Sunday, 6 May 2012

Meeting Music Heroes

One Up

Pen pal Murray Easton recently posted his recollection of buying Gary Manny "Mani" Mounfield (Stone Roses, Primal Scream) a lunchtime pint in 1999. It's a good read, definitely getting across that joy of meeting one of your true life heroes - who turns out not only to be a good guy, but in Murray's words, to exceed your expectations.

Now, I'm never going to try to one-up Murray; he does run his own music management company, after all! But that read prompted me to copy into this blog, from various other places, descriptions of a few times when I've managed to meet up with my own personal musical heroes, and more particularly, when I've bought them a drink...

Bitter Medicine

Name: John Fiddler
Band: Medicine Head
Venue: Strathclyde University Students' Union, Glasgow, 1976
Drink: Pint of Bitter

Before the gig I found a well-moustachioed John sitting entirely unmolested in the Beer Bar, chatting with his bandmate Peter Hope-Evans (Medicine Head were a duo at this time), and nursing a pint of bitter. Uncharacteristically un-starstruck, and yes I may have had some Dutch or other national courage, I casually asked if they'd like another. John accepted, Peter declined. Assuming they were settling pre-performance nerves, I naturally and respectfully left them alone just as quickly as I'd arrived.

This was an odd gig. Despite the fact Medicine Head were universally known for the quite slow, blues-influenced gentle rock and sway and Jew's harp of their singles, John kept insisting on telling everyone to get up and "dance like an idiot, go crazy!" Two girls at the front and centre of the performance area (there being no stage) duly obliged all night, but it seemed like everybody else just wanted to continue sitting on the floor, drinking their beer, smiling broadly, and smoking something with quite a sweet perfume. "Medicine Head" indeed.

Orange L

Name: Steve Hillage
Band: (ex-Gong)
Venue: Strathclyde University Students' Union, Glasgow, 1977
Drink: Fresh Orange Juice

Another somewhat unremarkable encounter, though at the time quite thrilling indeed. Though the air was every bit as fragrant, I remember the crowd being quite a lot more active than the Medicine Head massive, and doing a lot of their dancing horizontally, under the discarded coats at the back of the room.

Hurdy Gurdy Glissando was a wee bit spectacular in the small room setting. Some of us got the chance to tell Steve so afterwards, over some fruit juices.

Yes - Sorry About the Shirt

Alan White!
Name: Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Alan White
Band: Yes
Venue: Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2003
Drink: Brandy (for Chris, served in a pint of beer)

Rick & me!
A great concert, better than YesSymphonic according to my wife because Rick was there! Followed by a remarkable after-show gathering at the Edinburgh Sheraton Hotel, organised by Brian Neeson for the Scottish Yes Network. Jon appeared briefly at the entrance to the function room, but didn't come in; I think he may still have been suffering some back pain after the notorious incident of The Ladder And The Fairy Lights. Could only happen to Jon.

Our favourite bass guitarist was first at the bar, followed soon by Alan, Rick, and Steve. All were more than happy to talk to the fans, pose for photos, autograph programs and so on.  Rick was his usual convivial self. Alan is the nicest chap on the planet. Steve joined in just as much as anyone, though for a somewhat shorter time. And when we offered Chris a drink, he studied the gantry for a minute, selected a good brandy, then promptly poured it into his pint! Ah, the hectic lifestyles of those crazy rock'n'roll kids...


The Two That Got Away

Also in 2003 - I've waited almost a decade to publish this, out of respect for my heroes' privacy - Linda and I took her mum with us on a caravan holiday in Embo. And just like this April, we all took a day trip from the east coast to the west, and Ullapool, augmented as then by the obligatory Achiltibuie scenic route. Having spent a terrific afternoon on the sunny beach there, we were driving along the single track road to the village when I got distracted by a little green car, a left hand driven Citro├źn (or was it a right hand Morris Minor?) speeding towards us. As we stopped to let it race past, I suffered the illusion of its prescription windscreen magnifying the golden tresses of Robert Plant, surrounding his wide grin, beaming and waving to us from the passenger seat.

We drove on to the Post Office, where I sat dazed and... speechless. That was Robert Plant, I eventually managed to squeeze out. Rubbish! explained Linda. Who? added her mum from the back.

Later, driving back toward the main road, I continued belabouring the assertion we'd just passed the original Golden Rock God™ on a Highland dirt track. Then rounding a corner where the road widens temporarily, we passed a black limousine, with smoked windows and the registration ZL7, heading the other way, followed by an entourage of assorted vehicles. I swear I heard music pounding, and peering briefly through the windscreen, discerned the unmistakable outline of Jimmy Page in the middle of the back seat.
Reflexively I spun the car around, racing them back to the little deserted beach where we'd just spent our afternoon. We arrived at dusk. Planet Zeppelin converged in that place that day, celebrating the release of their new DVD. There was music and merriment and naked dancing and whisky and every flavour of sex and drugs and did I mention sex. I'd brought my guitar with me, and later that evening, gave Jimmy some advice about that tricky Stairway opening...
Actually the only U-turn I made was into fantasy fiction at the previous paragraph. That year I'd decided to bring my mother-in-law instead of the guitar; we were in no shape to gatecrash an all-night wild beach party. The rest of the journey back to our Embo caravan was... I'd say, inconsolably quiet.

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