Episode four: Our first Euro tour Part 1
1981... a monumental year for us... our first album “ Rock Until You Drop” had been finally release to critical and popular acclaim and we worked our butts off up and down the length & breadth of our glorious island but before long came our first steps out of the U.K....our first European dates!
The plan was deceptively simple... 3 dates in Italy followed by a string of dates in the Netherlands. Our first introduction to playing in a foreign country was dealing with a “carnet”. Basically a document that acts as a passport for your equipment, it meticulously lists all your gear down to serial numbers if you have them, in order to prove to the various border controls that what you are shunting around belongs to you and that you are not adding to it or selling anything during your trip. What a pain in the arse! Roadie John Lowdon with some assistance from myself did the donkey work of cataloging our touring equipment then wherever possible stenciling our logo and relevant case numbers with spray paint on everything but ourselves. The info was sent to the chamber of commerce and we received this bulky proclamation...around 30 pages of counterfoils...let me see if I can remember! A green master copy...yellow copies for customs going into a country...blue copies for transiting a country..all clipped together and guarded for dear life.
The journey was plotted out as follows: John Lowdon would drive the rented truck with Mark & I riding shotgun from Newcastle to Hull...overnight ferry to Zeebrugge in Belgium...drive to Italy...play the shows...drive to the Netherlands...play those shows then ferry back to Hull. Rob and Neat label boss Dave Wood took the more elegant option of flying to Milan...then to Amsterdam etc.
(click images to expand)
Clockwise from top left:
1. Balcony at Milan hotel
2. Rob with cymbal injury
3. Odessia 2001 club in Milan
4. Me cut off
5. Mark by the rental truck
6. Mark, Rob and fans
Between 1981 and 1983 we must have made 5 or 6 jaunts over to Europe via “North Sea Ferries” affectionately christened “ the bastards of the sea” .. we drove our truck onto the gargantuan tub around 4.30pm.. guided into the bowels of the ship and then ascended the stairs and located our cabin... the interior looking very much like a B- movie navy war flick.
Moving out of the relative calm of the Humber estuary into the increasingly turbulent North Sea instilled a slow but steady cumulative effect upon us... after eating a halfway decent meal we wandered the ship and came upon the video games. This lasted about 10 mins before I said to myself “ I’m going to have to PUKE” and somehow made it to the cabin before saying bye bye to my evening meal... in the cabin Mark & John had already experienced the same “ after dinner entertainment” and were recovering in their bunks.. just as grey and drained as I was. Lying on your bunk was the only way to avoid the dreaded sea sickness... you could feel the ship moving up...up...up... then precipitously down....down...down... in an endless dreadful loop... awesome!
The morning came... breakfast was had and we disembarked. Customs signed off on our carnet without much difficulty and off we went.. on the open road toward Paris. Due to heavy traffic we hit Paris right on time for rush hour - absolutely loony... and we have a right hand drive truck on left hand drive roads to add to the fun. We pressed on through the night into the south.. staying at a motel for the night.
The next day we entered Switzerland... knocked out by the beauty of the Alps and playing a small selection of cassette tapes over and over... to this day if I hear anything off Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album.. I’m transported into that truck cab once again.
We stopped off in Geneva and visited the Neat licensee.. a guy called Chris who took us out for a very nice meal. Considering Switzerland was beyond expensive it was greatly appreciated! We spent most the night at a bar when a burly gent started a conversation with my brother “ heyyyy..are you guys moosicians?? I’m a drummer!” Boy did he regret saying that! After asking the guy what kind of drums he played and what hardware, Mark slipped in “ our drummer Rob has almost the same setup... but he uses the double sprocket and the left hand flange.... don’t you?” Just totally fucking with the guy... who finally caught on and was not amused... at all....
Time to beat a hasty retreat with Bluto roaring at us!
Clockwise from top:
1. John Lowdon
2. Cut off pic of John & Rob at Italian tv studio
3. Mark at BBC tv recording
4.-6. Band and fans
In the morning we met Chris again and picked up some albums to sell and set off south through this amazing landscape. After a crossing the border into Italy we stayed at a chalet on Aosta for the night.. and by the following midday we had checked into “ the New York hotel” and set off for a bite to eat. So... there’s the 3 of us in our jeans and leather jackets walking down the street... noticing more tiny cars than we’d ever thought possible.
Jammed onto the sidewalk...three deep.. as the local degenerates whizzed by on their vesper scooters... we noticed a peculiar phenomenon. As people stood in their doorways and saw us... they jumped in and slammed the door behind them... all down the street! Turned out that the only people wearing leather bike jackets were the local cops!
We discovered things were different here.... very different. The concept of “siesta” was cast upon our hungry bellies rather harshly... almost everything was locked up tighter than a drum until about 6.00pm.. we found a convenience store and stacked up on cheese, butter, ham and bread... and I still laugh at John Lowdon using a clothes hanger as a butter knife!
Rob and Dave Wood arrived the next day.. after they were sorted in the hotel we were taken out to meet our Italian licensee... Base Records. We were taken out to lunch which took hours...,and hours....and hours! The world has become much smaller these days but back then.. they really made a “ meal” out of having a meal.. you’d arrive.. be seated... wait 20 min...,get the menu... 20 min....order....20 min...get drinks....30 min... then on it went... FIVE courses with 20-30 min in between.. all while the Base records rep.. a very dry Australian expatriate named Phil Leck regaled us with war stories and quips like “tagliatelle is the best paaaaaaasta in Italy” and “dontcha like donkey?” Mr Lowdon declared the local wine “ piss” in a fit of pique deferring to drink copious amounts of asti-Spumante instead.... the meals? Unbelievable... worth the wait!
November 18 1981....
The first gig was at a venue called the “ Odessia 2001” . We set up & soundchecked, the dressing room was as usual adjacent to the stage but was a curious concoction created with the use of a concertina room divider...like you would see used at school to effectively half the size of a room. Not exactly sound proof but functional.
I do remember the fans being absolutely unhinged...and it initially took me aback.. this was not expected.. at all... we had great reactions in the U.K. but you had to fight a bit for it first - this was instant lunacy - and we gave it right back in spades!
Following the last encore drained and drenched...we collapsed into the dressing room trading “ that was insane!” type one liners to each other while rehydrating.
However the crowd were not finished with us! The commotion of the club started to get louder... as our name was chanted in that peculiar pronunciation of “Raaaaaaven! Raaaaven!” this was accompanied literally by the walls caving in on top of us... the broken concertina walls being dragged off us and then...weirdest of all... girls... lots of them... all over us too!
Clockwise from top
1. Mark ( as before)
2. Band and fans in Italy
3. Rob and Dutch fans
4. Mark at BBC tv recording
5. Mike Van Rijswick, Henri Shelton and David Wood of Neat
Very entertaining indeed - but a totally alien experience.. there were usually few girls if any at our shows in those days at least in the UK ... always a sausage fest but here it was 50/50!!!
So we got our act together and loaded the truck... drove off to the hotel. We parked, pulled our bags out the truck & locked it... and were immediately surrounded by about 10 paramilitary cops brandishing sub machine guns.... pointed right at us!
As the leader barked at us in extremely angry Italian, our hands went straight up “whoa! Please ! We are English!! We are musicians!!” and opened the roll up door of the truck pointing at the gear. One guy said “ musica?... musica?...Are you.........Genesis? “ In virtual lockstep we all blurted “ YES! WE ARE GENESIS!!!!”
The cops laughed and moved on as we silently thanked messrs. Collins, Rutherford and Banks for their assistance.
In the paper the next morning we saw there had been a mafia shootout just around the corner as we had parked... which explains the cops-so things could have been far worse......!