Uriah Heep Share Recording Studio and Tour Diary
The life of a rock star can appear pretty glamorous to outsiders, but what really goes on before and after a band sets foot onstage? Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box shares some behind-the-scenes info in UCR's exclusive recording and tour diary. Below you'll find his unedited 2018 diary from the studio and on the road, as Uriah Heep record their upcoming album Living on the Dream at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, England, and begin their North American tour. Recounting the tale of recording snafus to being held up at the airport due to luggage and passport problems, Box pulls the curtain away on some exciting scenes -- as well as on some mundane ones.
IN THE STUDIO
Thursday 4TH January, Davey came over to my house in London and we loaded up my car to drive the 3 ½ – 4 hours to Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire. With all of my Guitars, Davey’s’ Bass Guitars, 3 Amplifiers, 2 suitcases, bags of pedals, we were full to the brim. Russ was picking up our Producer Jay Ruston from LGW Airport who flew in from Los Angeles, Phil travelled by train and Bernie joined us the following day as he had just arrived back from Canada full of Jet lag.
The first night was getting to know Jay while Brian and Scampi set up the equipment along with the resident studio engineers Sam and Pete. We ordered in a curry for dinner that night, as our catering did not start until the following day. After eating that we played a few games of pool and at one point it looked like the ‘Uriah Heep Youth Club’ was in full flight, and then we all retired for the night.
Friday: On Day 1 we have breakfast at 10am before going into the studio at 11am. This was a day for getting sounds. Always the drums are the first and this usually takes the longest to get just right, then we all get our headphone balances while jamming, so that we are set to start the recording process and get in the trenches and perform.
We break for a quick lunch at 1pm and then we do not stop until 6.30pm for dinner each day. After dinner we start again until approximately 11pm.
On Saturday we started recording the first track of the album. We do this by all playing live without a click track to make it sound as organic as possible, and the results are brilliant. After the backing track is finished, we tend to do all of the overdubs and solos on that track, so that it is ready for lead vocals.
Sunday, we started off with the lead vocals on yesterday’s track and it sounded great. Our producer Jay got the best vocal sound and performance out of Bernie I have heard in a long while, and the song even in that rough mix stage sounded fantastic. It was early days, but Jay is definitely the right choice of Producer as he has a brilliant studio demeanour, and a really chilled way of doing things that brings out best of everybody, and along with that all of the sounds are terrific, and I was super happy with my guitar sound.
After Bernie’s excellent vocal we started on another backing track. This was another rocker and once we had nailed the arrangement, and we were cool with our headphone balance, we recorded the song until we were happy with it. We never do more than 5 or 6 takes as we want it to all sound fresh.
All the time Jay is encouraging us and pointing out how we can improve our individual parts to get the best out of the song. In the end, we finish up with a rockin’ performance and the backing track is complete. After this I usually sit in the control room with Jay and play my overdub guitar parts and solos. Then it is all ready for Bernie to put his vocal on. Russell had a trapped nerve in his left shoulder, so he went to a physio nearby and had some treatment while I did the overdubs.
Monday, we tried to record another track which had Acoustic guitar on it. Well we recorded this in an unusual way. The song was written on Acoustic guitar, but we recorded most of the other parts first, and all that was left to do was for me to put on my Acoustic. Well we did this with me sitting in the main studio and playing the piece twice for a double track effect, but when Jay went to piece it all together he found that there was a click on the Acoustic take, that we could not readily identify, and the end result was that we would have to do it all over again. Rather than mess about with the Acoustic anymore we abandoned it for another day and moved on to a vocal on the previous track we had recorded. Well once again Bernie excelled himself and it was a rockin’ performance from him and the vocal sound Jay got was just brilliant, so we were all super delighted. Thus far the performances from everyone have been top notch and it is all beginning to sound quite special.
Tuesday was back to another backing track and once again a rockin’ one. When we heard it played back we made some improvements to the arrangement and then the song really began to take off. Once the backing track was complete, Phil and I set about writing a theme part and a solo and we came up with some terrific ideas. There are some big Heepy type harmonies in there also, so it was ready to lay down a lead vocal. Bernie did this, and the end result was brilliant. This one will be a great live track for sure.
Wednesday, it was time to record a much longer track, but we stayed faithful to the arrangement from our pre-production and it took shape really quickly. There are a lot more parts on this one, so it took a little more time than usual, but when we heard it back for the first time it sounded great, even without the vocals and overdubs on. We took the rest of the day working on this track with all of the various parts and overdubs, and as each piece of the jigsaw puzzle was added it sounded better and better.
When I was doing a guitar part in the main studio we kept hearing a crackling noise creep in on the part I played, so we changed leads and guitars, and we tried hard to find the stubborn gremlin. When Jay opened the studio door he identified that the noise was in fact Bernie in the kitchen using the blender to make Houmas. You could not make it up could you, and we had to laugh, but once Bernie was told to shut it off, the noise stopped, and we could finish the guitar track off successfully.
Everyone played so well on this track just proving that the band are on top of their game. As with most days we listen back to the days recorded work before relax time takes over and the usual popping of corks and playing competition pool in the what was now definitely referred to as ‘The Uriah Heep Youth Club,’ before all retiring to our beds. Some earlier than others I might add! Jay was proving to be a mean Pool player and was beating everybody.
Thursday, we carried on with the last track with organ solos etc. and I played some nice arpeggio guitar on the Carparelli Pledge guitar, which sounded really cool, and then it was ready for Bernie to do a vocal. The Pledge guitar is lovely, and I even sent Mike Carparelli a text saying that I want one of these guitars as it plays so well.
Today Russell went to the Physio again and he is definitely moving a lot better from his last visit which is great. Bernie started a vocal which sounded marvellous and at the end of the night we listened through to the fruits of our labour, before the drinking and pool competition started. It is good way to wind day after a full-on day.
On Friday Russ had a bit of a cold so we decided to play a ballad rather than a full-on rock track. The arrangement we kept the same as our pre-production, as it sounded really good. We started the recording process and with a few nips and tucks we had it. Bernie was not keen to be singing in the evening, so this time we recorded his vocals before dinner and after that Phil and I added our guitar and organ parts.
Saturday was a day of guitar and keyboards catch up which was good for Phil and me, and the others sat around and relaxed. Instead of putting more Acoustic on that earlier track, we put some 12 string Electric Guitar with it, and mixed together, it sounded great.
Bernie had his family up, so he was well occupied anyway. I did manage to see the Spurs V Everton football match on the television while Phil as overdubbing, and we won 4-1 which was great.
Sunday, we recorded another rock track and once we had the take, I recorded all of the guitar parts only to find that my Boss tuner had malfunctioned and was coming up slightly flat. It was not enough to notice until the organ part came in, and then it became a problem.
This meant that I had to re-record all of my guitar parts again using a T.C. Electronic Poly Tuner which was Brian’s. In all of my years playing I have never had a tuner go flat on me, but there is always a first for everything. I did manage while Phil was doing his keyboard overdubs to see the Liverpool v Manchester City football game with Davey, who was super delighted with the 4-3-win, breaking Man City’s epic run of wins this season.
Monday, it started with me re-doing all of the out of tune guitar parts with Jay. Luckily the tuner was on the blink only on the last couple of numbers, thank god. We then started the process of getting everything in the guitar department in tune. It did sound great in the end, so that is all that counts. Phil added some keyboard parts and then Bernie sang a vocal on Sunday’s rock track. In the evening, we had a film crew turn up to record some of the recording process the following day. They had driven from Ireland, so they were pretty knackered and went to bed quite early.
The next day we did some filming whilst recording a track and they were of course in the studio with us. This was all a bit alien having outsiders in the room with us I have to say, but we soon got used to it a little, even though it is something I personally don’t like, as it does take away your focus. They were with us the whole day and ended up with a lot on film, so that was cool! There were studio shots, relaxing shots, talking about our gear shots, as well as listen to the playback shots, so it was all pretty much full on.
Tuesday morning the film crew drove back to Ireland leaving at 6am to try and beat the bad weather coming in. It ended up being a guitar and keyboard overdub day, and then we moved into some vocal parts and at the end of that the Youth Club was opened, and the drinks flowed.
Wednesday, I did some basic track overdubs and then Bernie did a vocal which turned out great on that particular track. It was a long old day, but the results were amazing, so we were all very happy. Jay has produced for us some superb sounds and he has definitely got some great vocals out of Bernie. Then of course it was wind down time and some had an early night while others had a late one, or should I say an early morning one.
On Thursday we started recording another backing track which after hearing it back in the studio, we made some adjustments, and then we cracked on until we were all happy with it. As it was a busy track and we wanted to make sure a 100% that we were happy with it we decided to sleep on it.
Bernie had a massage booked for 1pm locally, so we did not see him until after that. Russ had one booked for 5pm and while he was there, Phil and I recorded our respective parts on other tracks that needed it.
Around 6pm we had a visit from Grammy winning metal producer Andy Sneap, who had just finished the latest Judas Priest album and by all accounts it sounds brilliant. He came by to say hi which was nice of him as he lived 2 hours away. It was good to see him, and I hadn’t seen Andy for a while and neither had Jay. He wanted me to sign a drum skin for one of his friends and I gave him some guitar picks that he wanted.
After dinner, I recorded another solo and with Andy sitting behind me in the control room and Jay in front of me, just for one second it did cross my mind ‘no pressure then,’ but it all turned out great, and once this was finished we called it a night and retired to the pool table for a few games and a few well-earned drinks. I think everyone took advantage of an early night to be honest.
Friday saw us start on Bass repairs on the backing track of the song we had slept on, as in the clear light of day the drum track sounded great. Then it was time for me to add some of my guitar parts. These all sounded great and I was very pleased with them.
Saturday, it was time for another backing track which took shape reasonable quickly. There was a passage that needed a guitar part, so I sat in the lounge area and quickly wrote one, that fit perfectly. Davey’s wife Corine came up for a visit. Then we put down our final track and then Davey finished his bass overdubs. As Russell’s parts were complete he went home that evening.
Sunday, was another backing track that did not take too long as we were well into our stride by then. Once again, a melody part was required, so Phil and I sat in the studio for 20 minutes and produced a great melodic line that was right in the pocket. Then, Davey tidied up his bass track and he was finished too, so he drove back to London with Corine. Phil and I continued with our respective keys and guitar parts, then Bernie sang some vocals, leaving the smallest vocal piece for the morning.
Come Monday morning I played my last guitar part and Bernie sang his last vocal and we were all done 3-4 days ahead of schedule. I was very happy about this as my wife Sheila had gone to hospital to have a foot operation, and she was coming home that evening, and I would be able to see her. A good friend Mike McHale had taken Sheila into the hospital while I was recording, and he was bringing her home too, which was fantastic of him. We were very grateful to Mike for doing this seeing as I was not there to do it, and it was wonderful to see Sheila and Romeo again, and of course my dog Iggy went mental when I opened the front door. Even our cat Biscuit was in need of a cuddle.
5 days later we were headlining the Giants of Rock festival in Minehead. This was on my son Romeo’s 17th Birthday, so in the morning I had my guitar on when he came down for breakfast and Sheila and I sang Happy Birthday to him. We then gave him a cake and his presents. After this I had to leave, as we had planned to meet up at Kings X station and we then drove the 4 ½ hours to Butlin’s Holiday camp, where the festival was held.
We arrived in time for a sound-check, and we even had time for some dinner, as we were on stage for 9.30pm. Our contract was for only one hour, so it was heads down and see you at the finish line. Well the venue was packed to the rafters, with another 200 people plus outside that could not come in for insurance reasons. We had a fantastic time and the response was terrific, and it was good to let loose on a live show after the constraints of the studio. The audience were singing so loudly on some of the songs it was just amazing. It sure was good to play England again after a reception like that.
The next morning, after breakfast we jumped back in the van and drove back to London. It was good to be home and relax which was the lull before the storm really, as we were leaving for Ottawa Canada for long 6-week long North American tour in a few days.
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
Sunday the 4th of Feb we were back at LHR Airport Terminal 5 to fly on a British Airways flight to Toronto Canada. The flight was just under 8 hours, but we had to circle the airport which seemed like forever, while the runway was cleared of snow and ice by a number of snow ploughs. We eventually landed and went through the customs routine, but we had to laugh, as we all went through without a hitch, but Bernie was pulled aside to be checked, and he was the only Canadian in our party.
After this we collected our luggage and went outside to the freezing cold, where there was plenty of snow and ice piled up either side of the road, to catch a courtesy bus to the hotel, which was pretty close by. We stayed there the night, before catching another flight in the morning to Ottawa where the first gig of the North American Tour was taking place.
The first show at the uniquely named ‘Brass Monkey’ was originally on Thursday the 8th of Feb, but this sold out in minutes, so they put a second show on before that one, as we already had shows booked following the 8th. That is why we flew in earlier, so the second show is actually the first and the first show is the second if you follow me.
Well we arrived at the hotel and it was comfortable enough as we had suites given to us as an upgrade, and on arrival there was a welcome card and a basket full of local beer, which was very nice of them.
The rest of the day was free but there was not a lot to do as the city was 45 minutes to an hour away and we did not have any transport. Plus, there were banks of snow everywhere and it was freezing cold, which didn’t encourage you to go out anyway. So, we all stayed in waiting for jet lag to kick in, but they did have a great food menu and a well-stocked bar, so we were set.
That night Ace Trump one of our mangers flew in with his assistant Sean from Los Angeles, arriving at approximately 2am, so we did not see them until later the next day.
The following day was the gig day and the promoter was very happy with the ticket sales, seeing as it was a second show on sale, so much so that he could not sell any more tickets as there was a restriction by the fire regulations in place, so in essence it was a sell-out.
It was great meeting Ace and Sean and of course we caught up on a lot of exciting news that will be happening in the Heep camp over the coming year. It is always a plus to get the big picture as we have been immersed in the studio recording the new album, playing the Giants of Rock festival in Minehead England, sorting out everything on the home front before leaving for 6 weeks and flying out to Canada, so you could say our collective heads have been super busy in many directions.
The promoter picked us up to take us to the show and he was a lovely cheerful guy and he was telling us about all the bands that had passed through his venue. Our friends Nazareth and the wonderful Ritchie Kotzen to name but a few. Ritchie is in a band called the ‘Winery Dogs’ with Billy Sheenan on Bass and Mike Portnoy on Drums, and they are amazing. Ritchie is one hell of a guitar player and a fantastic singer, songwriter too. He would certainly be high on my list of favourite guitar players for sure. He is a total musician.
We arrived at the venue and lo and behold the two German Twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell were there. How do they do it amazes me, as they were at the Minehead Giants of Rock show too, so it was hugs all round and we did the sound check.
This was over pretty quickly, and we went to the dressing room, which was small, and it had a sign on the wall ‘The Green Room.’ Well it was far from green and in fact there was no green colour in sight at all, but in truth quite a lot of Magnolia, so its rightful name should have been the Magnolia Room. However, to get through to the dressing room at the back of the venue, we had to walk through the pool table room which was cordoned off from the audience, so with some time to kill before dinner a few pool games were played.
We have some excellent merchandise on this tour and our merchandiser is a lady with the lovely name of Caitlin. My son Mike was going to do this, but his main computer job was upgrading him, and giving him more work, and he would not have been able to combine the two jobs. Well Caitlin looked like she knew what she as doing, and she had displayed everything very well. It was a shame as it would have been fantastic to have had my son Mike on the road with me and a dream come true to be honest, but as he lives in the USA I will see him at a few of the shows anyway.
We pre-ordered dinner from an Italian Restaurant at the sound-check which was virtually next door. The pre-order idea didn’t work out at all as we waited 1 hour and a half for our starters. This was all very frustrating, but what can you do. We were on the verge of walking out but just as we did, the first plates of food arrived, so we stayed.
Mike Carparelli who makes my guitars was meant to come up from Toronto to bring me some spare parts for my guitars and a soft guitar case, but the weather was treacherous, so he did not make it. He got in touch with one of his friends Chad Preseault, who met me over dinner saying that Mike had posted them, but they had not arrived yet. Luckily by doing two shows we had time for them to arrive for the second show, that is in fact the first show, but I won’t go into that again.
We were on stage at 9.30pm and the place was rockin’ from the first note. The band were on fire and we quickly hit our stride, and with the audience giving so much back to us, it created a great atmosphere. It was cold outside, but it was certainly hot and sweaty inside. It was a great night and the audience were super appreciative, so for a first night we were all very happy. Caitlin had a good night on the merchandise stand, so all in all it was a good way to kick off the North American tour.
We sat in the dressing room for a while and because the crew did not have to break down the equipment, leaving it there for our next show, they were backstage drinking and playing pool even before we had got changed.
There was a pickup truck ferrying people to and from the hotel, so I took one of the early ones with Russ and Bernie. The other guys commandeered a car ride back to the hotel. Our rooms were a walk away from the hotel reception in another building and the driver was kind enough to drop us outside our building as it was an icy, snowy path downhill. I was grateful for that, but then my key did not work, so I had to walk back up to reception in the snow and ice and get a new one. Then I had to walk back down to our building, so the dropping off outside, although it was very nice of the driver, in the end it was no good to me at all. D’oh!
The next day was a day off! A few of us just hung around the hotel and the crew braved it and got a Taxi into town. It did give us a chance to have another band meeting with Ace and Sean, and this time it was on our tour bus which I saw for the first time. It was very nice but very brown, and we will be seeing a lot of it on this run.
I had a chance to catch up on all of my emails and work and I got some writing done, so I was very happy to chill in my room. Those that did not go into the city, which was the band and Ace, all met in the bar for dinner at 7pm. Bernie was going stir crazy, so he wanted to go to another restaurant, so Ace went with him. The rest of us were quite happy to eat in the hotel restaurant as the food was excellent and there was a lovely waitress who kept bringing drinks to the table. We liked that didn’t we?
Eventually the crew arrived back from the city and Ace and Bernie came back from the restaurant, so it was hopping there for a bit. Bernie went straight to his room, then Russ disappeared, and then Phil and I, as we were still trying to get a handle on the jet lag.
The next day was what we can only really term as our second show, even though in reality it was the first, so the crew went down there at 2.30pm and we left the hotel at 4.30pm for a sound-check between 5pm and 6pm. There was a support band, so they had between 6pm and 7pm to set up their equipment before the doors opened at 7pm.
Well this time we pre-ordered from a menu at a Vietnamese Restaurant almost right next door to the venue. We ate there, and the food was passable, but not great. At least the wait for food was greatly reduced from the Italian we had previously eaten in.
Mike Carprelli’s friend came to the show with the spare parts I needed and he also amazingly copied the decal I have on my guitar adding my name. That was really cool of him and a very nice gesture indeed. My guitar tech Rich Bennett then set about updating my guitars with the new decals.
Well at show time the venue was mobbed, and once on the stage you could see and feel they were well up for it. It was a rockin’ show and they were super loud, and it was such a great atmosphere. Some people had come to the two nights and certainly word had got around how good the first concert was, which just added to the anticipation of the evenings performance. It was hot and sweaty inside and so much so, I renamed the city Hot-towa! A good night was had by all and we ended up with a few drinks while the Pizzas arrived and then we went back to the hotel. Oh yes, the pool tables were in full swing for a while.
Once the equipment was loaded into the trailer of the tour bus we said our goodbyes to Ace and Sean, and we stopped by the hotel for a few people to have a shower and collect their suitcases, before we travelled overnight to Quebec.
Once in Quebec at 3.30am the band checked into a hotel while the crew parked up outside the venue until it was time for the load in. I have to say it was nice to have a catch-up sleep in a non-moving bed.
I woke up in time for lunch, but I decided to stay in bed and skip a meal rather than get up. The others surfaced only to find the hotel had no restaurant, so they had to order food in.
Well when I did rise out of bed, it was the start of a trilogy of things that made me feel good. I checked my phone and there were a number of messages from all around the world from my family and friends informing me that my beloved football team Tottenham Hotspur had beaten arch rivals Arsenal in a derby match winning 1-0 with a Harry Kane goal. I was soooooo delighted!
Then just before I jumped into the shower I put the TV on for some company and lo and behold there was English Football on the screen with Manchester City beating Leicester City 5-1. I quickly had my shower and then they played the highlights of the days matches and I got to see the Tottenham Hotspur goal. Now how good is that!
By now I was feeling a little peckish and I was just about to eat one of the health bars I had bought from England, and I heard a text ping on my phone. It was Russ saying he had bought me a Chicken Salad and what room was I in and he came down to my room to give it to me. ‘Appy days!
As we had to check out the hotel at 3pm we caught a cab down to the venue which was the Palais Montcalm, and this was a lovely theatre. The bus then became our hotel due to travelling overnight to London Ontario.
We had some time to kill, so we all went for a walk except for Bernie. Outside the venue there was an Ice Rink with lots of people skating and loud music blaring out.
We found a very interesting shop on our wander about that was full of medieval clothes, suits of armour, swords, hats and the like. We of course tried on all of the hats and took pictures and both Phil and Davey bought shirts. Davey also bought a black leather Top Hat and with his long black coat and black trousers and boots, we had our very own ‘Uriah Heep.’ The owner of the shop was a big Heep fan and he was coming to the show that night.
Well it was soon time to go back to the venue for the sound check. This we did relatively quickly and then we had some dinner in a restaurant a short walk from the venue that was excellent. After this we walked back to the theatre to prepare for the show.
Unusually the backstage area was huge with lots of choices for dressing rooms. Bernie & Russ decided to have a room to themselves and Phil, Davey & I shared. Sitting in a room on my own would never appeal to me at all, as I would miss the banter which is an integral part of our warm up ritual.
The concert had only a couple of tickets left, and the promoter was asking if we had used all of our guest list, as he wanted to sell those too, as it was a total sell out.
This was all good news and when our intro tape went on the roar from the audience was immense. As we walked on to the stage it went up a level again, and there it stayed for the entire show. It was an amazing reaction and truly overwhelming in the best way possible. It was a fantastic show and we left the stage to everyone on their feet shouting for more. What an incredible night!
After the show we travelled overnight 9 hours to London Ontario. On arrival we checked into the hotel at 9.30am, but we could not have our rooms until 11am, so we had breakfast and Davey and I killed some time watching the live football on my iPad. The game was Manchester United v Newcastle. By all accounts United should have crushed Newcastle, but Newcastle ended up winning 1-0 which was fantastic. It was a very good game to watch especially as the underdogs won. Scampi our Tour Manager and Lighting Engineer who is an avid Manchester United fan, was distraught. He said he got out of his bunk on the bus to watch the match, and it was so bad he went back to bed.
When we could have our rooms, it was time in England for the Liverpool v Southampton football match, which both Davey and I watched in our respective rooms. Now Liverpool is Davey’s team as that is where he was born, and they won 2-0, so he was delighted.
We all met at 1pm except for Bernie, for a light lunch in the hotel restaurant, before retiring to our rooms for a few hours of chilling. I was reluctant to use that word with the icy, snowy, slushy, weather outside I have to say!
We left the hotel at 4.45pm for our sound-check in the London Music Hall, and after we had checked our sound, we had our first Pledge vocalist come up on the stage with us who wanted to sing ‘Easy Livin’’ with the band. His name was Rick LaBontée and he came up on to the stage and did a fine job with his girlfriend filming him on her iPhone. He was a cool guy and a super ‘Heep’ fan too.
Once we had finished the sound-check, we ordered in some Chinese Food, all except for Bernie who braved the cold and went to a restaurant. When Bernie has his mind set on a type of food to eat, nothing will stop him getting it. There are those that eat to live and those that love to eat, and you can see what category Bernie fits into. J
The venue was super rammed by the time we hit the stage and the roar as we walked on was incredible. What a fantastic night it was. The audience were mega appreciative, and the hall was full of smiling faces and fists in the air for the whole show.
The Pledge guy was down the front standing right in front of Bernie the whole night singing along. As we started the encore of ‘Easy Livin,’’ I nodded to him to get up on stage with us, which he did in a heartbeat, and with a big smile on his face. He just loved it, as he was truly in rock n’ roll heaven for a short while. He came with his girlfriend and a couple of friends backstage and we chatted for a while and had pictures taken.
The German twins Andrea and Claudia, were down the front too, and back in the dressing room they told me that they had a hellish day, as they were booked on a flight from Montreal to London Ontario and the flight was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. They were actually sitting on the plane when the flight was cancelled, so when they reunited themselves with their luggage, they hired a car and drove to London. It took us 9 hours overnight, and I know it would be quicker in a car rather than the tour bus, but still it was a long old journey. They just made the concert in time and took their place down the front as usual, once again earning themselves the title of ‘Uriah Heep super fans.’ Amazing!
The crew were sleeping on the tour bus that night, so the band went back to the hotel. Phil, Bernie and I went to our rooms as we had a reasonably early start the next day to drive to Toronto, but Davey and Russ found a bar to drink in close to the hotel with the Pledge guy. I am glad I made the choice I did though, as we have a long way to go on this tour, plus we do not see a hotel in Toronto until after the gig, as we are staying at the airport hotel to fly to Florida the next day.
We arrived in Toronto and parked the Bus outside the venue which was the Phoenix Concert Hall, and the driver Alan went to a hotel to sleep. It was his birthday, so before he left we gave him a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ sung by the band and crew.
Having the whole day to kill with no hotel, actually turned out quite good in the end, as I have been having a little trouble getting an acoustic sound that I am happy with on the ‘Wizard.’ My Hofner acoustic on ‘Lady in Black’ is fine, but not so the acoustic for the ‘Wizard.’
Davey had a friend called Dave Reamue who he phoned to see if he could help us. Dave has his own YouTube programme called ‘Dave’s fun stuff’ which our Dave watches. It is basically a programme about being a guitar Luthier recorded in the basement of his house, but with a lot of fun thrown in for good measure.
Well he was just great, and he drove over to the venue and took Dave and I to a shop called ‘The Twelfth Fret.’ It was just the ticket, as I came out with a lovely Taylor Acoustic that was just right for the job. It needed to be a hardy guitar to withstand all of the touring we do all over the world, and a lot of these high-end guitars do not handle that sort of punishment too well. I did ask Mike Carparelli if he could help as he lives in Toronto, but he is totally focused on Electric Guitars and I am glad he is, because my Carparelli S4’s, are fantastic.
While in the shop they had some really old equipment and guitars and I saw an amplifier that I used to own which was an old blue ‘Watkins Dominator.’ I hadn’t seen one of these for years as it was my very first amplifier combo. We used to plug my guitar and the microphone into it at the same time, and seeing it did bring back a lot of cool memories.
Well we made it back for the sound-check which went smoothly, and then I was hit with 3 interviews which were all good. I then had a shower and generally prepared for the show. I did manage to say hello to Mike Carparelli and his wife Keeks at the sound-check before being dragged off for the interviews. I really wanted to hang with Mike but Toronto being a big city we were run ragged. He did manage to drop off a bunch of Carparelli T Shirts for the band and crew which was very kind of him.
The support band that night was ‘Blurred Vision,’ who are from Toronto, and they supported us on a UK tour a while ago, so it was great to catch up with them.
When we hit the stage, the place was packed, and it was a really great atmosphere. Hot, sweaty and rockin’ as it should be. I had a little problem, as I usually have my Engl amps and speakers directly behind me, but because of the shape of the stage this night they were in another postcode. Still it was heads down and go for it and it was a great night. The audience were superb, and it was a good way to end the first part of our short Canadian tour, and overall it had been super successful which was a great feeling.
After the show we travelled to the Airport Hotel where we said goodbye to the bus and our merchandise Caitlin, which we will meet up with again in the USA at our first show in Bethlehem PA, as we were going to play a concert in Orlando before getting on the Rock Legends Rock Cruise, sailing from Fort Lauderdale Florida.
We had to get up early to catch 2 flights to Orlando via Charlotte Carolina. Well this was the start of a very interesting day as on the way to the airport on the courtesy bus, Bernie screamed out, “I can’t find my passport with the USA Visa in it.’ This started many panic calls and luckily, he still had his second passport, so he could get into the USA by buying an ESTA at the airport. The bus with his passport was long gone on the journey to America. He did the ESTA on a machine by the check-in desk, but it was fraught with problems, but eventually he got one, but at one point it was looking decidedly dodgy. This meant he could fly to the USA, but it was then all down to Passport Control if he would be allowed entry to be able to work.
At the check-in desk as our main equipment had gone to the USA by bus we were on our flying gear. This meant that each of us had 2 bags each. Each individual suitcase and one piece of equipment.
Well we went through the usual security and on to passport control. This is where it all went pear shape this time involving me too. I handed the Passport Officer my passport and he said loudly section 2 and I was marched off by another officer into a room a good walk away. On entering the room there was a desk at the far end with 5 airlines signs and a lady at each desk and as I was flying American Airlines, I was called over to her. She said how many bags do you have and I said two. Well she said there were three booked in my name. I said this was impossible and then she informed me that they would have to take the bags off the aeroplane and take a picture of them and these would be sent to her computer terminal for me to identify.
She then said I would not be able to leave that room until the bags were identified. Well I thought this would take a short time and all would be okay, but little did I know. They found my suitcase and sent the picture, but not the piece of equipment or the bogus third bag.
Well I was getting anxious at 15 minutes until take off as I was approximately 15 minutes away from the gate. Everyone else, so I thought were on the plane already. Scampi our tour manager however was trying hard to hold up the plane by not taking his seat.
Then suddenly the American Airlines lady just got up out of her seat and put on her coat and left. I was gobsmacked and nobody else came in to take her place. Well the phone rang behind the AA desk and I asked one of the other ladies from another airline to please help and take the call. She did, and she saved my life because she said look lets go to the Passport Officer and explain the situation as evidently on the phone they had given her only 2 baggage tag numbers and not three.
As you can imagine by now the plane should have left. The Passport Officer was compassionate and let me through. I thanked the lady and run like hell to get to the gate and I was never so pleased as to see Scampi’s face as he was still standing there holding everything up.
It was only then I found out what the actual problem was. The lady at the check in desk had put me down for 3 bags which was a mistake, so she phoned the baggage handlers who deleted one of the numbers and then the bright spark put the deleted sticker on my second case.
Well as I ran to the plane I could see my 2 cases sitting on a trolley beside the plane and then I saw them loaded on to the plane and it was a great sigh of relief to be reunited with my bags and more importantly being on the flight.
While all of this was going on I found out that Bernie was locked in a room being questioned about his passport, ESTA and Visa. He had evidently had only just taken his seat on the plane a few moments before me.
The funny thing was that while Bernie was locked in the room being questioned he had the presence of mind to phone Scampi to buy him a sandwich, which happened to be in the middle of the many of the urgent phone calls Scampi and I were having with my particular problem. How He could think of his stomach at that particular time when he was in grave danger of not getting on the flight, I will never know, but that’s Bernie, food dependent.
Once the flight took off I was so happy and relieved and just about every other feeling you can feel after a drama like that, while Bernie ate his sandwich. You couldn’t make it up could you.
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR CONTINUES
Well we had a day off in Annapolis on the 25th February, that for some was a day on, but at least we had no concert that night. Bernie, Phil and I decided to have dinner in the hotel restaurant and a quiet night but nearly everyone else hit the town, which was a short walk away to the harbour. We were at the halfway point on this tour so a night in away from the madness was just what I personally needed.
However, we did manage to put a few items each in the laundry and dry cleaning that night, which would be delivered back by 7pm on the gig night
We had to check out of our rooms at midday because after the show at the Rams Head, we would be driving to Rocky Mount Virginia. Luckily the gig was a short walk down from the hotel because Davey missed the lobby call, and he had to walk down to the venue with his luggage, as the crew loaded in at 1pm.
We had lunch there and then a few of us went shopping. There was a skype interview that somehow got missed, so Scampi our TM texted me and I went back to the venue to do this. I didn’t have Skype installed on my Apple Pro Lap Top, as it was a recent acquisition, so I had to get Caitlin our merchandise lady to help me, and I was set for the interview. This went well and then I finished off Part 2 of this tour blog so that it could be posted.
On arrival in Annapolis Brian & Scampi took my 2 broken amplifiers to a music shop to get repaired. Well they came back working, but they had done no more than change fuses, so when we put them both up at the sound-check, even before I could try them, they both blew again, with just my tech Rich Bennett playing through them. So, it was another night on another amplifier, which was very annoying.
The shop was under instructions to find the cause of the fuses blowing, but all they did was replace them and, in the end, this was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
Bernie at last managed to see an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist and was given some medication and he just made the sound-check.
Still the venue was rammed when we walked on to the stage and there was a huge cheer as we took our positions. This remained for the rest of the night, and it was a fantastic atmosphere with everyone singing along to the songs old and new. We had a great time and it was all smiles looking at everyone from the stage. I managed to get through with my amp and all was okay when the adrenaline took over. Bernie sang well considering, and he still hit the high notes, so his adrenaline was working well too.
After the show, we had dinner that we had pre-ordered and then we met a few people back in the venue, including Lannis and Bobbi, before we boarded the bus for an overnight ride to Virginia. Scampi had kindly gone to the hotel top pick up out laundry, and then the bus was hopping there for a bit, with plenty of laughs, until everyone eventually went to bed and the animal farm noises ensued for most of the journey. If there was a snoring and farting event at the Olympics, the mighty Heep band & crew would surely come away with a Gold Medal.
Alan our driver parked up outside the hotel in Virginia and the band disembarked early and quickly found out that the rooms were ready, which was great. A few of us had a little breakfast that they called continental. The eggs were smothered in butter, the oatmeal was made with creamy milk, and so it was down to an English Muffin and a cup of black coffee.
The reason I mentioned the above is that I am Lactose intolerant and the only milk I can have is Lactose Free, so I was out of luck.
We then went to our rooms for a catch-up sleep in a quiet non-moving bed before we met for lunch. This was at a restaurant 1-minute walk from the hotel that we spied when we checked-in, but then of course, it was not open.
Bernie decided to give lunch a miss for some more sleep, so I took him back a Club Sandwich and an Ice Tea after I had eaten. Davey missed it completely and so it was just Phil, Russ and I, and the crew were already eating on another table. Back at the hotel I met a guy who was on the Rock Legends V11 cruise with us, and he loved it so much, he came again, which was terrific.
The venue was called the ‘Harvester Pac’ and it was a really cool theatre with for once an enormous dressing room. To get to the dressing room you had to take a lift on my side of the stage down a couple of floors.
They looked after us very well and you knew where you were when the password for the Network was ‘Tractors.’ Also, a lady came in the dressing room with offerings of ‘Moonshine.’ One was Strawberry, and one was Lemon, but we gave this a wide berth until after the show, still it was very nice of her.
At the sound-check we had another Pledge guy named Patrick Harmon who wanted to play guitar on ‘Easy’ Livin’. I asked him if he wanted to play on his own or with me, but he wanted me to play along too. He did really well, and he had his wife and brothers come in to see him, which was cool.
The concert was a seated affair, but not for long as they were soon out of their seats. It was a good show with a good feeling all round and the band were on fire. At the end they were standing and shouting for more and we could still hear them even as the lift took us down to our dressing room.
After this we said hi to Patrick (The Pledge guy) and Lannis and Bobbi and a few other people, and I signed a guitar and a multitude of stuff that was brought in to me by Scampi and Brian.
While I was doing this Bernie, Phil & Davey tried the moonshine, which they said was nice and smooth but later on the effects took place, as they were drinking other things too. We were doing a 9-hour overnighter to Kent Ohio, so the bus was rockin’ there for a bit, with lots of banter and shouting.
When we arrived, we were parked outside the hotel, so we dragged ourselves off the bus, and just about made breakfast, before getting our room keys and going to our respective rooms.
We then met for lunch and we found a sports bar a short walk from the hotel and it was right opposite the venue. That sports bar had the most TV screens I had ever seen. I counted 25 screens, and this was not a huge bar. A lot of them were tuned to different stations, so I was extremely happy they did not have the sound on. Can you imagine the racket if they did? Ha!
We could see out of the restaurant window the Kent Stage Theatre with our name up on the front of the venue for the 2 days we were performing there.
The food was good and then we went to a Health Food Shop that had a guy serving there that could have easily stepped right off the Harry Potter film set. Phil and I found a few things we needed which was cool, then we walked back to the hotel.
In reception Scampi our TM was with Brian and he informed me that they may have the answer to my amp problem. The problem being a power surge that blows the fuses on the amps rendering them useless. They found a piece of equipment that regulates the voltage to what it is receiving and stops them from blowing up. This would arrive by 12 midday the next day, and in time for the gig, so that was a big thumbs up.
Davey, Rich, Ben & Angus were just jumping into a taxi to take them to Walmart for some shopping, and then Bernie, Phil and I decided to go too. The manager of the hotel said he would take us so that was cool. It was only 10 minutes away, but he made a de-tour through the university to show us where the demonstrations took place, on May 4, 1970. Four unarmed Kent State University students were killed and nine injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during a demonstration protesting the Vietnam War. The President at the time was Richard Nixon.
Well our trip to Walmart was a bit disappointing for me, but both Phil and Bernie found some items they needed and then we ran into the crew and Davey who were pushing a shopping trolley full to the brim, so they were very happy.
The manager of the hotel kindly picked us up to drive us back to the hotel and we asked him if there was a laundry service in the hotel, and he said that they had one on the second floor containing one washing machine and one dryer. Well those machines were going all day and all night I can tell you with the Heep band and crew, but it was lovely to end up with a suitcase full of clean clothes. Seeing as we were just over half way through the tour that should keep us going until we get back to the UK.
In the evening the band went for dinner in a restaurant opposite the hotel and this was an excellent choice, as it was recommended by the guy on the desk. After this Phil, Bernie, Russ and I had an early night, but Davey ended up going out with the crew back to that sports bar we had eaten lunch in.
The next day was gig day so the crew loaded in at midday and the band went for the sound-check at 5pm. The whole day it was raining so hard that we decided that lunch was to be had in the hotel.
Although the venue was an easy walk to the venue, unfortunately the hotel had no umbrellas, so we had the venue runner pick us up and drive us, as the rain was so torrential we would have got soaked through.
At the sound-check we met Dave White and his wife Carol who live in Cleveland. Dave along with Louis Rentrop in Holland look after our website, (www.uriah-heep.com) and while we are out on the road touring all over the world, they are the guys that let our fans know where we are and keep them up to date with all things pertaining to the mighty Heep. They do a marvellous job.
At the sound-check I tried my new gizmo that keeps the voltage stable and it worked great. I was very happy about that and I am now back on my Engl Amplifier. I am so relieved that this problem has been sorted as it has been a bit of a worry and the amps sound so good when working. Martin Klein of Engl Germany was really great in trying to find a solution for us, and that is why I am so happy to be a part of this wonderful company. He answered my SOS texts immediately and that is just great.
After the sound-check my guitar tech Rich, Davey and I went to a music shop a short walk from the venue with borrowed umbrellas. Rich had to pick up a drum piece for Russ and Davey and I had a look around. It was a well-stocked shop and they had some lovely guitars, especially their Acoustic section, and I was sorely tempted to buy one, but I managed to use some self-control and we just bought a rubber feedback plug to go in the hole of my Hofner Acoustic and a T.C Electrics clip on Tuner for Rich.
We had dinner back at the venue and our very small dressing room was literally on the stage, with only the door to separate us. This meant that there was no peace and quiet to be had when the two support bands were on. Luckily, they were both good bands, so it wasn’t too bad.
When we took to the stage, there was a huge roar and we hit the stage running. It was a seated affair, and as the tickets were tiered, they could not come down the front. We didn’t find this out until later, but on the last few numbers they were waved down by the security and everything went up a level.
I can understand that if you paid more for a ticket to sit down the front, and someone comes and stands in front of you, obscuring your view, that would be super annoying. Anyway, by the end of the concert everyone was standing and running down to the front and having a great time, and even when they were sitting or standing in front of their seats, it was an amazing response.
One couple even came down the front and gave us a carrier bag full of presents. Inside were Beanie Hats for each of us and a glass each. That was so nice of them.
After the show we stayed for a little while signing autographs and having pictures taken before driving back to the hotel. This time though the rain had turned to snow which was coming down heavily.
The next morning, we left the hotel at 9am to drive to Detroit, where we had just been informed was another Sold Out show at the Token Lounge. As we arrived in Detroit it seemed that we had left the snow behind in Kent Ohio, as the sun was out and any snow that was there had slowly melted away. However, it was still bitterly cold.
Talking of bitterly cold, as much as I like touring, the only real downside is when something happens on the home front that makes you feel so helpless. My wife Sheila has recently had a foot operation, and that is hard enough for her to deal with, with me not being around, so it is very hard for her to move about and she has to keep her leg up above her heart a lot of the time.
Well in England they have had a lot of snow appear from nowhere that has virtually seen the country come to a standstill. On top of that the hot water boiler in our house broke down, and all of the electricity went out. So, there was no heating, no electricity and no hot water, so both her and my son Romeo were freezing and unable to have a shower. Also, at the same time, one of our smoke alarms kept going off with an incessant loud beep noise. So that became a hat trick of disasters.
We have insurance for the boiler, but because of the adverse weather conditions the engineers were on overload. A lot of the call centres were not even operating because they could not get in to work. It was pretty much chaos in London and the whole country.
Luckily, we have some wonderful relatives who came over with a couple of fan heaters and Sheila managed to eventually get the electricity back on herself. How, I do not know, but thankfully she did. So, it is times like this that you really wish you were home to take care of it. However that is the life, but it does not make you feel very good at all.
They are over the worst of it now, but it was a couple of days of hell for sure for them, especially as she only has one good foot at the moment until the other one heals. My son Romeo is at college most of the day, so Sheila was on her own.
I digress, well as we pulled into Detroit we found out our rooms were not ready, so we went to find somewhere for lunch until they were. We found a place called ‘Snookers,’ which was just okay food-wise, but they had a Juke Box that Russell looked on, and he found that they had 825 Uriah Heep songs and 54 albums including all of our bootlegs and the last CD ‘Outsider.’ Now with a sold out show in the Token Lounge that night we can safely say Detroit had not forgotten about the mighty Heep. ‘Appy days!
Well when we eventually checked in we only had a couple of hours before we were driving to the sound-check. On the way in to the venue we saw a Pizza place advertise in their shop window saying, ‘If your name is Walter you can gave a free Pizza.’ I wonder how many fake ID’s they had before the day was out. Ha!
Luckily the Token Lounge had a good size dressing room to hang in. The sound-check went smoothly and then we ordered from a menu and dinner was brought in.
There were 2 support bands that night and just taking a peek out into the venue you could see it was packed to the rafters. The promoter was very happy indeed. To get to the side of the stage, as it was impossible to walk through the packed audience, as they were that rammed in, we had to go outside, which was not a good scenario as it was freezing cold, but there was nothing else we could do. So, wrapped in our coats we made a quick dash outside.
There was a seated golden circle that this venue runs that has seats in a half circle in front of the stage, and everyone else is standing. This was a little odd trying to project to the people standing on the sides and at the back, but we did, and it was a killer night of hot, sweaty rock.
It was a great show and the audience were amazing, and we did get all of the seated people up in the end.
After the show we met a few people before driving back to the hotel as we had an early start the next morning back to Kent for a second Sold Out night.
There is a real buzz about the band over in the USA and Canada and everything is going just great. We really do feel an upsurge in these territories and it feels good.
Well in the morning we drove back to Kent Ohio, and when we arrived at the hotel the band minus Davey got off the bus and by the time we realised this the bus had pulled away to drive to the gig. I texted Davey and luckily the venue was only just up the street, so he could walk down with his suitcase. Phew!
We had lunch in the same place we did last time that had all of those 25 TV screens and Davey manged to join us too, which was cool.
Then we had a few hours in the hotel before going to the sound-check. We then found out there was a Pledge guitarist joining us for a rendition of ‘Easy Livin’ on the guitar. His name was Dave Smith, and he did a fine job with his friend filming him, and then it was photo time, before I had to go to do an interview with a USA magazine called ‘Vintage Guitar.’
We then had a little dinner at the venue before going on to the bus where a few of us and the crew watched ‘Wayne’s World.’ This gave us a few laughs as we had not seen it in a long while, but soon we had to get back to the dressing room to warm up for the concert.
Well the venue was super rammed, and the audience were well up for it and it was an amazing night. They sang and clapped the whole way through and the cheer at the end was deafening. It was a night to remember for sure.
Our Webmaster from the USA Dave White was there with his wife Carol, and it is always good to see them. We tried to get them up for a song at the sound-check ala the Pledge thingy, but in the end, we ran out of time. Dave plays guitar and Carol the drums. They said they were coming to 3 shows and as the second gig in Kent Ohio was their second, I thought there was another show that we could achieve this, but then Dave said they could not make the Detroit show, so there was no other show near where they live in Cleveland to pull this off, which is a shame. There will be other times for sure.
It is amazing that Dave started our website with me 20 years ago and here we are as strong as ever. He has done this in conjunction with Louis Rentrop our Dutch Webmaster, and quite frankly that truly is ‘Appy days!
After the show we had some pictures taken and signed some autographs and, on the way out there was a free bar. Now that was a difficult decision for some, but Bernie took the first car home, I took the second, Phil walked home later, Russ walked home a little later than Phil and Davey stayed with the crew before he eventually walked back to the hotel.
In the morning it did make me laugh as at breakfast I was sitting with my back to the TV screen and Bernie and Phil were facing me. They were looking over me to watch the morning news on the TV, and I was looking down sending my family morning WhatsApp messages on my iPhone. It did occur to me that we had all become total screen junkies. Ha!
The next day we travelled to Anglo Indiana where we were playing at the T. F Centre for performing Arts. There was no hotel as we were travelling overnight to St Louis.
On arrival we could see this was a well organised affair as our name was in lights outside with other bands that would be playing there like ‘Starship’ and ‘Foghat’ etc.
There were people to meet us as we arrived, and they supplied lunch. The venue had comfortable sized dressing rooms that were one floor down in a lift, plus showers, and they also supplied 2 apartments for us to chill in. Davey was the only one to take up this option. Bernie decided to have a sleep on the bus, Russ disappeared, and Phil and I were on our computers in the dressing room.
When the crew were ready for the sound-check we took the lift up one floor and saw that the venue was a beautiful theatre with balconies all round. It also had a number of amazing chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and ornate light blue and cream trimmings all around the walls and balconies. Even the seats were all powder blue, and it was a good size stage.
We had another Pledge guy called Dave Edwards come up and play with us on drums on ‘Easy Livin’ and he did very well. Russ told him he had a good tempo, then we had pictures taken and his friend was documenting all of this on his camera.
As it was a Sunday the promoter insisted we go on at 7pm, so this was too early for us to eat, so we planned to eat after the show and before we travelled overnight to St Louis.
Well the show was just great, and the venue had good acoustics, which was a nice surprise, and it was almost studio like playing on the stage. The audience were with us, but they loved their seats, still we got them up in the end, and so many of them showed their appreciation by standing up and clapping when they liked something.
By the end of the show everyone was up and singing and enjoying themselves and they chanted loudly for an encore.
After the show we met the Pledge guy and Lannis and Bobbi along with some friends and then we all went to a restaurant called ‘Applebee’s’ for dinner which was close by. We had something to eat and we had a few drinks, and Margaritas were proving quite popular with the band and crew, and the lady serving was young, lively, a lot of fun and definitely on the ball.
Well the bus was jumping for a bit when we took off for our overnighter to St Louis, but a few of us decided to hit the bunk while others partied on.
We arrived at 7.30am and crawled off the bus one by one to get to our rooms. Luckily, they were all prepared and our keys were ready to be picked up off the table in the front of the bus that Alan our bus driver had kindly picked up.
The only people to make breakfast were Phil, Russ, Alan our driver and Moi. The rest went straight to their rooms and bed.
The do not disturb signs were unique, as they said, ‘Do me now’ or ‘Do me later.’ Well this was an offer I could not refuse, so I put the ‘Do me now’ one on the outside handle of my door and waited, but to no avail. I was disappointed of London, so I went to bed for some quiet non-moving sleep.
Phil, Bernie and I met for lunch, and we went for a walk in an area of St Louis known as ‘The Loop Delmar.’ This was an interesting place with a lot to see, and we ended up having a Burrito.
The sidewalk was a ‘Walk of Fame’ with gold stars in bedded in the pavement with such names as ‘Chuck Berry.’ Miles Davis,’ ‘Tina Turner,’ ‘Betty Grable,’ ‘T.S. Eliot,’ ‘Tennessee Williams,’ ‘John Goodman’ and ‘Kevin Kline,’ to name but a few.
We also saw an 8-foot statue of Chuck Berry, and a Restaurant called “Blueberry Hill,’ that was full of rock n’ roll memorabilia, including the actual Blonde Gibson guitar Chuck recorded the song ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with.
Underneath the restaurant was a fully functional venue and the waiter took us there for a look. Chuck Berry played there many times, so you could feel the rock history dripping off the walls.
Up the road was an amazing Vinyl shop that even had ‘Abominog,’ ‘Live ’73,’ ‘Return To fantasy’ and ‘Wonderworld.’
We then went back to our hotel to chill until we met for dinner at 7pm in the bar. This we did but the crew went one way, and we went the other to a recommended restaurant called, ’Salt & Smoke.’
Both Phil and I loved our food, but the other boys were not so happy, so we went back to the hotel for a nightcap at the bar, where we me some friends before we all retired to our rooms at the unusual time of 9.30pm. To be honest that is unheard of, but it was a day off and we all felt we had to re-charge our batteries.
We all had to check out of the hotel at 1pm as after the show in the Sold Out ‘Delmar Hall’ that night, we were driving overnight to Milwaukee. So, it was a bit of a hang about day.
Davey came out for a walk with us, but after lunch Russ went back to the bus. There was a Head shop next to the Vinyl shop that had posters for sale and Davey bought one which had ‘The Beatles,’ ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers,’ appearing in Liverpool in the 60’s where Davey was born.
At 5pm it was time for the sound-check, and we had another Pledge guy Benjamin Boyd who was a guitarist. He did really well, and he had a blast. After taking pictures etc. we went backstage and ordered some sandwiches for dinner. It had started to snow so we did not fancy walking about trying to find a restaurant.
As it was totally sold out that night, we walked on to the stage to a fantastic roar and it pretty much stayed that way for most of the night. It was an electric atmosphere and a lot of fun and the band were on fire.
After the show we stayed for a short time, while the crew packed away before we all jumped on to the bus for the overnight journey. We watched ‘Rocky2” and then one by one slopped off to our bunks.
THE HOME STRETCH
Well we arrived in the early hours of the morning in Milwaukee and Allen our driver parked the bus outside the venue at the Potawatomi Casino. Our rooms were not ready, so we had some breakfast until they were. Then we checked in and had some sleep in a quiet non-moving bed.
We were there for 3 days and 2 nights, so it was a luxury to open your suitcase and spread out a bit. I decided to not have lunch that day and wait until dinner so that I could just enjoy my room. I had so many emails to sort out with mails on the Homefront, interviews, business mails and just general email madness that follows you around the world. It was a good opportunity to bring that all up to date and of course it is pretty labour intensive just writing these blogs, and so easy to fall behind with all that happens in our busy lives on the road, so I caught up on that too.
I had a shower before joining everyone for dinner and I can tell you now that on this tour I am getting a dab hand at tossing the soap. Now those of you with dirty minds go to the back of the class. I usually take in the shower with me the soap bar from the sink, and when I have finished I can throw it back out of the shower and into the sink and even most times right back on to the soap dish from whence it came. It is a talent I never knew I had until this tour. If ever there was an Olympic Soap Tossing event, I would surely bring back a gold medal for the UK.
Well we had dinner in what could only be termed as the upmarket restaurant of the Casino. Although it was relatively expensive it did have some really good food and excellent wines. It was a good way to have a relaxing meal and just chill, but the best thing of all was that on checking into the hotel they had given us artist food vouchers, and we could use them against the lovely dinner and wine, so in effect it was free! ‘Appy days!
Christine the waitress knew I liked Goats Cheese, but they did not have any on the menu, so she promised to get me some from her local market. When the crew ate there the following day with Russ, she gave it to them for me. Now how lovely is that, a quality Goats Cheese complete with a packet of water biscuits. Perfect for the bus. What a lovely lady.
After eating we took a bottle of red wine into the Casino in the no smoking betting area and watched Russ lose some money on the Black Jack tables. Then we went to bed.
The next day was a chill day until it was sound check time. We had received by email two tracks that our Producer Jay Ruston had mixed off the new album, ‘Living the Dream.’ I listened to these a number of times and then made a few notes to send to him. Overall, they were fantastic, and I only made a few suggestions for him to try. It was certainly an amazing start and we would only be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s at the most. The rest of the boys did the same, so we were all on the same page.
Walking into the Northern Lights venue we were greeted by the staff all saying how great it was to have us back. It did feel good to be back having played 4 shows there before I have to say, and it is a lovely venue and very well run by good people.
The walk through the main body of the Casino to the venue was horrendous for me, as while they are betting, they are allowed to smoke and drink. The smell of smoke was overpowering and not good at all. Working there in that environment would surely take 10 years off of your life. It really made me feel uncomfortable I have to say.
Back at the venue it was filling up and we had to delay the start time by 10 minutes to get everyone in. Jim Paidas www.paidasmanagement.com from a T-Shirt company called ‘Sick Boy’ http://www.sickboy.com/ had sent a huge box of T-shirts’ and Hoodies for everyone, so we divvied them up between everybody, which made us all happy as we had some clean shirts to wear and apart from that they looked cool.
As we hit the stage the band were on fire from note one and the audience lapped it up. It was a great night, and everyone enjoyed it, even the crew that worked there congratulated us when we came off the stage and they see everyone.
We met a few people in the dressing room afterwards, but we didn’t stay too long before we went back to our rooms, walking through that fixating smoke to get there.
The following day Phil, Bernie and I met for breakfast and then for dinner we all met again only with Davey this time. Russ was eating with the crew in the fancy restaurant and so he picked up my lovely Goats Cheese for me from Christine.
The second night was a complete ‘Sell Out,’ and it was a fantastic reaction. We had a great time as well as the audience and the atmosphere was electric. It was an amazing night and a good one to end our two shows in the Potawatomi Casino, Northern Lights venue. Once again, the staff all congratulated us and said that they would love to have us back again. We would do that in a heartbeat.
After the show we met some people including a guy who had the D&W and Magicians Birthday albums tattooed on his arms, as well as our signatures. That was pretty amazing, and then I went to my room for a shower as we were leaving overnight to Minneapolis. My hair and clothes stunk of smoke, so I was really happy to have the time to do this and change my clothes, before boarding the bus and climbing into my bunk. I threw all of my Smokey stinky clothes into a plastic laundry bag, so that they did not make the rest of my clean clothes smell in my case.
It was a pretty quiet bus because we had been waiting round since coming off the stage at 9.30pm until the departure time of 1am. We had to wait that long because of Allen the driver’s hours. It wasn’t long before everyone had hit their bunk until we arrived at Minneapolis at 9.30am. This was just enough time to get checked in and have breakfast. Well only Phil, Russ, Alan and myself made the breakfast, as Bernie and Davey went straight to their rooms, and no one was up for lunch either. We had hit a patch of extreme tiredness, so everyone was taking every opportunity to rest.
Well overnight Jay Ruston had sent us the 2 song mixes incorporating our suggestions, so I had a good listen to them many times over even though I was super tired. Then I had some sleep happy in the knowledge that everything was sounding brilliant. It is always exciting hearing the mixes for the first time.
At the sound-check in the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis we had a Pledger whose name was Paul Gurtler. He was a drummer and requested that we play ‘Stealin’ rather than ‘Easy Livin.’ This was a lot of fun and he had his whole family there who were really lovely and all super ‘Heep’ fans.
The concert was great, and we really had a good time and the audience were right with us from the intro tape. They did us proud but after the show it was another overnight journey to St Charles Illinois.
When we arrived in the morning Bernie had arranged a visit to a Rock n’ Roll clothes shop called ‘Wornstar,’ so both Bernie and Davey took an Uber there. Even though it was Sunday they opened the shop especially for them which was nice. Prior to this tour I had purchased 10 of their T Shirts, so in essence I was all Wornstar-ed up, but I was burnt out from the overnighter, as was Phil and Russ, so we decided on getting some sleep, as that was more important at the time.
The Sold Out show in St Charles Illinois was a new experience for the mighty Heep as the night was billed as the ‘Ultimate Heep Fan Night’ and it ran like this. First on were the excellent ‘Nick Bell Band,’ www.nickbellband.com then directly after that we were brought on to the stage for a Q&A. This was a lot of fun and it was MC’d by the promoter Ron Onesti. As we sat on the 5 chairs on stage,
behind us, they played a video of all the various line-ups. Each of us were asked questions and it lasted approximately 20 minutes. Then we had 30 minutes backstage to change and warm up for the show.
Well the roar as we took to the stage was immense, and it stayed that way throughout the whole concert. The atmosphere was electric, and it was certainly a night to remember. It was a welcome back to Illinois response that was just wonderful and did the heart good.
We had another overnighter, so we met a lot of people and one special guest before we left. A Father proudly announced his son to us whose name was Uriah Heep. Now how cool was that? We had a lot of pictures taken with him, and it was his first Heep concert. He is now a fan, as well as bearing our name for life.
This venue was amazing on a number of levels as they had another venue on the side of the one we played that was basically a Jazz Club, and upstairs there was a club called ‘The Speakeasy.’ It was a private 1920’s club where the waitresses wore flapper dresses, and there were photos of Al Capone all over the walls. It was an incredible place and we had a quick drink in there before climbing on to the bus for the overnighter to Des Moines Indiana.
We arrived in the morning and luckily the hotel rooms were ready. Only Phil and I had breakfast and only Phil and I had lunch, as we did not see anyone else until the usual 7pm meet up in the bar for dinner.
During the day Scampi our TM, Bernie, Angus and Ben had to go downtown to get their Social Security numbers from the local tax office. This was not without its headache as they would have to go back the following day. These places are always a complete nightmare and a test on one’s patience to the hilt.
As it was a night off, Angus found an English Pub that was close by. The hotel had a courtesy van, so a few of the crew walked, but most of us went in the van. It was a Pub called ‘The Royal Mile,’ and they had a fine array of English beer in bottles and on tap, and the food was the likes of Shepherd’s Pie, and Scotch Eggs. This was topped off beautifully for us by an authentic bottle of brown English HP Sauce. Over there the English HP Sauce had been rarer than a penny black stamp or as some might say ‘Rarer than Rocking Horse Pooh.’ We were super delighted with the relaxed evening, and we were all back in the hotel for 10.30pm for an early night. Each and every one of us needed that, so that we could get our second wind on that leg of the tour.
The next day was another welcome day off but for some they had to go back to the Social Security office downtown which was a pain.
I was hoping for another relaxing day, but I ended up bringing my blog up to date, writing out the new album credits which was pretty extensive and like pulling teeth trying to get information from everyone, BMG wanted me to create a Vinyl running order for ‘Your Turn To Remember, ‘so there was a lot of listening to do, and also, I had more Jay Ruston song mixes to check out from ‘Living The Dream’.
I did escape for lunch and went to Buzzard Billy’s with Phil, Russell and Bernie which was a sports bar. They had Alligator on the menu and Bernie couldn’t help himself and had the Alligator Stew. This was too much for my plain culinary tastes.
On the way to the restaurant we shared a shuttle with this old guy who was bent over double and was walking with a stick. We had to drop him at the hospital first and we assumed he was going there for himself. When he had left the van the lady driver told us that he was in fact going to see his son in hospital who is 60, and that the guy was actually only a few months off being 100 years old. She also told us that he actually built the Hotel we were staying in, which was the Holiday Inn Downtown Mercy Campus, and that he had a room there for life. He built this hotel when all around was wasteland. An amazing story!
We took another shuttle service to dinner that night, as we were in the middle of nowhere. When we left we noticed that Davey was not with us, so I quickly texted him and he said he was coming down, so we turned around and picked him up. We always meet at 7pm and as Dave was not there we assumed he was giving it a miss. One of the rules we have on the road is ‘Stick with the Programme,’ or it will all go pear shaped.
We ended up having dinner at an Italian restaurant close by the hotel. This was superb, and it was a great meal along with some excellent wine.
We were all back at the hotel by 9.30pm and Phil, Russ and I went to our rooms while Bernie and Davey hit the bar for a night cap. While I was working there was an interesting programme on TV with an interview between Dan Rather and Robert Plant. It was very insightful and good to watch. His life can certainly be termed as colourful, and he is still being creative on his terms, and that has to be admired. However, I had not completely finished my days’ work, but I had made a good dent in it, so I was happy, but in the early hours of the morning my bed was calling.
The next day was gig day at the Hoyt Sherman Theatre Des Moines IA, and what a beautiful theatre it was. It was all seated with lovely ornate balconies and a wonderful size stage. At the hotel while we were waiting for the transport to take us to the sound check, a lady and her two daughters were checking in. The Mother did a double take and said that we were her passion in her youth and could she have her picture taken with us. Of course we did this, and then when they said they were coming to the concert and had tickets, I took their names and put 3 After Show passes on the door for them. They were delighted.
At the sound check we had a Pledge guy join us called Jeremy Stewart who sang ‘Easy Livin’, and he had a blast. It was good fun and then we had some pictures taken with him. All the time his lady was filming the whole thing, so that he had an amazing memento.
We also found out that Ben our monitor engineer on the day off, had been to a Tattoo Shop and had a Tattoo on his wrist. He had always wanted to tour the USA and this being the first time with the mighty Heep, he had a Tattoo to remember it by.
Before the concert we had a number of things to do, like the band and crew having their pictures taken all wearing their ‘Sickboy’ Clothes, then we had to do a Happy Birthday video for a fan, followed by an ID video for a Spanish festival later in the year. Then we had just 30 minutes to get changed and warm up for the concert.
Well the audience were well up for a good rock show and there were a few ladies down the front totally rockin’ out which was great. It was a really good atmosphere and a lot of fun and it was smiles all around. After the show the Promoter came up to me and said how much he had enjoyed the concert and that he would have us back anytime, so that was cool. We have been hearing that almost every night from our Promoters, so you could say things are going terribly well.
We met a few people 20 minutes after coming off the stage including the Mother and her daughters, and they said they really enjoyed the show. The hotel courtesy bus drove us back to the hotel and there was room for the Mother and daughters, so they joined us for the short ride back, which was cool.
The next morning, we were driving to Kansas City MO to play a show in a venue called ‘Knuckleheads.’ We did not know what to expect, but when we arrived it was a really funky good vibe venue. There was another tour bus there, and as we were wondering who it might be, I received a text from Jaren Johnston from the ‘Cadillac 3,’ saying it looks like we are playing the same gig tonight. In fact, it turned out that they were playing outside on one ticket, and we are in the main venue on another ticket, but at the same time. That was very unusual I have to say, and the downside was that we could not see each other play. As I walked to lunch past their bus Jaren came running out for a hug and hello which was cool.
Lunch was a short walk from the venue in a train carriage that had a little kitchen. It was called ‘Pigwich, ’and you ate outside on well-worn tables and benches. It was very funky, and I had a very tasty Falafel Roll. The weather was sunny and 22 degrees, so it was off with the coats and it felt good.
By the side of the venue were railroad tracks, and every few minutes a train went by sounding off its Air Horn as it approached the crossing. The venue was really cool and the dressings rooms comfortable which was a plus as we had no hotel that day, because we were driving overnight to Sioux City IO.
The ‘Knucklehead’ venue was packed when we took the stage and they were sure up for a rock show. It was rockin’ big time and with people down the front we really had a good gig. The smiles and fists in the air with plenty of ‘Hell Yeahs,’ being yelled created a great atmosphere, and I have to say that ‘Knuckleheads’ was one unique, funky affair, that I wouldn’t mind repeating.
After the show we met some good friends and then I received another text from Jaren saying that they were playing ‘Heep’ on the speakers in their bus and having a blast and would we like to pop over for a beer. We were leaving at 1am and they were leaving at 4am, so we did just that and it was good to catch up.
We pulled out dead on 1am to travel the long overnight journey to Sioux City IO, where we were playing in the ‘Hard Rock Casino.’ Along the journey the air-conditioning dome on the roof of our bus blew off, as it was extremely bad weather conditions. This resulted in the inner heavy wooden panel crashing to the floor inside the bus, so it was a cold old windy journey in those bunks. Luckily no-one was hurt as it happened while we were all in bed.
We arrived at Sioux City and the band checked into a hotel while the crew went to the venue to set up. It was raining so not a good load in. When we went for the sound check, once inside we could see it was a really cool venue with a good size stage. The dressing rooms were comfortable, and we were taken to the Casino to see a surprise something. Well it was indeed a nice surprise, as they had decorated the felt on one of the Black Jack Tables with a picture of us as we were on the poster. We all stood in position ala the poster and had pictures taken. Now how cool is that and definitely a first.
The gig was fantastic and although this all sounds a little like ‘Groundhog Day,’ the reactions we have received since being in Canada and the USA have been immense, and there is a real buzz going on about the mighty Heep. They were a great audience, and they were with us on every note played which was fantastic. Every venue thus far the promoter has said that they want us back, so that is terrific.
Before we travelled overnight to the next destination where we were going back to St Charles Illinois, for a second show, we were taken to the Premium Bar in the Casino. Bernie and Russ were in raptures about the red wine as the barman said it was the most expensive red wine in the USA. As it was close to St Patricks Day the next day both Phil and I had a Guinness each and Davey and Scampi enjoyed the delights of some expensive Bourbon.
We could not stay long as the bus was leaving for another overnighter. Now our driver Allen had covered the missing Air-Conditioning hole with plastic and Gaffa tape as he could not get it fixed until we were back in St Charles. This was about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike and it soon fell down making it another cold and noisy night.
When we arrived, the band went to a hotel for a day room and the crew went to the show. I had lunch with Phil and it was St Patricks Day, so the menu was full of Green St Patricks Day specials and all the waitresses and waiters wore something green. They do take St Patricks day seriously over here to the point that they say over 3 million pints of Guinness would be drunk that day, and even the Chicago River was totally dyed green. Evidently this is environmentally friendly, but it did look very strange with boats floating on it. This was initially executed in 1962 when Richard J. Daley served as Chicago’s Mayor. No half measures there then.
We did not have a sound check that night because there were three bands on. The ‘Nick Bell Band,’ ‘Edgar Winter’s White Trash’,’ and the mighty ‘Heep.’ We ate down at the show as food was brought in, and one guy bought in a tray of meatballs that everybody tucked into along with some chili peppers.
I had to do a video interview and then we did a meet and greet arranged by the venue. This was relatively painless and then we could go and watch the ‘Nick Bell Band’ play. They are a 3-piece band, and Nick holds down the guitar and vocals. They went down really well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set, as did the audience. They are good musicians and good to watch as well as listen too, as they do give out and I like that.
Up next was ‘Edgar Winter,’ who also went down well, but it is not my cup of tea, but his band can sure play.
We were up next and as it was our second show in that venue on this tour, it felt like a homecoming, and we had a blast. It was St Patricks day and still it was a packed venue which was great, and they were rockin’ hard. It was a fantastic show even though we could only play 1hr 15mins, so we kept it rocking.
After the show we said hello to everyone that we could, before we had to leave to drive overnight to Burgettstown PA where we were playing our final show of this tour at the ‘Pepsi Cola Roadhouse.’ Phil and I still managed to have a few Guinness’s to celebrate St Patricks day, so we did our best to help with that 3 million figure.
One guy and his lovely wife gave me a miniature guitar case with a Wizard Belt Buckle inside. Now how cool is that?
Well we jumped on to the bus and by 1am most everyone had gone to bed. The Air-conditioning dome had been fixed so it was at last a nice quite ride to the next city. Well except for the animal farm noises, but we were used to that by now.
We arrived outside the venue and there was a double house trailer that we could go in and have some Tea & Coffee, and some doughnuts served up by the lovely Rita. This was at the side of the venue and would be our dressing room. We looked in the venue and it was a huge place with a big wooden stage but in front of it were laid out tables all with numbers on giving it a wedding reception vibe.
We were served some chilli and sandwiches back in the trailer before the band were taken to the hotel while the crew set the stage. While we were waiting we saw a huge Possum scavenging about, which at first, we took to be a rat on steroids.
We had a few hours at the hotel before being picked up by Big Jim, who lived up to his name, to drive us to the venue.
However, Bernie had not accounted for the time change and was still relaxing in his room expecting another hour to chill.
He went into panic mode, but we said relax and Big Jim would go back to pick him up.
Rita looked after us well, and she handmade all of the food which was great. It was pretty basic with Chicken, Fish and Pasta but all very nice.
There were two Acoustic Guitars that we all signed that the promoter had given as prizes, but I was unclear how anyone won one of them.
The support band were a ‘Rush’ tribute band, although there were 4 of them. This kinda missed the point of Rush being a 3 piece. I thought that the minimum you could expect from a Rush tribute band would be to have the same amount of band members, but there you go.
We took to the stage and it was strange as everyone was seated at the tables ala a wedding. When they did let loose and get up, they were told to sit down again. Still we could see that they were well into it and singing the words and clapping along at all the relevant points.
I did get a standing ovation for my guitar work on ‘Magicians Birthday,’ ‘Between Two Worlds’ and ‘July Morning,’ and at the end we had them all standing and singing along big time.
The promoter was very happy with the reaction, and once again we heard those magic words that he would love to book us back again. It was our last show of this run and I thanked the Crew, Caitlin our Merchandiser and Allen our driver and they received a good cheer.
After the show we had a few drinks and signed a number of items that Scampi bought to the dressing room, before we all loaded on to the bus for the short drive back to the hotel. As it was the last night everyone had a hotel room, which was cool.
The next day we had an 11am lobby call, so we had time to finish packing, have a shower, have breakfast and then travel on the bus to Toronto Canada, to catch a BA flight back to London. Well I went down to breakfast with our driver Allen and it was all closed by 9.30am. This was disappointing, but Allen had spied a McDonalds up the road from the hotel, so we made that our first stop on the way to the airport. I had made it all through the 6-week tour without hitting one of these, but I had no choice but to join in with everyone else. The Roaties (Roadies/Technicians) as we call them, loved it.
We had the usual Customs to go through from the USA to Canada, but this was relatively easy. We had to get off the bus and they went on with a sniffer dog, but all was cool, so we could leave.
On the way we stopped at Niagara Falls which was stunning even though I had seen it many times. It was made even better with a beautiful Rainbow over the whole falls that looked magical.
Well Allen dropped us off at Toronto Airport and we said our goodbyes to both him and Caitlin before we checked in for the flight home. However, we did have a 4 hour wait before the flight took off, that some spent at a burger bar drinking and eating, and some of us sat in the Priority Pass lounge that was very comfortable, but it did get a tad boring.
As we were boarding the BA flight, Bernie, Brian and I were pulled to one side and were upgraded to Business Class which was great. We already had Premium Economy, but the upgrade was marvellous. Once we had landed we all picked up our suitcases and hugged and went our different ways, safe in the knowledge that we would be back there again in under 2 weeks to start another leg of the USA/Canadian tour, as the Rock n’ Roll Circus that is Heep just keeps on rolling.
It was so lovely being home, and so lovely to see my wife Sheila and my son Romeo, and our dog Iggy went mental for a while. Even my cat Biscuit was purring at my leg for attention, so Home Sweet Home it was, and I loved it.
BACK IN NORTH AMERICA
After 12 days at home we were all back at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 to fly to Houston Texas USA to begin the next leg of our thus far very successful Canadian/American tour.
While walking around the terminal we bumped into guitarist Doug Aldrich and Bass Player Marco Mendoza of the ‘Dead Daises.’ They were off to Glasgow in Scotland and we were off to Houston Texas, so it was passing ships in the night, well passing ships in the day to be exact.
On boarding the flight both Bernie and I were told to stand to one side, and we were upgraded, and as it was a 9hour 50minute flight that was most welcome. The films were all pretty rubbish but luckily, I had downloaded some on to my iPad before leaving.
When we arrived in Houston all of our bags turned up, and we met our driver who was driving us in his van to San Antonio, that was 3 hours away. With a couple of garage alcohol stops, and a few pee stops to follow, we arrived at our hotel at 6am UK time and 12 midnight USA time. It had been a long old day, but the guy on reception did not help matters as he was useless.
There are 10 in our party and Scampi always says to the hotel staff please book in the band first and then the crew. This is normally because the crew have to unload a lot of our equipment into a spare room while we are checking in. Well after some hassle he gave us all of our room keys and off we went to bed. However, the chump had not run our keys through the machine, so none of them worked. We all went downstairs to complain and when he put the keys through the machine so that they would work, all of our room numbers changed, so it was a complete mess. Eventually we all made it to whatever rooms we ended up in, and it was goodnight Gracie from all of us and straight to bed, starfish style.
Some of us got up for breakfast, but I decided to wait until lunch. There was a courtesy bus to take us downtown which wasn’t too far, and the weather was nice enough to just wear shorts and a T Shirt.
We ended up in the Hard Rock Café and the food was good and just what we wanted. Most of the staff were coming to the show, and when we went to pay the bill the HR Café had already paid it, which was very nice of them. They also gave us one T Shirt each and 50% on any other items, which was cool. I ended up with one T-Shirt and one Work Shirt.
After this we walked along the river walk where you could see all of the bars and restaurants and it was beautiful. You could also take a cruise down the river for $45.00. That’s a bit pricey in my book. We then went to see the Alamo. It was there that after a 13-day battle hero’s died fighting for freedom in the face of overwhelming odds. The Mexican army won over the Texans.
Needless to say, that is where Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for peeing on the Alamo while wearing one of Sharon’s dress’s and you can see why, as it is such an historical landmark.
In the evening the band met in the bar at 7pm as per usual and we went for a Mexican meal in a restaurant called ‘Tito’s Cantina.’ This was the real thing, and the chilli sauce was hotter than hot, but the Margarita’s helped distinguish the fire somewhat. It was most enjoyable, and then we walked back to the hotel where some had an early night, and some didn’t.
The first show was in a venue called the ‘Rock Box’ which for some reason I warmed to the name. This was a cool funky place and it was rockin’ by the end of the night. It was a fantastic reception and a good way to start that part of the North American tour.
The next day we drove to a venue called ‘Dosey Does’ in a place called Woodlands Texas. Now this really was super funky and we all had lunch there, and it was like playing in a giant log cabin. It was a seated affair and the crew managed to fit everything on to the stage, and the promoter came over and introduced himself, and said that we were in for a good night. Well the walls had dozens of photos of artists who had played there, and they were mostly single artists with just their acoustic guitar.
Well a rock band of our stature in comparison really is like a freight train coming at you, but he was true to his word, and they were a fantastic audience. Quite a few of them had been on the Rock Cruise with us earlier in the year, so they were rockin’. It was a really good night and they had certainly looked after us from the moment we arrived until we left, which was just great.
Next to the venue was what we thought was a Music Shop, so Davey and I could not resist going in. Well it was a music store okay, but it was also a Pawn store. If you have seen that programme on Sky Television called ‘Pawn Stars,’ it was just like that. It was half Music Store and half Pawn Store. There were guitars, amps, effect pedals, coupled with guns, knives’ and all sorts.
Anyway, after the show I met some friends which was super lovely, and I signed a lot of albums and had pictures taken, with those fans that had stayed in the room.
The next day we travelled to Dallas Texas. As we arrived at the hotel Bernie and Davey scurried off to a famous boot store and each of them bought a new pair of cowboy boots.
We went down to the venue for the sound-check and it was a lovely theatre called the ‘Granada Theatre.’ As we arrived there were a lot of fans outside with literally dozens of Heep albums to sign, along with pictures and even guitars. While the rest of the band went in the venue, I was outside for about another 30 minutes trying to get everything signed., There was even a huge 3-D Picture of me with a guitar stuck on which looked really cool to sign. They were very gracious and happy that I took the time to sign everything and get pictures taken, so all was good.
The venue was packed, and it was truly a rocking rock night. It was an amazing atmosphere and it continued the whole concert and Dallas did us proud. After the show we signed even more stuff on the way to the bus and had dozens of pictures taken and then it was time to leave. Allen our driver drove us back to the hotel and then he set off to drive the long old journey to Los Angeles as we were flying.
The following day we flew to LA in two separate parties, as the planes were full, so we had to split up. The crew went earlier and the band and Scampi later. This was okay, and we took an American Airlines flight that got us in to LAX Airport around 4.30pm. We were then picked up by a VIP Limo complete with a bar, black leather seats and blue lights inside. A mobile fun Palace!
The traffic is always horrendous in LA, so it took a little time to get to the hotel, but you just have to accept the traffic in LA. When we checked into the hotel they said between 5.30pm and 6.30pm it was free wine tasting in the reception area, followed by Happy Hour on the 17th floor bar and restaurant. I missed out on the wine, but the rest of the band didn’t, having a good old time. This of course morphed into the Happy Hour, so they were getting well-oiled so to speak.
The problem was that we had gained 2 hours from Dallas time, so when it was say 8pm in Dallas it was only 6pm in LA.
We had some dinner which we could not believe the prices, but hey this was made up with the drink situation. That was the first time I had ever seen this on a menu though, as it said, ‘This is a tip free hotel as we pay our staff good money, so please do not tip.’ There are signs all over the hotel saying, ‘Skip the Tip’ and this is a gratuity free establishment. Wow in America that is rare. If I am honest though, because of the ‘Skip the Tip’ policy, some of the staff could be a little lethargic. Well their incentive was taken away from them by the No Tip Policy I guess.
Anyway, we all went to our rooms at 8pm LA time, as really our body clock was on 10pm time. All except Davey who had to meet a friend of his down town at the famous ‘Rainbow,’ so some of the crew who had not been to the USA before went with him.
The next day all except for Davey we had breakfast on the 17th floor, which had a panoramic view over LA, including the chocker block freeways with traffic jams in every direction, still it was good to see sunshine and palm trees I have to say.
After breakfast we had some filming to do for Frontiers our Italian Record Company, and each of us were interviewed for 15-20 minutes. Bernie donated his room for the filming, so he was first up. Ace our manager was asking the questions and it was pretty much all about the making of ‘Living The Dream,’ our new album. This all went very well and then we had some lunch with Ace and caught up on all things Heep.
In the evening we all met at the bar at our usual 7pm to get an Uber cab down to the ‘Rainbow’ for a bite to eat. This was just the band as the crew were off doing their own thing. Our producer Jay Ruston joined us once we were there for dinner and it was good to see him. We did take a picture of my old mate Lemmy’s statute before we headed off for the Whiskey A Go-Go where it was the Ultimate Jam night.
These Jam nights are run by a bass player called Chuck Wright, who we met on the Rock Cruise earlier in the year playing with ‘Quiet Riot.’ Dave had played at the Whiskey on the ‘British Rock Night’ a few months ago, along with his mate Richie Faulkner from ‘Judas Priest,’ so he knew Chuck well. We had VIP passes and it was an instrumental Jam night, and Jeff Beck seemed to be the favoured artist to copy.
Phil, Bernie and I stayed for most of the night and Davey, Russ and Jay stayed until the end. It closed at 2pm anyway.
The next day Phil and Davey caught a cab to Venice Beach, but were dropped off at Santa Monica and they walked all the way into Venice Beach. Bernie and I joined them later. It was a lovely sunny day and it was good to get out in the fresh air. The sun was super-hot so we all bought a cowboy hat each for a laugh, and to keep the sun off of our collective heads.
Venice Beach is kind of like Camden Town only with a beach and the sea. There were hundreds of shops and all sorts of characters walking up and down, and we even walked past the famous Venice Beach gym, where the beefcakes were hell bent on adding more beef to their torso’s.
We ended up at a Mexican restaurant for lunch that was great. The food was good and the did specialize in Margarita’s, and even served 4 drinks in one glass. Now that was very dangerous, but Phil and Davey stuck to the single glass and I had a beer while Bernie stuck to Ice Tea.
Bernie and I left the other two there, and we took a cab back to the hotel as we were joining our manager Ace for dinner that night with his Mother Fay. The funny thing was that the restaurant for dinner was directly opposite the Mexican we were having a long lunch in, so we had to get an Uber all the way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner .and then get an Uber back from whence we came, so to speak.
While all of this was going on Russ was playing a round of golf with Scampi.
Well once Bernie and I had left the Mexican Phil and Davey ordered another Margarita each, but it was tuned into ‘Happy Hour,’ so they were double shots. They had plans of going for a swim, but the wind picked up and sand was being blown about and coupled with the consumption of Margarita’s, they did not make it, so eventually they caught a cab back to the hotel.
We only had a short turn around before going back to the same area for dinner at the C&O Trattoria Italian Restaurant that Ace had booked a table for us all. Phil, Bernie and I made it on time and Russ had already said he would be a little late coming from Golf, and Davey came down a lot later as he need a shower to get himself together after the fun lunch. We eventually all made it along with Ace, his lovely Mother, Fay, Sean Baldwin his assistant and Sean’s daughter.
It was a great restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere where everyone including the waiters and waitresses broke out into song, and we were all given song sheets to join in. It was brilliant, and so was the food and drink, and we had a much-needed relaxing time.
After this we all made it back in an Uber X to the hotel and everyone went to bed except for Bernie and Davey who went to the bar on the 17th floor for a nightcap.
The next day was a gig day in the ‘Rose’ venue in Pasadena. With the traffic this was an 1hour and 30minute drive. When we arrived, we could see it was a big venue with a good size stage which really pleased us. The sound check went smoothly, and we were set. Dinner was at the venue so no worries there and that night there were two support bands.
Even before we went on, the dressing room was full, with management, agents, friends, musicians and industry people. We did manage to have a bit of a warm up before going on stage and when we did walk on to the stage, we could see it was rammed to the hilt, which was a good sign. People were saying that they have not had so many people in that venue for a long while.
Well it was a brilliant show and they were rockin’. The atmosphere was electric, and a good time was had by all. People were saying that they have never seen a reaction like that, which was all good news.
Back in the dressing room it was even more hectic than before we went on as it was busy, busy, busy. You really could not move for having pictures taken and meeting everyone. It went on forever and then we had the long drive back to the hotel.
The next day we drove to Agoura Hills to play the ‘Canyon Venue.’ This venue was owned by the same owners as the ‘Rose,’ so it was pretty much the same organization and certainly the same menu for dinner.
That night at the ‘Canyon Venue’ there were another two support bands. The place was rammed, so we just knew we were in for a good night and it did not disappoint. The audience were fantastic, and we really had the feeling that LA had missed the mighty Heep, as we went down so well. It was simply amazing.
The sound was good, and the band were on fire and after the show once again the dressing room was rammed with well-wishers. Jay Ruston our producer came with Marty O’Brian the bass player for Lita Ford, and it was the first time he had seen us live, so it was a good one for him to be at, as the reaction was so strong.
We then had a long overnight drive to Las Vegas where we were playing the Boulder Station Railroad Casino. We arrived at the Casino at 7am, and then everyone crawled off the bus in various states, to check in. Luckily the rooms were ready, and it was good to see our name and picture in lights outside on a huge hoarding, advertising the show, even though I could only see it through one eye closed and one eye open.
I stayed in my room until lunch time and got some quality catch up sleep. Bernie, Davey and I went for lunch in one restaurant and Phil and Russ in another.
Now they are allowed to smoke and drink while playing the slots and the tables, so it really did stink in the main Casino.
The ‘Railroad’ venue we were playing was a really cool venue. All seated, but it had a good size stage and a good sound. Once again it was rammed to the limit and a completely ‘Sold Out.’ The mighty Heep are definitely making their mark in the USA and Canada and it is a really good platform to build upon. The audience were superb, and it was a rockin’ show in every sense of the word. One strange thing was a couple had bought along their lassie type dog with them, sitting a couple of rows back on my side. The dog stayed for the whole show and just sat there quite calmly. They even put him on stage when we did our bow at the end. I couldn’t resist a stroke or three as it reminded me of my dog Iggy in England, who I do miss a lot.
Kevin & Yvonne had come over from Wales for their Wedding Anniversary present which was really cool of them. Kev had contacted food poisoning, so he was knocked out flat for most of the time, not feeling very well at all. He did make it to the show though. However, Yvonne and their daughter Lowri saw all of the sights for him, so all poor old Kev could see was it all through their pictures and videos.
After the show we had another long overnight drive to Scottsdale Arizona. When we arrived, we had breakfast over the road from the gig and then we went inside the venue. Well we were all most surprised as the stage had a swimming pool right in front of it.
The band went to the hotel while the crew set up the stage. Bernie and Davey went shopping in a street that sells mostly Turquoise jewelry as Bernie wanted a bracelet of his repaired. We had to sound-check early at 4pm and there was one support band that night.
My son Mike arrived with 2 of his friends and his Uncle Danny with some friends, also there was our old tour manager from the 70’s Mel Baister, and our old 70’s lighting engineer Ian England. Wow that was a blast from the past I can tell you.
Well this was a very unique venue with a swimming pool in front of the stage. Nearly all of the audience were my side with a thin line of people in front of the stage with the swimming pool behind them. This was a run of 13 shows night after night and on the previous evening they had ‘Dokken,’ so it was a regular venue on the touring circuit.
It was a hard venue for us to fully project Heep style being kind of lop sided, but those that were there just loved it and there were many comments like it was the best concert they had been to at that gig, and that was from the audience and staff alike. That was good to hear but I wouldn’t be in a rush to go back there again. I have to say it was brilliant having my son Mike there, and that did my heart good.
There was one guy who was in the pool the whole show and he must have looked like a prune when he got out. However, had a lot of the ladies jumped into the pool mid set and turned the gig into a pool party, it may have taken on a different light, but it was not to be.
The following night we were in Tucson Arizona at the Rialto Theatre. This was a cool venue that we had played before. My son Mike’s family came which was a surprise and the dressing room was in another building across from the venue out back. It was a fair size with a toilet and shower which was cool as we had no hotel that night. They had a small basketball net with small basketballs, something like you would get at a fun fair, and an old gaming machine, so that gave us some entertainment. Russ won with the most balls through the net.
The show was great, and the band were on fire and although it was not rammed like we have been used to thus far, the promoter was delighted with how many people had turned up on a Monday night.
Well I had to say a sad goodbye to my son Mike who was driving back to Las Cruces New Mexico with his friends and we jumped on to the bus for an overnighter to Los Angeles.
When we arrived in LA our rooms were not ready so some of us went for breakfast until they were. It was a day off, so we could chill until the evening and then meet up for dinner.
Davey had other plans as he was going down to the Whiskey A-Go Go, for the 80’s theme Ultimate Jam Hollywood night. He planned to get up on stage and play 2 numbers which were Motley Crue and Cinderella songs. Chuck Wright from ‘Quiet Riot” organizes this jam night and he very kindly helped promote our shows in LA which we thank him for.
The rest of us went for a quiet dinner in another hotel close by which was a bit of a nightmare. Half the menu was not available even though they had taken our order. We ordered a bottle of wine that after serving us our starters, only then they told us that they didn’t have that wine in stock. It went on like that the whole night, which was frustrating and not the nice chilled evening we were looking for.
Bernie, Russ and I then retired to our hotel bar on the 17th Floor and basically got hammered on some excellent red wine. We had just heard that the show the following day in San Luis Obispo was cancelled which didn’t help, and I am sure the news pushed us over the edge in the getting hammered department. We were told it was due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. This meant we had another day and night off in LA.
Most of the day we all relaxed, except for Phil who went to see the Getty Museum. I spent the whole day working on the running order on ‘Living the Dream’ and editing and transferring the tracks into the studio on my lap top. I ended up with a good running order that everyone liked, thank goodness.
In the evening we met our manager Ace, his Mother Fay and assistant Sean in a restaurant called Hal’s Bar & Grill in Santa Monica. The food was excellent and Russ, Phil and myself were not drinking but Davey & Bernie shared a bottle of red wine. When the Port came up Russ could not resist, so he joined in on a glass of that.
We then tried to get a cab back to the hotel and even though we ordered an Uber X to take five of us, they sent a car that only takes four, and this happened twice. I was just getting in the back seat of the second one of them and with the back door still open, the driver drove off at speed and I nearly lost my leg. Expletives were exchanged, and he was told to have sex and travel.
We eventually got the right size car and in all of the palaver of getting a ride back, I arrived in my hotel room and somehow, I had lost two of my credit cards. Ace our manager phoned the restaurant and they were not there, so I can only guess it happened with the cab saga somehow. Dave booked the Uber on his phone, so he tried to get in touch with them which was impossible.
I then spent a couple of hours frustratingly following automated instructions in England to try and cancel the cards. After a long, long while I got to speak to a person and cancelled both of the cards in the early hours of the morning, and then I went to bed after hearing the running order one more time to calm down.
The following day we travelled to San Juan Capistrano where we were playing the Coach House. This was only a 1-hour 30 mins drive from LA, and we arrived in time for lunch. There was no hotel that day, so it was a lot of hanging about to say the least. We were travelling overnight to Santa Cruz after the show leaving at 1am.
Well it was one of those sit down shows and prior to the concert we had a meet and greet where we had many pictures taken and signed autographs. Our managers came along to the show, Adam Parsons and his lady Audrey, along with Ace Trump, Ace’s Mother Fay, and Sean Baldwin Ace’s assistant.
The show was rockin’ and people kept standing up with enjoyment and some lovely ladies were even dancing in their respective positions, making it a really great atmosphere to work in. We had a great time and so did the audience, and then after the show we met a few people most of which were Bernie’s family and then we travelled the whole night to Santa Cruz. We also met guitarist Mitch Perry and his lady. Mitch was second in line for the Ozzy job when Jake E. Lee took over, so he must have his chops up. At present he is playing with the Steve Priest version of the ‘Sweet.’