Episode 15. Three good moments.
Nowadays everyone has a camera to hand to capture that special moment meeting a hero or witnessing a one-off event but of course that was not always the case and hence, for these three moments in my life, I am sad to say, there are no photos. Without further ado then…
A Solitary Man
In 1992, Neil Diamond did an unprecedented seven nights at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne, Australia, which is where I happened to be living at the time. Due to work commitments, I wasn’t able to guarantee that I could go on any one particular night and so didn’t book a ticket but as the dates approached, I was somewhat disappointed to see ‘Sold Out’ banners going up over the posters everywhere; it looked like my chance to see Neil had gone. Undeterred though and finding myself with an early finish one day, I decided to drive down to the venue and hang around outside to see if any spare tickets were available. It was around 5pm when I arrived and decided to check the box office for any returns but alas, there were none and so thanking the box office lady, turned to leave but just as I did, a door behind her opened and a voice said ‘Sell these tonight’. I turned my head to see a hand poking through the door with tickets…the box office lady looked up at me, smiled and said ‘Looks like you’re in luck’. Returning to the window, I shelled out for the ticket without even asking where the seat was, I just wanted to be in that venue at any cost. ‘Door number 5’ she said issuing the instruction of where to enter the arena after which she buried her head in other work and I skipped out of the box office clutching my ticket and a handful of coins, my change from a fifty dollar note.
After killing a couple of hours in town I returned to the venue, by now a hub of activity as fans eagerly walked up the steps, chatting away in the unusually warm autumn evening. I made my way to door 5 where the counterfoil was torn off and I was let in. It was only then, that I looked at my ticket to find my seat and I realized there wasn’t a number on it so a bit confused, I asked one of the staff where I should go. After a cursory glance, the lady said ‘Oh follow me’ and led me through the doors into the arena itself, down the stairs of the second tier, through security of the first tier, across the main floor (and by now I’m wondering where the hell I was being taken to but I was getting closer to the stage so that was good), through security at stage left and then rather incredulously, up on to the stage where there were 12 seats facing across the stage hidden behind the P.A. stack. The lady then told me my seat was number 1, gestured for me to sit down and left. I sat there dumbstruck as the place filled up looking at my ticket and then across the stage over and over again, still not really comprehending where I was and strongly suspecting that someone was going to come and drag me away at some point but no, the lights eventually went down and Mr. Diamond hit the stage. I sat there rigid as he electrified the Tennis Centre with the opener Mountains Of Love and then melted me for the second number with the opening few words of Hello Again. It was during the third number he spotted me and started to walk over in my direction. The other eleven seats were still empty and I sat there in rapture as he came closer and closer, eventually just a few feet away, looking into my eyes and sang ‘I’ll be what I am, a solitary man…’ . Just a few moments later, the lights seemingly bouncing off that dazzling smile, he turned back to the other ten thousand fans and wooed them and me for the rest of the night. Yeah, that was a good moment.
Neil Diamond, Melbourne 1992
God Only Knows
John Wetton was not only a musician, he was also a fan. This came to light one evening as I stood talking to him and broached the subject of The Beach Boys, the band we were going to be playing some festivals with across Europe in the next couple of weeks. I asked him if he felt that Asia playing before The Beach Boys was suitable billing and he shot me a look of surprise and then went on to say that not only were The Beach Boys in a far higher standing in Rock history than Asia but that he himself would never even contemplate playing above them on a bill. He then went on to talk about their harmonies, how his songwriting had been influenced by Brian Wilson’s arrangements and that without The Beach Boys, there certainly wouldn’t have been an Asia in the form that it was. He also recommended I read Heroes & Villains by Steve Gaines which had been out for a couple of years and was the best book in his mind about the band. ‘Have you ever met them?’ I asked. ‘No but really hoping I can’ he replied with a far-off look in his eye.
For a band that had sold ten million albums in the last few years, it was a small outing by the usual Asia standards. The band consisted of John, Carl Palmer, John Young on keyboards and Alan Darby on guitar; the crew, just myself taking care of John and Alan whilst Nick Sizer did Carl’s drums and we shared the keyboard duties between us as John’s rig was just a couple of keyboards which more often than not, John was more than happy to set up on his own. (I gave up asking him if he wanted anything after the second gig as he always replied with a smile and said ‘No, I ok thanks’.) The tour and rehearsals itself is a whole other article but this one particular moment stands out in my memory. After the last day of rehearsals at Eazyhire in North London, Nick and I packed up the equipment, shoved it in the truck and got ready to set off for the first gig in Switzerland but before we did, I wanted to stop at John Henry’s rehearsal rooms around the corner to pick up some gaffa tape and batteries. ‘Won’t be a moment’ I said to Nick as I jumped out the truck outside John Henry’s and went inside. Up the stairs to the little shop run by Bazz Ward, I picked up my order and turned to head back down the stairs but then noticed a guy in the canteen with his back to me and he was wearing a Beach Boys tour jacket. I went in, asked if he as with Beach Boys and he replied yes and that he was their tour manager and had just come in to pick up some stuff for the upcoming shows n Europe. ‘Me too’ I said introducing myself at which point he said ‘Hey come and meet Carl!’ Needing no encouragement, he took me over to a table and there sat Carl Wilson - the man who sang God Only Knows. A very brief chat later I was back in the van raving to Nick about I had just met Carl Wilson but Nick wasn’t very impressed. He had after all just finished tours with George Michael, Bob Dylan and had met George Harrison. Nevertheless, a good moment for me I thought to myself as we settled into the long drive to Bern.
Once the soundcheck was sorted on the first day, John, myself and a couple of others went to the catering tent and as we hung around talking about the usual festival stuff (dressing rooms, stage access, sound, etc) a bus pulled up and the first person to step off was The Beach Boys front man, Mike Love. I glanced at John as one of his heroes walked passed him and asked the catering staff for a coffee. There then came a few of their backing musicians before their tour manger and Carl got off and walked towards us. Their TM seemed tired and didn’t notice me but just as he passed Carl saw me and said ‘Oh hey Glenn! How you doing?’ and then called his TM back. ‘You remember Glenn right?’ The TM looked back ‘Oh sorry man…yeah of course, how are you?’ ‘Good thanks. Get some coffee and I’ll catch you later’ at which we shook hands and they moved on to greet others. John was still speechless minutes later when I made my excuses and left the catering tent, God only knows what was going through his mind. Meeting Carl Wilson was a very special moment for me but seeing John Wetton’s jaw hit the ground when Carl came up and said hello, that was priceless.
The Beach Boys publicity photo circa 1989
How High The Moon
All of us in the music business used to go to the trade shows in the 1980’s. Usually held at the Earl’s Court it was the UK equivalent of the NAMM show in the USA albeit on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, it was easy to lose yourself in it for a couple days as you wandered around checking out the latest gear, showing your face at the various stands of companies you had been working with, all the while bumping into musicians, roadies, journalists, managers and general music related folk. In 1985 and into 1986, I was working with several bands and I was often up at the Marshall factory in Milton Keynes getting amps serviced or buying new 4x12 cabinets. So often was I there actually that Jim Marshall gave me an endorsement for any of the bands I worked with and I was always welcome in his office if he was there for a cuppa and a natter while his No. 1 engineer, Chris, serviced or repaired the gear I had brought in. Naturally then, at the trade shows every year, Jim’s stand was always a ‘must visit’ and sure enough, whoever was on the stand, which was quite often Jim himself, everyone was greeted with a hearty smile and handshake.
This particular year, it was my second day to go to the trade show. Normally I tried to cram everything into one day but the previous had been so busy, I didn’t get a chance to stop by the Marshall stand. Spending another full day there didn’t really appeal to me so I arrived at opening time and had planned to be out of there by midday having been to Marshall’s and a couple of others I hadn’t covered the day before. I went straight to Marshall but Jim wasn’t due there until 11am so I sorted out my other stuff, had a coffee and then went back to the stand. Jim was now there and we had our usual cursory chat before talking shop but before I could say anything about business, Jim interrupted me and said ‘Glenn, can you come back at 2pm? I’ll have more time and there’s someone I’d like you to meet.’ Now I wasn’t keen on hanging around another three hours but I wasn’t about to deny him so I said yes, he scribbled the appointment in his book and I headed back to the refreshment for more coffee.
Needless to say, the time dragged but at the appointed time I was back at the stand. Jim was chatting to someone else and it was about ten minutes before that person left and Jim came over. ‘Hi Jim, who do you want me to meet?’ He said nothing but gestured to the far side of the stand and led me over there. I’ll be honest and say right here that I didn’t recognize him at first. Jim made the introduction ‘Les, this is Glenn I told you about; Glenn (he paused for effect)…Les Paul. I went numb. I looked at Jim who was grinning from ear to ear. He knew my love of Rock history from the chats we had had in his office over the last year and thought it would be a nice surprise for me. ‘Well you got that right!’ I blurted out which relieved my tension. Jim left us to it and we talked for just a few minutes as he had other things to do. To this day I don’t actually know why Les was there but it doesn’t matter, Jim Marshall introduced me to Les Paul and to this day, whenever I plug a Les Paul to a Marshall stack, I hear that introduction.
How high the moon is one of Les Paul’s more popular recordings and I don’t know how high the moon is but on that day, I jumped over it.
Jim and Les somewhere, some time....