‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 10)
This week, our Mick does his own washing and ironing, celebrates a Spurs victory and indulges in his love of Japanese food – and booze! Click here to read Mick’s previous columns.
SUNDAY November, 22. City: Winterthur, Switzerland Venue: Garden Club.
We arrived at 1pm after the overnighter from Krefeld, Germany, and we all checked into the hotel, and then went down the gig for a spot of lunch. All they had were cold cuts, but nevertheless at least it was something, and we could get a much needed coffee. While the crew set up, the band went back to the hotel, showered and generally got ready for the sound check. The sound check went really well, and without a hitch. We were told that tonight is a sell-out, so the promoter is very happy, and so are we. I hope this is a habit that we continue on this tour. Phil Lanzon and Russell Gilbrook did a quick TV interview after the sound check, with three lovely ladies, and then we all went for an excellent Italian meal for dinner.
We then came back to the venue, and signed a bunch of posters for the promoter. Back in the UK, my son Romeo was taken to see my beloved football team Tottenham Hotspur play Wigan today. He went with my wife Sheila’s sisters husband, Bill. He took Romeo on his motorbike, which was an extra thrill for him. He called me from the match and we won 9-1. All I could hear him shouting was, ‘Come on you Spurs’, and I loved it. I have been wearing my Spurs football shirt proudly all day, so I am delirious at that result, and the thought that my son Romeo was at the match, is just the icing on the cake.
To get to and from the hotel to the venue, and to the restaurant where we had dinner, they had laid on one of those huge white limousines. That reminded me of the old days, when that was normal, and on David Byron’s insistence, we used to have one each at times. I could never sit in the back on my own, as I always felt awkward, so I always travelled up front with the driver. It was a lot more fun, and you got the gossip on all of the other bands.
The concert tonight was fantastic, and the crowd were with us from note one. No major mishaps to report, though the top E string did slip off the nut of my acoustic guitar in the song The Wizard, thereby rendering it to banjo like status in the sound department, but we got through. The promoter was so thrilled with the show, that when we came back to the dressing room, he had laid on a huge bucket full of ice, with a magnum of champagne for us all to drink. No complaints there, then. Before we opened it though, and to keep our professional hat on, and to our credit, we did not even attempt to drink it until we had completed the signing of the official merchandising, along with body parts, items of clothing and a guitar. They had arranged tables at the front of the stage for the signing, and once the job was complete, the champagne flowed freely around the dressing room, to the delight of all concerned.
MONDAY November 22. City: Winterthur – Day off.
A generally quiet day today taking care of emails, etc. I had a good walk with Trevor Bolder through the town, and I am glad we did before it bucketed down with rain for the rest of the day. I also listened to some music, and there is a best of Jeff Beck from his early years with Rod Stewart that I have on my iPod, and what a fantastic combination that was. Brilliant songs played with so much feel. I was in a good mood anyway, but that put me in an even better one. I did a lot of reading today, and a couple of interviews. One radio interview by phone, and one by email. Other than that it has been a nice relaxing time.
I bought a Zoom Q3 video camera in Austria, and over the last few days I have been taking clips of sound checks and the merchandising stand, etc., so I have been downloading these for the website. It will take a bit of getting used to, but it will eventually be a good way of giving an insight to life on the road with Heep, once I get the hang of it. I just thought it would be something extra special for the fans. Especially those in countries that cannot attend shows on this European tour. We had our usual day off meet at the hotel bar at 7pm, and decided to go back to the same Italian restaurant as last night. Now, sometimes you return to restaurants in the hope that it will be as good as before, and sometimes it isn’t, but I can report this time it was, so it was a good choice by Ian ‘Scampi’ our UK Tour Manager. We had a nice walk back to the hotel afterwards, and some of us continued in the bar and others went to their rooms.
TUESDAY November 24. City: Pratteln, Switzerland Venue: Z7.
Bernie Shaw, Russell, Trevor and myself went out for a walk around town after breakfast, but Phil always has his own agenda to hiking most days, and strides off into the distance with those long school (history) teacher legs of his. Trevor gave Phil that name once when we were changing to go on stage, and it creased the rest of us up and, as these things do, it has stuck.
It was a bit of a hang about day, as we did not leave Winterthur for Pratteln until 4pm. The crew went earlier to be ready for the sound check. On arrival we had a good quick sound check, and a lovely dinner prepared by the club. While this was happening, the one washing machine and dryer backstage was working overtime. The crew got in first, and then the band, one by one, afterwards. I was busy, so mine was last. I just had the chance to pop my washing in before our stage time, and have enough time to throw it in the dryer before we went for the signing at the merchandising afterwards. Rock ‘n’ roll eh!
The show was sold out and fantastic. Z7 is always a joy to play, and the audience is very receptive. We had a brilliant time on stage, and then when we went to the merchandising stand to do the signing, we were there for ages, which is always a good sign. Excuse the pun! Tonight is an overnighter to Munich, Germany as we have to travel 380k (236 miles). At least it will be a day off when we arrive. I can report that I managed to get my washing and drying complete, but now some of it needs an iron , which if I am perfectly honest, is not my forte. I will have to do this in Munich. At 2 am we left Z7 and Pratteln. It was a reasonably quiet bus, and not long before everyone had hit their bunks and the snoring orchestra began.
WEDNESDAY November 25. City: Munchen, Germany – Day off.
We arrived at the hotel in Munich just late enough to miss breakfast, but luckily enough there was a bread shop that does sandwiches and fresh coffee opposite the hotel, so Bernie, Trevor, Russell and myself had breakfast there. Phil decided to go into the city and do some rubber necking by bus and metro, and Russell joined him after a quick coffee, as he needed to find a Media Market for a DVD player. His one is kaput!
I had a day of re-packing and sorting out my bags, etc., and generally trying to get more organised. I usually do this at certain points of the tour, and the beauty of being on a bus, is that you can offload any stuff that you do not need. I had a lot of work to catch up on, so it was a case of make a cup of tea, and heads down and get it all done. I then had a nice shower and ‘Scampi’ our tour manager has booked a Japanese restaurant for tonight. The Japanese meal was superb. It was expensive but worth every euro, and to a man and woman (Charlotte was with us) everyone was happy. Most of the crew, though, went for the Bavarian experience, with our German tour manager, Bernie. I was glad I went for the Japanese as a night on the beer and bratwurst did not appeal, as I needed something a little different. Don’t get me wrong I love a beer and bratwurst as much as anyone, but we have another three weeks to be doing that.
After the Japanese meal it was back to the hotel and I watched a DVD in my room that Trevor lent me, called Charlie Wilson’s War starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It is a true story about a congressman who loved a good time, a Houston socialite who loved a good cause and a CIA agent who loved a good fight, all to conspire to bring about the largest covert operation in history. It was most enjoyable.
THURSDAY November 26. City: Munchen, Germany Venue: Tonhalle.
After breakfast and an hour’s walk with Trevor, I went back to my room to do the ironing. I was having an internal battle as I was trying to convince myself that I could make creased up crumpled clothes a fashion statement, thereby giving the ironing the elbow. The last time I held an iron in my hand, was December 1987, when we were the first western rock band to play Russia (Moscow). That ended in disaster as the shirt melted on to the iron, and that was the end of that, and I have not touched one since. Still I had a go, and I can report that it did not go too badly.
Whilst doing the ironing I also did a telephone interview and some radio station IDs. A car came to pick up Bernie and me to take us to a radio interview at Radio Antenne Munich. It was a great interview and they will use it in a 30-minute show featuring Heep music, and songs from our Celebration CD. We were then driven back to the hotel to meet up with everyone else, and go to the sound check. We have the early bath in Munich and Manfred Mann are on last, so after the sound check we will stay down at the venue. The sound check went well and after dinner we sat in the dressing room and signed lots of pictures and posters.
It was about 30 minutes before stage time and then all hell broke loose. The crew burst into the dressing room telling us that one of Phil’s keyboards refused to work, and would not power up, so we had the last minute panic of changing the set list to accommodate the missing keyboard, and letting Charlotte out front on the mixing desk know the changes, as well as ‘Scampi’ on the lights. This also altered the guitar changes too, as we had to put in The Wizard with a guitar we had not sound checked. The problem here is the fact that for The Wizard, the guitar is tuned down a tone, and the bottom E down two tones to a C. Now, with this tuning down it is important to sound check the guitar as it is likely to have some run away bass frequencies, due to the tuning down. Still there was not any time for that, and it was heads down and go for it. Luckily our crew were on top of it, and there was not a problem. Apart from that little panic and very little time to get changed and warm up, there was only 20 minutes to go and we had to meet 10 competition winners and sign their posters and have pictures taken. So after all of that we hit the stage running. Still, in true Heep style we managed to pull it off, and the audience gave us a fantastic response, so all’s well that ends well. After the show it was back to the hotel as we had a 6am wake up.
FRIDAY November 27. City: Alsfeld, Germany. Venue: Hessenhalle.
Some of the crew decided to stay on the bus straight after the Munich show, and the rest of us took the hotel option. Up at 6am, a quick breakfast, and on the bus for the 42km (261 mile) journey. Everyone hit the bunk at some time in the journey, until we arrived at the venue. A quick bite of lunch, and then the band went to the hotel, while the crew set up the equipment. We went to the sound check and Christos had miraculously managed to get another keyboard for Phil delivered to the venue. So we were now back on track and we can now perform the tracks that were missing from last night. In case you were wondering they are Love In Silence and Rai”.
The Manfreds had the early bath tonight, as we were headlining. The show was a good one with no technical hitches so we were happy about that. We did a quick signing, and a few drinks, and then went back to the hotel, leaving the crew in the dressing room to wind down. The crew on the way back to the hotel went to the American Embassy (MacDonald’s) for a midnight feast. Tomorrows journey is only 170km (106 miles), so we are leaving at 11am which is most welcome.
SATURDAY November 28. City: Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Venue: Jakob Kiefer Halle.
We arrived at the hotel at 2pm and had lunch. We were staying down at the venue today after the sound check, as we were on first tonight and Manfred is on last. On the tour bus we can occasionally connect to the internet, and on the bus journey from Alsfeld we downloaded some of the tour press reviews. They have been very good and positive thus far, which is very encouraging. The downside between Heep and Manfred on the review side, is that they do use the word ‘Dinosaurs’ a lot. Now to me this a journalistic faux par as ‘Dinosaurs’ are extinct and we are very much alive. That is just my opinion, so there you go.
Our sound check was good, and to get the balance right for Charlotte out front we played Only Human, Wake The Sleeper and Corridors Of Madness, and she was a happy puppy, or as she would prefer me to say a happy cat, being the cat lover that she is.
What a way to end the week, with a brilliant show that is sold out. The sound by all accounts was superb, and the sound on stage was very powerful. We could have played more encores, but we couldn’t, due to the time factor. There was a good buzz in the dressing room afterwards, and I also received news that Spurs drew 1-1 with Aston Villa, which in all honesty is not a bad result. After a few celebratory drinks, it was back to the hotel. We have a travel day tomorrow and a night off in Augsburg, so the cries to ‘Scampi’ our Tour Manager as we left the venue was to find either a Thai, Curry or Chinese restaurant for dinner tomorrow night.
Thanks for taking the time to read my column. Much appreciated!