Rock Accountant

Category: Rock Bands

Peter Gabriel, Genesis, and the Insult

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.
This career success made me 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.
I was also assumed to be in charge of our road crew. England’s maritime captains had been throwing guys like these, unconscious, into their ships against their wills as crew 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. 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 a million home stereo hookups. 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, 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 because it was an uppercut, I saw both his feet leave the floor.
He quit and gave the band an ultimatum that it was “him or me.”
Peter 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 got how insecure emotionally the entire island is. It was always my advantage.
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 crew member, 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.

“Nick” Today

A Pleasant Man

Between 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 their 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.
The sheep would have been bored but the big winners.
He appeared to me to be was the highest of all things, a pleasant man.
That is, on the rare occasion I paid any attention to him.

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Guess the year

I spent my evenings for twenty-five years in auditoriums, arenas or stadiums that contained between 1000 and 125,000 other people. Every goddamn one of those people remembers the day, and I can’t recall the year.

OIP (2)

Lynyrd Skynyrd

The mirror buckled like an airless fighter punched in the midsection when the bottle hit it. Ronnie Van Sant had missed me.

I had just started working as the tour accountant for The Who and Pete Rudge. Rudge, (“A Star is Born”) was the tour manager/manager for The Rolling Stones and The Who in North America. He was also the manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was a significant player in rock across the U.S at the time. I was the tour manager for Genesis which had broken up, and working for him was substantial for me.
He taught me how to do the show settlements for The Who. I ran his New York office while he traveled from band to band being what he was, extravagant. We booked tours for The Stones and waited for Jagger to cancel them.
One morning I was thrown into a limo, and we headed out to the airport to meet Ronnie Van Sant, the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rudge dreamed I would get along with him, so I could pretend I was him when he needed cover to pay attention to his other bands.
On the tarmac where his small jet had landed, Van Zant got off in his black hat and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Rudge muttered to me, “Welcome to Country Rock.” Noon was not just around the corner.
He gave Rudge a “country hug.” A regional embrace that is not gay.
He ignored me, didn’t shake hands, and staggered off to the car drinking as he went, we followed like eager toadies behind him.
I am large, and I know how people react to that.
Van Zant had decided, despite near panic-stricken denials from Rudge, that I was his bodyguard. He didn’t like it at all. I figured I had missed some country code just by being bigger than him.
We wind up in Pete’s fabulously posh apartment on Fifth Ave. Ronnie was now twenty more sheets to the wind and sitting on a sofa across from me watching me like I am an armed Ulysses S. Grant.
Even Rudge was now ignoring me as a lost cause while he chattered on about Lynryd Skynryd’s next album. I just sat there stupidly, sinking into unsmiling black humor.
From my point of view, this performer was mining impulses from Jupiter solely to fuck over what little career I now had left. I began returning his shit eye, wiring him the message that I, for one, was pleased with the Confederacy getting the shit kick out of it.
On top of this aggravation, I had spent two days memorizing the band member names and their instruments as I listened to their albums. The closest I had ever come to country rock music was Neil Young, who they, of course, loathed.
Well, without so much as a “come and get it,” he stands up and throws the bottle at me.
But he quickly then makes a few vital battle misjudgments. The first being that he misses me and hits the mirror. The second was his comic miscalculation that the glass coffee table that separated us would hold his weight when he stepped on it to get at me.
It didn’t even try, and his foot went straight through trapping him awkwardly. A drunk music legend wedged in a coffee table is reliably defenseless, but I prize the first rule of show business, “Never hit the act.”
So, from out of his kitchen Rudge comes flying through the air, shouldering into Ronnie’s chest, driving him backward over the sofa, overturning it and freeing his boots from the table and glass by sheer momentum.
Rudge screams at him five inches from his face. “Regis is with me, and he is on your side, you dumb fuck!”
Ronnie Van Zant, now pretty much a severe physical mess, stands up, walks around the frightened coffee table to me and gives me a hard, no balls hug, and says, “Sorry, man,” and that was that. I was in.
After Ronnie had left and while Rudge was trying to find his maid on the phone, he put his hand over the receiver and said to me, “You still want this job?” I told him that I did.
Ronnie proved to be what everyone else but me knew, a genius. And a good guy but a genuine tough. Kind of a country gangster. We got close enough but never friends. I left a few months before his plane went down and he died.
Reports said he had a bottle in his hand and was walking around as the plane headed for the ground. There can be no doubt.

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“Wearing feelings on our faces when our faces took a rest,” Peter Gabriel… Genesis, 1972.

I spent five or six years touring the world with these people. They were my only constant friends, all of us in our early twenties. They had their dreams, and I had no idea who I was or why I was even there. I was never positive what a tour manager was.
Nobody was famous or had any money.
We played high school gymnasiums and any open spaces with a stage and a box office. I sometimes used a handheld clicker to count the punters as they came in so the promoter couldn’t cheat us.
In America, we would hang long drapes across the floor, cutting the space in half so we could pretend we never meant to sell out the entire gym in hopes the music reviewers might be tricked.
Their records weren’t played on the radio because the songs were too long. It was my job to prevent videos like the one below from being recorded. Such is my distinguished legacy. There are many of these.
When in Europe, they knew I was lost all the time, but they covered for me. I had a big briefcase filled with money. I passed through border after border every day while desperately trying to calculate exchange rates. The currencies looked like five-year-olds painted them. It took twenty million Italian Lira to buy a pack of cigarettes and one German Deutsche Mark to buy Italy.
In America, I booked tours for them that hit every National Monument and tourist site over and over again. We always drove, sometimes trains in Europe but rarely flew. No money.
Phil Collins and I saw The Alamo in Texas for the first time together. Since then, I hear he bought most of it.
We got busted for residue in Canada and fell in love with each other. Everyone did this in the early seventies.
No band played more shows in those years. We seldom had an opening act. We tried using Lou Reed once for a show we could not sell at all in Detroit, but his audience beat up our audience before the show even started.
They would stop touring only to record a new album. When that happened, I was out of a job.
After my first tour, I went back home to live with my parents in Pittsburgh to wait. Later I stayed with them in England, sleeping on floors or in their parent’s houses.
The band’s manager, Tony Smith, called me often that first summer from England to play me new tracks as they recorded them in the studio on our landline phone. My mother and I stood ear to ear in the kitchen, listening. She did not get it at all.
We played bullrings in Spain and bicycle racing rinks with sloping walls in Italy. The political revolutionaries would take over the stages in France and Portugal, and we would stand aside until they had given their speeches. At times the army would do our security.
Genesis audiences were smart and sweet and loyal to this day.
We had car accidents and fights. We were growing up, and I wasn’t very good at my job. I caused the biggest embarrassment in rock history, and I nearly got fired for knocking out the sound technician with a solid punch, not because they liked him more but because he quit afterward, and nobody else knew how to plug all the shit in.
I got the responsibility of being the godfather to Peter Gabriel’s daughter. I failed at that.
When the band eventually broke up, none of us knew what to do. I think we said goodbye. You might expect I would remember that.
I don’t recall ever knowing what to do next.

Entertainment sex

Music business sex and movie business sex are different at their cores.
Nobody fucks anybody in the music industry to become a member of the band.
In the movie industry, nobody wastes sex on anybody unless there is a part at stake.

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ROCK’S MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT

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!

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Dolly Parton

What I did not expect most from Dolly Parton was being called Mr. Boff.
I explained that she could not fill the concerts I had for her without help. She took this in stride. I suggested Merle Haggard might be perfect as an opening act, and she dispatched me to get him with her approval.
Getting hold of him wasn’t that easy. He didn’t seem to have a manager or agent, so I had to go through his drummer.
Haggard was a convicted felon. He had spent a good deal of time in 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 big deals himself and I was a big deal for him. Not often a fool, I know that thieves attend pleasantly to people who have money. I did not expect this would be hard, so I was annoyed at having to meet him. I headed down to one of his shows in the South. It was a small show where he headlined.
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 partially hairless animal cuddled next to him. I suspected 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 stage. As eyes play on a face, his were the only participants that were not wrinkled and mean. I liked him instantly.
We both knew I was paying him too much money, so it could not have been called a real 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 says. “Not much, he just agreed after I told his guy that the “Good Lord” Dolly Parton was on the phone.”

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No meat Rock and Roll

“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

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Drugs and Polkas

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 have 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.

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