I don’t believe God has
a firmness of purpose.
Otherwise, you would notice him
milling around more often.
I think God gave us his will,
as a going-away present.
I don’t believe God has
a firmness of purpose.
Otherwise, you would notice him
milling around more often.
I think God gave us his will,
as a going-away present.
Keith Moon was out on the street, working as a doorman/bellboy at the Navarro Hotel in New York City between shows at Madison Square Garden because he was running out of money.
I got him that job thinking it might be a character-building experience. It also relieved, for a little while, everybody’s constant anxiety over where he was.
The hotel manager, Mr. Russell, a personal friend of mine, arranged it because he felt obliged. After all, the band had rebuilt three of his hotel rooms over the last two tours. I always turned to the word ” shredded” in reporting what Moon had done to them.
It was August 6, 1978. I think.
We were in one of the suites playing scrabble and waiting for something to happen when Mr. Russell called to warn that Keith and his entourage were heading upstairs and that he was carrying two bags from a new guest that he had forgotten to leave in the lobby.
The initial shock of having their taxi door opened by a rock star wearing a six-foot-long Indian headdress had worked itself out in the manager’s estimation.
He was sharing his gratuities with other regular bellhops conscientiously though he got ill-tempered with the division math. It has, in fairness to our drummer, been my experience that no rock star can count.
In minutes the drummer blasted into our room like a one-person Apache raiding party. Behind him trailed our security guys, five groupies, two hotel porters, and I guessed from their suits and ages the people chasing their stolen bags.
” Have you heard the news?” he was nearly moaning with excitement. “Some Pope is dead! “
Feathers whipping in his breeze, he whirled on Anne Wheldon, our publicist who lives in a barely suppressed nervous hysteria, ordering her to ” get me someone on the line right now from The New York Times and Billboard Magazine!”
He started to wring his hands like an early Adolf Hitler slavering over a defenseless prewar France.
“Go right to the top, Anne, tell them I am throwing my hat into this Papal ring.” His eyes had an almost religious luminescence.
She had the entertainment editor from the Times on the phone within minutes.
He straightened his feathers and hunched over the desk phone. The room grew silent. We hung on his side of the conversation.”
“That’s right; I have wanted to leave the band for years,” he confirmed to the guy. ” “Given this emergency, I believe that moment is ripe.”
He listened, and his face seemed to droop.
“No, I am not Catholic,” he paused, perhaps sensing his tactical error.” “But I am a quick study, ask Pete Townshend,” he attached smoothly.
“And don’t let that motherfucker Mick Jagger hear about this. He is the devil, you know,” cunningly racing to blot any competition immediately.
We were rolling on the floor by this time, and Anne was standing next to him, trying to get his attention, waving her arms and mouthing that she had Rolling Stone on the other line.
He put both hands over the phone and, in confusion, shouted at us,” Fuck, he wants to know what I think qualifies me to be the next Pope.”
Ever quick, Bill Curbishley, his manager, shouted back to him”, Tell him twenty-five platinum albums.”
We learned later that he was not considered. But then neither was Jagger.
It would be hard to argue I didn’t have fun touring with rock bands. Better phrased, I had the best life of anybody ever.
My professional success secured me as a competent specialist in people who do not evacuate their jealousies quickly. Except for right here and right now, I have mostly remained silent about my life. It is compassion in my particular Buddhist way.
I know I can relieve people of their envious distress if I want to, but two of my substantial character flaws get in the way. Firstly, I am Irish, so forgiveness is uncommon inside me after an insult of any kind.
With me, “Well, fuck you then,” can surprise people by its permanence.
I don’t fight little wars.
One such battle occurred with Peter Gabriel and me on my first tour with Genesis. I was their tour manager for a very long time. Peter and I left the band at the same time. His departure had more impact.
In his defense, I wasn’t very good at the job. I was always lost, particularly in Europe. Finding places was important.
I was also expected to be in charge of our road crew.
England’s maritime captains had been throwing guys like these, unconscious ( conscripted from pubs), into their ships against their wills as sailors for five hundred years.
These dumb fuckers did the job with Genesis willingly.
I was the only American, and I traveled with the band, not them, which did not sit well.
The English have a fixed internal caste system that India copied to invent Hinduism. So the crew figured they could abuse me because I did not fit with the band, who, except for Phil Collins, was severely upper-class.
They also knew I grasped nothing about setting up the sound gear for the shows.
In those days, the Genesis sound equipment looked like home stereo hookups except that there were thousands of wires, and only one guy knew how to plug it all in. We will call him ” Nick.”
Now Nick took a particular interest in me. He never listened and openly mocked me for much of my first tour through Europe. He knew he was more valuable than me to the band.
One afternoon during a soundcheck in Spain ( around 1971), he threw a balled-up strip of gaffer tape at me, which I dodged, but in doing so, I hit my head on the hinge on a door.
I don’t remember if he was unconscious, but I saw both his feet leave the floor because it was an uppercut.
He immediately gave the band an ultimatum; it was him or me.”
Peter Gabriel called me into the dressing room to ” discuss it.”
On a good day, talking to Peter was exhausting. None of the crucial parts of his face played well together. His most critical thoughts spent most of their time trying to locate his mouth. We didn’t know each other that well then, which did not help. Having worked with mostly English bands, I eventually got how emotionally insecure the entire island is. Of course, it was always my advantage, but I was new to rock bands.
I appreciated what I had done. Nick was powerful, and his leaving put the shows in jeopardy, but I resented Peter for even trying to discuss their choice with me.
I don’t pretend this story has held your interest, but this is where it turns cute.
I, in so many words, told Peter to go “fuck himself.” Gabriel, now confronted with emotion out in the open, did Lord knows what after I stormed out.
In the background, one trucker, out of a little-known Texas sound company called SHOWCO, who had a low-level job moving equipment around, offered that he knew how to connect all our shit.
We put this guy in a room with all our gear, and in one day, he rewired everything—Goodbye, old Nick.
Postscript: I stayed. Gabriel and I became close friends, and I, the godfather of his first child.
Showco, over my long career, made millions from my friendship.
A road crew never rechallenged me.
Here is the last known photo of “Nick.”
comes with its particular novelty.
While birth plods into life
with a ill deserved and sloppy exaggeration.
Tumbling incoherently through
the thick, sticky afterbirth
of the womb.
Each one shackled to incomprehension.
Still, we guess birth to be miraculous
while it’s endgame, death,
is reviewed as a misfortune,
conducted by a chorus of “if only’s.”
and the tardy howls of losing.
Of what good is the marvelous,
if you can’t, watch?
The extra part of God I brought back with me from pretty much dying in the hospital this weekend is sitting in the corner of my yard arguing with my dog.
When the Poet of Avon, Mr. William Shakespeare, awoke this very morning, he stumbled headfirst into brevity. Twitter.
In doing so, he doomed all other English playwrights, a primarily sterile ladle of plagiarizing snakes, to drone on while in morbid awe of him for all eternity.
The notion of premièring himself on this afternoon, as the writer of fewest words, flung him into malicious merriment. “I am now and forever will be a port-wine reduction sauce of succinctness.
“My genius is the tabernacle of the truncated,” he boasted,” I will leave the breadth of things to the freshmen.”
“Verily,” he bragged (too loudly, for his mother, now overhears him while hiding behind his bedroom door), “and forever, my works will be posted with nails onto trees in twenty-six words and less and will be known to the audience as “tweets.”
Hearing this vow, his mother, the severely verbalized Mary Arden Shakespeare, dismays.
Mary was a woman who could trace her long-windedness as linearly as an erection, back to the most crucial exercise of unnecessary human print, “The Doomsday Book.” She feared her son was maneuvering into a near-criminal puddle of abbreviated verbal sulkiness.
She slumped, legs splayed into bunches of skirts, muttering miserably to herself (wholly in Old English, to her credit), “I will not allow him an eternity of pithiness of verse.”
But Bill speeds by her, determined to stop his life’s drudgery of taxing inventiveness before she can interfere.
“Romeo and Juliet” was already rewriting itself in his mind as a love story that lasts only as long as a stick of sassafras chewing gum.
“Romeo has the scheme, parents will be sorry; R. fucks everything up, big mess, J. is an idiot The End,” was all it needed to be.
Shakespeare sprints to Stratford’s Speaker’s Corner to announce the new course for England’s scholarly conversation.
“Forever on,” Bill bellows to a gathering crowd of the muddy, toothless, and lice-infested, “My tragedies and comedies will come to you now nailed on trees. To be read as “Twits.”
“Be it known that if it must be said, I will say it from inside the prison of twenty-six letterings or less. And all will carry a dollop of gruel for authenticity. Henceforth to be understood as my “gruel tag.”
“My histories, poems, and essays will remain on my Facebook page.”
Only Americans have wishes. Other countries are stuck with hopes, and that is substantially different.
Hope requires lack while wishes spring from pots of plenty.
I spent my evenings for twenty-five years in auditoriums, arenas, or stadiums that held between 1000 and 125,000 other people. Every goddamn one of those people remembers the day, and I can’t recall the year.
The difference between love and hate is that you are ready to kill yourself for love, but you are prepared to kill everyone else for hate.
I grew up tough. My rooster was gunned down by the police when I was only six.
Guys can get through life with one best friend and a mechanic. A woman can’t be a man’s best friend and neither can a dog. If this reality ruffles women and disappoints dogs, well, they both need to hang their hopes elsewhere.
We men wish women were more like our cars. We hint at this by always referring to them as “she” and with loud compliments like ” isn’t she a beauty”?
I wonder how gay men handle this? I will check Car and Driver Magazine for clarification.
My dad did not load me with advice, but he made this life detail to me often and strictly as I grew up. “At fifty-thousand miles, trade your car in for a new one,” He would then follow with this, his only cynicism,” “Manufacturers build ruin into machines.”
We boys of the fifties and sixties had warnings of “planned obsolescence,” stuffed into our nervous systems by our fathers.
It led inexorably to the high divorce rate of that era. We naturally applied the laws of our cars to our women.
Nobody ever explained the difference to us.
Cars and marriages are not complicated if you understand their warranties. At 50,000 miles, you need to find a good mechanic if you want to keep a car.
After 20 years of wedlock, you need to call on the humor that only the two of you can understand if you want it to stay together.
Yes, This is not creative writing. It is more creative smiles.
The thing about a circle is that it always appears to be going someplace until it collides with where it started.
My wife and I calculated twenty-six odd years ago that our children would be better off growing up in a place similar to Nebraska. They could shuffle about in rags with rods of hay dangling from their little mouths while mumbling, “Oh shucks,” just out of our earshot because they feared the woodshed.
We now live where everyone is flush with money. All of us actively cooperate in the affluent conceit that returning to pioneer mannerisms while still riding our snowblowers and donating that rarely looked at, used Van Gogh, to the grade school’s fencing auction is within our selfish reach.
Sadly, babies grow the way they want, no matter how rich the soil is that you put them in.
We are closing our circle now; our kids have grown, and we watch steady streams of new fantasy seekers arriving in our hamlet with their BMW station wagons and their penchants for ever higher speed bumps and ghoulish safety signs.
I could long reflect on the oddity of mimicking a life beneath my circumstance. That is if I gave a shit, or maybe a “shucks,” but I don’t.
Somewhere, profoundly hidden inside me, I strived hard to be this envied hypocrite. So here I am.
The first car I paid for by myself was a Buick Electra convertible. The make was commonly considered the longest car ever manufactured in the U.S.
I abandoned it, sandwiched by cornfields, broken down in Nebraska in 1969.
It remains the only car, at least in the Midwest, with a mailing address, as two families are comfortably still living in it. My girlfriend dumped me right there and thumbed back East with a stranger, setting in motion a disturbing course of using my cars as revenge.
Until I was married, it never occurred to me that the only reason I worked at all was to buy expensive cars.
Fine cars are a clear indicator of compatibility to a woman, even more, precise than astrological signs and a sense of humor.
I know this was oafish, but I mainly hunted beautiful girls. I was wounded, and this seemed an appealing brand of retaliation.
These stunning women, some of whom could barely sneeze without advice, could report to you the price and year of any car on the road.
I had a little money at the time and engaged my prey without conscience.
When I married, the dynamic of seduction had to be re-calibrated. Using my car as an aphrodisiac was now unthinkable ( as well as perilous).
We moved to a small town that magnetized itself to young couples.
Everyone buys Volvo station wagons, just like we did. It is the car that women start coaxing men to buy before they have even broached the idea of children.
These fertile women use the pretext of “might need the extra room for a dog.”
The Volvo is the most duplicitous machine ever marketed. It is breathtakingly fast ( drawing in, the unsure erect male). What never comes up is that crash test dummies sometimes play Scrabble during high-speed collision tests in Sweden.
My current car is big like my first one. We are getting old together and are entering more predictable repair periods now.
It takes me to doctors, and I take it to George, our Iranian mechanic on Main St.
I am beginning to sense a queer but certain smugness coming from this car. Like it thinks it might outlast me.
Then that hardness in me shows itself again, and I suggest that it might be like an apartment in Nebraska.
I would spend hours on hot Pennsylvania summer days chasing ants on our patio, on my hands and knees, trying to cook them with a giant magnifying glass angled perfectly with the sun’s rays.
I had built fires this way in Boy Scouts. I used twigs, not ants, for that.
The ants often adopted a “clump together” stratagem in their insect terror, a wrong move.
There is cruelty in children that blends agreeably with innocence.
Even in the urgency of a bar’s “last call,” a woman can smoothly counterfeit a sentimental landscape that will help her overlook the alleyway or the cheap hotel where she will wind up on any given night.
Women do not declare love at the last minute based on sexual hysteria as men do. They are more agile. They invent pardonable poetry to envelope their poor decisions.
Below please find a photo taken of me as I dressed during my years with The Who.
I early on impressed the band with my natural self-discipline.
Though Keith Moon once did confide that he thought the bracelets were “too much,” he spent much of his time aping my understated appearance.
Particularly in his off-stage outfits.
I was bunching up the line for homemade rhubarb and cumin pies at the Farmers Market Wednesday while explaining to two friends that I was making real headway on this “diversity” thing. My tactic, I told them, was to invite people of “difference” over to my house for dinner, so we would grow to be more like one another and not so “diverse” anymore.
Well, nothing, it seems, empties little minds like jealousy. They said I had “diversity” all wrong, and without missing a beat, my first friend meanly offered that I should go on her new diet, which had done wonders for her.
This exchange hurt me and made my dinners seem small. My other friend, now hobbled by her resentment of me AND her friend’s new diet, briskly offered that she has eaten nothing but beets for four years and was down twenty pounds. I snidely assured her that I hardly noticed the red stains around her mouth.
I paid and left, feeling reasonably childish.
Feeling unsettled and wounded that my winning strategy on this diversity riddle was not at hand, I asked my friend P., who is incapable of being mean, what I was missing here.
She softly explained that “diversity” meant conceding to people’s differences without interfering or adding pressure for them to change.
“So, the aim is to keep people different?” I quizzed her, now crestfallen.
” “Why yes,” she said, “because different is better.” Nailing it like a edict on a tree.
Well, knock me over with a feather!
Then I remembered a line I never really could figure out until this moment, “Let no man’s light be so bright that it casts a shadow on another man’s day.”
I have gone back to the market the last couple of weeks looking for the “beet” woman to apologize for what I said, hoping she was still recognizable after all the hard soap scrubbing she indeed has endured because of me.
Fortunately, the people I had invited to dinner called and canceled. Out of respect, we never rescheduled.
I never saw my father work. He processed checks all night, by hand, at Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh. Occasionally he would impress me by bringing home canceled checks from someone else’s account to show me the big number on it.
My mother was a manicurist in a hotel. She worked all day. At night she would do my nails. It is why my wife works, and I do not.
From a Bob Dylan interview
One of the most fascinating bits comes early on when Flanagan asks Dylan about the time he and Bruce Springsteen were invited to a dinner party at Sinatra’s house and whether Bob thought Frank had ever heard his songs.“Not really,” Dylan says. “I think he knew ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’ and ‘Blowin’ In the Wind.’ I know he liked ‘Forever Young,’ he told me that. He was funny, we were standing out on his patio at night and he said to me, ‘You and me, pal, we got blue eyes, we’re from up there,’ and he pointed to the stars. ‘These other bums are from down here.’ I remember thinking that he might be right.”
Men carry silence
filled with oaths,
All we are certain o
is that we have forgotten
Most twenty-year-olds know nothing about Root Beer. To some of us, this is sad, but we are old and soon will die.
My family was pretty poor, but because my parents went through the Depression, they thought they were rich just wisely cheap.
I wanted for only two things growing up. Soda pop and to see up girls dresses. These were both tough to come by.
My dad would not spring for the two-cent per gallon luxury of fizzy cola, and because I was a Methodist, staring into the darkest territory of a woman was rewarded with going blind.
During the Prohibition years, I am fairly certain my grandfather honed his brewing skill on White Lighting, bequeathing my dad a knowledge of making carbonated root beer.
He never shared his formula and, like with much of his affection, carried it into his grave.
It was a dark science of yeast, root beer extract, huge metal garbage cans, fire, and turn-of-the-century quart bottles.
He would let it ferment in the basement and would not buy any soda until it was gone.
The explosive corks would humiliate any champagne. More than one of our dogs had only one eye and would not enter our cellar out of fear.
My mother and I would pour it, behind his back, into our lawn at night. Like dog’s pee it killed everything it came in contact with.
From a letter: written by Jackie Curbishley, (Bill’s wife) about me and Pete Townshend. “You’re right. He was easy to love, but so difficult to trust. I never quite knew whether he was about to spit at me or kiss me. He was totally in awe of you and so jealous of you that he could hardly articulate when you were around. I have vivid recollections of the night you poured the whole jug of orange juice over his head. I’m pretty certain that nothing like that had ever happened to him before. I had to admire the way he recovered – getting his stash out of his top pocket and with those big hands spread out in front of him saying “Look what you’ve done!” as he held out the dripping little package. It was in Salt Lake City. Remember that? Jackie
While bunching up the line for homemade rhubarb and kale pies at the Irvington Farmers Market Wednesday, I got into a heated exchange with one of my girlfriends.
Innocently, I mentioned the headway on this “diversity” notion I was making in our village. My tactic, such as it could be flattered, was to invite people of “difference” to my house for dinner. This way, we would grow more like one another and not so “diverse” anymore. Problems solved.
Well, nothing seems to empty minds like jealousy. She chirped that I had “diversity” all wrong. It meant accepting differences without interference. Things then frosted up badly between us.
It hurt me that my diversity dinners now seemed so bungling. But before I could concoct a defense, my friend briskly offered that she had lost over forty pounds by eating nothing but beets for six months.
Seizing the moment, I snidely congratulated and assured her that I hardly noticed the red stains around her mouth. I paid, collected my pies, and left feeling good and childish.
I was unfixed. I had figured that a winning strategy for this diversity riddle was at hand. I had asked a black couple I barely knew over for dinner next week to lance our variations.
Fortunately, the people I had invited to dinner called and canceled. Out of respect for each other, we never tried again. The beet diet is working.
We rarely get a glimpse of how hard it is to be a woman. It is because they all share the misfortune of beauty.
Adelaide Springett was so ashamed of her tattered boots, she took them off for this 1901 photograph by Horace Warner.
I saw this picture of Bill Graham posted by Lisa Seckler- Rhode this morning, and it grabbed a memory from that section of my mind that is usually only aroused by drugs.
We were doing a deal with him for The Who to play San Francisco sometime in the 1970s. He was bawling that we were cheating him.
Predictably his negotiating tactics relied chiefly on shouting or screaming. When doing deals with him in the old day’s, Bill Curbishley, the Who’s manager, would be on his suite’s phone, and I would be in the bathroom on an extension. In Graham’s case, and there are pictures, we put the phone on a coffee table between us and still hear him screeching.
He stubbornly believed he was singled out for disadvantageous treatment by God himself every minute of his day. He was a formidable adversary. Few promoters dared to stand up to certain bands — the Who had become too big to lose. That said, when I started with Genesis, he did me endless favors, which he did not have to do.
The other variable was that the band (The Who) loved him, so we never really tried to fuck him. No doubt, he did them favors too, early on.
We had settled on the particulars for one show, maybe the Cow palace in San Francisco.
After the contracts were issued, Graham returned his signed copy.
His shows represented at least 100,000 tickets per performance ( most likely far more, I can’t recall), to be sold at an agreed ticket price. Graham would get his percentage cut from that.
He raised the face ticket price ( which he printed) one dollar, hoping to keep the money without telling us.
When confronted, he responded, “but you were stealing from me” — We didn’t let him keep the money but with our admiration.
I was never encouraged to have talent. This pleasantly opened the door to surrounding myself with it.
Between the years of 1972 and 1991, 78% of all rock shows used B.B. King as an opening act. I saw him perform at least 22% of those times. 99% of those audiences were white, and 99.95% of them were impatient to have him leave the stage to get to the headliner. Only 45% of the headliners had ever heard of him, and the remainder adored him because they thought he made them look cool and because he came cheap. B.B King would have played to a herd of sheep if he got paid and the sheep would have been the big winners. He was the greatest of all things. A happy man.
Do we ever feel this bad anymore?
Women are today’s greatest writers. Why this is, only a man could tell her.
Regret is the door you lock before entering.
“War is an evil in as much as it produces more wicked men than it takes away.” By some Greek
I find it impossible to have philosophical conversations with women. They are aggressively uninterested. Nearly all confuse crusted jealous aggravations with being profound. They use earrings to corner a man’s common sense then dagger it.
I did not expect Dolly Parton to call me Mr. Boff.
She couldn’t fill the venues I had for her without the help of a strong opening act.
She took this in stride. I suggested Merle Haggard, and she dispatched me to get him with her approval.
Getting hold of Merle wasn’t straightforward. He didn’t seem to have a manager or agent. I had to go through his drummer.
Haggard was a convicted felon. He had spent a good deal of time in the San Quentin prison. His band, “The Strangers,” was irregularly populated by musicians who happened to be on parole when his tours began.
Asked once what his biggest mistake in life had been, he blurted slyly, “Pulling my jobs in small towns.”
Merle did his own deals. The money I was offering him had his attention.
Not often a fool, I know that thieves attend pleasantly to people who have cash. I did not expect the negotiation to be hard, so I was annoyed at meeting him first.
I headed down to one of his shows in the South. It was a small show where he was headlining.
After he finished, he sent a guy who put me on his bus.
The drummer introduced me, and there it was again, “Mr. Boff.”
We sat in his living room. A hairless animal cuddled next to him. I assumed it was a dog. It growled and snarled non stop at me.
He wanted to make me feel he saw through me. It was the same look he projected from the stage. He had removed his black hat, so it did not work.
Everything about him was wrinkled and mean. I liked him instantly.
We both knew I was paying him too much money, so it could not have been called an authentic negotiation.
What he said to me caught me off guard, “I’m sorry, Mr. Boff, I would like to do it, but I can’t.”
I needed him, and I pressed for why. He said,” I don’t believe the Good Lord means for a man to open a show for a woman.”
I went home.
I called Dolly and told her what happened. She said she would call me back.
She got back to me quickly to say Merle would do the dates. I asked what he said?
She said, “Not much, he just agreed after I told his guy to tell him that the “Good Lord” Dolly Parton was on the phone.”
I am unnerved. Shortly after publishing a stinging rebuke of kale on FaceBook, a giant off-stage hook removed the picture I had nailed to it. Someone clearly wishes to be paid handsomely for its usage. (See below)”Certain people fume when I malign kale. Some attack me, not cleverly identifying themselves to me as simpletons. These same people vote in general elections. They raise children not much unlike themselves.”
I have worked with and loved vegetarians. They are not better people and are easily frustrated by irregularities like leather belts and shoes. On rock tours, they grow weak during the midwest portions in America because they can’t find anything to eat but mutton, gizzards, and rhubarb. They can not play Germany.” ( 1976 ) Regis Boff
comes with its particular
plods into life
shackled to incomprehension.
we guess birth
to be miraculous
while it’s endgame,
is reviewed as a misfortune
accompanied by a chorus
of “if only’s.”
and the tardy
howls of loss.
But of what good is the marvelous
if you can’t watch?
I grew up with Polkas playing on my dad’s radio. Unlike rock, Polkas, never benefited by having its own signature drug. Having traveled through old Czechoslovakia, I tied one or more on with “Slivovice,” that transparent brain reducing eastern European alcohol. But it is neither heroin or LSD, let’s face it.
Remember, I spent twenty-five years going from one concert to another where bands played the same set. Drugs, for me, were a way of taking that music out of my head, not enhancing it.
by your life’s end,
to come back home,
Like pets at windows?
The little lifetimes of first love
All whirling and crashing
about your heart
like hungry snowflakes,
all the same,
does not melt away.
There is only the hum of being alive.
Nothing affects this even handedness.
Certainly not how long you are allowed to sing.
Eternity is a grooved spinning record,
and we go round and round,
forever guessing if we are a song
or simply the melody.
I was the tour manager in the early seventies for a band called Genesis. Those years when Peter Gabriel was with this band.
I was additionally responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
Every other night the show would end this way. Gabriel, dressed in his “Gods of Magog” costume (a black velvet cape, and a giant triangular headpiece), throws off his hat and cloak, revealing himself in a silver jumpsuit. He finishes the song done.
During the climatic changeover, we made him momentarily invisible by the detonation of a cocktail of flash and concussion grey gunpowder. The controlled explosions came from metal pods on the front lip of the stage. The audience was blinded and dazed, an excellent early rock finale.
We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies, Geoff Banks, filled them a couple of hours before the show and would set them off electrically at the right moment. Today this would be criminally outlawed, whereas back then, one of our guys distracted the fire marshall while we filled them.
This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975, either in Cleveland, Ohio, or Berlin, Germany. In my world, this is terrific accuracy.
Someone imaginatively, (I can’t remember who), had the notion to “fly” Peter into the air while the audience was blinded. It was most likely Peter himself.
He was to be “shot” (hoisted) fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires, “called flying” in those days. He would finish the song, floating in a silver jumpsuit, as the front curtain closed, end of the show. Nice.
Gabriel was to be further concealed by smoke machines (they looked like leaf blowers) and an intense fog that bubbled up by the dumping of blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into huge buckets of water by the crew from behind the speaker stage bins. They would explode with vapor, filling, if the prevailing winds permitted, the entire stage.
Here’s how the “flying” was to work. I had brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy harnessed himself to the wires which connected over the truss to Gabriel. He climbed to the top of a tall ladder on stage left, out of sight, and waited. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder, and because he was the counterbalance, up our artist would go. I did the cueing only because I had no other real job, having finished my critical job of literally running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog.
I sweated the cue because I am not particularly musical.
Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon, and shit began scattering everywhere.
Peter went up fast and, sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his shock, he dropped his live microphone launching it forward, onto the stage, where it rolled into the explosions from the gunpowder pods.
The blasting sound shot directly into the fifteen-foot audience speakers. Many of the punters, who had the misfortune to have been standing near them, are no doubt deaf today.
Meanwhile, some assholes had opened an outside door. So all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem visible.
The flash pods, we were later to learn from the fire dept were so overloaded there was speculation it was the first actual cannon fire, during a live show, in history ( except for Beethoven in the 1800s).
Peter’s mic sound, as my luck would have it, also went through the band’s stage speakers. Tony Banks, the keyboardist, I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes, was in the center of the stage hitting Geoff, the explosion roadie, over the head with a tambourine, screaming, “I am deaf, you made me deaf.” All this was happening within a nightmare zone of about ten seconds.
So let me recap, seeing as we have come this far.
I have Gabriel nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. The keyboardist is pounding a roadie as the hapless bastard is frantically trying to extinguish the residue flames still pouring from his canisters. I have an entire audience in a state of stunned mass trauma, and all my smoke is filling up the dressing rooms.
So what was the absolute last thing God could think of to do with me? The front curtain would not close.
In my mind’s eye, even today, this was not a tidy episode. To their credit and my forever resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to cut Peter down. It took such a long time.
Steve Hackett confirmed it was 19.2.75, The Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway!
In the 1991 Documentary, Genesis A History Tony, Mike, and Phil remembered it with Phil Collins saying, “I turned around to the tour manager and said YOUR FIRED!
“Can I have a word?” Townshend says by hotel phone around midday.
Like some rare birds, Pete was rarely sighted before late afternoon. It was not an inherently settling experience to talk to him one on one before then. In fact, it was fair cause for dread. He made me uneasy and I him at first. It took years to work that out.
A couple of us were having fun working out a logo/poster for the upcoming Canadian leg of a Who tour when his call came.
Canada is big and mostly settled by moose. So far we had a drawing of a frog with a big piece of Canadian bacon in its mouth hopping from city to city outlining where they would play. He was dressed in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform. He appeared to be chasing a beaver. The bacon was my touch because I grew up eating it.
But that phone call had dampened me, so I headed down to his room.
He did not look well. He had his tea.
”Did you give me money last night?” he said without really looking up. I got the feeling that if I lied to him he would be pleased. ” Yes”, I said.
“How much?” He actually gutturally groaned when I told him.
“Fuck,” was all he said
“Who was here?” I asked.
It doesn’t matter I didn’t know them. I must have passed out.” He was hard to read as he answered.
“Want me to put Jim on it,” I said.
“No, it’s gone, thanks.”
And I left.
No wisdom has achieved the thrust required to escape the drag of the American atmosphere.