Subject: Belated diaries - the endless glamour!
Dear Fishheads, fans, freaks and the Company,
As always the best plans of mice and men aft gang aglae! I had hoped to maintain a diary from South America but the logistics and technology were against me as was the itinerary. I arrived home three days ago, totally exhausted after a tour fraught with drama and exhilaration and a curve so immense I feel I have been out on the "perimeter" for months!
It nearly never happened!
After the Cavern gig I stayed over in Liverpool and then went to Manchester to see Queen on the Wednesday. Tuesday I was holed up in the hotel, knackered after 5 shows in a row the end gig a tremendous drain on reserves. I arrived in Manchester seriously under the weather and after a night with the band (and a brilliant show) I sloped up to the studio with seven days "off" before our first gig in St Paulo, Brazil. No worries?
Friday I was at the doctors with a diagnosed chest and throat infection. I had picked up a virus somewhere on the last run of shows and lost my voice. "Lot of it about" as I was told by my friendly GP! Hot sweaty clubs, fast food, lack of sleep (the tour bus was a nightmare - more later) and five demanding gigs had taken my immune system out. I was due to fly Monday. On Sunday I was so close to cancelling.
I placed my faith in accumulated rest and boarded the plane antibiotics in hand.
We arrived in St Paulo on the Tuesday and I locked the door of my hotel room minutes after checking in. Memories of "fog" and panic attacks pursued me in my long sleep. I awoke to Wednesday and the first show with a feeling of dread. A medic was called to the gig and I received a "little pin prick" to try and reduce the swelling in my vocal chords brought on by not only the residual viral infection but also the seemingly endless air travel via Madrid, the constant air conditioned atmospheres and the air quality of St Paulo which is infamous for it's traffic pollution. This was going to be a hard tour and I was already behind the "eight ball"! (The medic was nervous and took three attempts to find a suitable vein. I had to stay calm and talk him through while blood was spitting out of various puncture wounds! :-)
I decided to drop "Family Business" and " Goldfish..." in order to protect the voice and we pulled off a fine show despite the overall jet lag that accompanies first gigs on new continents. On UK time we went on stage at around 2am! The voice held out and the "day off" after Brazil was more than welcomed.
Another airport, another 3 hour check in six hours after leaving stage and "this must be Buenos Aires"! Rest of day in bed. Silent routine and buckets of throat pastilles until two hours of interviews for Argentinean TV at 6pm. First meal of the day was sushi at 9!
Friday! Show day! I was recovering slowly and my "top end" was returning. The gig was close to sell out and the venue demanded a SHOW! The Gran Rex Theatre is magnificent and we entered stage with curtains drawn ready for action. Everything clicked and I revelled in the audience reaction "Misplaced" being euphoric. A brilliant night. I oversang! :-( (When all is going well on stage, the band is kicking, the audience are with you, you can easily forget you have a gig next day and just "go for it". One of my biggest failings!)
Offstage at 12.30, hotel at 2, bus picks us up at 9am for a "4" hour journey that got us in to Santa Fe at 4pm, just in time for sound check. I slept in the "Quasimodo" position the entire journey. Check in. Bed. No sound check for me and also no food till 8pm!
The gig was brilliant. Mainly old heads who took some moving. The audiences were unaware of a lot of the solo stuff in the first half but lapped up the "Childhood" material. Out in the audience again tonight, in BA I was up on the balcony like the "old days"! Fun!
The voice held out but after I came off I threw up due to the swelling in my throat! "Danger Will Robinson!"
"Goldfish" was back in but "Family Business" still on the sidelines. The curve of the gig was working well and with the curtains again the end of "Credo" was taking on a new dimension before the "La Gazza Ladra" intro with curtains down, opening on to the swell of "Pseudo Silk Kimono". Just like a big band! :-)
Off stage at 12, hotel 2, leave on the bus at 10am for Cordoba and a "4" hour journey that got us to the hotel at 4 pm. Press conference was 30 mins from the hotel and took an hour. I had some pizza in the van on the way back. First food of the day. I don't do breakfast!
Hotel. No sound check for me. As I am lying on the bed the second doctor of the tour gives me a steroid injection in my ass I am SMSing my girlfriend. She had wanted to come out on tour with us and is getting bored with my tail end message of "endless bloody glamour".
We are due onstage at 9. The restaurant is 30 mins from the gig and booked at 8pm. We arrive 8.30. I am starving. We have the best food for days and leave the restaurant at 9.30. On stage at 10.15. The audience are disgruntled and take some moving. It works. Voice does too. Great gig! Oversang!
Check in at airport is at 10am, we leave at 8.30 in a mini bus. I have now lost my electric toothbrush (bought on a deal at Boots, Haddington and left in BA) my shower gel and the sun tan lotion has never been used. It is winter and bloody freezing. Half my suitcase is full of summer gear. I am carrying 10 kilos of useless clothing!
But it's Santiago, Chile and 2 days off. Surely I can get back in the game.
Arrive at the Sheraton 1pm. Long lunch with the band, interviews for an hour at 4 and then bed till 9. Dinner in the old town and in bed again at 1.
Woke up with a throat from hell. Frankie has it as does Tony, Yatta, and Deborah my backing vocalist supremo is actually bleeding when she coughs! I am so tired. Stayed in bed till 4 and then up for a discussion/lecture with the Santiago college of music. An hour long "interview" with other band members in front of 60 or so students. My voice is shredding. I detest air conditioning as it dries my voice out and everywhere we go its air conditioned. The vans, the hotels, the airports, the flights, radio stations. I switch it off in my hotel rooms and throw open the windows on arrival and insist it is switched off in the venues for shows. It's cold and raining and the atmosphere is hellish (Santiago lies in a crater and is recognised as one of the most polluted/smog ridden cities on Earth). I cancel other interviews and head to bed directly after dinner.
I sleep till 3 and then spend the next 3 hours driving in vans to interviews in downpours that will eventually flood Santiago and take out the entire traffic light network while I wait on yet another doctor and yet another injection to try and save the gig. I am so depressed.
The doctor takes ages and a 100 US to give me a prescription that takes ages and another 100 plus US before the nurse takes ages and another 50 US to spike my ass! I haven't eaten and managed a sound check that did nothing but freak me out.
Onstage at 9 and restaurant at 7.30, "20" minutes plus from the venue (everything in South America is 20 minutes away from the venue). At 8.15 still no food arrived. I threw a wobbly and walked out as I needed a long warm up to try and get my voice in some sort of shape. Not eaten today, still so tired and in any other country I would have blown the gig. The dilemma!
Cancel the show and piss off two thousand fans that have waited for years to see this show or go on with a ragged voice and try and find something. Rock and a hard place. Lose lose situation! I felt hellish. I stripped the set down but knew as soon as I walked on stage to heady applause that I was in trouble. Even with the steroid injection, the antibiotics and the inhaler I was struggling. Yatta stood in the wings urging me on. I just wanted to walk off stage and go home. My top end voice was gone and I ducked and dived in melody runs to avoid the higher notes. I squirmed. It is a truly dreadful feeling standing in front of an expectant crowd and being unable to deliver.
Chris Archer on out front sound helped me out in the mix and surprisingly the reaction at the end was not what we deserved. Santiago loved the show. I was just totally embarrassed and left the venue quickly. Day off next day before a night flight to Lima, Peru.
Waking up the next day in the Sheraton hotel in Santiago I opened the door to the morning papers and a review in Spanish that I didn't need to have translated. The breakfast room was a lonely place. I hit the steam room in the hotel spa and had a quiet lunch with a friend before the trek to the airport and our longest and most stressful and expensive check-in on the tour.
We arrived at 5pm for a flight scheduled for around 9pm. We were flying Lan Chile and threaded our way through the first line of security to the check in desks where we were bounced from desk to desk as it was deemed too awkward for one desk to check in ten people with luggage and instruments. Eventually Yatta and our Chilean rep were allowed at a desk and the rest of us had to wait behind the barriers.
After about an hour and a half and various confrontations with Lan security who were suspicious and annoyed by our presence. At one point there were around 5 Lan Chile employees in our immediate vicinity. Dave Gould had been filming on the tour and was capturing what was going on. It was a farce. Eventually the suitcases and instruments were dispatched down the belt and the demand was made for the equivalent of 300 pounds in overweight baggage! This was the first time we were to be charged for excess baggage after 4 flights and the only time we would be charged on the entire tour after a total of 9 flights in all! The staff was totally unhelpful and to add insult to injury when we attempted to pay in US dollars, given to us for the previous gig in Santiago we were told the notes were suspicious and were on a US federal list of bank note numbers that were not to be accepted!! Filming continued and the Lan floor staff were getting very irritated as we pressed our case for not paying excess and the ridiculousness of this situation. Time dragged on!
Eventually they accepted the notes and we then set off a full 3 metres to the next station of call, a small booth where we handed over and had stamped another of those endless bits of paper that justified someone's job in the endless pipeline of bureaucracy that makes up most of South American airport immigration/customs systems. Another queue and then rush to stand in yet another queue for the immigration exit stamp before yet another queue for passport and customs stamps before another queue for security. We were all examined thoroughly to the point of ridiculousness. They ran my hand luggage through the X ray machine 3 times in search of non existent batteries before letting me pass. It was becoming an Ealing comedy crossed with a Japanese TV endurance show. The plane to Peru had supposedly left an hour ago!
We emerged from the trial to discover the plane had been delayed for over an hour. It had taken us four and a half hours to check in and get airside!!!
We arrived in Lima at 1am and got to the hotel at 2.30 through a fine mist that had blown in off the sea. I welcomed the humidity. I hit my bed immediately and slept with the window open till around 1pm when I had to attend a TV interview for a local station and phone interviews for the forthcoming gig in Venezuela. After that it was off to sound check and another two hour epic ironing out gremlins from the equipment.
I'd lost yet another toothbrush and my shower gel again and had to embark on a wee adventure in a shopping precinct near the gig. This would be my only chance to see the "real" Lima! I tried out my mike and headed back to the hotel for a snooze before the bus arrived for the "20" minute journey to the restaurant for dinner. This would be the finest culinary venue yet! Situated in the grounds of a floodlit Inca temple we floated wide-eyed amongst the ruins before sitting down to a junket of local delicacies and a few buckets of wine. My voice was back in order and at 11pm Haddington Bear finally took to the stage in a sold out venue in Peru. The show was wonderful and the audience ecstatic. As we bounced off stage after the encores the fact that we were to be at the airport in a few hours at 4am didn't seem to matter.
Next time I definitely want to spend more time in that country and the national TV crew that filmed the gig will hopefully spread the news and make sure we can!
The airport at Lima was painless and we arrived in Caracas Venezuela at around 12 midday. Hamburger on room service and straight to bed after an expensive call on my mobile to the UK and a "Sugar Mice" moment! I am dreading the bill when I get home.
I got up around 7 and headed to the restaurant for a meal with the promoter and the band.
Next day and the last show in South America. My throat was just about back in order. The previous night the promoter's wife, who was a nurse, offered to help out if I had problems and had set up an injection of anti-inflammatory drug. After sound check I found myself in a toilet in a pharmacy, trousers round my ankles and a needle in my left cheek! Exiting and saying thanks and goodbye to the smiling pharmacists was a pure Fellini moment! :-)
The gig was awesome and the crowd were special. The reaction was one of the best of the tour and once again captured for TV. Everything bodes well for a swift return to South America.
The night was long and it was a late lunch by the pool in the first blazing sunshine of the tour. A few piscos and then off to the airport and another humungous check-in before the long flight home. I was exhausted but happy at the overall result of the tour.
Disappointed that Santiago had been a let down on my behalf but I knew I would be paying that debt back very soon :-)
I arrived home to a week of disruption and upheaval in all areas of my life. But that, children, is another story! :-)
Give up show business? Never :-)
lots of love
Onkel Fish x
Email 12th June 2005