Episode 3. The Sea Hags UK Tour 1989
When a new band comes along and becomes hugely successful, there naturally follows a slew of bands, all wanting to ride the crest of the wave to become rich and famous as well. It’s a good healthy thing for the music business and it does lead to some musicians at least being able to make a living at what they do but it also has a habit of leaving more casualties than successes. Back in the late 1980’s, that new band was Guns ‘n’ Roses, their debut album Appetite For Destruction going to No. 1 in the Billboard chart and then the record labels’ A&R men started their race to sign similar bands. One such band that was signed by Chrysalis Records was The Sea Hags from San Francisco who had the look, the music, the promotion and the ability but unfortunately, also had a ‘Self-destruct’ button.
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Chrysalis Records publicity photo, March 1989.
I got this gig by chance. I had just dropped Vow Wow at Heathrow Airport for their flights back to Japan and was returning the minibus to the rental company, Band Width. This was formed and owned by Steve Hill who started out as a Motorhead roadie and then did some of the biggest tours of the eighties including ABBA and the Simon & Garfunkel reunion shows; Steve also happened to be an old friend as we grew up just a few streets from each other in Leicester. Asking me what I had planned next, I replied nothing and Steve suggested I do the Sea Hags tour. Four guys, first tour of the UK, good money, small backline…easy! The following are a few excerpts taken from my diaries.
Day 1 June 21st
Pick Up Band from Airport
3am start. I have to pick up the band’s Public Relations lady, Arlett Vereecke, before going to meet the band at the airport at 7am and it is a long drive from my house to where she is staying. Before working with the Sea Hags, Arlett was working with Guns & Roses and she tells me lots of funny stories about Slash on the way to the airport including the time she attacked him with a frying pan and another when she came home to find seventeen snakes in her living room. I like Arlett and am glad she is going to be with us for the whole tour. I like all the guys in the band as well as soon as I meet them. Very much like GnR, Ron Yocom (v,g), Frank Wilsey (g), Chris Schlosshardt (b) and Adam Maples (d) walked off the plane through customs swigging a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Day 2 June 22nd
I do like the guys in the band but their Tour Manager, Robbie, is arrogant and wants to treat me like a chauffeur. He’s an ex-Vietnam veteran and acts like the war is still going on. After a day of driving all over London picking up equipment and finalizing things for the tour, he called me at 10:30pm and asked me to pick him up as he couldn’t find a taxi. I told him I’d been drinking and was unable to drive. He also wants me to hire a different bus and a separate driver for the band and when I pointed out that there was no money available for an extra bus on the tour, he said he had cancelled all my hotels to pay for it. That now means I’ll be driving an average of 650km everyday as well as set up, do the show and load-out. This is going to be tougher than I thought.
AAA tour laminate.
Day 3 June 23rd
First gig was good. Unfortunately, the new bus had not arrived and I had to drive everyone back to their accommodation in London. Halfway back, Arlett suggested we all go to Mick Wall’s (Kerrang! journalist) birthday party. Good party, members of Thin Lizzy amongst others but we didn’t leave until 3:30am. Bed about 6:00am.
Day 8 June 28th
Arrived back from Leeds last night just before 6am and got three hours sleep before setting off to pick up some spare guitars for the show tonight. I also picked up my friend Mark who has graciously offered to help out and I was very glad he did as the show was nuts! Ron dived into the audience on several occasions and twice I had to dive in after him and retrieve his guitar, pass it to Mark onstage who then quickly changed it for the spare while I tried to push Ron back onto the stage. At the end of the show, Chris smashed his bass (a beautiful Gibson Thunderbird) into his bass stack and knocked it over, breaking his bass at the same time. Repairs tomorrow.
Day 9 June 29th
First stop today was a hire company where I changed over the bass stack and hired another guitar and bass. Then the 220km drive to the gig to find that there were three flights of stairs to carry everything up. A few of the local fans gave me a hand and I bought them a couple of beers once we had set everything up. A bit of spare time so I set about repairing Ron’s guitar. I had to reset the neck and make a few small adjustments but it’s playable. Chris’s bass is smashed though and I don’t have the tools or time to repair it. When Chris arrived and saw it, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Thanks for trying.’
Day 10 June 30th
I arrived at the venue address in my itinerary only to find out that it was a lady’s house who had no idea who I was, who the Sea Hags were or why her address should be in my itinerary. After several phone calls, it turns out that the promoter is the notorious Declan Quinn. Declan is famous in the Reading area for promoting concerts and then not paying the band or not providing the rider. I let Robbie know this and he says ‘Leave it to me.’ I set the equipment up and noticed there was something missing…no P.A.! Robbie found Declan and threatened him with physical violence if a P.A. was not provided and one finally turned up at 6:30pm. This delayed the show so I spent a bit of time on the tour bus with the band. Chris and Frankie decided it would be good for me to get drunk tonight and then said they wouldn’t go on unless I was. We flipped the top off another bottle of JD and downed it in an hour. This was one of the best shows on the tour despite (or maybe because of) everyone being blind drunk.
Page from my itinerary for the Reading show. Google the venue address.
Day 11 July 1st
After last night, I thought the band would ease up on the drinking but tonight they were worse. Pre- show, in the dressing room, they all seemed fine but halfway through the gig it was apparent that they were very drunk indeed. Three songs from the end, Frankie fell backwards into all the spare guitars on the side of the stage, breaking two of them and almost knocking himself unconscious. I picked him up but there was no way he could play. He took his guitar off, handed it to me and said ‘You finish the set…’. There was only one song to go – a Rolling Stones cover – so I would have done except I was a bit more worried about Adam vomiting behind his drum kit. After the gig, I met my friend Paula who lived locally and offered me a hot bath and a warm bed for the night. I graciously accepted.
Day 13 July 3rd
For the last four shows we are supporting the Georgia Satellites. The Sea Hags set has been cut down to 40 minutes and there will be a lot of stage crew at every to help me set up and pack up; we even have a hotel tonight! Arlett has told the band to be on their best behaviour as there is a lot more press coming to these shows but the band carry on drinking regardless. Post- show, Frankie and I sat in the hotel bar talking about the band and the future. He tells me he suspects that Ron and Chris are taking heroin.
Frankie and Ron onstage. Always drunk, always gave a great show.
Days 15 & 16 July 5/6th
Two shows at the Town & Country Club. Frankie told me this morning that unless Ron and Chris clean up he will be leaving the band when they get back to California. This is really sad news for me as I’ve come to love them over the last two weeks and feel could be big. Last night’s show and tonight’s were really outstanding.. The Satellites were watching from the side of the stage and even pushed them back out for an encore. JD flowed freely in the dressing room after the show and Robbie even came up and shook my hand saying that even though we didn’t get along very well, he appreciated having me there. I thanked him and said I’d work with him again if he was ever in the UK. I said my goodbyes and headed home about midnight. They are flying out tomorrow morning and I have to drop off all the equipment so I will not be seeing them again.
The band split in February 1990; poor management and drugs were blamed.
Adam Maples joined Guns N' Roses for a short period in 1990 before Matt Sorum took over the drumstool.
Chris Schlosshardt died of a heroin overdose on February 1, 1991.