1994 tour diary part 4
There is an adrenalin buzz after a gig that makes one more susceptible to the desire to "paaar-ty"! (This word, for some reason, sounds better if said loudly in an American accent, with the last syllable at least a octave higher than the first). Within Squeeze there are exceptions to this rule. Chris, Keith and Paul find it admirably easy to call it a night, whereas a tranquiliser dart in the neck is the easiest way to stop me.
The tour bus is divided into three sections. The front is the quiet, no smoking, relax and have a bit of a read or a bit of a chat zone. The middle is where the bunks are. The back is where smoking, drinking and loud music are more commonplace. It was this last area that Aimee, Suzanne, Bunnie, Chrissie and myself settled into after the Stone Pony gig in Asbury Park. As we headed to Manhattan, we slowly got the urge to paaar-ty!
I was the object of some derision when I couldn't settle on a station immediately -- there are, in my defence, about eight million stations on FM in the New York area -- but I rode it out until I found a dance station. The lyrics of most of the "songs" (and I use that term loosely) could fit on to a economy sized Rizla, but what a damn fine sound to dance to. Aimee pointed out gleefully that the entire lyric of one song appeared to be "Pick it up, hold it up, you got it", which we acted out and chanted.
As anyone who has danced in a moving vehicle will tell you, it is a golden opportunity to incorporate the commonplace elements of a journey -- turns, braking, accelerating -- into a seamless whole of interpretive action.
We were involved in a round of individual dances -- four on the U-shaped sofa holding our hands aloft, while the fifth person hogged the floor -- when we heard a banging outside. A maniac lodged to the outside of a moving tour bus? We lifted the blind to find we were right on one count. Paul was on Spider's shoulders doing a very passable imitation of us, but we hadn't noticed that the bus had stopped.
So to the last gig of the US tour, at the Beacon Theatre where annoyingly Aimee was billed as support. The stage went dark at 6 pm sharp, due, as always, to a very heavy union presence. We didn't get enough time to soundcheck properly and had to trust luck for the show. Fortunately, we had a fantastic time. To be followed by what? A bit of a party, of course, thrown for us by George and Barbara (not THAT George and Barbara), where new A signing Keith Montgomery, Aimee, her producer Jon Brion and myself went with a fine toothcomb through the Gilbert O'Sullivan catalogue.
That brings us, rather neatly, minus Aimee, to our next destination -- Jersey. Home, as an awful lot of taxi drivers will tell you, to ... Gilbert O'Sullivan.
We had been booked to play for two nights at the Inn on the Park, but
this had been scaled down to one. Which was handy in a way, as new
boy Andy Newmark was playing drums but hadn't actually rehearsed with us.
The first show was the one that was pulled, which gave us an opportunity
to rest before we started Andy's two-day crash course in all things Squeeze.
Happily, we were able to wing our way through the show with enough aplomb
to have a woman say to me as I left the gig, "I really love 'Bottled With
Love'." The title conjured up an as-yet-unrealised Mike Leigh play.
She was referring to the Squeeze song "Labelled With Love".
Hello Andy, are you Chris?
There are certain places that, no matter how many times you go there, you always associate with one event. The bar of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham is one for me. I walk into it and I am transported back six or seven years to a time when Squeeze were in the bar after a show and we met briefly with Billie Jo Spears. Jools Holland and myself were playing a few songs in the bar and had tried quiet persuasion in order to get Billie up to do a couple of numbers with us, but she had politely declined. So we went for the big bullying tactic -- announcing her presence and asking for a round of applause. Works every time. Full credit to her for responding to such a shameful ploy. And yes, she did "Blanket on the Ground".
No excitement there this time, though, on our stop-off en route from Jersey to the Phoenix Festival -- unless being mistaken for Andy Partridge from XTC qualifies. This at least made a change from being addressed as Chris Difford, which happens so often that I now answer to that name, too.
Chatting to the drummer Andy Newmark on the way up to the Phoenix the next day, I couldn't help but ask about some of the people he's worked with. It is a long and illustrious list -- you name 'em, he's played with them. But the story that stuck out was about the time he went to audition for Sly Stone sometime in 1972. At that time, Sly was at the peak of his powers and also in something of a mess. Andy went round to his house in Los Angeles, where he was let in by a minion and shown upstairs. Andy, a fresh-faced 22-year-old, walked in to be confronted by a scene which was part-Caligula, part-Scarface. Everything in Sly's bedroom -- blinds, carpet, walls, fixtures and fittings -- was black.
The two girls who had been sharing Sly's bed got up and left. Sly remained motionless for about half an hour, apparently oblivious to Andy's presence. But eventually he stirred, reaching out for a quick livener from what suspiciously looked like a pile of talcum powder beside the bed, and then crossing the room to sit down opposite Andy. "Can you play?" he asked, by way of greeting. "Yes," said Andy. "Can you play funky?" said Sly, moving his face closer and clearly enjoying Andy's discomfort. "Why sure, Sly," said Andy, "I can play funky." At which point Sly burst into hysterical laughter and pointed to a kit in the corner. "Then play." Andy, of course, got the gig and played drums on "Fresh", one of the definitive albums of the 1970's. And damned funky he sounds.
I'm keen on the idea of festivals again since Glastonbury, but Phoenix
reminded me of why I stopped liking them in the first place. Call
me old-fashioned, but it's about the "vibe", and when I was there on Friday,
Phoenix didn't have one. We played our standard festival mixture
of "this is what we used to do and this is what we do now". And then
we set the
To the last gig of the Squeeze/Aimee Mann coupling at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Rehearsals took care of most of the afternoon, after which I engaged in the ancient, probably Druid-based pre-show ritual of of pacing until around showtime. We had such a good night that Paul burst into an unlisted song which, by chance, we all knew. It was a classic number which seemed to sum up the spirit not only of the previous couple of hours, but, indeed, of the whole tour -- the Morecambe and Wise standard, "Bring Me Sunshine".
In the back-stage bar afterwards, there were too many people to talk
to, so you ended up having snatches of conversation, none of them concluded.
Eventually a small group of us retired to Quintessence, in the heart of
London's fabulous West End to frug and watusi for a couple of hours until
nothing made sense any more.
Contributed by Lily Giordano