It had been precisely 6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days since the Carl Palmer Band’s last gig, and none of us had played together since. To say that Carl is not one for over rehearsing would be something of an understatement… in my four and a half years in the band, we’ve rehearsed a total of 5 times; 1 – when I first joined, 2 – to arrange ‘Peter Gunn’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, 3 – when John Wheatcroft joined the band as the new bass player, 4 – when Stuart Clayton replaced John and finally, 5 – when we got together to arrange ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. So, not worrying about a little thing like not playing together for 6 and a half months, I set my alarm for 2.45am!
The alarm woke me after a little over 2 hours sleep and I set off for Carl’s house in north London; our usual meeting place at the start of a tour. I arrived at Carl’s at around 4.45 and there we waited for our car to take us to the airport.
Our first gig was in Germany. We landed at Stuttgart airport only to find that there was nobody there to meet us. After a number of phone calls to our agent we managed to ascertain that the promoter who was meant to be meeting us had white hair! And so it was that every German man with white hair in the airport became a suspect; Carl accosted several, much to their confusion, until finally we received a phone call telling us that the gentleman in question was waiting for us in the wrong terminal. A few minutes later a white haired gentleman approached us, offered his sincere apologies and we were on our way to the hotel… or so we thought. On leaving the airport, we set off down the autobahn… in the wrong direction. When the promoter realised his error, he decided to exit at the next exit; which wasn’t for what seemed like an unfeasibly long time. When we did finally reach an exit, we found that there was no way back on to the other side of the autobahn and so we set about driving through German countryside, following the general direction of the autobahn as best we could, in a bid to find and rejoin it; this time in the right direction!
When we got to the hotel, I went straight to bed for a couple of hours (taking my total of sleep to somewhere in the region of 4 hours), after which we had to leave for the club to setup and sound check.
The afore mentioned white haired promoter was also the club owner and proved to be very friendly. He’d laid on a spread of enough food and drink to keep several bands happy, in an area of the club that he’d designated as our dressing room. On arriving at the venue, we met our Italian sound man/tour manager/drum tech/roadie/etc/etc, Simone, after not seeing him since our last gig. Warm greetings were quickly exchanged before he and Carl got busy with setting up the drum kit.
For those who don’t know about such things (and have perhaps never considered them) the practicalities of a small band flying from country to country mean that it is impossible for them to take more than guitars and effects pedals. This has always been the case with the Carl Palmer band and, as a result, turning up at a gig in a new country is always something of a lottery – the quality and condition of amplifiers and, in some cases, drums is certainly not a forgone conclusion. Thankfully, this particular hire company had delivered the goods for us – I was provided with a Marshall head and cabinet (standard issue at most gigs), Stuart had an SVT bass amp and Carl had got his Italian ‘Tambora’ kit shipped over for the gig.
Once we’d sound checked our individual instruments we ran a few tunes; ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ in particular (which we played twice, to ensure that every section of the epic had returned to our memories) and then retired to the dressing room where we were served a hot meal.
It had been a hot day in Germany and Carl commented on the temperature of the dressing room. I went out to do a final check of my amp and pedals (once you’ve experienced the embarrassment of walking onstage with intro music blaring, hitting the opening chord to the first song and, to your horror, nothing happening, you make a habit of double checking EVERYTHING just before show time!) on returning to the dressing room I remarked on how cool it was in comparison to the stage. This fact was to become far too apparent during the first song – sweat was pouring off all three of us; not pleasant! The heat made playing very difficult – my wet fingers were continually slipping of the strings, but despite this and considering the fact that we hadn’t played together for 6 and a half months, the gig went well; there were mistakes, we were far from tight but we made it through 1 and 3 quarter hours of unforgiving instrumental prog. I celebrated with a ‘Weiss Beir’; a favourite of mine when in Germany, before heading back to the hotel.