You had to be there

Some time back I turned fifty and decided to go back on the road. I’d been doing some gigs and small concerts with one legendary performer, playing piano and guitar in what you could call a ‘duo’, despite the fact he was infinitely more well known that me, and he did all the singing, signing and starring.

I asked if I could take up one of the keyboard chairs as and when another tour happened. To my surprise I received the call and was invited to be part of the band.

I had toured with this band before. I was asked if I’d like to M.D. the band going to South Africa. “Why Me?” I asked tentatively. “Well, we can’t ask the regular M.D. as there’s an embargo in South Africa imposed by the Musician’s Union, and we can’t risk losing him. But you……”

I got it. I was dispensable. I decided to play the long game and asked if I could think about it. Two minutes later I accepted.

Frome then, for a further eight years, I was touring and experiencing that heady existence of no responsibility other than turning up on time for gigs and playing most of the right notes.

So, when it came to being invited back, I was wondering if it would be as much fun as in the earlier days. I think I should have taken heed of the warning signs as we started rehearing. The main topic of conversation was the affordability of school fees and whether anyone would get invited back for the next tour. And we hadn’t even started this one yet! A slightly worrying start to a seven-month jaunt around the world.

I was given some good advice by a friend who suggested I write about the tour by doing a diary. I thought this was a great idea and started taking photos and videos to accompany each day’s events.

Going back to the original tours of the 80’s, we would all have SLR cameras and thought nothing of taking pictures in any and all circumstances. One memorable event in Auckland, New Zealand, we were playing an open-air afternoon show at Eden Park, the large sports stadium and we all to a man took our cameras on stage and snapped away, during songs, between songs, during the chats even getting the audience to pose for us while we did. It was a joyous occasion where it was great to capture the moment simply because we could.

I went into this new tour with similar expectations and to rekindle the camaraderie and being part of a great band that only comes through touring and repeating the same songs night after night.

I did manage to be discrete and capture some great moments. Over a five-week rehearsal period and six-week stint of the UK I took my small pocket camera on stage and snapped away when I could with no one really noticing, and from my position on Keyboards I managed to get some actions shots through the concerts that were unique and very collectable.

It was when we came to the European stretch and we were scheduled to do a further six weeks in Scandinavia and Germany.  I think I put this down to the cold, boredom, length of being on the road and virtually no daylight, but the general uninterest of my taking pictures which I thought had been ignored turned very quickly into resentment and anger. I was completely surprised at the reaction to something so innocent especially as we’d all been involved in doing this before. It was on such a night in Hamburg where I received a ‘Yellow Card’ for taking pictures, becoming the band member probably having far too much fun and trying to make something worth remembering. It wasn’t very pleasant to feel that what I was doing was in some way unethical or wrong.

Imagine nowadays with iPhones and other smaller appliances trying not to capture the moment.  It’s almost unthinkable that you wouldn’t, especially with gigs being so rare, you’d want to remember every second as and when it happened.

I still have these pictures as well as the Diary. One day they will definitely emerge. They look as good now as they did then and it was worth it; risking my place in that band, my reputation and the irrational anger that it caused.

How things have definitely changed but, I suppose, you had to be there.