The Gerald Bostock Diaries
Latest news from the lyric writer of the original “Thick as a Brick.”
GB TAKES TO THE ROAD! – PART 2
GB here, with a note from the Front.
Well – I found my designated bunk on the tour bus. Corporal Micky Downs showed me to my well-equipped cocoon like a beaming front-desk manager at the Ritz-Carlton Towers and Suites. At this point, all notions of 5-star accommodation vanished in a puff of stale diesel smoke. A tad on the small and cosy side, O bunk of my dreams. And, being a bottom bunk, it necessitates a delicate Pilates floor-exercise contortion to slide crab-like into the coffin of nocturnal delight. Marginally better than a top bunk. Which I see all too easily would result in a wobbling, hirsute arse hanging out for all to see, fondle or worse, while its better half attempts the scaling of the Eiger, legs flapping and scrabbling in vain at the slippery summit slope…..
Mr Downs has, of course, long since allocated himself a middle bunk. Access a doddle. Simple sit, turn and roll into the heavenly arms of darkened privacy. A quick flick of curtain and Bob’s your uncle. Personal video screen on. A/C summoned to sooth and tenderise. Job done. Fait accompli.
Day one was not too bad from a professional point of view. Discussions with the bus driver as to the best night route from Berlin to Mainz. Details to absorb regarding bus-party names, day-off hotel room requirements, near elevator, far from elevator, smoking, non-smoking, facing street, facing back parking lot, internet access, breakfast times, early check-in, wake-up calls, etc.
BUT – then the serious stuff: preferences for seats on flights, check-in baggage rules, carry-on baggage rules, excess baggage rates, carnets, visas, vaccinations, insurances, bank transfers, withholding tax agreements. And so on. None of this was mentioned when I agreed to tag along. I assumed, in my smug ignorance, that this was a verging-on-senior part-time travel jolly. Occasional nursemaid to the frail and sensitive arts and entertainment types. Not on that nellie of yours. Tour Manager is the catch-all job designation for the poor unfortunate who has, one minute, to nurse the wounded and tearful ego of guitar Rock God discouraged from a quick fag break by a 4-foot sign saying NO SMOKING WITHIN 10 METRES OF PUBLIC AREA, and the next minute, attend to the careful negotiation of electronic bank transfer informed by gentle interpretation and manipulation of International Currency Exchange Rates.
If something needs doing, refer to The Tour Manager, it seems. In at the deep end. No buoyancy float or inflatable arm bands. Sink or swim in the shark-infested waters of The Rock And Roll Tour.
The Production Manager is Christopher Archer. A decent enough, blunt Yorkshireman who doubtless will vote Labour at the next election with only a modicum of persuasion from me. He works on the not-unreasonable principle that “less is more” regarding discipline and the management of the technical and other issues day to day. Fair enough, since everyone seems to have an innate understanding of tour bus and backstage protocols and an odd professionalism which belies their shabby dress and occasional bad manners.
The 09.00-sharp frantic load-in and reccy of the backstage at a new venue means all forces are mustered and take on their separate functions like a well-oiled sprocket. PA and Lighting crews direct and cajole a small army of local stage drew. “Humpers” as they are occasionally and disparagingly called. Most of them on bigger wages than I, most likely.
Front Of House (love that expression) Sound Engineer Downs and Mark “Taz” Wheatley, the Lighting Director (LD in A&E parlance) grudgingly accept or firmly re-negotiate the sound and lighting mixer positions at the back of the downstairs audience seats where they will, a few hours later, rule over the carefully deployed and sound-check-tested technology like Field Commanders in theatre of war.
Gaffer-taped laminated notices oozing boldly-lettered names like Tull Production Office, Local Production Office, Band Only, and the mysterious picture symbols for the band dressing rooms are stuck to the appropriate rooms (remembering the priority for Mr A’s expressed need to be close to Stage Left access wherever possible and to have a private lavatory for his doubtless exquisitely-formed bowel movements.
Internet access codes to post. Laptops, printers, battery chargers, walkie-talkie radio comms, and spent coffe cups adorn the temporary office home where we will all work for the next few hours until load-out after the show. All a-bustle back-stage for 14 hours, apart from the oddly detached, desolate Production Office calm while the band are actually performing.
The weird thing is that Mr A himself seems strangely removed from all of this, preferring, where possible, to travel alone and manage his own tour requirements. He actually books all the flights himself, I am told, and plans the tours in detail with his son and agent James. He eats lunch alone, in deserted ethnic restaurants and is never seen in the catering room at band and crew dinnertime immediately following soundcheck when the band and crew vultures descend on the freebie catering food.
There are suggestions that I might have to rent a car and drive him on some journeys but local promoters will hopefully take care of that. His wife, Shona, drives on the US tours and does all the daily tour accounting on the road. Scary woman by all accounts. Bumped into her once (literally) in the Waitrose car park at Clutterbury Retail Park. Trolleys locked in mortal combat in the fruit and veggie aisle. Admonishing me with a cluster of fresh asparagus, she trundled off muttering something about “stupid old men shopping alone….” while shaking a mane of dark hair in apparent disapproval. I – who have had to defer on many occasion to Madame Speaker – had to swallow this bitter pill of emasculation and retreat to the men’s toiletries aisle to nurse my wounds. Again, all-too-literally, as her trolley had damned near taken my thumbnail off at the root. Scary woman….
So, really, I am engaged in helping with the affairs of the many-too-many rather than the maintenance and well-being of the one-and-only Mr A, the mysterious. He, the-cat-who-walks-alone, prefers to arrive quietly on foot at the backstage entrance at around 16.00 and depart the same way after the show is done, usually slipping alone into the night down carefully researched short-cut routes to his hotel. Dressed in the same drab garb of the forever-student, back-pack adorned with flute bag on shoulder and furrow-browed, he could be easily mistaken for one of his own fans, perhaps. Suits me just fine as I barely know him anyway. But I received both cheery wave and friendly clap on the upper arm by way of recognition when I arrived in Berlin on Sunday. Hardly seen the bugger since but I have my work cut out anyway in learning the ways of the wicked in backstage suburbia. Must badger him regarding the hosting of the local Labour Supporters’ Summer Barbecue. Fat chance if the Waitrose Dragon gets her say. Reads the Daily Mail, apparently, and does the crossword in 12.3 nanoseconds. Draws moustaches on the faces of well-heeled footballers and Labour politicians too, I’ll bet. Prof Stewart Wood – now Lord Wood Of Anfield – is a chief advisor to Ed Miliband and speaks well of her in private. Unlikely attractions of opposites, if you ask me. Unless, of course, young Woodsy is a master-spy and closet-Tory. Quite possible, now I think of it. Whoops – have I blown his cover?
And no – I can’t tell you what the mysterious band dressing rooms sign are. They don’t want their names on the doors as it is a give-away to autograph seekers, trainee masseuses, visiting tax inspectors, wandering trainee Tour Managers or whatever.
Oh, well: lights out in the bus-coffin now and will post this in the morning. If it ever comes. I wonder what heady delights Aurich will bring? All band and crew in a hotel for a night off there. Might pal-up with Goodier and O’Hara. About my age and civilised gents. Relatively-speaking. Nighty-night. Snoozle-oooooh.
GB signing off.
Oh f***k and botheration: forgot to pee first.