Children. Life changing aren’t they. When they’re young they think you are great. You know everything and, within reason and perhaps after a bit of coercion, they do what you say.
We’re all genetically modified to find them absorbing and would do anything to keep them safe and happy. As Billy Conolly said: “Kids are like farts. My own don’t smell bad at all”.
And then come the teenage years and you know nothing. “What do you mean?” said my 14 year old daughter, “of course I’ll be alright if go down to Camden till 3 am” and I was the fool for not letting her. But they have to do that. It’s part of the process of making you let go and accepting they’re growing up and will soon be gone. (For thoughts on a similar subject listen to “Long Long Gone” on the “Difficult 2nd Album”)
But for all the trials and tribulations, when you’ve got kids you really do have it all.
I wrote a song on the subject and recorded it for “Little Big Head”. It didn’t make the album so I gave it to a charity which supports Michael Sobell House, a Hospice for the terminally ill. They included it on the fund raising CD “A Tribute to Paul Fox”. Paul was guitarist in The Ruts and was helped by MSH before he sadly succumbed to cancer. I’m happy to say the CD, which features TV Smith, UK Subs, Chelsea, The Urban Voodoo Machine and many more, sold well and is worth checking out.
You can hear “They’ve Got it All” on Soundcloud and, if you are quick enough and get there before their free allocation runs out, download it as well.
Last summer our delightful Norwegian agent, Harry Steen, turned up to our London show with three kilos of salmon and four jars of caviar. It was a charming gift, albeit constituting a somewhat unconventional package to carry around at a gig.Thankfully he brought the fish in a cool bag so I managed to get it home without it starting to hum our tunes.
Wild Norwegian salmon. What a treat.
Stockholm last week managed to surpass that. My total haul for the gig was as follows:
1 hand painted portrait freshly arrived from Finland,
2 bottles of liquorice firewater,
2 bars of dark chocolate, and …….
the icing on the cake ……….
2 jars of peanut butter.
Aren’t people wonderful?
Rock and Roll: it beats shopping and still provides the essentials of life.
And so we traveled the blissfully short 3 hour drive from Rosario back to Buenos Aires. You may remember I had left my telephone in Brazil with my iPad charger. Emails back to England had elicited help and FedEx had been engaged to ferry the equipment from Rio to BA. I was looking forward to picking it up in the hotel and for the twitches which come from being estranged from these modern day curses to subside.
“You were expecting a package from FedEx”, said the receptionist. “Yes”, I replied in joy. “The customs have impounded it” he said. “You are #*$¥%}ing joking me”, was my measured response after less sleep in a week than I’m accustomed to enjoying for a Saturday afternoon nap.
It turns out that Argentina’s much admired and completely rational president, Kristina Kirchner, has had a spat with Apple. She demanded they build a factory in her country, they declined, so she banned my particular model of iPhone. I could go to a Customs office in the equivalent of Swansea on Monday, in person and only in person, pay a fine, whereupon my iPhone would be restored to me.
“But I’ll be in Uruguay on Monday and from there I’m traveling back to Brazil and the UK”, was my plaintive cry. All were agreed it was not a promising situation.
At least there was better news from Uruguay. A government minister would be welcoming me to his office on Monday afternoon to present me with a medal as an “Illustrious Visitor” to Montevideo. The only musicians to receive this honour before were Paul MacCartney and Elton John. This was, of course, in recognition for the song “Montevideo” on my cd “Little Big Head”, a song inspired by my last trip to the city which was largely spent in an alcoholic haze of the night time hours in a bar called ClashCityRockers.
So you celebrate getting rat arsed in a city and they give you a medal for it. My kind of town.
“If he’s a government minister tell him to get onto Kirchner and get your phone back”‘ was the solitary response from a geographically challenged, and unimpressed Liz.
And so to the nights show. By now the whole team were running on pure adrenaline and audience reaction to overcome the lack of sleep. Both adrenaline and audience reaction were there in copious quantities.
Tim was in fine form as ever and the Adverts song, “One Chord Wonders”, which we played together as he joined me and the band on stage at the end of my set, particularly went down a storm.
An early night. In bed by 3pm and six, count them, six whole hours of sleep before getting the ferry across the River Plate, a river the width of the English Channel, in the morning.
So, a stupendous if somewhat late night in Tandil. Today a 9 hour haul to the lovely town of Rosario. Now, here’s a fact you might not know: there is one heck of a lot of grass in Argentina. The road from Tandil to Rosario goes straight from south to north through flat terrain of mile after mile of ……………. grass.
Not a lot happened. There was a welcome burst of excitement each time we needed petrol. Especially at one stop where Mariano pulled up at the kiosk to pay. A battered car approached from the other direction which slowed down but didn’t quite stop. The rotund driver opened his door and leapt out, door left swinging as the car hurtled toward us with no one at the wheel and no brake on. Liz leapt onto our car horn and started honking for all her worth. “That’ll stop it”, we thought. The runaway car came to a halt just short of our driver’s door.
Such excitement over we became a little bored. As car passenger backside set in we became so bored, in fact, that we decided to play pub cricket. It’s a childhood game you play on long journeys in England where all pubs have a name. As you pass a pub the person “in” scores “runs” according to the number of legs in the title. E.g. the “Dog and Duck” will score you 6 runs. If the pub name has no legs, e.g. “The Plough”, you are “out”.
There aren’t any pubs in Argentina so we managed to while away quite some time that way on the look out!
Rosario hove into view at 8 pm. Bags dropped at the luxurious Holiday Inn and sound check. We were due to play at 1 am but the audience didn’t start to show up till then. I think you might be starting to get the drift here? So, after 3 hours sleep in 48 we took the stage at 3am.
But that’s when it’s all worth it. Great audience, great show.
Liz, Tim and I left the venue at 5 pm to the cries of incredulous locals. “You are leaving so early?”, they insisted. “Stay a while. There’s plenty of life here yet”. And I bet there was, but after the delights of the Hotel Austral in Tandil the night before, the vast acres of freshly laundered cotton covering our bed in the Rosario Holiday Inn were enticing like a Siren’s song, calling out to tired mariners nearing land after being adrift for eternity on a sea of pampas grass.
Tuesday and a beautifully sunny, mishap free day arrived in Buenos Aires. There’s no blue like a clear day in “BA”, as the locals call it.
Liz and I wandered the haphazard, cobbled streets around the hotel, popping in and out of shops and lunching on the pavement of a “Parilla” restaurant. A mountain of steak, salad, grilled tomato and wine set us back a fiver a head.
8 pm saw the first rehearsal which went on till 11 at Tomas, local Dave Grohl lookalike’s, apartment. Out the back he has a wide, tiled, walled garden. The kind of space you’d kill for in a London townhouse. It was now midnight. Tomorrow was a working or school day depending on the age of our new friends so, after a long day, everyone did the logical thing.
They all called their wives to bring the respective tribes of children round, the barbecue was lit and a delightful few hours were spent into the early hours eating, drinking and talking under the stars, music playing with no complaints from the neighbours.
South American logic, you see? Sleep isn’t very important, having a good time is.
Wednesday arrived and all the parts were assembled. Tim “TV” Smith arrived early in the morning after his 24 hour flight, with a day to be spent staying awake to avoid being completely messed up by the jet lag.
So, a day sight seeing at the stunning Recoleta cemetery. And La Boca, home to Boca Juniors and vividly painted houses. At the lunch restaurant one of the cocktails offered on the drinks menu was “Vodka and Speed”! Perhaps a translation error but we decided to pass as everyone had ordered the “all you can eat pasta buffet” and thought it might be a waste of money after such an aperitif.
Having just come from the cemetery across the road we also passed on one of the main courses, labeled on the English menu as a “Stiff”.
Another 3 hours rehearsal in the evening but this time bed at a reasonable hour before the 5 hour journey south to the farming city of Tandil: home to the most famous sausage, salami and cheese in Argentina and soon to witness the respective Southern Hemisphere debuts of TV Smith and Duncan Reid and the Gaucho Big Heads.
There were 2 support bands that night. Tim was to play at 1 in the morning and myself at 2 am. This was a Thursday night gig, remember, not a weekend. Try getting people out midweek in London past 10 pm!
We checked into the hotel and all were in agreement that these were not the roomiest, brightest nor most recently decorated and furnished spaces we had ever stayed in. In fact, we were all looking forward to checking out. What didn’t bother us, though, was the dull thud of drums and bass coming from the band in the bar downstairs. We wouldn’t be getting to bed before 4pm so, of course, the din would be finished by then and wouldn’t disturb the precious few hours sleep to be grabbed before setting off on tomorrow’s 8 hour drive back north to Rosario. It’s a big country, Argentina.
We arrived at the venue in time to catch The Nylons, a really entertaining Ramones tribute act. They feature a singer who gives a truly remarkable vocal impersonation of Joey. Close your eyes and it’s him.
I’d wondered how Tim would go down here. He’s great of course, but Argentineans like their music with driving guitars and drums. How would our acoustic guitar backed political troubadour fare among a crowd with little grasp of English?
No need to worry. Argentinean audiences are magnificently welcoming and Tim had them eating out of his hand, the reaction growing with each song towards a rapturous finale.
And so it was with us. Absolutely bloody exhilarating. From the kick off with Montevideo, through highlights from Little Big Head and The Boys, to a finale with Tim on One Chord Wonders. Varying degrees of pandemonium ensued. At times a stern, school masterly, Mariano was required at the front to keep things in check. His magisterial gaze even made me feel naughty and I was meant to be on the stage.
Afterwards, having towelled down a bit, there was a deluge of Latin warmth as I went back out to the venue. Photos, CDs for signing, kisses on the cheek, unfortunately from both sexes, hands to be shaken, backs to be slapped and hugs to be exchanged. At one point I was surrounded by 5 extremely interested and gorgeous teenage girls. Not the worst experience I’ve ever suffered but it would soon be dawn and I needed my beauty sleep. But help was at hand as I spotted a nearby Alex.
“Here’s my friend, Alex” I explained to each of them before sneaking off, looking back at a slightly bewildered, but mostly delighted multi instrumentalist. “Mmmm”, I thought to myself. “There’s a song in there”. And, indeed there is. I’d been saying to Tim earlier that I’d a good tune in my head but was struggling for a theme to write the lyrics to. (Note: check out “Just as Good as I used to be” on “The Difficult Second Album”)
Downstairs a band was playing Gaucho, horse riding, cow punching music and people were dancing. Outside, at 4.30 pm in the morning, in the equivalent of Kettering, people were queuing 4 abreast for 50 yards to carry on partying the night away.
The whole of Tandil was up and at it. A multitude of dogs were joining in, engaged either in canine courtship or playing with the traffic up and down the roads.
Back in the hotel the underlying band were in full swing and the paper thin walls were keeping neither their sound nor that coming from the other residents. The latter were either returning back, or just as likely, heading out for a little reverie before work in a few hours time.
We did manage a couple of hours sleep though. On departure for Rosario shops were open and the populus were at work and in school. How, I don’t know, but there is much that is unfathomable about this admirable country.
Tomorrow: the long road to Rosario when our intrepid troops would suffer from “car journey backside”.