge difference to the lads comfort levels at the venues when A) there are extended periods of inactivity (between sound check and performance times) and B) dressing rooms are in short supply. Once again, the lads have acquitted themselves well at both events and I can report that the groundswell of interest around – and about – JLS continues to strengthen. We’re on our way!! BFN.
How fortunate I’ve been while out here in the US, during these “downtime” periods: the freedom to wander at my heart’s content (albeit, never too far from a wi-fi signal!) for a few days at a time. Sure, there’s little doubt that I would rather be “gainfully” employed however – much as I believe anyone else would do in the same situation – I have enjoyed the days I’ve been on my own.
However, that was only the final two days of this week, the first five having been spent on “Phase 2” of the promo schedule out here in the US, commencing with another trans-US flight (this time from Los Angeles to Orlando) made all the “longer” by the three-hour time difference. You know, I’ve probably been to Orlando ten or eleven times in the last twenty-five years: however, if you’ve vacationed there once – say for five days or more – then you’ve probably seen more of the place, and its surroundings, than I have. Last Monday’s visit was, indeed, another “flying” one.
“Phase 2” was distinctly split between two states, initially Florida (3 days) then on to Texas (2 days) and before we had spent even 24 hours in Florida, a minor crisis began to develop: initially, as a nagging toothache for Aston and culminating in root canal surgery, only a matter of a day and a half later. So acute was Aston’s pain that we had no choice but to have him stay back in Miami Beach to undergo the surgery, while the other three lads and myself continued north to Tampa.
Of course, the boys were desperate for Aston to join up with us again on Wednesday, prior to us flying to Dallas: however, Lisa Wolfe – the lad’s management representative in North America (who had thankfully accompanied Aston to the dentist) – called to inform us that the dental surgeon’s instruction was that Aston should certainly rest up for a couple of days (prior to a second visit, on Thursday, to return to his surgery) but definitely - he was unable to fly.
Three go to Texas! (sounds like an Enid Blyton book, of which I’ve read many). It was an uncanny moment for me, standing at American Airlines curbside check-in at Orlando Airport, early Wednesday evening, looking around to find myself an Artist short. The normal banter that takes place between the lads, while I’m engaged in bartering down our excess baggage charges, was somewhat subdued that evening. However, as Aston himself would have insisted, the show goes on!
Coincidentally, we stayed at the same Dallas hotel that I stayed with Paul Potts, while on tour in the States last year, namely The Palomar, where – thankfully, as she deals with music groups all the time – the Sales manager, Beth Greer, arranged a seamless check-in (and you’d be surprised how many hotels, no matter how much prior instruction they have received, can’t accomplish such a simple procedure). On Thursday evening, while driving the eighty-plus miles after the San Antonio promotion to check into the Austin hotel, we suffered the awakening (literally) experience of the passenger van driver taking us to the WRONG “Doubletree Inn”. However, the moral of the story is that if you’re going to be dropped at the wrong hotel, then be sure the RIGHT one is only another ten minutes along the freeway: and, luckily for us, it was. The force was surely with us.
So, here I sit – in Lake Gregory, on my little hotel balcony, reflecting upon another whirlwind week: how long can I continue to live my life at this pace? Hopefully, a good couple of years yet, while I attempt to build up a head of steam, in the “recent” wake of my football nightmare. BFN.
Well, I would have to say, in comparison with last week’s roller-coaster “promo” week, the last seven days have been pretty laid back. Allow me to explain, as you teeter on the edge of your seat.
I can’t recall if I mentioned that, originally – between the dates of 18th April and 20th May – there were only two promotional stints planned for the guys, being that they had various other commitments while Stateside: those two periods being “Phase 1” (18th to 25th April – just concluded) and “Phase 2” (14th to 22nd May). However, as a result of the encouragingly positive reaction the lads have already generated here in the US, the record company have since managed to squeeze in an additional five days of Florida/Texas promotion, between 3rd and 7th May.
Now, originally, I had planned to return to the UK on 25th April (not that I probably would have been able to depart the States anyway, on that date!) and then return to the West coast, mid-May, to pick up on Phase 2, with the guys (now renamed “Phase 3” due to the addition of the aforementioned five days). However, with there now being three phases – meaning that I would have had to return to the UK twice, neither period longer than six days – I’ve elected just to stay out here, until we “finally” return to the UK, later this month. Furthermore, Sony Music (to some degree, in recognition of me saving them the cost of two return air fares), has kindly agreed to cover my living expenses, during both “downtime” periods: the first of which ends today, Sunday!
So, what have I been doing with myself, this past week - on my own, you might think. Not exactly the aforementioned case, as Alice (did you wonder how she was doing, languishing in the San Francisco Airport, Best Western Hotel, when last heard of?) was actually able to join me for an additional three days. You may recall that Alice was given a return date, by British Airways, of 28th April (she was originally meant to return on 17th!) and – of course – from San Francisco.
Initially – knowing she was sitting up there in San Francisco, with the risk of going “stir crazy” – I planned to connect up there, when I landed in Los Angeles last Sunday afternoon (25th). However, with the lads keen to sit down for an hour, back at their Hollywood hotel, for a detailed de-brief of the previous week’s activity, I managed to persuade British Airways to re-write Alice’s ticket back from Los Angeles on the 28th, instead of San Francisco. This meant Alice was able to fly down to LAX last Sunday morning to meet me off the incoming New York flight.
Consequently, with me not having to report back to the JLS camp until earlier this evening – in preparation for the flight to Florida tomorrow – I treated Alice to a couple of easy days in Santa Monica, before accompanying her to LAX late Wednesday afternoon, for her homeward flight.
I then motored west (but not specifically on Route 66!), up into the San Bernardino mountains – under two hours away from LA - with my first night (Wednesday) spent at Lake Arrowhead and then moving on to Big Bear Lake – around 6,000 feet above sea level – for the next three nights, returning to the city, late afternoon today. California is indeed a state (around three times the size of Scotland, if I recall correctly) of vastly varying contrasts – and it’s only one of 50 States!
So, it’s back too work tomorrow, Florida bound. Speak to you’ll at the end of next week. BFN.April
Greetings from the west coast of America, at the end of a something of a whirlwind week.
From LA to Milwaukee to Chicago to Boston to Providence to Connecticut to New York City to Philadelphia: back to New York City then out here to Los Angeles – and all in seven days!
These JLS boys have put in some serious hours of promotional work this past week: we were gone from the hotels before 0730, most mornings – then not checking in to the next hotel, that evening, much before midnight. I’ve always claimed that “promo” is harder going than touring is!
Time to be honest: my head’s still spinning from what I have witnessed during this past week. Let me explain: if Whitney Houston decides she wants to give an impromptu vocal performance, she needs to call several staff, an army of security and a fleet of limousines. Conversely these four lads need about ten minutes notice, some room temperature water – and, (“live-live”) away they go!
From first thing Monday morning past (19th), when we left Milwaukee to head up to Green Bay (home of the famous “Green Bay Packers”), these lads have stuck to the task like true professionals. Finishing up Monday evening on the outskirts of Chicago, we prepared ourselves to make the short journey to Sony’s Chicago HQ the following morning. There, the lads treated the Sony staff to a two-song “A Capella” rendition of “Everybody In Love” and “If It Were You”. Wild!
That same afternoon (Tuesday) saw us board an American Airlines flight into Boston, in preparation for our heaviest day yet, on Wednesday: we actually ended up working in four states on that day: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and – finally – where we laid our heads to rest, well after midnight – Noo Yok City (heavy traffic on I95 South, delaying us over two hours).
Following a full day of promotion in The Big Apple - culminating in hooking up with the staff of the lads’ US label, “Jive”, at the Shoreham Hotel in Manhattan, before leaving town - we jumped in the van around 9.30 pm and headed south to check-in at the Philadelphia Hilton, arriving – again - the “wrong” side of midnight. At least the hotel was within five minutes driving time of Philadelphia’s Channel Ten, our first port of call on Friday morning: a TV show I did last year with Paul Potts. In contrast to the lads appearance on New York’s CW11 morning show, on Wednesday morning past (21st), things went impressively smoothly with the Philly TV show, where – thankfully -our own US-based engineer, Kevin Hartman, was given enough time and assistance to be able to deal with all the technical issues: catch the performance on Channel 10’s website (if it’s still on the site).
As for the remainder of Friday, back into NYC we motored, via a radio station stop in New Jersey and then the Billboard and MTV offices in Manhattan. We actually enjoyed an “early” finish that night, finding ourselves back in the hotel by 9.00 pm! Yesterday we travelled out of the city again, making three stops in Pennsylvania (Scranton, Harrisburg and finally, once again, Philadelphia: however, another late night – meaning we didn’t arrive back at the hotel, where the penthouse nightclub appeared to be in full swing. Even the lads decided against venturing out into the New York nightlife, particularly as we had to make an 11.00 am flight this morning, out of JFK to where we are now, here in Hollywood (told you I’d make it there one day!). Did a week just go by? Jeez!
What made this city famous could – tonight – make a fool outa me! Those of you of the same era as myself will have guessed (based upon the above lines from the reasonably famous song – check out Rod Stewart’s version) that I am indeed – this evening – in the fine US city of Milwaukee. To be precise, I’m sitting outside Concourse D Arrivals at Milwaukee airport, awaiting the arrival of those wild JLS boys, who are due to arrive here any minute now (6.05 pm) from Los Angeles. More about what’s going on with myself and the lads, in a couple of paragraphs from now.
First, some news to share with you (because, being such a loner, I have very other few people I can share this with!), that concerns young Alice. Can you believe she is “stranded” in San Francisco, as a result of the Icelandic volcanic eruption? Alice’s flight was meant to depart from San Francisco yesterday afternoon (17th), at 4.55 pm. Understandably, as a result of the midweek eruption, we were quite prepared for a couple of days delay, when Alice showed up at the British Airways check-in desk yesterday lunchtime: and so it turned out, with her being issued with a three-day hotel voucher – along with a $40.00/day food allowance – while the airline worked on re-booking her homeward bound flight (this disruption must be costing some troubled airlines dearly).
As well you can understand, Alice’s attempts to reach BA reservations in London proved initially fruitless, being informed – by recorded message – of staggering waiting times before being answered: two hours and upwards! (however, our sympathies have to go out to the airlines reservations staff, who are probably not getting a whole lot of sleep right now). Thankfully, Alice managed to reach on of the reservations staff at BA in New York this afternoon, but was aghast to find out that the soonest the airline can book her back to the UK, is Wednesday, 28th April!
Naturally, we suspect (and wholeheartedly understand) that the airline has to “cover itself” – by quoting a worst-case scenario, particularly as the Icelandic volcano continues to spew the offending “dust” into the Northern European stratosphere. Therefore, we have to remain quietly confident that Alice’s proposed return flight date stands a good chance of being brought forward, when the volcanic eruptions (hopefully!) start to slow. I’ll update you all, in next week’s diary!
So, as I touched upon at the start of this week’s entry, I’m here in the US – starting work tomorrow on a 3-phase radio promotional campaign with JLS, over the next four weeks. As you are no doubt well aware, JLS have enjoyed a phenomenally successful year, back in the UK, since they signed their record deal with Epic Records. The US counterpart label, having monitored said success very carefully, are convinced that the lads have a promising future here in North America and are working closely with the lads, and their management, to ensure the vision becomes reality.
With Paul Potts preparing to record a third album, his live work will be on the quiet side for the next couple of months. Paul very graciously offered to keep me on during that time, but I’m a Tour Manager to trade, who’s feet become noticeably itchy if I’m away from the road for too long! Hopefully, once Paul has recorded the album, the opportunity will arise for me to work with him again: it’s been an incredible 2+ years that I have spent with him, charging around the world at breakneck speed. Paul’s is an amazing g story and I’m convinced there’s a good few chapters of it yet to be written. More from myself (and Alice!) same time next week. Thank God you’re here.
San Diego it is! What an awesome experience the last seven days have been: as intended, we have sampled several of the myriad of facets of the real America. We are sunburned, yet we have experienced – albeit for a relatively short time only – blizzard road conditions (coming out of Tonopah last Monday morning, 5th April) the likes of which I have rarely witnessed, in all my time.
We have passed through a town with a population of 272 (Blue Diamond, Nevada) in contrast with areas that can boast upwards of nine million residents (here in Los Angeles county). We have driven along roads at over 8,000 feet above sea level in contrast with portions of today’s trip up from San Diego, at a mere 17 feet above sea level – and we’ve only been in three different states!
I know I do tend to bang on about it a little, but United States of America is indeed a continent of staggering contrasts. Alice – as she does from time to time – sprung upon me the nugget of information that something like 69% of US citizens do not possess a passport, as they have never had the call to venture beyond the boundaries of their own country (to be checked on Google!). Perfectly understandable, if true – based upon our adventures of the last week. As I mentioned above, we have only ventured through three states on this trip so far (California, Nevada and Arizona) but yet we have experienced markedly diverse weather, landscapes and culture.
Last Monday morning (while preparing to check out of the Clown Motel in Tonopah) Alice happened to remark upon a surprising gentle snowfall, as she made her way over to the motel office to load up with the complimentary coffee and muffins on offer. Within the space of forty-five minutes (during which time we had seen no reason to open the curtains of our ground-floor room) we were astonished to find three inches of snow on the ground as we struggled to the rental car with our luggage: and the snow was still falling heavily at that point. Although we later surmised that it was probably a fairly foolish thing to attempt in such appalling weather conditions, we laboriously cleared the thick snow from the car windows and made for Tonopah Main Street.
For the next ninety minutes we “crawled” along highway 95 at little more than twenty miles an hour, thankfully in the wake of a local horse breeder, towing a loaded horse box behind a powerful Chevy Blazer pick-up truck: if we had not had his sometimes-hazy shape to cling to as a reference point then we would have struggled to make any headway, with the highway’s center-line under at least two inches of snow. Jack-knifed trailers in the oncoming lane did little for our confidence.
But – get this! – within two hours of leaving Tonopah we were driving through the vast expanse of the Nevada desert with blue skies, and not a fleck of snow in sight! I kid you not, folks. We actually decided not to stay the night in Las Vegas, preferring to hole up in Laughlin, Nevada, and just spend the whole of Wednesday roaming around up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, taking in the “Rat Pack” show at the Plaza Hotel, and then heading back down to our Laughlin hotel again. My only regret with this arrangement was that I did not have time to hook up with my buddy Duncan Faure, who is based out that way nowadays. On reflection, Alice decided she had managed to squeeze in much of what Las Vegas is all about, in the one twenty-four hour space, and she was happy for us to push on towards San Diego, with a stop in Blythe, California, on the way – even to the extent of flirting with the infamous “Route 66” on the way. More of our travels next week!!
Now folks - as many of my regular readers will know – it would be fair to say that I have stayed in a few hotels in my time: Hiltons, Hyatts, Sheratons, Holiday Inns, I’ve done ‘em all.
This evening, however, sees me billeted in none other than the Clown Motel, in Tonopah, Nevado – at an elevation (above sea level) of 6,130 feet: higher than any point, anywhere, in the UK. How did I ever end up here? Don’t move that dial – all is about to be revealed...
Really, it’s no great mystery: I’ve just commenced a 12-day vacation in the States, with young Alice in tow. I kinda feel a little bad towards Alice: there I was as a young, virile (well, I thought so, anyway) misguided 18 year-old, mesmerized by Alice’s charms and consequently foolish enough to promise her the world. Then I wandered out of her life for thirty-eight years - having shown her little more of the “world” than the local seaside fairground attractions in Edinburgh.
So, being a man of my word (how good is this sounding?) I decided to make my bygone pledge good and treat her to a trip to America’s west coast, a part of the world she was yet to experience. We left the UK yesterday, Saturday 3rd, having initially been diverted to London’s Gatwick airport, on our first flight of the day, as a result of a “fire alarm” in the control tower at Heathrow Airport. Back at Heathrow, later in the afternoon (having endured one the shortest flights I’ve ever made – 20 minutes!) we were subjected to a thorough baggage search, right at the departure gate of our San Francisco bound flight: methinks more than a “false alarm” in the control tower earlier!
Now – although I have undoubtedly put in a serious shift of work over the past thirty-five+ years – I am very fortunate to have seen much of the civilized world several times over, one of the direct benefits of that being that I have been able to accrue a wealth of frequent-flyer miles and, subsequently a British Airways Gold Card (although Paul Potts once remarked that having such a coveted item possibly only points to the fact that one has taken far too many flights!). However, luckily being the possessor of such an item meant that we were upgraded from Economy to “World Traveler” class on the London to San Francisco flight yesterday. Alice was most excited about it.
Right at this moment, I can’t recall whether I had started my “Diary from the Road” back in 2003 (don’t think I had) when myself and the children took our second US “Motorhome road trip” vacation, commencing the round-trip journey in Los Angeles and taking in San Francisco, Las Vegas and San Diego, prior to returning back to our point of origin. This trip is something of a “re-visit”.
What is slightly different with this proposed trip is that (due to the best deal on return flights to any of the afore-mentioned cities) we started last night in San Francisco: our plan was to drive to Carson City (Nevada’s state capital), then turn south towards Las Vegas, down through the south-west of Arizona, en-route to San Diego, then hug the west coast of California, via Los Angeles and finish up again in San Francisco, around the 17th of this month. So far, so good, although we didn’t quite make it up to Carson City, before swinging south and landing up here in Tonopah (at the Clown Hotel! – we aim to see much of the real America). Tonopah has an interesting story to tell – check it out on the Internet – with it’s past involvement with a vibrant silver-mining trade. By this time next week, we intend to be in San Diego. See you there, oh intrepid readers. If we make it.March
Today’s entry is being penned (well, at least being started!) on the train: however, not the Edinburgh to London train, as has been the case on a few occasions in the past. Today – oh intrepid followers – I am travelling from Seoul to the southern city of Daegu, where Paul Potts will make a visit to an “SOS” village (an organisation which cares for orphaned and “disowned” children) – only one of three such facilities in South Korea.
What brings us to South Korea? Nothing less than the “Mr. World” contest, which was broadcast last night in South East Asia, but staged at the “Songdo Conversia” exhibition hall, in the suburb of Incheon, about fifty minutes west of Seoul. We were considering entering Paul as Mr. Wales, but decided that he should do what he does best; therefore he performed two songs at the event! The competition, which will be broadcast worldwide at a later date, served up a winner in the shape of “Mr. Ireland”, the vast majority of the contestants being in the 25 – 30 age group.
We arrived here in Seoul, late Friday afternoon, having connected through Dubai, from London, on one of Emirates Airlines gigantic A380 aircraft: that airplane is a piece of engineering genius, featuring a full “double-decker” layout. Now, knowing me as you do, you’ll know that I won’t be over impressed by the fact that the client booked myself and Paul into First Class, however I have to tell you that said First Class cabin borders on the “totally over the top” with small, self-contained, “suites” for each passenger (including fixed 23” TV screens!), a lounge with a manned bar and a food service that enables you to have your meals at whatever time you choose! Wild, huh?
After last Sunday’s JLS event, I made the impromptu decision to drive back up to Edinburgh overnight, to try and spend a few days dealing with domestic/house issues, before leaving there Wednesday afternoon to “train” it down to London (although I wasn’t actually flying out of Heathrow until Thursday afternoon, the Edinburgh to London travel costs for Thursday were seriously expensive: thank God for the likes of “Laterooms.com”, which enabled me to land a single room at the Norfolk Towers Hotel, in Paddington – including breakfast – for £59.00!
This is now my fourth time in Korea in the past few years, however I’m only now staring to get a handle on the place. Obviously there are certain parallels to be drawn with Japan (the traffic for a start!) however Seoul, in comparison to Tokyo, appears to have a slightly more “European feel” for me: whereas on a business-organisation front – based upon my experiences in the concert touring - Korea lags slightly behind Japan. In comparison, I also slightly prefer the Japanese food!
Thinking about it, I’m probably slightly unfairly judging Korea, being that I’ve only made four trips there, whereas – at the last count – I have visited Japan seventeen times (hard to believe).
Tomorrow evening we are back to the UK where I hope – next week – to establish my own personal “work diary” for the months ahead: while the experience of working with different Artists keeps a certain variety to things, it is nevertheless good to have one particular project to focus upon, from the planning point of view (much as the way it has been with Paul, over the last two years). I can’t continue to do this work forever, therefore I’m aware of the need to build up a “head of steam” over the next couple of years, which would allow me the breathing space to graft myself onto some alternative – yet associated – line of work. Lots to think about over the next week. BFN.
Well, well, well: what a difference a day (or seven of them) makes.
I’ve actually been fortunate enough to work with two differing Artists this past week: Paul Potts (of course) and those four charming lads that I just finished touring the UK with: JLS.
However, the above involvement was spread only over the past three, weekend, days. Since arriving back from Japan two Saturdays ago (13th March), I spent a few days with young Alice in – of all places – Brighton, on England’s south coast, which I touched upon just at the end of last week’s entry. I only came up to London on Thursday past, having enjoyed four very restful days.
My first promotional event with JLS – namely the BBC “Sport Relief” programme on Friday night past – certainly brought back memories of my many visits to BBC TV Centre with Westlife: four (initially five, in their case) vibrant guys and their management and support staff in a dressing-room environment of organized chaos – just how I like it. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll have to stay on my toes with these lads. I made sure I pored over their internet site, their record company “bio” and there recently published book, just to allow me the inside track on what I’m getting myself into here! Through what I’ve now read – and since experienced at first hand – these boys are no lightweights: while they exude (genuine) charm and cordiality, there is little activity that passes their notice. I suspect that all is quietly going according to their plan!
Being that I’ve arrived relatively “later” into JLS’s ascending careers, it will understandably take a little time for them to totally suss me out: that’s fine by me. I’m convinced I’ll come good in their eyes, once they see me in full flow! Having said that, I’m old enough to easily be their fathers: however I doubt that’s of any great concern to them, as long as the job gets done. There is much talk of America taking to JLS’s music and style: I sincerely hope that’s the case. Quite apart from the fact that it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys, the US is my favourite touring territory: I well understand the US mentality and have spent years honing my interpersonal skills with their fine peoples (any chance of a free Green Card now, Mr Obama?!). You don’t ask, you don’t get.
Back to “Sport Relief” on Friday past: I basically took up the role of observer, being that most of the lads support staff were in attendance. Once we head out on the road to promote the forthcoming second album, there will be just myself and a record company promotions person: that’s when I will certainly take up a more active role. For now, I will look, listen, learn – and eat.
On Saturday, I accompanied Paul Pottsto a private event, for the Marie Curie Foundation, staged at the Royal Courts of Justice, just off The Strand, in London: a most impressive of “venues”. Now, there are those that will marvel at what I can accomplish in the space of twenty-four hours of the touring day: however I witnessed at first hand the military style catering operation – for at least 300 guests - in a building never designed for such activity, and I was well impressed with the sheer efficiency of their operation. Today, my week was completed by my involvement with the JLS lads at a private function in central London, where the client proceeded to take to the stage, during “Everybody in Love” – as an impromptu “backing singer” – which, of course, the lads dealt with admirably! More detail in my autobiography, years from now. See y’all next week, folks.
As we reach cruising altitude on our homeward bound JAL flight to London today, I can reflect upon a most enjoyable past seven days that saw us leave Tokyo behind and venture into the “provinces”: Osaka, Fukuoka, Kanazawa and Nagoya, to be exact.
As mentioned last week, I have visited all four of those cities as part of past tours, however many years ago now (I don’t think –up until now – I’ve ventured out of Tokyo in the last 10 years).
The Japanese are a wonderful people, make no mistake – and what they don’t know about precise organisation is not worth knowing. Once they are familiar with your stage set-up, from the first show in their market, then you will find the equipment in the exact same place, every other show. While, as afore-mentioned, I have undertaken shows in all those cities on previous occasions, it has always been at the cities’ rock venues, so it follows that this was my first time into those, specifically, operatic buildings: the attention to detail – and intricacy of design (not forgetting the almost-scientific concentration on room acoustics) – is staggering. One can only gaze awestruck.
I often wonder how I might be remembered. Outwith my close family members, what will I have been seen to have accomplished? Sure, for a while there, I was a mild “boil” on the backside of the authoritative world of football (and how far did that get me?) and – oh yes – at the cost of around £150,000.00, I was noted for the ownership of a fairly unique Edinburgh licensed premises for just over a year. Fact is, if I hadn’t dabbled in either of the above, there’s a more-than-even chance that I would be penning this diary from my (paid off) villa in France. How reality bites.
As “twee” as it may sound, I always bolster myself, safe in the knowledge that there is invariably someone (tens of thousands, if we view it on a country-wide scale) much worse off than me: I mean, let’s put this into stark reality – would you want to be in Haiti right now? Not more than ten thousand straight miles from where I sit here (in the breaking light of the UK’s South Coast – Brighton to be exact) – there are hundreds of thousand of homeless people down there, dreading the imminent onset of their devastated country’s rainy season. Just ponder that for a moment.
It’s time for me to push on and stay focused on what I hope to achieve in the coming years: what will keep me satisfied – and what will keep me sane. Trouble is, my business moves at such a frenetic rate, compared with most normal business walks of life, that it can prove difficult to eke out (even brief) periods of time when one can stand clear of it and analyse one’s direction. It should never escape me that I was in a fairly severe financial mess, less than three years ago but – while it has meant less than six months at home in the last two and a half years – I have somehow survived to tell the story: it would be a pity not to capitalize on my new-found situation.
This coming week, I suspect I will find myself involved with a new project, alongside the work that I continue to undertake for Paul Potts: apologies that I can’t say more, however I just need a few more days to be sure of the direction I anticipate taking. Then all shall be revealed. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a few (well earned?) “R & R” days here in Brighton, a town that has re-created many fond childhood memories for me: in fact, a town that I now look at, thinking, “yes, if the circumstances decreed it, I could definitely stay here”. The plan unfolds more, next week…
Currently, I’m writing this week’s entry while I’m travelling at 180 mph. You would certainly hope that I wasn’t in a car, however such a speed would be somewhat slow for an airplane. No, I’m actually sitting on the “Bullet” train in Japan, this Sunday afternoon (how organized am I?) en-route from Tokyo to Osaka. Three shows completed on the tour: four “provincial” cities to go.
I was actually trying to focus on the last time I travelled outside the capital city, when visiting this country: I’m fairly sure that hasn’t happened on at least the last six occasions I have been here, therefore it’s a good fifteen years since I have been anywhere outside Tokyo.
Back in my Bay City Rollers days in the late seventies – over the space of four different tours – I visited a host of provincial cities, including Osaka, Fukuoka, Kanazawa, Nagoya (those four being the remaining shows we will play on this tour) Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto, Sapporo, Yokohama are the others I recall. How that seems so long ago now – probably because it was so long ago now.
We have spent the last week based in Tokyo itself, while we played shows in three different venues, the last of which (“Geijutsu Gekijyo”) was a beautifully enchanting opera house, four floors above street level. Although we are actually travelling a projection system with us on this tour – similar to the production we utilize in all countries outside Europe – our Japanese promoter particularly requested that we desist from using it in last night’s venue, due to the classically styled interior. Initially, of course, I was reticent to leave it out of the show, however – having been sent some pics beforehand of the interior look of the venue – I went with the promoter’s advice. Since experiencing the layout out the venue at first hand, it was the right choice to make.
Today, as I mentioned before, we are headed for Osaka, where we have a show tomorrow, at the Symphony Hall. On Tuesday we travel to Fukuoka, where - the next day – we commence a three city, back-to-back run, of Fukuoko, Kanazawa and Nagoya – finishing up in the latter city, next Friday night. The following morning we fly up from Nagoya to Tokyo and then homeward to the UK.
In the course of last week’s diary, I made mention of my “future” plan and said I may elaborate upon it somewhat, this week. It’s not rocket science really – I just would like to re-locate to Glasgow, for Jade’s last year of University. This would give me a target of moving out of my Edinburgh house in the autumn of this year, which, in turn, dictates that I have to prepare my house for sale by no later than 1st of May: this, of course, gives me just under two months to do it.
With young Stella’s – and just slightly younger Alice’s – able assistance (not forgetting that of the appreciably younger Jade) I am confident that the above deadlines can be met. The girls have agreed to pitch in and offer any reasonable assistance they can. If, as I hope, I can continue to stay out on the road, for the foreseeable future, then I’ll have little opportunity to be back in Edinburgh during the next two months. Naturally, the master plan all depends upon attracting a reasonably quick sale for my current property (my intention is to put a deposit on a “new build” in Glasgow, to guard against being let down on the purchase of a previously-owned house). There’s not a whole lot of time to make all of the above happen, but I’m desperate to pull it off. It will be strange to leave Edinburgh again, but I suspect this is the last time I will do so. Sayonara, folks.February
Evening all: now, as I speak (write) I’m just going to check the “Flightmap” on the seat-back screen on this JAL Tokyo-bound flight that I’m on right now, to see exactly where we are. Give me two minutes: Ok, we’re 33,000 feet above the Russian continent, halfway between Moscow and Novosibirsk, from what the screen tells me. So, you want to know what I’m doing (up) here? Yes?
Well – now that you ask (and God forbid there may be no “you”: am I just here all on my ownsome?!) I’m en route to Japan for a seven-date, thirteen day, Japanese tour with Paul Potts. Oddly enough, it has almost been two months – to the day – since I sat on this very same flight heading out to Tokyo with Paul, to complete the New Year TV special.
I probably mentioned a few weeks back that I had a commitment to this tour of Pauls, meaning that I’ve effectively had to “jump off” the JLS UK tour, six days before it’s completion: however, I have carefully set up the accounting processes for the remaining three venues of the tour, in my absence: venues which I am A) very familiar with and B) all of which I have visited within the last month. Once I return from Japan on 13th March, I will swing by JLS’s management office (the same company that oversees Paul’s career) and finish up the accounting processes on JLS’s tour.
Paul’s tour also allows me a couple of weeks to hook up with my son, who will travel down from Brisbane to once again take up the position of Production Assistant on the tour: at this very time I am penning this week’s diary (five hours out of London, just prior to midnight, UK time) Bradley has already landed in Tokyo and awaits Paul’s arrival at Narita airport, tomorrow morning (1st March) Japan time. To explain, Paul and Julie Ann elected to take the earlier flight out of London today – departing midday, arriving Japan 0900 local time tomorrow. Myself, Chris, Bob and Mark left London at 7.00 pm today, and will touch down in Narita at 4.00 pm tomorrow afternoon.
We will play seven shows in five cities in Japan, between 2nd and 12th March, the first three – each in a different venue – in Tokyo, before we travel out to Osaka, Fukuoka, Kanazawa and, finally, Nagoya. Of course, over my many years of touring Japan, I have been to all the above cities on previous occasions: for some odd reason, I can easily recall the date of my last “Japan” show, (the band, as against the country), way back on 16th December 1982, at Nagoya’s Shi Kokaido Hall. If only I could remember everything else that happened back in that period of my life!
Over the past four weeks, I have certainly found a little more time to myself – mainly because I have been concentrating purely on the Tour Accountancy with JLS, as against my more normal function of combining the Tour Management with the Tour Accountancy. Of course, it’s all about striking the right balance: when I am in “dual role” mode, there’s no doubt that most waking days are jam packed with activity, however I can reflect upon the additional earnings that this brings. I guess if I was not in a position where I have to “make hay while the sun shines”, and try to build up a head of financial steam - now that I have squared away my past football debts in their entirety -then I could afford (literally) to ease back on the workload a touch. I’m working towards it, folks!
In conclusion, I have to maintain my current energy levels, make a plan for the next twelve months, and then push on towards that goal. More about the already-hatched plan, next week!
So what about the JLS boys at the beginning of this week – winning two out of three of the “Brit” awards, for which they were nominated? Pretty impressive huh? They were high as kites!
You know, I have to confess, I saw them making for the stage for that second award presentation and (being from the era that I am) I was immediately reminded of the Temptations: now, you’ll have to be somewhere around my age group to recall that iconic “Tamla Motown” band, but they (along with the likes of The Four Tops and The Isley Brothers) were serious class acts. We can only hope that the lads will enjoy a similarly long stay in this minefield of a music business.
As the lads had to rehearse for their appearance on the Brits show itself – and then feature in the live presentation the following day – the majority of the touring staff enjoyed a rare (indeed, on any tour) two consecutive days off: namely Monday and Tuesday of this past week. Therefore, I opted to stay on in Liverpool after last Sunday’s show, spend the next whole day there, followed by a train-travel day down to Plymouth, on Tuesday afternoon. With young Alice in tow, we traipsed around the city centre of Liverpool on a rather wet and blustery day – but all good fun.
Now, to the subject of Plymouth itself, scene of Wednesday night’s JLS show at the Pavilions: you know folks – and, granted, it might be a very personal thing – I do believe I could live in that city. At this point I should be able to offer at least a few plausible reasons for that assumption, but I just can’t put my finger on it: something regarding the combination of it’s proximity to the sea and its “town rather than city” feel, just seems to give off a genuinely relaxed and comfortable vibe.
From Plymouth, we travelled up overnight to Bristol and the eponymous Colston Hall (you know, I’m not even sure what that word means) that has had millions spent on a new frontage and grand entrance foyer, but nothing on the “tired” dressing room areas. Nevertheless, the aforementioned aside, it’s still a great little gig – but a fairly tough challenge for the crew, hi-lighted by a serious lack of storage space for empty flight cases, during the show. The next day’s show (Friday) at the Cardiff C.I.A. – while possibly unable to conjure up the “intimacy” of the Colston Hall – is a whole different world in terms of the working environment for the crew: to the extent that one of the trucks can be driven right onto the venue floor to unload (while the other one simultaneously unloads through the backstage dock). Decent sized production offices are another plus.
So here I sit, in the production office of Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium (affectionately known to the locals as “The Armadillo” – check out the pics on the website and you’ll see how it earned that name) at ten in the morning today –Sunday - attempting to complete this week’s entry, before the daily clamour kicks in. As a result of the loading dock directly backing onto the rear stage – and that stage itself being of considerable depth – this will be one of the easier, and fastest, set-ups on the whole UK tour. Add to that a hardworking local crew (the guys who help us to unpack and pack the trucks) and I can see some of our own crew being able to get out of the building for an hour or so today. Such occasional opportunities offer a welcome break with routine for the crew.
Of course, the best thing about today is that Jade will come and visit me later today and hopefully stay for the show. I don’t see her enough, but I’m working on fixing that. Bye for now.
St Valentines Day, huh? I’m still not terribly sure what it’s all about – and yet the very laptop on which I am “composing” this week’s diary entry could provide all the answers and background info I would ever need: in other words, there is little nowadays that cannot be found on the internet.
I was tempted to rattle on about how (in a similar vein to the, now, commercial over-exploitation of Christmas) the occasion of St Valentine’s Day once again finds the innocent masses reaching for their credit cards, as they are unable to resist the temptation of involvement: however, in the continuing crusade to maintain the spirit of romanticism, it’s a welcome date on the calendar.
We actually had a show in Liverpool tonight, at the renowned Empire Theatre where, of course – back in October – I played the same venue with Paul Potts (and the very same venue, once again, where Paul was presented to the Queen, on the occasion of his appearance at the Royal Command Performance, back in November of 2007: suddenly, that seems a long time ago).
Tonight’s show was our fifth of this past week: Monday (8th) was actually a day off – spent in Brighton, prior to Tuesday’s show at the Brighton Centre. I’ve no doubt mentioned the following in the body of a past diary – probably when I was with Westlife – but I have memorable links with the Brighton area, more specifically it’s twin town of Hove, where one of my grandparents lived for many years and, consequently, where my sister and I spent many a carefree summer. Again, I’m drawn back to the title of one of the old Kinks songs, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”.
Following the Brighton show was a short coastal run, westwards, to the Bournemouth International Centre, perched right on the sea-front, for another sold-out show the next day, Wednesday. To be honest, everyone of these UK “JLS” shows has sold out (and no one knows better than me, because I’m the one at the “sharp-end” of the accounting processes every night). We then headed back, north-eastwards, to Brentwood in Essex and (get this) to a venue I don’t believe I have ever played, in all the 30+ years I have been doing this! The layout of Brentwood Leisure Centre is not dissimilar to the likes of the Magnum Centre in Ayrshire, Scotland or the Humberside Arena (although I may have that second one wrong): essentially a large “gym hall”, with retractable seating and enough space to erect 28 feet of temporary staging – and, hey presto, a show is born!
Said Brentwood Leisure Centre may stand out, yet, as having the highest decibel level of crowd noise: whatever they may say about “Essex girls” (and who knows if there’s any truth in such assumptions, anyway) they can certainly scream with the best of them! Good on you, girls.
Possibly our most challenging show of the tour so far was last night’s appearance at London’s Hammersmith Apollo: London being London, there is a great danger of the guest list taking precedence over all other show-related matters, particularly on a “hot ticket” show such as this. Add to that, the fact there was also a matinee show yesterday afternoon (necessitating that the crew had to load-in from 07.00, in order to make the first show time of 3.00 pm) certainly made for something of a long day, in every respect: still it’s done now. Tonight’s show in Liverpool has gone fairly straightforwardly and with (and this is very rare indeed) we now have two full days off as a result of the lads live appearance on “The Brits” next week. Wish them luck! Until next week.
And a fine good evening to you from the English Riviera (well, Brighton actually) following a hectic six shows in seven days: a surefire recipe for keeping one out of trouble.
The JLS shows continue to sell-out and, staggeringly, we have only failed to sell thirty-three tickets, from over twenty thousand, in the last week. You see, “sellout” is a very marketable term in the touring world, however it is rare that very seat is sold: on an average capacity of (say) three thousand, most sell-out shows will have 20 – 25 tickets remaining, generated as a result of individual groups of three and five persons attending the concert together – and therefore generating odd, available, seats throughout the house. Not so at a JLS concert, folks!
So passionate are some of the fans to see the lads strut their stuff on stage that, on the odd occasion when we are able to release (say) 20/30 tickets on the day of the show (when the stage is set and the “sightlines” may not be as critical as we had first anticipated), a few girls may be lucky enough to land a couple of tickets at the last minute. Now, even if those tickets are not located right next to each other, they will still sit in single seats - away from each other - rather than miss the concert. Hence the reason very few our tickets are ever left unsold. Cool, huh?
Our first show at the Ipswich Regent (formerly the Gaumont, in my early touring days) saw the lads having to deal with a very tight backstage area, with the “quick-change” tent squeezed between the lighting controls and the loading dock, upstage right. While Margate gave the lads a wonderful reception - and a great boost to their performance confidence - Ipswich (and maybe only because it was under the auspices of a national promoter – and because it was a Monday) was viewed by many as the official start to the UK tour. Hence, the reason my talk of the “six” shows.
As you know, I’m travelling on the crew bus on this tour, therefore after the Ipswich show, we were on our way, overnight, to Nottingham Royal Centre where, in years gone by, the crew bus could just pull up and park at the side of the venue, when it arrived in the early hours of the morning, awaiting the load-in call. This is no longer possible, now that the city’s tram system routes it’s way very close the venue’s backstage entrance: the trucks can only just squeeze parallel to the wall at the rear of the theatre, leaving only a few feet between them and passing trams.
Back on to the crew bus after the Nottingham show, and off on our way to an iconic gig, Newcastle City Hall: if I had a pound for every time I’ve done that particular venue, then I would be dictating this diary to my private secretary (well, almost): I’ve been doing shows there as long as I can remember, and it still retains it’s magic – helped greatly by the “Geordie” peoples’ reaction.
The day after Newcastle (Thursday), we were able to enjoy a show-free day in Birmingham before undertaking a show at the same city’s LG Arena – formerly known as the NEC – where the lads played to almost eight thousand adoring fans. The week was rounded off with a show at the Manchester Apollo (one of two times we’ll be there on this tour) and last night (Sunday – OK, I’m a day late completing this week’s entry!) saw the lads give another blistering performance at Sheffield City Hall. Long may it last for JLS – it’s great to see them having the time of their lives: let’s hope that, for them, there are many tours and many successful years ahead of them. BFN…January
I kid you not: the time on my laptop says 23:11, on this Sunday evening, 31st January.
Let the record show that I am in fact (just) capable of making a start to my weekly diary entry, on the actual day that I’m meant to: mind you, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be finished it before the clock strikes twelve, as I’m cognizant of having rushed recent entries, just to have them finished.
So, here I am in Ipswich, this chilly Sunday evening, having arrived midday, overnight from Margate. This week has seen me complete my first four shows of the JLS UK & Ireland tour, in the role of “stand-alone” Tour Accountant: it has been quite strange to observe all of the crew running through their various pre-show checklists and not to find myself part of it. Normally, when I am working with Paul Potts, I am very much involved in the pre-show activity, being that we tour the world with a very small entourage (seven in total, including Paul’s wife, Julie Ann) which sees me “doubling” the Stage Manager role, during Paul’s show.
Also, being that JLS have their own Tour Manager in Adam Lambert, who has been with the guys for a while, I have little involvement, again, in the logistical aspects of the tour. Now, I’m not quite sure (oddly enough) if I’m at ease with only having to concentrate on the Tour Accountancy – having said that, I’m finding I have time to myself that I certainly have had very little of, in the last two years. I’m just going to allow this change of pace to waft over me for a while before I make any swift judgments as to whether I’m more comfortable, or not, with this new routine.
What can I tell you of the last week? Well, the first two shows in Rhyl (Tuesday and Wednesday past) were very well received by an ecstatic, not-so-young-as-I-expected, predominately female audience. I don’t even remember that level of screaming on the Westlife shows! However the Westlife lads certainly have an older demographic than the JLS lads, so that would partly explain it. To be honest, that sheer decibel level of audience-generated noise is something I may not have experienced since my Bay City Roller days (and that’s going back a while).
Sensibly, the JLS lads do a “runner” after every show, otherwise if they were to choose to remain in the building, after coming off stage at the end of their performance, then that would create a security headache for all concerned. Unfortunately, because those “runners” are very slick, the guys are often in the tour bus and away, before the audience have started to leave the venue: invariably, we end up with a fair amount of girls at the back door who remain unconvinced that the lads are no longer in the building – the very same scenario that we encountered with Westlife.
Last night and the night before (Saturday and Friday respectfully) we played two shows at Margate’s Winter Gardens, a venue that I visited not so long ago, at the commencement of Paul Pott’s UK tour. Sure, the building may have seen better days, in terms of some of it’s facilities, however it is run and manned by great team of people, several of whom I suspect have been involved with the venue for decades. Again, as in the case of Rhyl, both shows were sold “to the rafters” and we could not have squeezed another person in anywhere. That is very much the story of the whole tour, with this show being the hottest ticket on the UK touring circuit right now: still it keeps me busy, with all the accounting aspects that are involved. See you all again, next week.
Yes, what a difference a week can make: the last time we spoke I was preparing to leave Dublin, after the three Paul Potts shows in Ireland, and here I am – seven days later – having just completed the production load-in, here in Rhyl, prior to the start of the JLS UK & Ireland tour.
I travelled down here on Friday afternoon. Young Alice has been pestering me for weeks to allow her to accompany me to one of my more salubrious locations, so I had no hesitation in extending this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join me here in Rhyl, for a few days. “You can’t imagine it”, I told her. “You were right”, she admitted, as we thread our way through the town’s once-vibrant labyrinth of streets, towards the sea front Westminster Hotel. The seaside still has an allure.
Oh, to have the seasides back again, the protection of one’s parents, the worry of nothing more than whether your homework passes muster. The only thing that keeps me sane some days – as I ponder the time (and, hence, the money) that I’ve wasted – is that, somehow, I still in a far more secure and safer place than many, many, other less fortunate people around me. You know what that is? It’s a very selfish attitude: but this world that we live in makes us very selfish – and there’s days when I’m not too proud to be that person, but not brave enough to be otherwise.
I occasionally sense the feeling that maybe I’ve been “spared” the descent into anonymity that, not so long ago, was seriously reaching for me. But, for what? Sure, having endured an almost life-suicidal flirt with the (in my case) over-passionate pursuit of football - to the point where I lost nearly everything I had - I still can’t shake the oddest feeling that I can go a long way to hi-liting the financial malaise that slowly threatens to choke the life out of football in this country.
Anyway, enough of my wild dreams, I hear you say: what’s the deal with JLS? Well, folks – there’s not a whole lot to report at this point, as the lads only started their tour-production rehearsals later this afternoon (the production load-in commenced at 08.00 am this morning and – typical of the first day of any production rehearsal set-up – it takes time to co-ordinate the various constituent elements, and to test and check the lighting and video fixtures). However, we have a great bunch of lads (and lasses) on this tour comprising our production crew, meaning that the lads were able to spend a good few hours in the Rhyl Pavilion this evening, after dinner, rehearsing the first run-through of the proposed tour show.
I have to say my first impression of the guys is that they are very suss to their surroundings and their situation – and admirably polite to go with it. The have either been very well-coached in the etiquette involved in dealing with the myriad of people they will now find themselves rubbing shoulders with – or, it comes fairly naturally to them: I suspect a mixture of both, with the latter very much to the fore. In our business it’s often advised to “treat people right on the way up, as the chances are that you will pass them on the way back down”.
Naturally, when it’s such a decent bunch of lads as these, there will hopefully be no noticeable “down”, however I quietly suspect that they are sharp enough to recognise that a definite “leveling off” at some point is almost inevitable. However, I suspect that period of their career is a long way off yet. These lads are no flash in the pan – trust my old intuition on this. Until next week…
“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone”. Is not the mind a wondrous thing? It (occasionally) enables one to recall a line of poetry from almost thirty years ago, yet it can’t even help you figure out where you put the car keys, just thirty minutes ago?! There may just be hope for my fading memory. Now, where was I again?
This evening saw us complete the second of our two consecutive shows at Dublin’s enchanting little Olympia Theatre. Every so often, I find myself in a venue where – as best as I can describe it – “everything just comes together” and this was indeed one of those venues. An enthusiastic, very obliging, house crew; limited, yet well apportioned backstage facilities; a bunch of fun people in the local orchestra and an ecstatic reaction from the sold-out crowd, particularly last night.
Sadly, I’m out of here tomorrow and back to Edinburgh for a few days of frantic activity, in preparation for leaving for Rhyl next Friday, where the JLS rehearsals commence, a week today. You have no doubt heard me – especially after all the time I have been penning this diary – ramble on about the few cities in the world I feel an affinity to and, indeed, where I could comfortably live: Dublin certainly comes into that category, along with the likes of Vancouver and Perth (the Aussie one that is). Dublin’s only disadvantage would be it’s, occasional, Edinburgh-like weather.
Walking back from the Olympia after the show this evening, and last night as well, (only a 5/6 minute walk back to The Morrison Hotel, on the other side of The Liffy) we had to thread our way through the Temple Bar area, a hotbed of seething, inebriated, humanity: a man could disappear into that labyrinth of decadence and possibly never be heard of again (but I made it back OK). I’m always struck by the thought – as I found myself negotiating one “pole axed” reveler after another - of whether I conducted myself in such a manner of abandonment, in my younger days?
On an entirely different note from the above, I found myself daydreaming in the bar this evening, where we all congregated for a post-show drink, as to this odd existence which I lead – and how, not too many years from now, I’m going to have to slip back into the mainstream of society. Can I deal with the routine that, respectfully, most hard working people have to deal with everyday of their lives? Sure, my line of work involves long, arduous, hours – however, for the most part, the people who inhabit most of the various offshoots of the music business are driven by the adrenalin flow, brought on by the frenetic (and celebrity orientated – let’s face it) nature of this almost surreal industry of hours. Sadly, I’ve outlasted most of the Artists I’ve been involved with.
Right – confession time, as I wind my way to the end of this week’s entry: I’m not terribly proud of what I’ve penned here, this week: I allowed myself (as a result, I could argue, of the “switchover” between Paul Potts and JLS) to fall almost three weeks behind with my entries: therefore I’ve little doubt that this week’s entry will come over as somewhat “rushed”. The problem is that I tend to measure how much I am generally managing to stay “on top of things”, by how up-to-date my diary entries are: therefore, it follows, if I rush said entries, it may actually be counter-productive in respect of everything else that is going on in my life - but it’s crucially important to me to reach a point in my life where I’m “caught up”. Still striving for that one. BFN.
Well, well, well: so much for my great idea for writing my diary, from the beginning of this year forwards, on a “little each day” basis!
Here I am, southbound on the road (someone else is driving!) from Belfast to Dublin, in the midst of three Irish dates, but – wait for it – on Friday 15th of January!! That would make me (apart from being a bit of a “fibber” – does that word translate internationally?) almost two weeks behind with my diary entries. How bad is that? How could I have fallen behind so quickly?
Do I have any reasonable excuse(s) for this state of affairs? All depends on your definition of “reasonable” I guess. On this point, I would look to possibly defend myself by letting you guys in on the fact that I have just taken on the Tour Accountant’s role with the band “JLS”. Now, to be honest, I had an inkling that I may be in the running for the position (with JLS being managed by the same company – Modest! Management - that looks after Paul). I was also aware that JLS’s UK tour was selling exceptionally well and, as such, may require the services of a “stand-alone” Tour Accountant, as the lads already have their own Tour Manager, who’s been with them for a while.
I finally received confirmation at the beginning of this current week (11th January) that I was on-board and therefore – being that the tour runs right up until the start of Paul’s Japanese tour, (actually five dates before JLS finishes – once I leave Edinburgh next Saturday, to make my way to Rhyl, in North Wales, for the JLS rehearsals, that will be me on the road for over seven weeks.
Thankfully, Jade’s friend will continue to “babysit” my house until June this year – an arrangement that works well, both ways – which is good news for me, as I have to schedule various workmen to carry out some minor, yet essential, repair works on my house, now that I’m seriously considering the need to “gear up”, in preparation for moving house, ideally in the Autumn of this year.
However, before I risk my nose becoming any longer, the above recent turn of events can’t wholly be blamed for my diary entries slipping totally behind: we are all familiar as to the difficulties of getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas/New Year holiday period and I haven’t faired much better than most of us, in that respect. Am I making a decent case for myself here?
So, having arrived back from Tokyo last Sunday, I’ve kept my head down this past week, working my way, systematically (or so I tell myself) through a seemingly never-decreasing list of domestic chores. I’m sure I’m making headway, however I do have to give precedence to any and all matters work related: there used to be a wolf at my door, where now there is only a hyena. However, the latter does emit the occasional, low, howl – to remind me that the wolf may still lurk somewhere.
I’m now sitting in the “Green Room” at the Late Late Show studio in Dublin, where Paul will tonight perform the track “Tristesse”, accompanied only by Chris Taylor on the piano (similar to our appearance on “The Hour” TV programme, while we were in Glasgow, during the British tour). Also on the programme here in Dublin tonight are some of the cast members of the “We Will Rock You” stage show, that is soon to commence a ten-day run at Dublin’s O2 arena (formerly “The Point”). So, a few hours out on the town in Dublin’s fair city beckons: but, yes, I shall return. See ya soon!
May I just start this week’s diary entry my wishing my loyal readers a very happy New Year and a most prosperous 2010. Not quite sure how many of you are left nowadays, but I’m here for you!
And where am I this fine Sunday evening? None other than heading north on the “East Coast’s” express rail link from London’s King Cross station, en route to Edinburgh, on what has been one of the longest days I can remember. Allow me to explain.
We left Tokyo at 08.30 am Japan time, this morning, Sunday 3rd, and boarded a flight at 12.00 noon from Narita Airport. At that point, it was only 03.00 am in the morning in the UK – meaning that with an almost thirteen hour flight, we landed back into Heathrow just after 3.30 pm UK time today, transferred to the London (Piccadilly Line) Underground service – directly from the airport – and here we are now on the Northbound train, having just passed Newcastle and due into Edinburgh at 10.46 pm this evening. Not bad for a “day’s” travelling, huh? We woke up in Tokyo and went to bed in Edinburgh - on the “same” day! How bizarre, how bizarre! Jetlag hell approaches.
Well, another year over – and what have I achieved? Well, I’m debt free: it’s taken me two years to clear my once (reasonably) heavily laden credit cards and I would struggle to accurately articulate the weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. It has involved the busiest two consecutive years of my touring life (with no more than five months, from the last two years, spent at home) to be able to accomplish this, but I’m there. I feared I would never see the day.
Having said the above, I’ve now got about enough spare cash to buy a McDonalds Happy Meal: however, most importantly, I have managed to hold on to my house throughout (although my general plan is to sell this coming autumn: I just have to figure where I want to go after that!).
Now, I’ve been giving some thought to the compilation of these diary entries, knowing that in many cases I am writing the weekly entries from a position of being two weeks behind (and - in certain cases – rushing them to print): often I have sacrificed interesting content, for the sake of speed of completion – and I’m not too proud of that. Therefore, I will look to re-structure the format of my entries for the coming months – on the following basis: to add a few lines each day.
After all, there is never a day goes by where I don’t have my laptop open: therefore it’s just a matter of disciplining myself to pen a paragraph or so each day: this will certainly prove to be a more accurate barometer of my daily state of mind (get ready for some highs and lows, folks!) with the promise to myself that once my thoughts/reflections/observations are committed to the record, then I don’t go back and change anything – unless from a grammatical or layout standpoint.
I will look to initiate the “new” approach as of next week. As the music industry typically takes an extended break over the Christmas and New Year period, it will all “kick off” tomorrow, Monday 4th. I have plenty to keep me busy over the next ten days, prior to my departure to Belfast on 13th of this month, for one show there (14th), followed by two shows in Dublin (16th and 17th) – not forgetting that the Japanese tour 1st to 13th March) is slowly edging over the horizon towards us. The sooner I can clear my feet, the sooner I can give my future some serious thought! See y’all!
Site Design Caledonian Communications 2013