Episode 30. Nightmare in Europe Pt 2
Girlschool European Tour 1986
Band - Kim, Denise, Gil, Cris
Roadies – Steve Pritchard (d) Me (g)
Tour Manager/Driver – Bob Collins
Nazareth – Dan McCafferty, Manny Charlton, Pete Agnew, Darrell Sweet
Excerpts from my diary Pt 2 – Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Hungary
(2022 annotations in italics)
24th November - Travel Day
We had a blow out on the trailer while I was asleep. No damage done and Steve’s uncertainty on that first day was mentioned a few times but nothing else to do except change the tyre and carry on regardless. At the border between Denmark and Germany we were all ordered off the bus and they sent on the sniffer dogs to see if they could find any drugs. One of the dogs took an interest in Kim’s bag but a thorough search unsurprisingly turned up nothing and we were allowed to proceed. I must say, the German border force in our rear-view mirror did look very disappointed. We made an unscheduled stop at Hamburg airport where Kim caught a plane back to England to have her tooth fixed and then continued on to Dusseldorf; Kim will fly directly there tomorrow. Bob has been great letting us each drive the bus for a while (which of course he shouldn’t have done legally but it was very exciting for me as I had only passed my driving test two months ago) and it was while Steve was driving that the wheels on the trailer finally went. He pulled over, grabbed the fire extinguisher and doused the flames all very calmly. The coppers were called, Bob sorted everything and we loaded the gear into the spare bunks on the bus for the remainder of the tour. As the trailer was dumped forever, Steve had a big grin on his face.
The end of the road for the trailer. We never did find the wheel.
25th November – Dusseldorf, Germany
Kim arrived back in a taxi from the airport, very happy with her tooth secured. For the next part of the tour, we will be supporting Nazareth, a fact I had only discovered two days ago and am still buzzing from. Damn I love Nazareth! Well, I did love Nazareth until I discovered that their entire backline runs on 110V and not 240V, a little fact that everyone seemed to have forgotten to tell me. The amps were ok as they have a voltage selector switch on but Cris’ effects and my toolkit set-up was a problem as they all run on 240V. Cris gallantly dropped the overdrive pedal for the night which meant I had to lean over the amp and turn the master volume up a notch for the solos but we got through it and tomorrow we have a day off so I can source an alternate power supply. Back at the hotel, Nazareth treated us to some good old Scottish hospitality.
26th November –Travel Day
Bob got word that the replacement windscreen had arrived at Dusseldorf airport which just happened to be on the way to ESP guitars where we were due to pick up some freebies so Plan A, we board the bus, Bob picks up and fixes the windscreen at the airport, we go to ESP, smile a lot and then drive to Gerolzhofen in time to get drunk and have fun on our day off. Plan A very quickly went out of the window as did all of us because Gil, Steve and Denise got shitfaced last night and Gil drew huge caricatures of us all on the hotel wall using a marker pen (similar caricatures can be seen on the back of the Nightmare At Maple Cross album). I must say, they were impressive and along with the drawings, Cris was very impressed with Gil’s abstract art entitled ‘After the Fire’ (three burnt matches stuck to the wall with gaffer tape). All this though meant we had to do a runner from the hotel which we did, as I mentioned above, by climbing out the hotel windows. We did get the windscreen replaced, we did get to ESP and get some new guitars, I did get my power supply (ESP very kindly gave me one) but we were too late for a fun night out leaving Dusseldorf at 6pm so as of now, 7:45pm, we are watching Excalibur and have an ETA in Gerolzhofen of 9pm.
27th November – Gerolzhofen, Germany
Since before we started this tour, everyone has been on a mission for me to get a haircut. Not because of the length but the style and today I finally relented and let Gil cut my hair, everyone agreed it looked better. Fun gig tonight, Nazareth were terrific, our turn for the hospitality.
28th November – Obenberg, Germany
I was the first one down to breakfast this morning, Cris next and the others wandered in over the next half an hour. We sat around talking for quite a while and then Kim noticed it was almost 10am and there was no sign of Bob. Cris and I walked down to the venue which was only a few minutes from the hotel and found Bob asleep in the bus. Not sure what happened but he was somewhat elusive about his whereabouts last night. Three hours to Obenburg, an astonishingly lovely town of just 9,000 people but the gig was sold out and we had an extra band on called Lick who were…well, pretty naff to be honest. Back at the hotel Dan McCafferty mixed a drink that Manny, Pete and Darrell warned us not to try. Yeah right.
29th November – Kunzelsau, Germany
I was still drunk at breakfast, nauseous all day. The load-in was up a flight of stairs which made me wince when I saw them but there was a great stage crew who did all the hard work. So good were they that we had all or gear packed up and back on the bus before Nazareth came on stage. Better have a drink then.
Manny and Dan from Nazareth. Mean and moody during the show, they were very different back at the hotel bar.
30th November – Dornbirn, Austria
The Dornbirn Stadhalle has a capacity of 3,500 and it was sold out. I built an A.B. box and tried it with Cris’ guitars tonight and it worked well at the soundcheck which was fortunate as we had to swap guitars four times during the gig due to strings breaking. Tonight we all have a long drive ahead of us and must leave around 10pm so it was beers and cheers in the dressing room rather than a hotel bar with Nazareth post-show but at least I know I won’t have a hangover in the morning.
1st December – Ljubljana, Yugoslavia
We crossed the border into the Iron Curtain somewhere around 3am. Bob had chosen one of the smaller border crossings as he knew the guards would be more inconvenienced at being woken up by our arrival rather than be on full alert for anything. We had to get off the bus and there were a few minutes of exchanged smiles and nods whilst Bob explained we were a touring Rock band and that yes, we had some records and T-shirts and would they like some. Entering the city was a trip back in time to the 1950s with beautiful buildings and no neon or glaring advertising anywhere. It was clean, orderly and people were happy. Arriving at the gig we find an ice hockey stadium with ‘Sold out’ written across the Girlschool poster. Five thousand people were there tonight and the girls played the best show of the tour so far and our hotel – The Grand Union - was exquisite. This is nothing like I imagined the Iron Curtain to be.
2nd December – Zargreb, Yugoslavia
It’s less than two hours to Zargreb so with the morning off, I wander out on my own to see a bit of the city. First stop was a Turkish coffee shop on the same street as the hotel where I had a cup of sludge that they assured me was coffee. The old joke of it ‘being ground an hour ago’ sprang to mind. I then walked towards the river and crossed the Dragon Bridge - one legend has it that Ljubijana was founded by Jason of The Argonauts fame when he slayed a dragon there - and from there around some of the backstreets. Small shops displaying not much in the windows were busy with bustling housewives and further down one of the streets, I noticed a crowd had gathered outside one of shops. From behind the two dozen or so jostling to see inside, I saw a television. It was on and seemed to be a news broadcast but I couldn’t make out what the fuss was about so started back to the hotel. At reception I asked if there was any major event happening but they looked at me blankly and said there wasn’t so I explained the commotion outside the shop and the concierge suddenly understood and that they were looking at one of the first colour televisions in Yugoslavia. Later on at the gig in Zagreb, I was changing guitar strings and one of the stage crew was helping me by taking the old ones and coiling them up carefully and putting them back in the new packets. We talked about the TV shop this morning and he told me that Yugoslavia had been broadcasting in colour from 1979 but TVs were still scarce and expensive. I mentioned to him he didn’t need to coil the old ones up and put them back and he seemed a bit embarrassed. Then, rather sheepishly, he asked if he could have them and I said of course thinking he wanted them as a souvenir but he then said, he wanted them for his own guitar. He had one but couldn’t afford the strings…too expensive in Yugoslavia. I told him to keep the old ones and after the show gave him a few new sets to say thanks for his help. I swear there were tears in his eyes and I came to realise what the Iron Curtain was.
3rd December – Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Bloody hell! Eight thousand at this, the last of the shows with Nazareth. What a terrific night with blinding sets and no problems. The promoter had been very generous with 96 beers in the dressing room as opposed to our requested 24 so half of those were loaded onto the bus along with the gear by Steve and I; we finished loading in time to watch Nazareth finish their first number. From then on, it was just a night to remember. I handed Dan his voice box for Hair Of The Dog whilst sporting a hat with Scotland written on it and everyone was onstage for a storming version of Cocaine. Dressing room shenanigans continued back at the hotel where I commandeered a bottle of Russian vodka from the hotel bar (Bob paid for it the next day and took it out my PDs) and the last thing I remember is staggering back to my hotel room at gone 4am to find Steve and Darrell taking turns throwing up in the toilet.
4th December – Budapest, Hungary
I can recall being woken at 7:30am as we had to leave at 8am and some scrambled eggs but nothing else until we arrived in Budapest. Girlschool are back headling and pulled 2,500. There was not much drinking tonight as we were all feeling a bit spongy. Instead, I had a couple of bus-beers and admired the lovely view out of my hotel window of the Danube and William Tierney Clark’s engineering marvel, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
5th December – Vienna, Austria
Bob was checking us all out the hotel and for some reason the manager would not explain, the hotel would not give us our passports back. Bob didn’t like that and promptly walked into the breakfast area, piled up as much of the buffet as he could on one plate and hurled it to the floor. The crash turned every head in the room as well as ours and most of the people in reception and the passports suddenly appeared. At the Hungarian-Austrian border, we were stopped as we had been reported for ‘causing a disturbance’ at the hotel but we handed over some more albums and arrived in Vienna with plenty of time to spare. At the hotel, Gil learnt that her beloved dog, Heniky, had to be put down today because he had cancer. Poor girl, we did our best to be there for her but she’s inconsolable. It was difficult for her to get through the gig.
5th December – Day Off
My God...an actual day off! No travel, no gig, didn’t have to pack my suitcase: heaven! Breakfast and then a stroll on my own around Vienna. I bought a pair of mini-speakers for my Walkman (the mini-speakers were rubbish but popular for a while back then and my Walkman by the way was an original Sony TPS-L2) and had a schnitzel at the famous Figlmüller Wollzeile restaurant after which I return to the Hotel Fuchs and drifted off to sleep in my soft and warm, fluffy comfortable bed listening to Rick Wakeman’s Country Airs. Bob knocked on my door just after I had woken up and showered and he has also been shopping. He has bought a Korg 800 II keyboard and can’t figure it out so we spend a couple of hours playing with it. Not much later, it is announced by Kim, and Denise that we are all going for a curry. I’m not much of a curry fan so decline to a few moans and groans but they head off with Bob and presumably everybody else. Early evening and I’m settling in for the night when there is a knock on my door and it’s Cris…’Fancy a pizza?’ Well I wasn’t going to turn that down and there was a place called Pizzaland just around the corner (not the Pizzaland UK chain of the 1980 but an Austrian restaurant) so off we went. Over dinner we laughed, talked and aired grievances. We both needed it.
Cris takes her turn at driving the bus.
6th December – Graz, Austria
Wherever everyone went last night must have been good as Steve rolled into the hotel room at 4:45am pissed as a fart. We leave at 2pm but before we do, Bob tells us he has had a telex from Doug Smith (Girlschool’s manger) asking why he has received a redecorating room bill from the hotel in Dusseldorf. Bob has already talked to Doug, apologised on our behalf and assured Doug it won’t happen again. We all thank Bob profusely. As is a couple of hours to Graz, Denise and I watch Fright Night on the journey – again. Well, it was that or Steve Martin again, all of his films of which we have seen a dozen times already and some of the lines from his films have become the tour quotes. ‘Shit, shinola’ and several drunken versions of ‘Tonight you belong to me’ have surfaced and Denise’s particular favourite ‘You are rude, crude, and thoroughly unattractive’ has been used on countless occasions, either to Steve, me, the other girls, Bob or anyone who just happens by (all in jest ). Fun and games at the gig when Cris leaned over a little bit too far to shake hands and got pulled into the crowd. I stage-dived in to get her and managed to push her to the front where Steve was waiting to haul her up but they guy behind me didn’t think it was a good idea and started to strangle me. Steve got Cris and I had to back-kick my strangler in the shin and half-turn to chin him to get free. Steve then gave me a hand up. The dressing room wasn’t good. Tensions were high, things were said in anger from everyone to everyone. These things happen on long tours.
7th December – Innsbruck, Austria
The air is clear. Not only within the Girlschool camp but in Innsbruck, home of the 1976 Winer Olympics. It was laughing and joking and teasing as usual at breakfast as if the previous night had never happened and we are in one of the European towns I have always wanted to visit. We arrived just after midday, checked-in, did the gig and have a Chinese dinner of shark’s fin soup and sweet and sour pork washed down with a splendid local beer called Stiegl.
8th December – Day off
Our Austrian promoter wanted to take us all skiing today and although none of us were keen other than Bob, we all decided Bob deserved it after sorting out our escape from Stalag Dusseldorf so we set off for a mountain. The Stubaier Gletscher as it called is a ski slope 3,200 metres above sea level and we gladly rode the ski lift to the top. Bob went off and skied and we messed around in the snow for a while and then retired to the restaurant to drink Glühwein – lots of it. We took the ski lift down at the end, met Bob at the bottom and went back to the bus. A grand day out.
Kim and me not skiing. Steve, Denise and Gil also not skiing.
8th December – Later…
The Marathon Man was our choice of film for the late-night journey to Italy but as we sat idling, warming the bus up, several of the locals started shouting out of their windows at us. We guessed it was the fumes that they were getting upset about and prepared to leave but one very irate local decided that wasn’t enough and started banging on the bus door. Bob opened it and the local started berating Bob who promptly let the gentleman know in no uncertain terms exactly what he felt, closed the door and put the bus into gear. That’s when things turned a bit nasty with vegetables and other things being thrown at us and a woman in a hotdog stand ten yards away seemingly complaining we had parked in her spot. None of this made any sense of course so we just thought it was best to go. As we did, more and more stuff hit the bus and a man with a dog blocked our way. Steve got off and offered to fight the man and his dog and the hotdog vendor; the man backed down, moved and we inched forward. Several people were out in the street now with intent to stop us leaving as Steve got back on and Bob told me to get some eggs out the fridge. Steve and I lobbed them through the windows towards our enemies as we bid Innsbruck goodbye. All a bit odd and surreal; first they wanted us to go, then they tried to stop us going. Maybe it was a Tuesday night tradition in Innsbruck of some sort.