Episode five: Our first Euro tour Part 2
The rest of our Italian trip is a blur of endless restaurant meals of incredible quality...and interminable length.... the concept of “ fast food” to a large degree was either unknown or just laughed at! In Italy food is very, very serious business! You’d arrive at the restaurant and wait a few minutes for a table... the waiter would seat you & disappear for 20 mins. Then he would yak at 500 miles per hour to the guy chaperoning us... then take drink orders... 20 min! Then you wait for the drinks... the food order.... the first course etc... for at least 5 courses!!! And it would take 25/30 min between courses!
The waiters would basically tell you “ hey this is really good and you are gonna have THIS” and get really bent out of shape if we even questioned their omnipotence... which of course, we did- “ errr nope.. not eating DONKEY Luigi!!!!”
My introduction to pizza was here at the hotel... believe it or not, I’d never had it before! Pizza and cappuccino for breakfast!
We did have a day or two off.. and I do remember us being brought to a club one night with a local band playing... and after a while thinking “ we are getting set up to play here!”. Next thing you know we are dragged up on stage and gently cajoled into playing on their apparently begged, borrowed, broken and probably unpaid for instruments... (the bass guitar actually had a matchstick for a nut.!)
We did “ hard ride” to a riotous reception and it was videoed... oh to find THAT tape!
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The Milan show poster
The last Italian show was in Florence... I recall a strange venue where everything was glass bricks... the floors... the walls...the lot. Another mini riot of a show... in celebration afterward the members of our traveling circus decided to get well and truly plastered... absolutely incoherently drunk. This left the one remaining sober guy to pack up & load the truck.... and guess who that was? Yep........yours truly....bastards!
The next stage of our excursion was back the way we came... up through Switzerland...across France... and then through Belgium into the Netherlands. We have now been there so many times the details of those initial gigs are a bit hazy....but I do recall being told before almost every gig “tonight’s show? It’s a festival!” which apparently meant that no matter what the venue may have been size wise, if there were more than two bands playing that night.... it was a festival! The first show was small... but packed and the audience were very young... and very rabid. This was just crazy - they were trying to outdo us at our own game!!! These were far beyond most regular punters out for the night, these were absolutely dedicated 100% crazed metal heads... it was really astonishing. These are the gigs that inspired us to go all in on “the crazy” with the “ wiped out” album. We probably did three or four shows there in total and the enthusiasm and acceptance the Dutch fans showed us from that first show... just amazing. One thing that was hilarious at first then drove us absolutely nuts was the brilliant idea of putting a “ backstage pass” inside the “Rock Until You Drop” album sleeve. Rather than it being a fun memento, the Dutch fans en masse DEMANDED to be let into whichever tiny dressing room we had been allotted to...Everywhere you went was a kid shaking a piece of paper and proclaiming “ Hello? Hello? I have this backstage pass!!!” Eventually prompting one wag to tiredly exclaim “ John, what’s Dutch for fuck off?”
From the get go Mike Van Rijswick who published (and still does ) the institution that is Aardschok Metal magazine, had booked and arranged our gigs and basically mother henned us from show to show... a relationship that continues to this day with him and his wife Marijke occasionally saving us from disaster!
A drier wit does not exist in the business!
I came into possession of some old Neat paperwork with Mikes handwritten directions from gig to gig... which of course makes you think...how the hell did we manage before cell phones and GPS???!
Not to mention they clearly laid out the extremely large fees we were apparently earning...and that were disappearing into pockets that were not ours...Mike never knew that we never saw a dime of this....typical of the financial climate back then.
The scene in the Netherlands was like nothing we had experienced... the passion and joy of the Dutch fans was just magical and inspiring.... and continues to this very day.
We finally left back for home... and with the benefit of experience went straight to our cabin for the ferry trip... avoiding the seasick horrors of before!
Within a few short months we would be back again.... and again..... and again!