Box News #257 – July 17th, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2017 by heepster

Mick discusses Heep’s trip to France, racing driver David Coulthard, bass player Norman Watt-Roy, the Retro C Trop Festival, The wonderful Beatles Tribute Band, The Pretenders, The Beach Boys, Gremlins coming out to play, John Henry’s Rehearsal Studios, Clamm Castle in Austria, Kris Kristofferson, Nazareth, Manfred Mann, Lady in Black Ice Cream, The Lovely Days Festival in Austria, Z7 in Basel and Paiste Cymbals, Flying to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Alkmaar Holland and Leffe type beer.

He also talks about The Kantine in Köln Germany, flying to Trondheim Norway and the lost equipment and luggage, the Roots Rock Festival in Bronnoysund, incessant rain, fame and the picture with the Stewardess. Mick also discusses, being super tired, working on adrenaline, Phil’s lost suitcase, the Moto Stadium Festival in Kiev Ukraine, LHR Terminal 5 and going home.

Well I have to write about our trip to France by memory, as I didn’t manage to start the blog as per usual on the day.

We all met on Saturday the 24th June at our spiritual home of London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to fly on a British Airways flight to Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. Our show was on the following day in Tilloly and it was a festival called the Retro C Trop.

When we arrived at the hotel the restaurant was closed but luckily enough for us a there was one a few hundred yards from reception that was open. So that is where we had dinner while sitting outside, as the weather was still nice at that time of night around 9.30pm.

Back in the bar at the hotel after dinner we met Norman Watt-Roy the original bass player with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. He was out with Wilko Johnson and they had just played the same festival that night. He is a fantastic player and his bass lines with the Blockheads are just spot on. He also played some great memorable groove bass lines with Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

He came over and said hello to me first of all and we had a good chat and I found out that he had a love of Bombay Sapphire Gin. So much so he had a bottle of it put over the bar for his delight. I ended up going to bed but Davey who admired his work greatly bonded with him and they had a late one.

The Saturday line-up was ‘Les Insus,’ ‘Wilko Johnson,’ ‘Blue Öyster Cult,’ and ‘The Stranglers.’
The following day when we arrived at the show it was an amazing setting as it was in the grounds of the Château de Tilloloy. In fact the Château was behind the stage and this was where the dressing rooms were.

It was a beautiful building with amazing oil paintings hanging on every wall and a majestic staircase running through the middle of the house. This was also where the catering was. It would have been a good location for a period movie and I would not be surprised if that had already happened. Personally I would have loved to film a Heep video there.

As we arrived a Beatles tribute band called the ‘Rabeats’ were playing and they were brilliant. They were dressed in the colourful Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band outfits and most of the songs they sang and played were note perfect and it was great to hear. They even had Beatle type wigs on. My only comment was they just stood there playing, so there was no energy coming off the stage, which kind of looked flat and lifeless. Still they had the music down with added musicians on Synths, Pianos, Strings and Brass.

After they played there was a band called ‘Matmatah’ and then the mighty ‘Heep,’ followed by ‘The Pretenders’ and ‘The Beach Boys.’ However when we hit the stage there was a multitude of gremlins that came thick and fast like a wave crashing over us. On the first number my guitar went down, followed by the out front mixing desk needing to be rebooted as it crashed, and then throughout the show our monitor desk went down, all of the in-ear systems and even the bass guitar and keyboards.

With thanks to the Beach Boys crew they lent Bernie an in-ear system and while he was doing this, the rest of us went into a jam. The crowd seem to like this and it did give the show another dimension and a human feel for sure.
The crowd were fantastic and because we did not give in and we used every bit of professionalism we could muster, they really warmed to us, and by the time we left the stage with all guns blazing they were cheering for a long time after for more.
It was a hard day at the office but we won through in the end, which was just great and very rewarding.

‘The Pretenders’ were on next and they had no such problems as they had their own Front of House mixing desk and their own monitor system as did the ‘Beach Boys,’ and they sounded good and they were just like ‘The Pretenders’ should sound. Chrissie Hynde still has a great unique voice.

The ‘Beach Boys’ followed and they were fantastic and it was a set full of hits one after another. The harmonies were terrific and you would not believe Mike Love the singer is 76 years old and they still play over a 100 shows a year. Amazing!

We enjoyed the rest of the festival and had a few drinks and then retired back to the hotel. The next day we flew back to London and decided that before our next trip we should have a rehearsal day to run through the backline to avoid any more on stage surprises.

We did this at the famous John Henry Studios in London on Wednesday the 5th of July. It was a good move, so that we could iron out any equipment problems and feel confident that when we headlined the Clamm Castle Live festival in Austria on the 7th July we would be fine. It was indeed time well spent and we left the rehearsals feeling a lot happier.

The next day we flew to Vienna on British Airways only this time departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3. We all met in the airport lounge for a couple of drinks before boarding the plane. Bernie was in 7th Heaven on the flight as he is a big car-racing fan and he was sitting next to racing driver David Coulthard. He was one happy puppy and was thrilled to bits.

We arrived in Vienna and were met by the promoter’s drivers and initially we thought it would be a 1-hour drive, which turned into 2hrs.The hotel restaurant was shut when we arrived at 10pm, but luckily a short walk up the road there was a restaurant open where we sat outside and had some dinner, as there was nothing on the plane over to have. Then we all went to bed and congregated at breakfast the next morning early, as we had a 9.45am pick up for a sound-check. The crew had gone down at 8.30am to prepare the stage for us.

It was a fantastic stage and our sound-check went reasonably quickly which we were all happy about and the time spent in rehearsal with our equipment was well spent. We decided to go down early to see some of the other artists and bands. We were headlining but we had a tribute to the Doors band on called ‘Doors Alive,’ the legend ‘Kris Kristofferson’ and our old mates ‘Nazareth’ and ‘Manfred Mann.’

Backstage they had a lady dressed in black with black hair selling ‘Lady in Black’ black ice cream in black cones. It was all very black and a little bit Goth. Phil was the first try it and he said it tasted okay, but I was not sure the black teeth after eating it was a good look.

‘Doors Alive’ were actually quite good and ‘Kris Kristofferson’ was fantastic. The songs he has written over the years are just incredible and he really is a true legend and inspiration.

‘Nazareth’ played a rocking’ set and went down great and ‘Manfred Mann’ were on fire too.

When we took the stage it all went up another level and the crowd were with us from note one. I was afraid they may have been exhausted after the day’s activities but they were well up for it. I was truly amazed at the reaction and I was very proud of the band’s performance as we were totally in the pocket as a tight unit and it felt really good.

A few of the bands had run over time and this always impacts on the headliner as there was a strict curfew in place, so we finished on ‘Lady in Black’ and did not have time to play ‘Easy Livin’.’

This is the first time in may years we have not played this number on stage, but leaving the crowd with ‘Lady in Black’ was still a good way to finish as the audience were singing at the top of their voices and in the end chanting for more. This sure did the heart good as we sat in the dressing room listening to them.

We stayed around backstage for a while and talked to a few friends before driving back to the hotel.

The next day we drove to Vienna Airport where we were staying at an Airport hotel as after that day’s festival we had an early flight to Switzerland.

The festival that day was the ‘Lovely Days’ festival and it was at a different location this year to the other years we have played it. On previous years they had an old train backstage that was used for the dressing rooms which gave the whole backstage area a really cool vibe, even though it was uncomfortable to get changed in.

Our crew had driven straight to the venue leaving at 8.30am to set up the equipment but unfortunately Zucchero’s crew were running late so the boys could not get a look in until 5pm so they drove to the hotel for a much need catch up sleep.

The new venue was still really cool and the festival did not seem to suffer at all. The line-up was ‘Doors Alive,’ ‘Edgar Broughton,’ ‘The Levellers,’ ‘Canned Heat,’ ‘Kris Kristofferson,’ ‘Uriah Heep’ and ‘Zucchero.’

We arrived in time to see Kris Kristofferson again and he went down an absolute storm and they loved him.

We were up next and I have to say what an amazing show it was. The audience were incredible and the reaction to each number just got stronger and stronger and you could feel they were with us every inch of the way. They were incredible and by the time we finished they were shouting and screaming for more LOUDLY. It felt sooooooo good!

As we left the stage all of the crews were shaking our hands and some were doing the ‘We are not worthy’ thing on one knee, and even ‘Kris Kristofferson’ was up for a good part of the show. He really is a Heep fan now and he even recorded ‘Stealin’’ on his mobile phone which is wonderful considering he is 81 years old. What an inspiration he is and he even made time after his show to sign autographs at the festival gate just showing what a true legend he is and what a really lovely man he is too.

After the show we managed to see a few songs of ‘Zucchero’ who were very good. There were a lot of musicians on the stage and they were right in a line behind ‘Zucchero.’ He had a brass section too so it was the whole nine yards.

We drove back to the Airport Hotel as we had a red eye special flight to Switzerland in the morning.

The flight was good and we landed in Zurich and luckily it was only a 30 minute drive to the hotel so we could grab a quick bite to eat before going back to bed for some much needed shut eye.

The crew had to go straight to the venue to set up before they could come back for some more sleep. The venue was the famous Z7 venue where they had set up a festival situation out in the huge parking lot. Our mates ‘Magnum’ were double headlining it with us as ‘Kansas’ had cancelled, so we were pleased to see Bob and Tony again. Bernie and I had a few months earlier played the ‘Rock Meets Classic’ tour with Bob and Tony and we got on like a house on fire.

The ‘Magnum’ set was rockin’ and they went down really well, even though on the last number it rained heavily. They do have some really good songs and it was good to see them perform again.

When we took to the stage it was bucketing down with rain but this did not put anyone off and everyone stayed until the end. It was a brilliant concert and our thanks goes out to the audience for standing there in the rain and giving us such a great reception. In the end despite the rain it was a wonderful concert and everyone had a good time.

We hung about backstage for a while meeting friends and it was good to see Christian from Paiste Cymbals at the show. They sponsor Russ so it was a good show for him to see despite the rain.

The next day we drove to Vienna Airport even though it wasn’t very far from the hotel but with all of our luggage, it was too far to walk. We then took a flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

We were met by our drivers and driven to the hotel in Alkmaar Holland. It was a night off so the band found an Italian restaurant a short walk from the hotel that was really good. They even served Leffe Beer which was a bonus indeed. On top of that they gave us a free drink so we were all very happy chappy’s.

We still had an early night so that was a good recharge for the batteries.

The following day was John Lawton’s birthday, so I sent him a birthday message at breakfast and then at midday we all went out for a walk before having lunch.

The show that night was one that we put in after the cancellation of ‘Kansas.’ We didn’t want to disappoint our Dutch fans, so we put in a gig at the Victoria Podium in Alkmaar to try and make up for it.

It was Carine and Harrrie Van de Van’s 30th Anniversary and they had a picture of me painted to celebrate. They wanted it signed so
we arranged to meet up at our hotel to do this. It was great to be able to sign the picture and I have to say it was an excellent painting with great detail.

The venue was packed for a Tuesday night and the promoter was very happy and so were we. The audience were fantastic and we really fed off them, and this took everything up another level. It was a brilliant hot sweaty night and both the band and the audience had a great time. Holland never lets us down and this was no exception.

We did miss Louis Rentrop our Dutch Webmaster as he could not come because he wasn’t feeling too well. We wished him well and of course there will be other shows he can attend.

After the show we had a couple of drinks before going back to the hotel and bed.
The following day we drove to Cologne in Germany for a show at the ‘Kantine.’Once again this was a filler gig due to ‘Kansas’ cancelling, but it was the right thing to do for the fans.

It was a good size venue and well attended for a Wednesday night and we had a great time. The band were on fire and the audience were much the same as the night before and very vocal and on our side from the first note.

In fact when Bernie announced me they clapped and shouted for a long time before we could start the next number and I have to say that did the heart good and I thank them for that ovation. It was again a hot sweaty one but most enjoyable seeing all of those smiling faces.

We didn’t stay long after the show as we had a long drive the next morning all the way back to Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport to catch a plane to Oslo Norway. We made it in time and checked in all of our baggage. Once we were in Oslo we had to catch another flight to Trondheim so it was a long old day.

We were travelling on SAS Airlines and as we were sitting on the tarmac Scampi saw a lot of our baggage was on a trolley not being loaded on to the plane. We had with us a lot of equipment and all of the guitars, so this was a bit of a worry. When Scampi enquired what was going on they just shrugged their shoulders and even dared to laugh. Now we had paid extra to have this equipment on the flight so we were not happy at all.

They said that it would be put on the next flight out and there were quite a few flights going that day. When we got to Oslo even more trouble was in store as they had a system in place re picking up our bags and catching a transfer flight that even their ground staff didn’t understand.

The bottom line was that we just about made the flight and when we arrived in Trondheim there were no bags and no equipment. Scampi and Brian spent some time at the complaints desk and it was rumoured that it would arrive after 10.40pm that evening.

We really needed that to happen as we had to leave the airport hotel at 7am to fly to Bronnoysund Norway where we were meant to be playing a festival called the ‘Roots Rock Festival.’ Talk about flying by the seat of your pants.

Well Scampi and Brian went to the Airport, which luckily was only a short walk from the hotel to see what arrived. Only the equipment flight cases arrived and not all of them, and no suitcases. This did not bode well but at least something was on the plane.

The next morning we caught a flight to Bronnoysund with a check in time of 7.20am, and SAS said that the rest of our bags would arrive in Trondheim from Oslo by the time we arrived in Bronnoysund. This was good news, as we now knew where the hell the bags and remainder of the equipment were.

To cut a very long story short, after a million phone calls and much stress on Scampi’s part, the bags and the missing equipment arrived at our hotel at 17.30pm

In the interim period SAS had sent to the hotel Wash Bags, Sweat Pants, T Shirts, Jumpers, socks and Underwear for us all.

Since arriving in Norway there has been a huge shift in the weather and it was cold and raining heavily and because of the late arrival of the equipment we could not do our customary sound check, plus no one had a proper coat for this weather.

Just to top it off Vic drove our own backline from Köln to Oslo for our show there, and he was stuck at the border for over 6 hours. What a nightmare. This did eventually get sorted but it sure added to the overall stress.

Still the promoters in Bronnoysund were most helpful and we thank them for that. My fear is that we fly tomorrow back to Oslo and we do not want to experience any of that again.

Well the Roots festival in Bronnoysund despite the rain all the way through was a huge success.
We had a great time and the audience were fantastic.

The dressing rooms were unusual and made out like a grotto. The inside of the tent was mostly decorated black with a bar, and even a fruit shop for those inclined to be healthy. The tent was pretty small and cosy but it had a cool atmosphere with music being piped out the whole time and the staff could not do enough for you.

After the show we had a couple of drinks and then we drove to the hotel as we would not get a lot of sleep as we were flying to Oslo via Trondheim.

Once on the plane the stewardess recognised us and she was very excited. We were soon in the air and I was watching a documentary on my iPad, but it wasn’t long before I fell asleep with the film still playing. Well I guess you know that you have a measure of fame when the stewardess tells you when you wake up that she hoped I didn’t mind as she took a picture of her and me while I was sleeping. I sure hope it wasn’t one where my mouth was open snoring with drool running down my chin, but there you go, I guess I’ll never know. She was very happy though.

Luckily on this journey we landed in Trondheim on the way to Oslo, and we still stayed on the plane, so if the suitcases and equipment had made it on to the plane then it would all get to Oslo. Phew!

Well it did all get to Oslo so we were very happy about that and the band drove to the hotel and the crew went straight to the venue, which was the famous ‘Rockefellers’.’

Our hotel was at the airport as we had a really early start the next day to fly to Kiev in the Ukraine.

We did manage to get a sound check and it was good to be back on our own equipment as Vic had driven it there from Köln. After that we had a quick dinner in a Vietnamese Restaurant across the road from the venue, and then I did an interview with a lovely lady.

Before we started the interview she gave me an envelope that had a ‘Happy Birthday’ Jigsaw puzzle inside. This was a present from both her and a big Heep fan she knew which was very cool.

After the interview we had a little time to get changed and warm up before hitting the stage. Well the venue was rammed and it was a great atmosphere from the very first minute we started ‘Gypsy’. It was an amazing night and the band were on fire and the audience were electric. It was certainly a triumphant return to Oslo, as we had not played there in a while.
We couldn’t stay very long after the show as we needed to get to the hotel as at best we would only get 4 hours sleep before we had to check in to fly to Kiev.

As the flight pattern has been on this trip we had to catch two flights. Oslo to Munich, and then Munich to Kiev. We were travelling on Lufthansa Airlines. We on the flight we were a pack of nodding dogs as we were all cream crackered (Knackered.)

On arrival we started collecting the equipment and the suitcases and lady luck had disappeared again as Phil’s suitcase did not make it. This held us up longer than we anticipated, as he had to fill out forms etc. so we were seriously cut down on any sleep we may have been looking forward to.

We did manage a short nap but the poor crew had to go straight down to the festival site to start setting up our equipment, plus Phil was taken to a Shopping Mall to try and get some stage clothes.

He couldn’t find much so I lent him a T Shirt and Brian had an SAS Airline pack left over from the lost luggage in Bronnysund, so at least he had some shampoo, shaving cream and razor and a toothbrush and some toothpaste.

Well the festival was called the Motto Fest at the Moto Stadium. The night before Finnish band ‘Lordi’ had headlined.

It was a really great show despite our tiredness but once again adrenaline won the day. We fed off of the excitement of the audience and it was brilliant.

Backstage in the Caravan the party began and we popped a few corks and opened a few bottles of beer, and we celebrated the great run of shows and that we had made it through.

We went back to the hotel and the bar was still open so the party continued. We did not for once have an early start so we all decided to miss breakfast and have something to eat at Kiev Airport.

This is what we did, and then we boarded the British Airways flight back to London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. We picked up our bags and all went our separate ways except for poor old Phil, who was hoping that his bag would follow on the next flight to London and they would courier it to his home.

It was only 3 days at home before we were off to Norway again, but it was good to be home to re-charge our batteries.

‘Appy days!
Mick

Box News #256 – May 4th, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2017 by heepster

Mick talks about 12 hours at home before flying from London Gatwick Airport to Kiev Ukraine, arriving in the snow in Dnipro, fans giving me presents, eating late, sound check run through, the audience in coats, an excellent pencil drawing of me and a beautiful Icon of ‘Archangel Michael’ given to me by fans after the show, the drive to Kharkiv, the pot of honey, the wild audience proving just how much thinks had changed in that territory, the huge ‘We Love Uriah Heep,’ banners in the audience and Spurs losing to Chelsea.

Mick also discusses the beautiful mystery lady in Kharkiv, the overnight train to Odessa, Sushi, Pizzas and Chicken for the journey along with the drinks rider, Babushka’s at the end of each section of the train making a good cup of tea, more beer and 3 Ukrainian guys. Mick also talks about the ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ train journey, the stealing of the toilet key, Phil getting his collar felt, the Troubadour Restaurant, a guy with his Dean guitar, the Ukrainian crew pulling out all of the stops, Leffe Blonde Belgium beer, the present of a bottle of Ukrainian Rosé and bottle of Brandy, the 24/7 Irish pub, Horse taxi’s, the Acidic Jew magician, the flight home and the M25 being blocked plus Bernie not getting home until 2am.

Thursday 20th April 2017
After 12 hours at home after the Rock Meets Classic tour I was back at the airport (this time London Gatwick South Terminal) to meet the rest of the Heep boys and crew to fly out to the Ukraine. Our first flight was to Kiev with a short layover and then on to Dnipro. On both flights it was buy your own food and drink and for entertainment it was what you took on the flight with you.

We arrived at Dnipro and we met our Ukrainian promoters and then we drove to the hotel. Well outside it was snowing and freezing cold but soon we were in the reception area collecting our room keys at 10pm. We threw our bags into our rooms and we went straight down to the restaurant for some much needed dinner, as the food on offer on the flight did not look very nice at all. At the reception area there were some lovely fans who gave me a Dnipro Coffee Mug, Towel and T Shirt and a wooden necklace.

The next day was fairly chilled until we went down to the show at 4.30pm for the sound check. We ran through a few songs and bits anyone needed to try, as we hadn’t played a concert in a while and we were set. I had to go through the end of ‘July Morning’ as I had been playing it with the Orchestra on the Rock Meets Classic tour and the end of the song arrangement was very different and condensed.

The venue was the DK Shinnik and we had played it before. It was a lovely place but everywhere was freezing cold, even on the stage. The proof of how cold it was to be honest was when my guitar tech Rich Bennett took a picture from behind me performing, you could see that most of the audience still had their coats on. This did not stop them from enjoying themselves and it was an excellent first show.

After the concert we went back to the Hotel restaurant to have dinner and a few glasses of wine. It was good to be back with everyone again and the banter was flowing as per usual. As I was leaving the venue a couple gave me an excellent pencil drawing of me and a beautiful Icon of ‘Archangel Michael’. I had pictures taken with them and signed all of their autographs but the presents were really special.

The next day we drove to Kharkiv which was only approximately 2 1Ž2 hours away. We checked into the Hotel and went for some lunch in the restaurant. There was guy in reception and he wanted some things signed which I did and then he gave me a pot of natural honey. It was an unusual present but still very nice of him. He was very excited to give it to me.

Over here because the shows are early, starting at 7.30pm each night we always have dinner after the concert. Not a great scenario at all but that is how it flowed over there.

The venue in Kharkiv was the KKZU and it was equally as cold as the one in Dnipro. This time though they managed to get some heaters in the dressing room and on the stage.

Now as the lights went down the audience were screaming our name with delight. That was a great sound to hear and a marker of how some things have changed over the years in this territory, as they would have been quite reserved in their appreciation years ago with a row of soldiers facing them to prevent them having fun.

Well Bernie did not have to invite them down to the front of the stage or to stand up because as we came on they did this for themselves, and it was a cool rock night from that moment on. There was a huge flag some guy was holding saying ‘Uriah Heep We Love You,’ and another one towards the back of the audience with a red love heart saying ‘We Love You.’ It was a rockin’ night only spoiled for me by Spurs losing to Chelsea 4-2 in the FA Cup semi-final.

Once again it was back to the Hotel restaurant and this time we had cleverly pre-ordered. We had plenty of laughs and stayed up a little later than usual, as we had a free day the next day. Still I did manage to drown my sorrows over the football result.

The next day we stayed in the hotel until 3.45pm before driving to the Railway Station, as we were taking an overnight train to Odessa which took 14 hours. As we were leaving I saw a beautiful lady in the reception of the hotel and she came up to me for a picture and then she gave me a box which had a cake in it and some Easter Eggs. This was very nice of her and then she kissed me and left, never to be seen again.

The trains over here are at least a mile long and our carriage is always at the end. As the train restaurant is usually rubbish the promoters bought lots of Sushi, Pizzas and Chicken for the journey. They also bought a lot of the alcohol from the dressing room too, so the train was a rockin’ train there for a while. The one good thing about the trains is that the Babushka at the end of each section of the train makes a good cup of tea.

After a few hours and running low on beer for the crew, we all walked down to the buffet car. You see all sorts of sights in this walk like people smoking in the connection between carriages, a smashed window in the connecting doors, people four to a room in their undies and it can get a little bit smelly from body odour. There was a guy walking up and down the train constantly with a beer crate on wheels selling Vodka, Beer, Soft drinks and Potato Chips.

Well when we finally made it to the Buffett carriage it was like something out of a Fellini movie and very surreal. The tables and chairs were carved wood and on the windows were hanging royal blue satin curtains that were draped from the ceiling too. There were a few people sitting there eating and a few of us wanted beer and a few of us a cup of tea. (Chai) The guy running the show did not want to know about the tea but only about the dozen beers Scampi ordered for the crew. Even when we pointed to the table behind us who had tea he still did not want to know.

While we were sitting there, we were chatting to 3 Ukrainian guys and one of them left but we thought he had gone to his cabin for something, but he came back with 4 cups of tea from the Babushka which was nice of him. When he put the cups down he said ‘Welcome to the Ukraine.’

After chatting to them for a while, well mostly Johnnie our monitor engineer we put them on the guest list for the show in Odessa. Then we all went back to our cabins.

It was an overnight journey full of ‘Shake Rattle and Roll.’ The train stopped, started, shunted and just about everything else making it impossible to sleep. Even the Babushka opened and closed Russ’s door at 5am in the morning for no apparent reason. To be honest the bed was more of a slippery bench even with the bed linen on. The standard of toilet had not changed either in years and they are unpleasant places to do your ablutions, but there was no choice.

Well the train stopped at a station just as I was going to clean my teeth and they always lock the toilet up once in the station. One of our promoters travelling with us seeing that the Babushka was out on the platform, he went into her room and got the toilet key. I cleaned my teeth using a bottle of still water I might add, and on leaving Phil wanted to do much the same so I gave him the key. Well this did make us laugh as the Babushka had come back into the carriage and seeing the key missing went to the toilet and what can only be describes as ferociously rattled the door handle and Phil royally had his collar felt as she shouted ‘No, no, no’,’ which was hilarious and we could not stop laughing.

We arrived at Odessa train station bang on time at 8am. We then went to the hotel and checked in. We recognised it as we stayed there last year. Then we went to the Troubadour Restaurant a few streets away where we would be having all of our meals while we were in Odessa. Nearly everyone ordered the Troubadour Breakfast that had everything in it, and then after that we went back to the hotel for some much needed non moving bed sleep.

All of us except Davey had gone back to the restaurant for lunch, and then we had a few hours back at the hotel before getting ready for the concert. The venue was called the ‘Filarmonia’ and a short walk from the hotel. On the way to the sound check I was met by a few autograph hunters with many Heep albums and a guy with a Dean Guitar he wanted to show me. It was obviously his pride and joy and he wanted me to have a picture taken holding the guitar. I did this and then he wanted to show me his collection of guitar picks, some being Tortoise Shell and others different types of metal. He was so into it I spent some time with him before catching up with everyone else to get into the venue.

We knew the layout of the venue and Brian our Bass and Keyboard tech as well as being our stage manager, said that the local crew were superb and pulled out all of the stops for our crew. This was good to hear so on his recommendation I thanked them on stage that night along with our crew and all the other people connected with the short tour.

The show was fantastic and the audience just lapped it all up. They were all standing and running down to the front of the stage from the first note, which was pretty cool. It was a good show to end on for sure.

After the concert we met a few friends and then we went to the Troubadour Restaurant for dinner, which we had pre-ordered. This was excellent and the discovery of the very strong Leffe Blonde Belgium beer took it all up another level. It was a rockin’ restaurant there for a bit, and I noticed that they had the same staff in the evening as they did at breakfast and lunch so those guys really did put in a shift that day.

While I was sitting there with everyone a guy came in and gave me in a brown bag a bottle of Ukrainian Rosé and bottle of Brandy. He just gave it to me and shook my hand and left. That was so nice of him and most unexpected. I think he made a quick getaway so that the security didn’t get him. Anyway it was very generous of him indeed.

Back at the hotel the same guy in the street with the guitar was waiting in reception, and he told me everything he had said earlier, but he was obviously excited, so I had more pictures taken with him and the guitar, and I gave him a MB Heep guitar pick and he was over the moon.

Well the Leffe Blond beer had sufficiently fuelled Phil and Davey to want a few more drinks before going to bed, so they went in search of an Irish pub that was rumoured to be open 24/7. They were walking the streets aimlessly and even a couple of cars pulled over to try and get them in, but luckily they didn’t take that course of action even though Phil said Davey was dangerously close to doing so, but he may have ended up inside a concrete post or worse.

Eventually two ladies appeared like a vision on horseback. Now these turned out to be horse taxi’s would you believe, but neither Phil or Davey had any local money. After a short chat the boys got on the horses and the ladies led them to the nearest cashpoint to get out the required money, plus they needed some cash for the beer too. Then they led them to the Irish Pub which was indeed open 24/7. They stayed for a few pints of Guinness before walking back to the hotel.

The next day was a bit of a hang about day as we did not need to leave until 2pm to go to the airport, so we all met for lunch back at the Troubadour Restaurant where we had been having all of our meals in Odessa.

Soon we were back at the Airport and checking in for the long journey home. We said goodbye to our promoters and our interpreter Anastasia, then we went through security and boarded the first plane to Kiev.

We landed in Kiev on the Domestic side of the airport then we had to walk to the International side to get the plane to London. Before boarding the plane we had a little time so Bernie and Phil went to the quite barren and quite brown lounge, while Russ, Davey and I went in search of a restaurant for some real food, as on the journey over we knew there would be nothing we would want to buy from the plane menu on the flight home.

While Bernie and Phil were sitting in the lounge there were a number of Acidic Jews in there. One of them was asking where the napkins were and Bernie pointed out that they were set right in front of him. Well this started a conversation and this guy was from New York and he was a Jewish magician called Shlomo Levinger, so he started doing tricks for Phil and Bernie, so they had a great time in there before joining us on the queue when we were boarding the plane. What are the chances of that happening, and they said he was brilliant.

The flight home was long but fine, and we landed in LGW South Terminal where we collected all of our baggage and jumped into our various forms of transport and went home.

The M25 was blocked off so we had to take the long way home arriving at 1am, but Bernie’s case was the last off the carousel and he missed his train by 10 minutes, so he did not roll in until 2am. D’oh!

The Ukraine tour was a real success and well organised, the people were lovely, and hopefully we will be back in 2018.

‘Appy days!
Mick
http://www.mick_box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #255 – April 24th, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2017 by heepster

Mick talks about the 2nd part of the Rock Meets Classic tour 2017 starting in Koblenz Germany, the bad boys back lounge on the bus to Kempton, the BigBox venue, different tuning for playing with an Orchestra, Don Felder playing piano after the show, Nürenburg, no sound checks for us, Frankfurt, the day off and the bar, sadness at the Frankfurt Railway Station, the Italian Restaurant, Don Felder’s generosity and the shopping Mall opposite the hotel.

Mick also talks about Frankfurt’s Jahrhunderthalle venue where we played last year with ‘Status Quo,’ Spurs beating Bournemouth 4-0, watching Match of the day on his iPad, Manfred Hertlein the promoter taking us all to lunch in a Castle in Würzburg, the picture book present, Chelsea losing, the Indian Restaurant with ‘Magnums’ Bob Catley. Mick also discusses the Bamberg show, seeing surprise snow, the long journey to Zurich Switzerland, no hotel until after the show, showering at the gig, last night emotions, watching everyone’s set, backstage fever, the rocking bar, saying goodbye to everyone, meeting Xiomara at Zurich Airport, Mat Sinner’s new album ‘Tequila Suicide’ and only having 12 hours at home before flying to the Ukraine with the mighty Heep.

Rock Meets Classic 2017 (Part 2)
Tony Clarkin & Bob Catley – Magnum
Mick Box & Bernie Shaw – Uriah Heep
Rick Springfield – Very Special Guest
Steve Lukather – Toto
Don Felder – Formerly of the Eagles
The Mat Sinner Band – Mat, Jimmy, Alex, Tom & Moritz
The Choir – Kolinda, Tiffany, Xiomara, Sascha, Alessandro
The Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague & Conductor Wolfy
***********************************************************
Tuesday 11th April we left the hotel in Koblenz Germany for a 6 1/2 hour drive to Kempton. It was the usual top back lounge in the bus with Tony, Bob, Steve, Bernie and I, and once again we laughed all of the way except for a 45 minute break and when we all had a 1 hour nap.

We arrived at the venue which was part of the hotel too, now we all just love that. Everybody sound checked except us as both Bernie and I went to the hotel to shower. We then went down for dinner and I had a chance to play through my equipment while the rest of the troupe where eating, so in essence that was my sound check.

The venue had the lovely name of ‘BigBox’ so I immediately warmed to it for some reason. As we are playing with the Orchestra our tuning is in A442 whereas it is usually A440, so we continually check that our tuners are all set the same. Adam Booth is my guitar tech for this tour and he makes sure everything is correlated and I have known Adam for ages, as he is the usual technician for the band the ‘Sweet.’ His uncle is guitar Luthier Martin Booth who I knew when he used to work at Yamaha Guitars before branching out on his own.

Well this for me was the gig of the tour thus far as the audience were fantastic for the whole show. We came on stage to an outstanding response which lasted the whole way through our set, and the venue was packed to the rafters. I did see one guy down the front with one of my Cancer Charity ‘Appy days! T Shirts on which was cool, and we have over the course of this tour seen quite a few Heep shirts in the audience which is great. The finale was a blast, and we all left the stage on a high.

As we were leaving the venue we walked past Don Felder’s dressing room and he had a baby grand piano in his room which he was playing after the show, so he was quickly nicknamed ‘Elton Don.’

We had an 11.30am leave the next day so everyone went to the hotel bar after the show which was a lot of fun. The bar was packed with people who had been to the concert so there was lots of picture taking and autographs.

It only took 3 1Ž2 hours to get to Nürenburg so we ended up with an hour in the hotel before going down to the gig which was the Frankenhalle.
Then it was time for a full rehearsal/sound check. Bernie and I only do a quick line check as there is no need to go through our songs at each gig and the Choir and Orchestra love us for it.

The concert in Nürenburg was brilliant and Bernie and I had a lot of fun. We played well and received a fantastic reaction and the Mat Sinner Band, Choir and Orchestra were in the pocket for our songs which was great.

After the show we had a drive in the bus to Frankfurt which was approximately 1hour and 30mins from the venue. The bus was a happy bus and when we arrived the bar was still open so we all piled in and had a night cap that in all honesty turned into a whole hat shop. Still it was a day off so no harm done.

The next morning I had breakfast with Bob from ‘Magnum,’ and then later in the day Bernie and I had a bit of lunch in an Italian restaurant opposite the hotel. Then we went for a long walk.

It was Easter Good Friday so everything was shut but the walk and fresh air did us good. We did walk down by the Railway Station and it was sad to see so many down and outs standing and sitting around drinking and smoking, and some were obviously druggies by the look of it. It was so sad to see that, as I am sure there was a point of time in their life where there wasn’t any need to travel that path. Life can be so cruel to some for sure.

In the evening we met in the bar and it was Bernie and my turn to pay for Bob and Tony’s dinner by way of reciprocation earlier in the tour. We found another Italian Restaurant that came highly recommended just a 5 minute walk from the hotel, and as we walked into the restaurant it was totally empty except for Don Felder and his lady. We gave them some space and sat away from them and we had a lovely meal and some excellent red vino.

Half way through our meal Joe and Richard came in and sat down too as they look after Don. Joe lives in Italy and the restaurant was his recommendation, and he was right on the money as it was great. Richard does Don’s tour managing along with his out front sound.

Well we asked for the bill and Don Felder had already paid for our meal when he left earlier which was super nice of him. It was a wonderful surprise and very generous of him.

We did get into the Limoncello’s at the end and while we were saying cheers like you do, a mouse ran through the tables we were sitting. Luckily we had drunk enough for this not to be a problem and it did not detract from the fact that we had a lovely time. Had my wife Sheila been with me it might have been a different story as she has a phobia about them.

Back at the hotel the bar was in full swing with the Mat Sinner Band and the crew, along with Rick Springfield and Xiomara from the Choir plus the German twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell. A Japanese lady joined us who was a fan of RMC and she had just flown in from Japan for that show, which was so cool. It was a mad old night in the bar and everyone was in full swing, so we had plenty of laughs.

The following day was Saturday and the shopping mall was open opposite the hotel, so after breakfast Bernie and I went for a walk and a look around. There were a few things we needed and luckily we found them.

At 4pm the bus arrived to take us all to the Jahrhunderthalle venue. We played this last year with ‘Status Quo’ so we knew what to expect. It was a huge venue and it was sold out, which was terrific.

Well the show was amazing and the Frankfurt crowd really gave their all. Bernie and I had a great time and so did all of the other artists. It was a real blast for the encore. After the intermission I went back to my dressing room and looked at my iPhone for the football scores and I was delighted to see that Spurs had beaten Bournemouth 4-0. Even Vincent Janssen scored his first open play Premier League goal which was amazing, as he came on as a substitute.

We had some guests that night who were Thomas, Petra Neutz and a guy from Shure Microphones who I am ashamed to say his name escapes me. We also said hello to Sina Rückmann at the back door briefly. Sina gave me the wooden carved mini-me for my garden and it looks lovely sitting by the pond. My wife Sheila loves it. That must have taken her ages to whittle and paint.

After the show everyone went back to the hotel bar where a party began. I went firstly to my room and while unpacking my stage clothes I put on my iPad with an App that gives me UK TV shows and lo and behold there was football’s Match of the Day on, so that was it for me. I sat down and watched the whole show and missed out on the bar. I believe it went on until 3am so I was quite happy about that.

The next day we checked out to drive to Bamberg where we had a day off. Halfway into the journey we stopped off at a Castle in Würzburg for lunch. This was arranged by the promoter Manfred Hertlein and a treat for the Artists, The Mat Sinner Band, Choir, Tour Managers and various people who helped out on the tour. Of course Manfred was there with his project manager the lovely Andrea Romeis.

The meal was vary nice and in a wonderful setting. The only person missing was Alex Beyrodt one of the Mat Sinner Bands guitarists and the guitarist I stand next to on stage. Alex had come down really sick and he did not look well at all.

Manfred presented everyone with a present of a picture book of the tour thus far. This was a lovely present and it will be a good reminder of how wonderful the tour had been when looking at it later in the year.

We arrived at the hotel where we had a couple of hours to spend before meeting up at 7.30pm for dinner. Just before leaving my wife Sheila rang me from London to tell me that Chelsea had lost to Manchester United 2-0, which put us only 4 points behind them as league leaders, so we are biting at their ankles to win the Premier League. It really is theirs to lose.

It was our turn to buy Tony & Bob from ‘Magnum’ dinner by way of reciprocation but Tony decided that he wanted to stay in his room, so Bernie, Bob and I went in search of a restaurant and we found an Indian a short walk from the hotel. It ended up being a good restaurant and Bernie Zylka and his lovely lady joined us. Bernie is a Tour Manager and we have worked with him over the years on many tours, and he is a good guy. He lives just by our hotel in Bamberg, so he popped down to say hello which was nice.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and had an early night. Mat Sinner had given me a USB of his new album ‘Tequila Suicide,’ so I downloaded this to listen at a later date.

Well Bamberg was a blast and the show was excellent. The audience were well up for it which took it up another level. Bernie and I had a marvellous show and we were well satisfied with the reaction which was super strong.

After this we went back to the hotel and the obligatory bar for just one wind down drink as the next day it was rumoured we had a 9hour journey to Zurich on a show day.

When I got up in the morning I opened my curtains and it had been snowing all night. The view was like a Winter Xmas card scene and to be honest I had not seen this coming. Up to that point we had good weather and I am not a lover of snow and being freezing cold, as I lean more towards the beach, sand, sunshine and sea.

Well as luck would have it the journey to Zurich took just over 7 1Ž2 hours but we still went straight to the venue and we would not see the hotel until after the show. This meant we had to shower down at the gig but this was fine as most dressing rooms had a shower room. At first we were shown to a dressing room that required us to go outside but it was snowing and cold so after a talk with the tour managers they managed to find one inside. After sweating on stage and then going outside, to your dressing room is not a good call and just asking for us to get sick, so we were happy that they understood and they made the change.

This being the last show emotions were running high as none of us wanted it to end. We had a constant stream of people from the Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague coming into our dressing room for pictures, autographs and guitar picks.

As this was Zurich Switzerland we were a little unsure of the reaction we would all get but there was no need to worry there. Boy as we were announced on to the stage it was deafening, and we had a fantastic concert. Zurich really rocked out with us big time. There were smiles all round from everyone and Bernie thanked the Mat Sinner Band, the Choir, the Orchestra and Wolfy the conductor. It was good to go out on a high even though it was tinged with sadness as the last show.

‘Magnum’ were great and have been solid as a rock on the opening slot of this tour. There songs really do fit well with an Orchestra, especially the song ‘Vigilante’ which came across with power very night.

I thought that this was one of Rick Springfield’s best sets and he really won the audience over with his song ‘Human Touch.’ On this song he walks out into the audience while the band and Orchestra play a kind of James Brown backing riff. Rick is a really cool guy on and off the stage and this really comes across.

I watched Steve Luthakers set every night, and this night he was on fire. He played some amazing guitar full of passion and energy, he was just amazing! He had the audience in the palm of his hands.

While Don Felder plays his set we are usually back in the dressing room getting ready for the encore. We always catch ‘Hotel California’ but Don’s set is measured to the last note and last word said, so there is no spontaneity. It is all very professional and note for note each night, but hey the songs are brilliant and he plays some great melodic guitar solos.

We all went back on stage with Don for the finale ‘Take it Easy,’ and it was all over bar some hand clapping while we walk off the stage at the end to ‘Quos’ ‘Whatever you Want’ blaring out of the P/A System.

Backstage there were lots of back slapping and congratulations along with last minute autographs and pictures being taken before we drove to the hotel. That night everyone came down to the bar and it rocked. The German twins Andrea and Claudia were there too and stayed until the end. They must have extra stores of energy as they are usually the last to leave the bar and they have to do all of the driving to each show themselves. Amazing!

In the morning I had a text from Steve Lukather saying come down to breakfast as they would be leaving soon, so I managed to get down and have a little brekky with him and say goodbye to Steve, Don and Rick who were all flying back to Los Angeles.

Bernie and I were the next to leave and Bob and Tony from ‘Magnum’ were on a later flight as they were flying directly into Birmingham Airport.

We made it to the airport with some time to spare and we needed it as we had all of the equipment to check in. Once through we went to the lounge for a short while and as we arrived at the gate we met Xiomara Crystal from the Choir who was on the same flight as us to London Heathrow. On the flight I listend to Mat Sinner’s new album ‘Tequila Suicide’ and it ROCKED!

Once in London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 we collected our baggage and said good bye to Xiomara and both Bernie and I hugged each other as a job well done and we went our separate ways in our respective cabs.

I would only be home for 12 hours, so it was a fleeting visit before all of the Heep boys met at London Gatwick’s South Terminal to fly to the Ukraine. Still it was wonderful to be home even for a short while and to hug and kiss Sheila, Romeo, Iggy and Biscuit, and of course to sleep in my own bed.

‘Appy days!
Mick Box
http://www.mick-box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #254 – April 11th, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 by heepster

Mick talks about Bernie’s Operation, Writing new songs with Phil, LHR Terminal 5, meeting Steve Stevens & Gilby Clarke on the plane to Frankfurt, the Mexican Restaurant, meeting Tony Clarkin & Bob Catley from ‘Magnum’, Steve Luthaker of ‘Toto’, The ‘Mat Sinner Band’ and Choir on the first night, the Irish Pub, the first rehearsal, meeting Don Felder formerly of the ‘Eagles,’ and Rick Springfield, RMC being dedicated to Rick Parfitt and John Wetton, Timo and the ‘Hauptstadt Rocker’ shirts,’ from a company called “Look54” in Berlin, meeting the German twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell, the first show in Trier Germany at the ‘Trier Arena.’ Mick also discusses meeting Peter Weber in Würzburg at the s.Oliver Arena, meeting Russell in Regensburg, the museum in the Olympic Tower in the Olympic Park Munich, the Box set ‘The Path’ about a cult, a book ‘The Hanging Club,’ by Tony Parsons, Passau and the non working shower plug, my football team Spurs winning, my marvelous Engl Amplifiers, close flash pots and the Gerry Weber Stadion which is actually Germany’s version of England’s own Wimbledon.

Mick also talks about his wife Sheila and friends Julie and Damian coming to the Berlin show, visits from Andy Scott and Pete Lincoln from the band ‘Sweet,’ Kevin and Yvonne Jones, the 9 hour numb bum journey to Koblenz, the African themed hotel room, and Bernie watching the Grand Prix.

Rock Meets Classic 2017 (PART 1)
Tony Clarkin & Bob Catley – Magnum
Mick Box & Bernie Shaw – Uriah Heep
Rick Springfield – Very Special Guest
Steve Lukather – Toto
Don Felder – Formerly of the Eagles
********************************************
After a long break in the Heep camp while Bernie recovered from his successful operation, it gave me a chance to get some serious song writing done for the new album with Phil at his home in Broadstairs.

However I was back at London Heathrow Terminal 5 on the 27th of March to fly out to Frankfurt Germany for the ‘Rock Meets Classic’ tour. This involved only Bernie and I so we had no crew therefore we had to carry all of our flight cases ourselves which actually went very smoothly considering. Scampi had kindly driven it all down to my house in London from Manchester where we store all of our equipment, so all we had to do is get it to the airport and to check it in.

Because of my writing with Phil, it was the first time I had seen Bernie since he went into hospital. He was in good form even though there was a long way to go before the swelling would go down totally, but he looked good and he was glad to be back in the saddle.

We were on a British Airways flight with guitarist Steven Stevens who plays with Billy Idol and Gilby Clark who used to be in ‘Guns and Roses.’ There were a couple of other musicians with them too and from what we could understand they were going to Germany for one show to play with Sebastian Bach ex vocalist of ‘Skid Row.’

That was a mighty long way to go for one show, and they did look understandably knackered and jet lagged. At the airport thankfully all of our equipment arrived but theirs did not turn up, so we said our goodbyes and wished them good luck hoping that their gear was on the next flight. To come all of that way and not have your equipment turn up on the flight is really a bummer.

We were met by our driver and then started a 2-hour drive to Crailsheim and the Hotel Post Faber. We checked in and then went in search of some dinner where we found a Mexican Restaurant a short walk from the hotel. We were recognised straight away so all through the dinner we had people coming up to say hi, and even the barman wanted a picture taken with us. This did work in our favour though, as the wine in each glass was much more than a normal measure, which was nice.

The Mat Sinner Band, Choir and Orchestra had been rehearsing that day so when we went back to the hotel after dinner, we met them all in the bar, and it was hugs all round. We joined them for a couple of beers and Steve Lukather, Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin from ‘Magnum’ where there too, so it was a fun night.

The next day Steve, Bob & Tony along with Bernie and I had our rehearsal, which was cool. We have really hooked up with those guys and we get on really well, so we hang out together and share a lot of laughs.

It was a new Orchestra and a new Conductor from the time we did it with ‘Alice Cooper,’ so it was good to meet them all. We watched Steve Lukather do his set and it was mighty powerful. Apart from playing brilliant guitar he also has a great soulful voice. Our run through went really well and it all sounded great. This time we are playing ‘Easy Livin,’ ‘Sunrise,’ ‘July Morning’ and ‘Lady in Black.’ The songs being enhanced by the Orchestra really gave them an extra dimension.

Because of the set up and spillage of volume into the Orchestra microphones, I have to have my Engl Amplifier and speaker on the side to the left of me at an unusually low volume. With the Heep it is right behind me. Alex Beyrodt the band guitarist has his there too. It is also strange that I am standing on the opposite side to where I normally stand, but it didn’t take long before I was used to it, but I do have to rely on my monitor sound to get me through.

After the rehearsals we had dinner at the tour catering and then we went back to the hotel and all met in the bar around 7.30pm. Bernie and I on a walk earlier that day found a shop called ‘New Yorker,’ which was great because we did manage to buy a few clothing items and then we spied an Irish Pub. So after a quick drink that night with everyone in the hotel bar we left them there and went to the pub. It was just 2 minutes walk down from the hotel and it sold a lovely pint of Guinness and they had a guy playing the piano and there was a lot more atmosphere than the hotel, so we sat there for a couple of hours chatting away until 10.30pm, then we went back to our hotel and sat with everyone for one last drink and bed.

The following day was a day off for us as Rick Springfield and Don Felder had flown in from the USA and it was their turn to have a run through. We managed to see Don Felder who was brilliant, and his white double neck Gibson guitar was to die for.

We went back to the hotel and Bernie had been talking to a guy called Timo who owns a shirt company called “Hauptstadt Rocker,’ from a company called “Look54” in Berlin. He had made a special edition shirt for the late Rick Parfitt, and he has now made one for Bernie, and they arrived that day at the hotel. They have Swarovski Crystals on them based around a skull and they look great. In the box he had sent some T Shirts too which look very cool, so Bernie kindly gave me a couple.

That night we ate at the venue and then we all congregated in the bar area of the hotel while the equipment was being packed away, which was a lot of fun. Don and Rick didn’t join us but we had a serious laugh and the stories were flowing.

The next morning we were all on the bus to Trier the first show. Don and Rick were travelling separately in cars but the rest of us were all on the bus. It took approximately 4 hours and we even managed to have a couple of hours down at the hotel before driving to the gig. As we walked into the Hotel the twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell were there to meet us.

The first night is always a tough day as the Orchestra rehearse their parts, then the Mat Sinner band, then each artist runs through any parts that need rehearsing on their songs and then there is just enough time to have a light dinner before the show starting at 8pm.

This years RMC shows are dedicated to Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt and John Wetton who both sadly passed away recently. Rick and John performed on the 2015 RMC tour.

Well the first show in Trier at the Trier Arena went extremely well and everyone was super pleased, but we all know in a couple of nights it will all bed down nicely and we will take it to another level.

‘Magnum’ were powerful and their songs sound good with an Orchestra, and Bob still has a set of pipes that soared above them all.

We received a great reception and it was good to be back on stage with Bernie and we did rock the house and bring the ‘Rock’ back into the Rock Meets Classic tour name.

I went out to watch Rick Springfield as I really didn’t know too much about him to be honest, but he had a powerful presence and he had a strong voice. He came across with lots of energy and it was an impressive set.

I watched Steve Lukather from out front play his set and it was fantastic. He is such a good guitar player and the solo he did on the second half of the Toto song ‘Roseanna’ was brilliant. He also has a soulful voice that he uses very well. He connected with the audience and was the total package in my eyes.

Don Felder’s set was just great too, and with those ‘Eagles’ songs he couldn’t lose but he is also an excellent guitar player with some fine melodic solos. ‘Hotel California’ to name just one. He is a nice guy and we all get up for the encore of ‘Take it Easy,’ which is a lot of fun. Bernie gets to sing the second verse and being a long term ‘Eagles’ fan he is in heaven.

After the show it was back to the hotel and the bar was jumping, so we signed some autographs and had a few pictures taken, then we dropped our gig bag in our rooms and went to the bar and nearly everyone from the show was there. It was time to celebrate the first show being over, but we only had the one drink before going to our rooms.

The next day we drove to Würzburg and we went straight to the hotel where we had just 45 minutes to shower and get down to the venue which was the s.Oliver Arena. This was a Sold Out show so we were all delighted. We all ran through parts of our songs that needed tightening up, some more than others I might add, and we were set for the show.

Würzburg is basically Peter Weber Heep’s merchandiser’s home town, so it was good to see him at the show.

Well the show was a killer and everything went into top gear much sooner than we thought. The audience were great and every artist had amazing applause. It really was a top concert. After the encore it was back to our dressing rooms to change and quickly get on the bus to drive back to the hotel. We only have 30 minutes after the show to do this. It had been a long day but we all still managed to hit the hotel bar as it was hopping.

In the reception area we signed autographs and had pictures taken and then we settled down for a quick drink and then bed.

The next day we did not leave until 11am to drive to Regensburg, and we ended up after the journey with only another 45 minutes in the hotel to shower and get down to the gig. Outside the hotel there were many fans all wanting pictures and autographs. It was another full rehearsal and then we had dinner and prepared for the concert in the Donnau Arena.

We usually leave the hotel about 3.30pm and then drive to the venue, so all in all we are down at the gig for 7 hours. Shortly after we arrive the rehearsing starts with the Orchestra and the Mat Sinner Band and Choir.

As a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt and John Wetton who both performed on RMC 2015 their names are projected on to a back screen at the start of the show. The Mat Sinner Band, Choir and Orchestra open with the song ‘Rocking All Over the World’ which is a nice touch and we end the concert with ‘Whatever You Want.’ This shows you what a family feeling there is on these RMC tours.

The show in Regensburg was killer and after the show because Russell had been doing a couple of drum clinics over in Germany, he popped down to say hello, which was nice of him. He had Anton Seutter and his wife Cordula with him as Russell had performed a drum clinic in Anton’s ‘House On The Rock Music Training Centre.’ They couldn’t see the show, but it was nice that they came along to say hi, and it was good to see them all.

The next time we hook up with Russ will be when we fly out to the Ukraine for some shows later in the month. Bernie and I fly back to London from the RMC tour the day before we fly back out to the Ukraine with the mighty Heep, so the Rock n’ Roll Circus continues for the both of us. It will be good to get back on stage with the mighty Heep for sure.

Our next RMC show was in München at the Olympiahalle with 6,000 tickets sold, so we knew it was going to be a good one. We did this venue last year with ‘Status Quo’ and it was very good for Heep. Well it was the same on this show as it was a magnificent reaction. Bernie and I had a great time both on our set and the encore of ‘Take it Easy,’ with Don Felder.

We also had some surprise guests as Bernie and I a long time ago opened a Rock Museum in Munich for Herbert and Gabi which is at the top of the Olympic Tower in the Olympic Park. This was originally built for the 1972 Summer Olympics. It tower has an overall height of 291km and a weight of 52,500 tons. This was an honour to do and a lot of fun, so it was good to see Herbert and Gabi again even for a short while.

After the success in München we travelled to Ulm for a much needed day off. Especially the Mat Sinner Band, Orchestra and Choir, as they had virtually been playing 2 full shows a day for over a week.

It was a nice restful day and in the evening Bernie and I hooked up with Bob and Tony from ‘Magnum’ to go out to dinner. We found an Indian Restaurant to our surprise even though we were looking for an Italian Restaurant. This was only a short walk from the hotel and it was excellent. Bob and Tony kindly paid for dinner so Bernie and I will reciprocate on the next day off. They are good company and we shared a lot of laughs and stories over the course of the evening.

Back at the hotel we all had an early night. I did some work on my computer, watched a video I had down loaded called the ‘Path,’ which is in fact a box set about a cult. Then I read some of my book called ‘The Hanging Club,’ by Tony Parsons, which so far is a good read. I have known of Tony for a while as he used to write for the New Musical Express paper way back when, which was the Rock n’ Roll Bible along with the ‘Melody Maker.’

Well the show in Ulm was terrific and there was a real flow about it from everyone. The encore with Don is a blast every night and it leaves everyone smiling.

The next city was Passau which is a beautiful city.
When we arrived at the hotel we had 45mins to get ready before going down to the venue. I jumped into the shower which was a messy affair in the end as the plug hole did not work, so without noticing it went over the lip of the shower tray and into the bathroom and then divided into the hallway and bedroom. I quickly used every towel in sight to mop it up, but there was no doubt I had to change rooms. I went downstairs and they were okay about it and while I was at the venue they moved all of my stuff into another room.

We were playing the Dreilanderhalle which was packed to the rafters. My football team Spurs were playing Swansea in a league match and before I went on stage we were 1 nil down. However when I came off the stage we had scored 3 goals in less than 10 minutes and we won 3-1. That was amazing and I was a very happy pup indeed.

With another great show under our belt the tour was really getting into its stride. After most shows everyone goes to the hotel bar, but I had to sort my room and my case out, and while I did that I put on my iPad which has an app that lets me see English TV Programs, and lo and behold I could get Match of the Day on BBC1, so I did not budge an inch as I saw all of the matches and all of the goals. I was very happy indeed.

The next day we travelled to Ingolstadt to play the Saturn Arena. Usually Tony Clarkin, Bob Catley, Steve Lukather, Bernie and I are in the top back lounge and we laugh all the way from one city to the next. It is a great vibe and we swop and tell stories until our faces ache with laughter. Steve has us cracked up most of the time and he is a great guy to hang with.

Tony Clarkin from ‘Magnum’ was having a bit of trouble with his guitar sound as he had hired Marshall Amplifiers that were not giving him what he wanted, so I let him have a play through my Engl equipment and he loved it, so for the rest of the tour he will share my gear. There is nothing worse than playing on crap equipment I have to say, so I really knew how he felt.

Our show was terrific and we really did get fantastic applause. We have certainly made our mark which is brilliant, but all of the acts are just great, which makes for a fabulous show.

We have on our first song ‘Easy Livin’’ some flash pots of fire and one night because of the rush to set me up and get us on after ‘Magnum’, I was a little too close to the flash pot and it nearly took my face off. I was certainly in line for a good barbecue for sure. This was caught on Facebook by Andrea Obergfell one of the twins and the picture looked closer than I thought, so I had a word with the effects people and mentioned that it was ‘insurance close’ and since then all has been fine. They do look great and really add excitement to our opening number.

We went back to the hotel and I decided not to go to the bar as I had to be up at 6.30am as we had a long 8 hour drive the next day. However a lot of the band, Choir and Artists were not ready for bed and they had a couple of drinks before going to their room.

The show at the Gerry Weber Stadion in Halle was an early one with a 6pm start instead of an 8pm start. Luckily the hotel was pretty much in the same complex so we had time to nip in the hotel for a shower. Bernie and I decided to forgo a sound check to create a little more time to get ready and eat before the show. A few of the others did the same and the Mat Sinner Band, Choir, Orchestra and Wolfy the conductor where happy about that. In the end I had a chance to quickly check my sound so all was good.

The Gerry Weber Stadion is actually Germany’s version of England’s own Wimbledon and it is full of tennis courts. Actually the venue is half in and half outside and because of the early start both Tony and Bob from ‘Magnum’ and ourselves went on, and it was light. It was a lot of fun as the concert was great and we could see everyone clapping and singing along with us. Gradually it got dark and the lights came into play for the other acts, so it must have looked really cool for the whole concert as is it visually built when each act came on until the finale was at full tilt as per usual.

Saturday the 8th of April was special because my wife Sheila came to the show from England with our good friends Julie and Damian. We firstly arrived at the venue called the ‘Tempodrom’ and outside we were all mobbed for autographs and pictures as we left the tour bus. Luckily the hotel was across the road from the gig so I could go there and get showered and changed and Sheila had already checked into the room which was nice. Then we met up with Julie and Damian and walked across to the venue. As we walked through to reception we met Kevin and Yvonne Jones who were over from Wales having a beer in the bar, so it was a quick hello and off to the gig.

It was a really good night and a lot of fun and it is always nice for Sheila to see it first hand and see what I do in that sort of environment with an Orchestra and she loved it. It was a shame Romeo could not come but he is deep into his revision for his GCSE’s so he decided to stay and put a shift in on his revision, and I do not blame him.

Andy Scott and Pete Lincoln from the band the “Sweet’ came to see us which was cool. They played on RMC in 2016.

After the show we all went back to the bar for a drink and a little celebration before retiring to bed.

The next day after breakfast Sheila met up with Julie and Damian and they spent the whole day sightseeing in Berlin, while we did a 9 hour plus numb bum drive to Koblenz and a day off, so no show that night.

When we arrived at the hotel I had a lovely room with an African theme to it, complete with no lights and no water. Now that’s taking the theme a little too far in my book. However after a few phone calls to reception while I went to dinner they had the service guy up to fix it. We had a quiet dinner with Tony and Bob and Bernie stayed in the bar watching the Grand Prix while I had an early night.

We are now half way through the tour and thus far it has been a blast on many levels. Great people and great music, what more can we ask for!
‘Appy days!
Mick
http://www.mick-box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #253 – January 3rd, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2017 by heepster

Mick talks about, the M25 motorway traffic, fog, Luton Airport, Romeo’s exams, the Priority Pass Lounge, missing Bernie, Stefan Berggren, Wizzair, Brian’s lost suitcase, Xmas lights in Sibiu Town Square, the hotel with no lift, and watching the Brian Clough football film called ‘Damned United.’

Mick also discusses the freezing soundcheck, Xmas Markets, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Santa Clause, dinner, my noisy room, the guitar museum, minus 9 degrees on the stage, dropping my guitar picks, Champagne and Fireworks to see in the New Year and the free bar until 6am.

Mick also talks about, Church Bells, no staff for breakfast, Spaghetti Bolognese with a fried egg on top, the 1 minute shop, the journey home, mayhem at Luton Airport getting our bags and equipment, how wonderful it was to share New Years Day with our families and Jonny’s comical egg related video.

The Last Heep Concert of 2016
(Unfortunately without our Bernie)

Well on Friday the 30th of December we were leaving to fly to Sibiu Romania for our New Years Eve concert, and there was fog aplenty all over London. We were meeting at 6pm at Luton Airport, so during the day we kept an eagle eye on the flight departures. At LHR, LGW and Stansted Airport there was turmoil with flights being cancelled due to weather conditions. However there were plenty of delayed flights at Luton Airport, but no visible cancellations.

Well I was picked up by my driver Mat at 5pm, and off we went on the journey. He had been following the traffic news and evidently the M25 was clear, but once we were on it, it was gridlocked, so a little panic set in. Luckily for us the reason was just up ahead of us and it was a broken down oil tanker in the fast lane. Now these are impossible to dump on to the hard shoulder, but I do have to ask the question and that is why the hell was he in the fast lane in the first place. Anyhow they diverted the traffic from 4 lanes to 2 and we were quickly on our way and back on schedule.

I was the last to arrive and everyone was waiting at Starbucks coffee house. Davey had his wife Corine with him and her Mum and Dad, Daniel and Marilyn Thibault, which was nice. I wanted to take Sheila and Romeo as it was a New Years Eve concert, but Romeo was taking his exams which start in the first week of January, so he did not want to miss any revision, which he surely would have done with the distractions of flying, being in another country and all that goes with the concert.

We all had to check in together, as each person along with their suitcase had to check in a piece of equipment. We just had our flying pack of essential backline, as we hired the rest of it in Romania.
After checking in and going through security, we headed for the Priority Pass Lounge to have a little finger food coupled with a little beverage.

It was very strange not having Bernie with us who had a family matter to attend to in Canada, and so Stefan Berggren kindly stepped in for Bernie as he had done before. Stefan was on a flight from his native Stockholm in Sweden, and he would arrive way before us, so we would see him the next day.

Well our Wizzair flight was delayed by an hour, but we did take off which was a great relief. The flight was 2.45hrs long which wasn’t too bad, and once we landed in Sibiu Romania we were met by our promoters rep to drive to the hotel. Everything arrived at the baggage carousel except for Brian’s suitcase which was a bummer. There was no one in the airport at 2am in the morning, so we had to rely on the promoters rep to try and find out what had happened to it later on that day.

The hotel was only a 20 minute drive away from Sibiu Airport which wasn’t too bad and on arrival they had laid on some sandwiches and drinks, but we politely declined and went to bed. Now this hotel was situated right by the back of the stage we were playing in the town square, and there were Xmas lights everywhere all over the surrounding buildings, including a huge Xmas tree lit up, and it all looked very pretty indeed.

The hotel however did not have a lift and there were 2 huge staircases of 44 stairs to walk up with our luggage. Not quite the thing you wanted at that time of the morning, but the draw of a bed at the other end helped inspire us to the top.

I had a lovely antique type room with a big double bed and oak beams in the ceiling. When I opened the door the heating had been left on and it was like walking into a sauna. Not a great temperature for sleeping, so I turned it all off and opened the window to let a cold blast of air into the room. Along with the air came church bells too which did not help either in the sleep department. Why they were clanging along at that time in the morning is beyond me.

After unpacking I was waiting for the room to chill so I put on the TV, and there was a film about football manager and legend Brian Clough called ‘Damned United.’ Now how amazing is that, as at 3am in Sibiu Romania I am watching an English football movie, in English.

The film was about a catastrophic month and a half in the life of Brian Clough the egomaniacal football manager and self-proclaimed genius who in 1974 found himself at the helm of a club he despised. This was Leeds United, a tea which under its previous manager, the supremely cynical Don Revie, had in Clough’s view become a dirty trick squad composed of professional foulers and sneaky divers. From the very first day Clough’s reign there was a disaster. The question was, did he want to destroy himself ashamed of having taken the Leeds money, and also was he ashamed of having betrayed his assistant and closest friend Peter Taylor, left behind at humble Brighton and Hove Albion.

Hearing great footballers names that I remember from my youth, like Billy Bremner, Gordon McQueen, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles, Terry Yorath, Eddie Gray and Allan Clarke was just great, and actor Michael Sheen as Brian Clough was superb.

Luckily the film was two thirds finished when I turned it on, but even at that time of the morning I had to finish it. Still it gave my room time to cool down before I went to sleep otherwise I would have woken up with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, or as they say I would have a mouth in the morning like the inside of a Japanese Wrestlers Jock Strap.

I did make breakfast the next morning but most of us decided not to bother as we were sound checking at 12.30pm with lunch at 1pm. We all met in the hotel lobby including Stefan, so there were hugs all round, and then we walked the few yards to the stage. Outside there was sunshine but on the surrounding roofs of the buildings they were all full of snow, and it was colder than cold. Once on stage it was hard to play and even hard to hold on to the guitar pick, but they did promise to bring heaters for the show.

We ran through a bit of ‘Gypsy’ and ‘One Minute,’ and then I tried the acoustic and we all went for lunch which was back at the hotel. When lunch finished the crew all went to bed, as they had to be up early that morning to start setting the sound check up at 10am, so they had very little sleep.

Brian’s case did not make it and was still at Luton Airport, so he planned to pick it up when we returned there on Sunday. In the interim period the promoters bought him all the bits and pieces he needed like a toothbrush etc and also a lovely duck down coat that he really liked, as his coat was in his missing suitcase, and it was super cold. It was like a double duvet with arms, pockets and a zip and he loved it.

Phil, Stefan and I went for a walk around the City Square after lunch. They had set the City Square set up like a German Xmas market, complete with Gluehwein stalls, and it looked like they had just discovered Walt Disney as there were Disney characters everywhere like Mickey and Minnie Mouse. There was even a Santa Clause who was not ready to accept that Xmas was over. All in all though it did give everything a festive atmosphere, even though it seemed a bit late.

Our next meeting point was at 7pm where we were being taken for dinner at a restaurant a quick drive away. Well that was the plan, but it changed with us eating at the hotel and the food being driven from the restaurant to the hotel. We were served a starter plate which was huge, and it filled the entire dinner plate with many things that I could not identify, so I picked at that, and this was followed by a fish and vegetable plate, followed by a duck plate, followed by a creamy desert. I left before the duck plate arrived. We sat down for dinner at 7pm and when I left it was a 8.45pm, so I wonder what time the rest of the guys finished. In between courses they served bread and bowls of salty Cashew Nuts.

My room overlooked the City Square and the stage, so peace and quiet was not part of the plan. I had the TV on at full volume just to drown out the sound coming out of the P/A System, which amounted to lots of singing or should I say shouting over taped music.

Our changing room was the reception of the hotel, so that is where we warmed up too. To be honest we all changed in our rooms before coming down. There was one guy who owned a guitar museum and he wanted me to sign 3 of his guitars which I did, and we had a picture taken with him. He was super delighted!

We were on at 11.05pm playing only 45 minutes before the countdown to ring in the New Year. I must say I was missing Sheila, Romeo, Myke, Iggy and Biscuit big time, as that was the first time we have been away on New Years Eve. I was also missing Bernie as it would have been lovely to have had a drink with him at midnight, but circumstances did not permit. We will catch up later for sure.

It was minus 9 degrees when we hit the stage, but I was sensible enough to borrow one of Romeo’s under armour shirts that they use for Rugby and Football, to help keep warm. However my fingers were a different story. I do not think I have dropped a guitar pick for many years on stage but that night I could not hold on to them for love or money. A few songs I had to play without the pick. It was more than freezing and looking out over the audience, that went on as far as the eye can see, all you could see were overcoats aplenty. They were having a lot of fun down the front despite the weather and it was great to see so many smiling faces.

The funny thing was they were true to their word and they had 5 blow heaters on the stage, but they were at ankle level so no good to warm our hands, which was what we wanted more than anything.

Well Stefan did a marvellous job seeing as we had no rehearsal, and everyone was delighted with the performance. Once off stage and back in the hotel reception/dressing room we had enough time to crack open the champagne and go back outside to see the synchronised to music fireworks, and the big countdown to 2017.

I was amazed at the fireworks because firstly it was a brilliant display, but they were whizz bang free. No big thunderous thunderclaps and screeching sounds up in the sky. This was great as you could watch them and listen to the music and really appreciate the effort put into both the fireworks and the music. Very cool!

After this the party began! We were told that there were free drinks until 6am, and this was like showing a red rag to a bull for some. They even had a drinks menu of all of the cocktails you could choose, apart from everything else on offer.

I stayed until 2am and decided it was time for bed, plus I wanted to communicate with Sheila and Romeo as it was midnight in the UK. Others however stayed the full course and good luck to them.

I woke up in time for breakfast mostly because on the hour the church bells were clanging away. I went downstairs and everything was locked. I went to reception and this was locked too. I did manage to get that door opened in the end, only to be told there was no breakfast as they had no staff. They would only be there for lunch! Oh well it was back to the room for me. No one else had bothered and they all just came down at lunch time.

I could see outside my window in my room that the crews were breaking down the festival site and the staging. It always feels a bit sad when you see the breakdown like that after a wonderful concert.

I joined everyone for lunch and everyone ordered their meals. Scampi wanted Spaghetti Bolognese with a fried egg on top, which made everyone laugh. It looked like he was combining breakfast and lunch together with that order. Anyway there started at least an hour and a half of egg jokes. As it happens a few of us liked the idea of that including me, so we had it, and very nice it was too.

We left at 3.30pm to drive to Sibiu Airport but Stef stayed behind as his flight was a little later. He had a flight connecting through Munich Airport. While waiting to check in I spied a shop called ‘1 Minute,’ so as ‘One Minute’ was a song off of our ‘Outsider’ CD and not being one to ever miss an opportunity, I took a picture and posted it up on Facebook.

We checked in through security and found the nearest cafe as there was no Priority Pass lounge, so the cafe was it. As we sat there Stef turned up, so we had a chance to say our last goodbyes before both parties boarded their respective planes.

The journey home was without incident but when we went to collect our baggage at Luton Airport it took nearly an hour as 4 planes at once were using the same baggage carousel, and it was complete mayhem.

Still at least we arrived home and we could celebrate New Years Day with our families, and Sheila had cooked me a Roast Dinner which we washed down with a nice bottle of red wine that we shared, sitting in front of an open fire. What a great way to welcome in the New Year.

I received a video from Jonny our monitor engineer, where he was at home mixing a cocktail drink, which ended with a fried egg being put in the glass at the end thereby continuing the Scampi, Bolognese fried egg saga earlier. He copied in everyone which started another run of egg jokes.
Still it is always good to laugh and smile, and that really is the Heep way!
‘Appy days!
Mick

http://www.mick-box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #252 – December 15, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2016 by heepster

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.

‘Appy days!
Mick
http://www.mick-box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #251 – October 28th, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2016 by heepster

Mick talks about, meeting at LHR Terminal 3, flying to Miami and on to La Paz, Bolivia which will be Heep’s 60th country to play a concert in, the movie marathon, turbulence, clearing customs and passport control in the USA, the Mexican Restaurant and the Margarita’s, talking to my son Myke, the unlucky seat, on the flight to La Paz after my good deed, arriving at El Alto Airport in La Paz Bolivia, waiting for our promoter Raul, the beginning of altitude sickness, Sorojchi pills, Coca Tea, and the La Paz football team never being beaten by a visiting international team. He also discusses, the TV show at 10.30pm called ‘Anoticiando’ on ADB TV which Phil and I did on the day of arrival, the misinformed interviewer, real Coca Leaves, Russ & Davey volunteering for the morning TV show, the indigenous Cholita’s, the mobbed press conference, the fire escape photo shoot for the front page of the newspapers, the flight to Potosi via Cochabamba, ‘Gypsy’ on the radio in Potosi, the Football Stadium, the cold outdoor show, the brass band procession, wild dogs, Cholita Wrestling in full costume on TV, the wonderful audience in Potosi, the quietest Russ has ever played, the fork and the security lady, the interview, England v Malta football, Russ feeling bad, 2 local bands, 2 Spanish Bands and 1 Mexican band at the La Paz festival, adjusting the set for Russ, the medic beside Russ giving him oxygen between songs, and the La Paz audience who were truly amazing.

Mick also discusses, ‘Witches Street’ where the markets were, meeting the Wrestling Cholita’s who were advertising their upcoming bouts in full costume there, the ‘English Pub’ who sold delicious honey beer, the signing session at the hotel, the flight from La Paz to Santa Cruz, a 3 hour layover, then Santa Cruz to Miami, then a 2 hour layover, and back to LHR Terminal 3, the Narcotics inspection F.E.L.C.N. on leaving La Paz, TGIF in Miami airport, another marathon movie session on the flight from Miami to London, the Bloody Mary’s with Austin Texas handmade Vodka, arriving home to a wonderful welcome from my dog Iggy and my cat Biscuit, and star fishing the bed for some much needed sleep.

On Tuesday the 4th of October we all met at LHR Terminal 3 to fly to La Paz Bolivia via Miami in the USA. This was quite exciting as Bolivia will be the 60th country Heep have played concerts in. It was recommended that we had to be there 3 hours before rather than our usual 2 hours before departure, and this worked out well as we could have a bite to eat before popping into the Airport Lounge for a little pre-flight drink.

The American Airlines/British Airways flight took off on time at 14.05pm to Miami, and we all settled down in our seats to a movie marathon, while being served drinks and hot food. After all it was a 9 hour 40 minute flight.

I could not sleep a wink for some reason, but it may have been due to the 4 1/2hrs of turbulence we endured which was a little unsettling. With the news of the Hurricane in those parts which was all over the TV before we left, it did begin to worry you, so I got stuck into the movies while drinking a few glasses of wine to calm the nerves.

First up I watched ‘I Saw the Light’ featuring Tom Huddleston and Elizabeth Olsen. This film chronicles the life of legendary country and western singer Hank Williams, focusing on his meteoric rise to fame, and its ultimately tragic effect on his health, and personal life. It was a bit of a sad way to start watching films, but it did highlight how many wonderful songs Hank had written before his death.

Then for some light entertainment I watched, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ who was reluctantly aided by former ski-jumper Bronson Peary. Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards sets out on an unwavering quest to become Great Britain’s first Olympic ski-jumper at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games in Canada. He did have guts I have to say.

Up next was, ‘Elvis & Nixon.’ This starred Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. On December the 21st 1970 Elvis showed up unannounced on the lawn of the White House and requested a meeting with the most powerful man in the world, President Richard Nixon. Elvis offered his service as a Federal Agent-at-large but he was mostly interested in adding a federal badge to his collection, which would enable him to legally carry a firearm. There were a few comedic scenes along the way between Elvis and Nixon, so it was mildly entertaining

I then watched: ‘Eye in the Sky’ featuring Helen Mirren & Aaron Paul about a UK based officer who acts on surveillance to escalate a top secret operation mission from ’capture’ to ‘kill,’ which triggers an international dispute with far-reaching implications. This highlighted the disengaged nature of modern warfare, and was a provocatively tense thriller that negotiated the moral minefields

Finally on a lighter note, I watched a TV film on Premier League Football, which lasted until we came into land, and by that time I was square eyed and ready to stretch my legs.

It was a long walk to the first part of the passport clearance. They had machines where you answer a lot of questions, and put your passport in to be read, and then your picture is taken, followed by you having your fingerprints taken, before it gives you a piece of paper to proceed to passport control. What a palaver!

Once we were all through to the arrivals, and with a 4 hour layover, we headed for the nearest restaurant by the departure gate as we were in transit. This happened to be a Mexican Restaurant, so we all settled down for some good Mexican food. Bernie and Davey could not resist it and got stuck into the Margarita’s. To be honest I had only 4 bottles of white wine on the flight, but it must have been cheap as chips, because it did give me a headache.

As we were in the same country I phoned my American son Myke, and it was great to hear his voice and have a chat.

Well the layover did drag on a little, but soon we were at the gate boarding the American Airlines flight to La Paz Bolivia. The plane was packed solid, and I was in an aisle seat but across from me was a family (Mother and 2 daughters) and the father was in an aisle seat further down the plane, so I did my good deed for the day and swopped seats with him, so that he could be with his family. He and his family were very grateful, but this however proved to be an unlucky seat and I shall tell you why.

Firstly when the drinks trolley came around and the Stewardess spilt Apple Juice all over my right leg when serving it, and didn’t even apologise and just gave me a serviette to mop it up with. Then the guy sitting next to me on the left ordered red wine. He left this glass of red wine on his tray table and fell asleep. After about 20 minutes he woke up with a start, jerking up out of his sleep, and he knocked it all over my left leg. He did not even say sorry either, but he just woke up and drank the dregs that were left, and went right back to a deep sleep. So here I am sitting there with two wet sticky legs, smelling like a brewery.

The flight was 5 hours and 40 minutes, but this time there were no luxury TV’s in the back of the seat in front of you, but there were TV’s suspended on the ceiling of the plane playing something I would not want to watch anyway, so thank goodness I had my iPad with me.

I did eventually close my eyes, but after a few seconds the guy next to me and his wife (I found out later who were both German) woke me up to go to the toilet. I was waiting for them to come back, but they both decided to stretch their legs and walk up and down the plane a few times, so I gave in and watched my iPad again and did a Sudoku.

On the 5th of October we arrived at El Alto Airport in La Paz Bolivia, and we walked to the passport control, where we had to wait for our promoter Raul to arrange the visas for us, as previously arranged. Well Raul was a little late and this process took almost 2 hours. While we were sitting there everyone was noticing how heady and strange they felt. This was the first sign of the high altitude kicking in as La Paz was 3,640 metres (11,942 feet) above sea level, and it is the highest capital in the world. Eventually this knocked us all for a six. It was like having a bad headache and the flu at the same time, plus it was like someone had hit you across the back of the neck with a baseball bat, as your neck muscles were so tense, and to top that off just walking a few yards, we were seriously out of breath.

We all felt rough later in the day, so we asked for the promoter Raul and his assistant Dana to see a doctor, and we were then given these pills called Sorojchi. They did not take the symptoms away, but they did take the edge off. We were advised to drink the local Coca Tea as well, but to be honest that just made things worse, as we were tense enough with the headaches, plus the tea did make your heart race a little, well at least by the second cup! We were told to keep re-hydrated and drink a lot of water. This we did and to be honest the way I was feeling, I did not feel like a drop of alcohol anyway.

Somebody told me that the Football team based in La Paz had never lost a football game to international visitors. Now I can believe that having experienced the altitude sickness in full, and no wonder.

Despite feeling rough both Phil and I had to go on a live TV show at 10.30pm that night called ‘Anoticiando’ which means night & new on ADB TV. This started with the lady presenter telling us off camera what a fan she was and it was an honour to be interviewing us and that her brother was the biggest Heep fan ever. Well we went on air and we were introduced as Mick Box and Bernie Shaw. I quickly told her it was Mick Box and Phil Lanzon, but I will give it to her, she did not skip a beat, and she carried right on with the interview. It was a good interview in the end and real confirmation that the Heep were indeed in Bolivia for the shows which pleased Raul our promoter very much.

After we finished the interview we had pictures taken with the lady presenter and all of the camera men and staff, which was cool, and we then had to sign a special autograph for the lady presenters’ brother.

On the way into the TV station we were mobbed with fans wanting pictures and autographs, but by the time we left the station the people had doubled, so it took a little time to leave. The security guard on the door was talking to our promoter representative Dana and they must have been discussing the altitude problems we were having, and he produced a big bag of fresh Coca leaves that you chew. He gave me one which I thanked him for, and when we got into the car to drive back to the hotel Dana gave me a handful of them. I didn’t think it wise to start chewing on them, as we were going to bed once we were back at the hotel, and that is the last feeling you want to be levitating above the bed when trying to get to sleep, even if it was meant to help the altitude sickness.

As you can imagine sleeping was problematic for all of us with feeling rough and the jet lag, but for Russ and Davey it was worse as they had agreed to do a morning TV show at 8am. Power to them as they did it, and by all accounts it further spread the word that the Heep were finally in Bolivia.

The following day was our acclimatise day, but wherever we went there were fans everywhere wanting pictures and signatures. We did manage to go to the markets and see a few sights as Raul had organised a van, a driver and an interpreter for us, but the air pollution coupled with the air sickness was a killer. Still we managed to grab a few souvenirs to take home, before going back to the hotel for a press conference. It was really cool seeing the indigenous people called Cholita’s with their gold teeth, gold earrings, and a bowler type hat that looked like it was only one size, which was worn at a jaunty angle on the head, and surely must have been held on by pins. They were all dressed in traditional dress and you just would not see that anywhere else in the world. It was wonderful.

We had a sound check in La Paz at the outside venue which was like a huge amphitheatre. This was a strange one as we sound checked our equipment and then it was driven to Potosi for our first show. It did enable us to get ball park settings on the hire equipment, so that was good as there would be no sound check in La Paz when we come back.

The press conference at the hotel was totally mobbed, as we were big news. There were posters all over La Paz, and we were constantly on the TV, so that was cool, and we knew that Raul had done a good job. We could tell by just the amount of people each day in the hotel reception which told us that. The press conference was great with TV, Radio, Newspapers & Magazines all represented, so in the end there was no doubt Heep were ready to rock Bolivia.

We had the evening to relax and we went for dinner at the top floor restaurant. This had a panoramic view over La Paz and looked beautiful. We settled down for dinner but unfortunately I couldn’t eat it, as I do not do fancy nancy meals when you are not sure what you are eating, so I went to the ground floor restaurant for a Club Sandwich. I am a simple man with simple tastes, and the old Club Sandwich did the trick. We also did a photo shoot outside on the fire escape with those wonderful views over La Paz for the front page of 2 newspapers the next day. Bernie, Phil and I did it, but Russ declined as he is scared of heights, and there was no convincing him, and Davey was still in his room.

The next morning was an early start at 5am, as we were flying to Potosi where we had the first festival. We had only been in La Paz to acclimatise and do the TV, Radio and Press Conference, plus the sound check, and to let everyone know that we were there.

We had to fly from La Paz to Cochabamba, with a 3 hour layover, and then a flight to Potosi. They were two short 30 minute flights, and when the drinks trolley came around I asked for a black tea which was so sweet it was undrinkable. It must have had half the world’s supply of sugar cane in it. Yuk! All the way through security at the airports and even on the plane we were stopped for autographs and pictures. We were stopped at every twist and turn, and it had been like that since arriving in Bolivia.

On landing I have to say that the smell and fumes inside the plane were lethal as it smelt like a heavy firework display on bonfire night. On our layover our promoter Raul bought us some brekky which amounted to a Coca Tea and a Tortilla.

Luckily we arrived in the hotel in time for a real breakfast, and on the journey to the hotel in the van we heard on the radio that they were playing ‘Gypsy,’ for an ad for the show. We were driving down a street that the driver said was called ‘The street with no doors.’

Now Potosi was even higher in altitude than La Paz, so we could still not shake off those symptoms. Thank goodness for those pills from the doctor.

At the airport it was like you had landed on the moon, but after a short drive we were in the city and booking into the hotel. After brekky the band had a bit of catch up sleep, and the crew went down to the venue to start building the stage. In the afternoon we went for a sound check, and then we all came back to the hotel. The sound check was good, but we found out it was an outside gig, and the weather at nights reached 7 degrees or below, so it would be cold. The venue was an old run down football stadium.

We had a little lunch and we were all still exhausted, so we went for a nap. However there was no chance of that because as I laid down on my bed, a marching band started parading up and down the main street with full brass band and associated noise. It went on forever, as they were celebrating something, but I never found out what. It must have been the festival of no sleep. We had also noticed since being in Potosi, that there were a lot of wild dogs and these were quite vocal outside of our bedroom windows too, so there was no chance of drifting off, no matter how tired you were. .

I flicked through the TV channels and to my delight I found some Wrestling of a different kind. It was Cholita Wrestling in full costume. I was mesmerised by it, and it was just great. They were tough old cookies I can tell you. Amazing! You would not find that anywhere else in the world would you?

Well eventually we had the call to go down to the show. There were some problems and things were delayed. We went on a little later than expected because of this, so we had to just play our 1 hour set. The major reason being that we had a 7am call to fly back to La Paz the next day and a show that day. When we walked on to the stage we could see the audience, and it was an immense feeling with so many smiling faces. They were truly magnificent and were all jumping up and down as one, plus there was a sea of mobile phone lights too. It was an incredible atmosphere, and they just loved it, and so did we. They chanted ‘Heep,’ ‘Heep,’ ‘Heep’ in between numbers. The adrenaline kicked in so we overcame the altitude sickness for a short while, but Russ played the quietest I have ever heard him play due to this. It was still louder than most, but it was a bit of an endurance for us all. After the show we were knackered and ready for bed with only a little sleep on offer, interrupted by you guessed it ‘Wild Dogs.’

The band were flying back the same way that they came, but as the crew had to be back in La Paz before the doors opened at the next festival they drove 3 hours to Sucre Airport and caught a flight to La Paz.

On departure we had to pay an airport tax which amounted to 11 Bolivian Boliviano which equalled roughly £1 each. At security amazingly I was allowed to take my water through, but the lady saw something she did not like in my carry-on bag, so she took me around to her side and pointed at the screen and it was a fork in my bag. I told her this was plastic from buying food at London airport and she let me through. Can you imagine that happening in the UK or the USA, being allowed to look at your items on the screen?

While we were at the gate a guy came over to me and said that we were the best band on the festival, as there were bands from Bolivia, Mexico and Spain, and he wanted his picture taken with me. That was cool, but when we stood up to board the plane, the security ‘plastic fork lady,’ came over very excitedly asking for me to do an interview with a journalist. I said we were just boarding the plane, but please be quick, and she ran off and came back with the same guy who wanted the picture. He had a hand held tape recorder and the fork lady was the interpreter. Well he asked 4 questions and they were both very happy with the interview, and so was I that I made the plane.

We flew to Cochabamba and had a 3 hour layover before flying back to La Paz. Now we were left to our own devices, so we ordered some food and drink. Well we couldn’t recognise the food we had ordered so we picked at it. With so much time to kill, we desperately wanted to get online, but none of the take away food restaurants would give us the username and password, until one lady recognised us from the day before, and she came over to ask for a picture. I was quick to say yes you can have your picture taken with the band, providing you give us the internet code, and she was true to her word and did.

We made it back to La Paz and we checked into the hotel tired, but some of us still made breakfast and others slept and waited until lunch. I was one of those.

Our stage time was midnight but we managed to reduce that to 11pm, but we actually went on stage at 12.30am as the bands all overran.. The best laid plans eh! While waiting forever in my room I turned on the TV and there was the England v Malta international football match. That was a real plus and we won 2-0 with a Deli goal (Spurs) and a Sturridge (Liverpool) goal, and it was a good start for caretaker manager Gareth Southgate. It was brilliant to see this the other side of the world. I did manage to slowly stride down the hallway to bang on Davey’s door to let him know it was on. I was out of breath by the time I got back to my room though. D’oh!

The band on before us went on forever, but there was nothing we could really do. Playing before us there were 2 local bands, 2 Spanish Bands and 1 Mexican band. Now Russ had not been too bad at all with the high altitude, and he only really suffered with the air pollution, which was pretty awful. However coming back down to La Paz it all started to kick in with him and he was feeling rough as a badgers behind, even after seeing a doctor.

When we got the call to go down to the show he was still uncertain if he could play, so we compromised and took out Magician’s Birthday which would have been taxing for him, and we put in ‘Rain’ as he could have a rest, and ‘Bird of Prey.’ Also between songs he had a medic beside him giving him oxygen. I also did a long acoustic solo before the ‘Wizard,’ to give him an extra break. Well the audience were fantastic and they really made it a magic night. There were a sea of mobile phone lights on most songs, and they also jumped up and down as one, and I have to say they were truly magnificent. They even started to chant the Ah’s in LIB as we left the stage before returning for our encores. It was amazing, and although it was an endurance for us, they made it all worthwhile.

We did not stay too long after the show, but both Phil and I who had not been drinking since we had been in Bolivia shared a few glasses of white wine in celebration, before going back to the hotel.

I slept through breakfast and met everyone for lunch before we went on another sightseeing trip as arranged by our promoter Raul. This was a lot of fun walking down ‘Witches Street,’ where the markets were. We even ran into the Wrestling Cholita’s who were advertising their upcoming bouts in full costume. Everyone bought gifts of every sort for home, and we ended up in an ‘English Pub,’ who sold delicious honey beer. We had to get back to the hotel for a signing session, so we could not stay too long, tempting though it was.

The promoter had sold certain tickets whereby they can meet the band and have autographs and pictures taken with the band the following day. Luckily this was back at the hotel. There was an endless stream of people wanting autographs and pictures, which was all good.

After this we went for dinner before turning in for an early night, as we were up at 3am to start the flight back to London. The flight was from La Paz to Santa Cruz, a 3 hour layover, then Santa Cruz to Miami, then a 2 hour layover, and back to LHR Terminal 3.

At La Paz on leaving they go through your carry-on bags with a fine tooth comb, and everyone has a Narcotics inspection F.E.L.C.N. This is carried out by an officer who turns out everything in your carry-on bag, and inspects it fully, before then putting it through the usual x-ray machine. Thorough is not the word!

Once we were on the flight, there was once again nothing to watch on the TV screens on the ceiling down the aisle, so it was out with the iPad. I could not for some reason sleep a wink until we got to Miami, then we had to go through the whole fingerprint machines again, and as we were in transit we went to TGIF restaurant that was not far from our departure gate. We killed some time there and I managed to talk to my American son Myke which was great.

Once on the flight to London as I had not been able to sleep, when the drinks trolley came around I ordered 2 bloody Mary’s hoping that would knock me out. It was Tito’s handmade Vodka from Austin Texas, but it didn’t do the trick and I did not sleep a wink on the journey home.

And so started another movie marathon. First up I watched ‘Money Monster.’ Starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. This was about a television stock huckster being threatened by a gunman who looked to uncover the truth behind a tangle of lies. This was mildly entertaining.

Then I watched ‘Captain Fantastic,’ which is about a father dedicated to raising his six kids in the forest, but was forced to leave his paradise and enter the real world. I really enjoyed this film and it did make you think.

Next up was ‘Infiltrator,The’ starring Bryan Cranston about a US customs official who uncovers a money laundering scheme involving a Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. This was a cool film and a true life one at that.

There was one other film and a few TV shows but I have forgotten what they were. Oh well I was tired and very square eyed at this point.

Once back at Heathrow we collected our bags and all went on our merry way home. On arrival as I walked through my front door, I received a wonderful welcome from my dog Iggy, and my cat Biscuit, and I dropped my bags in the hallway and went to my bedroom and star-fished the bed for some much needed sleep, happy to be home.

In conclusion, although it had been an endurance for us, it had been a wonderful trip, and one that I am glad that I did. The Bolivian people and audiences were just wonderful, and they have a fantastic spirit, and are devoutly proud of their country.

‘Appy days!
Mick
http://www.mick-box.net
http://www.uriah-heep.com