Day one and not a single flared nostril amongst us. Instruments hav been accounted for and packed. Passports and visas in correct places. Clothes and merchandise ready to go. So when a sprightly and ever cheerful Doug turns up at 7.30 to drive us to Heathrow, all we have to do is have coffee and toast and go. Neil drives with Doug in front. Rest in back, either sleeping or taking silly photos
Journey uneventful and arrive at Heathrow at around 11am. Easy check in but JJ notices a label being fastened to the bottom instead of the top of the bass drum case. He asks whether it should’nt be on top but the baggage handler says it does’nt matter where it is, as long as it had a label it would get where it was going.
So, reassured, we wander up to the departure lounge and while away a couple of hours, JJ sitting in the smokers box getting his nicotine levels up before the flight and then very patiently sewing on a loose shirt button. Very rock and roll, we think as he strips to the waist revealing a bronzed torso. Nearby ladies ‘ahem’ and look away.
Finally we are on the plane to find our promised bulk-head seats are taken by people with normal sized legs. Not so bad for JJ Neil and I but impossible for Tom. The cabin crew are great and Tom is bunked up to Traveller Plus class with loads of leg room, but only Tom is priviledged. In fact BA is a good airline to fly with – I’m sure the leg room is just a couple of inches wider than other airlines, so flight as OK as flights can be.
Arrive at 16.00 to a hot and sunny afternoon and after a torpid hour-long wait in an airless corridor finally move through customs and pull flight cases and other baggage off the carousel. All is there, except, you’ve guessed it, the bass drum – the one where the label was stuck to the bottom rather than the top. A sort of gloom zips through the previous euphoria at having got this far. Our van is waiting for us, but Neil has to queue up for almost an hour trying to track down the bass drum. All to no avail, so a very despondant JJ climbs onto the van. We are given various numbers to ring when we reach the hotel which we duly do, only to be faced with a recorded message. Frustration levels rise until Neil finally speaks to an employee based in Atlanta who promises to do what she can to locate the drum.
We then go out into the beautifully buzzy place that is New York. I think we should have a bottle of bubbly to celebrate being here, but the bass-drum mystery casts a sombre mood over everything, so instead we walk a few places to the nearest all-night-diner where we all have sombre salads, in spite of a lively waiter who tells us how, four years ago, it took him 36 hours to get from Syria to New York, which has put him off ever going home again.
Then back to our hotels and bed. Should have been in same hotel but very difficult to get everything right from UK so JJ and Tom are right around the corner.
MONDAY SEPT 5th
Wake at 3.30 with a desperate need for coffee so walk a block to an all- night deli called Smiles. I buy a cappuccino and a tea from a machine and walk back past the night-gangs of road repairers and shadowy shapes in doorways. When I get back to our room I find the cappuccino is, in fact, hot chocolate – so Neil has that and I have tea, then both of us sleep again till woken by a phone message from JJ around 5.30 who is waiting in the foyer with real coffee and croissants. By the time we locate the phone to say ‘come up’, he has left, so I guess there has been a lot of jet-lagged night- walking going on
Then the news we have been waiting for. The drum has been found and is being sent round to the hotel. Oh Joy now we can get rid of the cloud and start enjoying ourselves.
Get to Dillons around 11.30 to meet Martin, one of the managers of Dillons, in the flesh, so to speak. I have had an on-line relationship with him over the last few weeks. Good to meet him – a very enthusiastic fan of Neil’s. Tried not to notice that he had written ’ Neil Innes of The Ruddles’ on the posters, but had to mention it. He is suitably embarrassed. Anyway Thomasis arrives – a Greek technician who is on the ball musically speaking, so that things began to move. The stage is bigger than I remember and with a baby grand piano, so it all looks great. JJ goes out for a smoke and I join him in time to see one of the porters from our hotel wheeling a trolley towards us with one large bass drum on it. Joy all round – ridiculously big tip for porter. JJ is looking whole again and immediately gets his kit set up properly We had to hire a double bass in New York for Tom because his own bass would probably not have survived the journey from England. Although this is definitely an ‘orange box’ ie not a quality bass, Tom is able to get a good sound from it – more due to his own virtuosity and Tomasis’s prowess as a tech. than the actual instrument. Even the bow supplied with the bass is cheap and nasty. Luckily Tom has bought his with him. Neil’s guitar, ukele and piano all OK-as usual he is careful not to push his voice too much before the gig. Monitors adjusted so JJ can hear the other two so that after a couple of hours everything sounds great.
Later we eat at an Italian restaurant around the corner. We sit in the front open to the street but JJ and Tom still have to move a few feet away to smoke. Is this carrying the non-smoking policy a bit far I wonder. What about exhaust fumes, diesel, general dust and dirt etc etc.
We separate agreeing to chill for a couple of hours then meet up. What happens, however is that Neil and I lie down for a nap and wake up four hours later feeling dire. So we stagger out into the night, find a seat in a pavement restaurant where Neil can smoke with his drink, to find he can’t, even out on the pavement. So we take a ‘smoker’s walk’ till around 1am when we get back and watch the Conan O’Brien show. Guess there might be another ‘early coffee’ morning tomorrow .
Around 11am Tom,JJ and Neil decided they would hit the music shops on 48th street so we drifted through the heat listening, looking, narrowly missing taxis, walking past sparkly bag stalls. I suggest JJ buys one of these for his beloved – Tess, but he has already decided on much more sensible and useful and expensive presents. Suggests he puts the sensible, useful and expensive presents into one of these cheap sparkly bags but not impressed. What is it with guys ???. Have a sneaky feeling that it is really me who wants one of
Anyway I lose JJ in Sam Ash,s drum shop, Tom in the strings shop and Neil in the guitars. After a few hours we go to Washington Square for coffee and decide to go and check out Studio Instrument Rentals on 10th and 35th. We hired Tom’s bass from here and we are hiring a piano for the Saturday gig in Piermont. Neil goes back to hotel for power zizz. Walking to 10th we are out of the smartish buzzy part of New York and into a sort of no-mans land – no houses, no shops, a few trees, lots of corrugated iron boarding. We come to what looks like an office block to find SIR on the second floor. What a place – floor to ceiling stacked high with every kind of instrument. Only two double basses in whole place but hundreds of drum kits, percussion etc etc. Meet Danny who I had been emailing from England – nice bloke. Then back through torrid heat into an Indianycrafty shop where we try on a variety of hats, ponchos, scarves jackets etc etc. Nothing fits but the shop owner is such a patient helpful man that we feel obliged to buy something - hats, ponchos, scarves jackets etc
Back to the hotel and leaving for the gig around 6pm to tune the instruments and run over a few things. All very hyped up but around 7.45 we realised we were not going to get much of an audience – in fact 12 came including two who had made it all the way from Seattle.
One of Neil’s theories about performance is that you can only play to one person at a time and tonight he really is. But the band performs as if the place is packed to the rafters. The very select audience can’t believe that they are the only ones listening to the show – there is long applause and even an encore so the night feels good even if not at all financially viable. Bob Carruthers is one of the audience. He has put together a video of the Bonzos which is actually a good piece of memorabilia for Bonzo fans everywhere. He is in the process of organising a ‘History of the Bonzos’ concert at the Astoria in London in January which should be fantastic. Neil, Tom and JJ will open the show as Neil Innes + Friends and then Neil will put on his Bonzo hat for the second half, which will be pure Bonzo material with as many of the originals as possible and also – well no more right now. Still not finalised. Very hush hush – have probably said too much already - oh no not the tongue clamp……
The set list tonight is as follows:
Short Urban Spaceman- always gets a big round of applause as he launches into his ‘medley of hit.’
Bold Sir Robin – enter minstrels JJ and Tom
Rory Motion (Neil’s alter-ego) plus adverts
Eine Kleine – middle- classe music
Happy Jogger and Pangloss
All alone – this is Neil on ukele and finishes with the whole audience singing ‘All Alone’ together – a nice moment.
Ego Warriors-the ‘Movement’ – Tee- shirts buttons etc – seems to get to everyone. All join in the Ego Warrior salute.
Philosophers- most know the words and sing along
Idiot – this is a great favourite – touches a nerve.
Charlie Big potatoes – gets better and better
Evening sun- everyone’s favourite
Godfrey Daniel- dedicated to songwriters everywhere but especially EJ
‘Rutalot’- a huge applause here
Friends- many buy the CD specifically for this song – who hasn’t lost someone to cancer or some other unfair and awful disease. Listen to Tom’s solo
Eye Candy – Neil has done enough TV watching to know about this
One of Those People- amazing – listen to Tom again – sometimes just good, other times unbelievable. JJ and Tom and Neil’s best moments.
Hero - ditto
After the show there is karaoke in the bar and to our surprise Tom gives a rendition of New York New York with all the depth and feeling of the original by Frank. Apparently once he started he couldn’t stop but by now it was 2.30 and we crept back to bed sparing ourselves Tom’s inspired effort to hit the high notes in Sex Machine. Later Bob took Tom and JJ to experience a New York night club so they missed the next morning entirely.
Meet Bob for breakfast in a deli close by the hotel. My melon arrives as their cooked breakfast has been eaten and the coffee makes your teeth jangle. Still we have a good talk about the secret Bonzo concert in January – oh no not the leg irons… get off get off!!!!!
Later meet Tom and JJ for a walk through Central Park culminating in lunch in an open-air café where there are ‘no smoking’ signs. So the guys have to step over the flower border into the open air next to the open air of the café to smoke. Unbelievable!!!! Take a moody photo of the trio on the way out of the park- could this be the next album cover I’m wondering.
(This gives you an idea of the amazing amount of thought that had gone into the advertising of the gig. In fact the arrow was JJ’s idea.)
He thought Neil should do one big New York gig and travel around the east coast. We had been convinced that Dillons was the place so we asked him if he could fill the one date we couldn’t do at Dillons – Sat 10th which he duly did. Now sitting in an Irish pub/restaurant with him, having been proved wrong about Dillons, he is in no way saying ‘I told you so’. In fact he is positive and talks about a tour next May June taking in big towns and cities maybe around the North-east. Neil picks up an issue of The Voice and Onion both of which have short listings about the show and then we head back to the hotel for a zizz before setting out for Dillons. Surprise at Dillons when Tom turns up having bleached his hair snow-white.
He and JJ have had a ‘bleach and sleep’ day so should be ready to rock, but , having slept in the afternoon, JJ feels like zombie–sleeping during the day has that effect on me too – so I go to find him some energy pills. The band have an audience of 18 tonight including Tony Elliot and two friends, as well as Ken Dashow, a longterm friend and fan and similarly Bill Kates of XM radio. There is also a friend of one of Neil’s golfing friends in England who calls over to Neil as he comes onto the stage that he is a friend of this guy and then proceeds to talk about him, as if unaware that there is an audience waiting to hear a show. Amazing self confidence (???) some people have. But this is a warm, happy audience joining in, getting all the jokes and applauding Tom’s solos. Tom outdoes everything he has so far done with his playing in ‘One of those People’ - the bass is alive. The audience have a good time and promise to send more people our way. It is desperately necessary. Later we stay an hour or so and then decide we need to eat, so the four of us find Ben Ashes on 7th Avenue where the service is a lot better than the food. Have some very expensive wine which is an odd colour, more like urine than white wine – even a heavy chardonnay is not that yellow. Tastes vaguely like I imagine urine would taste. Drink very little of it. Then say goodbye and wander back around 3pm
Will remember this morning for a while. Wake around 4am with headache which becomes bad at 6am and unbearable at 7am. 7.30 finds me staggering to the nearest shop for Tyrenol. Then out cold for about four hours during which time Neil is meeting Jason and a couple of radio guys downtown. Finally wake at about 1pm in a fug and decide to try and walk it off, so head for Central Park and the café I know – the Ballpark Café or something like that. Have a salmon salad and tea and slowly reappear in this world and it is still there and basically OK. Think it was that strange tasting wine although when I meet up with Tom and Neil – neither have had any ill effects. Maybe tougher than me.
Showtime and numbers down from the heady high of yesterday.. Two friends we met this summer in Deja while on holiday with Roger McGough and Barry Wom, come to see the show and it is good to see them. Although warm, this is a slightly self-conscious audience. Neil is really fed up with Dillons. Tomorrow we go out of New York city to Piermont and we are all looking forward to it. Tom and JJ are not at all tired and ready to boogie all night.
And my ………ieth !!!! birthday. Neil wakes me up with a cup of coffee, and croissant and a present – a sparkly pink bag which, I have to say, I love. Also a pretty card. There are messages from Luke and friends in England on email so feel loved and in a thoroughly happy mood. (Slightly worried about my desire for all things pink and sparkly but best not to go too deeply into this one I think- I’m sure it is just a phase and I’ll grow out of it.) Anyway first thing we have to do is to go to Weehaken to pick up a van big enough to transport Tom’s bass and JJ’s drums plus a hired piano. Before that we check Tom and JJ out of one hotel and into another further downtown. Then taxi to the ferry across the Hudson, then taxi to SSI rentals.
Worry that I might have hired a truck – but find a big black SUV awaiting us with loads of room for us and gear. Neil and Tom are the only ones who remembered to bring their driving licences. Then back through the Lincoln Tunnel to SIR rentals for the piano, then to Dillons to pick up the rest of the instruments. Neil drives us out of the city and soon we are over the George Washington Bridge and into the countryside.
We stop to look across the Hudson a couple of times and arrive in Piermont around 1.30pm. What a lovely place. There is a festival going on and stalls in the main street, a band playing near the river and generally a good feeling, open air, absence of car horns, broken pavements etc etc. Also I notice some interesting little shops which I intend to explore while still in birthday mood. We reach The Turning Point where the guys are playing tonight and sit on the verandah for some lunch.
It is when we decide to unload that there is a sudden and unexpected hitch in the smooth running of the day so far. In order to hold the bass and stop the drums and piano from sliding, JJ has tied the seat belts together at the back. But the more you try and undo tied seat belts the harder they hold together and we can not undo them to unload the gear.
There is always someone with the right tools for any job and sure enough he comes along and deals with it but JJ is a little depressed. The rest of us find it quite funny – mainly, I think because we are early and that guy with the right tool happened to be passing. Anyway the gear is unloaded and set up on the tiniest stage we have yet seen. Tom has to play in front of the stage because the bass is too tall. He thinks about playing it on the floor-maybe not.
The owner, John McAvoy, and his staff are helpful, warm and friendly. The sound check goes smoothly and while Tom JJ and I variously explore the town, Neil has his customary forty winks on one of the three big sofas in the dressing room. I remember the auspicious day it is when JJ buys me some really pretty silver sparkly earings and later I get a bath-foam thingy in the shape of a cake (bathday cake!!!)from Tom. Lovely guys. Food and drinks are provided whenever we ask. The good feeling passes on to the audience and the show is a huge success. This is how to run a venue. Be nice to your artists having first done everything you can to advertise the gig.
One last bit of birthday bliss. The guys play and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for me and then play the Rutles ‘I Love You’. After that everyone comes up to wish me a happy birthday and the barman gives me a couple of free Tequila Sunrises. I feel hugely blessed as we drive off into the night back over the George Washington Bridge and into the city again. It is around 1am and the centre of New York is alive and almost as light as day. We drop Tom and JJ off at their hotel and then park the van and walk back to ours. Wanted us all to have cake and champagne but maybe that would be too much of a good thing.
Wake to find Neil has already tried to drop the piano off at SIR unsuccessfully. Tries again at 10am and this time after much shouting manages to get someone to hear and let him up the elevator. Then picks me up and we go to the first Starbucks for milky coffee. Then back across the Hudson to drop off the van. The weather is again perfect and the ferry across the river bracing.
Can never help looking across at where the twin towers were and imagining just how unbelievable and terrifying it must have been to those New Yorkers who actually witnessed it. Today is the anniversary so I guess a lot of people must be making their way to the site right now. We catch a taxi back to the hotel and Neil goes up to do the crossword and a few Sudokus while I wander through one of those Sunday street fairs – this time on 7th – that New Yorkers are so good at. Reggae pulses through the air.
Psychic readers are everywhere, Bags, clothes, shoes, food, food and more food. Stop at a stall and have papaya and mango drink. Look for presents for family which seems daily to get bigger (in numbers, not in size). Think I will have future told while I feel positive and am completely ripped off by this bored ‘fotune teller’ – for ‘fortune telle’r read ‘hustler of idiot’s- who tells me everything I know, in fact anyone knows – it is so general. But I do know that I will live to 91!!!!! and would be rich if I moved my business to New York. She is convinced I am a ‘garment designer’ having never heard the word ‘garden’ . I say I have never heard so much rubbish but pay up. What a fool. But the music is loud and am almost dancing along the street.
When I get back to the hotel, Neil has had enough brainwork fore one day and we go for lunch. Find a noisy but good restaurant. Return around 5pm to write diary and sleep.
Think today we have a chance to catch up on all the 3-4am ‘going to beds’ we have been doing. Phone Tom and JJ late. They actually went to ground zero today but felt completely numb. Very difficult to put into words the atmosphere down there. Later they drifted through the city listening to music and enjoying just being there.
Neil feeling completely bushed (relatively speaking) but The Big Apple calls so I walk all the way down 7th, with a minor stop at Macys, to Greenwich Village – Bleeker Street. Think it will be cooler today so don jeans instead of shorts and it just gets hotter. Keep detouring into Jamba Juice for shots of wheatgrass and various energy revivers. Intention is to take photographs and I pass the most poignant reminder of 9/11 I’ve yet seen. Fixed to a wire fence about 7’ high are tiles painted with messages to lost loved ones or comments about the tradgedy. A heartbreaking red heart tile to a three year old who ‘flew into God’s arms’. Also notice messages warning people not to remove the tiles – can you believe people would do that?. Of course you can, but how come they have so little guilt and the rest of us, who couldn’t do that sort of thing, have so much. A little uneven distribution thereabouts methinks.
Then back up to the hotel to take Neil for lunch. He is still tired but he makes an effort because it is difficult to eat later.
Then a quick wander to get an English paper and a siesta. Around 7pm we go to the 15th floor of a building quite near the hotel, onto a huge terrace surrounded on all sides, but not too closely, by buildings. Twinkly lights, nice company, good wine and our hosts Louise and Nicholas Whapshot plug the show at Dillons to the assembled group of friends. We spend a couple of very pleasant hours there and then reluctantly leave – Neil has to be at XM radio by 9.30. So nice to be invited to private houses/terraces when you are away from home. After a meeting with Bill Kates we, in turn, meet Tom and JJ, whose cough has developed flu-like symptoms, and head off to eat at the Malibu Deli on 24th Street. This is entirely retro, the sort of place Luke would love. Bright lighting, a huge menu, good food, mediocre wine but most of all reasonably priced which is uppermost in our list of priorities at the moment.
We finish off the evening in The Cutting Room – a music venue which has a big jam session at midnight.
None of us can believe that these guys do not play together a lot of the time- they seem to stop on the beat together, know all the same tunes etc etc etc. But it is a nice way to end the evening. We walk JJ and Tom back to their hotel and catch a taxi up to ours.
Another sleepy day for Neil, Tom and JJ. Again I take Neil out for some air around lunchtime and watch slightly nervously as a large airship (dirigible??) moves through the air amongst the skyscrapers.
Turns out to be a wholly innocent. Back to hotel and to Dillons slightly earlier than usual to set up and soundcheck after the weekend. Am anticipating crowds tonite but turns out to be about the same number as usual, including Ira and Georgia – two thirds of Yo La Tengo. They bring two friends – really good to see them. There is a charity show on after Neil tonight and I am totally amazed by what happens next. Not only has the venue failed to do any publicity or even make an effort to help people when they get here to find out where to go. Not only do they answer the telehone to a fan asking if Neil was playing there with the words ‘Neil who? I don’t know who you are talking about – you must have the wrong number!!!’ We got this from the fan who, fortunately for us, persisted. But also they let anyone wander in, find Jason or Martin, talk loudly about their set after Neil and walk out again letting the door bang noisily behind them – ie does anyone know there’s a show going on ???. Disgusted isn’t the word for how I feel watching these total creeps behave like this in the middle of Neil’s set. In the end I sit outside the room and physically stop anyone going through.
The other thing that happens tonight is that at least 10 people push past me saying they are friends of Jasons – implying that therefore they do not have to pay. Watching them enjoying the show, moving to the music and laughing out loud etc makes me feel ill. After the show two guys do come up and pay the $30 but not all. Who are these people??? Total dickheads is who they are and hopefully, having been turned on to Neil’s work by this ‘free’ show, they will access Neilinnes.org and read this. Oh please, Oh please.
Later Neil I Tom and JJ go out to eat with Ira and Georgia and this is the best part of the evening. Not only are they superb musicians – the last concert I caught in Kokos in London was one of the best live gigs I have ever heard –but they are also lovely people. Go and see them if you possibly can. Get back to the hotel late and straight to sleep. There is a recorded interview with Bill Kates at XM radio tomorrow so need ‘bright eyes and bushy tail’s, as they say over in England. Actually not many people say it. It’s not really a cool thing to say anymore. What do I know?
One thing I must mention – at the first show there were a couple of people who had come from Seattle to see the show and tonight there was a fan from Buffalo. Neil and I, Tom and JJ would just like to say a huge ‘THANKYOU’ to these special people.
Not sure why, but unable to sleep more than four hours at a time over here. Neil is sleeping far more than me, which is unheard of at home. There is no reason I can think of. Anyway having gone to bed at 2am, I am up again at 6 and thanking all the powers that be that there are various coffee shops and delis open at that time. I wander out into the humid morning air and make my way over to Starbucks for lattes, then to a small deli for melon and bagels. Then back. Unfortunately Neil is always asleep, so he is getting used to cold coffee. Tom and JJ arrive at 10 and we work our way over to XM radio with a double bass and various bits of drum kit, plus a guitar etc etc. Bill Kates is there to meet us and we are taken into the oldest still functioning studio in New York. The list of famous names who recorded there is endless Ella Fitzgerald, Errol Garner to name but two. Neil decides to play’ Eye Candy’, ‘Never Alone’, ‘All Alone’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Idiot’ with a few Bonzo stories to liven things up a bit. His voice has been unreliable recently, so much so that he could’nt manage ‘Eine Kleine’ last night – substituting ‘Cats Don’t Like the Rain’. However I wonder if the inclusion of so many melancholy songs is a reflection of the way he is feeling about the way things are going at the moment.
It is a good session lasting about an hour – Bill asks the right questions and everyone enjoys it.
Tom, JJ, John (part owner of the studio), Neil and Bill line up for cheesy photograph
Later he takes us to lunch in an Italian place almost next door to the studio. I think this morning has cheered everyone up – Bill is definitely one of the good guys. We take the instruments back to Dillons and head for hotels and zizz’s, apart from Tom who stays for a beer at the bar.
Join Tom at Dillons later. Have about 5 reservations so we know 5 will come. Also Martin Lewis – long time supporter of Neil- is bringing some friends to see the show. Then unexpectedly some people who have already seen the show come back for more so by the time the show starts we are one third full. One guy brings his eight year old son who is delightful and a fan. When, during the show, Neil asks if anyone has ever heard of the the Rutles – his hand shoots straight into the air and he is completely absorbed throughout the set. How come there are no pictures of him? Because after the show what with one thing and another and instruments to be cleared up etc etc I missed a photo opportunity. So if dad is reading this, please email the photo of you, your lovely son and Neil that I took with your camera and I will put it into the diary and thank you so much for coming – it was great to see you both. This is a happy show. Neil’s gloom has lifted and the audience is responsive. It is so good to watch people laughing so much they almost keel over. As always Tom and JJ are noteable additions to Neil’s one-man show. After the show we go and talk with Bill Shea and a publicist called Amy to see, basically how we can move things up a notch and prevent a repeat of the Dillon experience. Tom and JJ sample a few cocktails and then …………who knows?
another of Toms inspired ideas !!!!!
Wake up with the birds as usual and am first in the queue as Starbucks opens it’s doors. Later when Neil joins the land of the living, we go and visit some new friends and spend a very pleasant and relaxing hour high up on a terrace above the city. Then into Jamba Juice for pick-me-ups; buck-me-ups; energy boosters; superchargers; battery fillers etc etc-get back to the hotel and fall asleep. We are that tired. Later JJ calls in on his way to see Mike Carlin and the DC Comic crowd. He too is tired but determined to keep going. We get a call from Carol Lapidos who is about to send emails to a huge amount of people to advertise the show. Can’t think why we didn’t think of asking them to do that before we came –‘better never late than’ I suppose. Hope it will bring people in tonight particularly – we have quite a few reservations for Friday and Saturday.
But no, it doesn’t work that quickly. We have the smallest audience of the week but fortunately James –bass player with Yo La Tengo – turns up with his girlfriend Amy and another friend. The set goes well and then afterwards we spend an hour or two with them. Then back to various hotels, walking or taxiing.
The ‘drama’ sequence elegantly acted by Tom and JJ while Neil is discussing
Andrew(managers)wife and son with JJ and with Kira
Today Neil and I visit a NY accountant who is actually quite upbeat about the whole experience and demonstrates how a loss doesn’t have to be all bad (trade secret so no more about that). He has answers to all the questions we put to him. One positive thing about this visit has been that we have linked up with various agencies dealing specifically with touring bands -car rentals and instrument hire and now this accountant. It has taken quite a few visits to sort all this out, I think because Neil and I have been trying to organise things ourselves. People like Paul McCartney and Jethro Tull have people to do it for them. Still we understand a whole lot more about how things work now. Spend a lazy day with lunch the only exercise and get to Dillons around 6pm to meet Andre and his camera crew who are filming tonight’s show. They also want Neil to do a bit to camera for their own film, so Neil complys while the new sound guy Demitri waits impatiently as time ticks by. Finally around 7pm the band can do a sound check and they find all sorts of gremlins in the equipment, particularly Tom’s bass which has a severe rattle. The sound guy could have panicked but he is the model of focused thought and after a worrying fifteen minutes the band finally does the soundcheck and the sound is fantastic. Audience in late and there are quite a few this time including Neil’s New York agent Robert Rowland, his wife Susan and colleague Chris.
Tonight everything goes well – whether it is the fact that they are being filmed or just that the audience is responsive and in good form. Whatever, the band play their socks off to tremendous applause and standing ovations. Once again The young Alister is there (third time) with his father and sister Robyn and this time I get a photograph of them.
Afterwards the band are really up. Demitri enjoys the show as much as anyone and he is hugely thanked for getting the levels so right. The camera crew are happy – everyone is happy. After a drink with the bar staff, Tom JJ Neil and I find an Italian restaurant which happens to have a great selection of music and enjoy the sweetness of a successful evening, almost unable to resist dancing to the ‘bollywood’ music -you remember – you have to mime screwing in a lighbulb with one hand while patting a dog with the other. Sleep, not well, but well past 6am.
Sweetly being an ‘Idiot’ –everyone’s favourite song
talking about his next song – ‘a tribute to songwriters everywhere but to no-one in particular’
One of Rory Motion’s Drainpipes
and JJ the ‘tea’ drinker
Eye candy – aye aye aye aye – Tom with a flower in his mouth again
A very focused JJ
Woken by a phone call from Ken Thornton who has arrived to see the show and give his very generous support as always. We walk down Broadway and find a small restaurant with tables outside where we have bowls of berries, scrambled eggs and coffee. Tonight we are hoping for a good crowd, being Saturday, and we are not disappointed. Mark and Carol Lapidos arrive early as do several other fans – one from Toronto, David Brown, who we met when we toured the US last year. Good to see him. Also a young fan with his mother and, unbelievably, have again mislaid names here. (If you read this please send me an email with your names-in case we meet you when we come to the US next time). They are lovely people and, as you can see, get right into this Ego Warrior thing. Generally a good crowd and the band responds and takes two encores. Neils chats to the young ‘Warrior’ for a long while and then to Mark and Carol while I clear up and get the guitars etc into their homeward bags. Then we take some silly double bass photos and some photos of the bar guys and gals. Finally JJ Ken Neil and I return to last night’s restaurant mainly for the music leaving Tom at the mercy of the delightful Dillons bar staff- he is not sure whether he made it back that night
Mark & Carol Lapidos, Neil, Ken Thornton
Up very very late. Breakfast at midday and then Ken goes to see a concert (Blue Face Men) – not sure I have name right, but he says they are brilliant. Neil and I go back to bed till around three pm when we have all arranged to meet Tom and JJ at their hotel. Bill Kates is taking us to Coney Island. Yippeee!!!!!. We go by subway and the last time I went anywhere in New York by subway the trains were covered in graffiti – windows included- which I rather liked it at the time. But now we climb into shiny aluminium carriages – a bit like airstream caravans. The windows and some internal surfaces are scratched – scratchiti -which is not nearly as attractive. The other change is that before it was the platforms which were cool and the trains hot – now it is the reverse and the trains are mercifully cool, which is just as well because the journey takes over half an hour.
We are joined by Carol, an old buddie of Bills who lives nearby. After a meal of everything bad for you, we wander up to the very famous boardwalk passing a miniature golf course, which is like a red rag to a several bulls. Having played in Southend on the south coast of England, we have to play in Coney Island – tomorrow the world.
Around the 8th tee I spot a now derelict parachute drop with the reddening sky behind and take a picture, only noticing Neil in view when I see it on the computer. All of us win and then lose and vice versa and then we start looking for some real fun. On the way we pass a bar advertising Pina Colada so we stop and pass a pleasant hour or two.
This bar has hundreds of photographs of Coney Island in its heyday so by the time we have imbibed and perused we find that the Ferris Wheel has closed for the night.
Tom, JJ, Ken and Carol decide to do a bit of baseball and Ken turns out to be the man,
whacking those balls into the far reaches of the nets. After that bit of excitement nothing can stop us so we head for the dodgems, which actually I find a bit painful – glad to get out. Tom takes the photographs.
Then the water slide Tom and Ken in front, Neil and I safely behind (we think) with Bill and Carol bringing up the rear. This time JJ takes the pics – very wise . The only people completely soaked are Neil and I, and I mean completely, as in right through to the undies.
All good fun but now its time to catch the subway home. Bill stops to pick up some food for his partner…… and the rest of us travel back to W46th to a little restaurant Carol knows. Called The Hourglass, it is a treasure and this whole area is the one we have been trying to find over the last few weeks. Full of little shops and restaurants with lots of music. The meal is fabulous but we are all exhausted so we leave a lot of food untouched. Hope they forgive us.
Have included two pics of the same scene showing why I try not to use the flash if it can be avoided.
although you can see a lot more here, including Ken who is now facing the right way.
What a day ! Reluctantly stroll back to hotel – aware of our immenent departure and wanting to hold on to the brightness and energy just a little bit longer.
I take to the streets early trying to find last inspirational last minute gifts. Hate buying things which are not useful so end up buying Miles, Luke and Barney plain unlabelled jumpers – quite nice but nothing special. Kate, Barneys wife, is much easier. There is a sparkly store quite near the hotel with jewelry at knockdown prices. Max, our grandson, gets a Rodriguez baseball shirt and then I scour New York for an old fashioned rag doll for Isabella. Can’t find one – hate those hard faced Barbie-type dolls. Bought Maggie, my sister, a beaded purse in Greenwich Village a while ago so feel that’s as much as I can do. Neil Tom and JJ sleep till well into the afternoon. Then we all wander through the streets waiting for something to connect. Find ourselves wandering back in the direction of 46th again. On the way a board showing pictures of various cocktails invites us into a bar, where we down Pina Coladas and this sets the tone for the evening.
Later we find another bar and have four different cocktails – Tom is clearly the winner. After this we switched to Margarittas- thought it best not to mix our drinks.
Again a late morning – what did you expect??? – though no hangovers. We pack and wait for the car to pick up the equipment and then the cases at our hotel. Say goodbye to our friends at Dillons and ease our way into the traffic and to JFK. Feel happy that things went as well as they had but sad that we had been let down so badly by the clueless venue. You could say that it is partly our fault for not doing a bit more research before we left and for not involving our agent. ‘Still crazy after all these years’ as the song goes.
But good things will come out of it, they always do – just takes a bit longer and you have to look a bit harder. Beautiful flight – I have to hand it to BA – so far have not had a bad flight with them. We arrive in old Blighty around 9am. The lovely Tess arrives with the band wagon and we load up and are driven home all in various stages of sonambulance.
We have a gap of 10 days now before the next gig at The New Cut Arts in Suffolk. But we will be back to the US hopefully in February to the warmer west coast for about a month – travelling around this time - San Francisco, LA, maybe Seattle and maybe more southerly venues. Nothing finalised yet.
Bye for now – will keep in touch during October – Neil is doing a series of solo gigs- and I look forward to writing the next part of the US tour diary in February.