Thursday 17 January 2013

                                   Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 10


I said earlier that Neil had chosen all the music after that first Paul Simon tape I played when I picked him up at Heathrow. For those of you who have read Neil’s book, “ Traveling Music, “ you will be aware of his musical tastes. They are very varied from Sinatra to modern day recordings, jazz, many other types of music, and artists. Neil had recorded numerous tapes ( no CD’s then ) with all his current, and old favourites. As the car was started until the engine switched off, a tape was always playing. I knew some of the tracks, but there were plenty that were new to me. Of those, the ones I got to like best were the small unknown Toronto bands that had been recorded live in various local clubs. In some cases Neil had jammed with the band. Although mainly they were groups who hadn’t achieved a recording contract, they all sounded pretty good. I think Mr. Peart got tired of me continually asking, “ and who is that ? “ There were so many different ones I just couldn’t remember them. One band that was never heard was Rush. Neil said, apart from while they were recording, final mixing, and choosing songs for touring, he never listens to his own trio. I told him I could understand that . It was a standing joke that Rush aren't  my favourite band.
The last venue of the HYF tour was in the Hans Martin Schleyer Hall, Stuttgart. As usual we arrived early, in plenty of time for the sound check. When we got to the hall we were stopped entering the back stage area by a barrier, and an attendant. The barrier was partially up. I explained who we were, and we both showed our passes. However, we needed another pass to get the car beyond this rather officious gentleman, and that pass had to be obtained from inside the building. I tried to tell him that I couldn’t leave the car, and Neil while I went for the pass, nor could I expect my boss to collect it.
While I discussed this dilemma with our very own “little Hitler“, Neil became aware of two coach loads of Italian fans who had disembarked a couple of hundred yards away to our left. As they walked closer to the check point, a few saw who was sitting in the BMW. Excitedly they started pointing at Rush’s trapped drummer, and ran towards us. Neil immediately asked me if I could drive through the barrier without hurting the guard. “Don’t worry about the car or the barrier “, he said in an agitated state, “ I will pay for any damage, just miss that guy, but get me out of here “. I put my foot down, and at speed manoeuvered through the very narrow gap, succeeding some how without touching anything. Once again I was acutely aware how the thought of being cornered by fans made Neil feel very uncomfortable.

As I later walked around the back stage area I saw Neil with his bow, and arrow. At all of the venues prior to sound check I had seen this familiar sight. I watched as the quiet, lonely figure took aim, and fired at a target a few yards away. In the States Neil would tell me he took his bicycle, and went for long rides on days off, and before shows, but in Europe he spent some of his time practicing his archery skills. On reflection Neil spent a lot of time on his own during the tour. I could spend two, or three days in the same hotel, and never see NEP once. This wasn’t him being unsociable, just the way he likes it. I think, as I am, Mr. Peart is very comfortable with his own company. While Alex, and Geddy may have a game of tennis, or in years to come, a round of golf for Alex, Neil spent his spare moments pursuing his own interests.
Even before a gig Neil would often be in “ solitary confinement. “ He would be honing his archery skills, reading, getting his journal up to date, or just warming up on his practice kit. I think he preferred this way to prepare for the show to mixing with others. It may sound like he is very anti social, but nothing could be further from the truth. When he is working, he is ultra professional, but when he is socializing, then he is the very warm, funny, friendly, generous guy that I first met all those years ago in London
Throughout the tour during the last number of every show dozens of red balloons were released from their netting to fall down on the audience. One of the crew told me to watch the final song but wouldn’t tell me why. I did find out that something was always arranged as a surprise for the band on the last night of a tour. As all those balloons were released they fell onto the stage rather than the audience, much to the huge amusement of Alex, Geddy, and Neil. Apparently the riggers had spent hours moving the netting back to achieve this goal. In no time the stage was covered in balloons with the guys all laughing. Alex threw himself on top of a load of them. It was almost a bouncy castle situation. Insanely grinning, he continued playing as he bounced horizontally across the stage. An amazing and hilarious sight

After the show we left straight away and headed back to our hotel in Frankfurt.
If I was expecting an end of tour party, then I was to be disappointed. This tour really hadn’t been the “rock and roll” experience I had hoped for. I did have a few drinks in the hotel bar with Alex, Pegi, and a couple of others. All they could talk about was going home the next day. Of course I had only been involved in the last small part of a very long tour. These people had been on the road for months, and it showed in their desire just to be allowed to return to their respective cities, and towns. I just wished I could have relaxed early on, and enjoyed the experience so much more. I did, however, enjoy every minute traveling in that great car with my friend.

Throughout the tour, another of my duties had been to organize any interviews Neil did. It was quite bizarre the way it was handled. Even Pegi seemed a little unsure of whether Neil would want to do an interview, so she would approach me, asking how Neil was feeling, and did I think he may want to do one that, or the next day ? I then approached Neil to check if this was OK. I never understood the trepidation over Neil’s participation in these interviews as he always agreed when I asked him. The powers that be from Anthem were equally amazed that he never refused, to the extent that Pegi actually said it was a great idea having me travel with Neil, as it made him much more amenable.
This cemented a trust between Pegi, and that is still there to this day. The format was always the same. I would book a room, have reception ring me when the interviewer arrived. I then took them to the room, rang Neil, waited for him outside, entered with him, and introduced the two, then left. After half an hour I had to ring Neil. He would answer the phone, and if the things were going well, he would say, “ I will see you when I am finished here “. That meant he was comfortable, and would continue the interview. However if he thought the person was incompetent, badly prepared, or just a jerk, then his answer would be, “ OK, I will be there right away. “ This method of being able to escape from an awkward situation amused me, as when I worked company frauds, I had used a similar ruse, but in reverse. When I had a sales person in my office, I would have my secretary ring every five minutes or so, to make it appear that we were a very busy company !
Out of the five or six interviews Neil did on the HYF tour, only one was terminated prematurely. Again I was aware Neil always expected a high level of professionalism from everyone, even journalists.

All too soon my tour with Rush was over. That was my last night as the next day I had to return the car to Munich, and fly home to Manchester. The British part of my job had passed so quickly, with me not really able to enjoy it. The three gigs in Europe had been much more enjoyable but had just flown in. And I had only been away for nineteen days.
After arriving in Manchester, where Jackie met me at the airport, we went to the Barleycorn for a meal. Chris Lea came in after work, and I told him all I could remember about the tour, and gave him a couple of presents. A tour book signed by all three of his Rush heroes, and a couple of Neil’s drum sticks. Not new ones but some Larry had given me that Neil had used during that final Stuttgart show. Neil had organized this without any prompting from me. Chris was totally made up, and amazed by his gifts.
Of course I kept several mementos from the tour, stuff from various hotels, my triple A pass etc. As I had emptied the car in Munich I found a letter from my probation officer saying that although I was on probation, I had her permission to leave the country to work for Neil. All those borders crossed, and not once had I been asked for this document. In fact I could have smuggled anything I wanted into England as the customs never even stopped me, though I don’t suppose Neil would have been amused if I had used his tour car to bring in some contraband !
This is the final chapter in this tale. I did drive Neil in 1992 during the European leg of their tour. 
I didn't write this until years later, and just after I  finished narrating the '88 tour, Neil, and I had a fall out. I went to  Houston during the Snakes and Arrows tour with the sole intention of sorting our disagreement out. We had a great meeting in his changing room for over an hour, and half before the gig. Just as it started Michael called me over, and got me to sit on stage next to Alex's technician, just out of sight of the audience. Neil wanted to see me during the interval, something that had never happened even during the tours I worked on. We had a short time to catch up some more, I couldn't see Neil after the show as he was leaving straight away. We said our goodbyes, hugged each other, and that was to be the last time I saw Mr. Peart.
We emailed each other the next day, and the original reason for our fallout reared it's ugly head again. Heated words were exchanged, and shortly after that my emails were unanswered. That remains until this day. Very sad, a friendship of over thirty five years gone. I will not go into any reasons because they are personal. I guess most of the blame must fall on me. I will only say I still miss my former friend, and though I know in my heart Neil will never accept any overtures of comradeship from me, as long I live I won't give up. In truth he was never anyone but that shy, naive, young Canadian I met in 1971 in London, and not one of the best rock drummers in the world to me. I still won't have a word said against him.
There now seems no point in writing about the 1992 European tour.

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