grapevine
October 22nd, 2011

Sir Horace Gentleman: SPECIALS EUROPEAN TOUR BLOG SEPTEMBER 2011

WEDNESDAY 14TH. SEPTEMBER

AMSTERDAM

So. Here we are again then. Something of a shock to the system. The first time The Specials have worked as a band in a year. We did a bit of rehearsing a few months ago to try out some different songs for our U.K. tour but apart from that we’ve gone our separate ways. So it’s 11 shows in 14 days, starting off in Amsterdam and doing a kind of clockwise trek around Europe, finishing in Brussells on the 28th.
An extra date has been added to the Amsterdam show so we now play the Wednesday and Thursday. The Berlin show has been transferred to a larger venue and the Stockholm promoter wanted to add another show but the schedule did not allow it.
Luckily we’ve been able to do some warm-up gigs. We played in Custom House square in Belfast a couple of weeks ago (a ‘mental craic’ apparently) and we’ve just come back from a long weekend in Spain where we do festivals in Madrid and Santiago. I was very nervous in Madrid but not so bad in Santiago. Just getting back in the saddle.
Our crew guys are the same as last year, luckily, but there are new lighting bods, p.a. crew bods, truck drivers and caterers to get to know. There are 31 people on the road in the U.K. We also have a mobile recording studio on tour with us. It produces c.d. recordings of each show for eager punters to purchase should they wish. They travel in a red ex-post office van. The crew have a very swanky brand new white coach and all the stuff goes in a big articulated lorry. Us musos are flying and although I shouldn’t complain, the expression ‘Hurry up and wait’ comes to mind. Luckily I have this to write which will undoubtably distract me as I wait for the 13:05 flight from London City Airport to Amsterdam.
We travel straight to thr gig from the airport, where we find that our weel-oiled machine of a road crew are……not ready for us yet. Never mind, the caterers are! Something resembling a soundcheck finally takes place and we get off to the hotel. Amsterdam is busy, traffic is horrendous and being involved in a collision with a bicycle is a lot more of a possibility than it is in Coventry! None the less, Amsterdam is a very cool city and we are playing two nights at its most famous venue.
A rather frantic ten minute turn-around ensues at the hotel where we retrieve our cases from a basement storage room (despite the whole purpose of us having numbered luggage tags so our cases can get delivered to our rooms) and we hurry to get back to the gig for our 8:30 show time…only to be told that as punters are still coming in, we’ll be taking the stage at 9. There are lot of U.K. fans here and the atmosphere is great. The crowd sing their hearts out and The Specials do what they do. Brad and I had a great gig.
The combined effect of waking up at 4:00 am, the traveling and doing the first show have made me enormously tired. I can’t remember getting into bed, but this being Amsterdam, I’m sure a lot of visitors here don’t either.

THURSDAY 15TH. SEPTEMBER

PARADISO, AMSTERDAM

After a very righteous 8 hours sleep, I’m awake and have all day to kill before we do tonights show. Breakfast at the hotel is extortionate . 25 Euros for a cooked breakfast and 16 for ‘Continental’. Neville and Trevor have found a place over the road that does a ‘full English’ for 7 Euros but I’m up and gone before I got this information.
The Paradiso is near the museum district so I get a taxi down to the Stedeiljk museum and get breakfast at an outdoor cafe and watch tourists. A pleasant day is spent at the Modern Art Museum but mainly in its’ cafe and reading room. I got down to the Paradiso around 3.
Lamb tagine and cous–cous…nice. The Specials2 posse (Paul, Mike & Stewart) turn up at the sound check and Brad & I whizz through a ‘bass and drums’ routine for the mobile studio guys. Something of a ‘bonus track’ for the USB edition (whatever that is!).
We have a lot more time to do our soundcheck today. Tonights’ show was the first to be put on sale (The Wednesday was added later) so the atmosphere is even more hardcore than yesterday. Consequently the performance is blistering and all of a sudden it’s 1980 again - honestly. Nite Klub is the fiercest its been for ages, amazing. The downside of all this punk angst is that we’re playing with considerably more force than at the soundcheck and the volume on stage (especially Roddy’s guitar) has increased dramatically. Terry has great difficulty hearing himself and spends the latter half of the show standing stage left over near Lynval. After we come off he refuses to go back on despite the crowd shouting their heads off. Dilemma. We end up doing Guns of Navarone and a Terry-less You’re Wondering Now which is less than ideal. The atmosphere is somewhat stony backstage which is a shame as the gig was great.
We are expected to attend a Fred Perry ‘Aftershow’. They sponsor us, or is that we sponsor them. The amount of Fred Perry stuff people wear to our shows, they ought to buy us BMW’s!!! Anyway, we head off to a club down the street. I find the idea of these things excruciating. On stage, with guitar, jump around, play my ass off.That’s fine. That’s what I do. The rest of the time I insist on being a regular Joe, so it galls me when I am expected to jump a queue and get ushered to a ‘roped off area’, where lots of people can gawp at me like I’m a zoo animal or something. I refuse the roped off bit and find a corner, meet some Coventry lads (one who lives just round the corner from me), Willo and his wife, Ruth and have what amounts to a ‘regular chat’ albeit over a loud reggae sound system. Needless to say I am hoarse within 10 minutes, most of which time is spent asking people to repeat what they’ve just said as the music was so loud I couldn’t hear them. Less than ideal. A Dutch gentleman approaches me and tells me the first thing he ever stole in his life was the first Specials album when he was 12. I hope he was reminiscing about impetuous youth rather than thanking The Specials for inducting him into a life of crime. Ho Hum.
Eventually us Specials make a move and Lynval, Neville, Brad, Trevor & I hustle a cab and return to the hotel. Everyone agrees that the ‘Aftershow’ is less than desirable. On the itinerary I see we have them scheduled for Stockholm, Berlin and Paris.

FRIDAY 16TH. SEPTEMBER

VEGA, COPENHAGEN

We travel to airport.
We board plane.
We fly to Copenhagen, which is in Denmark.
We get bus from airport to hotel.
I mean, that’s what happened. This is what we do. It would be pretentious to say it was boring, but at least we don’t do the private jet stuff. Some consolation; still regular folks going to work then!
Copenhagen has a nice vibe to it. We’re staying at The Grand Hotel as was. It is now a Radisson. I could easily imagine Sean Connery and Ursula Andress descending the spiral staircase that dominates the lobby.The rooms have a very 60’s feel to them and the lifts are tiny. We’re in the middle of the city, diagonally opposite the Tivoli Gardens funfair. I’m on the 11th. floor and have a spectacular view of the city.
The venue, Vega, is on the 2nd floor of a very functional looking building that Nikolaj (who comes from Copenhagen) says is a municipal building for the ‘workers’. The newly-elected left-wing government had a big party here yesterday to celebrate their victory. Best of luck.
Before the show, Nikolaj’s parents show up. His father is also a very accomplished musician - father and son have just made a cd together. They present us with a bottle of Gammel Dansk, a herb liquer which I promise to sample after the show. The sound in the venue is lovely. The crew are pleased - acoustically better than Amsterdam and the performance is not as frenzied as yesterday but still powerful. Support for this evening is provide by a band called Napoleon Solo, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly. Terry stops Stereotype after singing the wrong verse. We start again and he comes over to me during the intro ‘What’s the first line? - I’ve forgotten the words!’ I immediately go into panic mode, I’m playing the bass at the same time! We finally get there. The crowd love it! Afterwards in the dressing room, Terry sits there, bemused. ‘First time I can hear myself sing…….and I forget the words!’ The Gammel Dansk is opened and is quickly judged an acquired taste (eg it’s not very nice) but it was the thought that counted. Lynval made a big deal out of Nikolaj’s parents from the stage tonight. Cheesy as hell but none the less appropriate. Phil Mason, who used to do the merchandise for The Beat, General Public and Specialbeat dropped by to say hello (He lives over here now) and it was nice to catch up with him after the show. A rally scary guy wants autographs (which I get) and then wants to come backstage to say hello. I think not. Time to get the hell out of Dodge. Copenhagen is still teeming with life when I get back to the hotel.

SATURDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY COPENHAGEN - STOCKHOLM.

Breakfast with Neville and Trevor. Nev doesn’t feel too good. Says he ate something in`amsterdam that didn’t agree with him. He looks alright to me, but there again we’re all aches and pains nowadays. Bus to the airport and hang around. Board the plane, just about to close the doors when on comes Nikolaj! We had left him behind at the hotel!
The assumption was that he was staying with his folks and would make his own way to the airport. Wrong! He went out with some buddies after the gig, got back at 6a.m. and never woke up until 1. One hour before the plane was due to take off! Fair play to him for racing across town to get the flight but an enormous gaffe on our part for leaving him behind.
Stockholm looks vey pretty from the air and lives up to expectations when we arrive at our hotel from the airport. The hotel is right across the road from the gig. Fantastic! Down the road is a funfair (again) and some cafes, on of which provides dinner. Back at the hotel a small glass of beer sets me back 55 krone, that’s £5.50 more or less. I take it back to my room and sip it slowly whilst watching the second half of The Incredibles - in Swedish.
Can’t nobody say I don’t know how to have fun!

SUNDAY 18TH. SEPTEMBER

THE CIRKUS, STOCKHOLM.

Breakfast is a fraught affair, hordes of people, most of whom have small children in tow.The day is spent watching the world go by. (e.g. I did nothing!).
The venue is spectacular. As the name suggests, it is an old 18th/19th century circular building but now has a huge U.S.- type backstage area built on to it. Someone (I can’t remember who) says it was due to be demolished in the 70’s but was bought and renovated by someone from Abba. I can find no-one to confirm or deny this theory. WE have a very sophisticated 14-piece support band called Club Killers, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly and one of their guitarists has a beautiful Gibson Firebird guitar.
We take the stage and it is soon clear that Neville is not firing on all cylinders. He leaves the stage towards the end of Concrete Jungle and that’s the last we see of him. He is backstage being violently ill - some kind of food poisoning. The rest of us, meanwhile soldier on. Terry signals me to come down the front to ‘plug the gap’ and I feel like Paul Simenon (almost). Big Jon (trumpet) says ‘You made the transition from defense to mid-field effortlessly’. The audience, bless ’em, are still with us and sing along with ‘You’re Wondering Now’ long after we’ve left the stage. We got away with it……just.
There’s a Fred Perry Aftershow after the show and a large Nordic-type gentleman takes Lynval, Roddy, Brad, Terry and I there in a large Nordic-type 4X4 car. The shindig is at a small club heaving with 2Tone-looking types. The sound system is deafening and any conversation is bellowed and very difficult. Lynval takes over the d.j. booth, Terry and I last about 10 minutes and get on back to the hotel when our Nordic chauffeur returns with Tim, Drew and Big Jon. I hate to be a killjoy but Night Clubs are not my thing…never were to be honest. I think we wrote a song about it once.

MONDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. STOCKHOLM - BERLIN

Even though I ‘went clubbing’ last night I was back at the hotel by 11:30 so I’m up early for breakfast. It is raining. Stockholm doesn’t look so nice in the rain. Apparently Lynval and Trevor were up all night with Neville who was throwing up and delirious. He looks a right state as we head off to the airport. We remembered Nikolaj this time. There is some consternation at check-in as the airline staff seem loathe to take responsibilty for Neville on the flight but he perks up and makes the One and a half hour flight to Berlin. Trev and Lyn are knackered. The hotel is not too far from the middle of things - a ten minute walk and I’m at The Brandenburg Gate, just next to The Riechstag building. The early part of the evening is spent at an Italian restaurant, the latter part back in my room watching Star Trek…in German. Impenetrable! The hotel bar was out of bounds for us, there was a conference taking place and the conferees had exclusive use of the place that evening. There were lots of conference-types with badges milling about. The business men are having fun. Unlike this morning’s hotel, there are no facilities to make a cup of tea in my room so I’ll have to raid the mini-bar instead!! Goodnight.

TUESDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER

COLUMBIAHALLE BERLIN.

Spent the day doing cultural stuff. Bright sunshine, lots of tourists, lots of walking. The blister I got on my foot last weekend in Santiago has finally cleared up.
The gig is at The Columbiahalle which used to be a sports hall foe American servicemen who were stationed here in the 40’s/50’s. it is a very loud room. We soundcheck and run through Pearl’s Cafe and International Jet Set. They’re starting to sound good.
We take the stage at around 8:45. Neville is suitably recovered after his bout of sickness. I nearly take his head off with my bass during Rich Girl and again later in the show. A fact that I am admonished for in no uncertain terms later on. Sorry Nev. Totally unintentional.
Terry struggles through he show. It is just so loud. Not just the on-stage sound but the whole room seems to work against us. I ask Rabbit (monitors) to take the bass out of the side fills to try to lesson the volume but it does no good. Roddy’s guitar volume has crept up too. Consequently we have an ‘Amsterdam’ situation at the end. Meanwhile the audience are going absolutely mad. We encore with ‘You’re Wondering Now’ and leave the stage. The noise from the crowd continues and plastic glasses start to be thrown at the stage. Trevor sys ‘You’ve got to go back on, or there’s going to be a riot!’ He’s right.
The crew have already started to dismantle stuff, but they quickly put it back in place as we go back for what seems to me to be a phenomenally loud version of ‘Guns of Navarone’. I don’t think I’ve done a show this exciting for ages. What an amazing crowd. Tim the truck driver says it was the best show he’d seen so far. Afterwards Jaeki, our first tour manager appears (he lives in Berlin) along with an eager English contingent.
There’s a Fred Perry Aftershow after the show but you know what, I can’t be arsed. Sorry
Fred. Maybe Paris.

WEDNESDAY 21ST. SEPTEMBER

BACKSTAGE MUNICH.

Usual hotel - airport - flight - airport - hotel stuff. I mean, do you really need a detailed description of the gate 6 departure lounge? Outside our hotel we board a bus that will take us to the gig….only it’s the wrong bus. It’s taking a load of Toshiba employees to some conference somewhere. Very funny.
Tonight’s show is at The Backstage, a concrete shed in an industrial estate in Munich. It has the feel of a lot of those large American clubs that thrive on skate-punk and Heavy Metal - but a lot cleaner. I remember we played here in my Specials Mk.2 days but I have no recollection of the performance. We spend a considerable amount of time soundchecking. There are huge sub-bass units under the hollow stage which, when we play vibrate the whole stage. It is like playing on one of those moving walkways at airports. We argue the toss with Marcos (sound engineer) and turn some of them off. They produce the sort of vibrations that could loosen fillings. It shows our age, doesn’t it. Thirty years ago we would have reveled in the joy of wreaking such sonic destruction. Now, we’re all Health and Safety! There have been no support bands on these German dates which means we have to play to a ‘cold’ audience but who are generally rabid at the end. Tonight is no exception. In fact, tonight is fucking incredible! Brad has the groove just perfect and the show develops a life of its’ own. Roddy (playing his black Telecaster for a change) plays the best I’ve heard him on this trip and Neville rises to the occasion and becomes larger than life. Terry, who has struggled through the past couple of shows comes through and is his quirky, funny self. The audience sing and dance and the feeling in the room is tremendous. Lynval gets so excited he gives his guitar to Daniel (stage manager) after Too Much Too Young and prepares to leave the stage, totally forgetting that we have yet to play Enjoy Yourself, our last song. It was one of those nights. We encore with Navarone and You’re Wondering Now, where I heard an audible groan from the audience. They keep cheering after we come off and we finally go back on to play Ghost Town. The crowd wanted us to play all night. What a fantastic gig! In the dressing rooms everyone is blown away with the show and rightly so if I may be so bold. I feel we are back on form – unstoppable

THURSDAY 22ND. SEPTEMBER

ALCATRAZ MILAN.

In Munich it’s Oktoberfest, despite the fact it’s September. Breakfast at the hotel is mobbed by loud Britishers all dressed up in Lederhosen and being ‘Brits on Holiday’. yuck! There were a couple of guys (Russian I think) who were being served their second brandy of the day with their breakfast. Kinda glad we’re leaving. Munich airport. Hurry up and wait. Nikolaj says he’s coming down with something and Tim is stocking up on medicines. last night was the ‘half-way gig’. Five more to go. The normally tedious and somewhat humiliating security procedure is enlivened by Lynval who produces the ‘small metal object’ (his harmonica) from out of his rucksack and proceeds to serenade the rather pretty security official with the introduction of ‘A Message to You, Rudy’. Big Jon who is next in the queue regrets not having his trumpet with him (It’s gone on the truck) - they could have done a duet and brightened up the drab conveyor-belt security procedure that we have come to know and love. the flight gets called and off we go. The flight is half empty and The Specials are all in the blunt end. A camaraderie ensues. Trevor declares that Lufthansa flight 1858 from Munich to Milan has the prettiest air stewardesses so far on the tour and I have to concur. A coach picks us up at Milan airport and takes us to our hotel. Time is pressing on and it’s a quick turnaround to get down to the soundcheck.
I get my room number, key and get gone. The number on the key folder says 922 - but I can’t get the the door to open. I look at the folder again and and decide that it might actually read 422. I go down to the 4th. floor and am again unsuccessful in gaining entry.
This is getting stupid, so my suitcase and I go down to reception whereupon the guy on the desk looks at the at the key folder and says 722, with a kind of ‘What’s the matter with you? Can’t you read or something?‘ - tone in his voice.Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for me so we can get off to the venue for soundcheck. Not a great start to my Milan experience.
Now this is odd. Apart from a festival in Turin last year, The Specials have never played Italy. Ticket sales have been poor and we talked about the possibility of pulling the show but our agent said that the gig is known for its’ ‘walk-up’, that’s the number of people who come on the night without first buying an advance ticket. We’ll see. Also, why name a club after a high security prison? Imagine opening a club in England and calling it ‘Winson Green’. Or Dartmoor. (‘Ere, goin’ out later?… Yeah, ‘fink I’ll go dahn Dartmoor!)…..
Our first gig in Italy and I’m skeptical already. the day does not improve much as six of us have to fit into a Ford Focus - type car with two extra seats at the back. A kind of people carrier for dwarves. This and the low ticket sales does not bode well. Brad cheers us up on the journey saying that our rider (the stuff the venue provides for us in our dressing rooms) will probably consist of one banana. Alcatraz (the venue) has the air of posh shed, with bars, shiny black floor, huge sound system and accompanying drug problem. It just felt like that kind of place. A stage is set up for us, however and before you know it…..soundcheck!
Support for us this evening are provided by the extremely accomplished Casino Royale who play Old School reggae reasonably effortlessly. Their bass player, Joseph, wields a very nice 1977 Black Fender Precision. They are well received by what is by now, a sizeable crowd. Showtime is 9:45 and off we go. Brett, the merchandise guy, says that Milan is the ‘gig city’ in Italy, more so than Rome and people travel long distances to see bands. (I later learn that some people drove 500km from Slovenia to attend the show!)
There are a lot of people here tonight, all out for a good time. Well,all except one guy up at the front, stage right, who insists on giving us the finger throughout the show. Neville handles the situation well and the crowd are great. During Rich Girl, Lynval invites a woman up on stage and dances with her until she falls over. I’m sure it was an accident but it looked pretty funny from where I was standing. She goes back to the front of the crowd and spends the rest of the evening unsuccessfully imploring Lyn and Nev to bring her back on again. I’ve definitely got my ‘Tour Legs’ now; the set seems to fly by in a flash and it’s Too Much Too Young and Enjoy Yourself before I know it. The encore is Guns of Navarone and You’re Wondering Now. I’m sure we could have done Ghost Town but the house lights went on and that was that. A good show, not up to the fever pitch of Berlin and Munich, but close. Trevor, Neville, Terry, Lynval, Brad and I somehow manage to squeeze into the motorized baked bean - sized vehicle we came in. ‘It’s like a fucking Blue Peter challenge’ says Terry, as we zip through the night back to the hotel.

FRIDAY 23RD. SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. MILAN - COLOGNE

Today has been the most boring day on the tour so far. Milan airport. Aeroplane. Munich airport. Another aeroplane. Cologne. Things perk up a little bit when a bad-tempered bus driver (who turns out to be female) picks us up at Cologne/Bonn airport and drives us at breakneck speed to our hotel, another Radisson. The crew are staying here tonight as well, so expeditions are planned. Me, I wandered the streets for a bit and found a cheap and cheerful cafe where a reasonably substantial steak’n’chips is had for a reasonably substantial price. I bought a small bottle of wine and a bottle of fizzy water on my way back and spritzered my way through the second of my Lee Child tough guy thriller. The room has electrically operated floor-to-ceiling shutters - great fun. Thunderbirds are go and all that. (Little things please little minds eh!) I turn in early.

SATURDAY 24TH. SEPTEMBER

E-WERK, COLOGNE.

More cultural stuff during the day. The Ludwig museum to be precise. Best art museum of the tour so far. Nice restaurant too.
We gather in the lobby of our hotel to go off to the venue at 3pm, only to be told that Rabbit (monitor engineer) has been taken to hospital. He suffers from a severe reaction to nuts and as careful as he is, sometimes something slips through. Today it was a sausage which I must confess is one of the last things that might contain nuts…… Rabbit was given anti whatever-it-is treatment and is back at the sound board in time for the end of soundcheck (which the mobile studio guy does for us - thanks) He (Rabbit) is all right, he just looks a bit translucent.
The venue is an old electricity generating shed - 2,000 capacity and show time is 8:30. Terry’s voice is failing him and although he rallies around half way through, it is obvious he is not happy. This somehow permeates into the performance and although we all put our fingers in the right places, the show seems lacklustre compared with some of last week’s concerts. Back at the hotel, musicians do what they usually do in these situations and hit the bar. The ‘back row’, or ‘riser posse’ as we may now be called (Drew, Tim, Big Jon, Me, Brad & Nikolaj - from left to right) sip Merlot until early hours. One Thirty in my case. I
leave them to it. A good day but a stressful evening.
SUNDAY 25TH. SEPTEMBER

GROSSE FREIHEIT, HAMBURG.

The itinerary says the flight leaves Cologne at 3pm and arrives in Hamburg at 4, which as a fact or piece of information is fine, but our soundcheck at Grosse Feiheit is from 4 ‘til 5.
This fact is duly noted and soundcheck is delayed until whatever time we get there, which, thinking about it, is what usually happens anyway. terry has taken a train to Hamburg and is scheduled to see a doctor. Mike (tour manager) has travelled overnight with the crew, so Steve (not the manager) Blackwell dons his tour manager hat and shepherds us through the International Shopping Experience that is Cologne airport. At Hamburg we are met by a large black coach, driven by an equally large German woman who takes us, via the city centre to the gig. It is Sunday, early evening and lots of locals (Hamburgers?) are doing that Sunday evening thing. Boats out on the lakes, picnics in the park, a very relaxed vibe. Things change when we turn down The Reeperbahn as we pass the International House of Sex and The Pussy Parlour. The gig is in the middle of all this and is what would generally be called a shithole. I have a vague feeling I played here in the 90’s with the Mk2’s. Come showtime and the place is heaving. Very very hot and with a large and very vocal Coventry contingent who were probably swayed by the fact that the gig was on The Reeperbahn in their decision to come and support their city’s best loved cultural export.
To be honest, the show was great. Shithole or not, The Specials cut their teeth playing places like this. The big shows are all very well but the excitement and energy of a packed , sweaty club is very difficult to beat. Lynval collides with a mich stand during one tune, Neville collides with Punky Steve (guitar tech) during a mad dash across the stage. Terry stops the intro to You’re Wondering Now to give the flag-wavingCoventry contingent some glasses of beer. ‘That’ll be 27 Euros please’. Fun was had by all. Mike (tour manager) hands out per diems afterwards. ‘Blowjob money anyone?‘ Although the fleshpots of Hamburg beckon, I get a van back with Brad, Terry and Lynval back to the hotel. Been there, done that. Goodnight.

MONDAY 26TH. SEPTEMBER

TRAVEL DAY. HAMBURG - PARIS

The hotel in Hamburg is palatial but we have to go. Coach to the airport, hang around and catch the 1:00 flight to Paris - 1hour 35 minutes duration. It has been duly noted, with some relief , that this is our last flight of the tour.
We get into Paris (Charles De Gaulle) just after half past two and are met by three people
carrier van-things. Paris is, as usual, bedlam. WE are in a Holiday Inn opposite the Gare De’L’Est, one of the many railway stations. The Grand Hotel in Hamburg it ain’t. My room is tiny but I’ve got a bed, a bath and a bog, all of which work. That and a spectacular view of the North of Paris. Sacre Coeur over there on the left. I meet up with Tim, Nikolaj and Big Jon and we head of down towards the river, stopping en route for cheese on toast and a huge glass of beer. The city is really busy lots of different nationalities all milling around.
Having reached the Seine I take my leave of T, N & Big J and head back to the hotel, pausing only to be distracted by the bookshop at The Pompeidou Centre. I turn in early. The city is still rumbling away outside.

TUESDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER

OLYMPIA THEATRE, PARIS.

We have been really lucky with the weather on this trip. Apart from some rain in Stockholm it has been clear skies, warm. Hot, even. The Indian summer is set to continue for the next few weeks so I’m told. We’ve been really lucky with our hotels too but in Paris our luck runs out. Down at breakfast, I learn that Neville and Trevor’s room got robbed last night. Trevor is missing some money and his watch. Come to think of it, someone came in my room just after I got back yesterday evening but I assumed it was some maintenance guy who’d come to the wrong room. I may have been lucky. Consequently my camera and passport are locked away in the little safe up top of the wardrobe and my wallet and phone are in my pocket. This colours my Paris experience. ‘Teeming with Life’ becomes ‘Too Many People’. the day is spent in the company of an old college friend who lives over here, and his girlfriend. There is the dreaded ‘Aftershow‘ after the show so it’s best I see them where it’s relatively quiet and peaceful, which in this case is a leisurely lunch. My Parisienne sinking feeling is not helped by the runner taking us to the gig, turning up at 10 to 4, as opposed to the 3pm he was expected. Ho Hum. All these reservations are blown out of the water by the venue, which is fantastic and the gig itself, which in everyone’s opinion was the best gig on the whole European tour. The normally staid Paris crowd went totally mental from the word go. Singing along to all the songs. They picked up the ‘Nobody is - Special‘ chant in between numbers, especially before Stupid Marriage. Neville has to face them down ‘Stop Your Noise!!’. I’ve never heard him say that before. Terry is back on form. In Enjoy Yourself it’s ‘Hi, My name’s Terry and my head’s leaking’.
We encore with Navarone and You’re Wondering Now but we knew that would would not be enough. WE go back on and do Ghost Town. This slakes the audiences’ thirst, bless ’em. What a gig. The whole downstairs was dancing and most of the balcony were on their feet towards the end.
I manage to meet my friends afterwards. I’m glad they were able to see us. What a great gig. Greetings are short-lived as it’s off to Carmen, a club which was the house that Bizet wrote the aforementioned opera. Don’t know what he would have made of the Northern Soul classics that Brad was playing when I got there. Met some nice people and wasn’t too
hoarse when I left with Trevor and Steve (not the manager) Blackwell a little later. The consensus is that we’re starving so after our cab ride back to the Holiday Binn we find ourselves buying hamburgers at 1:30am. I was amazed at the number of people sleeping out on the streets, in the middle of all the mayhem. We got panhandled for money and cigarettes a few times too. Steve said he thought Paris looked disheveled.

WEDNESDAY 28TH. SEPTEMBER

L’ANCIENNE BELGIQUE, BRUSSELS.

Today’s traveling is by train. An hour and a half from Paris (Gare Du Nord) to Brussels. My suitcase now consists of three large bags of dirty washing, a pair of Blue Doc Martens and two rather smelly blue suits and just enough clean clothes for the next two days. How did I manage that? Luck, more than anything else I feel. At breakfast, Neville is in a far better mood than yesterday and the ‘prison food’ verdict is rescinded. Terry is there too, complaining about the travel arrangements. ‘You mean we have to spend an hour waiting at the train station?’ The upshot of all this is we have to spend an hour waiting around for a vehicle to come and collect our cases, only to be told that the vehicle to transport the people will be another half an hour. It takes Tim, Drew and I 9 minutes to walk from our hotel to the Gare du Nord, where we spend an hour waiting…at the train station. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been panhandled so much. Black guys after cigarettes and everybody else after money. I bought one guy’s newspaper in return for me taking his photo. I might turn it into a painting some time. There are people with things that look like sponsorship forms that are just excuses for ‘donations’. It’s dreadful. I end up with the attitude that everyone is after your money. We meet two guys from London who came to last nights’ show and enthuse about it. We’ll see them in Brighton and Alexandra Palace.
Apparently there were some people who came all the way from Venezuela to see us. (in Amsterdam, there were people who came from Brazil) I find this stunning. The trip to Brussels is uneventful apart from me leaving my Raybans on the train. Shit!
The Ancienne Belgique is not how I remember it. In fact I think I’ve got it confused with another venue totally, unless it’s been knocked down and totally rebuilt. I know I have no recollection of playing here in 1980. Support this evening is provided by the Caroloregions, who play old school reggae reasonably effortlessly - just like every other support band on the tour. Sounding like a cross between The Meters and Toots and The Maytals. Big Jon thought the were pretty boring. Where are the new Specials?
Showtime is at 9pm and it’s up to the old Specials to do the business. Brad is suffering from a cold, so is Roddy who is half the man he usually is. The audience seem kinda reserved but anything would be an anti-climax compared to last nights’ show. Terry spots some bloke who appears to be asleep right up the top of the balcony and gets the audience to wake him up. It is hilarious. the crowd, who have been reserved up until now, are with us and a good time is (finally) had by all.
It is the end of our last show on our European tour. A good dress rehearsal for next month’s UK shows.Back at the hotel the bar is hit yet again with the usual suspects. Hilariy and a couple of bottles of red and I stumble off towards the lift at around 2am. What fun. I try not to think of the morning’s headache.