There's a telltale front-line of blisters running like a relief map of the Pennines, across what used to be a virgin poet’s hand. I am forced to sit upright, due to the fact that my back won’t allow the slightest bend.
In all, I feel as if I have undergone a wrenching session on the rack — but nay dear readers, I have done nought but be a roadie for a day.
My mind lapses into a state of optimism — looking forward to one fact that when my body heals, I shall have the strength of several beefy men, be able to quaff ale throughout day and night, and live comfortably on a diet comparable to that of a scavenging dog or mangy Tom. A good roadie does a reliable 30 miles to the gallon (beer that is). He is also expected to drive, stack, hump, shout, and treat enormous problems with about as much visible concern as Drake acknowledged the arrival of the Armada.
It’s a tough life in the regular roadies — but working with these warriors of the road offers opportunities to a young man seldom found in peace-time. As I sit here, a mound of aching flesh, I look back with a casual smile (a full mouthed one is quite impossible on those 24 hours as Assistant Roadle (Class One). Bleep ... Bleep. Destination Liverpool, the adrenalin flows swiftly.
The log begins:
11.30 a.m.: I take a light breakfast of two cigarettes, an apple, and the Daily Minor, and pack a little hard case. Well all roadies have little cases. A change of Levis, sweat-shirt, and my array of poove-sprays — to keep away the flies. Donald Gallagher (brother of Rory, and road manager of the same) is to arrive at noon. I kiss my expired replica of St. Christopher, and trundle down the stairs.
12.15 p.m.: The Transit purrs around the corner, halts, and I meet my boss, Donald — who doesn’t look like a roadie at all. I feel embarrassed because I’ve dressed the part and now feel scruffy, and silly. To Hell with it, let’s go. A drive round to Polydor for some leaflets, then the traumatic experience of trying to get out of London. “We were supposed to be there by 2, but that’s stupid we should make it by 4. Can you drive? Good. Rory and the band are travelling later by car.” Donald is an admirable conversationalist. I lounge about the front-seats. Well this is bloody easy. Slip on another cassette.
1.30: How embarrassing. I am standing over the bonnet, trying to find the dipstick. We are at Mill Hill, fuelling this beast with gas, and it’s my little task to check the oil. All fingers and thumbs. Donald has to show me everything. Oh dear oh dear. Now there’s grease on my hands. What a right poove I feel. Smile, and just let him think I’m being funny.
2.30: Ha, this is
the life, Blasting away at 70 m.p.h. leaving Jags and Fords in the wake
of our dust. There’s a smell of burning rubber. “ Nothing to worry about,”
says Donald. “ Fasten your seat belt.” The Blue Boar looms in the distance.
Memories of that place have left me with a nervous twitch. We’ve not time
to stop for a meal (thank God), but grab a handful ot sausage rolls, hot
and dripping with grease. A
bag of chips, and cans of Coke.
3.30: We are running way behind schedule, even though Donald never ducks below 60. We cut across country, and meet the MG. The rolls have left me feeling sickly, the cab is also roasting hot, and I’m getting bored with the cassettes. Oh dear, dirty finger nails, but I'm getting that trucking feeling
4.15: Now this is incredible. Yes, I’m driving the Tranny, and it’s beautiful. Third lane stuff, get out of the way ... silly idiots. I think Donald is a little nervy, but he just smiles. A dozen miles, and my arms feel as though they are being wrenched from their sockets.There’s a vicious cross-wind, and even this heavily laden van is being blown about like a moth in a windtunnell. Crossing the Mersey one catches the full intensity in quick blasts. The van is whipped right out of the third lane, a quarter into the second, and there’s just nothing you can do about it. A feeling of doom fills my guts, but it’s all okay. There is no sign of expression at all on Donald’s face. I battle on, it’s really a race against the clock now. “Time to start making up excuses.” quips Donald.
6.0. We’ve been driving around for 30 minutes now, past the grotesque squalors of Anfieid and Everton. And we can’t find the Philharmonic Hall. We have asked four people who in nasal tones and pease pudding have sent us wrong. Donald is sweating, he dare not look at his watch again. Christ are we late.
6.30: A drubbing from the promoter and what’s more I bloody well get it. No excuse will count. I fumble for words. I’m asked what amps we are using. Um, sorry. I don’t know. You see . .. I ... Oh Hell! There’s just one hour to set up. Donald opens the Tranny, and I am given tasks which prove the hardest physical efforts. I start humming “Mr. Apollo,” flex my imaginary biceps, and kick sand In the faces of beach pooves. Although Rory’s gear is transistorise, it’s incredibly heavy. There’s a little smirk on Donald’s face. God, I think my spine’s gone. I can feel muscles ripping apart in places even too personal to mention. Christ my hands, my hands — ruined. We stack the PA. By now I feel like The Incredible Rubbery Man. Erect the mike stands. There’s a river of sweat runs down my front, branches into two streams across my chest, and trickles downstairs.
7.15: Donald briefs me on the complete history of modern electronics since the invention of the telephone. I contribute by nodding, and mating a jack-plug with its hole. I am now a filthy wreck, become rude, and snarl a little. I test the mikes in a voice uncommon to me. It’s sort of grunting. Gone is the snappy Queen’s English and tea and muffins chat —common in the Melody Maker office. Instead. Gorilla talk, a dragging of the heels, arms hang chimp-like at my sides.
7.45: O’Connor’s Bar. My brickle’s hand lifts the pint of Guinness, and it’s down. I brush my hand across my creamy lips, and swallow great chunks of Scouse Meat Pie. Then a fag, and another pint. Donald does the same— but adopts that elegance common to the Irish. Actually we get pretty boozed. Rory should be at the hall by now. Jellybread will soon be finishing their set.
8.45: Where the Hell’s Rory? Jellybread have been finished for some time. The audience are tired with impatience. Donald and myself crouch near the monitor, and wait. But the Big G arrives, shakes my sore hand, tunes up and the band go on, and blast away. I suddenly feel very concerned about the gear, the sound, and everything. I keep my fingers crossed. Donald rises, and heads for the toilet “It’s all yours,” he shouts. Oh God now, what am I to do? I feel numb with fear, and pray for Donald’s return
10.0: Only minor problems have arisen. Rory has played a brilliant set, the crowd are going wild. An encore, and then stillness. I feel extremely proud. Smile at a few nice little judies on the edge of the stage. Donald appears with another bottle of Scotch. I get a bit edgy with two youths looning about the stage. Get rude with them. Then I feel guilty and want to apologise. I tell Rory that I’ve worked my guts out for him. He smiles, and sinks a beer. There are several reporters around. I feel very odd. They treat me like the roadie. I want to tell them I’m not, but what the Hell?
11.0 Chained up and back to the gally again. Get the gear down. Now this is hard work, I'm tiring a little, but work like fury. Donald wants me to try my hand at packing the van. That may sound pretty easy, but God never intended the human body to perform such miracles. The final test of a 'good pack' is shutting the back doors. Oh dear, Oh dear, they won't shut. I've lost a few marks there.
Midnight. All done. Back into the van. She won't start. Donald reckons he knows what it is. We all push, including Rory. She starts, then sputters to a halt. We push again, the beast roars. I jump in and we drive off. Then Donald and myself look at each other, smile just as the engine finally gives out. None of you minor breakdown stuff here- the big ends are gone. The van is only tow weeks old.
Friday. 10:30am. I'm sitting in a No Smoking carraige. opposite a Vicar. i gently open my copy of The Times and suck a boiled sweet. The train gobbles up the track to London. I have reached a state of total paralysis. My neck is embalmed in a stiff skin and muscle collar, The last thing I can remember was us all booking into the grandeur of Liverpool's Exchange Hotel. I am in one of those states that edges on insanity. Why am I aching, why are my hands scarred and sore? What am I doing here? Who am I?
"Do you have the time?"
asks the Vicar. Eh, what? "No, but I've got the word VOX stamped on my
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