‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 12)
Another week on the road, as Mick remembers later Uriah Heep bassist Gary Thain, struggles with a cashpoint machine, laughs at The Rutles and remembers his wedding anniversary… Click here to read Mick’s previous columns.
SUNDAY December 6, 2009. City: Aschaffenburg. Day off
We travelled the 150k (93 miles) and arrived at the hotel around 3pm. Most of us went to our rooms, and a few went to the Xmas market for a few gluhe weines. We met up at 7pm in the bar, and there was a split in the camp on deciding what to eat. Peter Foulkes, our monitor engineer, was here a few months earlier with the band Magnum, so he recommended a Chinese. This suited Russell Gilbrook and ‘Scampi’, our English tour manager, so off they went in a taxi, but they got lost and ended up in a Korean restaurant instead. I guess their German leaves a lot to be desired. Most of us, though, ended up in a very nice Greek restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Bernie, our German tour manager, opted for a Spanish meal, and Christos and Brian West (keyboard/bass tech) stayed at the Xmas market, and munched down on German sausages. Probably washed down with beer and gluhe weine.
When we all met in the bar later, everyone was satisfied with their choices, so that was cool. After dinner Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon, Trevor Bolder and myself went for a walk through the town for some fresh air. The Xmas market closes at 9pm, so it was all pretty dead. It was raining too, so we had to borrow umbrellas from the hotel. I needed to get some Euros, so when we found a bank cash machine, I put my credit card in the machine and pressed for instructions in English. I followed the instructions, and then put in my pin number, pressed the button for the amount of cash I required, and then hit the green button, and it spat out my card and no money. I made my feelings felt on the CCTV camera, as I will be at the bank first thing in the morning to see what the situation is. I will also have to ring the UK to see if the money came out of my account. What a pain!
Anyway, when we came back to the hotel we asked where the nearest launderette would be for tomorrow after breakfast. They said we could use their industrial machines tonight, so Trevor, Phil, our German TM Bernie and myself jumped at the opportunity to get it all done, and so started a couple of hours of laundry. What a result! It was nice to get this out of the way tonight, so that we will have more time to look around the Xmas market after breakfast tomorrow, though I feel some of the time will be spent in the bank chasing my money.
MONDAY December 7, 2009. City: Aschaffenburg. Venue: Colos-Saal
After breakfast I telephoned the credit card company, and luckily nothing had been taken out of my bank account, and I also found out that there was a daily limit imposed when drawing cash out from abroad, and I was trying to get more than the limit allowed, hence the refusal. Still a quick trip to the bank in town after that telephone call and everything was taken care of, and I eventually got my money. Trevor and I continued to walk around the Xmas market for an hour, and I managed to get my son Romeo some more Xmas presents. Today is my seventh wedding anniversary, and yesterday I sent a huge bunch of flowers to my wife Sheila’s work place, so hopefully she will get them on time.
Well, the flowers did arrive and Sheila was delighted. We did a late soundcheck, and stayed at the venue for dinner. We were on stage at 8pm tonight, and the good news is that this concert is totally sold out. It was a fantastic show, and the response at the end of each song was terrific. It was good to see people singing along to all of the songs old and new, and the audience were deafening singing on the encore song Lady In Black. Back in the dressing room it was pizzas, a few glasses of wine, and then we caught a cab back to the hotel. There were a few of our old friends in the bar from the Roger Chapman band who are playing the Colos-Saal tomorrow night.
There was Roger himself, guitarist Geoff Whitethorn and drummer John Lingwood . A few of us had a quick beer with them, and then off to bed so it was not a late one.
TUESDAY December 8, 2009 City: Bonn. Venue: Brueckenforum
It is a sad day today, as this is the anniversary of the day that Gary Thain, our innovative and enigmatic bass player from the 70s, passed away in 1975. At least his musical legacy lives on, and continues to inspire musicians all over the world. I had a nice email from Gary’s Japanese wife Mika, with an attachment showing a picture of Gary, beside two lit candles. On tonight’s show I will wink towards the sky for Gary, when we play The Wizard.
Well we had a 9.30am call for breakfast, and a 10.30am departure, as we only had to travel 200k (124 miles). I bought a DVD from London with me called Telstar so we all decided to watch that. It is a film about the legendary 60s record producer Joe Meek. It is a true tale of extreme talent to tragedy. He was responsible for many 60s hits for such artists as The Tornados, Outlaws, John Leyton, Heinz, Lonnie Donegan, Screaming Lord Sutch and The Honeycombs, which is a band I almost joined, just before they went to Australia. They had a huge hit with a song called Have I The Right, produced by Joe Meek. The big song for Joe though, was the instrumental song Telstar by the Tornados. He made No.1 with this in both the UK and USA charts, and this was the first time this had ever been achieved. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness and Hot Leg fame played a great cameo role as Screaming Lord Sutch.
The musicians who actually played in the above bands, but are portrayed by actors in the DVD, included Ritchie Blackmore, Mitch Mitchell, Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame, and drummer Clem Cattini who went on to play on over 40 No.1 records – more than any other drummer, ever. The legend and genius that was Joe Meek lives on, because you can buy his inventive, innovative sounds that revolutionised the way music was recorded throughout the world, as there is a complete range of studio equipment bearing his name. He was the real pioneer of home recording, over 40 years ahead of its time.
The DVD is well worth seeing and we all enjoyed it, even though it is tinged with sadness. It was perfect timing, because just as the film finished, the bus pulled up outside of the hotel. Everyone checked in to their rooms, and then the crew went down to the venue for lunch and the load in. The band are going down for a late soundcheck, and staying down the venue, because tonight it is an early 8pm show. The concert was a great one, but we felt it was a shame that there was no support band tonight. I guess the promoter must have thought we do not need one. Anyway it was a healthy audience just shy of a sell out, and they were really in to the music and tremendously receptive. We also did a long signing session at the merchandising stand, which was great. Then it was back to the dressing room for a final glass of wine/champagne and on the bus to travel back to the hotel. I finished a long email interview with Guitar Plus magazine in Indonesia when I got to my room, and then I soaked in a bath, before retiring to bed.
WEDNESDAY December 9, 2009 City: Bochum, Germany. Day Off.
We are leaving after breakfast at 10.30am as we have a 110km (68 mile) trip. Another of the driving laws that has been imposed is that after every week, the bus has to be stationary for 45 hours. As we have a day off and a gig day tomorrow we can just about do that, so we have to leave tomorrow 10.30am promptly. The bus journey was reasonably quiet. I did a few emails and did a bit of a tidy up on my lap top, and we talked most of the way there swopping rock’n'roll stories, like you do.
On arrival, the hotel rooms were not ready, so we had to sit in the lobby until the rooms had been cleaned. Well the smoking rooms were ready so those who smoke were lucky, it was just the non-smoking rooms that weren’t. Over the last couple of shows I have had a little problem with one of the Hofner guitars, as it was not sounding as good as the other one for some reason. I think that the electrics (pickups) may have moved either in transit, or when the strings have been changed. So a quick call to Graham Stockley at Hofner and he sent over three sets of pickups to re-set and try on the guitar. We will have to see if this rectifies the problem. That is why Hofner are such a good company, because not only do they have quality instruments, they have an excellent back-up policy should anything go wrong. With the amount of travelling we do this is so important. The pickup moving is no reflection on the guitar, because this can happen to any instrument that is put through its paces with Heep, or should I dare say, me.
Tonight we met at our usual 7pm in the bar, and ‘Scampi’ had booked an Italian Restaurant 50 metres from the hotel. We were not sure when we saw the place from the outside, but once inside it was very nice, and the food was excellent. Our luck is definitely holding out in the day off restaurant department, and long may it continue. Back at the hotel before I hit the bed, I watched The Rutles DVD which is an excellent spoof on the The Beatles. It starred Eric Idle (Paul McCartney), Neil Innes (John Lennon), John Halsey (Ringo Starr) and Rikki Fatar (George Harrison). It was written by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, and the music was written by Neil Innes, who was in The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band. It is very funny and the music is spot on. There are cameo roles from Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Paul Simon, Michael Palin, George Harrison, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ronnie Wood. Quite a cast there, and overall it was most enjoyable. I went to bed with a big smile on my face.
THURSDAY December 10, 2009 City: Bochum. Venue: Zeche.
Breakfast was at 9.30am and then I had a telephone interview at midday with a radio station in Adelaide, Australia, which was put through to my room. This went very well, and the DJ just loved Wake The Sleeper and Celebration, and cannot wait for the band to play there. To be honest, neither can we, as we know there are a lot of fans, friends and family waiting to see us.
After the interview Bernie, Trevor and I went for an hour-and-a-half walk through town, and the Xmas market. It was a poor showing on the Xmas market front, with not a lot to see, which was most disappointing. Today we are going to the soundcheck at 5pm and staying down at the venue, as we are on stage tonight at 8pm, and dinner is there too. Another sell out tonight and the crowd were brilliant. It was packed to the rafters, and you could really feel the audience were in to every song that we played. That made for a good night, and the show was most enjoyable.
Once over, it was back to the hotel in taxis, as we could not do a merchandising signing because an hour after we had finished, the venue turned into a disco. Now that is good enough reason to get the hell out of there, if ever there was one.
FRIDAY December 11, 2009 City: Worpswede, Germany. Venue: Music Hall.
The journey today was only 270k (168 miles) and we left the hotel at 10.30am after breakfast. It was a pretty quiet bus and most people went to their bunks. I did a fair bit of work on my lap top and answered a lot of emails. When we arrived at the hotel, everyone checked in, and the crew then went down to the venue. Russ and I had a little bit of lunch at the hotel, and then a bit of catch-up sleep. The sound check was at 5.30pm and it was a quick walk, as the venue was only 250 metres from the hotel. After the sound check and dinner Phil, Trevor and Russ decided to walk back to the hotel. As I was online at the venue I stayed there and did an online interview with an Italian magazine. Bernie went on the bus to watch a movie.
The good news was that once again the venue was a sell out, which always pleases everyone. The show was really good and we could see that the place was jam-packed, and we later found out there were few more than the capacity allowed. Still it made for a good night and the crowd were shouting for more, even though we were back in the dressing room after the encore. We did a quick merchandising signing that went very well and we managed to sign Pierre Schulz’s guitars. He had been in touch with me via email regarding this. Pierre bid for the Wah Wah in my Shirt Off My Back charity, so it was extra good that we could do this. His electric guitar was signed by the band and the bass guitar by Trevor. Sometimes it is difficult to arrange these things and they do not work out, through no fault of anyone, just due to circumstances beyond our control. After this it was back to the dressing room for pizzas and a few glasses of whatever took your fancy. Trevor and I walked back to the hotel, and left everyone just getting stuck into the rider. I have had a nice shower and am writing this before going to bed. I remember the last time we played there it turned into a humdinger of a party, and we did not get back to the hotel until 5am. Ouch!
SATURDAY December 12, 2009 City: Celle, Germany. Venue: CD Kaserne.
We have a 120k (75 mile) journey tomorrow so we will not leave until 11am. The day before yesterday I spoke with Graham at Hofner, re the acoustic guitar, and he has sent a new guitar to the hotel for me to replace the broken one. So on arrival I will be asking reception if the guitar has arrived. Before departure there were two mannequins in front of the hotel lifts. One had a long blond wig on, so with my video camera ready, we had a band competition on who looked and sang like Bernie. This was a good laugh and raised everybody’s spirits.
Back on the bus it was a quiet journey, as the party did go on longer in the dressing room for some last night. At check in at the hotel the Hofner acoustic guitar had arrived, so kudos to Graham Stockley and many thanks. Christos has taken it down the venue to do his thing and I will give it a good go at the sound check which is at 5pm. We have a support band tonight called Chalice. We have worked with these guys before, so it will be nice to see them again.
The sound check went fine and the Yamaha acoustic is a major improvement, so we are now back on track in the acoustic department. Martin Darvill, our manager, flew in today with Daniel Earnshaw the catalogue and multi media specialist, so we will have a few meetings with the band and catch up on all of the business that has happened whilst we have been out here on tour.
It was a really good show tonight and we had a good time. We did not sell this one out, but it was pretty healthy and a tremendous showing at the merchandising signing. Back in the dressing room there were a few more pieces of pizza eaten, that was washed down with more wine, and then we all jumped on to the bus back to the hotel.
Another week has passed on the road and we are now on the final week of the tour – so see you next week!
Tags: Bernie Shaw, Biancan Jagger, Bill Murray, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Chalice, Chas And Dave, Chas Hodges, Clem Cattini, Dan Aykroyd, Eric Idle, Gary Thain, Geoff Whitehorn, George Harrison, Heinz, Hot Leg, Joe Meek, John Belushi, John Halsey, John Lennon, John Lingwood, Johny Leyton, Justin Hawkins, Lonnie Donegan, Magnum, Michael Palin, Mick Box, Mick Box Column, Mick jagger, Mitch Mitchell, Neil Innes, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Phil Lanon, Riger Chapman, Rikki Fatar, Ringo Starr, Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie Wood, Russell Gilbrook, Screaming Lord Sutch, The Darkness, The Honeycombs, The Mick Box Column, The Outlaws, The Rutles, The Tornados, Trevor Bolder, Uriah Heep