Sunday, 17 February 2008

I'll have a Babyshambles ...

How nice to get all that response from people on the last post. Clearly, the anxiety of growing up in a young person's world affects more people than I thought. Mind you, I uploaded some really oafish pictures of me yesterday and that knowledge didn't make me feel any better. At least my daughter Maddy still asks me to be the handsome prince whenever we play Cinderella or Aladdin or whatever fairy tale is topping her weekly chart.
"Daddy, you be Prince Ali and I'll be princess Jasmine and then we'll get married."
"Great!" I groan, anticipating another lost half hour. I have to be the entire supporting cast in these productions, so my thespian talents are stretched to their limits but despite the plum roles of prince I'm given, I find myself warming more to playing the evil Jafar or of course, the Ugly Sisters.

Talking of pantomimes, our band supported Babyshambles this week. Relax, I'm not having a go at the Shambles - actually, the little we saw of their crew and the band themselves suggested a well-oiled machine rather than the train wreck the tabloids would have. Even the handful of songs I managed to catch live had a slickness which I was surprised and maybe a little disappointed with. I have to confess to never having seen them before but I did see The Libertines on a good number of occasions, including a heart-stopping show at the 100 Club and if there is an essence of rock 'n' roll, a spirit or whatever the more corduroyed-up music journalists write about, well, they had it. But Babyshambles seemed a little bit characterless. Maybe they were having an off night. Rock 'n' roll antics had been attempted the night before in their hotel apparently but crucially, not by them. The culprit was... get this: the support band's manager! No, not one of us, we were lowly first-on-the-bill band, it was the main support - a local Glaswegian group - whose manager decided that he'd found the essence of rock 'n' roll and indeed it consisted of throwing a telly out of a hotel window. Imagine that! A TV getting thrown out of a window in 2008! I mean, apart from the full-circle cliché (i.e. perhaps it's now so naff it's cool; seen as 'classic' band behaviour) a telly in 2008 is not what it was in 1971 or whenever it was that Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison or whoever it was that first came up with the idea, chucked one out of the Sunset Marriott. Back then, TVs were big and fat and most importantly represented something rarified and expensive. Now, your average Travelodge is more likely to have a flimsy plasma screen on a tripod from Argos; it would be like throwing a sheet of A4 out of the window. Rock and furthermore, roll. Anyway, Babyshambles' tour manager banned him from the venue and later - so the ginger singer from the group told me in our shared dressing room - the band sacked him.

The group were really nice guys actually. One of them, who looked about 15, on hearing me make some remark about Eisenstein (a director I know virtually nothing about) took me for a film buff and started enthusiastically explaining his Film Noir thesis to me and how he'd traced its roots back to Battleship Potempkin. He then went on to play a sublime version of Heart of Glass on his own in the dressing room in the style of the Proclaimers. What a chap!

Our band were incredibly nervous. And not surprising really, given that two of them worship Doherty and the band had never played in a venue in front of the 1900 people which Barrowlands holds. Added to this, the fact that ahead of the 7pm Doors time the entire crew, staff, management, and hangers-on were male, must have made them feel slightly apprehensive. Interestingly though, despite the fact that they are all very attractive girls, they were treated with the utmost respect by all concerned and I don't recall anyone trying to hit on them. I put that down to the exceptional personal management provided by myself and Charlie. Or maybe everyone there was just being really professional ...

Charlie and myself, despite almost 40 collective years in the business, were on a steep learning curve. Neither of us could count the amount of times we'd swanned into a large venue as the A&R man of the band playing and just hung out with our charges, making wry comments and looking at set-lists sagely. But this was completely different, there was no time for any louche hanging out because we were having to talk to the venue's sound man or the lighting guy (and, it turned out, having to pay them) or giving the production manager a floor plan and DI plan, or gaffa taping up T-shirts to the sales stand or indeed, loading in equipment and really quickly loading out equipment. "Is this ours?" I found myself saying repeatedly and not for the last time on the trip, regretting not stencilling our gear.

We'd bought champagne to have a belated celebration of signing the band but after two sips in our dressing room, I was summoned by a Shambles official to load up our gear again (note to self: get a tour manager next time). When I'd bought the champagne earlier, I'd found some four-packs of Babycham that I coudn't resist - I didn't know they still made it. Geoff, my other management partner, and I took a peak into the Babyshambles dressing room before they arrived to see if, you know, it was full of supermodels or something, and there was a disappointing array of pedestrian chocolate (mini flakes and crunchies) and dare I say it, fruit ... If I was them I'd get a case of Babycham on every rider.

The evening didn't end in the disarray you'd expect from five slightly tiddly girls many miles from home. We were all so exhausted that even the few of us who got taken to the Glasgow Arts School hip night out, only managed a couple of drinks before stumbling back to the the B&B. Actually I tell a lie, two of them managed to have it large and throw some pretty convincing shapes on the dancefloor. And they made it down for breakfast the next day. I got there just as the cooker was turned off and missed the deep-fried oatcakes.

As I loaded in the band's gear into the van that morning - guitars, amps, leads and bags, the one thing going through my mind was not to miss anything. We probably left something in the venue, I was thinking ... damn, we really should have stencilled our stuff. Shortly afterwards, fate decided on shaking things up a little ...

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