Episode 34. Regrets, I've had a few...
Every so often I have the same conversation I have had with a dozen other people in Japan and it goes something like this:
Person: It must have been great growing up in the early 1980’s in the UK…
Glenn: It was.
Person: All those NWOBHM gigs.
Glenn: It was.
Person: You must have seen most of those bands…
Glenn: I did!
Person: That first Monsters of Rock must have been awesome…
Glenn: Yes, I suppose so.
There then follows a pause in the conversation when the person isn’t quite sure what I have said but then it usually continues along the lines of:
Person: What do you mean?
Glenn: I didn’t go.
The look I receive from said person then varies from confused to incomprehensible or from astonished to aghast after which I then feel it my duty to go on and explain why I did not, in 1980, attend the now legendary first Heavy Rock festival in the UK.
Glenn: I didn’t have enough money.
This answer never seems to be a satisfactory explanation of why I didn’t go to said person but it does let the conversation move on and tales of other gigs very quickly overtake said person’s disbelief. What I never elaborate on is why I didn’t have enough money and the answer is just as simple: Reading Rock. I had already decided to go to the three-day festival when the Monsters of Rock gig was announced and as much as I would have loved to have gone to the latter as many of my friends were going, I made the decision not to go so I would have a bit of extra cash for Reading. I should say that the main contributing factor was the line-up which although excellent, didn’t appeal to me as much as within the last twelve months I had already seen Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Saxon and of the other three, I had heard very little of their music. Throw that up against the Reading line-up and at the time, it was an easy decision.
Line-ups for the 1980 Monsters of Rock and Reading Rock festivals. Which would you choose?
Do I regret not going? Only because of the status that gig now holds and I do regret missing Saxon on that day as they were inspired to write ‘And The Bands Played On’ because of it but even then, given the opportunity to go back in time and change my mind, I wouldn’t. Of all the festivals I’ve been to, Reading Rock of that year is still the one I look back on with most fondness.
I’ve missed lots of other gigs as well. I never saw the Deep Purple Mk II line-up even when they reformed in 1984. I was too young to see the first era (1969-73) and always seemed to be doing something else through those reformation years of 1984-1989. Having written that, the latter fact I can justify easily as they only did six shows in the UK in those five years, two of which I was in France and another two I was doing gigs with other bands. I never saw Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio either. I was fifteen when they first played Leicester in 1976 and was into Prog Rock, only just getting into Heavy Rock and then when they played in my hometown just over a year later, again it was a money issue. I was still at school and had a choice between a ticket for Rainbow or Status Quo. Quo won and I’m glad they did. I don’t regret missing Purple Mk II or Rainbow with Ronnie but I know I would regret having never seen the classic Rossi/Parfitt/Lancaster/Coghlan Quo in full flight. Two hours of no-nonsense heads-down boogie with flailing hair and denim as far as you could see – terrific stuff.
Of course. I do actually have some regrets. I never saw the Sex Pistols in their days of mayhem and chaos although to be fair to myself, living in Leicester, the opportunity didn’t arise easily. There was a rumour going around one week that they were due to play the Leicester University on that Friday and a few of us went along but we just found locked doors and a note on there saying ‘Gig cancelled’. To this day I have no idea if it actually was the Pistols who were cancelled or someone else. I never saw David Bowie apart from ten minutes when he was with Tin Machine. I was between tours at the time and did a bit of trucking for Showtrans and had to go to the Kilburn to pick some gear. I arrived just as the band were finishing their set and saw the last two songs. I did watch him from the side of the stage though just 10’ away. Not seeing Uriah Heep with David Byron on vocals nor ELP at any stage in their career are two massive regrets as well but undoubtedly my biggest would be when in February 1977 I had to make the choice between two gigs. Once again, it was financial as I was still at school and I chose the latter on the 15th, Rory Gallagher. He played a blinder, incredible guitarist and I’d never seen someone blow up a storm on stage before. So why the regret? Well, I saw him twice more in in the next couple of years but I never got to see the band who played on Feb 14th, Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was about six months later when I went to school and my mate asked me if I had the news that several of their members had been killed in a plane crash. That hurt a lot as my favourite album through the summer of ’77 was One More From The Road and I was hoping they would be back in Leicester soon. Just one of those decisions you make in life though when you can’t predict the future.
Melody Maker advert for Lynyrd Skynyrd 1977 UK tour
Regrets have happened since I have been in the music business as well. Being in the business has given me many chances to travel, meet my heroes, have fun and collect some wonderful stuff but there have also been some times when an opportunity comes along and for one reason or another – sometimes my fault; sometimes someone else’s – I have been unable to take advantage of the situation and it remains a painful memory. As a small example, in May 2012, Kiyo, the editor of Beatleg asked me if I could interview Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn. Unfortunately, I was not available and as much as I tried to think of a way to do cancel my previous engagement, I couldn’t and had to decline Kiyo’s offer. Sadly, it was Donald’s last ever interview as he passed away 24 hours later and it is something that pains me to this day that I couldn’t be there. Even now, I find it hard to watch videos with him in as it brings back the memory of my missed opportunity. Time though, is a good healer and some of the other chances that have passed me by are a lot less painful, like the time I turned down the offer to work for one of the greats.
For once my diaries fail me and I’m even having a hard time pinning down the year but it must have been around early 1983. I was at The Venue in London and again I can’t remember who it was I was there to see but the place was quite empty and I was at the bar on my own when this bloke I didn’t know started talking to me. Very friendly chap and it transpired he was a guitarist and looking for a guitar tech. He said he was off to New York in a couple of days to start on a new project and if I wanted a gig with him, to give him a call. That sounded quite appealing as I hadn’t been to the USA at that time so I took his number and said I’d think about. As it transpires, I called and said thanks but I’d be staying in the UK for a while, he wished me luck and told me to call again if I changed my mind. Later that year, I saw him, Carlos Alomar, on the TV, with Earl Slick backing David Bowie on the Serious Moonlight Tour. Not one of my good decisions.
Then there was the time I was invited to Jimmy Page’s house and had to turn him down. This would have been around the same time as I met Carlos. I was working and living with, Rock Goddess and one Saturday night, we are playing at the Marquee and to our great surprise and delight, Jimmy Page came to the gig. We didn’t know he was coming and after the show, invited him to come along again, any time he wished, Jimmy said he would. A month or so later, Goddess are due to play at the Marquee again and I received a phone call in Goddess’s office from Jimmy who asked to be put on the guest list. ‘No problem’ I said and informed the girls who were all very excited about it. This was to be a very special night as it was the launch of their new single and a party afterwards was planned at the St Moritz club, just over the road from the Marquee.
Saturday came around, we did the soundcheck, I checked the guest list to make sure Jimmy was on there and made the final preparations for the gig. The show was sold out well in advance and the venue filled up quickly as soon as the doors opened. For the next hour or so I wandered from guitarist to drummer and singer to journalist, making sure that they were all going to come to the party after the show. Girlschool turned up, so did Neil Murray, various members of Terraplane (now Thunder), Lemmy and many of the top music journalists of that time but there was still no sign of Jimmy. After making sure everyone had a drink, I prepared the stage, tuned the guitars, cued the houselights and then it was show time and just as the intro was playing, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jimmy come in – big grin from Glenn.
The band played well, no technical problems and the audience were terrific and after packing away the equipment, I headed straight to the bar to make sure Jimmy was coming to the St Moritz. Upon my arrival, I see him talking to Girlschool and I wandered over, interrupted the conversation and invited them all to the St Moritz. Jimmy was the first to speak and he declined saying that although he enjoyed the show, he wasn’t really into big parties at the moment (this was a time he didn’t go out very often) but would I like to come back to his place with Girlschool and have a few beers there. As he said that, my heart sank. I knew I would have to decline as Goddess were relying on me to go to their party and if I didn’t it would be seen as a sign of non-loyalty, so it was with a very heavy heart that I said I couldn’t and thanked him for his offer.
Rock Goddess’s party was good. Very good actually but I couldn’t really enjoy it knowing that I had turned down the chance to go to Jimmy’s house. The next day I had a very bad hangover which was made worse by Denise from Girlschool phoning me and telling me what a great time they had at Jimmy’s house the night before. They played pinball games, drank and watched videos all night, all in his amazing place in Holland Park. She kept punctuating her ravings with ‘Why didn’t you come?’ and then continuing without waiting for an answer. Denise ended the conversation with ‘you must come next time.’ Alas…
Jimmy Page’s house, the one I never went to.