Issue No 14
- A Yawn in Your Ear (Editorial)
- World Service (News)
- The Ally Pally Gig 1973 Barry Winton)
- How I Got Into Manfred Mann's Earthband
- Winged Messenger (Letters)
- Manfred Mann's Earthband at Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway 01/08/96
- Manfred Mann's Earthband 1997 - The Festivals
Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite? (Simon Rickman)
Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite?
And it's true. With the slavering jaws of the relentless Platform End hounds now at heel- nipping distance from my fleeing swag-bag of anecdotes, it has
become apparent that it is futile to resist the almost annual demands to "do something for the fanzine"
Having lit 95% of MMEB shows since 1981, there are surely enough tales to tell - tall, illuminating, funny and sad; rather like me actually.
Every day has its own adventures and more often than not something occurs to be relived on those long over-night journeys. "Do you remember that gig
where ....?" must be in the Top 5 things most often said on tour. (Answers on a blank cheque for the other four).
I could tell you a real ROCK'N'ROLL story - for example, the three days off, mid-tour, as a result of some gigs being cancelled at short notice, when we
headed for the South of France, parked up with an amp-rack and some monitor wedges on the drum riser on the dunes for sounds. The welsh-boys
(caterers) provided a slap up BBQ over driftwood we'd collected, and I 'knitted' a volleyball net with two lighting stands and a 60' rigging rope. After 72
hours of sun, beer, sea, wine, sand and beer, with the sun and the net sinking, as we were preparing to leave overnight for Geneva, four girls came up
and asked if they could use the net to play. Of course we said yes, and were treated to the "that's something you don't see very often" - (Top 10) - spectacle of half and hour's topless volleyball.
Or I could relate how, being the first to wake one day on the bus, I pulled back the curtains to see two hard-faced girls of easy virtue clad in full-tackle red
lingerie sitting in a window just the pavement's width away. We were in the red-light area of Copenhagen, where the gig was to be, and it was Sunday
morning, and not ten minutes later, along the street hobbled an old sea-dog with a parrot ON EACH SH0ULDER!!! And I'm talking three foot tip-to-tail Macaw here, not some bloated budgie.
Or perhaps you'd like some show disasters such as the load-out tragedy in Bratislava when, due to someone's momentary lapse in concentration, the two
ten foot wide motorised venetian blinds we used in the show got a sudden jolt which made them open rapidly downwards to full extension, snapping the
end-stops, with the result that about 100 slats wafted gently down onto the fortunately mostly empty stage. It was a pain putting them back together for the next show, believe me!
Or the time when Manfred's unsecured CP70 piano 'walked' itself off his riser during a particularly intense and animated chord sequence.
Or seeing one of the films we projected get stuck in the gate and dissolve into a blurry melt worthy of a mid-sixties liquid-ink light show.
Or show triumphs might be in order, such as the '96 one when Mick rediscovered the lost verse of Father Of Day.
Or the show in Bonn this year, where three and a half thousand people enjoyed it so much, no-one left at the end, but stayed on singing the Quinn chorus
(Come all without etc.) until the band some already half changed came back to play it again.
Or the sight, at a packed-out gig in Muenster, years ago, above an absolute sea of heads between me and the stage, of a hippy-type fan all bells, beads
and flares, being held aloft by his friends, to get a better view, IN HIS WHEELCHAIR! and him rockin' away like a good'un!
You get the idea. I can honestly say I've forgotten more than I remember - I think.
So, what shall I tell you? Well, there was one incident early in my EarthBand days which not only made such sense to me and introduced me to a credo by
which I still work and live on the road, but also illustrates clearly one of the many sides of Manfred's character, and as this magazine and the EarthBand are ultimately about him, that's what I'll describe.
It happened in Zurich, in the Hallenstadion, where we were playing two sold-out nights to 10,000 people per show. I was in the dressing room some 30
minutes before showtime, where Manfred was warming up on the portable keyboard, and the band were indulging in the usual banter/insult/one-liners so indicative of those in the musical fraternity.
I don't know why I was there - perhaps a pointless attempt to soak up a little reflected glory; you know, the glamour, the parties, the top dollar, the VIP status
that go hand-in-hand with Big Rock Legends. Perhaps I was merely seeing if there had been any last-minute changes to the set-list or song-arrangements; it
does happen and it's well to ask: lighting-wise you're buggered else.
Whatever the reason there we were. Then someone knocked on the door, and waited for permission to enter. Permission granted, the door opened to reveal one of the two truck drivers.
"Excuse me" , he said, "I wouldn't normally ask but I have to work one of the follow spots and it's going to be a hot one and I couldn't find any soft drinks for
the crew so can I take a couple of cans of Coke with me please?"
Manfred stopped playing and said "Come here - sit down". He pointed to a chair. Ted, the driver, came and sat.
"And you are ...?" asked Manfred.
" Ted, truck driver" Ted replied.
"Yes of course" said Manfred, "I think I've seen you about the place".
It would not be unusual in the early stages of a tour for people not to know one another very well, especially in a touring party of twenty or so guys, some of whose paths might not necessarily cross often.
Says Manfred, "Let me ask you a question, Ted" (Number One with a bullet.) - " Tell me, what would happen if you are late arriving at the gig with your truck?"
Ted looking increasingly uneasy, replied "Er .... what do you mean exactly?"
"Well" , Manfred explained, "If you arrive late, then the load-in is late, yes? And the crew come under extra pressure, maybe there's no time for sound-check
- the whole day becomes a mess right? For all of us".
"I suppose so, yes" said Ted.
"And by the same token," Manfred continued "if you are on time, everyone has a good normal day but in the show I play a load of old cobblers, then the day
is a waste, because the result is substandard, right?"
Again Ted agreed.
"So", said Manfred triumphantly, "If you don't do your job it affects my day, and if I don't do my job it affects your day. We're all in the same team here and if
EVER you want a can of Coke from OUR dressing room you come in and take it - and DON'T KNOCK!"
Ted took his cans and left.
A tall tale? Certainly not. Funny? Sort Of. Enlightening? Definitely. I have worked with many acts in my 19 years on the road, not just with MMEB, and it has
been my experience that the attitude of the touring party very often reflects that of the 'main man'. A serious, aloof act will be surrounded by an unhappy,
nervy band and crew; an arrogant, disdainful star will have selfish narrow-minded people around him or her.
The fact that Manfred has a pretty level-headed bunch, who like a laugh and above all enjoy what they do as his band and crew is as much a reflection of
him as it is indicative of the people themselves. Long may we tour!