Thursday 27 December 2012

Part 2

In May 1973, exactly one week after Sunderland won the FA Cup, I flew to Jersey in the Channel Islands. I had a one way ticket, two nights accommodation paid for in a hotel, and twenty five pounds cash. I knew only one person there, a. guy called Ian Nixon who I went to senior school with. We had met up the previous Christmas in Carlisle, and Ian had told me what a wonderful place Jersey is. Through Ian I found work with a car hire company. Years later Ian’s wife was to win £125,000 on “Who wants to be a Millionaire”
One reason I needed to get away from home was I had just received a suspended jail sentence. I certainly didn’t fancy living in Carlisle with that hanging over my head. To say the local constabulary would have done their best to make sure I was in breach, and thus get me jailed is an understatement. At that time I hadn’t served a prison sentence.

I also was getting quite heavily into gambling, and the thought of a sun drenched island with no bookies really appealed. Imagine my horror when the taxi taking me to my hotel from the airport, on that first Saturday, stopped at some traffic lights, and through the open car window I heard “Under orders at Sandown“. The taxi was stationary, right beside a bookmakers. To make things even worse, I found out later, they were open for night racing, something that didn’t occur in main land Britain for several years. .

I stayed in Jersey for four years, coming home at Christmas, for periods varying from a couple of weeks to a month. The second year, after hearing my stories of a beautiful island, sun kissed beaches, cheap booze, and an endless choice of girls who were replenished on a weekly, or fortnightly basis, holiday makers, several of my friends from Carlisle joined me

In December of 1975 we were all in a night club called Lords. It was the only club I have ever been to where there was only one guy on the staff, the glass collector. There were no bouncers, and Jenny, the manageress, stood on the door, and decided who was allowed entrance. On one occasion she turned away Malcolm McDonald, a professional footballer, because he said “Don’t you know who I am? I play for England“ I knew Malcolm through my old friend Stan Bowles. He was in Jersey with Newcastle United, and when I met him earlier, I had suggested we have a drink at Lords. He was supposed to ask for me by name. He never did get in.
As we stood by the bar, an argument developed about what the Who’s first hit had been. I definitely knew it was called“ Can’t Explain “, released in 1965.The others disagreed, and the barmaid suggested we asked two guys sitting a couple of tables away, saying they played in a band, and should know. We looked over, and saw two long haired geezers. Nothing special there, most of us wore our hair that way in those days. As usual I was chosen to do the talking, so I walked over to their table.

When I told them what I wanted to know, one asked me what I thought it was, I replied,“ Can’t Explain “ Immediately one stood up, and started playing air guitar, and the other air drums, making noises to the intro of that song. Having confirmed I was correct, the “guitarist” sat back down, and  invited us to join them for a drink. My best mate in those days was a guy called Jack O’Hare. He inquired if they played professionally. The two guys looked at each, grinned, and one said, " I guess you could say that." Jack asked if it would be anyone we had heard of, and they burst out laughing, and said.

“ Led Zeppelin, mate. “

Believe it or not, I had never heard of them, and before any of the boys who had, could stop me, I asked

“Have you had any records released then?“

The two guys, who turned out to be John Bonham, and John Paul Jones, thought I was taking the piss, and weren’t amused at all. However as soon as they realized I really didn’t know, they cooled down, and we had what was to be the first of a few great nights with them, although Mr Jones was always a little suspicious of me.

It turned out they could only spend sixty six days a year in England due to tax reasons, They were in Jersey as it was a short trip home for Christmas, planning to arrive there just after midnight on Christmas morning. I now know Bonham was called Bonzo, but don’t know if this was used by his friends, or by fans. I can’t remember this name being used then. We only knew him as John. After a few drinks, we were invited to their hotel, the Atlantic, on the north side of the island. Jack O’Hare, and John got on like a house on fire, and started “glugging,“ downing in one, £80 bottles of wine, to see who could finish first. £20 was our average weekly wage. After more drink, and some wonderful stories of a their experiences on the road we agreed to meet up in Lords the following evening.

When we met them there, we were told they had agreed to jam with a local band at our other favourite watering hole, Behan’s night club the next night. Behan’s was much larger than Lords, the biggest, and by far the best, at that time on Jersey. I believe it is now called Behan’s West Park. We went along and watched those two rock stars play a few numbers, and while no doubt they were very good, it didn’t seem that special to me.

The real treat was to come a seven nights later.

We had met them a couple of times the following week, and during the second evening, John quietly told Jack it would be a good idea if we went to Behan’s the next night. We duly turned up but there was no sign of either of them.

Suddenly Hughie Behan, the owner, appeared on the stage, and announced that Led Zepplin were about to do a free gig, right there and then. This one off show had, obviously, been kept a secret to avoid the club being inundated with punters. I think it was a Wednesday evening. The entrance fee during the week, out of season, was 25p. Imagine how many of the Jersey population would have turned up if they had known in advance?

Onto the stage walked the guys we already knew plus Jimmy Paige and Robert Plant.

On August 4th that year, Plant had been involved in a horrific car accident with his family on the Greek island of Rhodes. His daughter had been very seriously injured. She was airlifted back to a UK hospital. Plant still had a full plaster cast on one leg. He opened the set by saying “ Tonight we are going to play the music that influenced us, and we grew up with, and still love, rock and roll “

For the next hour and a half, they did exactly that. Here was an excellent band playing all my favourite tracks. Classic rock, and roll. It was almost as if they were playing just for me. The club, which was only half-full, was rocking. No one wanted to miss this experience by going to get a drink, so, unemployed, the bar staff joined the audience. I don’t know how much of the material they had played together before, but it was like they had being doing it for ever. I had seen several top guitarists play, and I may have seen Paige with the Yardbirds, and not known who he was. This night he was sensational

After the gig they came out front, and sat around some reserved tables. Bonham sent a message over to Jack, and invited us to join them. After introducing us to Plant, and Paige, we had an exceptionally heavy session. In Jersey there is a very strong drinking culture, and we thought we could drink, until we tried to keep up with these guys, but I guess they had practised more than us. During the course of the evening I remarked to John, how brilliant I thought Jimmy had been. He replied.

“ Pete, that was a borrowed guitar, the neck was too thick, you should hear him on his own “

This episode in their history is told in an unofficial biography called “Hammer of the Gods “, written by Stephen Davis. Though the account recorded is slightly inaccurate.

Davis writes

“On December the 10th, they jumped on stage at Behan’s pub, and played some old favourites “

What Hughie would have made of his wonderful night club being described as a pub, I don’t know. He was an Irish guy, brought up in Birmingham, and very well connected to most of the top London villains. We had some mutual friends so I knew Hughie very well, a lovey guy. Plus Robert Plant could hardly have jumped anywhere.

Only last year, after telling a very good friend this story, he told me about “Hammer of the Gods”. It was great to read the short account of that excellent night (page 265), and to realize I hasn’t dreamed it all. While in Jersey, Bonham had his dark blue Rolls Royce brought over. Due to the narrow roads, and his excessive drinking, within a week there were scrapes, and dints all over the car. He just laughed when Jack told him it would cost a fortune for a paint job, and replied.

“ I will just buy a new one, mate. “ Now that is rock, and roll !

Like many of the other bands I met, or worked with, I never met, or saw Led Zepplin live again though I used to read of their exploits with great interest. 
When I heard of John Bonham’s death, I wasn’t too surprised, but deeply saddened. Over the years I have heard many tales of his drink, and drug fuelled rages, but in my experience he was just an amiable guy who loved to party

Thursday 20 December 2012

For the Christmas, and New Year period I am leaving my Rush experiences, and telling a short tale of my experiences as a roadie in the '60's, and one time a little later  when I met a famous band I had never heard of.

Part 1

It is very important that you believe me when I say any stories I recount here are all true. I may not get the year right, but they all happened to me and, are not me telling yarns I have heard from other people. My main association at this time was with a local Carlisle band called Norman's Conquests

Those that know me realize that I have been lucky, and met, and remained friendly with a couple of so called “ famous “ folk during my life. The best known over here probably is a soccer player called Stan Bowles, who is still one of my best mates.
However the thing about a lot of musicians, and singers that we played with back in the sixties was, they were not all well known then. Of course some were, but I have never been in awe of anyone, so talking to these celebrities has never been a problem. Of course the majority were those who I met once, or maybe twice, and then never came across in person again.

I would like to start with such a case, though in fact I had never heard of the guy at the time, even though I probably should have.

In December 1965, Norman’s Conquests were booked for a mini tour of the south of England some three hundred miles away. Now this was almost unheard of for a local band. They were very good at what they did, and were very reliable in a world where time keeping wasn’t always adhered to. We had five gigs to play in seven days. We really thought we had made the big time.

All the venues were around the London area, but the only one I can remember was the final one, in Camberley, Surrey, the Sunday night before we came home.

We turned up to find a double Hammond organ, at right angles, so the guy could lay both at once, already on the stage, and some very seriously looking long haired rock people milling around. Peter Smithson, our lead guitarist plugged in his guitar only for his amp to blow. He called me over, and asked me to go, and see if we could use their lead amp. I told him to go, and ask himself. He just looked at me in amazement, and said in a hushed voice “ But that is God, I can’t talk to him “ Bemused, I went over and, asked who the lead was. A couple of the guys looked at me like I was insane, but one came over, and offering his hand, and said , “ that’s me mate “. I explained the situation and he immediately replied. “ I was just coming to see you, we have a stand in bass player, and the pratt hasn’t brought an amp with him..“ I suggested leaving our bass, and their lead amp on for both groups. This was agreed.

Our band played first, doing their usual pop stuff, Herman’s Hermits, Beatles etc. The boys wore suits, and ties with Norman wearing a different colour. Then as I stood by the stage waiting for the curtain to be pulled back for the other band, I heard this incredible sound, the Hammond being played, and a guitar like I had never heard before live. I stood there totally amazed for the next hour or so as this wonderful music was played.

The band was called The John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and the guy on lead guitar was Eric “ Slowhand “ Clapton. How my band ever got through the second set I will never know. After an even better second session from Clapton and co., Eric came across, shook my hand, and thanked us for the use of our equipment.

He was a lovely friendly guy who gave a couple of tips to our dumb struck lead, wished us all the best, and disappeared into the night. At no time on stage did he ever speak, never mind sing. He seemed really shy so it was a surprise in later years to hear him chatting away on stage, and singing. For obvious reason he has always been one of my favourite guitarists, although as you will discover later on, by no means the only famous one I met.

That night I met a beautiful young girl who worked for Radio Caroline, in the office, and for some reason decided a northern roadie was cool. When I later moved to London we used to meet up quite often.

I started with a high profile “ meeting “ mainly to get your interest, but also to show you how easy, and not unusual it was, to play with, and meet top musicians in the 60’s. Something, I guess, that would be very hard to do today.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year.

Thursday 13 December 2012

                                      Legends of Brocklehurst Chapter 7                                                                                                 Part 2
What? We’re off to see the Wizard/Professor! Lead on Dorothy er, Pete! We are not following the yellow brick road, just the back of Pete’s balding head! Through the doors backstage to a sign that reads ‘Dressing Rooms’. Bern is beaming as much as me, as we head down the corridor. Apart from some crew huddled by a door, it is deserted. They move forward as Pete nears, he shows his ‘Triple A Pass’. We show our, further-down-the-ranks passes. But something’s worked and the guy’s part and the door that has RUSH on, opens and in we go.

The room is fair sized, but not overly big. It is very bright. Unsurprisingly there are no brownless M&M’s, no midgets wandering around, with bowls of ‘class A’s’ on their heads. Or stilt-walkers or fire-eaters! Pete scuttles off. I can see Geddy talking to some guy with long hair and a moustache. It turns out he is the video director. Further left in the corner, there is a large table covered with a white tablecloth. There is Chinese food laid out as a buffet. There are some people I didn’t recognise, apart from the blond guy sat on the edge of the table with a bowl of noodles. Alex was tucking in but was also talking to someone. Always smiling! A few recognisable crew members were also there, suddenly Pete was walking back, with a tall dude following him.

Before I go on I quickly want to show how preconceptions of someone can come unstuck. We all know too well Neil’s views on his privacy. We know (of) Neil’s persona. Every time I have ‘met’ him, he was smiling and always courteous. No look of when is this shit finishing. Neil though is very much a ‘player’, he is tremendously respected in the Rush organization. Even when Pete was ‘working’, he demanded (in a nice way), that the schedules be kept. Why? To give us his best performance! Pete used to say that people on the periphery were always asking if he (Neil) was OK, how his mood was? As if they had some fear or trepidation. Well with this all on my mind or shoulders, I too had some trepidation. Will he just politely say “hi“, and make some excuse to leave? Will this be the Neil we know and…Fear?!!
Pete stopped in front of the three of us, the tall, familiar guy stood next to him. He immediately hugged Jackie then, vigorously shook Bernie’s hand. “Bern”, Neil boomed. Then, “You must be Chris, Hi”, still shaking hands. “How’s the football going”? ( During my younger, fitter, wilder days, I had joined a Manchester based, American Football team. Pete had mentioned this to Neil ). Shit! In my head I was on my knees “I’m not worthy”. But maybe I was worthy! From the first hug of Jackie, Neil’s face never lost his smile. His eyes disappear to slits as he, at times roared with laughter. How wrong can our preconceptions be?
The man will give us his every ounce in his performance. He doesn’t owe us. In fact he rewards us! So let him have his peace. If anyone met him he will be charming and friendly. He doesn’t want, Wayne’s World ‘adulation’. And after meeting him you wouldn’t want to. Because he suddenly became that other Joe!
Pete also told me weeks before now, that if I ‘ever met Neil’, that if he introduced me to someone else, then he would introduce me as a ‘friend’! “Come on I’ll introduce you to the other guys”. No way! Oh yes! We are advancing towards Geddy. He was still talking to the video director guy. When Neil approached Geddy turned towards him. Neil politely asked to briefly interrupt, and said to Geddy. “Can I introduce you to a friend of mine, Chris he’s a good Northern lad”. “Hi Chris”, Geddy, yes Geddy, offered back as we shook hands. I think I mumbled some gobbledeegook, like great show, nice shoes. I forget now! But he had his big glasses on!

Then off on ‘NeilTours’, we headed to the buffet. Alex still bowl in hand, still smiling. He jumped to his feet as Neil approached. “Meet a friend of mine, Chris, a Manchester lad”. Now all the stories about Alex are true. I nicer guy you couldn’t meet. Pete would share some ‘memorable’ nights with Al. His smile beamed as I appeared from behind Neil. “Hey hi Chris, want something to eat” ? I kid you not! I declined, ( but I could have murdered some ribs ) ! He almost cartoon-like shook hands and some grip. I was much calmer now and I chatted with Neil and Alex for sometime. I noticed that their and some crew member’s pass laminates were different from the ‘normal’ ones ie: Pete’s. He had the Edward G Robinson, type mobster guy, juggling the three flaming spheres, from HYF. The band’s however had different images on. They were ‘stills’ from the David Lynch (classic) film ‘Blue Velvet’. Neil said it was their favourite current film. It was also that I witnessed first hand, the now famous laminate set lists. Neil showed me his, his picture was the Dean Stockwell character singing ‘In dreams’, into the lit up mike. Neil suggested that we should head back to Pete and our ‘gang’, as ‘we’ should get going???
I bid Alex a final goodbye. Then I quickly moved to Geddy, not wishing to interrupt I waved; he waved back and gave me a thumbs up! Cool! So back I went to the “party”. I was planning a farewell and good luck to Neil, when he moved off into the background. Pete told us quickly that we were going to follow, him and Neil back to their hotel!!! I thought this night finished with, “thank you Birmingham, good night”. Never mind being admitted to the inner sanctum. Wrong!

Neil reappeared with jacket, baseball cap and a smallish shoulder bag, no doubt containing his ‘note books’. He quickly said some goodbyes and waved at various points in the room. Then like a shepherd he guided/ushered us out the door. Down the corridor into the backstage area, that had calmed down now. Past the big rewound projector, and out through the makeshift door. As we got through Neil asked me if I wanted any t-shirts???!! Without waiting for the ( obvious ) reply he called to someone to bring some t-shirts. In seconds a crew member returned with armfuls of black t and sweat shirts. So perhaps a career move when he gets fed up of this drumming, rock star malarkey, he can go on the ‘merch’ desk ! Now my arms are full as we once again are in the columned parking area. Neil and Pete got into the BM, we got into Jackie’s car immediately behind. The huge door that was closed began to rise silently until it was fully open. As we pulled away, even though I was still in quite some daze, due to these ‘events’ I wasn’t prepared for what was waiting as we cleared the doorway.
I of course presumed everyone would be gone, but of course none of the band had left yet! So suddenly we saw all these faces as they “rushed’ towards us, trying to see who we were. They picked the wrong car. Bernie smiled and gave them the ‘Queen’s Wave ’! The one’s who guessed right were pointing and waving frantically at the BM’s window. I still bet they wonder who was in the other car.
As part of traveling separately the band were staying apart too. Geddy and Alex were staying at the Metropole Hotel near the NEC. Neil however was staying at a small hotel in Dudley. It wasn’t too far as we ‘tailgated’ the BM. The hotel was a charming, ‘olde worlde’ building, set in a vast rural setting, off the beaten track.
We parked the cars up, then set off inside through two big, thick glass doors. No one batted an eyelid as we swept through the reception. Just as Neil would like it I guessed. We reached our destination, the bar lounge. Christ, did I need a drink! I did actually feel drained. Neil was sprightly as we found some chairs and a table. Then after removing layers and making the ‘toilet run’, we all settled down. A waiter brought our drinks to the table and we enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing, ‘liquid’, funny, couple of hours.

Pete and Neil had anecdotes from their ‘old days’. We all listened to some of Bernie’s, humorous adventures, with the ‘Dreamers’. This was amazing; I was in the wonderful company of two generations of drummers. The longer it went on the more relaxed I felt. I wasn’t in the company of the “great drum rock god” just Neil. There was one point where Neil went to the bar, after asking me if I wanted another drink. Asking if he was sure, and not wanting to go and wreck a hotel room. He duly returned with my drink. “Oh my god, Neil Peart has just bought me a drink”, I over-acted in mock astonishment. He laughed and put it on the table. I think Neil really liked Bernie’s company, but then a lot of people did, he was a lovely bloke.
Well all good things must come to an end. Neil had finished his brandy and was signing for the bill!!! I suggested all chucking a tenner in, but Neil insisted we were ‘his guests’! As we went into reception, the lump of skin gathered on the back of my hand, from my earlier pinching, had receded. I had realized long ago that, this wasn’t one of those “too real” dreams; this was for (very) real! Variously there were hugs, kisses and handshakes. Then followed our farewells and most definitely thank-yous. We set off out the door waving as Pete and Neil waved back. Then they turned around and headed off, possibly to find some dynamite to blow up the toilet, before cocoa and bed!”

Thursday 6 December 2012

                                         Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 7
                                         Part 1
The first night of the HYF tour at the NEC is still a blur. All I can really remember is Neil’s solo. It reminded me of the times when I used to watch Stan Bowles play football. Stan was an old friend of mine who played soccer at the top level in England culminating with five caps for England. Can that be a friend of mine ? In both cases while on their respective stages, it was like they were two different people to the guys I knew. Not the mates who I would be talking to and in Stan’s case drinking with when they had finished “working”. I watched, open mouthed, as Mr Peart did all these unbelievable things with two pieces of wood and two feet. Could that really be only one man ? Every time I have seen Rush play, whether working or not, I have never missed his wonderful solo.
With Chris Lea’s permission I have adapted part of his “Amazing Story” to cover the Saturday night’s show. His recall and descriptive powers and knowledge of all things Rush are far superior to mine and I know he captures the scene so much better than my failing memory. Chris, Bernie Dwyer and my girl Jackie travelled down from Manchester in her car for the show that night, Neil had invited them as his guests.
Thank you Chris.
“ Whilst Pete was ahead of us ‘working’, he had sussed out where to come and meet us. Which at the precise roundabout, he did. The Car looked even bigger as he was already at the rendezvous point. We waved, and he indicated to Jackie to follow him.
It was our mini motorcade, as we weaved around the small linking roads of the complex. In front was the almost gliding, black, behemoth. As we approached a security post, with the barrier lowered, Pete stopped, and flashed a special, band transport pass, then, we saw him indicate towards us, the guard looked, and disappeared into the hut, to raise the barrier. Cool! Checkpoint Charlie, we’re in...I think. As we neared our destination, I thought we were just going to be first in the car park, the people activity increased. Then Pete slowed as we approached what I now realized was the main concert hall. We had taken a ‘secret route’ and came in the back way.
The cars were dwarfed by the huge articulated lorrys parked up. We moved past six trucks, and three crew buses. Roadies, techs, and other assorted essential personnel, were all scurrying around. To say a ‘hive of activity’, would sell it short. There were also the trucks for the film crew, and their various techs, busying themselves. To be fair the actual ‘air’ was relaxed, as all the gear had been in the building since Wednesday. So we weren’t dodging large, boxes of vital equipment, as they were wheeled into the hall. Still following Pete, we carried on into the large opened doorway, and into a cavernous backstage area. We swung around, and Pete parked the BMW next to one of two tour busses. We stopped right behind Pete. We finally parked. Now we were in!

As I stretched outside the car, I turned three-sixty. We were inside the NEC, ( Northern Exhibition Center, ) it looked like a huge underground car park. Pillars supporting the roof would make a great slalom course. Then as I continued to rotate, into view came the black sheeting, and scaffolding that formed the stage area. There were silver tubular metal lighting rigs, criss-crossed across the top, and length of the stage. Bern and Jackie were now out, and Pete also had left the BMW, and was walking ahead of us. “Follow that Man”!
The closer we got to the stage area, the bigger it got. Flight cases were piled, and stacked underneath the stage. Crew guys milled around. Pete was letting on to a few as we approached the very backstage. Knowing Pete he’s already probably introduced them to the great old British institution…the Bookies!( betting shops ) Now Pete slowed down, so too us. I imagined that we would find a door, and exit into the arena. We carried on through a makeshift doorway, built into the black-drape-covered staging construction.
Through the door we were now in ‘Backstage Central’, at the very heart. Immediately in front of us and, almost dominating the actual space, was a huge piece of hi-tech looking kit. When I looked closely I thought it looked like a cinema film projector, only very streamlined, futuristic, and very big. It was the back-screen ‘film projector’. Set against the very back wall of the NEC, furthest away from the stage, was the Production Office. As I looked towards the back, in the far left corner was the door that leads to the…Dressing Rooms! The band are actually through those doors now! Pete is scanning left, and right, then when he spots who he is looking for, he heads over. I believe it was Nick Kotos, who apart from being the tallest man in the world, was the, then Production Manager. Pete said something to him, Nick ‘bent down’ to hear, then they both turned and plodded towards us.
Like the stage as Nick approached, he got even bigger! He had a walkie-talkie, stapled almost to his hand, it was always crackling and ‘talking’. Pete and Nick walked towards a ramp that ran upwards. They stopped, Nick moved to one side, then Pete began up the ramp! He then stopped, and gestured to us, in the ‘follow me’ way! Holy shit, this is the ramp to the actual stage. We were ‘Entering Stage Left’!!

Akin to Richard Dreyfuss as he, gingerly entered the Mothership. I too slowly moved up the ramp. As we hit the level, I stopped. I had to take it all in. The whole, completely empty, almost silently eerie NEC arena, opened up in front of me. Wow. Of course I tried to visualize every seat filled with, smiling, happy, cheering, singing people. Then I moved to my right, as I walked off the ramp, and onto the stage proper, a huge flight case was positioned. It was split into racks, most of the racks held bass guitars. Geddy’s basses. Then as I passed them, to my left was Ged’s keyboard set up. Complete with funny ‘toys’, as adornment. I noticed that my feet felt cushioned. Of course the Rush ‘Axminster Shag Pile’. I always thought the ‘carpet’ was a nice touch. Then as I journeyed to Stage Centre, I passed Geddy’s back-line. What no domestic white-goods?

My pace, even though slow enough, slowed further as I reached, for me, the ‘piece de resistance’. The Professor’s Office. I’m glad Bernie could join me. All he kept saying, quietly was “how the feck does he play all this”? It took up about the size of a small office too. Of course I embarrassingly drooled over this drum, and cymbal fest! But of course I didn’t need to identify every piece, but it was the ‘pinky’(??) white, Ludwig double-kick set up. I remember that even then Neil’s hardware was brass plated, and up this close, it looked like pure gold. Then I did it… I played Neil’s kit! Well not technically, I did very gently tap my fingertips on the heads of some of his toms. But hey that’s as close as you can get…Isn’t it????
Across the back, panoramically spread was the electronic pads of his second kit. Dazzling, shiny cymbals hung silent. Looking like discs of gold. Everything was bolted onto his famous spinning riser. As I stood between the bass drums, I turned around towards the vast, eerily quiet arena to gauge Neil’s viewpoint. It was then I noticed the cameras, lots of them. I was particularly fascinated with a piece of equipment; I found out was called a Louma Crane Cam. Oooohhh! This is the camera fixed to a massive crane (again I think the clue’s in the name) that gives those swooping high to low, ariel shots. They kept testing it swooping over the stage. Strange I know sod all about cars, but plenty about camera cranes, hmmm. As I looked to the roof I saw a huge white net, fastened to the ceiling girders. Inside were what looked like hundreds of red balloons.

Bidding ‘farewell to things’…percussion, I approached Stage Right. Big Al’s domain. Not being that knowledgeable about ‘guitar stuff’, his pedal board alone looked like it had been built by NASA! Then as Big Nick appeared we realized that this ‘once in a lifetime’ moment was up! So we exited stage right!! I heartily thanked Nick, and we walked past Alex’s guitars, loads of them, all standing to attention, ready for battle. I had a final quick look around, reaffirming that, yes, I am standing on Rush’s stage. And all is still!
We walked down the ramp back to the backstage area. I was pointing out various crew members to Bern, when he turned to Jackie laughing, “he even knows the crew’s names”! But I just did!! We just do! This was all too surreal. Pete then suggested we might want to get something to eat, we had ages to kill. Like ducklings we once again all followed Pete, as we moved to catering. We had something to eat which I recall as being very good indeed, and there were some bottled beers that we could enjoy. Well apart from the show, it can’t get any better…can it????
As I further drank in the strange atmosphere, (and beer) the vendors, and bars were opening. Then the doors were opened and the volume was slowly being turned up, as fans streamed in. Pete had gone off briefly, and then returned with our tickets. Bern asked why we needed them, because we were in already. So I asked him which seats were ours? ”Oh yeah”, he realized. Then Pete also gave us a stick on adhesive pass. It was red, with the three floating spheres from HYF. It had the date on and the initials NP!

Our seats were great. Geddy’s side, but very close. I presumed that those sat around us were, friends and guests too. As we took our seats I looked around, now it was a gig atmosphere. The fans were in good spirits, and good voice. I tried to imagine how it looked a couple of hours ago, vast, empty, silent.
The house lights were cut, the audience rose as one. Then the huge projector I had seen, standing silent suddenly kicked into life and light, we were off! It seemed to me somehow even more special, as it was not just being recorded, but filmed as well. So when I watch ‘A Show Of Hands’, the whole day comes back to me. Realizing that I was on that very stage, I ‘played’ those very drums.

Of course the gig was just stunning. They were on it! And I sang (out of tune,) and drummed (out of time) to every song. Bernie particularly enjoyed it, and now realized that Pete’s “Buddy”, was damned good. Jackie too enjoyed the show. Rock is not her favourite, but I think she appreciated what was going on and liked it visually.
Well the show came, and went. We waited in our seats for Pete, who was going to come back for us, so he could get us to the car. Pete subsequently turned up, and again made like the Pied Piper, we followed him. As I left the arena I glanced back, to see it, as it was when we arrived, empty”. We followed ‘our leader’, along the perimeter corridor that surrounds the arena. Then we walked along to the ‘checkpoint’ at the backstage area. Pete had his All Access Areas Pass, and as we each went through, we ‘flashed our passes’! Pete told us to wait a minute. As we stood there watching this calm, frenzy go on around us. Bernie started smiling, and gesturing to someone.
It turns out this ‘someone’ was the British promoter, Danny Betesh, who runs Kennedy Street Promotions, who were promoting the HYF tour. They also promoted R30. Kennedy, and certainly, specifically Danny, used to book Freddie and the Dreamers, back in the ‘60’s.( Bernie's old group ) Bern introduced us to him, just as Pete returned. Pete and Danny knew each other as well. Quelle surprise! After some social intercourse!! Danny asked Pete, and us where we were going now. Pete answered, and boy did he answer.

“We’re going to see Neil”!!