Tuesday 30th August
Left Los Angeles early Monday morning, arrived Copenhagen airport 7:25 a.m. Tuesday morning. Met by promoter Arjan Deelen, the guy who put this whole tour together. A little later Robert and bassist John Willoughby arrived from New York and drummer Todd Glass arrived from the mid-western United States. It was my first meeting with RG for many years, though we had spoken a couple of times on the phone.
Arjan got this meeting on video, which will probably be included on our "Live from the Paradiso" DVD, a concert which, at this point, is still 10 or 11 days in the future.
This was also my first meeting with Todd and John.
We were taken to our accommodation, which turned out to be a holiday bungalow in Karrebaeksminde, near Naestved, Denmark. A nice holiday resort/fishing town, we were taken to a great seafood restaurant that first evening. The bungalow amenities were minimal: no phone (!); no cable TV (so no English-language news); one bathroom between the four of us, and no air-conditioning or screens on the windows. I mention this because we had to sleep with the windows open this first night, because of the heat, and I got eaten alive by Danish insects that must have descended directly from the Vikings. The others got bitten too but not nearly as bad as me. These were guitar-player-eating insects. After that first night we all slept with the windows shut trying to deal with the stifling heat and itchy insect bites.
Wednesday 31st August
The first morning RG, unfamiliar with the layout of the bathroom, hit his big toe while showering and knocked his toenail right off. This needed a trip to the Emergency Room but we had no phone contact with anybody, nor any means of transportation. We had cell phones but we couldn't reach Arjan right away. He eventually showed up and RG was taken to the hospital in Naestved. They said he'd be OK by the time of our first show on Friday. But there was concern whether he could get his shoes on over the dressing! RG had planned on wearing his tux on stage - but that wouldn't work with flip-flops and a big ol' bandage on his big toe!
Later that afternoon.
Rehearsal. We ran over the tunes. We had all had CDs of the tunes to listen to so this went quite smoothly. One of the "new" tunes we tried was "Have I the Right", the 60s hit by the Honeycombs. A great tune, RG and I had cut it together in the 80s but it never got released.
The rehearsal PA was not powerful enough for us though, so this caused RG to put undue strain his voice: not what you needed right before a series of shows. Little did we know that this was a just foretaste of what was to come...
Thursday 1st September
Arjan came and picked us up and drove us to his house 20 minutes away where we were given a great lunch prepared by his lovely wife Marianne.
There was a trip to a pharmacy to get anti-itch medication and to stock up on dressings for RG's toe, and then we were taken to a Danish TV taping of "Mik Schack's Hjemmeservice" which, we had on reliable authority, was good promotion for us in Denmark. It turns out it was a cooking/lifestyle show, but one which apparently gets very high prime time ratings, and we were the musical guests. We played a couple of tunes and did a bit of talk-show-style banter with Mik, our affable host. One other surprise reunion at the TV studio (which was actually Mik's house with a TV crew brought in!) was that of Robert and Billy Cross. Billy was RG's rhythm guitarist on the first two albums with Link Wray, and they met again for the first time since 1978. Billy had been living and working in Denmark, quite successfully it seems, for several years. The TV taping took most of the rest of the afternoon and we were exhausted by the end of it. At least we got to eat some of what was being cooked that day: skate, and it was delicious.
Friday 2nd September
Gig at Musiksladen, Naestved. At least we didn't have far to go. In the afternoon RG & I did a radio interview with DJ Erik Schou at Denmark's Radio (DR). Then we did a soundcheck and played our first show. Went pretty good. It was like old times playing with RG, who was in great voice, and John and Todd both sounded great.
I had brought a brand new guitar to try out and that worked out pretty well, too. The guitar was a hollow-body Duesenberg, made in Hannover, Germany, and I liked it cos it had a rockabilly look to it: an orange top like the famous old hollow-body Gretsches associated with Duane Eddy and Eddie Cochran, but with a black back and sides, and a Bigsby tailpiece. The body was smaller though, similar in size to a Black Les Paul Custom. If the guitar stayed in tune for me throughout this show, and sounded halfway decent, I was going to keep using it: it passed the test.
I had also brought with me the latest in guitar accessories: the POD XT Live, which had all the effects you would ever need, including rockabilly slapback echo, and an amp modelling capability which was useful if any of our rented guitar amps weren't up to scratch. In fact, if I opted to not use an amp at all, I could simply plug the POD direct into the PA - Technobilly!
Saturday 3rd September
Up early to fly to Sweden for our gig at the Tornado Club, Falun. The usual second-night-of-the-tour syndrome kicked in: we screwed up some of the arrangements and made lots of goofs. This nearly always happens - this is my theory: the first night everyone is on their toes (well, RG will have been on all but one of his toes) and everything goes near-perfect; the second night everyone relaxes and gets sloppy. But it went OK, considering everything.
Kenny, a friend of Robert's from Detroit, showed up and helped out selling tour t-shirts and CDs for us. Kenny would be with us for the rest of the tour.
Sunday 4th September
Up even earlier (RG's throat not responding at all well to the lack of sleep) to drive to an airport that will take us by a roundabout route, which included several hours driving, to Bethune in northern France.
Now Robert has an amusing penchant for needing to adjust his environment. If a window is shut he'll want it open - if it's already open he'll often want it shut. And he likes to sit in the front passenger seat of the vehicle we're travelling in so he has easy access to the air-conditioning. We've dubbed him "Mr Climate Control".
It was very hot that day and the French woman who was chaperoning us from the airport to the gig had a thin summer top on and was freezing in the air-conditioning. I was sat in the back of the vehicle, huddled in a leather jacket, all zipped up with a scarf round my neck - I was prepared -- but I felt sorry for this poor woman whose pleas for the AC to be turned down seemed to fall on deaf ears. The only attempt at gallantry was from the direction of Todd, who asked her if she was feeling the cold and she replied, "Of course, like any normal person!"
Bethune is an historic old town with a picturesque medieval square centred around a bell tower dating back to the 13th century. By the time we went onstage - it was an outdoor setting in the market place - RG's throat had rallied and we gave Bethune a taste of rockabilly dating back to the mid-20th century.
There was neat moment, during the show, when RG invited a young fan from the audience up on stage, dressed in authentic rockabilly duds, complete with an authentic quiff, to sing "Good Rockin' Tonight" with the band.
Note to self: Learn 'Good Rockin' Tonight'.
Monday 5th September
The journey back to Denmark for our one-and-a-half days off was not without a certain drama: the French promoter had supplied two vehicles - one for us and one for our baggage and guitars - to transport us to nearby Brussels airport, but our non-English speaking drivers dropped us off at the wrong airport - Charleroi, instead of Brussels National. The drivers disappeared very quickly before Arjan realized where we were. We quickly piled into a waiting cab and sped to the right airport, Arjan calling ahead to arrange a special pre-check in. We made the flight by minutes.
Tuesday 6th September
Day off. A sad day for me. My mother, who was 92 and who had had a stroke in June, and who was not showing signs of recovery, passed away. I got a text to call my brother Graham in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England and he broke the news to me. Fortunately I am able to attend the funeral next Wednesday after the tour is over.
Since the credit on my cell phone was running out, Arjan kindly gave me the use of his phone at his house to call Graham and my sister Hilary.
Robert surprised us all this evening by cooking us a Salisbury Steak dinner at Arjan's house! We had gone to the supermarket to get the makings and RG just took over in the kitchen. Who knew? It was good eatin'.
After dinner, Arjan offered us the use of his high speed internet connection so we could catch upon our e-mails. Looking through Arjan's comprehensive record collection I noticed a CD I had heard a lot about but never heard. Robert's CD known as "The Humbler", featuring the late, lamented Danny Gatton, RG's guitarist for a time in the 80s. Arjan burned me a copy of it. Was I "humbled" by Danny? I guess so! Danny was a phenomenal player by any standard.
Arjan, also played us some selections from his private collection of old gig tapes dating from my previous stint playing with Robert. One standout song was our 1982 arrangement of Charlie Rich's "Lonely Weekends" from a show at Stoneybrook, NJ, a song I had no recollection of ever playing before. (Well, it was over 20 years ago!) So I got a dub of that and tried to figure out what I was doing so we could add it to the show.
Wednesday 7th September
Up early again. Flew to Finland. Gig at the Tavastia, Helsinki. Did the soundcheck, then back for a short rest at the hotel which was, thankfully, nearby. Got a cab to the show at night with Todd, John and Marika, who had promoted past Gordon concerts in Helsinki. When we got to the club I paid the driver off and, from force of habit when touring - cos I could get reimbursed - asked the driver for a receipt. It was a good job I got that receipt cos as the cab drove off I realized I'd left my guitar in the trunk of the cab! There was a phone number on the receipt and Marika stepped into the breach, called the cab company and tragedy was averted: we got the guitar back before the show. Thanks, Marika!
RG in particularly good voice tonight. We introduced "Lonely Weekends" to the show, which sounded surprisingly good. It's always good to add new numbers in the middle of a tour. Somehow they always have a lot of urgency when that happens.
Thursday 8th September
Day off in Helsinki, which I spent mostly in bed catching up on sleep, reading and ordering room service.
Friday 9th September
Drove to Turku, also in Finland. Once we arrived we did a photoshoot for an article for Finland's second biggest newspaper, Turun Sanomat, and the journalist who had written the article had dinner with us.
The soundcheck was really hard on RG's voice. Just as his throat was getting back to normal with the welcome day off, the PA supplied by tonight's venue was totally inadequate and RG had a tough time getting any kind of sound out of it. The constant strain on his larynx, caused by struggling against underpowered PAs, was starting to tell. The show was one of the best of the tour from the point of view of Todd, John and myself, but we felt for RG since the DVD taping was taking place the following night. This made everyone, including Arjan, who had put up the front money for the DVD, very nervous. We tried to persuade Robert, who was more and more stressed out over this, to try to get some rest after the show, but he was too distraught and didn't get a lot of sleep that night. I know this cos he knocked on my door in the middle of the night. As I opened the door, still half asleep, he took a step into the room, looked around, and said, "I think you ought to open a window, man," and left me to it.
By this time I had stopped using the POD to enhance my guitar sound for the shows. I was just plugging straight into the amps I was given. I think the sound is better overall - more authentic!
toshio, the guy who oversees my website, www.chrisspedding.com, flew in from Japan to see this show and he will be at the show in Amsterdam tomorrow.
Saturday 11th September
Up early yet again for a circuitous route to Amsterdam via, believe it or not, Copenhagen airport!
The Paradiso, Amsterdam, is a legendary venue for rock music. RG and I had played there many times with various bands, separately and together, over the years. It is probably one of the coolest venues left in Europe for our type of music.
By now, Robert's throat was in terrible shape. He was very depressed about it and we were all worried that the important DVD taping later that night would suffer, or worse, have to be cancelled. Arjan called a throat specialist as soon as we got to Amsterdam, and explained the situation to the doc, and the doc gave RG some steroid treatment, warning him that he could only do this once or twice before he would seriously weaken his immune system.
At the soundcheck we met Patrick Mathe of Last Call Records, who had flown in from Paris to sign us up for today's DVD taping, which his company will market and distribute. My association with Patrick, and Robert's too, goes back to the 80s when Patrick oversaw New Rose Records and put out various recordings of Robert's and several of myself. In addition, Patrick and Robert inked a deal to re-release Robert's live CD, "Greetings from New York City"
RG's voice was on top form that night. We couldn't get him off stage. I can't remember all the songs we did but there are a few I'd not played before! We ended up doing a two-hour show that night instead of the usual 90 minutes. The audience was ecstatic. Everybody played well, although a couple of times RG stopped the band in mid song after a dubious beginning, telling the audience we were taping for a DVD and we should start the song again - the idea being, presumably, to edit out the "mistake" later. After the show I made the suggestion that the false starts should be left in the final cut! I hope they are! We were all quite relieved with the way the show went after all the worry and stress of RG's throat problems.
Sunday 11th September
All over. We went our separate ways. We were still glowing from the success of the previous night. We felt we had pulled it off despite everything. The whole tour, with all its near disasters, had gone very well in the end.
The playing was the easy part!
I can't wait to see that DVD!
I'm looking forward to our next dates in Greece and Spain scheduled for February 2006.
Log on to the
Robert Gordon website at www.robertgordon.dk, for updates on future shows.
CHRIS SPEDDING © 2005