Back on the Road Tour 2004
Brian’s ‘Diary of a Drummer’ chronicling life on the road during the farewell tour of The Shadows in the UK in 2004 from the end to the beginning.
Friday 2nd July 2004 Lunch in London
So that was it. The tour was over. We met in London before Hank and Carole (known affectionately to me as ‘Doris’ return to Perth in Western Australia.
It was the longest lunch I’ve ever had, I think! We met at 1pm and the coffees came at around 7pm. Most of it was just friendly banter between old friends.So, that was it. The tour was over. We met in London before Hank and Carole (known to me affectionately as ‘Doris’) return to Perth in Western Australia.
Some business had to be discussed, however. Firstly, we had to come to a decision on the DVD that was recorded in Cardiff. We all have different ideas on live performances. I personally think that what I did on that night was live (well almost!) and if I made mistakes (which I most certainly did) – then, tough; I believe in the warts and all theory, what you see is what you get. Unless of course it is totally unacceptable. So, this was the basis of our first discussion. The soundtrack was recorded on a system called ‘Pro Tools’. Unlike tape, you can move things around and repair errors very easily. We had all listened to the performance and pinpointed the parts that needed some adjustments.
Warren was appointed as musical supervisor as he is familiar with ‘Pro-Tools’ and knows our history and our sound. As yet, we have not seen the final cut and will not see the finished film until Hank is back home.
Other things that came up in discussion that afternoon included the possibility of saying goodbye to Europe next year. Another tour, another diary!
We all thought it was worth thinking about and in the next few weeks we will consider it in more detail.
I have to say I have had a great tour and enjoyed playing more than ever.
Mojo Honours Night 22nd June 2004
After a week of coming down from the tour, I have been answering all the mail that has stacked up, reading the reviews and sleeping!
On Tuesday 22nd June we were the guests of Mojo, where we were to collect a special award for our services to music, a great honour and we were in good company.The presentation was made my Lemmy from Motorhead. My partner for the day was my daughter Sarah.
Also at our table where the two girls who have worked with us during the tour on TV and press promotions: Lisa Davis and Judy Lipsey. They have done a superb job in getting us seen and talked about over the past four months. It was a really good day to round off our tour in style.
Monday 14th June 2004 The London Palladium
So this is it, the last show. Eleven weeks since I sat at my favourite table at my favourite restaurant in Southern Portugal and began these journals about being back on the road.
I have to say I’ve had a great time. The band has never sounded better. The empathy between us has never been this good. There will always be differences of opinion, that’s natural but overall, I can’t remember it being this good. As they say, youth is wasted on the young! Enough of my waffling and back to the last night. As normal, 5pm sound check with the extra run through of three vocal numbers with our old lead singer.
Once through! Easy – the man’s a total professional. Before the show, a press conference and presentation of three gold discs for our album Life Story. Plus TV interviews and loads of friends wanting to say hello. All good stuff but in a short while we would be on stage for the final gig.
The Palladium holds many memories for me. Concerts, seasons and three pantomimes, which we wrote the scores for. They were more like musicals: big budgets, big sets and big stars. They where all produced by Albert J. Knight. One of my guests this evening was Paul Knight, a great producer that I have had the privilege of working with for many years on such TV programmes as ‘Pulaski’, ‘London’s Burning’, ‘The Knock’ and ‘Murder in Mind’
He is of course Albert’s son and has become a good friend. My children used to come for tea every Saturday between the matinée and the evening show.
As we had a rota of dressing rooms throughout this tour, it was my good fortune to have the number one room on the last night. Bruce reminded me that it was here that he knocked on the door to meet the great Judy Garland. She simply told him to “Go Away” (and I cleaned that up!). So here I was in the number one dressing room with its thousands of stories. It was in this room in 1962 I met a young songwriter and his wife: Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson. So many memories, I should write a book.
“30 minutes gentlemen” came the call from Roger Searle, our tour manager. The theatre was full of friends, family and fellow musicians who all wanted to see the last show.
Earlier in the week, when we knew Cliff wanted to sing with us, it was suggested he did it at the end of the show as it would be a hard act to follow. I said he should come on when we did our Cliff medley of songs we wrote for him. Someone said you can’t follow that with a drum solo. “Watch Me”, I said and it worked. Brian May was at the side of stage for the second time, Pete Townshend was in the room and Cilla Black was dancing in the royal box.
So, with all that going on, we did our last show – just another show? I think not. Lionel had added OBE to my walk-on mark. So, on I walked with a big grin. The party after was a blur, not because of too much champagne but because of so many great friends wanting to share the last night with us.
Our fabulous crew was stripping down the stage as normal so no time to hang out with them. I found out they had a lottery each night on how long the drum solo would be. Big money was involved and, on the last night, a roll over of £70 passed hands in 10 minutes and 50 seconds precisely. When I have slept and got over this night, I will write a few more lines to wrap this diary up. Bruce and I have a SODS (Society Of Distinguished Songwriters) meeting next week and Hank is going to Paris for a Django Reinhardt festival. We will have lunch the following week, before he returns to Perth. Maybe we will consider saying goodbye to Europe and Oz, who knows.
We have been invited to receive an award at the ‘Mojo’ lunch next week. We also have to look at the Cardiff film to make sure we are all happy with our performances. Let me thank you all for your letters, they are very much appreciated and, without naming names, a special thanks to all you special friends who have followed my career and have supported me for over 45 years, I luv ya. More next week after our lunch. TTFN.
Sunday 13th June 2004 Eastbourne
Drove to Eastbourne at around midday picking up Ed Bicknell on the way. He showed me where he used to live near the South Downs. I had never looked around that part of England before. It’s beautiful.
My parents used to come here in the 1930s on there motorbikes. In most of my father’s paintings, you will most likely see the Beachy Head lighthouse.
Whilst going through some of the many letters I received during the tour, one was from my cousin Leslie that included some photos of my parents I had never seen before. Magic!
I will try and reply to all the letters I have received when the tour is over.
Another great show but had to disappoint a few people who wanted to chat after the performance. We had to drive home immediately to get ready for the last show in London. Not only as it was the last night but also we knew there would be lots of press and TV coverage, Cliff would be doing some songs and we all had family and guests to look after.
So that was it. One more to go – just another show. I don’t think so!
Saturday 12th June 2004 Hammersmith, London
Arrived home from Bournemouth early in the morning. It’s always good to get home after being on the road but when you’re in a routine and in hotel mode, it can throw you sometimes. Every one seems to think that London is special but as I said about the Cardiff filming, it’s just another show, don’t get uptight.
Went to the newsagents to get the papers. It was all there and I wasn’t dreaming. Lots of family and friends coming tonight but for me, the highlight will be my grandaughters seeing their grandad for the first time on stage. ‘Cool Grandad’ they’ve named me!!!
It’s a great venue and bigger than you think. It was packed with people from all over the world. Arrived for soundcheck at 5.00pm as normal (it’s just another show I keep telling myself!). Changed the snare drum head at the last minute; it had gone during the last solo. EEK!
It was from my spare so it wasn’t new, thank goodness. My daughter Sarah and her husband Mike turned up. Jonathan, my youngest son flew in from Portugal and Warren, Jane and the girls came early to see grandad’s drums.
Randy Bachman (of Bachman-Turner Overdrive) flew in with his family and it was a great thrill to meet him. Brian May of Queen was in the audience. We have worked together before on various projects and I am a big fan.
So, what a day and what an audience! (It’s only another show – well, not really!)
Friday 11th June 2004
Like Blackpool, Bournemouth has many fond memories for me. I did a summer season here in 1960 with Marty Wilde at the Pavilion. I was studying harmony with Byron Brook and every Thursday we used to attend rehearsals with Charles Groves and The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Marty and I shared a house and during that season started to play golf. We had our first lessons at Parkston Golf Club where we met the great Peter Allis.
The show was yet another triumph and Warren drove my car down from London as I am going home after the show.
Also the day was very special as the secret I have been keeping since Manchester is finally out of the bag. My name had been put forward for an OBE. The letter from Downing Street is very clear that I was to keep it to myself until today. Bruce knocked on my door and told me that it was now official and the press had been on to him. Sky News had contacted Warren and wanted to interview me. I can’t tell you how proud I felt that day. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s papers to read the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Thursday 10th June 2004 Bournemouth
An early start and a bumpy flight to Southampton to pick up the cars.
I drove to Bournemouth with Bruce. It was like old times.
We listened to the rough mixes of the Cardiff tapes and they sounded fine.
The hotel was high up and you could see The Isle of Wight to the east and the Dorset coast to the west. It was a beautiful day and you could see for miles.
Only four shows to go. It feels a long time since rehearsals in Putney.
Tuesday 8th June 2004 Dublin
Not much time to look around Dublin’s fair city.
The venue was The Point, very large and very rock ‘n’ roll. As I arrived at the back of stage area there was a man with a familiar face waiting to see me: Nuggie McGraw. After 40 years I knew exactly who he was. In the late 50s, he drove The Wildcats, Billy Fury and all the Larry Parnes stable around Ireland. The days in Waterford came flooding back to me in an instant. Me playing (or trying to!) Chopin preludes and Jim Sullivan and Tony Belcher ploughing through Bach’s Chaconne. Happy Days.
After a diet of chicken sandwiches for twelve weeks, it was great to be welcomed backstage with a large room for all of us and a menu of HOT food. It was great to hang out with the crew. They are always 24 hours ahead of us so we don’t get to spend much time together. They are the best team I have ever worked with. Ed Bicknell, who has toured the world with all the big boys said he has never seen a crew like it anywhere (under the expert direction of Tour Manager Roger Searle). Praise indeed.
The show was great and the Dublin crowd were, as always, warm and friendly. After introducing Mark and Cliff, as we do each evening, just before we went into the next number, a young girl got up and shouted “Who’s yer man on the drums?” in a broad lilting accent. As we all pointed to the name on the bass drum the audience applauded me, and the young lady for asking.
Wednesday 9th June 2004 Belfast
Drove to Belfast in a bus that was designed for motorway travel only. On one occasion, it hit a winding stretch of road we got thrown all over the place.
Again no time to look around Belfast as we had some press to do and suddenly it was time for sound check. No problem as, hopefully, I will come back to this great city in years to come. I have in recent years played golf in the Johnny Mathis Classic in aid of NSPCC and have made some great friends.
The hall was fantastic, similar to Birmingham but a much brighter sound. After the show we where blessed with another hot meal. Paul Smith, a friend of Hank’s flew in to see the show and took us out to dinner.
We are on the home stretch now and are on a high. Probably the best tour ever!
Tuesday 8th June 2004 London
Opened the curtains of my hotel room to a clear blue sky and a view of one of the greatest cities in the world.
London looked beautiful!
We arrived at the TV studios for our interview and a performance of ‘Foot Tapper’.
Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield where the perfect hosts and made us feel at ease.
Back to Southampton to catch a plane to Dublin. The plane was five hours late. The day off in Dublin was looking slim. Southampton airport is not where you want to be for five hours and the whole crew where on the same flight. So,I went to town on my ‘Lets-Fix-It’ skills. First, I went to duty-free and got some Champagne and chocolates. Then found a way to get a private lounge for all of us. At least it eased five hours of hanging around.
Arrived in Dublin very late and found the hotel restaurant closed. So much for a day off in Dublin!
Sunday 6th June 2004 Southampton
I decided to drive over night to Southampton to avoid the Sunday morning holiday traffic and get rested before an early morning television show in London on Monday.
It was Jim’s last day with me. He has fitted in with everyone very well and has made the tour absolutely stress-free for me. I have made a new friend and hopefully we will keep in touch. Thanks Jim.
Another Jim came to see me, Big Jim Sullivan. We first played together at the ‘2 I’s’ in 1957 and have performed in various bands over the years, most notably The Wilde Cats with Marty (Wilde).
After a great show, we drove overnight to a London hotel as we were due to appear on the TV show ‘This Morning’ the next day.
Saturday 5th June 2004 Cardiff
Drove to Cardiff with Warren for a full on day of interviews and preparations for the filming of the concert.
In my diary, I have had marked in red for weeks; “It’s just another show”. It’s easy to loose the flow of a tour and get tense before the recording of a show. It’s called ‘red light syndrome’. The venue held 6000 people and it was full to capacity. Six or more cameras in all directions and two directly behind me, very close.
After the interviews, I did some work on the practice pad and had a cat-nap, something I have been blessed with being able to do. It can freak the boys out sometimes as I can be asleep 10 minutes before a gig. “The drummer’s asleep!” I can hear Bruce shout but after all these years it’s all in good humour and he knows how I work.
Yes of course we were a little nervous at the thought of making mistakes for posterity but we where recording onto a system called Pro-Tools and any clangers would be easy to fix. The evening was a triumph. The director was happy and we will get to see a rough assembly of it before Hank flies home.
We are all very happy that our last time together will be on film.
Tuesday 3rd June 2004 Bristol
Two days at Colston Hall, great! One of the best venues ever, plus, I have friends coming. I’ve been performing here since the late 50s. It has a live, vibrant room so you don’t need much help with microphones on the drums. However, I was suffering from the change of heads, they weren’t responding as fast as I had hoped and I spent some time with Bunny tweaking and stretching the toms.
On the first night, Margaret came to the show with our friends Stephanie and Rod Wilcox (who we met in Portugal) and their daughter Louise, who is at university here.
It was also good to meet up with Peter and Pat Crawford who live in Bristol. I have written the music for all of Peter’s films on natural history for the last fifteen years and we have become good friends. Mike Lemmon, the camera man for all of Peter’s programmes, was with him and it was good to meet at last. I have composed music to his pictures but we have never met as he lives in New Zealand. After the show we had dinner and talked about the new project they are working on.
The second day in Bristol was spent filming inserts for part of the DVD we are shooting tomorrow in Cardiff. Warren arrived as he is musical supervisor for the show.
The concert that night was one of the best. The new heads are starting to sound good. Peter, Pat and Mike came to the gig for the second time. Had an early night as the next few days are full on as you will see.
Tuesday 2nd June 2004 Plymouth
We drove to Plymouth for a day off. Thank goodness for that, I was up far too late last night with Mike Moran but it was worth it. I think.
Had an early meal and watched the England/Japan friendly match with Bruce, Griff and Cliff.
Tomorrow, I will change all the drum heads. With the show being filmed in Cardiff, I need a couple of days to play them in.
A beautiful sunny day. Walked to Plymouth Hoe. I’ve been coming here for years and have never had the time to look around. In fact, like most of the places I’ve visited throughout the world, I have never had the time. It’s been airports, hotels, theatres, buses, interviews etc. etc.
The show was great but the new heads where uncomfortable to play.
During the last 4 numbers of the show, a pretty young blond girl got up and started dancing, something I’d never ever seen before at a Shads concert. After a while, there were about 50 people dancing in the aisles. Rockin!
Tonto, the sound engineer from our rehearsals in Fulham came to see us as he lives here. He came on his amazing scooter he had been telling us about. He’s quite mad you know!
Sunday 30th & 31st May 2004 Birmingham
The Symphony Hall is stunning in all respects. Visually breathtaking from the stage and acoustically perfect. Backstage was like a five star hotel with pianos in the rooms. The staff and security personnel were very helpful and most welcoming. Two nights and again it was a complete sell-out.
The first of my soundtrack albums went on sale that night. Warren has done a brilliant job in producing a collection of my favourite works for ‘Music to Picture’, the first of the six CDs. Jim drove down to London to pick them up.
Tim Rice came to the show with his first band from school ‘The Aardvarks’ and we went out for a great meal at J.Jay’s Indian restaurant after the concert. Apart from being a great song writer and lyricist, he has an amazing knowledge of the history of popular music. I have known Tim since the days when he worked with the late great Norrie Paramour in the 60s.
Our hotel is joined to the concert hall by a private walkway so I opted to change for the show in my room. Luxury!
After the show we gathered in the bar as usual and met my very good friend Mike Moran, who is touring with Elaine Page as her musical director. Mike and I were neighbours for 20 years and have worked together on many projects. We stayed up far too long but it was a good excuse. It’ll be a different story in the morning!
Friday 28th May 2004 Blackpool
We drove to Blackpool for a day off. I am behind with the diary because of bad communications with hotels and the lap-top.
Again the luxury of hot food and a good hotel. It had a golf course so I went to organize a tee-off time. But as it was a bank holiday weekend, the course was fully booked.
Had an early meal with Bruce and Cliff and found a good phone line to write these notes.
Blackpool has many memories for me. I did a summer season at The Palace Theatre with Marty Wilde in 1958. And it was at The Opera House in September 1961 that I first walked on the stage with Cliff and Shadows.
The Shadows opened the ABC Theatre in the mid 60s and I returned to the Opera House a few years ago as musical consultant for ‘Summer Holiday’, the musical with Darren Day. During a break in rehearsals, I talked to one of the dancers and she was telling me how she was studying and working hard to becoming an actress. She had that determination that you recognize in people who know exactly where they are going. Her name was Tamsin Outhwaite.
Went for a walk on the front. It hasn’t changed much in 40 years. Over the tram lines (where I passed my driving test in 1958!) to be met by a magnificent display by the Red Arrows. Usually when you return to a place after many years, it always seems smaller than you remember but the Opera House, which is part of The Winter Gardens is as big as I remember it.
The stage doorman was the same as when I joined in ’61 and the place was packed.
Thursday 27th May 2004 Nottingham
A very significant venue for me personally.
It was here that I drove up from London to see Warren, Ben, Hank, Mark and the boys on their final tour. Hank got me up to play and, as I have said earlier, the audience just loved it!
Opposite the stage door, the Indian restaurant where we had gone for that Ruby is still there and I had thought how good it would be if The Shadows could do one more tour. So here we are playing to a packed house with an album in the charts.
It has now sold over 100,000 and has gone gold. All things are possible!
24-26th May 2004 Southend
After a lazy day off at home we started the final leg of our journey which would last three weeks. Cliffs Pavilion at Southend has had a re-furb since I was last there and it was good to play in a more intimate theatre again, another great sounding room.
Sad to hear that Elvin Jones had passed away. He was one of the greatest of drummers and changed the way that modern jazz would sound for ever.
Overnight to Cambridge and the Corn Exchange, again a small room but probably one of the best atmospheres anywhere.
Wednesday: Derngate, Northampton. It is Griff’s home town and a fabulous sounding room. You really do play better when the room sounds great and Griff’s solo in Nivram was taken to new heights.
Saturday 22nd May 2004 Brighton
Arrived late after the Croydon gig to what I thought would be a quiet seaside town at 1:00am in the morning. Wrong. Saturday nights are noisier than in London!
I was on the sea front and the place was roaring till about five in the morning. The venue was a large conference centre, capacity of over 4000 and it was full.
Again like most leisure centres, it was a big impersonal room and very wide.
When you play in such a place you have to use broad strokes, in other words nothing too quiet and subtle. I left the brushes in the bag. One of the saddest sights is the pier that has been neglected for so long; I’m not sure what its future will be.
The director who will film our concert in Cardiff came to talk about his ideas for the shoot. We are all very pleased that our last time around the block will be recorded.
I drove home after the show to get ready for the last and longest leg of the tour.
Friday 21st May 2004 Croydon
In 1975, when we where asked to represent Britain in the European Song Contest, we decided we would do some concerts to get used to playing live in front of a big audience before our visit to Stockholm.
Croydon was the first of a 20-date tour before that event.
We had not worked together as The Shadows for eight years so did not know what to expect when we walked on stage. Well, at Croydon we where reminded of the affection our audience has for us. It was a standing ovation before we had played a note, the biggest response so far on this tour. Lots of friends came to see us as it is the closest to London we have performed so far.
Kelly, my PA for two years came as she lives here.
David Bryce our touring manager since we began in the 60s turned up. He was in New York when I got the original Ludwigs.
Peter Listor-Todd, great friend and colleague, was there as was Frank Allan from The Searchers who always tries to come to see us if we are in town.
Roger Bruce, who has worked with Cliff for many years and is a big fan of my film and TV music, made an appearance so it was a great turn-out backstage as well as front of house.
I think we played the best set so far and are now very together as a band.
I decided to drive to Brighton after the show as we are there the next day and it is only a couple of hours travelling late at night.
Thursday 20th May 2004 Oxford
Jim navigated a great drive across England on the B-roads to Oxford. Beautiful.
Half way through the sound-check, there was a very loud explosion and the theatre was plunged into a total blackout. We were led by torches to the stage door. Police and firemen everywhere. A sergeant said we must evacuate the building immediately. Out into the rain to be met by fans with hundreds of albums to be signed. A generator had blown up and the block and traffic lights where the theatre was located were all down. It was now 6:00pm and the fire chief could not give us any assurances that we would get any power for the performance.
Roger Searle, our tour manager (as cool as ever) said if we didn’t hear anything positive by 7:00pm, we would have to pull the show and re-schedule a later date.
At 6:55, we had power and half an hour to get the audience in and get ready.
We walked on stage at 7:30pm to another full house!
Wednesday 19th May 2004 Leicester
DeMontford Hall has had a complete re-furb of late. The seats are now tiered and the sound is better than ever. There was always a slap-back from the back of the hall which means you hear your snare drum half a second after you’ve played it, very unnerving. But like a lot of theatres that spend money on front of house, they never seem to do much with the dressing rooms backstage.
Two great drummers came to see the show: Duggie Wright, who I have known since the late 50s when he played with The John Barry 7 and during the 70s and 80s, during the golden days of recording sessions. He was one of the élite players and was always in demand. Also Rob Townsend, who I met last year at Ronnie Scott’s Club with Ed Bicknell.
The new snare drum head has now broken in and the kit sounds the best I have ever heard it.
Bernard Broche came over from France and gave us each a case of Champagne.
“…merci beaucoup, Bernard!”
Monday 17th May 2004 Brentwood
A late check out to get to Brentwood for a 5:00pm sound check.
No hotel today as we are going home after the show.
Leisure centres have never been my most favourite places to play in. They where built for indoor sports events so the sound is like playing in a swimming pool and back stage is worse: sweaty changing rooms and one loo!
The good part is the audience loved it and I am going home tonight.
Warren came to see us and bought with him the first proofs of my six soundtrack albums (due out soon). Our audiences span three generations: people of our age; people in their 30s and their children. Some have been coming since we started, some for an ancient history lesson and some probably thought we died years ago and think we’re a Shadows tribute band!
Saturday, Sunday 15th & 16th May Norwich
Two nights in one place, great!
The Theatre Royal has a bright sound and has a fabulous atmosphere.
Again, lots of people came over from Europe via the Hook of Holland.
It was good to meet so many friends who have been such great supporters of the band for so many years.
Brian Berg from Universal called to say the album is still in the top ten!
We are coming up to the halfway point of the tour and I am pleased to say it is the happiest of times we have ever had together.
At sound check I had to bite the bullet and change the snare drum head. It was starting to sound a little flat and the down side is that it takes two or three nights to break a new head in so this one should take me up to the last night! With luck.
Thursday 13th May 2004 Ipswich
Drove to Ipswich late morning (no rush – it was a day off). The hotel was out of town, nice and quiet.
Had dinner with Hank and Carol, it’s been sandwiches for about two weeks so an early meal in the hotel restaurant was well overdue.
Spent time talking about the life of Django Reinhardt (next time I’m near a good bookshop I’ll get the biography Hank has read).
Again, not much luck getting online but found a table and chair outside the box office (a portacabin) to write these notes.
As we are near to the main ferry links to Europe, we had lots of fans over from Holland and it was good that we had time to speak to them. In fact, we have had people from many parts of the world come to see us, mostly from Europe but also from Japan, Canada and the USA. Sometimes the tour schedule means that we have to travel to the next town to do press and radio or to just be in one hotel for two or three nights to get cleaning done. Checking in and of a Hotel can sometimes take an hour or more so we would rather drive overnight with no traffic and have the following day to ourselves. This means that sometimes we don’t get to say hello to everyone. Most of the regular fans understand this and are a great support but unfortunately,you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
The show was one of the best and I think I have found some form to ‘Little B’ at last.
Saturday 8th May 2004 Sheffield
Drove to Sheffield and got totally lost. The new ring road is a nightmare and the hotel was in the centre of town and it was Saturday, everyone was shopping.
Brian Berg called to say the Album was up to No.7– fabulous!
City Hall, Sheffield has a great natural sound and we had yet another great show even if the two famous lions have run off somewhere!
For the next four days, I have decided to base myself in Manchester to save checking in to a different hotel every day. The hotel had a good connection for my laptop so I was able to get a move on with these notes.
Sunday 9th May 2004 Liverpool
Not far to drive so left around 4pm for sound check.
Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking came back to say hello again and that night I did my Gene Krupa impersonation for him during Little ‘B’. I could see him laughing from my drum chair.
Monday 10th May Halifax
Again a great old theatre and a very receptive crowd.
Ken Kitson came round before the show, finally getting back stage after signing autographs at the stage door. He is very well known as PC1 in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. I have known Ken for about 20 years as he was in all ‘The Ruth Rendell Mysteries’ up until ‘Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter’ where he gets shot in a bank raid.
He tells the story that he looked through the rest of the script to find where he wakes up in hospital. But found that he didn’t wake up at all and was out of work! For the last few years has been working on a film ‘Fistful of Dreams’. He has written a great script and is producing the whole project. I have been asked to write the score.
Teri Sullivan also came backstage to say hello and she will be singing one of the song’s in the film.
Tuesday 11th May Manchester
The luxury of a no travelling day. My wife Margaret flew in from Faro, landing at Manchester airport at around 4:30 in the afternoon. She had been in Portugal and hadn’t seen any of the shows yet.
Margaret came back for a quick drink with the boys before driving back to London that night. (With my laundry!)
Wednesday 12th May 2004 Preston
Finally, a trip for the last time without checking into a new hotel. The Mayor of Preston and his wife came back to meet us wearing full chain of office.
It is a very loud room and ‘Bunny’ had a job keeping the monitors on stage down to almost off. It was very hot on and off stage so a visit from the ice cream girl was a bonus. Back to base late at night and pack for the mornings drive to Ipswich.
Tuesday 6th May York
Drove to York for a day off and re-pack! My suitcase is like a tip! No time to get laundry done so I can be seen in M&S on days off!
York is as beautiful as ever and it was relaxing to wander round. Lots of street musicians and especially a South American pan pipe ensemble.
York, Sheffield, Liverpool, Halifax, Manchester and Preston are back-to-back so I will try and keep up the diary as best I can.
Everyone is playing the best I have ever heard. Hank is into French-style acoustic gypsy jazz and is playing great.
Bruce is playing his sox off and his acoustic work is the best I have heard him play.
Mark’s solo on ‘Nivram’ is different every night and he is just outstanding to play with.
Cliff is, as always, brilliant and the grooves we are getting together are a joy, mostly because I believe we are having a good time and the band is a happy one.
Sunday 2nd May 2004 North to Scotland
We drove to Edinburgh on the old A1 road. It was a day off so no need to rush. Part of the old A1 runs by the sea and, with Jim at the wheel, I was able to enjoy the countryside. It was the season where the rape fields are at there most spectacular, acres of gold and yellow. I wanted to stop off at North Berwick to see the golf courses, there are about ten in a line along the coast. The winds can be so strong you can hit a great drive and the ball will land behind you!
Then on to Edinburgh and dinner (some of the hotels didn’t have connections for my lap-top so I’m playing catch-up with these journals).
Ed Bicknell flew in the next day and hung out with us for the three days in Scotland. The atmosphere amongst the band and crew is good, everyone working 100%. Brian Berg made us all very happy when he called to tell us our album had gone Top Ten and sales are looking good.
Warren has nearly finished producing the six soundtrack albums now and I should get proofs of the covers some time next week.
Saturday 1st May Newcastle
Drove to Newcastle at 11:00 am via Scarborough station to drop Warren off for the train back to London. He is producing six soundtrack albums for me which should be ready in a couple of weeks on Cube Records.
I have played The City Hall in Newcastle many times over the years. With Marty Wilde, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and of course, Cliff and the Shads.
The sound of the room is great, the drums resonate perfectly without much amplification and the audiences are the warmest anywhere.
“My Home Town” is a song they wrote with John Farrar and it’s all about a boy who dreams of leaving home for the bright lights of a new city to find fame and fortune.
One of these days
I’m gonna pack my bags and take a train to some big city
Where the lights are bright and I know all the girls are pretty
My home folk where raised in the smoke
Of fiery factory chimney stacks
That gave you work but in return they choked you
Great lyrics and a brilliant song.
Well, on this trip to their home town, I didn’t recognise the place! It’s a clean and vibrant place now and the new architecture is stunning.
Friday 30th April Opening Night
After all the letters, calls, meetings and discussions this was it! A few friends at the stage door to wish us well. My old mate Brian Locking came round and as always we just had a laugh. Phil Jarvis came back to see the Ludwig’s. He has a magnificent web-site calledBrian’s Drum Kits and he knows more about my drums over the last 45 years than I do. Warren came up on the train. He had been working with Cliff Hall on sounds for the past few weeks and has been a great help.
“Five minutes gentlemen.”
No point in working on the practice pad now. You would think that after all these years you would not still be nervous, but not so. We gathered at the side of the stage.
“House lights out.”
On we walked … to a standing ovation! The roar was deafening, the loudest I have ever known, it felt good. I was on auto-pilot most of the set and when the adrenalin is pumping you can’t be too clever, there can be a tendency to rush things so I concentrated on keeping the beat solid and steady. ‘Little B’, my drum feature came up. We had only practiced the tune at rehearsals so I didn’t know what I was going to do during the solo. My technique was nearly up to scratch so it was just a case of how and where to take it. It’s instinct mostly, that and daring to take the dynamics down to almost nothing. Some of it came off and some didn’t but at the end, the audience rose to it’s feet and let me know they liked it (big time!) I was very happy. The same reaction from the crowd at the end of the set and in minutes we where back at our hotel.
It was worth all the hours of rehearsals and all the hard work that everybody had put in.
We are back on the road!
Wednesday 28th April Heading North
At midday, after trying to remember how to pack for a tour I drove to Scarborough for the final production rehearsal with sound and lights. On the way I encountered the inevitable traffic jams, road works, useless sign posts, detours and awful weather conditions. That was the part of touring I hated and can be more stressful than any performance. You can’t play 100% after spending a day like that: getting lost and looking for the Hotel or the Theatre. So I knew I’d done the right thing when I decided to seek the services of a driver for most of the tour. Jim Carn was a great find and is making the journeys a pleasure. He has been a professional for many years and knows his way around Britain.
Thursday 29th April Production Day
From 11:00am, we went over all the material a few times with sound and lights. It was good to get out of the rehearsal rooms and have some space around the kit. Stewart Blandamer is looking after my drums.
‘JJ’ James is our monitor engineer which means the sound will be great every night, as he is the best. Sound engineer at front of house is Mike ‘Bunny’ Warren, someone I have never worked with before but after a few minutes, you know you are in good hands. Also my old friend John ‘Lionel’ Ward is with us. We have been around the world a few times and have had many adventures. Roger Searle is Tour Manager, also an old friend and someone whose organizing skills are the very best.
Monday 12th April 2004 Putney
Rehearsals began today in Putney starting at 11:00 am and finishing around 7:00 pm.
The journey from my home in Hertfordshire averaged about two hours there and two hours back. The traffic was nose to tail every day and even worse on Saturdays.
The studio had no natural light and above and below it were two train lines. Trains ran at five minute intervals which shook the room and made the amplifiers buzz and crackle!
Bruce and I got coughs and colds, normal in such conditions.
During those two weeks, we got through a lot of music and ended up with what I think is a great set.
It ranges from early 60s stuff to our last recordings in the 80s.
The Ludwig drums are going through some changes and I have added a second snare drum (Ludwig 400, original from Mannys in NY 1963) with a flat/dry sound for some of the vocals and later recordings.
Apart from rehearsals we have been doing press and radio interviews.
On the last day, Tuesday 27th April, we where invited to appear on GMTV live, to play a track from our album.
Then on to Putney for the last run through, before last minute shopping and packing.
During the time at Putney, a few friends came round to say hello: Warren and Ben came by and my good friend Ed Bicknell.
Saturday 10th April 2004
An appointment in London.
After 14 years we finally met in London on Saturday 10th April for dinner.
Over dinner we made our plans for the tour.
The atmosphere between us was really good, better than it had been for years.
Rehearsals start next week in South London, so I will let you know how it goes, as and when.
Tuesday 1st April 2004
I flew home from Portugal on 1st April and started work on my old silver Ludwig drum kit.
The original kit was bought at Manny’s in New York in 1963. We were there to do the Ed Sullivan Show.
I have always loved those drums but over a long period of time they’ve got a bit tired and the shells have started to warp (I know how they feel) and my new heads didn’t fit very well, consequently some adjustments had to be made.
Over the years, I have collected about five Ludwig kits, mostly in silver glitter, so I started to match them up to get the perfect combination. In other words the drums that I will be playing on this tour will be odds and sods from a period stretching from 1962 to the present time.
There is an internal microphone suspended in the bass drum, which will hopefully give me the rich, round tone that I like. I will be working on the sound right up to opening night but so far I am very pleased with it.
Sunday 28th March Southern Portugal
I am sitting at my favourite table at one of my favourite places, Restaurante Do Garrão, just two weeks before meeting Hank and Bruce for dinner in London. It will be the first time we have been together for fourteen years and we will be discussing our last time back on the road.
For as long as I can remember I have kept a diary. My diaries are full of special events, times of recording sessions, tour itineraries and personal notes, projects and goals.
I started my musical journey as a drummer and have had the privilege of playing with the best. The longest time with one band (in fact most of my life) has been spent with The Shadows.
Like all bands we have had our ups and downs, good times and bad times, disagreements, all of it. You can’t spend the best part of 45 years in cramped dressing rooms, cold coaches, hanging around airports and recording studios without it getting to you in one way or another. So, for what we thought would be our last concert, we walked off stage on Saturday 1st December at The Mayflower in Southampton and that was that. Since then, I have been writing music for film and television which is by its nature a solitary existence with out the roar of the crowd.
I was happy with my success but missed playing live. I would play drums now and then for fun and for friends and have tried to keep my hands in reasonable shape. On Thursday 6th June 2002 I drove up to Nottingham to see Warren, my son, who was on tour with Hank. Towards the end of his set Hank invited me on stage to sit in on a couple of numbers. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction that followed. The audience made me so welcome, I had forgotten the affection they had for us and the feeling I got from their response.
After a Ruby with the boys in one of the best Indian restaurants in England (opposite the stage door) I drove home with the applause still ringing in my ears, it was very satisfying. Bruce had often asked me to join him on his annual Shadowmania concerts at the Lakeside Country Club and I had always declined the invitation. However, that year he had invited Warren’s band ‘The Vibratos’ to perform and Warren had asked me if I would take the drum chair. My first reaction was a no but after a couple of weeks thinking about it and remembering the trip to Nottingham, I decided to except and got my small jazz kit together and got my practice pad out to get in shape. I was coming to the end of the 24th episode of ‘Murder in Mind’ and really felt like playing in front of an audience again.
Warren being a great organiser gave me a CD of the set to learn, knowing how I felt about endless rehearsals. We had an afternoon to run through the numbers followed by a Ruby at our local Akash restaurant and that was it.
On Saturday 21st September 2002, Bruce announced the Band to a fantastic response from the crowd and after my drum solo, I got a standing ovation.
‘The Vibratos’ are a great band to play in, with an empathy between us all, very rare these days.
Next Bruce asked me up to play with his band ‘The Moonlight Shadows’ to another standing ovation and that was that. On the drive home, I started to wonder what it would be like with the three of us on stage. Not a chance in the world I thought and forgot all about it.
Over the next few weeks the memory of those two events kept coming into my mind and I decided to write to Hank and Bruce to test the water. Without going into any details, the following few months of calls and discussions have resulted in this final tour taking place and also being totally sold out.
I have been practicing every day and have renovated my silver Ludwig drum kit, parts of which were bought in New York in I963.
During the tour I will be releasing six soundtrack albums that have been produced by Warren for Cube Records. Look under soundtracks for details.
The idea for this diary started in Portugal where I spend a lot of time and where I am writing this first page. It’s just for fun with a few photos and no doubt many stories which may give you an insight into what it’s like to be on the road.
We are at present e-mailing each other with our thoughts on the set list and then on the 10th April, Hank arrives from Perth. Rehearsals begin on the 12th April and I will start these journals at the end of that week and with luck at the end of every week until the final night on the 14th June at The London Palladium.