Being increasingly ill at ease in low light, and cold, environments - yes, it has much to do with aging - I’ve taken the bull by the horns (she protested at first, but Alice soon came round!) and decided to take a break down in Gran Canaria for the festive period, returning 30th Dec.
It’s almost fifteen years – to the day – since I was last here, with the children: the amount of change since then is, of course, staggering: huge expanses of brightly-coloured apartment blocks; a reworked road system from the airport down to Playa del Ingles, arguably the most favoured region, by “the Brits”, in the southern half of the island – and, it seems, from what I can recollect from back then, a marked increase in the amount of tourists on the streets.
However (and I should be able to expand upon this aspect of the region, in the body of next week’s diary entry) the true magic of this island – one of four main islands in “The Canaries” group, located about seventy miles off the north-west coast of Morroco – is possibly less the opportunity to “lie and fry” in average 25ºC temperatures at this time of year, and more the opportunity to investigate the interior scenery and landscapes within the nearby locality.
On my other visit, as referred to above, I also recall renting a car and dragging the children off into the middle of the island, only to discover mountainous roads, quaint villages and breathtaking vistas. This came as quite a shock from what I had hitherto believed to be a sunny holiday retreat. Therefore, Alice and I intend to do the same during our time here.
To backtrack a little: we caught an early morning Easyjet flight - on Thursday morning (17th) past - which conveniently landed us into Gran Canaria airport just before lunchtime, from where we were whisked the twenty miles to Maspolomas, the “quieter” next door neighbour of Playa del Ingles, at the “mere” cost of €36. First impression? The taxis are not expensive!
As this little break was arranged very much at the last minute, we didn’t have a whole array of available accommodation – that fell within our budget – to choose from. Hence, we are off the beaten track a little, “out here” in Maspolomas: however its only a leisurely forty minute walk into Playa del Ingles (and only a €5 taxi fare back, if tired legs prevail) – and there are, within ten minutes walk of our little hotel/apartment complex, a “Spar” supermarket, a sports bar, a bowling alley. Thirty minutes walk away there is also a much less populated – yet quite lively – beach where, on Thursday night, we watched the sun dipping below the horizon.
On Friday we ventured into the centre of Playa del Ingles, very much following our noses – and therefore succumbing to what we now know to be the “tourist” route into town. Friday is the only day to date where we opted to catch a taxi back out of town, during which taxi ride the driver pointed out a couple of notable, local, landmarks and also kindly informed us of the existence of a large open-air market, situated only a few blocks away from our humble abode.
What song to give you, to tie up – and possibly bear some relation to - this week’s rambling’s? How appropriate to give an airing to the legendary Kinks with “Sunny Afternoon”. Luvin Y’all!
Back in Dunbar already – having returned, safe and sound, from El Salvador on Friday past.
Yes, it was a long way to go for the one show: however, it was a new challenge – and with “new challenges”, at my stage of the game, being fairly thin on the ground (and me – sometimes to my eventual detriment – being a fool for a challenge) off to Central America I did venture.
Unfortunately (and this comes directly from the “local” people who organised the event down there) the safety/security issues are not to be ignored. The first thing we were cautioned against was walking out from the hotel unaccompanied – in fact, walking anywhere full stop. In having lunch with the Salvadorian promoter on the “advance” day on the outdoor balcony of a local restaurant (I always make a habit of arriving into an “unknown” country at least 24 hours ahead of the Artist I’m working for at the time) Alejandro pointed to a local mall, maybe 400 metres distant from where we sat, to inform me that he lived close-by to there.
Being that he had already mentioned that his office was located in the same retail block where we were having lunch that day, I idly observed “it must be very convenient being able to walk back and forward to the office, each day”. “No way!” came his immediate reply, further explaining that he could easily be accosted by a opportunist street thief and challenged to hand over, at least, his cellphone. As also mentioned last week, any resistance to such a challenge often manifests itself in the cellphone owner facing the barrel of a pistol!
Such a pity really, as there are lots to see in such a small country - where you can drive from the beach to the extinct volcano, within the small mountain range overlooking the city, in a matter of fifty minutes. Not to mention the pleasant weather, which clocked 91 degrees Fahrenheit by the second day I was there, enabling me the luxury of breakfast, poolside. Such a pity that the promoter will struggle to attract other “mainline” talent to make the trip out there: as much down to cost factors to be honest, as to any of the security concerns.
For me, personally, it again brought home the comfort level and feelgood-factor associated with being in such a pleasant and comforting climate. As a contrasting view, I’m sat here in Dunbar’s Garden Centre penning this issue – at 4.20 pm this Sunday afternoon – and it’s pitch black outside. My regular readers are by now well aware of my “low light issues”! Having said that, Alice and I walked down to the station at midday today and both remarked upon the stunning amount of natural daytime light that Dunbar somehow enjoys at this time of year.
For the completion of this week’s last two paragraphs I am back in the office in the house (something to do with chatting too long with the staff in the Garden Centre restaurant), looking out some of the neighbour’s exterior Xmas light displays, once again reflecting on the sad fact that neither of my children will be in the country over the festive period. I shall not ponder that thought too long! Changing the subject: Over the next few week’s entries I’m going to select individual tracks from BB King’s excellent Christmas album of almost fifteen years ago, first up being the rockin’ “Back Door Santa”. Sadly, we lost BB King in May of this year, and he’s irreplaceable. He has left an enduring legacy. Thank the Lord I’m still here. XX
Now folks, in the pursuit of honesty (the very foundation of which this long-running diary entry is surely based), I trust you will understand perfectly well that I’m informing you this week’s edition is currently being penned from poolside at the Hotel Sheraton Presidente in (wait for it) 34 degree weather in the interesting central American country of El Salvador – and there is of course no intention to inadvertently rub your noses in it, none whatsoever ……
It’s actually Monday morning, 7th - as I preferred to delay slightly with penning the entry, because I arrived here in darkness last night, having connected through Miami on the flight from London. Currently, we are six hours behind the UK - but very hard to believe it’s early December! Sat here, it becomes very evident to me why I’m such a fan of the likes of Thailand. We surely only endure cold and wet weather because we have no choice. Surely?
Having said all of the above, it’s a long way to come for one show. For me personally, because I had to build in an advance day into the schedule (it’s an “unknown” promoter), it means a five-day trip. The vibe so far is pleasing, however one must not forget that the average monthly murder rate, so far this year, amounts to around 600 – yes, that’s by the month!
At breakfast today, the Salvadorian promoter put things into some sort of Western perspective by divulging that resisting the simple theft of your cell-phone by some opportunist street thief is liable to get you shot! Suddenly the phone no longer becomes an essential item. Suffice to say El Salvador cannot count tourism as a leading industry. Such a pity, in a way: for example, you can drive from the beach, on one side of the city of San Salvador, to the extinct volcano on the other side of the city, in less than forty-five minutes.
However, economically, as far as the indignant population is concerned, things are hurting somewhat. According to young Natalie (the PR person who has been seconded to me – there was a few of them fighting over me, for the opportunity, then I woke up and fell off the couch) only around 15% of the population control – and benefit from - 80% of the wealth. It’s certainly not an expensive place: breakfast in this hotel – one of the top three in town – is a “mere” $10.00 US (El Salvador converted to the US dollar in 2001) and as I sit here in literal composition, the fresh orange juice and pot of coffee that I ordered by the pool (did I mention that I was poolside?!!) has cost me the princely sum of $5.37, only about £3.60.
Today was very much an “advance” day – most necessary when dealing with a new promoter and a “new” territory. Paul and Chris arrive in from London this evening, therefore - while we will be able to grab a little rest tomorrow – Paul nevertheless has a few hours of media obligations to undertake, here at the hotel, while Chris and I attend a technical meeting. Wednesday of course is the show-day, with us returning on Thursday although – just to give you an appreciation of how “far down” we are - we only land back in London on Friday morning.
“Ah-hah” you’re thinking (maybe not) “what track will he choose when El Salvador has been the focus of the narrative, this week?”. Well – there is a tenuous connection with this week’s entry, when I present to you Dire Straits and the catchy little tune “Twisting By The Pool”. X
I’m now back in Scotland – and, for the first time since I have lived here in Dunbar (two years, next week) I actually witnessed the arrival of snow flurries, in the back garden today!
However, within twenty minutes, it had turned to rain and the drainage system in our local “Asda” car park once again struggled to cope with the mini “Flash Flood” that quickly descended upon it – necessitating temporary “duckboards” to allow shoppers store-access.
I arrived back in Scotland late Wednesday evening past (25th). Having played our last Scandinavian show with Paul Potts in sub zero temperatures, in Ulstenvij in Norway, at least I was prepared for the marked change in climate since the last time I was here: the walk up from the train station – not helped by said train being over thirty minutes late into Dunbar – left me fairly chilled by the time I reached the welcome of my front door of my wee “hoose”.
As I’m due back down to London in the middle of the week again, next week (3rd December to be exact) – and meeting with the usual backlog of domestic chores one is faced with after an eight-week absence, even though my sister spends a fair bit of time here – I don’t have a too much time to re-organise myself, and give my house the once over that it needs after a couple of months of “neglect”: but, as you know, I love this little house and I need to ensure that my biggest “investment” benefits from an occasional lavishing of care and attention.
Next week I’m on my way to a country (and there can’t be many left) which I have never previously visited, namely El Salvador – and, specifically, to undertake a show there with Paul Potts in the capital city of San Salvador. Indeed, it will be a relatively short trip, as I leave on the 6th and I return on the 11th, after which I will return directly to Scotland to continue my minor “domestic crusade” - and endeavor to make this relaxing abode even more comfortable. Being that it’s my sanctuary when I’m back off the road, I need to look after it.
I suspect I have rambled somewhat with this week’s entry (not like me, from time to time, eh?!). As I find myself realizing I certainly need some “me” time to further fine tune what my life-plan is, I was almost ready this week to offer a little insight as to where my head is actually at – until I remembered that each weekly entry generally only takes up one “A4” page, and I was already half way down this one before I considered diversifying. Therefore, I’ll save that tack for next week’s entry, which I’m planning to write on the plane to El Salvador, being that it’s a 9.10 am flight this coming Sunday morning, connecting thru Miami.
I can only ask that you bear with me, when I exhibit the occasional tendency to “wander off the track” somewhat: I just find it best at those times (but you probably don’t!) to allow my mood to take me, if only to discover what I just might find lurking in the shadowy recesses of my mind – and, of course, there’s no promise of such an exploratory process being positive!
To play you out this week, a track that doesn’t really bear a whole lot of relation to any part of this week’s somewhat disjointed entry (well, possibly) but is a great tune nevertheless: give it up for KC & The Sunshine Band with “Get Down Tonight”. Such great memories. Luv Ya!
Things are pleasantly tranquil for me at the moment: bear with me, and I’ll explain why.
Last night was the final date of Paul Potts’s Scandinavian tour – and that final show was in Ulsteinvij on the south west coast of Norway, about 35 kilometers south of Allesund airport, where we now sit (I can only count sixteen people in the departure area – and nine of them are our entourage!) with – currently – the first leg of our scheduled flight home to London, showing a 40 minute delay. However, our onward connection time in Copenhagen (originally two hours and thirty-five minutes) still sits at almost two hours - so no real concerns, as yet.
Although we required three days to play last night’s one show in Ulsteinvij, it certainly proved to worth it, through a combination of stunning scenery, generous hospitality (from the local Promoter and his staff) and excellent cuisine: within the space of forty-eight hours, I sampled two different restaurant’s fish soups and - in all my years of having such a dish, in many different corners of the globe – I can’t recall too many occasions it tasted that good.
When I left off with last week’s diary entry, I had just finished a show in Aalborg after which, on Monday past, we drove down to Esbjerg with no show that night: being that our Scandinavian Promoter (Carsten Svoldgaard) has his office on an island (Fanø) just off Esbjerg - it’s a ten minute ferry ride to make it over there – he kindly invited us over to visit his offices, late afternoon, take a short tour of the island (including his rather quaint “local”, and culminating in a fabulous dinner at one of the island’s premier restaurant “Norby Kro”).
While Fanø was definitely a most memorable experience, our visit here to Ulsteinvij has possibly surpassed that: here, we visited an incredible art gallery (“M.A.D.” – check it out) and then, in the nearby town of Brandal, an incredible maritime museum – and an, equally impressive, 104-year old “sealing” trawler, the latter being parked in a custom boat housing.
The care and attention that has been lavished in the museum merited way more time than the thirty minutes available to us yesterday, to try to appreciate, respect – and understand – the nature of the industry of all those years ago – of travelling from Brandal to Greenland, sometimes being away for months on end. With what little time remained to me, upon returning to the hotel in Ulstenvij before having to load-in at the adjacent venue, was spent following up the history and background to everything I had witnessed while in Brandal. The experience was humbling, staggering, insightful and even in some parts (when you read up on it and see the pictorial evidence) shocking – and this all happened less than “one lifetime” ago.
Finally, today draws to end a most enjoyable two weeks touring mainly (if you caught last week’s entry) in Denmark, with last night’s final show in Ulsteinvij, with a fairly small-knit group (Paul, myself, Chris Taylor, Martin Dalami – the promoter’s Tour Manager - and the four charming ladies of our string quartet). The logistics have been painless and unobtrusive.
What track may therefore be appropriate this week, let me think (and I am thinking)? Why don’t we go with “It’s A Family Affair” by Sly and the Family Stone – for my touring family. X
A chilly good (Sunday!) afternoon from Aalborg, located in the north-east corner of Denmark.
As I start this week’s entry, at 4.05 pm, I can actually discern the light gently fading outside the production office window (yes, we have a window today!) and - if I can manage to complete this week’s entry in “one shot”, I’ll interrupt these here ramblings to inform you at exactly what point, time wise, the light disappears completely – but it’s going fast, folks!
Today brings to an end our first week on the Danish tour, having played – including this evening’s event – six shows in seven days (rock ‘n roll, eh?). The difference being that, while we have managed to contain the touring personnel (and the equipment) into one “splitter” van, if it were “rock ‘n roll” it’s far more likely that we would have a fifteen berth sleeper bus and two fourteen-meter trailers. I’d have to say that I increasingly do not miss “overkill” touring.
For a brief recap of the past week’s shows, they were: Monday (9th)/Copenhagen; Tuesday (10th)/Hillerod; Wednesday (11th)/Odense; Friday (13th)/Hostebro; Saturday (14th)/Viborg and Sunday (today, 15th)/Aalborg. Incidentally, on the way up here today from Viborg, Chris and I reckoned that we must have visited almost twenty different cities and towns in Denmark to date, during the time we have both been working with Paul: for myself, I have played more Danish shows with Paul than the total of all the other Artists I have worked for.
Tough as the above schedule may appear (and unlike the majority of arena touring, whereby 10 – 12 trucks necessitates 06.00 am rigging calls) we do not have to load-in to the venue until 2.30 pm on the afternoon of the show, and then we are generally finished sound-check, ready to go to dinner – never too far from the venue – by 5.30 pm. This is all based upon a 8.00 pm show, which usually then means that we are “down” by just short of 10.20 pm. Provided the load-out facilities are not too painful, we are out of the building one hour later.
So - you can see from the above that there is still little change out of a 12-hour day (considering we are generally away from the “previous” hotel by 10.00 am that morning) and from “pillow to pillow” can regularly encompass a 16-hour working day. I could not emphasise enough that the key to maintaining such a relentless schedule, sometimes for several weeks on end, is down to nothing less than religious discipline. As I always advise any young Artists or band members that I first work with: “If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime”.
Don’t ask me how I’ve managed to sustain such a discipline over the last forty years: it was quite straightforward during my formative years (I was way too scared of inviting the wrath of my then Tour Manager, to do otherwise) but, admittedly, down the years – maybe because you suspect certain aspects of life are passing you by, heeding to such regimentation - you start to occasionally “burn the candle at both ends” – but those stories are for another time!
In closing this week (by the way, it was dark outside by 4.45 pm!) I feel I should choose an accompanying track that bears some relation to these long days on the road, and a personal favourite of mine: The Kinks with “All Of The Day And All Of The Night”. Until next week X.
I never take for granted the many, comforting, “perks” of this worldly occupation of mine.
A case in point: here I sit on this very Sunday evening, seventeen floors above ground level, in Copenhagen’s Scandic hotel (probably my fifth or sixth visit to date, just to this particular hotel – have I been doing it too long?!), surveying the twinkling night of the city, “cocooned” temporarily from the world far below. At times, it’s not difficult to lose a touch with reality.
I may have briefly mentioned in last week’s diary entry, that I was heading out to Denmark (Paul has ten shows there, and one in Norway to finish off) a couple of days prior to Chris and Paul’s arrival - as Alice was able to find a deal on a British Airways return flight to Copenhagen, travelling out Friday afternoon past – returning to London only a few hours ago.
While seeing Alice off at Copenhagen airport a few hours ago, I was able to take advantage of the mini-bus for the tour being ready earlier at Europcar, than the 9.00 pm scheduled pick-up time tonight: hence the vehicle sits downstairs at the moment, in the hotel car park, awaiting the driver (me) taking it back out to the airport again to meet Paul & Chris tonight.
Many of my avid readers (OK, maybe I live in a bubble at times) may recall that I find Denmark a very enjoyable country to tour, this being one of Paul’s continuously strong territories since that first time, way back in 2007, when he sang in Copenhagen’s town square – around Christmas time if I recall correctly. His fan base here has remained solid ever since.
There are indeed some enchanting cities and towns in this country and – if the opportunity ever comes your way to do so – I can thoroughly recommend checking out the likes of Herrning, Randers, Skive and Holstebro - aside from the larger cities of Copenhagen, Aarhus & Odense. The mention of Odense also brings to mind two summer tours that I was involved with, here in Denmark with Paul, where the majority of the shows were outdoors in a variety of magical settings, Odense being one of them. Sonderberg Castle is also a poignant memory.
The main disappointment, this time around, here in Copenhagen, is the temporary closure – due to re-open on 14th November - of one of the main attractions, parked right here in the city center: “Tivoli Gardens” – a sort of sophisticated amusement park, with one of it’s most redeeming features, in my mind anyway (definitely NOT so for Alice) being the “Chair-o-Planes”. Not sure if you know what I mean, therefore I can only describe them as huge “swings” that, initially, are suspended from a central structure that – when everyone is safely seated – is raised slowly around a static central “core”, but also spins at the same time. At its full height, the system succumbs to centrifugal force and the “swings” are spinning at more than forty-five degrees to the central core – at around two hundred feet above the ground!
Well, maybe next time! Tomorrow sees the first of the ten afore-mentioned shows, here in Copenhagen itself - then off around the country. For this week’s accompanying track – with my fixation of the “Chair-O-Planes” to the fore – I have chosen a somewhat appropriate song by Beth Hart, titled “Swing My Thing Back Around”. What a woman, and what a voice. XXX.
Let the record show that, although I was undeniably “behind” with publishing last week’s Diary From the Road entry, I am most definitely back on track this week, at 4.52 pm today!
This past week, I have experienced a rather unique phenomena in my line of work: that being two true “days off” within the one touring week. Bear with me (you have been for years, I hear you say!!) and I’ll expand upon what that means, although I’ve touched upon it before.
On a couple of past occasions (“only a couple?” I hear Alice enquire) I’ve proclaimed, in respect of the mechanics of touring, that there are “no days off – only show days and non show days”. Not strictly true, as every once in a while (because cosecutive non-show days is a very rare – and fairly expensive – occurrence) one – like me – is able to engineer a situation whereby, based upon two shows being relatively “nearby”, and with there being an “off day” in between, the Artist party can “hang back” for a day, in the city they just played “last night”.
Essentially, this means that it allows a day where there is no show and no travel whatsoever - coming as close to the true definition of a “day off” as you are going to experience, on the road. The next day – in such an example – invariably then requires driving direct to the venue. However, I cannot stress enough the therapeutic value of a travel free day, in touring life.
Therefore, how about this? We managed it twice within the past week, through a combination of the tour itinerary, the proximity of certain shows (Oxford to Basingstoke only 51 miles, and Eastbourne to Northampton “only” 163 miles) and our compact touring format. I believe I can state without fear of contradiction (but who would?) that’s a “first” in 43 years touring!!
As a result, this evening finds Paul and I sat in the Eastbourne hotel, on a night off – but without having had the inconvenience of having travelled, to be here today: that has meant a “long” day for us (in the company of Alice, up until she had to catch the train back to London for work this evening – but, hey, someone’s got to, yeh?) during which time we visited the “infamous” Beachy Head and then onwards to Seaford Head and finally a brief stop in Lewes.
While at Beachy Head (the “infamous” reference – if you didn’t already know – relates to the rather morbid statistics related to several past suicide plunges from the treacherous cliffs) we experienced brilliant, warm, sunshine and a reputed temperature of 15° centigrade. Now, you can’t complain about such weather conditions, remembering it’s the 1st November today!
Contrastingly, it’s currently 5.21 pm and – sat here in the “indoor verandah” area of the hotel’s Café area – I am struggling to focus on the end of Eastbourne Pier (the entrance to which I could through a stone at, from here) being that dusk transpired twenty minutes ago.
Nevertheless, an enjoyable and memorable day: leaving me only to choose an appropriately titled track to accompany this week’s entry. Erring on the side of simplicity, I have plumped for a great little tune - that may go some way to summing up the day. Dearest readers, please give a deserved listen to the legendary Mr Ray Charles with “You Are My Sunshine”. Luv Ya! X
Right off the bat, I’m already a week behind with this week’s diary entry: meaning, of course, that I’m about to attempt to pen two entries consecutively, to rectify the current situation!
Therefore, thinking back a week (it’s becoming harder with the advancing years folks, trust me) below is my thoughts (“today”) on how things went down between 19th and 25th October.
Of course, I’m still out on the Paul Potts UK tour (you may recall we undertook four shows in Wales initially, between 9th and 14th October, followed – thru the week ending 18th October, the last diary entry you may have read – by a show in Wolverhampton and another in Crewe.
Initially, in informing you that we have only played three shows in this past week you could be forgiven for observing that I may have had something of a quiet week. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me: the reason for only the three shows this week – already pre-planned for a while – was the result of Paul having had a “corporate” engagement in Cologne, booked for many months prior to the ideal period for the Welsh and UK dates. The only alternative, therefore, was to work around the confirmed date in Cologne and – resultantly – leave the last three days (Friday 23rd through today) to allow us to undertake the return German trip.
Now that you have an overview of the last week, here’s a touch more detail coming up for you.
Earlier this week (Tuesday 20th) we commenced a three-in-a-row run of shows with Kings Lynn Corn Exchange first up, followed by Billingham Forum on Wednesday – and finally Whitley Bay Playhouse, on Thursday evening past. For the vast majority of my vast worldly readership, I should possibly put those three English towns into some geographical context.
Kings Lynn is a historical market town, around 107 miles north-east of London, located in a general area of the UK, known as “East Anglia” and nestled on the east coast, with the North Sea lapping at it’s shores. Billingham, contrastingly, is an industrial town in the mid-eastern section of England which, sadly, was at one time a hive of various manufacturing industries: however time, competition and austerity have taken their toll on this once thriving area. That leaves Whitley Bay, an eleven-miles-distant, eastward, neighbour of Newcastle, in the UK’s north-east corner of the country: another area that is not, economically, what it once was.
As Paul and I were booked on a 3.00 pm flight the following day, Friday past, out of London’s Heathrow airport to Dusseldorf (followed by a fifty-minute drive to the centre of Cologne) we had little choice but to leave directly after the Whitley Bay show and drive almost 200 miles south to Nottingham – arrival 0330 at a motorway services hotel! – leaving us just over a hundred miles to travel to the airport the following day. Glamorous? No, not always, folks.
So - what accompanying track might lend itself to this last week’s differing activities? I know it’s only a matter of time until one of you eagle-eyed readers drops me a note to point out that I’ve “duplicated” a particular track. To certainly avoid that this week, here comes a “first” outing for The Staples Singers with “I’ll Take You There” – and I have, haven’t I?!! XX
A warm welcome to this week’s entry, which finds me six shows “in”, on the current Paul Potts tour that I am involved with at the moment - with twenty more to go over the next six weeks.
Most notable occasion of the past week was surely Paul’s birthday, on Tuesday past: although we didn’t have a show that day, Paul was nevertheless booked to appear at a corporate engagement at Birmingham’s ICC venue, on behalf of “Iceland” food stores, specifically an annual event which brings together all of their UK countrywide store management staff.
As Chris Taylor (Paul’s MD and piano player) said to Paul: “You don’t look like a day over 45!” which – being his actual 45th birthday on Tuesday past – was never a truer word was spoken.
The “Iceland” booking involved the performance of one song, mid-afternoon, in the ICC’s Hall 1, where all aforementioned staff were gathered to hear a presentation from their managing director (Malcolm Walker was the gentleman’s name, if I recall correctly) then in the evening – this time in Hall 3 – where a relaxed sit-down dinner format was organised, Paul performed a further three songs, just after 8.30 pm. That then freed us up to make our way, further northwards, towards the Welsh coastal town of Rhyl, for the following day’s performance.
Now, at this juncture, I should point to the interesting fact that The Rhyl Pavilion is actually where it all started for Paul, this venue being where Paul staged his first-ever live shows (two of them) on 17th and 18th January 2008 – and, yes, I was there “way back” then, and such a long time ago it seems now. By the time the current batch of twenty-six Wales/UK and Scandinavian are completed on 23rd November this year, it will likely bring me up to at least three hundred shows completed with Paul - when both live and TV/corporate are included.
Back to the present: once we completed the Rhyl show on Wednesday night (that being the last of our four Welsh shows) we motored down to Wolverhampton – with a night off on Thursday – where we based ourselves, to undertake the Wolverhampton Grand show (Friday night) and the Crewe Lyceum Theatre show (last night). You will no doubt recall the following proclamation from me at some point in the past, but any day you don’t have to pack your suitcase and move on to another hotel is – in this business – considered to be a good day: hence the reason for us to “commute” yesterday, from Wolverhampton to the Crewe show.
This evening sees me back in London, prior to travelling up to Kings Lynn tomorrow with Paul (who has nipped home to South Wales to spend his day-off with the family) in readiness for the show our third show of the UK sector, at the Kings Lynn Corn Exchange on Tuesday night.
Yes, back on the road again – and with plenty to keep me busy of an evening on these theatre shows, as I’m assisting on both the Stage Management and Merchandising side of things, on all show nights. With the afore-mentioned in mind, I now have to come up with this week’s “accompanying track” with a connection to some aspect of this week’s Diary. Therefore, how might this float your boat? It is, indeed, one of my late granny’s favourites, by an iconic luminary of her time. I give you Max Bygraves with “You Need Hands”. Appropriate, yes? XX.
This evening, I am writing to you from where it all started for Paul Potts: Port Talbot that is.
Coincidentally, I am actually out on tour, at this present time, with that very Paul Potts. Tonight was the third date (of sixteen) on the UK tour, the first four dates in Wales, and the remaining twelve shows in England. Prior to tonight, we opened the tour with a show at Aberystwyth Arts Centre (Friday) and last night at Aberdare Coliseum. We have one more show in Wales, being Wednesday night at Rhyl Pavilion, ironically the first live show I ever did with Paul, back on January 17th in 2008. That, my friends, now seems like a long time ago!
Although I caught the train from London up to Aberystwyth on Wednesday evening past (thereby not experiencing as much of the Welsh countryside, after passing through Shrewsbury, as I would have liked), since Thursday I’ve been driving Paul around in a hire car. Therefore, journeying between Aberystwyth and Aberdare - and then, from there to Port Talbot this morning – I’ve once again been pleasantly surprised by the beautiful countryside on view. Certainly on the first of those two drives, I was reminded of the old “home country”.
It has also awakened within me the satisfaction of taking entertainment to the not-so-central regions where, in turn, such efforts are greatly appreciated by the indigenous population. From the concert-goers themselves, to the small, dedicated, in-house technical staffs at these smaller venues in Wales, everyone seems noticeably more relaxed and genuinely more appreciative than what you may generally find, when touring the UK arenas.
While said arenas enable large touring acts to stage comprehensive and complex show productions – well beyond the limited capabilities of most theatre-sized venues – I suspect that (especially at this stage of my career) I could quite happily “tour away” at theatre level: if nothing else I would still, then, occasionally encounter a venue where - even taking into consideration the amount of time I have been doing this - I have not previously played a show. That occurrence most definitely could not be repeated at UK arena level, until such time another new arena makes an appearance in this country (Edinburgh, in the future?!!).
Tomorrow (with a “travel” day on the tour, after three “back-to-backs”) I’m zipping into London to meet with a founder member of a high-profile music business association which has as it’s members, several notable Artist managers: the very individuals that need to hear what I have to say, and who I genuinely (modestly) believe would benefit from my knowledge. From time to time this company holds informal networking sessions, where all attendees can benefit from the pooled experience of their co-members, especially on the “live” side of the business – which, as you know (you do know, don’t you?!) is your writer’s are(n)a of expertise.
In closing this week’s (truly, on this occasion) “Diary from the Road” entry, the choice of accompanying track should surely tip the wink towards Wales, to reflect my enjoyment of being here for the last four days. In a radical departure from most of my rock-orientated selections, why not actually listen in to a track by Paul Potts himself? This is one of my favourite of Paul’s recordings, written by Lucio Dalla in 1986, here is the emotive “Caruso”. X
Back in London this evening for the composure of this week’s diary entry – and even on time!
While the weather over the past few days (both here in London, and back up in Scotland) has been most impressive - and enjoyable - for the beginning of October, word has it that something of a downturn is on the way. Here come the shorter days and the darker nights.
This Friday coming, Paul Potts UK tour kicks off with a show in Aberystwyth in Wales and it is to there I will travel late Thursday afternoon, in preparation for the following day’s show. That essentially kicks off a seven-week period of touring that will take in Scandinavia as well.
Prior to that trip to Aberystwyth, I have several appointments here in London over the next three days, to meet with a bunch of industry contacts, with a view to work prospects towards the end of this year, and into next. It’s a continual crusade to convince the majority (mostly the younger) of Artist management of the availability of additional income from their arena touring exploits. As the Tour Accountant, I’m the only member of the touring staff who “pays for themselves” - as a result of the additional Artist earnings that I’m able to unearth.
As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, a combination of A) having stepped away from my “staple” career to become involved in the world of football B) a select few of my recent clients having “called it a day” and C) my outspoken nature in respect of many of the questionable aspects of this business, my available avenues of work have definitely slowed. Thankfully, all that has evolved at a juncture where my financial situation is fairly healthy. I never want to be “uninvolved” with the touring industry – I just want to be able to dip in and dip out at my leisure, preferably with professional Artist/Acts whose music I actually enjoy.
It’s no secret among those who know me “well” (consider yourself in that category!) that – when my mood is at a peak - my heart probably slightly edges out the music business, in favour of the football business, for a career path of choice. Thankfully, nevertheless, once I’m inside a concert arena at 08.00 a.m. in the morning – facing a show time only twelve hours later – the innate professional within me takes over, and I settle into my natural environment.
The camaraderie on a full-blown, five shows a week, arena tour is something to behold – a second family indeed, for the majority of us out there, making it happen: I do, however, have slight increasing concerns about the amount of time I’m spending away from natural light, when those five shows a week can incur “12/14 hours indoors” on every show day. If I never see another unit of “breezeblock” ever again, I cannot deny that it would be too soon. Fear not, though: there’s a few years left in this old road dog yet (but, maybe, no more than that!).
In closing, it’s surely only a matter of time until (if I have not already done so – and feel free to let me know if I have) I “repeat” my choice of weekly accompanying track, but the ‘ol memory is nowhere near what it used to be. This week – with only a slight nod to the context of this week’s Diary entry – here comes a fair oldie from “Canned Heat” (fronted by the iconic Bob Hite) called “Back on the Road Again” - from where I will communicate next week!!
Sadly, we arrived back home yesterday from the comparative tranquility of France’s Côte du Rhone region to the incessant clamour of the “Big Smoke”. Yes, London remains relentless.
Technically speaking, we did not actually arrive back in London “together”, as it seemed to make sense for me to “swing back through” Paris, for a few hours, on the way back to London, to catch a few football contacts: therefore, having booked a hotel close to Nimes airport, on Friday evening – due to the early Luton bound flight yesterday morning – I dropped both the rental car and Alice (the latter, a little more carefully than the former) at the airport in the morning and, once Alice was heading airside, I hailed a city-bound taxi to “Gare du Nimes”.
I subsequently enjoyed a most relaxed train journey from Nimes (departed 0954) to Paris’s Gare du Lyon (arrived 1248) even though my reserved seat turned out to be backward facing, which normally puts me at my slight unease. I suspect that particular “malady” developed more from the inability to see “where I was going”, rather than any expected queasiness. Oddly enough, when I’ve been in the fortunate position of flying business class with certain of the acts I’ve worked with – and that area of the cabin has luckily featured “top-to-tail” flatbeds – I’ve invariably preferred, once again, to be sat facing the “direction of travel”.
So, next week sees me back into the swing of things, based down in London until Wednesday, then back up to Scotland in time to catch my beloved “Hearts” playing in Edinburgh this coming Saturday, against the Ayrshire club Kilmarnock (with the game inevitably spiced up a little, by the fact that Hearts recently knocked them out of the Scottish League Cup, within the last five minutes of the game, at which time Kilmarnock had been leading the game 1 – 0!).
Naturally, I wish I had the available time to take in more of the games this season - as much because, oddly enough, it is an elixir to my mood, being that I can’t attend any game at Tynecastle (Hearts “home” ground in Edinburgh) without it awakening fleeting memories of the time spent at the stadium in the company of my son, another ardent Hearts supporter. Unfortunately, that train of thought only prompts the pressing question of when I will enjoy such times again, with Bradley currently being in another part of the world at this time.
Let’s not linger too much on the above! Also upcoming this week is the first of several Paul Potts shows, as his Autumn tour gets underway seriously, a week from now, initially with four shows – “not far from his own doorstep” – in Wales, then a further twelve shows throughout the UK before we head off to Scandinavia, finishing up in Norway on Sunday 22nd November.
I have to tell you that I am eagerly looking forward to meeting up with an old friend of mine, later this evening, here in London, the artist manager and music business entrepreneur, Simon Napier-Bell. On the all-too-few occasions that we manage to hook up (Simon’s continually in travel mode) I always find it most thought provoking – a welcome sentiment at this point in my career. This segue ways quite appropriately into this week’s accompanying track choice because it’s a song that Simon actually co-wrote, for Dusty Sprinfield, one of our most underrated of female singers: “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. Life is so fab!!
Sunday 20th September 2015
A fine good evening, dear tolerant readers, after our first week in the Côte du Rhone region.
I can’t say enough about the region, which we have extensively explored, courtesy of “Thrifty’s finest” - our Ford Fiesta rental car, collected upon arrival at Nimes airport eight days ago. Within no more than 30 miles radius of where we are based (on the outskirts of Vaison La Romaine) there is an amazing variety of landscapes, medieval settlements and quaint little villages and hamlets – the majority of which feature a central village square.
While the temperatures are averaging “70” Fahrenheit (no complaints for this time of this year!) the only slight drawback is that dusk is falling around 8.15 pm, after which it soon descends into near-pitch darkness outside the villa. Sure, we have the rental car at our disposal, however the roads around here are narrow and twisting: I’m actually quite surprised my driver’s wing mirror is still intact, being how “tight” several of the connecting roads are within the Vaison La Romaine vicinity: not that this dissuades the local French “rally” drivers!
Most days we’re away from the villa before midday, armed only with a local map of the area - and poised to venture to an as-yet “undiscovered” area of the surrounding countryside, generally centered on one “pre-chosen” village, the plan being that we can drive into said village one way, and drive out the other way. So far, we’ve seen some amazing, historic, villages such as (in case you ever get down this way) Crestet; Ciaranne; Rastuea; Gigondas; Brantes; Mirabelle; Seguret; Sablet; Savoillan; Milanceeu; Roaix; Puymeras and Nyons.
Closer to home, the nearest two villages to where we are staying are Villedieu, perched – like so many of the afore-mentioned – atop an outcrop of hillside and, in the case of Villedieu, with an almost-perfect village square and Buisson, a sleepily little hamlet (I don’t even think there’s a restaurant there) from where the village churchyard offers an amazing view.
I’m constantly in awe of how all those old (medieval in many cases) houses have remained standing down the centuries, built at a time when the stones, more so than bricks, were held together by little more than hardened mud. Note to self – boring as it may initially appear – read up more on medieval building methods (things like: when was concrete “invented”?).
From the relaxation point of view, this holiday has worked out particularly well: I don’t think Alice and I have ever based ourselves in the one place for two weeks at a time. We have either moved hotels (say) two or three times during the time we’ve been in one country or – in certain cases – have essentially been on a “road trip” and have moved around continually. In the case of the latter, one might argue that all the driving that I undertake doesn’t leave me a whole lot of relaxation time, so I’m unsure which type of holiday is the more therapeutic!
What a “ramble” this week’s entry has been, has it not? Which doesn’t make it easy to pick an appropriate track, so how’s about we pick a track that does not necessarily bear any relation to this week’s pot-pourri of musings? Therefore, here comes a personal favourite, a woman with a stunning voice. I give you Alicia Bridges with “Broken Woman”. Killer, killer, vocal! XXX
Bonjour Madames & Messieurs (and that’s your lot - because I took German at school!).
However that does not change the fact that this week’s edition of the “Diary From the Road” (well, it still is – in a sense) is winging it’s way to you from the south east corner of France.
Alice and I have taken up the opportunity to stay at a villa in the Vaison La Romain area of the country that is approximately 30 kilometers due East of the French city of Orange. A dear old friend of mine kindly offered his holiday villa to us, for a couple of weeks and – if you could see this place, then you would quite understand why we eagerly took up the offer!
This entailed flying from Luton to Nimes, then picking up a rental car for the 90 minute journey to Vaison La Romain, where we arrived yesterday lunchtime. The villa is lavishly appointed, serenely located - and close by to several (what would appear to be) quaint little hamlets and villages: therefore, I anticipate a bunch of exploring is definitely on the cards.
It’s a while since we have based ourselves in the one place, for any more than a week, on holiday - however I’m hopeful that the tranquility seeps into my soul and induces, within me, a resultant calm. I need to make – within the next few months – certain key decisions, as to the directions I could consider taking, essentially between now and April next year (at which point I’ll be sixty-four) and while keen to stay active and involved – I’m under no illusions that I’m very quickly approaching an era in my career, where I am, paradoxically, over-qualified.
To varying degrees of course, I can’t think that most males of my demographic – who are currently in gainful employment – do not find themselves pray to such thought patterns: my overriding thought process (as altruistic/ethical as it may seem) is to now do something to “make a difference” - however there’s no reason such a direction cannot be a commercial one.
Increasingly, I find myself pondering the situation of those individuals who, while knowing first hand that something is cancerously wrong within the industry that harnesses their expertise, nevertheless have no real, effective, means to communicate to the “workers” the truth of what they face, in several aspects of their (the workers’) lives. As an example “close to home”, I am acutely cognizant of where the root of the majority of professional football’s ills have originated from: however, I would require a huge and wide-reaching social platform to be able to effectively communicate that to the masses of football supporters who are underwriting the extortionate financial excesses being perpetrated on “the people’s game”.
Of course, with the assistance of several key media figures/entities, one could possibly attempt to bridge such a chasm, between the uncaring and the unknowing – but there’s a fair amount of time involved even with such fortuitous “breaks” (and we all know what time costs).
I’ll surely be expanding upon the above thoughts, if I can make (not find) the space in my life to do so. Changing the subject completely – and staying with this week’s French-themed (well, initially!) diary entry, it would only be fitting to include a classic French track – and so this week I give you the eponymous Sascha Distel with “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”. XX
Yes, another delayed diary entry: however – for once anyway – that delay is intentional!
I wanted to wait until today (Monday 7th Sept) to make a start to the entry, being that – courtesy of me taking out a membership to Scotrail’s “50-Club” – I’m currently taking a train journey to the western highlands of God’s country, to (literally) the end of the line and a delightful little town called Kyle of Lochalsh, just a (new) bridge away from the Isle of Skye.
The journey commenced this morning at 12.50 pm, from my home town of Dunbar, connecting through Edinburgh Waverley station where I caught the 1.34 pm to Inverness, for another change of train – this time connecting to the 5.54 pm service to Kyle of Lochalsh, on which I currently sit and – fearful of missing out on some stunning scenery – will add to this entry every time the train pulls into a station (and there’s a fair few of them, on the journey).
One of the Scotrail staff has just come through the carriage and sold me a “Train Travel Certificate” evidencing the fact that I’ve travelled on the Kyle of Lochalsh route. I don’t mind donating £3.50 towards the upkeep of the line and the associated museum (located on the pier, just beside the line’s terminus) in Kyle of Lochalsh itself – especially when the deal includes a fold-out information poster, detailing the route, along with a little history connected to the majority of stopping points. You have to come and see this scenery folks!
Here’s another very unusual fact about the line, which commences in Inverness, first winding it’s way north out of the city, and then taking a pronounced “right turn” to head first due-West, and then West-South-West (I took geography at school!) towards Kyle of Lochalsh: some of the stations along the way – say around half of the fifteen stops – are “request” stops! So, if no one presses the train bell to alert the driver or the guard on the train, as to their intention to alight at those particular stations – and (I take it!) no one is spotted standing on the platform as the train approaches, wishing to make the onward journey – then the train (all two carriages of it) just slips through the station and continues on it’s way! Cool.
Being that the journey was too long of one for a “day trip”, I booked myself into “Saucy Mary’s Lodge”, across the “new” (opened 1995) Skye Bridge on the very island of Skye itself, just a short bus ride over there – and a very enjoyable walk back this morning. Yes, you’ve caught me “bang to rights” finishing off “this week’s” entry on Tuesday afternoon, heading back to Dunbar: for the accuracy of the record I’m currently twenty minutes south of Perth.
Travel wise (harking back to the “£10 return anywhere in Scotland” membership sign-on offer with Scotrail’s “Club 50”) that’s probably the best travel value I’ll ever purchase. Even Saucy Mary’s was only £35.00 a night for my own room, however I can honestly say I can’t recall right now the last time I booked into guest house accommodation to find bunks there!
Appropriately, this week’s song choice is “Mull of Kintyre” by Paul McCartney’s “Wings”. Yes, I know there is a slight “geographic license” at play here, but the song does relate to the West coast of Scotland and when the full pipe band kicks in, it’s truly magic! Loving you all. X
Well, Summer’s not quite over yet – but, I’m afraid, 8.00 pm dusks now tell their own story!
However, at only 4.45 pm in the afternoon today, sat here in the Dunbar Garden Centre, I have little to complain about- especially as I’m bathed in the infamous Dunbar natural light.
Although I’ve had to step away from work prospects for the best part of four months (June through September) I now acutely recognise the need to have done so (there is so much I have accomplished on the domestic front, during that time). Had I spent the summer out on the road, it would – paradoxically – probably have taken me another two years to catch up, in respect of the plethora of tasks that I’ve successfully ploughed my way through, over the last three months. Just as important as that, is the fact that I’ve managed two small vacations during that time – and a cumulative, restful, 10/12 hours spent, sat in the garden.
Sure, I’m still finding my feet in respect of the optimum “work/life balance” – however, much as though I patiently await the sought-after epiphany (you gotta keep believing, folks!) – I know I’m heading in the right direction, even though I can’t be totally sure where that’ll lead.
Being that I’m essentially in work from mid-September through mid November, I’ll put some time aside this weekend to see what additional work I can possibly drum up for the last 4/5 weeks of the year, leading up to Christmas. I don’t expect a whole lot to be happening early next year, with January and February typically being the quietest months in the touring calendar, so already I’m keeping an eye on the flights deals out to Thailand around that time!
There are – as always – the various project ideas running around in my head: however, being me, I need to finish up tidying the various administrational loose ends, relating to both the music and football side of my business, that have managed to unravel themselves over the past few years (and then, just as importantly, don’t give them a chance to do so again, going forward). I’m painfully aware that if I continue to spread myself thin – in attempting to cover the various aspects of my business and personal life – I run the risk of never “catching up”.
This past week, I rented a small car from a local car-hire business in Haddington - eschewing the temptation to surf the various used-car sales sites, thereby preventing the temptation to go out and purchase another Jaguar S-type, in keeping with the same model I sold, around this time last year. However, the economics don’t lie and – while, undoubtedly it would have offered me more convenience to have had the car sat in the driveway – I know I would actually be worse off, rather than the six-days-a-month rental plan that I’m now adhering to.
The onset of age has no known antidote - which is a great leveler when apportioning one’s remaining time. Don’t feel bad about being a little selfish, in guarding such a precious commodity (as time) – unless you can be assured of receiving redeemable credits from the people and/or situations who may have unnecessarily taken up that time. On that subject, how about this for a particularly appropriate track, keeping in mind the onset of my next birthday, only now seven months away. Off I go to reduce the task list even further! XXX
I don’t know about “5 Seconds of Summer”, but – with me – it’s more like I haven’t had a second to myself, over the last 5 summers. Thankfully, I’ve rectified that this year of 2015.
As I sit here in the office this fine Sunday morning, the Lammermuir Hills once again clearly outlining the horizon, I realise I made the correct decision to ease off the work this summer.
In one of those odd – even surreal – moments that come to all of us once in a while (usually as a result of the oddest combination of circumstances) I happened to be double-checking my expiry date on one of my two current passports, only to glance at the other seven defunct examples lying in the same drawer. Leafing through all of them for a few melancholy moments I was again struck with the “that surely couldn’t have been me, in all those places?” thought.
Not that, to be honest, I’m currently being flooded with work offers: this is partly of my own doing, since I have concentrated on the more specialised line of Tour Accounting. Sure, on several “recent” occasions I have managed to accomplish both roles simultaneously (Westlife; Paul Potts; JLS; Ant ‘n Dec) however that requires a very s*** hot Assistant Tour Manager – in addition to a “self-sufficient” Artist, to enable me to show them the money!
If the truth be told (and I can obviously speak with some authority here) we are currently in an era where – if a particular tour is showing all the signs of enjoying excellent business – the Tour Accountant role is easily as significant a role as that of Tour Manager. Again I am acutely aware of the following: if the Tour Manager prepares and structures the various facets of the tour correctly, prior to the first date – and that tour generally runs smoothly thereafter - then the job, on the road, becomes primarily that of a combination of “Grief Chief” and “Babysitter”. Tour Management is the innate skill of managing infinitesimal detail.
At this point, I have to deviate from the “Diary of the Road” format, for a paragraph or two here, to draw your attention to the continued excellent performance of the “Heart of Midlothian” football team who, having now beaten Glasgow’s Partick Thistle 3-0 yesterday, have accomplished the first five games of the season unbeaten, with a 100% record. Of course, long may this continue: the real test of the team’s durability comes with the upcoming games against both Celtic and Aberdeen, two strong teams we have yet to play this season.
Back to the road (where I always feel myself being invariably drawn – but which, sadly, is not going to last forever) and what is on the horizon for me work-wise: that essentially, I can tell you folks, is two months work with Paul Potts, commencing in around a month from now and continuing through to late November. Ideally, I could then pick up a few weeks work leading up to Christmas as – especially with both the children out of the country over the Xmas/New Year period – I’m already sniffing around for a holiday destination away from the dark & cold!
Referring back to the earlier paragraphs of this week’s entry - specifically my own surprise that I actually survived all those years tearing around the world at breakneck speed – here’s an amazing older track, to convey that sentiment. Take it away, Johnny Cash. You’re the man!!
This weekend finds me in the depths of East Sussex, visiting some, dear, long lost friends.
This has actually been the case for the last two days, with me having the chance to catch up with a business colleague that I have not seen for many years, on Friday afternoon in the delightful little town of Shoreham-by-Sea: only around twenty miles from where I used to stay in Seaford, on the “other side” of Brighton. It’s such an agreeable climate down here!
There’s a couple of occasions this week, where certain thought patterns have fleetingly skipped across my consciousness, mainly – I would have to admit – in respect of this misguided love affair that I have with my football project. You could be forgiven for thinking that it represents something of a lost cause, but (knowing what you know - mostly derived from me!) you could hardly be castigated for such a view: here comes a poignant illustration.
The names of the “guilty” parties have been omitted to save them any undue embarrassment, however I can clearly state that there’s a professional footballer, in his early twenties, very prominently featuring in just the few games he’s played in the English Premiership this season so far who, five years ago, I had on trial at a Scottish Premier League club, only to be then told that he would never play in said SPL’s first team, as a result of him only being 5’ 7”.
Now – and I’ve openly stated this before – what I know about football would probably not fill a thimble, but even that admitted lack of any professional involvement in the game did not prevent me from seeing the obvious talent this young (at the time) lad possessed. Such instances quietly assure me that, yes, the players are out there, but they’re not easy to find.
However, there’s me typically gone and wandered off the opening subject of this week’s diary, namely having had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of long-lost friends, over the past couple of days. Never a truer word is spoken, when your peers are wont to remind you “none of us are getting any younger, you know”. Oddly enough, it would seem, the aging process is easily (conveniently?) more recognisable around oneself, than in one’s own self. Just occasionally you will catch your reflection in the hallway mirror (as I do) and quietly think “my God, I am getting old”. This is the way of life, and no one’s managed to change it.
For me personally, I continue to strive to order my personal (“downtime”) life and hope that a shaft of bright light may awaken me to whether I’m headed in some sort of beneficial direction. I would like to think that I’m not a moody person (others may take issue with that view!) but I am certainly prone to mood swings: thankfully, the dark and brooding periods are in the minority, when stacked against the almost-euphoric episodes – the latter which see me believing anything can (still) be accomplished, and of course that represents fleeting reality.
Anyway, to be continued: possibly with the benefit of clearer thinking processes – and more natural light (something of a minor concern, as I see the days slowly become “shorter”). For this week’s accompanying track, and referring back to the opening paragraphs, how about this classic from Mr. James Taylor himself, notably “You’ve Got A Friend”. Thankfully, a few. XXX
Finally (and this has only me taken twenty months to accomplish) I can see a sign that I’m making progress on the domestic front – and by “domestic” I mean this great little house of mine, which actually represents my biggest investment, and therefore also for the children.
What, pray, is this milestone of domestic progress, you ask? It doesn’t sound like much I can tell you, but I’ve managed to “decorate” my office in the house: that is, I’ve now mounted the various items of memorabilia – that I have come to amass over my forty years in the music business – on the office walls, and I have to say I’m aghast that it’s even taken me this long. I don’t specifically mean that from the point of view of getting around to completing the task: more that, in some odd way, it has continued the process of turning a house into a home.
Having my “life around me” in the office has certainly reminded me of what I’ve actually managed to accomplish over those last four decades – although I find myself wondering how I actually pulled it off: how I convinced those multitude of people in my business (Artists and technical crew mainly) that I had some sort of idea of what I was doing. Maybe, upon reflection, I just had a touch more of an idea of what I was doing, than the majority of them did. A sort of - unwitting and unintended - professional deception, perhaps? But I managed it.
Here, I now sit – at the window of that very office – staring out towards the Lammermuir Hills, wondering where it really all goes from here but, on the brighter side of things, calmly awaiting the delivery of only my second ever garden table (which, if nothing else, probably immediately alludes to the fact that I’m a day late in composing this weeks diary entry – although some of my regular readers may class that as a “result”!). Sad, is it not, that to date - pending the arrival of the second one within the hour – I’ve only ever owned two garden tables (and chairs!)? At this point, I should throw in the painful admission that I’m lucky if I spent ten days – in seven years (ouch!) - relaxing in the garden of my last house in Edinburgh.
Well (and how we occasionally agonise over wishing it were otherwise) we can’t go back, so let’s just try and learn from the past and avoid wasting any of our precious time, going forward – and I don’t think “precious” to be too strong a word, at this juncture of my life.
Yesterday (Sunday 9th – confused yet?) I had the sad occasion to bid an “elongated” good-bye to my daughter Jade, as she set off on a round-the-world trip with her boyfriend Pete, a journey that will encompass seven months travelling. It still really hasn’t sunk in, as I sit here that – even with the various period of touring absences that I’ve endured over the years, away from the children – I don’t think Jade and I have ever been apart more than 4 months.
Even though I’ve done all that travelling, I still hanker after such an adventure; to anticipate such freedom unraveling before me – especially knowing that, in Jade’s case, her old man has her covered if she encounters any hiccups along the way! As always, as I wind my way towards the end of each week’s Diary entry, I start to allow the choice of accompanying track to permeate my thought processes - but this week it shot into my mind in an instant. What more appropriate little tune than “When Will I See You Again”. Haste ye Back, Jade. Peace to all. X
Another day, another dollar – and, not untypical of a Sunday evening, another train journey.
While I was always required to be supremely organised in my business life (there is little mercy allowed, if one under-performs, in that respect) this has invariably failed to follow suit in my private life: in fact the latter, paradoxically, is almost a direct result of the former. Unnecessary (I can say that now) time spent fine-tuning detail, which only God and I would have ever noticed. Priding myself on the fact that I could spot a picture hanging one degree “off level”, at two hundred yards. There is no case to answer as to the point of such a boast.
The reason I got off on the “organised” vibe in the above paragraph, was with the intention of pointing out that, because I have now (intentionally) taken my foot off the pedal this summer, in relation to my professional/working life, it has consequently allowed me to operate a month “ahead of myself” in making any personal travel arrangements: hence the reason I’m now sat in a first class seat on this Dunbar-bound train – if you follow my drift.
I’ve been down in London over the past three days, during which time the weather has been stunning. There I was, today, stretched out under the sun in Lambeth Park “like a big store dug” as Alice would say (and you’ll definitely have to have some Scottish blood in you, to get the gist of that expression!). I was almost ready to postpone tonight’s planned journey home.
Oddly enough (and surely you may all have experienced such, if you are within the same demographic as your intrepid author) when I’m down visiting Alice at her plush SW1 London address, I can definitely identify with finding myself in a clearer frame of mind. This, I believe, stems from two main reasons – not that I can do much about either, but at least I’m aware of them: the first being that I obviously work from home when not out on the road, and the second being that, fairly frequent visits from my daughter aside, I essentially live on my own a lot of the time. Therefore, when I’m in Dunbar, based back at the house, there is invariably a myriad of tasks to deal with, emanating from the above two, prime, revelations.
Running the house single-handedly – as anyone in a similar position can acutely relate to – means having to clear/clean up behind yourself, as you go - otherwise it’s still sat there the very next day, uniquely requiring your personal attention. Such is the facts of sole occupancy.
The more pressing of the two afore-mentioned observations is, of course, largely the fact that my place of work (when not touring) “encroaches” upon my personal living space: oddly enough, this has been the case since 1998 – but I guess, with the growing realistion that one’s time on this planet is unavoidably of finite length, then one becomes equally aware (can you believe this is me talking?) of the need to shift the work/leisure balance, in one’s favour.
So – it’s good that I’m coming to grips with this, yah - that I consciously recognize the need to personally re-group. If only committing such (typically) random thoughts to this weekly Diary, then progress is surely being achieved. This week, as an accompanying track, I’m wont to leave you with Beth Hart’s upbeat “Swing My Thing Back Around” – and Beth surely can!! X
Well, there’s no denying that I let myself get way behind with this week’s Diary entry.
Now (and my regular readers will probably have predicted the cause already), it can be no coincidence that 1) we are slap bang in the middle of one of football’s two annual “transfer windows” and 2) I have managed to fall days behind with the latest edition. Sunday it’s not.
Ah, my (hopeless?) love affair with football: well, not so much the game itself, but the challenge to try and right it’s ills, to convince all it’s participants to tear up the “greed card” and return to the values of what this game is really about: emotive community participation.
Sadly (while those days have not entirely disappeared) football is another world now, a seriously commercially-driven entity, a bulldozer that – for the most part – unashamedly rides roughshod over the cares and concerns of the very lifeblood of this game: the fans. Trust me – and there probably is not enough space on two diary entries, never mind one, to expand upon this – these players would play for 50% of those astronomical salaries they currently command, if that was (literally) “the only game in town”: but the clubs pander to said players demands, egged on of course by avaricious agents, mostly closet ex-players. You could do a lot worse than immerse yourself in the Tom Cruise movie, “Jerry Maguire”, a flick that was exceedingly well researched and frighteningly close to what actually happens, folks.
My heart, un-failingly, goes out to the scores of young players who are released at – on average – age nineteen, and in most cases unceremoniously “dumped back” into the real world, from which they have been isolated – and cosseted – for the three or four years previous to that. I can only marginally appreciate the hurt and the emptiness that must follow the news that they are surplus to the club’s requirements. Football should fund a system (into which every overpaid player should have no choice but to contribute) that conscientiously aids in the repatriation of those most unfortunate lads. I believe the PFA (Professional Footballers Association), in fairness, may have recently initiated a project along those lines. Football just tends to load up the conveyor belt of mostly impressionable – and in no small way, talented - boys, at the introductory end, to balance the numbers of those losses at the other end.
Of course all I can now do, in respect of many of the unwelcome developments of the now dollar-driven football industry, is to take it fairly and squarely on the chin. Putting one’s shoulder firmly to that immovable mountain will have little or no noticeable effect, unless simultaneously joined by the massed ranks of (subliminally dissatisfied) football supporters.
That is not to say that all is lost, in terms of the true spirit of football: praise the Lord that the good hard working people of this world - struggling in many cases to afford even the most reasonably priced season tickets – are still impassioned by “twenty-two daft wee men, chasing a daft wee ball” as one notable non-believer so succinctly put it. As this week’s Diary entry meanders to a close, there are only a few choices of appropriate accompanying tracks that I believe I could call upon, this being one of them: the iconic “Four Tops” with the classic “It’s All In The Game”. Ah, football was just football, when this track was penned!
A warm (literally) welcome, from “Espresso Black” in Dunbar’s quaint little High Street.
You see: I do get home every so often – and long may this new “trend” continue. However, I’m no further ahead in trying to figure out the general direction in which it would be advisable that I attempt to now steer my life. Now - I’ll bet (as a regular reader) that you’re possibly thinking “Oh, oh – he’s in one of his introspective phases this week”. Is he indeed?! Alice!!!
Actually, veering away from my “staple” income for the time being, I can report that I watched my first ninety minutes of football yesterday, adjacent to Stirling University’s sports centre, where one of my young players – Christian Langos – was on trial, and trying to catch the eye of the Stirling Albion FC manager. This is a rare opportunity for Christian to firmly jam his “foot in the door” - on the unforgiving highway of professional football.
I can’t deny my frustrations (most of the clubs I deal with are well aware of this!) at the time it takes to get things done in football sometimes. I feel like wading into the middle of things, some days, and knocking a few heads together: it may be I have inadvertently done so already, which is why things don’t always proceed at the rate I would wish them to! This is not the first time I’ve proclaimed that if football were running the music business then they would still be trying to be get Cliff Richard’s first tour out of the door. Frustrating? Oh yes.
All I want is the opportunity to try things my way for a while. I’m old enough and big enough to admit that I can’t change anything - if indeed I find I cant. In a business where the majority of the clubs need to sell to survive and – sadly, but honestly I have to tell you – most “lower” teams’ playing staff have marginal resale value (bless them), I struggle to understand why many of those same clubs are not more open, to taking the occasional “punt”.
Sure, I’ve had a few notable successes down the line and thankfully – even though they’ve been few over the amount of years I’ve been involved with football – I can at least reflect upon some very satisfying “finds”. No one can take away from me the fact that I signed the first Namibian player to a British professional club (Eliphas Shivute to Motherwell FC).
But (wrong word to start a sentence with) “I will tell you this boy, I will tell you this” in the words of the one and only Rab C. Nesbit, I will surely find a player that will eventually pay me a reasonable “pension”. That particular requirement bears more than a passing connection to the fact that I omitted to make sufficient pension arrangements for my self, along life’s way.
So, here I sit of this early Sunday evening, finishing this diary, then catching the national 6.35 pm news, then (and this next revelation may blow you away) I plan to sit out in the garden. However, just as I record that very thought - a cloud has decided to obscure the overhead sun: but, remaining “glass half full” confident, I am poised for its imminent return.
This week I leave you with hardly the most original offering for this time of year, but certainly very appropriate: Mungo Jerry with In The Summertime. Lets make the most of it!
All good things – and possibly all enjoyable things – more than likely, will come to a brief end.
That, indeed, is the case presently – with my latest association with The Who drawing to a close, as of yesterday. Past diary entries have clearly attested to my level of comfort around those lads (both crew and band) – and also my hope that, one day, all touring will be like this.
However, until the next time, it’s onwards and upwards. For now, I would honestly have to admit that I remain teetering on the tightrope of indecision, as to whether to push on and line up further work during the rest of the summer – or just kick back and see what happens. The further “danger” is that - while I’m procrastinating as to the best way forward – the remainder of the summer may just slip away from beneath me. July is the month of decision.
Looking forward (because the past – sadly, in certain instances – is the past) I’ve finally managed to find the time, long overdue, to spend a few days with my sister – the older of the two – in North East England next week, such mini-break which involves bicycles: on the face of it, a little strenuous exercise cannot be seen as an unwelcome opportunity - only slight drawback in all of this is my sister’s superior level of fitness, she who has cycled more miles in her life so far, than I probably ever will – in what is remaining of mine. Not sure I’m ready!
Next week, I have the luxury of the whole seven days at home and – provided I don’t allow myself to become too side-tracked by football (especially being that the transfer window is currently open, until the end of August) – I will look to initiate the “can the car actually fit in the garage?” project. To those that hang on my every word, in these weekly-penned literary reflection of our times, the previous intention may come as something of an eye-opener – being that the old Jaguar (sob, sob) has long been laid to rest. Allow me to explain the plan.
My daughter Jade, soon to embark upon her “off-to-see-the-world” extended travels has requested that she house her car in my garage, during her absence – meaning that I have less than six weeks to make enough space in “cardboard box world” to enable her to do so. Quietly, I know within myself that this is a good thing because a serious re-organisation of afore-mentioned garage is long overdue. The time has arrived for some hard decision-making.
You know – upon reflection, I believe – it’s not often that I mention the weather but (if you happen to be one of my countless UK readership) you would have to admit it’s been fab – in the main – during June of this year, with temperatures earlier this week in London in the 80s.
The whole world by now must be aware of how my mood is markedly improved by the preponderance (not sure that’s the right word) of natural light and gentle warmth: this may, I suspect, govern my need to base myself back on the south coast at some point in the future – although I am very open to allowing “Sunny Dunny” (Dunbar) to further endear itself to me.
Referring to the above, second-last, paragraph what more appropriate accompanying track for this week than the talented Don Henley with “Feels Like Summer”. Music will save us!!
The only explanation (because I’ve considered this extensively) must be that I’m too old.
For what, you curiously enquire? “For spending a bedraggled week at Glastonbury”, I reply.
I speak, dear patient readers (in particular this week – as I’m sitting on an Amsterdam bound train, on Wednesday 1st July, trying to catch up!) with a certain amount of recent insight and experience: being that we just topped the bill there, with The Who, on Sunday (28th) night.
Conservative estimates put the number of attendees – aggregated over the weekend (although it would appear that most of them spent all three nights there) at one hundred and forty thousand. Certainly, while awaiting our end-of-day slot at 9.15 pm, I took the opportunity to go wander within the masses – many of them scantily clad (and that was just the guys), most of them carried away on the wave of excessive imbuement, if you get my drift. I welcome any cohesive explanations (other than the above) as to the attraction of such an environment, in which to enjoy and appreciate the music of your favorite performers.
See: from the minute I was legally employable (or probably before) - during my time at secondary school, then catering college – I always worked nights and weekends, so couldn’t afford, in more ways than one, to traipse across the country to live rough for a weekend. That would absolutely have been the case, had one of the main attractions (then) been Kanye West – and I don’t care if I’ve spelt his name wrongly. Right up there with a plethora of “how can we take ourselves just a little more seriously as groundbreaking talent?” Artists, it’s refreshing to be able to honestly say that the most entertaining part of his set was when British alternative comedian “Lee Nelson” decided to crash Mr. Superciliousness’s stage. If you are not familiar with the comedian, then check out his other alter ego, the over-the-top, overpaid, footballer “Jason Bent”, when he tries to jump on the plane with the England squad!
I hope I don’t sound like I’m coming down heavily on the whole festival culture, but I can only figure that it’s a phase we all go through at a certain (“early”) time of our lives, a “time of our lives” that – probably also because I dipped my toe in the entertainment world after I had just turned 20 – undeniably passed me by. A good or a bad thing? We may never know.
I actually omitted to mention that on Friday last (26th) The Who actually headlined the Hyde Park music festival – branded nowadays as “Barclaycard’s British Summer Time”. My keen accountant’s eye nevertheless leads me to believe that the project - now under the auspices of AEG, after Live Nation found it a real struggle to make a profit – needs another year or two before it starts to turn a profit. A promoter (Live Nation, in this case) does not shy away from a clearly profitable event, therefore I’m understandably intrigued to watch that space!
Now - what musical delight can I steer your way with this week’s diary entry. How’s about a song that pays tribute to – arguably – the most iconic of all festivals, staged just outside Bethel, New York, over the weekend of 15th to 18th August 1969: and who better to tell you (as they were there) than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with, yes, “Woodstock”. What a life!
Ah, I was in my element tonight: the first date of another run of shows with The Who.
There was a further bonus for me, as I was sat backstage here at the Belfast Odyssey (where I still am at present, at 11.50 pm – so this diary entry will not be finished by “Sunday”!) when the strains of “The Kids Are Alright” could be discerned coming from the stage: it was definitely not featured in the set list of the shows I undertook with the band, in March this year. This particular song just takes me right back to my “Dance Hall Days”.
This is only a short run of shows, consisting of tonight in Belfast, then Dublin this coming Tuesday followed on Friday (26th) playing in front of 65,000 at London’s Hyde Park and then Sunday at the iconic Glastonbury Festival. We then zip out to the continent to take in a Paris show (June 30th) followed by the final show on this “mini-tour”, at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome.
This tour is very relaxed, yet very professional and extremely efficient, the majority of the technical people having been around almost as long as I have – with many of them having worked for The Who for over twenty years. Quite the opposite of my own “multi-act” career.
The nagging question (still unsolved, yet referred to in several recent diary entries, to a greater or lesser degree) is whether to push on and seek out further work over the next few months – or whether to enjoy my first summer at home, in over five years. I’m sure you would be advising me to unquestionably go with the latter option - and I could hardly argue with that: it’s just that with me allowing myself to come distracted away from what I do best – first to delude myself that I could slide over, almost seamlessly, into bar and restaurant ownership (I just have to pause for a brief spell here folks, to breathe deeply and to settle my slightly uneasy stomach - as that period of my life swims back into focus) followed a good few years later by my one-man quest to cure a plethora of ills inflicting professional football.
“Somehow I made it through the darkness” (from “I Knew You Were Waiting” by George Michael and Aretha Franklin – the original recording of which I was in attendance at, many years ago, in Detroit) and I appear to have emerged from such minor trauma still intact. The only negative side (advantage?) of both those experiences being that I’m noticeably cautious about venturing into any other avenue of business that is not strictly my “stock in trade”.
As frustrating as it can be dealing with many of the backward administrational processes in football, it still gives me the best buzz of all, when I’m ankle-deep in player placement – always in the (forlorn?) hope of unearthing that one gem that somehow “slipped the net”. As I’ve previously mentioned on these pages on more than one occasion: paradoxically, it’s not their footballing ability that’s the problem: it’s everything else surrounding the lads’ football.
In summary this week, there’s no denying the buzz of being out on the road again with one of the world’s premier rock bands. Referring to the earlier paragraphs of this week’s entry, and the palpable nostalgia generated by hearing what is such a classic WHO track for me – and played live tonight – here comes “The Kids Are Alright”. Me? I’m more than alright tonight! X
This evening finds me recovering from attempting to (foolishly?) cycle “a bridge too far”.
With these wonderfully light nights upon us (I’m woefully pre-occupied with the thought of the inevitable dark winter nights already) one certainly wants to make the absolute best of them. Earlier today, having seen Alice off on the London bound train just after lunchtime, I drove out to one of my favorite rest/picnic areas not too far out of my hometown of Dunbar.
Now, I figure it’s around a four-mile drive from the house down to the place in question, “White Sands”, and as I sat there earlier today, perusing the Sunday newspapers (but planning to be back in the house by 5.00 pm to catch the Slovakia v England football game!) I pondered the thought of harnessing the challenge of cycling the six miles there and back. The more the thought gnawed away at me, the more I managed to convince myself that it was possibly achievable: and once that thought process took hold, there was only ever going to be one outcome. I (and especially my legs) can subsequently report that the deed has been done.
There is unquestionably many benefits from such regular exercise, the most poignant for your trusty old author being the endorphin-fuelled “feelgood factor”. In this particular instance, this evening’s exhausting little jaunt still has me sat at the kitchen table here, determined to finish this week’s entry before the clock strikes midnight (I know, from experience, that such periods of sustained exercise, such as the cycling, will only get easier – provided I incorporate it into some form of regular schedule). Got to keep on keeping on!
On the football front, I’m hoping to place a couple of “hungry” young, former DR-Congo refugee, football players at a small Scottish club prior to the start of the upcoming football season. Those (literally) poor lads – only landed in the UK as refugees not more that seven years ago – have never come through any structured coaching system, yet I’m convinced – allowed to develop within a professional football set-up – they could yet blossom. The main difficulty lies with trying to persuade the majority of the professional clubs to give lads such as (in this case) Christian Langos and Nsensa Mabolekele a chance to show what they are capable of, and to allow the lads the time to attain a commendable level of fitness.
I honestly don’t mind apportioning some of my time to try and allow them a “leg up”, keeping in mind that they are relatively young (20). If, by chance, they can be introduced into a footballing environment where they are given the requisite amount of time to develop and progress both their latent natural ability and their physical conditioning, then you just never know what might come of it. I’m ostensibly just helping the lads to crystallise their dreams.
They are due up to Scotland a couple of weeks from now, therefore they will spend the next two weeks fine-tuning their personal fitness levels to ensure they are ready to dovetail with the other players at the club that have kindly agreed to give the lads a full week’s trial.
What appropriate track might sum up the pluck of such youngsters, who have known serious hard times? Here’s “All The Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople. Awesome track. It’s 11.41 pm!
What a fine day this has been in (now world famous, because of me?!) “Sunny Dunny” Dunbar.
However, today’s fine weather should not be allowed to divert from yesterday’s battering we took from the winds. Hey, you can’t win them all and – in my particular case (which will come as no surprise to regular readers) – as long as there is plenty of light, then my mood is good.
With only a couple of weeks back with The Who (in two weeks from now) currently in my diary, I’m teetering on the verge of making public my availability after that – in the likely event that I do make some contacts, then work offers will probably reach me: this, at a time when I can clearly see an opportunity to tackle a bunch of domestic/home office tasks that have been begging for attention for several months now. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Ha!
I’m leaning towards hanging off another week before I attempt any “business update”, just so that I feel I am past the half-way mark with the backlog of tasks, emanating here from my home base. Even cleaning and tidying up the place almost took me three hours today – but I won’t be doing that every week, hopefully it’s only a “once every three months” occurrence.
I just took a break there (it’s still Sunday, I promise!) to watch a monumental movie called “Legends of the Fall” which I recollect – and I’m still not 100% sure why – made quite an impression upon me, the first time I saw it, and has now done so again, a second time. I do believe the movie is firmly in my top ten, just can’t think what the others are at this moment!
Sammy Davis Junior once remarked (probably in an off-the-cuff manner) that “life is not a dress rehearsal” and those words should be wisely heeded by all. It cannot be a bad thing that – more so, than for a long time – I find myself facing up to the fact that the plethora of projects that are bouncing around inside my head cannot – practically – all be achieved. That’s OK: I sense my head being in the right place around this time, to – within the coming months – take an objective, calculated, decision as to the undeniably best way forward. Pray for me.
light up here in Dunbar is not fading until just before 10.00 pm, a fact for which you will find no argument from me. Get this: I’ve sat in my garden (albeit on one of the dining room chairs – I’m working on the garden furniture side of things) more times in the last five days than I have in the twenty months I’ve owned this property. At this rate I’m definitely on to beat the previous “record” of only – at best – having sat out in the garden of my last house twenty times, in over seven years living there. What a thing to have to admit, but sadly true.
“It’s never too late to change” they always say – and I’m going to abide by that in the coming months. Once you’ve sat there and berated yourself for never seeking a different angle on dealing with something, then placate yourself in the knowledge that many people never even reach (or realise) this stage. Once we’ve got the gist of it, we need to pass the knowledge on.
What could then (possibly) be more appropriate for this week’s accompanying track – as I strive to accomplish so much - than the Beatles with “Eight Days a Week”. Glad to be Alive!!
I may have possibly set a holiday record - by driving over three thousand the last two weeks.
Although we were aware that a fair amount of travelling would be involved for us to take in a few specific locations that we definitely did not want to miss (New Orleans; Clarksdale; Memphis & Chattanooga), we definitely “strayed” on a few occasions - and on two particular days allowed our adventuring spirit to overwhelm us, resulting in me driving around 400 miles on each of those days – but he old truck driver in me did not find those drives overly tiring.
So, just to recap: my diary entry of two weeks ago (Sunday 17th May) was penned when we had only been in the U.S. for two days, having landed into Atlanta on the Saturday afternoon and stayed that night in Montgomery, Alabama – preceded by a minor detour to Macon, Georgia, to have my photograph taken, once again, on the “Otis Redding Memorial Bridge”, to match the one I had taken at the same spot, almost 39 years ago. That Sunday night we ended up in Pensacola, on Florida’s panhandle coastline, to collect my “lost” album award.
Monday 18th was meant to be spent somewhere along the Gulf Coast (prompted by a memory of visiting the area, several years ago with the children, on a previous motor-home holiday) but just couldn’t locate a “funky enough” motel, therefore ended up driving all the way to the western outskirts of New Orleans, to hole up at the “Express Inn & Suites” on Route 90 East (herein lies the occasional risk of travelling “on the fly”, when sometimes you just can’t locate suitable accommodation for the night – not that we always utilize such a method every night we’re away: most of the time we have booked ahead, having carefully studied a fair cross-section of accommodation reviews, for establishments that firstly fall within our budget).
For the three nights of 19th, 20th and 21st, we based ourselves in Houma, Louisiana to allow us the opportunity to comprehensively explore the bayou – then relocated back into New Orleans (incurring our first experience of “Air B ‘n B” accommodation) for the Friday and Saturday, bringing us to just outside Jackson, Miss last Sunday night. So, now to this week …
Thankfully, as a result of us continually referring to the internet along the way, we discovered that a small town in Mississippi, called Clarksdale – at the junction of highways 61 and 49 - can actually lay claim to be the “birthplace of the blues”. Cue impulsive detour, via Indianola, Miss and the B.B. King Museum, to see what Clarksdale was all about: truly a magical old town, with at least four or five blues venues: unfortunately, because forward planning cannot always legislate for every eventuality, we landed up there on Memorial Day (very much revered in the US) - however Alice still managed to seek out the Bluesberry Café.
It was then onto Memphis for two nights (Air B ‘n B again), then Florence, AL and lastly, on Friday night past, Monteagle in Tennesse. Now you see how I racked up all that mileage!
This past two weeks we have witnessed some great blues players, but this week’s accompanying track comes from one of the greats, so sadly recently lost to us: listen in awe to Mr. B.B. King, from 1959, with “Sweet Sixteen”. I’m honoured to have seen the man live. X
Good evening this Sunday, from the “Super 8” Motel, beside the small town of Madison, just off junction 112 of the I55, 18 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi: this at the end of a fairly well-travelled first holiday week, when we have witnessed much and marveled at plenty more.
Since last Sunday, where we visited the now-infamous city of Selma - but stayed that night in Pensacola - we have stayed west of New Orleans (Monday night); based ourselves in Houma, Louisiana to explore the bayou (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday) then back into New Orleans for Friday night and last night. Today we travelled 175 miles due north to Madison, to this funky little motel, roughly halfway between New Orleans and Memphis, Tenessee.
As invigorating as the city of New Orleans can be, I think all that is worth seeing and doing can be accomplished in a good three days, so I’ll be interested to see where New Orleans ranks in a list of popular holidays destination for US citizens alone - who don’t travel outside their own country, when they take off on their annual vacation. Methinks Las Vegas may top that list, with a couple of Florida locations definitely featuring somewhere in the “top ten”.
Leaving New Orleans today at just after 09.30 am, our route on I55 North did not enable us to utilize the “Lake Ponchartrain Causeway” (23.5 miles long) which would have pulled us too much to the East, as – to make this holiday complete for Alice – we are heading in the general direction of Memphis, and that route necessitates us travelling north on Interstate 55.
Right now, sitting here in the motel room, it is seriously chucking it down outside: sure, we experienced a couple of brief, heavy, downpours during our three days in the bayou area, but this evening’s mini-storm (mucho thunder and lightning) is the heaviest rainfall we’ve experienced on the holiday so far. Only a matter of 550 miles south-west of our present position, East Texas is experiencing heavy flash-flood weather, so we’re wondering whether (hoping not) the fringes of that particular weather front is making it’s way eastwards.
It seems to be easing off out there now, but that has put paid to any plans for a brisk evening walk. Typical to any interstate junction, there is a least one gas station located close-by. Junction 112, here, is no exception therefore – rather venture out in the rental car to either Madison (3 miles south) or Canton (4 miles north) we can just scamper over to the afore-mentioned gas station and pick up a few stand-by supplies from the adjacent MiniMart.
Today, of course, sees us half way through our road-trip and – looking back to our arrival in Atlanta, late last Saturday afternoon – I’m pleased that it seems we have been here much longer than the seven days than we actually have. I could happily stay out here for months.
I’m thinking that maybe an appropriate track to accompany this week’s diary entry might be the track I first played in the motor-home on the first road trip with the children, back around 2006, at the end of a US Oasis tour and the first time we had ever rented a motor-home. The track in question says much about this amazing country and it’s culture. I give you John Cougar Mellencamp with “Little Pink Houses”. God Bless America, indeed. Still love y’all!!
I have just physically stood in front of the Freedom Hall in Selma, Alabama: the location of the commencement of the march from Selma to Montgomery in April 1955. What a buzz.
To take the above one stage further, we actually drove (in “reverse) the length of that march, starting in Montgomery – and finishing up at the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, said bridge which leads directly onto Main Street in the city centre. I’m going to have to watch that movie once again, having now physically spent time in the city. When we visited Selma earlier today, it was eerily peaceful: mostly all the coffee shops and restaurant were closed for business, the only public activity surrounding several of the city’s churches.
How fortunate I am to be able to travel far, to the likes of North America in this case, and dip into such periods of their history, thereby gaining a far greater understanding of events.
As I write this entry, it is six hours later, and we’re housed in a Pensacola hotel, up on the panhandle of Florida, where I’m collecting a gold album award – originating from a George Michael tour back in 1988 – which I mistakenly left here thirty-seven years ago: one day, I’ll tell you the full story of this remarkable chain of events, which brings me back here all these years later. Take a look at “The Faith Tour” on Wikipedia at some point. Very hard to believe.
On route from Selma to Pensacola earlier today we made a lunch stop at Camden – cosseted in the bible-belt of southern Alabama and stepped into another world at “Ms Kitty’s Country Kitchen” where – we came to a consensus of opinion – the good folks of that area frequent, after visiting church. The immediate thing we noticed upon entering the establishment was a queue at the food serving station, much like you would experience at a motorway services in the UK. There were probably only three different dishes on offer, however with a tempting variety of accompaniments. As far as Alice and I could gather, the “mains” were – you guessed the first one anyway: fried chicken, broiled catfish, some form of beef stew and – no doubt borne of it’s inexpensive nature, when times were hard – macaroni cheese. Along with cornbread, collard greens, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes and gravy (taken from the beef stew, and added to Alice’s mashed potatoes, upon request Upon driving away from Ms Kitty’s, we reckoned that it’s probably the same basic food choices there, every Sunday!
Once again, our overriding impression - in driving around the States (and we’ve only been into two of those states, so far, on this trip) - is the absolute vastness of this country and consequently – which is definitely a major part of the attraction when you have taken several road trips, over the years, and in differing geographical locations within North America – the huge variances in landscapes, vistas and elevations. The sense of “freedom” is quite palpable.
In mentioning the food choices available today at Ms Kitty’s, I distantly recalled a song that made mention of collard greens and such southern delicacies. Somehow, I’ve managed – after a few tries, however – to dig that particular song out from my ever-fading memory banks. Therefore this week’s song choice comes from an old, revered, blues singer called ZZ Hill (don’t even know if the man is still with us) and it’s called “I’m A Bluesman”. Listen carefully!
Well folks, there goes another tour under my belt: “Olly Murs 2015” (sadly) finished today.
As our touring Backstage Hospitality Manager, Ian (“Wombat”) Thomasen, rather aptly put it, as we strolled back from dinner on Friday night, here in Liverpool: “I don’t really want to think about starting another tour – I would rather this one just continued indefinitely”.
Let me say at this juncture that very few tours ever become “unbearable”, although one or two I can particularly recall down the years certainly bring the term “tedious” to mind (can’t offer more information than that, I’m afraid, until a possible autobiography rears its head!).
This past week, of course was “The London Week”, which saw us play four shows at the ubiquitous (maybe not the right word) O2 Arena: a veritable financial magnet where I suspect – allegedly – that the building comes off better than the Artist, on several occasions. Same old story where that particular venue is concerned though: the “pomp and circumstance” invariably threatens to overshadow the expediency of the performance: I marvel at the swathes of backstage V.I.P. guests swarming around the production corridor, with little appreciation of what it actually takes to stage such an intricate and complex show.
Still – nothing has really changed in that respect, throughout the years have been involved: one tends to find that there is some sort of arithmetical connection between the older and “rockier” the band/Artist – and the amount of backstage guests that accompany them. I have, of course, become well used to it – quietly assuring myself that while they are drinking in (literally) the heady backstage “vibe”, I’m actually making – rather than costing – the Artist some money. A stringent and experienced Tour Accountant (yes, your author is surely one of those) easily pays for himself. The challenge is convincing Artist management of such.
If I had been given a free hand on many of the tours I’ve been involved with – combined with sufficient up-front notice (and then only “commissioned” twenty-five per cent of what I could have saved) - then that big house on the hill, that you can maybe see in the distance, would be under my full ownership. Likewise, if I suddenly find myself endowed with a killer singing voice – and then maybe even my own arena tour – I’ll be retiring in time for Christmas.
Anyway, enough of glancing longingly and bemusedly over my shoulder: the time has come, once again, to stride forward with confidence and purpose – to seek the next challenge, to hope to persuade the unknowing, and the (sometimes) fearful, of the additional income that continually evades them: which is rightly theirs. The latter point invariably strikes a chord!
Next week, I’m off to Paris for a couple of days - just to catch up with some of my football contacts in “the hunt for the next Thierry Henry”. Admittedly, nowadays, I would probably agree that it’s more of a hobby than any form of commercial venture, but you never know ….
In the spirit of belief and enterprise, how’s about the following, for this week’s accompanying track (from an iconic band): “Badfinger” with one of many great tunes - “Come and Get It”. X
It seems only a matter of days ago, Sunday 22nd March, that I was just finishing on The Who, in London’s O2 – and here we are today, on Olly Murs, in the same venue, about to start a run of four shows here: the thing being that both those occasions are six weeks apart.
Twenty-three of twenty-eight shows now played and – typically when on tour – all track of time virtually lost: many long days in the venues, several traffic-plagued journeys on the tour bus and two “true” days off. Sadly, therein lies a summation of the last six weeks of my life. Thank God that this time has been spent amidst a touring organisation such as surrounds Olly Murs, meaning – although hard going, as most arena tours nowadays are – the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable and certainly professionally rewarding. Life on Murs suits me fine!
However, I would only be misleading you if I claimed other than to a leaning towards being a little picky with any future projects. Using this current Olly Murs tour as a yardstick, it’s becoming increasingly important to me that my future work is conducted within a professional, comfortable and experienced environment. Underpinning that outlook is the fact that I have been most fortunate to work for some great Artist managers in my time. The fallout, however, from such professional associations means that it does not make it easy to exist within an unprofessional set-up, particularly at this “advanced” stage of my career.
The above criteria may not exactly guarantee that I will be flooded with work opportunities in the years to come however, thankfully, the years I have put into the job to date (and the subsequent earnings that I’ve realised) leave me – now – in the fortunate position where I can take my time to consider any offers that may come my way, rather than just giving the nod to whatever becomes available.
Really, I should have been in this position several years ago.
Turning back to my touring activity of the last seven days (I believe I left off last Sunday in Birmingham), we played the second and third Birmingham shows on Monday and Tuesday past, followed by a travel day Wednesday, then two Nottingham Capital-FM Arena shows, Thursday and Friday. Yesterday – unusually so in the touring industry – was a travel day here to London, with no show last night. I therefore chose to pass on the offer of checking into the Greenwich crew hotel upon arrival and, alternatively, made my way to Alice’s abode in central London (she’s been good of late, so therefore deserving of a visit!!) from where we headed out to catch the “Child 44” movie, based on Tom Rob Smith’s first book. I can thoroughly recommend the movie: a little slow to get going, but enthralling nevertheless.
It’s been a while since I’ve spent five consecutive nights in the same hotel (memories of my Westlife days, with all those multiple shows in every city) meaning that I can totally unpack my suitcase - more akin to being on vacation. No doubt - Olly Murs being the man he is - there will be a little “soiree” planned, for the benefit of our production crew, during the run of London shows: it’s a commendable gesture and will be much appreciated by all attendees!
Consequently, this week’s accompanying track needs to have a party theme: so here comes a fair rocker of a track from Mr. Elvis Pressley (uh-huh) aptly titled “Let’s Have A Party!”. XX
The Olly Murs touring circus steamrollers on! Today we commenced a three-show run at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena, formerly known as the NIA - with a capacity of 13,000.
This venue is part of the NEC group, which also incorporates the LG Arena, located at the National Exhibition complex on the outskirts of the city – but now renamed (and was this ever a sign of the times?!) “The Genting Arena”. How long before the “Ann Summers Arena” makes an appearance - maybe with a “Undress yourself up – and come to the show” strapline?!
Of course, it’s all just part of the master plan to – indirectly and “quietly” – milk the public of what little disposable income they may have left: after paying for their concert ticket, their parking, food and drink at the venue – and the inevitable item of merchandise. I say “disposable”, however nowadays it’s more a case of “the credit card to the rescue”. Sadly.
Yet, with the time I’ve spent in this business, I should be able to offer up some suggestions to help those (literally) poor folk: however, I suspect to do so would involve me divulging a few “trade secrets” which is not something I am professionally or morally inclined to action. So, within the confines and limitations of my job, I do whatever (little) I can to enrich the concert-going experience of those hardworking fans who have kept me in work for 40+ years.
Back to the world of concert touring: by the time we pull out of Birmingham, this Tuesday coming, we will be past the half-way mark on the 23 UK Arena dates – with only two Nottinghams, four Londons – and one last Liverpool to go, to complete the overall tour which, including the two Belfast and three Dublin shows, has encompassed a total of 28 arenas.
This last week we played one show at Leeds First Direct Arena (Tuesday past), then a run of three shows at Manchester Arena, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – where I have seen the evidence with my own eyes as to how they know how to push the boat out on a Friday night in Manchester! Walking through a packed arena, during the changeover between Ella Eyre and Olly, I’m sure I spotted a rather inebriated mother being shepherded by her young children!
But, you know what? Shows like ours are a form of release for those hard working people whose hard-earned money finds its way into the touring coffers. So, if they find themselves becoming a little carried away on the night of the show then – within reason - they should be perfectly free to do so. The concert going experience teeters almost on the edge of fantasy.
This week, I will spend some time looking ahead to July, to investigate work possibilities – even though there is a part of me questioning whether I shouldn’t just order a spiffing set of garden furniture and kick back for part of the summer, enjoying what Dunbar has to offer.
Much to think about – as always. As I bring this week’s Diary from the Road” entry to a close, I’m going to look to my mention, a few paragraphs back, of my intention to (somehow) assist the myriad of concert fans to realise a better return from the concert-going experience – so here comes a catchy little song from Billy Swan, appropriately titled “I Can Help”. Maybe. XX
Glamour?! I’ll give you “glamour”: I’m sat here on a sleeper bus, in the backstage parking area of the Manchester Arena, waiting for the hotel rooms to become available at the Park Inn Hotel, just up the hill from here (but with the brief respite of having no show this evening).
Now - if you are avidly following my every move (with bated breath?) you’ll have immediately noticed that something is amiss here – being that we’re not due to play Manchester, the first of a run of three shows, until Wednesday: regular readers will therefore – quite rightly – deduce that I’m running late with penning this week’s diary entry. I’m caught - bang to rights.
So, here we are: fifteen shows into this 28-date tour with (as alluded to above) a run of three Manchester Arena shows about to commence tomorrow – therefore, once we are finally checked into the hotel up the road, we have the rest of the day off, to take it easy in Manchester: and here’s a chilling revelation, in that respect – it’s actually sunny outside!
My worldly, far-flung, readers (how are the seven of you doing, by the way?) may not immediately recognize the thin line of cynicism in that last paragraph however, as most Brits would have to agree, there is more than a tenuous connection between Manchester and rain! Still, hailing from Scotland – where inclement weather can sometimes be a constant feature for months on end – I can sympathise (even empathise) with the good people of Manchester. Yes, I have been through some viciously tough times in my life but – if I’m being honest with myself – it was in concentrated periods: whereas the majority of the good people who, indirectly, have kept me in work in this business for nigh on forty years, deal with “tough” on a fairly constant basis. That makes it good to be part of something that gives them a release.
Backtracking slightly, the last week consisted of a run of three Glasgow shows, a travel day, and then two shows in Newcastle, Saturday and Sunday past. Unfailingly great audiences in both of those cities – cities where life is hard, opportunity limited, and “release” is sporadic.
My humbling period each day is walking out on to the audience floor, once the “doors” are open (normally 6.30 pm for a 7.30 pm start, with the opening act, Ella Eyre) and just imbibing the concert-going public’s sense of anticipation with their involvement, in the next few hours. I am honestly unsure as to where they find the money to come to shows like ours (but, without appearing to be selfish, I’m obviously glad they do!) because it’s never just the ticket price: you can add to that the parking, the food – and the inevitable “need” for merchandise.
Having said that, I sincerely doubt there’s many going away from this show feeling in any way they been short-changed. Olly wears his heart on his sleeve – and that’s plain for all to see: I sense he’s still somewhat in awe of how his career has blossomed - and even quietly humbled by the willingness of so many concert-going fans to (literally) buy into his live performance.
Long may Olly’s career continue – and I have a sneaking feeling that’s exactly what it will do, which (let’s face it) hopefully means an involvement for yours truly. So, to this week’s track, I give you Jackson Browne, with “Doctor My Eyes”. I’ll explain the choice next week! XXX
In Dublin’s fair city, where the venue rent’s shitty, I once found it hard to make profit alone.
It’s probably best to stop griping about how expensive it is to play Dublin as A) I’ve no doubt you’ve heard it all before from me, within a past “Diary of the Road’s” column and B) I could easily take up the rest of this week’s actual entry, bleating on about it – to no real avail.
That aside, the enthusiasm and conviction of the concert audiences in both Belfast and Dublin (particularly where life is very tough for the majority of those people) never ceases to humble me: and I believe I can talk with some authority, having undertaken over a hundred shows in total, in both cities. God bless them all, they’ve helped to keep me in a job for years.
The overall fan reaction on Olly’s tour, even with only nine of twenty-eight dates under our belt, to date, has been overwhelming. Personally, I’ve witnessed the man go from strength to strength, over his three live tours I’ve been involved with, in terms of his stage presence, his “moves” and – I’m pretty sure – even in his vocal prowess. It’s a great buzz to be part of it all.
I arrived in Belfast late Sunday afternoon (I elected to take a cheap flight from Cardiff that I’d managed to find, as the crew bus wasn’t due to arrive there until around midnight). After which I wandered along Donegal Pass, close by from the Radisson Blu where we were billeted, to pay a visit to a favorite fish and chip shop, situated on the lower end of Lisburn Road. Now, you would think – being early Sunday evening and all in Belfast (even though it was the Easter weekend) - that things would be a little on the quiet side, off the back of a lively Friday and Saturday night, would you not? But that’s not what I walked into on Lisburn Road!
It was more like mid-evening mayhem, with the usual tell-tale signs in hard-partying towns like Belfast: semi-inebriated women tottering about on ridiculously heeled shoes; groups of lads marauding along the pavement, intent on keeping each other upright and even (on a Sunday night?) a 10/12 strong “hen-party” decked out in pink T-shirts, saying “I’m with her!”.
There was time, readers, when that was like a red (pink?) rag to a bull, and I would throw myself headlong into such mild debauchery. Those were also the days – I might note – where I could last on four hours sleep, do a show the next night - and then possibly do the self same thing all over again, twenty-four hours later. I’ve no idea (now) how I ever managed it.
Nowadays the emphasis is to continue to do a professional job, but to concentrate on one’s health and well-being - rather than tearing it up at every available opportunity. Although I’m always inspired by Artists of the caliber of Olly Murs, I’ve said before that I often nowadays feel myself just as inspired by the people in front of the stage (the public) and the people “behind” the stage (the crew) as I do the people on the stage. It’s my altruistic side.
Now: I ask that you don’t take the lyrics of this week’s accompanying track too literally – but this song indeed stirs the memories of some of my footloose and fancy-free days. From Mr. Elvin Bishop, lend your ears to a fabulous wee tune: “I Fooled Around and Fell in Love”. XXX
Here I am, with a sincere attempt to make amends for last week’s rather late diary entry!
Let the record show that, as I am sat here in the reception area of The Park Inn Hotel in Cardiff, the clock is showing 1.12 pm (today!), and being that our pickup to go to the airport is not until 2.30 pm, en-route to Belfast today, I should have this completed before departure. I’m looking forward to a “true” day off tomorrow, which is a rare thing in touring world.
I popped down to Cardiff station to see Alice back on the train, around 11.00 am today, only to be met with glorious sunshine out there: we must hope that such weather is also on offer, upon our arrival in Belfast. Half of our crew (including your esteemed author) has elected to buy themselves a – relatively inexpensive – flight to Belfast, being that the ferry schedule deems that the crew bus, with the other half of our contingent aboard, will not reach Belfast until around midnight tonight. Personally, I’ve experienced a few notable “hairy” ferry crossings from Holyhead to Dublin Port in my time, hence the reason I’m taking the flight.
Over the last two nights in Cardiff, there was not a ticket to be had for sale, by the time the doors were opened for each performance. You will often here Artist’s touring posters proclaiming sell-outs at many of the venues on their tour. However, unless part of the show is being sold as standing (as was Cardiff, mainly, over the past two nights with Olly) then there is invariably a good handful of “singles” dotted around, within the seated area of the arena.
I must confess to having only seen snapshots of Olly’s live show, over these first four dates: once the performance is underway, the backstage “traffic” is dramatically reduced, allowing one the opportunity to fully concentrate, especially where the accounting processes are concerned – hence the reason I’ve not been out front much during show time: I’m figuring that Dublin, where we have three consecutive shows, will give me a chance to rectify that.
Once things settle down a little on my side of things (should be once we get to Dublin also) I hope to find a few hours each week, to develop this “Crying Game” project, that I’m playing around with, in my fairly congested head. I’m thinking I may not have made mention to you, my good and loyal readers, as yet, about this particular project. However, let’s be honest: this is, to a certain degree, a public forum, so one has to proceed reasonably carefully in terms of what one may, at times quite unwittingly, divulge – particularly if it pertains to what could be perceived as a fairly original concept (into which category mine definitely falls).
Quite apart from the above stated reasons to play my cards close to my chest, there’s also the fact that the various threads of the idea are all currently intertwined with each other - having no apparent order or priority. Will I find the requisite “quality” time to commence the unraveling process, while out here with the Big Rock Show? I have the greatest intentions of finding such space to think things through, however – even on a tour such as this, where we are playing multiple nights in most of the cities - I’m not holding my breath. Now, what track to pick out this week? Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a small nod towards the surreal nature of this lifestyle of mine: I’m going for the Phil Collins track “Another Day In Paradise”. 2.06 pm!
Well, there’s no (real) excuse for it – but it’s a while since my diary has fallen so far behind.
Sure, I know we’re only talking about this particular week, which – apart from “minor” tardiness with last week’s entry - is the first time, probably this year, that I’ve fallen almost five days behind (yes, I’m being honest – today is actually Thursday 2nd April!) with an entry.
What can I say? Any touring professional will tell you that the first few days of the tour – almost irrespective of how organised one feels one is, when pulling out of production rehearsals – are indeed busy times: when the Artist is once again faced with a live audience – and possibly in conjunction with how the various parts of the show are received – said Artist may see an advantage in slightly “tweeking” the song order, changing certain lighting cues etc.
Subsequently, the production crew has to be on their toes, on the day of the second performance, to be prepared to effect those possible changes. In Olly’s particular situation – his massive popularity enabling him to sell out multiple nights in the major UK cities – the tour kicked off with two consecutive shows in Sheffield, therefore the production crew didn’t have a full load-in to contend with, before having action any small changes to the show.
Just realised something! I’m writing this - last week’s (Sunday 29th March) – diary entry, as if it’s this coming Sunday. In other words, the two Sheffield shows that I’m referring to were played yesterday, 1st April, and Tuesday 31st March. We touring guys have a common expression amongst ourselves, which would sum up the fact that I appear to be “neither here nor there” at the moment. However, I shouldn’t offend the ears of my delicate readership!
Anyway, by the time I pen this Sunday’s (5th) entry I will still be able to report on the two Cardiff shows (playing on 3rd & 4th April). This town doesn’t hold back at the weekend, so I’m anticipating a couple of particularly wild nights at the C.I.A. (Cardiff International Arena). You may remember (did I ever mention it?) that Alice and I also spent a fairly raucous New Year in Cardiff, billeted at a busy city centre hotel - that opened right onto the nightlife area, allowing us a “front row seat” to observe just how seriously Cardiff takes its New Year.
So, here I am with another six weeks in front of me, on Olly’s tour: as I mentioned, we are only two shows into a twenty-eight show run (twenty-three shows in the UK, two in Belfast – and three in Dublin), which takes us through to the final show in Liverpool, on May 9th. It seems a long way away at the moment and – again, as any seasoned “road dog” will tell you – when May 9th comes along, looking back to these first few days will seem like years ago (and on the likes of a three month North American tour, it can feel like you’ve lived a lifetime). Looking over many of my past touring accomplishments, I often wonder if that was really me?
Now, with the subject of touring once again featuring in a diary entry – and because hopefully (typically?) there will be a few memorable nights on this tour also - how’s about this week’s track being something of an undeniable rocker? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the iconic “Kiss” with a track that rarely fails to “up” one’s mood: “Crazy, Crazy Nights!”. Luv Ya’ll.
It’s that old familiar feeling: I’m on tour again, and my “diary punctuality” is slipping behind.
Here I sit in the Greenwich Novotel on Monday morning 23rd, trying (as I have done on countless previous occasions) trying to figure out, where the whole of yesterday disappeared to: but, of course, it was a London show – and at the O2, to boot – where the pomp and circumstance (i.e. the guest list and hospitality issues) can be all-consuming at such events.
The above is by no means confined to iconic rock bands such as The Who: it’s invariably just the fact that’s it’s the big city and the big rock show. You may recall that last night and tonight’s “Who” shows are actually re-scheduled performances originally due to take place on December 17th and 18th last year, but having to be postponed as a result of Roger’s illness.
I now have a further confession to make: I’m still sat in the Greenwich Novotel – indeed in the very same place where I penned the initial above two paragraphs – however (as of right now) it’s 10.55 am on Tuesday morning. Now, I’m not looking to be bathed in the spotlight of sympathy here, but I have to admit to not closing down the lid of this very laptop, until gone 03.30 am this morning – the main reason for that being that I’m due into Olly Murs production rehearsals later today, therefore I wanted to finish up all Who-related matters.
So – here comes seven weeks on Olly’s tour, consisting of twenty-three UK Arenas, with another three in Dublin and two in Belfast. Knowing, from experience, that anything over thirty arena shows qualifies as a major tour, then this upcoming tour will certainly rank within the top three UK arena tours, this year. As far as “top-grossing” goes – well, that’s something that I may just be able to exert some influence over. Doctor Jake will soon be in the house!
I’ll be back with The Who in June, when – as well as a huge outdoor show in London’s Hyde Park – we have a handful of European arenas to play. After that (although I intend to rectify the situation at the earliest opportunity!) I’m technically “unemployed”. Undoubtedly, as the years roll on – and I’m finally mortgage free into the bargain – there is not the mild desperation to be jumping onto another tour, within days of the previous one just finishing.
As you’re probably aware, two of my reasonably long-term clients (“Westlife” and “JLS”) decided to call it a day, which obviously caused a slight dent in my “regular” annual work schedules, therefore I’m probably in need of re-instating at least one other regular client. Much easier said than done, however – as I’ve continually stated – the phone can go at any time, with a management company (on the brink of confirming an extensive tour with a major Artist) in sudden need of the expertise which I have to offer. Not forgetting my rapier wit.
What can I leave you with this week, as the accompanying track, which would bear some form of relevance to what I have been rambling on about in the previous paragraphs? How’s about this jumping little tune from Huey Lewis (his rendition of an old soul classic – originally from Wilson Pickett maybe?) called “Don’t Fight It”, highlighting this week’s thoughts that the work will come, as it always does. The old “recovery rate” is just not as fast as years gone by!
As I sit here this Sunday, there is a canal-boating programme on the television (“Great Canal Journeys”) that has revived pleasant memories of the two occasions when I spent a little time on a rented canal boat, here in the UK: few holidays can match the sheer tranquility.
Furthermore, it is certainly something I would like to undertake again, on a future occasion - maybe even persuade one or both of the children to accompany me (they weren’t even born first time I did it). I would recommend you try this type of holiday, if you have the chance.
Late this afternoon, Alice and I returned from a weekend at Bognor Regis, a charming sea-side town on the south coast of England, yet only around ninety minutes distant on the train, even more convenient with Alice residing less than fifteen minutes from Victoria Station, the mainline station that serves several seaside towns, including Seaford, my recent home base.
From tomorrow (16th March) – with my commitment to The Who re-commencing, immediately followed by almost seven weeks on Olly Murs – I’m looking at eight weeks with no real day off, if a “day off” is to be defined as doing what you want, where you want: but it’s my life.
I continue to be intrigued by the Artists/Bands who’ve have managed to stay successful over the last forty years, but nevertheless are unable to figure out how to call a halt to the only thing they know how to do, the only thing that really inspires them, that (literally) keeps them alive. Some of those luminaries may yet take their last breath on a concert arena stage and, I suspect – providing they ideally had prior notice of such an occurrence and were therefore able to say their goodbyes to their loved ones – wouldn’t be too averse to leaving the world in such a fashion. The performance stage is truly where they all came/come to life.
While, professionally, I should continue to seek out future work prospects – from early July onwards, when the present tranche of work is complete – I can’t shake an increasingly nagging thought about the need to tip the balance of my work/personal life, more in my favour. I cannot yet afford (literally) to consider discontinuing my bread-and-butter line of work, however I am essentially involved in a “youthful” business and have to rely increasingly upon forward-looking management companies who recognize the benefit of experience. Having said all of that, my phone can go at any second and then I’m off at a moment’s notice.
One thing’s for sure, with me spending the upcoming eight weeks on the road: my diary entries will surely become more interesting and colourful! I believe I may have been writing these entries for almost ten years now (I must check – and verify this next week) and I would like to continue to do so, even though I would have to admit that the odd – hopefully not more – entries are somewhat cobbled together, often purely through sheer lack of time.
So where does that leave us, towards the end of this week’s entry, in respect of an appropriate music track? It’s only a matter of time before I nominate a duplicate track (I keep meaning to table all chosen tracks to date) however that won’t be this week, with the introduction of the Four Tops and “Shake Me, Wake Me”. Here comes the 16-hour days. XXX
Under review, I would have to admit to “banging on” about my football team’s achievement last week. Still, it’s the only time in my “supporting” lifetime that it’s ever likely to happen.
My diary, this week, is penned from a fairly “common” location: that is on the 1800, Sunday evening, northbound train – with a minor difference I might add: the train operator is no longer (as it has been for several years) “East Coast”, having been taken over by Virgin Trains, in the last few days (Virgin is also the current operator of the UK’s west coast line).
I’ve actually been down in London for an eight-day consecutive period, necessitated by several London contacts I needed to catch up/meet with, in conjunction with the annual ILMC (International Live Music Conference) that was held in London’s Royal Garden Hotel. The latter was an excellent opportunity to hook up with several European colleagues who I hadn’t seen for a good few years, probably as the result of my conscious decision to ease off on the Tour Management side of my business, in preference for Tour Accounting work. Alas, the latter tends to be focus on the UK market but I’m in no hurry to apply for my ninth passport!
The past week also afforded me the opportunity to “quietly” meet with a few of my trusted colleagues who operate within specialized areas of the entertainment industry, a couple of which pertain to specific offshoot projects, that are currently parked on the back burner. I can’t afford (literally) to ignore the possibility of diverging into other event-related areas of the entertainments business. I’m almost “over-qualified” within the concert-touring business.
This time, next week, I’ll be gearing up for the re-scheduled WHO shows at London’s O2 (22nd and 23rd of this month), with a few days’ rehearsals prior to that. The past two and a half months are possibly the most notably extensive “non-working” period I have experienced for a good long while. Nevertheless, I believe I have put that time to very efficient use, if only by allowing myself to decrease my speed of life, to where I can take stock of my future.
So, all in all, I believe myself to be in a pretty good place at this time – as I continue my quest to divest myself of many minor, self-incurred, distractions: both of domestic and professional origin. I can’t possibly – successfully – hope to see the variety of projects that are dancing around in my head, all come to practical fruition. Therefore, a realistic editing exercise is called for, the first steps of which (as simple as it may sound) will be to list the afore-mentioned projects on one A4 piece of paper and then prioritise from there: if I’m serious enough with seeing such an exercise through, then this will surely be borne out by the deletion of one or two unfeasible/unworkable projects. That – readers - will be a tough one!
In working my way through such a list, I will try to retain the projects that could hopefully combine elements of reality and “enjoyability”. This long – at times arduous - road, along which I have travelled and persevered, must surely lead to a comforting – and comfortable – place, but it’s up to me to recognise the signposts. In keeping with such sentiments, this week’s track (surprised it’s taken me until now, to choose this) is the Eagles “The Long Run”. Off I now must go - to make good the assertions in these paragraphs. So glad to have you. X
Well, you could say I waited 48 years for it to happen – and, yesterday, it actually did: my team Hearts (Heart of Midlothian, to give them their full title) scored ten goals in one game!
And the best part of it all? I was actually able to attend the game, before travelling to London by train, late yesterday afternoon! My train was scheduled to depart Haymarket (Edinburgh’s “second” station) at 4.57 pm therefore with Hearts stadium, “Tynecastle”, just over a mile distant from Haymarket, I had disciplined myself to leave the game at 4.30 pm which – in the end – was most fortuitous timing, as Hearts scored their final, 10th, goal in the seventy-fourth minute of the game, just two minutes before I had to leave for the station!
In addition to the 10-0 score-line meaning it was the highest score of any professional Scottish football club, in the last 50 years, I also witnessed our Dutch striker, Genaro Zeefuik, score three goals in three and a half minutes, the fastest Hearts “hat-trick” ever (since 1874!) - and the third fastest hat-trick in Scottish footballing history. What a brilliant afternoon: fortunately, I was able to be at the game to witness history being made.
Yesterday afternoon was not the only major sporting event in Edinburgh: the other (less than a mile from Hearts football stadium, at Murrayfield rugby stadium) sadly not going quite so well, from a Scottish international standpoint, with Italy finally running out 22-19 winners.
I’m just a little disappointed that my son wasn’t with me to witness such a monumental game, but also glad that I took the chance to attend the game, even though I was due to board that London bound train at 4.57 pm, with the kick-off time of the game having been 3.00 pm. Although not “statistically” the winners of the Championship League yet (and the honour that comes with it – being automatic promotion to the Scottish Premier League), Hearts only require 16 points from a possible 30 points, over the last ten games to play, to be promoted!
Apologies for banging on about the football, however I know fellow football fans understand!
Otherwise, this week (prior to travelling to London last night), I have finally made a start to unloading the various threads of my one-man football show idea: out of my head, and into a first-schedule draft. Those first baby steps are the most time-consuming aspects of such an innovative project. To bring such an idea to practical fruition is, without question, a huge undertaking and – at this point – I couldn’t honestly tell you if the idea will ever make it off the drawing board. However, the idea – by equal measures – has me fired up the one minute and then deflated (with the thought of the commitment needed to see it through) the next. This much I know – and this is what pushes me on to attempt to crystallize my thoughts: there’s nothing out there that could be considered in any way to represent any “competition”.
In closing this most exciting of weeks, there’s no way I can ignore my team’s outstanding performance yesterday, when I look to nominate this week’s diary’s accompanying track. Therefore, I have chosen the aptly-named Candi Staton anthem ”Young Hearts Run Free”. Yesterday will not be repeated in my lifetime: so glad we were able to share it together! XXX
Whatever possessed me to cycle to the Garden Centre, here in my hometown of Dunbar, with today’s howling wind and the accompanying intermittent rain? As I struggled up the slight incline (although it felt like the north face of the Eiger) of Spott Road – at a near standstill – I vaguely reflected that the decision to look out the bike, demonstrated no use of any logic.
However, on the positive side, even the fifteen minutes of toil to reach the Garden Centre feels beneficial, both mentally and physically. Such benefits – gained even from as little as twenty minutes vigorous exercise a day – are well documented: you just have to believe in that, and subsequently motivate yourself to get out there (at times in all weathers) and do it.
I totally indulged myself yesterday by taking almost twelve hours out of the day, to travel to the southern Scottish town of Dumfries to watch my beloved Hearts take on “Queen of the South”. We managed to win the game 2-1 with only five minutes remaining but, boy, did we ever “get out of jail free” with that result. Queen of the South actually, in my view, played the more attractive football - with our response just being to “hump” the ball from back to front, with that method meeting not with success – but with two resolute QOS defenders!
My trip involved taking three different trains from Dunbar (via Newcastle and Carlisle) to reach Dumfries, however only one change was involved on the return trip, namely a twenty- minute “layover” at Newcastle station. The most surprising (refreshing) part of the day – apart from the discovery of a slice of home made “Battenburg” cake in a very friendly little coffee shop on the walk from Dumfries station to the football ground – was to find that I was in a “standing” part of Queen of the South’s ground, rather than in the seating allocation. I guess that, with the healthy demand for “away” match tickets (as Hearts are enjoying such a successful run of form), many of the opposition teams are re-aloocating the available areas of viewing for their own fans, in preference to squeezing more space for the exceptional demand of the Hearts fans. Hence, I found myself pleasantly located on the “terracing”.
Otherwise, the past week – since returning from London last Monday – has (painfully) been revolved around completing my last year’s company accounts, in preparation for a visit to my accountant’s office this coming Friday. Try as I might, over the years, I’ve struggled to wrestle any “change” out of the two days work required to have everything done and dusted, to the point where I do not incur unnecessary charges for additional bookkeeping services.
Still, that’s it done now for another year, leaving me free to push on with more beneficial tasks, specifically ensuring that a steady stream of work is lined up for the second half of this year: I’ll probably take a couple of week’s off after Olly’s tour is completely cleared up, which should be around the middle of May. Come to me “LastMinute.com” – I’ll sure need you!
Being that the annual accounts are now out of my life for another twelve months, I’m racking my brains for an appropriate track to accompany this week’s entry – and this I have come up with: the legend that is Frankie Miller (in this part of the world anyway) with “Ain’t Got No Money”, which I sincerely hope is not the case, once my accounts are audited! Still love y’all!
We’re Back in Victoria, this evening at 5.15 pm – with Alice heading out to work for 6.00 pm.
Actually, we’ve just returned from Eastbourne, where we spent this “Valentine’s” weekend, having left here (Victoria) at 10.00 am yesterday morning: a relaxed 36-hour break indeed.
Eastbourne worked for several reasons: Victoria station is only ten minutes from Alice’s place of work; there is a plentiful supply of inexpensive accommodation options; there are equally a wide choice of reasonably-priced restaurants – and it’s only 70 minutes of a train journey. We can highly recommend our choice of restaurant for our Valentine’s dinner in Eastbourne, namely “Excuis” on Pevensey Road, only a ten-minute stroll from the town’s East pier.
Facing the English Channel naturally brought back memories of my year spent in Seaford (only five miles to the West of Eastbourne) during which time I enjoyed the best of light, as the Seaford apartment faced due south. Earlier today, strolling along the Eastbourne promenade, we witnessed many people enjoying ice-cream cones in mid February. Ice cream?!
The landlady of the B&B (“The Atlanta”) in which we stayed last night in Eastbourne – another establishment certainly worth a complimentary mention – upgraded our room to a sea-view location. Sat in the alcove window, with the magnified warmth of the sun streaming through the bay window of the main room, I was in my absolute element. Easy to please, huh?
Suffice to say that the past thirty-six hours have been surprisingly beneficial, in a thought provoking sense. Much as though I love my little house in quaint Dunbar, I don’t always find it easy to switch out of “admin mode” when I’m on home soil, the main reason probably being down to the fact that it’s also my work base, during the periods that I’m back off the road. Let me say that, in time, I am confident of reversing that state of affairs. However, particularly at this time of year, when it’s pitch black by 5.40 pm, I’m definitely not at my creative best when I can’t see anything when I peer out of the window. Darkness depresses.
Even at a distance of just over 400 miles (between Dunbar and Eastbourne) there is a noticeable difference in the “sun-up” time: in Dunbar it is currently just after 07.30 am, whereas I was wide awake this morning at 7.05 am in Eastbourne, with daylight flooding through the room at The Atlanta. I may yet be lured back down south within a few years!
The plan, therefore – going forward in the upcoming week – must be to develop several positive lines of thinking, which have been (literally) illuminated by today’s brilliant sunshine: however, that will count for little if those thoughts and ideas are not ordered into some sort of prioritised approach. Then, the real discipline: walk away from the unrealistic projects. Boy - therein lies my Achilles heel, therefore I definitely have some decisive times ahead.
In closing this week’s entry, a very appropriate choice of track (particularly as I am a 40+ year fan of the band) – keeping in mind the station that we departed from yesterday – has got to be The Kinks with “Victoria”. The good times have not eluded me just yet! Loving y’all.
A fine good evening from a rather deserted Dunbar-bound train, having just left Newcastle.
I have left behind a bright sunny day (and Alice) in London, to be accosted – I’m sure – by a noticeable dip in temperature, back in the homeland. To Scotland go (return?) the brave.
That’s me been back in the UK now since Wednesday evening (4th), having arrived in from the Philippines, at the culmination of my ten-day trip, down in South East Asia. Stepping into the night air outside London Heathrow’s Terminal 4, upon my return, once again raised the question of “how many more UK winters can I endure?”. This “pressing” issue’s not going away.
In respect of this year, the Philippines trip has hopefully occurred at a strategic interval (time will tell), in breaking up the malaise that is always in danger of dragging me down a little, during January and February. I technically now have three weeks to make efficient use of, before I’m back into the mainstream of touring work: “efficient” being the key word. Once on tour, it’s been extensively documented by yours truly, that it’s bye-bye to “me time”, therefore there’s a real need for me to utilise my down-time diligently and effectively.
I have already started to formulate the spreadsheet programmes for Olly Murs’s upcoming arena tour, which – possibly with the exception of the “One Direction” arena tour later in the year – is currently jostling for the crown of “most extensive UK Arena tour of 2015”.
Will Olly professionally “outlast” the One Direction lads, in this notoriously fickle business of ours? I know who my money is on. Sure, the One Direction lads – coming off the back of being voted “Biggest Band in the World in 2014” – won’t be struggling to pay their household bills for a long time to come: they will, however, struggle to venture out into any corner of the Western world, unaccompanied. I seriously would not swap my existence for theirs - and I would only hope that for the lads’ (One Direction) sake, normality might once again be theirs.
It’s my view that it’s surely now proving increasingly harder for a “modern day” Artist or Artists (let’s say the likes of One Direction, Rita Ora, for example) to sustain longevity of their career(s) in the same vein that the likes of Elton John, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney have accomplished – if only because the whole entertainment landscape has experienced a major shift of emphasis, with so many divergent strands to it, nowadays. I’m sure that longevity is also affected by the amount of individuals in any one band, from the point of view of the impending danger of personal/professional differences eventually causing a breakup.
From where I sit (but certainly not wanting to burst any aspiring Artist’s bubble) I’m floored by the ambition and commitment of many fledgling Artists, unwittingly aware, as they are, of how heavily the odds are stacked against them, to be able to sustain a successful career – especially if they don’t enable me to assist them through the minefield of touring issues!!
Not far away from Dunbar now - and at the risk of duplicating a previous track (I have the oddest feeling about this) let’s go with The Doobie Brothers and “Long Train Runnin’”. XXX
Two days late with the diary: sat in a Manila hotel, recovering from “Montezuma’s Revenge”.
I’ll guess you’ll be looking to me to expand upon such a perfunctory opening line. Here we go.
The reason for the delay (a plausible reason for once) is linked indeed to the “Montezuma’s Revenge”. Fact is, that in a probably a total of ten visits to The Philippines and Thailand combined, I’ve never been the victim of any noticeable bout of sickness – but this time it got me, did it ever. I’ve tracked it back to a lunchtime fish dish on the beach at Borucay Bay, where I spent a few days last week. With hindsight? It would still have been unavoidable.
Not sure what may eventually come of this trip (business wise) however the flight and a few of the hotel nights were paid by the Manila-based company, allowing me a good few days to chill, at relatively minor cost. Right now, it’s Tuesday night, and I’m out of this city centre hotel at 06.00 am in the morning, en-route for the first Qatar Airways departure at 08.35 am, from here to Doha, with a rather efficient connection – 1 hour – before I board the London flight, the outcome of all of that being that I’m back at Heathrow tomorrow evening.
I’ve certainly had some personal quality time down here that’s enabled me to order my thoughts and plans somewhat more realistically, than the previous jumble that they represented. In addition, I’ve also (bravely?) held off chasing any work from June onwards: I’m fairly well covered up until then, save the next few weeks. The reason for the latter course of action is another “crossroads of dilemma” for me: being that my work day is all-consuming when I’m on the road – with little or no time to attend to my personal life – I’m increasingly aware of my own life (of which I’m unquestionably in the latter half) essentially being parked, throughout those touring periods. Unarguably, this is a small cause for concern.
On the other hand, I’m a good ways from “home and dry” financially, therefore I’m really in no position to turn down any decent tranche of work. I’ve previously said that if I can push on this year, then I (finally) can afford – literally – to be selective with projects from there on.
I’m now also hoping to have an involvement with Olly’s European dates, which commence in mid-May, less than a week after the UK Arena shows are finished, however I’m just waiting to check that doesn’t clash with another medium sized touring project that I’m aware I’ve been short-listed for. I do enjoy being around Olly’s touring organisation though, so my leaning is towards being involved with said European dates as well. Watch this space, folks.
After that, The Who has a two-week period of a mixture of types of shows (Ireland; outdoors at Hyde Park; Paris and Amsterdam) – and I would certainly like to be free for those as well. It’s crucially important nowadays, for me to be working in comfortable set-ups.
And what little ditty to accompany this week’s entry? Well, you won’t have to use much imagination on this one – referring back to this week’s opening paragraphs - as I leave you with Julie Felix’s punchy rendition of the iconic Bob Dylan classic “Blowing in the Wind”. XXX
I have the sneaking suspicion this is not the first time I’ve done this in Doha airport – although it may be the first time in Doha airport I’ve penned the diary as early as 06.45 am!
I’m in transit, down to South East Asia, primarily to hook up with my business associate Russell Mason in Manila as - off the back of a couple of previous forays to The Philippines over the last few years – we may be fairly close to an involvement in a couple of big, music orientated, outdoor events in mid summer of this year. Our own “Thriller in Manila” indeed.
The above is testimony of the need for me to spread my business wings somewhat and keep a weather eye on what other event-orientated projects I may be able to graft myself onto. From my personal perspective, I find it difficult to understand (accept?) that decades of experience wouldn’t automatically position me front and centre for every challenging position that came along.
However, I’ve come to learn that this business of mine certainly can, to a fair degree, pay homage to the old dictate that “it’s not what you know – but who you know”.
In my particular case, I “know” many: however, many of those - in turn - know that I know what they are up to, therefore this does little for my ongoing employment prospects, but there’s not much I can do about that now. I’m just going to concentrate on the “few” that clearly see the (financial) sense in having a guy like me involved with their touring operations.
This time of year – as I probably touched upon last week – is traditionally slow in the touring world, so of late I’ve learned not to get too disillusioned about it. I make a few enquiries, I chase up a few contacts and then I think “Damn, why don’t I head down to The Philippines, hopefully develop my ideas for down there – and take in a few days R ‘n R at the same time?”.
As with the likes of Thailand and Vietnam, the people of the Philippines have a very commendable, positive, outlook on life - considering the relative hardships that the majority of the population face in their everyday lives. Someone put it rather well on one of the southeast Asia travel bulletin boards that I happened across in the past few weeks: “The majority of these people regularly exhibit courtesy, fondness - and genuine engagement – on the one day, not knowing possibly where they will find the money to eat, the next day”. I doubt they would have any complaints about living in our world, but boy would most of us struggle to rough it out in theirs. So being down here (not Doha!) can indeed prove to be a humbling experience. Which is possibly one of the main reasons I return here fairly often.
All of the above said, it’s been unavoidably another (connecting) long-distance flight to get me down to the South East Asia region and, as you know, I’ve undertaken a good few of those in my time: so I’m truly not sure how many more I have left in me, business wise, although – paradoxically – I’m never as comfortable as when I’m on the move. Another dilemma to solve!
Right: to this week’s accompanying track. What might be appropriate, what might reflect the mood? How’s about the Commodores “Easy (on Sunday morning)” - to reflect the time that I’m sat here – with its instantly recognisable guitar solo. Until next week, from S.E. Asia. XX.
Dealing with Winter, I have to tell you, is not becoming any easier with (my?) increasing age.
Here I sit at the kitchen table this Sunday evening (that’s impressive already huh – penning my diary on the correct day?) at 4.45 pm and it is nothing less than “pitch” black outside.
Nevertheless, Alice and I have made the best of the “limited” light today by venturing out before midday and gently cruising around the East Lothian countryside (in “Easirent’s” finest Skoda “Yeti” rental car) taking in, predominately, the quaint coastal town of North Berwick. I’m sure my fellow Dunbar residents wouldn’t mind me saying so, but North Berwick is viewed (not necessarily by “us”!) as slightly more upmarket than down the coast here, in Dunbar.
This has probably come about through a combination of several factors – it’s historic links with golf giving it some early middle-class “notoriety” perhaps? Added to that, North Berwick enjoys more of a sheltered “cove-like” location, where most of the town meets the water. Finally, borne of vivid childhood memories, North Berwick is able to boast “real” sand.
Property price wise, there’s an immediately noticeable 15% or so rise in North Berwick’s like-on-like values. Therefore, in spite of the town also being able to boast a railway link (albeit, an “end-of-line” station) – and five miles closer to Edinburgh doesn’t do it any harm either, I guess – North Berwick undoubtedly enjoys a more desirable reputation than our wee toon!
Work-wise, Olly Murs tour is certainly in the book, entailing almost seven weeks involvement between late March and mid May. As I mentioned last week, I’m homing in on a couple, as-yet-to-be-confirmed, short term projects, between now and when I undertake The Who’s rescheduled shows on 22nd & 23rd March (with rehearsals commencing approximately the 19th), so – unable to go “public” on the aforementioned short-term projects, I’ll let you know, maybe even by next week, how that’s coming along. Next priority is work from June onwards.
Psychologically (compared to where it’s been on many occasions in the past) my head is in a fairly good place at the moment: sure, the first six weeks of the year are very quiet - not unusual at this time of year – but, as the years progress, I’m convinced I’m putting any available down-time to increasingly efficient use, even if only to dedicate it to my good self!
There is not untold width between where I am financially and where I securely feel I need to be: even if my annual workload drops off (say) 40% from the level I have attained, on average over the last few years, I’ll manage to get there within a couple of years. Of course, if I can reach that target sooner – without undue stress on my wee aging body – then all the better, as it follows that the fitter I am, the more enjoyment I can take from any excess earnings.
In closing this week – in reasonably sharp contrast to how I’ve structured it on the majority of previous diary entries – I’m going to leave you with a track that comes from an album that is actually playing on my stereo at home right now. The album in question is Rod Stewart’s “Human” (released 2001) and a lovely mellow track called “Don’t Come Around Here”. Respect.
What’s this about Chicago being the “Windy City”? It could have been Dunbar this past week!
Mind you, while Dunbar can hardly lay claim to being a city, it can certainly lay claim to the wind: this has been my first real experience of just how bad it can get here, during the winter. Not that we really had much to complain about, in terms of what the West and far North of Scotland had to endure. At the time of writing, Alice’s daughter Sarah and her husband Chris (located just north of Wick) have now been without power for four days! Jeez.
Said weather conditions have not put me off Dunbar where – on another weather tack – I’m reliably informed that snow is something of an annual rarity, just to “balance things up” a little. Harking back to the wind for a second, I did indeed wonder – as I placed mine at the end of the drive awaiting tomorrow morning’s collection – why none of my neighbours’ bins were out this evening. A quick check on mine, about ten minutes ago, told it’s own story: lying on its side with the various individual refuse bags spilling out from within. Back it has come!
On the business side of things, I can now reveal that I’m confirmed – as the Tour Accountant - on Olly Murs upcoming UK arena tour, commencing late March. Prior to that, there are a couple of smaller projects that I have on the go – the most certain of those being the re-schedulement of the two previously cancelled “Who” London O2 shows, now set for 22nd and 23rd March, but which will require my presence for a few days prior to that, at rehearsals.
Otherwise, there is another three-week project possibly pending from mid February onwards which I’m happy to expand upon, once I know a little more of my potential involvement – and everything is in place: all will be come clearer, in this particular respect, within a fortnight.
I’m so pleased to be involved with Olly Murs again: a great guy (he’ll still be here long after many of his posturing contemporaries are gone); a great production company and – most importantly for me as you have no doubt gathered from my past deliberations – a great crew.
As a distinct pointer towards the continuing gentle escalation of Olly’s career, this upcoming 2015 tour features several multiple-show cities, negating the requirement for crew sleeper buses, in all but two of the city-to-city movements. The nights spent on the crew bus, with Olly’s technicians – especially if we are travelling in to a day off – have indeed been memorable occasions – nevertheless, you won’t find me complaining about more hotel rooms.
Of minor concern (but not necessarily on the financial side) is the lack of work between now and mid February – a not uncommon situation for guys in my trade, at this time of year. Consequently, I’ve decided to take up an invite from both the major China and Philippines’ concert promoters to zip down - in early February - to South East Asia, to look at some event ideas of mine that, I believe, will particularly lend themselves to that part of the world.
In closing this week – and with the opening theme of this week’s diary “leaning” towards the current windy weather - why not leave you with Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Chicago”? XXXX
My goodness, it almost seems like it was last year since we’ve spoken! Time does indeed fly.
So here we are (all) facing another year of our existence on this mortal coil, with little accurate idea of how long we may actually be here. Oddly enough, Alice and I watched an excellent TV programme last night about the late, great, Sammy Davis Jnr – one of whose longtime associates was featured on the documentary - and who informed us that Sammy was a man who was obsessed with living life to the full, consistently claiming “this ain’t no dress rehearsal”. These very words have been bouncing around my head for the last 24 hours.
What a nuisance that we have no fixed idea of when (and, in the majority of cases, how) we will depart this world: otherwise we could plan the time that we have left, accordingly. I mean, if you knew you were only good for the next couple of months, cleaning the windows wouldn’t even feature on the landscape of concern, would it? But, maybe it shouldn’t - ever?
Excuse me, for a second diary entry running, if I appear to be drifting down the Melancholy River but I would probably claim that this is not an uncommon sentiment within the thought processes of my peers. How do you explain to a forty year-old, how a sixty year-old views the world? Instant thought, brought about by me just typing the words “sixty year-old” on the previous line: I know this is hardly an uncommon claim, from men and women in my age group, but I genuinely don’t feel myself to be anywhere near my sixty-two years (Alice will be the first one to tell you that I rarely ever act it, often to the point of immature foolishness – still, rather that than the alternative, where I might end up taking myself too seriously).
So the buzzword, going forward into this uncharted year of 2015, has to be “positive”, and I hereby promise to you, my faithful (but possibly dwindling) readership that I will endeavor to see the glass as half full, on all possible occasions. If all I succeed in accomplishing is actually reading the multitude of positive-thinking e-mails that I have regularly downloaded from a particular website bulletin board - that specialises in that very subject - then that will be a positive move in itself. One key to the success of this new mission of mine will be “the music”.
I have one particular “home-made” CD selection of tracks that – in the majority of low-ebb situations – can always be guaranteed to escalate me from any impending attack of the doldrums. Coincidentally (well, not really – because I sort of engineered it, in certain cases) many of the tracks from that CD have featured as my accompanying track on past weekly diary entries. Once again, I must lay claim to having lived through a wonderful musical age.
Let’s see if the “positive” approach can pave the way for a successful year - in every way, most importantly in respect of my own personal contentment level, with whatever tours and/or projects I may become involved with (in respect of a few of the projects, 2015 will count as “now or never”). The other “P” word is undoubtedly “Priority”: if I can get a handle on that, and stick by it, then I can clear a path through the undergrowth of business admin. What better track, then, this week to accompany the diary, than Elvis the Pelvis singing “It’s Now or Never”. Good to have you with me over the upcoming twelve months. Happy New Year!
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