Thursday 8 November 2012

Ed Stenger sensibly suggested I put each chapter as a new post saving readers scrolling down all the time. didn't know I could do that. Thanks again, Ed.


                               Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 4

It was a long letter getting me up to date with his life since we had last met.On the first page Neil wrote. 
" How wonderful to hear from you, how terrible to hear from you where you are ! I hope you are serving your incarceration with your sense of humour intact. I am glad to hear a modest post card could do you some good in there as I will never forget your generosity ( how I appreciated and needed those occasional " fivers " you pressed upon me )  Not to mention your refusal to consider my request to get involved in your clandestine occupations. Fear of destitution will remove any principals of ethics and morals. I certainly learned that and but for your open heartedness I may have ended up where you are now. No condescension meant here, as I say it could easily have been me, more than once it has been the lack of nerve that has kept me honest. " 
My request for a few signed post cards was also answered. However when it came to the geezer who was such a fan that he changed his name, Neil wrote “I am glad my father never named me after one of his favourites like Frank or Bing. Remember fan is short for fanatic, and a fanatic shot John Lennon. Keep this guy away from me “ There was no signed post card for Mr. Rush !
For those who know of Neil’s “letters to Brutus”, another friend of his who also ended up in prison, you will realize what a wonderful writer of letters Neil is, and how his script cheered me up.
When I was released from prison I returned to Manchester, and was able to write some longer letters to Neil. In prison I had been limited to four sides of fairly small paper. Neil’s excellently written scripts, over a period of time, changed from being hand written to being printed on a word processor. I seem to recall some of the early ones being in a peculiar purple colour. I was slowly becoming aware that Rush were a very successful band. To quote Mr. Peart “We have been successful on our own terms, which is nice” I understood this to mean they only recorded material they had written. I had also discovered that my old mate was responsible for the lyrics to their music.

Some time during the next year, I guess around May 1985, I heard from Neil that Rush were visiting England to do some recording at the Manor Studio in Oxford. (Power Windows ?) He also informed me that he would like to travel up to Manchester one Saturday, and spend an evening with Jackie, and I. At last I was to meet my old friend. I have to admit I was very excited, not that he was now a member of a recording band, but just the thought of seeing my lanky Canadian friend again.

The day eventually arrived. I stood in Piccadilly train station wondering if I would recognize him after all those years. Would he have all the trappings of a rock star? Adorned with long hair, and wild clothes? We recognized each other immediately. However Neil looked nothing like your typical rock musician. He had very short hair, baggy dark trousers, and a light blue kagool. We hugged each other, smiled a little nervously, but within minutes it felt like we had never been apart. A situation that would manifest itself each time we were to meet, no matter how long it had been since we had last seen each other.
We drove back to my flat in an old van I had borrowed. Neil told me what a pleasure it had been to travel on a train, and no one knew who he was. Something, he said, wouldn’t be possible back home in Toronto. I couldn’t help wondering if he was slightly over stating his band’s popularity. We arrived at my ground floor flat, and Neil met my live in girl friend, Jackie. I had previously told him that the basement flat was inhabited by a 60’s pop drummer. A guy called Bernie Dwyer who had played with Freddie and the Dreamers. After getting up to date with what had been happening in each others lives, Neil announced he would like to take us for a meal that night. However he seemed to be very interested to meet Bernie. I suggested we popped down to my local pub, The Barleycorn, where I knew Bernie would be. True to form Bernie was sat on his usual stool by the bar holding court. He was a lovely, lovely guy with a wicked sense of humour. Generous to a fault but not guy you would  take liberties with. Bernie could look after himself. Sadly he passed away a few years ago. Amazingly Neil seemed a little in awe of this 60’s pop star, but Bernie soon made him very welcome, and they got on like a house on fire, swapping tales of touring with bands. Once again Neil said how good it was to be able to have a drink, and relax without being bothered by fans. Again I thought this was a little over the top. As far as I knew, no one in the pub had even heard of Rush, never mind knew what Neil looked like.
I couldn’t have been more wrong ! A very good friend of mine called Chris Lea was a massive fan. I had no idea at the time, and Chris, who was in The Barleycorn that evening hadn’t a clue his hero was stood by the bar. I saw Chris a couple of times but thought maybe because I was in company he didn’t come over. Chris remembers the situation rather differently. He says he can’t recall seeing the four of us, but even if he had, the thought that Neil Peart could possibly be in his local, would never have crossed his mind.

I will tell more of that later in this story.
We had an enjoyable meal at a small inexpensive local restaurant that I chose. I often wondered in later years when I found out just how wealthy Neil was, what he thought of my choice.We returned to our flat, and had a drink as we reminisced. We had only one bed room, but Neil insisted he would be alright sleeping on a single mattress in the living room. As Jackie and I went to bed we left this famous drummer reading a book. I was to find out later Neil was a prolific reader, and very knowledgeable about all sorts of authors and their history. I still wasn’t aware that one of the best rock drummers in the world was curled up on my living room floor. The next day after breakfast, rather than let Neil travel by train, I drove him back to Oxford in the borrowed van. This was the reason I had borrowed it so we could travel back to the recording studio. It was just like the old days, my Canadian friend, and I travelling along the motorways. Nothing had changed, we talked all the way there, and Neil acted as navigator in the latter stages.
The Manor studio was a lot different to the tiny one English Rose had used back those days in London. It was set in its own grounds, and was an impressive old building. Richard Branson was the owner, and it was interesting to hear the staff say when he visited the studio, he knew all their names and chatted with them. A story I was to hear many times over the years with his various companies.

Neil was recording that afternoon so he asked if I would like to hang around, and watch. He also introduced me to the other two members of Rush, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, plus some people connected with the band. Just before he started recording Neil gave me a cheque as repayment for those odd fivers I had given in him London all those years ago. I won't say what the amount was but the rate of interest was much more than I would have got from a bank ! I stayed a while but as Neil was working, and it wasn't really my kind of music, I said my goodbyes, and headed home to Manchester.

Later that year Rush came back over to London to, I think, mix the new album. I am not sure but maybe it was at a studio called Sarne Street East. I travelled down to London, and we had a wonderful meal in a little French restaurant. That was one occasion when I hoped to spend all evening with Neil but he had to back in the studio by around ten, so our evening ended a little early for me.
The telephone has never been Neil’s favoured mode of contact, I have only spoken to him by phone a few times in all the years we have known each other, but we kept in touch regularly by post over the next few months.. No internet in those days.

                                             Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 5


Later that year, probably in the summer, the Barleycorn social club went on a boozy weekend trip to the Isle of Man, a small island off the N. W. of England. There was around forty of us including regulars and staff.
On the Saturday evening I was sat in the hotel bar with the rest of our group. Chris Lea was beside me and Bernie Dwyer ( the old Freddie and the Dreamers drummer ) a couple of seats away. Chris’s version is slightly different to mine, but I defer to his excellent memory. I knew Chris was a graphic designer, and some how in the conversation I mentioned I knew someone who had got in trouble who designed album covers, Neil had told me Hugh Syme, the guy responsible for their album artwork, had been jailed for fraud. Neil seems to have a few good friends who fell foul of the law !
When Chris asked me who I was referring to, I told him. Immediately Chris’s attitude changed. He seemed suspicious that I had even heard of Hugh Syme. Bernie, being the loveable rogue he was, caught on, and started to wind Chris up by asking me who else I knew from Canada. By now Bernie was aware that Chris was into Rush, but not to what degree.
Sensing there could be a laugh to be had, but not sure why, I went on to tell Chris, I didn’t know the unfortunate Mr. Syme, but was an old friend of the group’s drummer. Convinced now that this was a wind up, probably instigated by his work mates who knew of his love of all things Rush, and were on the trip. Chris started to ask me questions. Like what the drummer was called ? “Neil Peart”,  I replied pronouncing it correctly. What were the names of their albums etc? I couldn’t name one, but assured him I was telling the truth. More questions bombarded me, but the clincher was when Chris asked me if Neil wrote to me, and if so what was special about the writing paper. My reply floored him.
“The paper has from “The desk of Neil Peart” printed on the top”, I answered. Apparently year’s earlier, letters to a magazine from Neil, had shown this to be true.
Mr Lea totally bewildered, but now convinced I really did know this god of rock, just sat there in disbelief, shaking his head. Bernie, with perfect timing, then went on to drop the bomb shell, not only had he met Neil in Manchester earlier that year, but they had had a drink in the Barleycorn. To make matters even worse he added that Chris had been in the pub on the night in question, and had only been a few feet away from Neil. Chris’s face was a picture.

Crestfallen, distraught, unbelieving and in a total state of shock the poor guy just kept repeating “Never, never, I can’t believe it, Neil Peart was in my pub, AND I was there without knowing”
Ironically this bit of good natured leg pulling was to have a profound effect on Chris’s life in the future .
After a couple of stiff drinks and a little time Chris pulled himself together and went on to tell me just how brilliant and successful a band Rush were. He also told me my old mate was one of the best rock drummers in the world, if not the best. Now it was my turn to be gob smacked. Chris reeled off album after album. The fact that Rush were extraordinarily highly regarded in rock circles the world over was beginning to sink in. We talked, and drank into the early hours, oblivious to the rest of our party. I wanted to know every little detail about Neil and his band.
When Chris eventually went to bed that Sunday morning, he could be heard mumbling “Neil Peart was in my pub”, shaking his head in disbelief. I in turn could hardly take in just what my colonial cousin had achieved,
Neil and I kept in touch over the next year or so. He sent me all sorts of printed matter about the band, a brochure of The Chalet Studio, where they recorded, and kept me up to date with their progress. Copies of Drummer magazine, where not only was he a regular writer, but also had his picture on one of the covers. My friend really was a rock star. In return I kept Neil up to date with my life, and my criminal enterprises. By now I was involved in a crime called L F's. Long firm fraud, which is company fraud aimed at building up maximum credit, then disappearing leaving unpaid accounts. For obvious reasons I couldn't go into too many details, so in some ways Neil wasn't totally aware of the level of criminality I was operating at.
In the meantime on arrival home from The Isle of Man, Chris came round to my flat laden with Rush albums, and over a period of weeks we listened to them with Chris explaining all he could about each song. To be honest, the music wasn’t my cup of tea, and I found a lot of it very heavy going. But my friend was playing the drums and had written the words, so I had an avid interest from that point of view.
Each time Neil wrote he always finished by writing “say hello to Bernie”. In my letters I told of this guy in Manchester who was a big fan, and was kindly leading me through their music. Also knowing Neil’s wonderful sense of humour, I related the story of that night in The Isle of Man when Bernie, and I had wound Chris up, and his reaction to realizing Neil had been in the Barleycorn without Chris knowing.
With typical Peart humour, and loving the story, Neil in one of his missives added to his usual “hello to Bernie,” “and say hi to Chris “ When I showed this to Chris, his reaction was priceless. I could never have believed those few words could have meant so much. I suspect Neil did, and typical of the man, that was probably why he wrote them.
Neil and Chris are very similar in many ways. Both have artistic ability, and interest in most things connected to art. Both have excellent recall. Very funny guys who once they have decided you are a friend, then it is for life. Unlike many people I know they also accept my many mistakes in life, and are not judgemental about my criminal past. I gauge my friends by how I feel when we meet. Whether I saw them last week, or many months or even years ago, I always get a warm feeling meeting certain people. These two are very high on that particular list.
Oh, and did I forget to say they both play the drums?
Also they were to have a very tragic time in their lives within a few months of each other.
The trans Atlantic mail continued to flow. I felt very sorry for Neil having to try and decipher my atrocious hand writing, but he seemed to do so without too much complaint. No word processor for me in those days. One morning sometime in 1987, I received a telegram from Neill. Rush were touring Canada, and North America, and he wanted me to ring him in America. The person I had to ask for was called, Hank Kimble.
I made the call, asked for Mr. Kimble, and was put through. Not really knowing what to say I sort of mumbled that Neil Peart had asked me to speak to this guy Kimble. A recognizable laugh boomed down the phone as Neil announced he was Mr. Kimble. This was the name he was using on the tour as not to be bothered by fans. A ploy I was to find out was used by all three members of Rush while on the road. After a little small talk ( I said Neil wasn’t one for talking on the phone, ) he announced that Rush were to tour Great Britain, and Europe the coming spring, and would I be interested in some work ? I said “yes” and with no more ado Neil told me the details would be posted to me, bade farewell and hung up.
As I sat there reflecting what I may have let myself in for, I felt sure I was too old for humping gear around, I thought of Chris. We arranged to meet in the Barleycorn that evening, and I told him of my news. Understandably his first reaction was he would see his favourite band again. Then he got excited for me as well. We sat drinking and trying to guess what my duties would be, where they would play, and a hundred other thoughts on this news. Over the next few weeks Chris, and I spent a lot of time trying to work out where Rush would play, how many shows, and how long “my tour” would be.
I then had a letter from Neil telling me my job in fact was to drive him independently of the rest of the band. While Alex, Geddy, and the main players of the Rush entourage would either travel by limo, train, or fly, we were to do the whole trip by road. Neil and I would be travelling together in a car. The financial arrangements were Neil could spend half of Alex and Geddy’s expenses on his travel expenses. This was to be the first time Neil had travelled independently of the others while touring anywhere.
Now I got really excited, the thought of us driving possibly thousands of miles together would just be like an improved version of those old days. Mr Peart’s thinking was we could travel in a “smallish saloon”, while Alex and Geddy were chauffeur driven in a limo, and thus avoid the attention of the fans. I knew a guy who had a fairly new Audi. I suggested to Neil we could maybe hire it for the duration of the tour. For some reason that idea got no reply in the next letter I received
I was soon to find out why.
A few days later a package arrived in the post. It had a booklet in with all the tour locations, which hotels we would stay in. All the information was there about each venue, and when Neil and I ( and the others ) would be travelling, and how.
On the front it said
Rush Hold Your Fire Tour ‘88 Europe & UK
The dates were as follows.
Thurs. 21st NEC Birmingham
Sat, 23rd NEC Birmingham
Sun. 24th NEC Birmingham
Tues, 26th SEC Glasgow
Thur. 28th Wembley Arena, London
Fri. 29th Wembley Arena, London
Sat. 30th, Wembley Arena, London
Mon. 2nd Ahoy Sportshall Rotterdam
Wed 4th Festhalle, Frankfurt
Thur. 5th Hans Martin Schleyer Hall, Stuttgart.

Three nights in the NEC, three nights at Wembley arena, just how big are these guys?
I would find out in April.

I have posted two chapters this time as I have commitments next week, so there won't be another post for a fornight.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Critica Music.

    Call me Peter, please, CR. Mr always makes me think it is police, or tax related, and I am sure you know neither are amongst my favourite organizations. Thanks for your kind comments. It was for people, like yourself, from the TNMS Rush site who I originally wrote these stories for. I had heard, or read, so many comments that showed the conception, of most, of NEP were so far removed from the truth. Certainly his being uncomfortable around fans doesn't help. I just wanted people to know they guy I know.

  3. CR.

    I have no idea how your post was deleted. I certainly didn't do it deliberately, but as I am the only one on here that can, I must be the guilty one. Sorry once again, if you want to re post it, please do.