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!”

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