Mick talks about Belfast Ireland with ‘Status Quo,’ the George Best Belfast City Airport, SSE Arena, Irish Stew, the Quo Crew missing the ferry, the Twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell, the fantastic reaction, Guinness before bed, Scampi’s bed full, Dublin and the 3 Arena, a few days home before we started the ‘Last Tour of the Electrics Tour’ in Germany, Hamburg, The Hard Rock Café with Carsten and Caren Tanner, the Reeperbahn, Crazy Jeans clothes shop, Martin Kleine and Saskia Schlossarek from Engl Amplifiers, my new cool MB signs on my Engl Cabinets, support band ‘DRDW’ complete with Accordion and Lederhosen, the first night party mood, driving with Vic in the Peugeot 5008 diesel car while Russ and Davey went with the crew on the night-liner bus for the whole tour, Russ pulling a muscle in his back, The ‘Quo Golden Circle,’ the Berlin night off at the Japanese Restaurant, my Chinese Laundry, Rostock and meeting our new management, ‘The League of Gentlemen’ hotel, Lanxess Arena which is the second biggest arena in Europe, Manchester United v Arsenal, the wrong VIP entrance, Marco Wreidt from 21Octayne and Engl demonstrator with his Father, The wrongly named ‘Premiere Classe hotel ‘, winning over the Quo fans, meeting Ian Andersons son James (Jethro Tull,) the New Yorker shop, beating the traffic leaving the venue each night, Spurs v Monaco football, the Italian meal and the assortment of Pepper mills never seen before, ladies of the night with their fluorescent lighting.
Mick also talks about most of the Engl team coming to the Konigspilsner Arena in Frankfurt, Phil and I picked up an amazing Engl Amplifier Combo each and I picked up an Acoustic Combo too, Gluhwein, Xmas Markets, just before Stuttgart Scampi finding out he was a Grandfather and flying back to England on his day off, Davey’s wife Corine joining us, the Guinness Pub, the film ‘Our Brand is Crisis,’ Phil and I going to the doctors for a chest infections, the guitar signed by everyone for my Cancer Charity, Davey, Corine and Phil going Ice Skating, a Kiwi Comedian from Christchurch New Zealand called Sam Wills, the last night of the Quo tour in Munich at the Olympia Halle and the party after the show.
Mick also talks about the 4 countries in one day drive to Poland, the monotone voice overdub on films in Poland, meeting the twins in the hotel reception, playing our full set, Katowice rocking big time, Bernie with his mental blank on the set list, Poznan Poland, Nuns aplenty, the converted Army Barracks hotel, Russ and the guy with a GoPro on him all night, Gdansk Poland, the brilliant banner held up at the show, the traffic jam from hell, watching ‘Shameless’ on my iPad, truck full of burning tyres, arriving in Holland, the fan party, Davey’s birthday, Sina Ruckmann presenting me a wonderful wooden mini- me complete with Bavarian hat, a hamper full of Belgian beer and Chocolates, meeting Katya Hast-Ekström from Sweden who makes jewelry out of Guitar and Bass strings, and the journey home, my 14th wedding anniversary with Sheila, and Spurs beating CSKA Moscow 3-1 at Wembley, plus the joy of being home in the heart of my family.
Well we all met at our spiritual home LHR at Terminal 3 to fly to Belfast Ireland. We were playing two shows as special guests with Status Quo in Belfast and Dublin. I did notice the added security at the airport because even at the gate where they check your passport and boarding pass before boarding the plane, they take a picture of each passenger getting on the plane. We landed at the George Best Belfast City Airport and we met our two drivers John and Vic. Vic had our backline and John (Scampi’s brother) was driving the band and crew.
After meeting up with John and Vic we drove straight to the venue which was the SSE Arena for some lunch. This was fab and our first taste of Irish Stew in Ireland that was delicious. On arrival we found out that the Quo crew had missed the ferry, so things were running late. Once we had finished lunch, we then drove to the hotel to check in which was 25 minutes away, and on leaving, we saw the German Twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell, so we waved to them as we drove on by. It was amazing that they had come to Ireland, and they always manage to get down the front at each show, which is even more incredible.
We had a couple of hours at the hotel before going down to the sound check, which was delayed because of the missed ferry so we had to make do, and it became a bit of a rush. We only had enough time to run through half a number before the audience were let in. We were on stage at 7.30pm and we could only play for one hour so we went for a rocky set, which in the end proved to be the right move to make.
The venue was packed and we were brutally aware that we had only been to Ireland once before in the 70’s, so we did not know what reaction to expect. We needn’t have worried as after we finished the first song ‘Gypsy’ there was a huge roar, and we were up and running. You are up against it in a special guest slot as you only have an hour to play including intro and outro tapes plus your equipment is squeezed on to the front of the stage and the backline is up your backside, and you have minimal lights. On the other hand, that is where the band and crew pull together to still make it a great show, and in the circumstances a great show it was. After the concert, I heard many times from people that we had made a lot of friends that night, and that was good to hear because I hope the promoter sees some potential in bringing us back to Ireland for a longer tour.
After the show, we watched ‘Quo’ for a few songs who were going down brilliantly, and Francis is doing a great job of gluing it all together after Ricks recent misfortunes and announcements. The reaction they were receiving after each song was incredible, and they do deliver what’s written on the tin in style. From the first song ‘Caroline’ the party is in full swing, and it was amazing to see.
After a while the band went back to the hotel but the crew had to wait to breakdown the equipment and load it into our van after Quo had finished. Back at the hotel Russ took a large glass of red wine to his room and the rest of us settled down in the hotel bar for a couple of pints of Guinness before bed. Well it would have been rude not too!
In the morning, we were not leaving until 11.30am as it was only a 1hour 30mins drive to Dublin, and we were going straight to the venue for lunch, which was at the 3 Arena. Some of the crew were up at 3am drinking and ordering £50’s worth of Pizzas to be delivered to the hotel so I imagine they were very happy with the late start.
When Scampi checked into the hotel at 1am he was given the hotel key to his room and when he went to enter the room there were a couple sleeping in his bed, and the female screamed and the naturally irate guy stormed at the door demanding an explanation. Scampi said he was sorry but that was the key he had been given and then the dishevelled irate guy stormed into reception to give them a right old mouthful. Scampi was eventually given a new key and I bet this time he opened the door very gingerly before entering.
On my door, they had a do not disturb sign that had written on it ‘Do not disturb we’re making ourselves look fabulous’ and on the other side, ‘Come in, we’re out and about probably doing brilliant things.’ How very jovial indeed but not applicable to single occupancy I am afraid, which brings me to thinking why was there not one of these hanging on the door of the room that Scampi discovered much to his dismay was far from empty. We will never know!
The show in Dublin was just the same as Belfast and they were rocking big time for both bands. We really felt that we had made a mark in Ireland and we hope that we can come back under our own steam and play more shows. We did manage to see the twins down the front and our friends Kevin and Yvonne came over from Wales.
With only a few days at home we then started the ‘Last Tour of the Electrics Tour’ with Quo in Germany. Bernie, Phil and I flew to Hamburg the night before the first show but Russ and Davey opted to go on the bus with the crew. Well we arrived in time to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, which has become a tradition and we were joined by Carsten and Caren Tanner who met us at the hotel. I have a Carparelli guitar hanging on the wall there and it was a marvellous relaxed night of which Carsten and Caren picked up the tab which was most kind of them.
We had a little time to spare during the following day, so we caught a cab to our favourite clothes shop on the Reeperbahn called ‘Crazy Jeans.’ Every time we go there we come out with bags of Shirts, T Shirts, Jeans and boots. They import a lot of their stock from the USA so it is all rock n’ roll to the max. Even Russ and Davey joined us by getting a cab from the venue and they bought some new clobber too.
Soon after this we went to the sound check at the Barclaycard Arena which was a huge venue. Martin Kleine and Saskia Schlossarek from Engl Amplification came to put on the front of my cabinets the Mick Box logo underneath the Engl logo and they looked fantastic. They are such a brilliant company and my sound is so good and so consistent each and every night that we have even stopped doing sound checks.
To make things even more amazing Martin managed to do this under stress because it was the first night and everything was running late. We did manage a very short sound check and then we all went to the catering for some excellent dinner. The catering that Quo had was seriously good and it was all served up by the wonderful Jenny.
There was a band on before us called ‘DRDW,’ and they seem to get a good reaction each night. It is just 2 guys and one of them plays an accordion in full Lederhosen, and the other guy looks very rock n’ roll.
Once we hit the stage I have to say Hamburg never lets us down, as they were rockin’ from the first note. The atmosphere was electric and we went down a storm. It was an amazing response and a good sign of things to come. Backstage became a bit of a party area in our dressing room while the ‘Quo’ were on but I did manage to sneak a look at a couple of numbers and they were going down great. The minute they start with ‘Caroline,’ the party is on, which is cool.
After this we went back to the hotel while Russ and Davey went on the tour bus with the crew for an overnight journey to Leipzig. The bar was open so the party continued with Bernie, Phil, Martin, Saskia and moi, but at least we were not leaving too early the next morning.
At breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Martin and Saskia and we started our journey to Leipzig. We travel in a car driven by Vic which is a Peugeot 5008 diesel. We usually travel in a van but with the car it is a lot quicker which is great. We are more squashed up but we have more speed, which means more time at the hotel.
We were playing the Leipzig Arena that night and we did manage to have 1 1/2hr at the hotel before going down to the gig. Dinner was always down at the venue and most of us try and eat at 5.30pm which is 2 hours before stage time. Davey however just picks at the food and has his main dinner put in a takeaway box so that he can eat it on the bus. There is a microwave on the bus so he can heat it up. Bernie cannot resist it and he eats his dinner and still takes a takeaway box to eat after the show,
Russ was having a bit of trouble with his back as he had pulled a muscle putting his suitcase on the tour bus. It was one if those niggles that gradually kept getting worse. He sent out for some ointment and pain killers but you could see he was uncomfortable with it.
Well the show in Leipzig was just great and it was a fantastic response from the audience. Russ played well and got through the set though he was a little tamer than we are used too. The audience would never know though, but he did take an age at the end of the show to come to the front of the stage for the bow.
I have to explain that the Quo sell extra tickets for those fans that want to be down the front of the stage to stand in what they call as the ‘Golden Circle.’ The normal price of a ticket is €60 but the ‘Golden Circle,’ ticket is €99, so for us that means we are playing to the hardened Quo fans down the front. Even with this we were winning them over and we could see they were really getting into the Heep vibe. At the end of the show we could really feel we were converting a lot of the Quo fans to our music, which was great.
After our show, Phil, Bernie, Vic and I usually stay and have a drink with the boys and by just over the midway point of the Quo show we then drive back to the hotel. Usually it is when they play ‘In the Army Now.’ We tried to avoid any late-night hotel bar shenanigans because both Phil and I had chest infections, and needed all the rest we can get.
The next day we drove to Passau which was a beautiful German City on the river. We only had a little time at the hotel after the long drive before going to the venue, and it was beginning to seem a little like Groundhog Day as we settled into tour mode.
Now the Passau audience in the Dreilanderhalle were just amazing, and they really did rock with us. I did notice that there were familiar faces in the ‘Golden Circle’ every night and these were the super hardened Quo fans who I felt were fast becoming Heep fans too, which was great. The routine was in full flow because after the show we had a few drinks with the boys and then we drove back to the hotel leaving everyone else to go overnight on the tour bus to the next city, which was Berlin and a day off!
On days off Russ, Davey and the crew all stay in a hotel but other than that they sleep and stay on the bus. As they went to Berlin overnight they were just checking in when we were just leaving Passau. Eventually we joined them all in the bar at 7pm for a drink before heading out to dinner.
This didn’t quite work out as planned as some were ordering more drinks while others just wanted to eat. We were told at reception that there was an Italian restaurant 7-10minutes walk away so Phil and Bernie who were super hungry went ahead.
It was a bitter cold night and when the rest of us followed after walking for ages without a restaurant in sight, we realised it must have been a 7-10minute drive. While we were walking, we saw Phil turning back as it was too far for his liking, and it wasn’t doing his chest infection any good, but Bernie persevered and found it. The rest of us were on the point of giving up when we spied a Teppenyaki Japanisches Restaurant called ‘Sakana.’ We could see it was open on the first floor of a building on one of the street corners we were standing but we could not find the entrance. Eventually we found it on the side of the building, and when we went in it was one of those restaurants where they cook the food at the table. What a result!
Davey called Bernie on his mobile to tell him where we were, but Bernie being food dependent had walked the extra mile and found the Italian Restaurant the receptionist had told us about, and he was sitting at a table already and had ordered his food.
Well the rest of us had a marvellous meal and Scampi and Vic were getting stuck into the Sake with many a ‘Kanpai’ being said, while the rest of us tasted the delightful Japanese Beer on offer, except for Russ who stuck with the red wine.
The food was fresh, tasty, and just the ticket for a night off, plus we had a bit of entertainment from the chef setting the food on fire, and generally doing his tricks. He was nowhere near the class of the chefs at ‘Benihana’s,’ but we were just happy to have found a restaurant with that quality of food. After this we walked back to the hotel and a few hit the bar, but most of us went to our rooms. I did see Scampi and Vic (The Manchester Massive) start on the cognac, but I went to my room and watched a movie and went to bed.
The following day was a bit of a hang about day as our hotel was miles away from anything of interest and very much in the Eastern part of Berlin, so this gave me a chance to turn my room into a Chinese Laundry and wash some clothes and then catch up on some work which I did. I washed everything in the sink and then hung them up on the heated bathroom rail and then I sat for a few hours on my lap top. There is always a feeling of satisfaction when you are on top of everything, and you once again have clean clothes in your suitcase.
Russ and Davey had to check out at midday with the crew and go down the gig, but Phil, Bernie, Vic and I were staying the night so we didn’t have too. We joined them down at the Max Schmelling Halle for dinner and then prepared for the show.
Once again for us it was a tremendous show and a fantastic reaction. It just seemed to get better and better and for sure Berlin never let us down. Angus our front of house engineer was delighted because when we comment that the sound was dead on stage, for him out front, he just loves it, as there are less run away frequencies he has to deal with. The end result is a rockin’ powerful sound that we all love. After the show, it was the same routine with a few drinks with the boys in the dressing room and we drove back to the hotel.
The following day we were in Erfurt at the Messehalle which was approximately 305k drive. It was the usual story of down at the venue at 5.30pm for dinner and on stage at 7.30pm.
Now as you have read in the above text we have been going down extremely well on this tour thus far and we were winning a lot of new fans, but in Erfurt they really showed their appreciation of our music big time and after the song ‘Lady in Black’ they were chanting ‘Heep,’ ‘Heep,’ ‘Heep’ which took a while to calm down before we could finish the show with ‘Easy Livin’. It really was amazing and felt really good. We certainly left the stage triumphant that night.
We still kept to our usual schedule and had a few drinks with the boys before driving back to the hotel. Russ, Davey and the crew all drove overnight to Rostock where we had a day off so by the time we had travelled the 5 hours the next day, they were already booked into the hotel and probably thankful to be in a non-moving bed and away from the animal farm.
We have recently moved to a new management company who are Siren Artist Management Inc headed up by Adam Parsons and Ace Trump, and some of the bands they look after are Europe, Thin Lizzie, Black Star Riders, Saxon and now Heep, so we are in good company. They were flying into Rostock to have dinner with us on the day off and then come and see the show the following night. It gave them a good chance to witness our tour operation and also give us ample time to discuss how we move forward next year. These are exciting times and we were all looking forward to it. It was a good meal with lots of good business talk and storytelling, and we went to bed safe in the knowledge that we were all positive about the future.
As the hotel was far from anywhere it was a bit of a hang about day. Russ and Davey were off to the gig at 1pm with the crew, and Phil, Bernie and I had lunch with Adam and Ace. After that I sat in my room trying to download some bonus tracks sent to me by Rob Corich for the BMG Demons & Wizard’s re-master release. The network was pretty weak and it took forever with plenty of stops and starts, and when the network kept dropping in and out it all became a bit of a nightmare really, and only half the job got done. I gave up in the end and would try again at the next hotel.
Well we went down to the gig which was the Rostock Stadthalle at 5.30pm and had dinner. We were on at 7.15pm that night as there was no support band on before us. It was a rockin’ show and the audience were well up for it. Russ had a problem with his drum stool collapsing, and my top ‘E’ string got caught around my neck pick up, which instead of having a true note being played turned into a high-pitched dink sound, but other that we won the day. It was a good show for the new management to see and they seemed delighted at both the bands performance and the reaction.
Back in the dressing room we broke out a bottle of champagne in celebration of our new management, and there started a few more drinks and for the first time we stayed until to end of the Quo show. We then drove back to the hotel and Vic our driver kindly went back to give Adam and Ace a lift back to the hotel too, while Russ & Davey went with the crew overnight to Emden, the next city.
Emden was not a long drive and we played in Nordseehalle. When we arrived at the hotel it reminded us of a TV programme called ‘The League of Gentlemen.’ The husband and wife team were very strange and you could almost hear them say, ‘This is a local hotel, for local people, and not musicians.’ They really did look you up and down when giving you the room key.
However, we had a wonderful show and an amazing reaction. This was a huge venue but we had the smallest dressing room next to catering so we were virtually in the kitchen. In fact, we had to eat in the dressing room as there was no room in the dining room that was half of the kitchen. We did not stay too long after the show because when the crew came back after loading the equipment there was very little room in the dressing room to relax. Bernie, Phil, Vic and I left for the hotel and this was the best thing to do.
At breakfast the next morning the owner was standing at the end of the breakfast bar staring at everyone and what they put on their plate, enhancing the ‘The League of Gentlemen’ vibe. It was a really blank stare and kind of spooky in a comedic way.
The next show was in Köln at the Lanxess Arena. This was approximately a 4-hour drive, and it is the second biggest arena in Europe.
We were staying at a Premiere Classe hotel that was about 20 minutes away from the venue. When we arrived at 2pm we could not check in until 3pm, so we waited in reception. As another 2 couples checked in behind us one of the guys recognised me and wanted a picture taken with me, which was fine. They were very excited as they were going to the show that night. Then I settled down with Vic to watch the Manchester United v Arsenal football game on my iPad which ended in a draw. This passed the time quickly but both Phil and Bernie are not football fans so they just sat there bored out of their minds.
Eventually we went to our rooms and the we had a couple of hours to get ready for the show. Now this was a huge arena and we could not find the way in, so we saw an entrance that said VIP’s which meant driving under the car park. Sure enough it was a VIP entrance but not for the artists but for the audience. Vic had to phone Scampi who then got security to guide us through the venue to the dressing rooms. It was a long walk as we virtually walked around the stadium all be it through the inside hallways of the venue.
We had guests that night with Marco Wreidt and his father. Marco plays in an excellent band called ’21Octayne’ and they had supported us on a previous German tour. Marco also demonstrates Engl Amplifiers all over the world which of course I endorse too, thanks to Marco. His Father was a big ‘Heep’ fan and he saw us in the 70’s.
The venue was well and truly packed and we went on a little earlier than normal as there was no support band. Well it was a magnificent concert and we had an amazing response. It was very loud and proud and we really felt that although it was a predominantly ‘Quo,’ audience that we were winning new fans by the bucket load, which was a great feeling.
It was much of the same after the show with a couple of drinks before heading back to our hotel of which we could not work out how it had the audacity to call it Premier and even worse Classe.
In the morning at breakfast we met the same 2 couples we met on the check in, who just loved our show, and could not stop coming over to our table to tell us, which was nice. Even when we left they were waiting there to have another picture taken with us at the front of the hotel, so they were 4 very happy fans as we left.
That day we had a day off in Frankfurt so we travelled the 3 hours to the hotel and we had the rest of the afternoon and evening off. I had some time in the afternoon to do some writing which was cool as I have my travel guitar with me. We did our usual thing of meeting in the bar at 7.30pm and deciding where to go for dinner.
Well we split into two groups and the crew went to an Italian Restaurant and Bernie, Phil, Davey and I went to a Steak house. Russ decided to stay in the hotel. Both restaurants were in walking distance from the hotel so that was good. We sat down and ordered and then in walked James Anderson who is the son of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and also his manager. Along with James was their merchandiser known as Mr Tom who we knew from the early Manfred Mann days.
After a splendid dinner, Bernie ordered another bottle of red wine and we sat together talking for quite a while and swapping rock n’ roll stories like you do. Ian was playing the same night as us but in an Opera House while we were in the Jahrhunderthalle. After a long old chat, there was a suggestion that in the USA Jethro Tull and Heep would be a good bill together so we hope that that would become a reality later down the line, as it is potentially a good package. While we were talking to James and Mr Tom, the Tull crew and band were with our crew in the Italian across the road. Amazing!
The following day after breakfast Phil, Bernie, Russ and I went to the shopping Plaza close by and we spotted a ‘New Yorker’ shop, so we headed for that. There wasn’t much in there but I bought some jeans, Bernie a pair of trousers and a top, and Russ a pair of jeans.
We left the hotel at 5.15pm to go down to the sound check and Russ, Davey and the crew were already down there from 1pm. Because of the layout of the show we did not have room to hang our backdrop which was a shame. It came down to either hanging it up or losing the lights, so it was a no brainer in the end. This was another massive venue and Frankfurt never let us down as they were really with us from the first note which was fantastic. Once again, the reception was immense and we really had a great time. They sang so loudly in LIB it was incredible. There was a distinct feeling that we had made even more friends that night.
It was meant to be the usual few drinks for Bernie, Phil and I but that night we were still in the venue when Quo had finished. We quickly realised that we had to rush to beat the traffic and we were off. We still had to do some serious driving moves to get out but we did make it which was a relief, as it could have taken ages.
The next morning, we were driving to Bamberg which was 3 hours away. We were lucky as Scampi had arranged an early check in at the hotel. Once there we went to a typical German Restaurant for lunch.
We then had the afternoon to catch up on emails and I even did a little more writing on my guitar which was cool. In Bamberg, we were playing the Brose Arena which was a nice venue and only 8 minutes from the hotel. We arrived at 5.30pm and had dinner and then we sat around waiting for the concert to begin. Most of the venues on this tour have good Wi-Fi, so we usually bring our iPads down with us.
Well we hit the stage running and once again it was a fantastic concert. In the golden ring, we see a lot of the same faces who have bought tickets for most of the shows and are obviously Quo fans but they are smiling and getting into our show big time, which is just great. They were even singing the words to our songs and joining in at every point and the feeling we get at the end of the night is that they are now Heep fans as well as Quo fans, which is just great. The Bamberg audience were superb and although these are big venues, the atmosphere was just wonderful, and electric.
After the concert, I went back to our dressing room to watch the Spurs v Monaco football game on my iPad. By the time we were off stage and I had towelled down and changed my clothes and made a cup of tea, it was kick off time. That was excellent timing but unfortunately, we lost 2-1 and if I am perfectly honest we were outplayed most of the match. So, that is us out of the Championship! Do’h!
Because I was watching the football and we had a number of friends back in the dressing room, once again we were still at the venue when Quo had finished, so it was a mad exit to beat all of the audience leaving and thankfully we made it.
The next day was a 5-hour drive to Oberhausen and another day off. The Quo boys know how to tour with these days off I can tell you, but for us we like to play more shows and just have the one day off a week. That way you can get into the rhythm of touring a lot better but ours is not to reason why.
We arrived at the hotel at 4pm and the crew, Russ and Davey had already travelled overnight checking in at 11 am. It was the usual meet at the bar before dinner and once again there was a split. Russ stayed in, the crew went for a steak house and this time the rest of us went for an Italian which was a reversal of the last day off in Frankfurt.
Our Italian meal was superb and we all just loved it. The waiter/owner was a connoisseur of pepper. We had 6 pepper mills on the table, and they were all delicious condiments to add to the meal. I cannot remember them all but there was Chocolate Pepper, Citrus Pepper and Tasmanian Pepper. These were so tasty that Bernie bought some Tasmanian pepper and Davey some Chocolate pepper from him. He even gave us free ice cream of which he suggested we put one of the peppers on and it was delicious. I can see Bernie and Davey will be doing that tricksy at their next dinner party at home.
We then went for a walk to walk off our dinner and we ended up by the red-light district, which gave us a barometer of the lovely area we were staying in. It was one of those areas where they sit in the window and from what I could see you would have to be pretty desperate to even consider one of those ladies of the night, or blind drunk of course! They sit in the window lit by lots of fluorescent lights that hide a multitude of sins.
The next day after breakfast Bernie, Phil and I went for a walk to buy some essentials we had run out of, and we also found a ‘New Yorker’ shop that was rubbish and had nothing of interest.
The venue that night was the Konigspilsner Arena, and this had been selling extremely well so we were in for a good night. We were running a little late as the ‘Quo’ had been filming in the afternoon a special ‘Aquostic’ performance of the song ‘Hold You Back,’ for German TV. They also did a lot of filming backstage too.
That night we had most of the Engl Amplifier team visit us which was really cool. Martin Kleine had brought along an amplifier that Phil was after to run his organ through like the old days, so he was happy. It was great seeing everyone and we had a drink with them before the show. Marco Wreidt from the band 21Octayne, and Engl’s demonstrator came too for the second time, which was cool, and it is always good to see him. The concert was superb and the venue was rammed. We received a tumultuous applause after every song, and it really was a great feeling. They were a fantastic audience.
After the show the crew quickly packed away our equipment as close to the venue was a Xmas Market and the draw of a few glasses of Gluhwein in celebration of a good gig. Davey and Phil couldn’t resist and went with them, but Bernie, Russ and I stayed around in the dressing room with the Engl guys. I did keep nipping into Scampi’s Production room though as they had the Manchester United v Feyenoord UEFA football match on Scampi’s iPad. Man U won 4-0 so Scampi and Vic were happy puppies.
Luckily the Xmas market closed early at 10pm, so we managed to get Phil back so that we could leave the venue to avoid the traffic. However, I was surprised to see how many cars were leaving as we still encountered some traffic problems.
The next day it was a short 2 1/2hr drive to Hannover. On arrival, we checked in and went across the road for some lunch in an Italian Restaurant which was excellent. Then we went to the foyer of our hotel to meet Carsten and Caren Tanner and some of a Police Orchestra. We were looking at the possibilities of doing a concert for the German Police force complete with their orchestra next year. These were the early discussions on how we could do it and to see if it was a possibility.
The concert that night was in the Swisslife Hall and it was tremendous. We had not played Hannover in a long while but the reaction seemed like we had never been away. It was immense and intense, and just wonderful. They cheered, they clapped and they sang, and it was a very warm welcome indeed. It felt really good. After the show, we spent some time chatting, talking and drinking but soon Phil, Bernie and I had to leave with Vic to get back to our hotel to stop getting caught up in the traffic.
It was only a 2-hour drive to Magdeburg the next city where we were playing in the Magdeburg Stadthalle. This venue was actually on an Island which made it difficult getting in and out. This was the smallest venue on the tour and Quo had to strip down some of their lighting and consequently we couldn’t hang our backdrop.
It was a rockin’ gig though and a lot of fun. On one of Bernie’s announcements he hinted that we would play a song later that they could all sing with him, but this nearly backfired on him as they knew straight away and started the chant to ‘Lady in Black.’ It was hilarious but we soon got back on track when Phil started the piano intro to ‘One Minute,’ which had been going down a storm all tour. When we did do LIB the place erupted and that was really cool. It was a brilliant night, but after the show we did not stay around too long because as the venue was on an Island, there was only one way on and one way off, and we did not want to chance getting stuck in the traffic.
Russ, Davey and the crew went overnight to Stuttgart where we had 2 days off, and Phil, Bernie, Vic and I travelled the 361miles the next day. We left at 10am and arrived at 3.30pm with a lunch break so it wasn’t too bad.
Scampi found out he was a Grandfather, so he flew home to Manchester England to see his grandson, and he would fly back to be with us on the evening of the 2nd day off. He had not told his family he was flying back, so that would be a lovely surprise.
Well everyone opted for a quiet night, even though there was a Guinness Pub inside the hotel. We all decided we would go into the city the following day. Then we could sample the Christmas Markets and everything. Davey’s wife Corine had flown over to be with him which was nice, and Phil and I had dinner with them in the pub. Bernie and Russ went for an Italian as the wine menu was better, but an early night was had by all. I am not sure what happened with the crew, and the last I saw of them they were in the Guinness Pub. Crews have a knack of making days OFF, days ON!
On the way to our room we popped in to see the swimming pool. We were asking the timings and cost when Phil mentioned swimming costumes and they replied ‘No sir this is a textile free pool’ This did make us laugh as it was nudity all the way.
Back in my room I had a nice song writing spurt and then I settled down to watch a film. My choice of film was ‘Our Brand is Crisis,’ starring Sandra Bullock who was just excellent. This was based in Bolivia where we have just recently toured so there was added interest there. The film was about a Bolivian presidential candidate who was failing badly in the polls and he enlists the services of an American management team for help. Jane ‘Calamity’ Bodine played by Bullock was a brilliant strategist who comes out of retirement with a chance to beat her professional nemesis Pat Candy. With Candy working for the opposition it became an all-out battle between political consultants, where nothing is sacred, and winning was all that mattered. It was lovely seeing the Bolivian scenery, and there were some quite funny scenes, especially when Bullock encounters altitude sickness for the first time as we have experienced that first hand. It was a most entertaining film and I recommended it to the rest of the boys, as I know they would like it especially with it being filmed in Bolivia.
The second day off started with a big breakfast and then Vic took Phil and I to the doctors. I have had a persistent chest infection and Phil has had much the same. It was only 2 minutes away and we were seen immediately. The old name drop of ‘Uriah Heep’ did help which was great. We got our German Merchandiser Peter Weber to phone ahead and this worked a treat. We were both given medication but no antibiotics. Hopefully it will help in a few days’ time. Sleeping and coughing do not go well together.
In the afternoon, we gathered the troops to go to the Christmas markets in the city. To get there we went on the Tram system which was brilliant. To get on the Tram the station was just by the hotel, and we only had to change once and when we got off the Tram we walked up the stairs and we were in the middle of the first Xmas market.
It wasn’t long before the first Gluehwein was purchased, but I am not a lover of it because it is the cheapest red wine money can buy and sweet as anything, so I had a coffee. If anything is headache material, then Gluehwein is it. However, Phil, Davey and Corine love it so they were on a mission. You buy the Gluehwein in a Xmas mug for which they charge you an extra €2. Once you have finished you can either keep the mug or get your €2 back. We actually found a bigger second Xmas market after a while and we left Phil, Davey and Corine there, as the rest if us went for dinner before getting the Tram back to the hotel.
Much later on the way back to the hotel Phil, Davey and Corine spied an ice rink and as they were full of Gluehwein courage, they went ice skating. There is some wonderful footage of this as Phil and Corine had skated before but Davey hadn’t, so he came a cropper and fell on the ice. Phil tried to get him up and an old lady joined in too. This was hilarious when they showed me the mobile phone footage the next day. It was very similar if you can imagine it, to a new born Giraffe being placed in ice for its first steps.
It was nice having a walk around in the very cold fresh air, and it is always a good atmosphere at the Christmas Markets so it was most enjoyable. I had planned to get back around 8pm and I was happy I did that as I wanted to write some more music, and watch a film before bed, so that was job done, but thank goodness, the skating party did not hurt themselves.
I had arranged a guitar to be flown from London to the hotel in Stuttgart that I wanted all of the musicians to sign, so that I could sell it on my website for my Cancer Charity. Well Simon Porter Quo’s manager kindly organised this for me, and everyone signed it and it looked fantastic.
The concert the following day was at the Stuttgart Porsche Arena and so this was a perfect opportunity to get the guitar signed. Stuttgart had always been good to us and this was no exception, it was a fantastic show and an incredible audience response. There were still some familiar Quo fans down in the Golden Circle but they were giving their all for us too, which was great. We had a really good time and after the show we met a few people like Thomas and Petra, the Twins (as it was their home town) and a couple Bernie had met on holiday with his family in Croatia. Then after a few drinks Bernie, Phil, Vic and I headed back to the hotel.
The following day was in Munich at the Olympia Halle and it was sadly the last night of the tour with Quo. Still there could have been no better way to end the tour as the concert was out of this world.
Munich had always been a good city for Heep to play over the years and this was super-duper. Once again Bernie just hinted at the fact we would be playing ‘Lady in Black’ later on and they started singing the Ah section loudly. It was just wonderful. On stage I thanked the Quo boys, the Quo crew and the Catering as it had been a truly magnificent tour since the first day back in Hamburg.
Heinz Preisch the promoter came into our dressing room and wanted me to record a short video for a Kiwi Comedian from Christchurch New Zealand called Sam Wills. He is looking after him in Germany and he was on America’s Got Talent show. He does his act with black gaffer tape on his mouth and it is basically a mime act. He is known as ‘ The boy with tape on his mouth.’ He received a standing ovation on the show and Simon Cowell said of his act “It was simple, clever, unique and brilliant.” Well Heinz wanted to film various celebrities to put the black tape on their mouth and do a short funny clip. I am always up for a laugh, so I did this for him and with the tape on my mouth I held up a sign saying ‘Think outside the Box.’ We had a little fun with that, and then Heinz said he will go back to his office and cut it all together, and then we can put it all over the media sites.
Well Heep’s dressing room after our show quickly filled up with well-wishers, and we devoured our usual drinks before driving back to the hotel. The crew, Russ and Davey stayed there as they could not leave until midnight after the Quo show had finished. When we left, Davey was saying that it was pretty quiet and then there was a knock on the door and in marched DRDW the first band on, the Quo Crew and some of Quo the band and the party began. By all accounts it was a humdinger of a party as DRDW had bought a bottle of cinnamon Jack Daniels for all of us, and they came in with their accordion and supplied the music and the laughs. Russ even got on the accordion and there are be pictures of it all over Facebook
In the end the Quo boys had to leave to drive to Amsterdam Holland and the Heep boys had to drive overnight to Katowice in Poland. I am not sure where DRDW were going, but we sure thank them for the JD and they were a pleasure to work with.
The next morning, we had a long drive through 4 countries, Germany-Austria-Czech Republic-Poland. This took us the best part of 9 hours with only a couple of short stops. Thankfully it was a night off and we all ate in the hotel restaurant which was excellent. The two-promoter’s male and female were there to meet us when we arrived and I remembered them for before.
In the reception area of the hotel also were super Heep fans Andrea and Claudia Obergfell. That was a surprise as we had only just seen them down the front of the stage in Munich. Anyway, after dinner a few people carried on drinking but I decided I would have an early night. That was the plan but I ended up on my lap top until 1am working.
While working in my room I had the TV on and it was showing a film which took me back to the time we were the first Western Rock Band to play Russia in December 1987, as the dialogue was overdubbed by one person speaking all of the parts in the film, in a deep monotone voice with no emotion. This was pretty standard fare back then, but I found it strange that years on in Poland it still exists today.
The following evening, we were playing a show in a venue called Mega. This place was rammed when we went on and they were seriously up for a good night. We played our full set and at the sound check we went over any songs that anyone was uncertain about. It was an incredibly sweaty venue but it was good to stretch ourselves with the long set list. The twins were down the front giving their all and I think they liked the longer set too. Katowice was rocking big time and they really love their rock music in Poland. Bernie kept slipping into Quo show mode and beginning to announce the songs in the order we played them in the hour show, but I had to keep prompting him to do the songs on the set list on the floor. It was a serious case of suggesting he went to Specsavers.
Backstage was very small as well as being very cold, so Phil and I did not hang around for long, but Bernie wanted a drink and some Pizza so he came back to the hotel later. It was only 5 minutes away so it wasn’t a problem, thanks to Vic.
Back at the hotel the twins were enjoying a glass of wine in the bar area, but I said goodnight and went to my room for a hot shower, and to do a little work, and then to bed.
In the morning after breakfast we started our 4hour 20min drive to Poznan. On the way we stopped at a toilet stop and when we got out of the car next to ours there was a van full of Nuns, or it could have been a batman convention. Then we stopped further up the road for some lunch and there was another Nun with some other people, so in that part of the world there was something going on in the Nun world.
In the restaurant, I was recognised by the waitress who then wanted us to sign their guest book. It really is funny sometimes that you can be in the most remote part of the world and someone will recognise you. It does happen in the strangest places. In the middle of the Rain Forests in Canada was one such time as an example.
The hotel we stayed in was in this huge converted army barracks. It was an amazing place with the hotel in the middle of many restaurants, wine bars and even Whiskey Cigar lounges. Now the hotel itself was very modern and the bed was to die for. It was a shame that we had so little time to spend in it, but the little time we did, it was lovely.
We drove to the show and once at the venue we could see it was packed. The promoter was very happy and we were ready to rock. Russ had recently performed at a drum festival in Poland and he had a couple of guys he met at the festival standing behind him all night recording the entire set of him playing drums on a GoPro camera.
The show was rocking and the audience were well up for it. They loved the old and new songs in equal parts and there was a 17-year-old girl with an old Heep shirt on singing all the words to all of the songs old and new, which was amazing. She was standing next to the twins Andrea and Claudia. It was a great night all be it a sweaty one, but most enjoyable.
After a few drinks backstage Phil, Bernie, Vic and I drove back to the hotel. The Pizza’s arrived just as we were leaving, so this delayed our departure a little, as the boys could not resist tucking in.
The following day it was a 4-hour journey to Gdansk. This was relatively painless and we arrived at the Hilton Hotel with 1 1/2hrs to spend in our room, before going down to the gig for the sound check. Everything was running an hour earlier that day so our pick-up time was 4.15pm instead of the usual 5.15pm
As sound-checks had resumed as we were doing a longer set, when it was over, our dinner was arranged for everyone back at our hotel. This was good food but we did have to wait a long time for it to arrive even though we had pre-ordered it at the sound check.
When we arrived in Gdansk we could see that it was a happening place being on the water. There were bars, pubs and clubs aplenty, and there was also a Xmas Market complete with a lit Spinning Wheel. My impression was that the area of Gdansk that we were in really looked like a mix of Scandinavia and Holland. I bet it was buzzing at the weekend though.
Since being in Poland I have to say that the people have been great. They were courteous, polite and really helpful if you need something. I was well impressed.
The gig that night was mobbed and there were a couple of people holding up a banner with the Demons and Wizards album on. It also read ‘We admire you from where do you have so much energy on so many concerts.’ It also read ‘Welcome Fans From Gdansk.’ It even had a picture of Trevor on which was nice.
Well the show was fantastic and what a wonderful rockin’ crowd! There were a lot of young people there who really got into the music big time, and we had an amazing time.
After the show, we stayed until the Pizza’s arrived and then we left for the hotel. The crew and the rest of the band went overnight to Bergen-op-Zoom in Holland which was a long old journey, but Phil, Bernie, Vic and I were leaving in the morning, and we are stopping in Hannover overnight and driving the last 4 hours to Bergen-op-Zoom on the day of the concert.
Well the night-liner in the end took 19hours to get to Bergen-op-Zoom in Holland and our journey to Hannover should have taken 10 hours, but it took 14hours. We did stop for lunch and one toilet stop but on the A2 motorway just outside of Hannover there was an accident that was only 5km in front of us. We could see the fire and bellows of smoke ahead, but we were stuck for over 3 hours.
Luckily Vic had filled up the car with fuel so we did not have to switch off the car and freeze. To kill some time, we watched 3 episodes of ‘Shameless’ on my iPad that kept us laughing, as well as popping out into the darkness for the odd pee. Then I hit on the idea of using my Personal Hotspot on my phone to connect my iPad to the internet to find out what was going on ahead.
We couldn’t find anything to tell us what the delay was but we did find out that the stretch of road we were on was accident prone to the hilt. For instance, just recently a bus caught fire and only 10 of the 30 passengers got out alive. Evidently the fire blew out the back window and people were trapped. Also there was a 259 car pileup with 60 people injured and that was not long ago either.
Eventually after 3 and a bit hours we moved on and drove past our delay, and it was a flat-bed truck full of tyres that was on fire. There was white foam everywhere as you can imagine to try and get that all under control, so instead of checking in the hotel at 9pm we checked in at 12.15am with no dinner. While we were checking in though Bernie went on a mission and managed to get a huge glass of red wine to take to his room, but the rest of us just star fished our beds.
It was Davey’s birthday so I did manage to send him a birthday wish on his text, email and all media sites, before going into the land of slumber. The bed was lovely despite having a bad case of numb bum from that journey.
We left the next morning after breakfast to drive the final 4 hours to Bergen-op-Zoom in Holland where we were playing our last show of this tour in the venue Gebouw T. We arrived with a couple of hours to spend in our room before going down to the gig.
We finished the sound check and then we went to a pre- show party that Louis Rentrop our Dutch webmaster had arranged for the fans and for Davey’s birthday. They presented him with a birthday cake, a bottle of Jack Daniels and some chocolate letters written as Uriah Heep. Well when they held it up it read Uraih Heep but that’s another story. Evidently, they dropped them before Davey came in and hurriedly picked them up and hence the new spelling.
After this Sina Rückmann gave me a fantastic present which weighed 47kg, and was a 5-foot-tall log whittled into a mini- me with a Bavarian hat on. It looked great and will be a great addition to our garden back in London. It must have taken hours to carve away, and it was taken from a picture off of Facebook when we toured Bavaria one summer, and on one stop of our long journey I bought the hat in a gift shop for a laugh, and the picture was taken. Now I have it forever as a memory in wooden form in my garden. Sina drove 6 hours to deliver it to me which was very nice of her, and she said that it had been in her car for a while, so she had been driving around with a mini- me in her car. It took a couple of roadies to lift it into the tour bus and it will be delivered to my house in London.
After having a lot of pictures taken with the fans and signing things we left the room to go and eat dinner. Between dinner and going back to the hotel, and then back to the gig, I had been left in the dressing room an amazing hamper basket full of Belgian beer and chocolate goodies. This was from a guy called Patrick who I thank very much.
We were on stage at 8.45pm and when we walked on to the stage we could see the venue was rammed both downstairs and up in the balcony. It was a fantastic atmosphere and the band were all in really good form. There were even four people who had flown in from Australia who we met at the fan party and one of them was called Uriah Groves, and I had a picture taken with him and a quick chat with his mother Noah Groves. How fantastic it was that they travelled that far and to name their boy Uriah is mind bogglingly good.
As it was the last show it was very relaxed and a lot of fun. We announced Davey’s birthday again and he was presented with another bottle of JD, a cake and a card signed by all of the band and crew. I also thanked our crew for a marvellous tour, as they made sure that we rocked and they rolled us to the next gig. I dedicated ‘The Wizard’ to Louis Rentrop for his wonderful work in getting the fan party together and of course for all the great work he does on our website. Louis illness will prevent him from arranging anymore fan parties, so we hope that he and his beautiful family are blessed with the strength to get them all through of this.
While I am on the special mention trail, I would like to say that Dave and Carol White (Dave works on our website too from the USA and also my own MB site) have had a torrid year that I am sure they will want to put behind them, and I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel opens up and bathes them in light that finds them in a better place in 2017. They are very kind positive people even with what they have been through, so they deserve it.
After the show, I met Katya Hast-Ekström from Sweden who makes jewellery out of Guitar and Bass strings. We discussed how we could move forward on this and sell them on our new online store when it is ready. She already does this for Steve Morse so the business template is already there. She was there with Marije Essink who she was staying with and who had just recently had a birthday too.
We did not stay too long as Phil ,Bernie, Vic and myself had an early flight out of Schiphol Airport Amsterdam the next morning, which was a 1hr 30min drive. We left on time after breakfast, and the twins Andrea and Claudia were kindly giving Peter Weber a lift to Köln I think it was, so we said our goodbyes to them and headed for the airport.
The rest of the boys had gone overnight to Calais, Dover and home. With them I sent a suitcase full of stage clothes, the Cancer Charity signed guitar, my travel guitar, my beer hamper present, two Engl Amp Combo’s one electric and one acoustic and the weighty wooden mini-me. The plan was that my cab driver Mat would meet the tour bus at Ashford and collect all of this and then drop it off to my neighbour Alan who I had arranged to wait in to collect my stuff.
While all of this was happening, I would be flying home. On the way to the airport on the A2 motorway to Schiphol Airport Amsterdam we had not accounted for a 7 car pileup. The last time we were on an A2 motorway in Germany there was the burning tyre incident so the A2 motorways were fast becoming the motorways to avoid. This held us up for a bit but luckily, we kept moving and arrived with enough time for the flight.
We went through the security checks and made it into the Priority Pass Airport lounge for a coffee and we also had a little time to get some last-minute duty free shopping. Vic was taking a later flight as he had to drop the car off, so I gave him my spare lounge pass so that he could relax in comfort while waiting for his flight home to Manchester.
When we arrived in LHR I received a call from Mat the driver who was picking up and delivering me my stuff to my neighbour, and he said that the mini-me statue was too heavy for just two of them to carry and that it would take 3 people to lift it. So he said that when we were near my house he would come back and meet us, and with him, my neighbour Alan, and my driver Tony carrying it, and me unlocking the doors and clearing the way to guide them to the bottom of our garden by the pond, they managed to get it there. I must say it looks great, and then started a photo shoot, as they all wanted a picture of me with the wooden Bavarian hat mini-me.
Well after all of that m ‘larky it was so good to be home. It was my 14th wedding anniversary and the first one I had been home for in 14 years. Sheila and I went out for a lovely dinner and a couple of glasses of wine and I even got back home in time to watch the second half of the Spurs v CSKA Moscow football match that Spurs won 3-1. This was at Wembley Stadium and it was also the first match that Spurs had won at Wembley, which was fast becoming a jinx venue, but hopefully we have broken that now. I had sent Sheila a bunch of flowers to her work, and I asked our Polish promoters to post a card for me that I bought in Germany but that did not arrive on time, but luckily, I had prepared one from the UK, so all was good.
So after being away from home for most of the month on the ‘Quo’ tour, as well as Poland and Holland on our own, having 2 flights and driving over 9,000 kilometres, it was so lovely to be home and not have to move on to another city the next day. But better than that it was super lovely to be in the heart of my family, and just wonderful to sleep in my own bed.