Bill Curbishley, on the right, is the manager of The Who. If he had chosen to, he could have managed The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd as well. He quietly changed the live music touring business, but what he enjoyed most was robbing deli’s with me on off days.
My career incorporated moving each day from one bunch of people to another. The populations of these audiences ranged from 250 to 150,000 individuals. In each instance, almost all of them wished they were me. That never helped.
“Could I have a word?” Townshend said to me on the hotel phone around midday. Like certain rare birds, Pete was seldom sighted before late afternoon for sound checks.
It was not a settling experience to talk to him one on one before then. In my case, 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 .Canada is big and mostly settled by moose. So far we had a sketch of a frog with a greasy slab 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 and in chase of a tubby beaver. It was in a time that people could laugh at themselves.
The bacon was my touch because I grew up eating it. But that phone call dampened me, so I headed down to his room with my bag .
He did not look well. He had his tea. There were no headless bodies and only his security guy who was desperately trying to focus his eyes on the sofa.
”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 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.”
I think there is something particularly human in repetitiveness. As I age, I more understand the working relationship between creativity and forgetfulness. I am just creative enough to see that. If I were more, it would never occur to me. Regis Boff FaceBook sends things I have posted back to me in their “memories”. My guess is it makes me appear small in the eyes of the very few who show any interest in me. Below is such a recall. It makes me cry a little. Regis Boff
From Brian Wilson’s autobiography: Today (October 11), Brian Wilson releases his long-awaited memoir, I Am Brian Wilson. In this excerpt, he discusses the influence of two of the Beach Boys’ only true rivals in the ’60s: the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. And also, how bandmate/rival Mike Love helped him to finish “Good Vibrations.” ~ The one that really got me was Rubber Soul, which came out at the end of 1965. Rubber Soul is probably the greatest record ever. Maybe the Phil Spector Christmas record is right up there with it, and it’s hard to say that the Who’s Tommy isn’t one of the best, too. But Rubber Soul came out in December of 1965 and sent me right to the piano bench. It’s a whole album of Beatles folk songs, a whole album where everything flows together and everything works. I remember being blown away by “You Won’t See Me” and “I’m Looking Through You” and “Girl.” It wasn’t just the lyrics and the melodies but the production and their harmonies. They had such unique harmonies, you know? In “You Won’t See Me,” Paul sings low and George and John sing high. There’s an organ drone in there, a note that’s held down for the last third of the song or so. Those were touches they were trying, almost art music. What was so great about the Beatles was you could hear their ideas so clearly in their music. They didn’t pose like some other bands, and they didn’t try to stuff too much meaning in their songs. They might be singing a song about loneliness or a song about anger or a song about feeling down. They were great poets about simple things, but that also made it easier to hear the song. And they never did anything clumsy. It was like perfect pitch but for entire songs. Everything landed on its feet. I met Paul McCartney later in the ’60s, in a studio. I was almost always in a studio back then. He came by when we were at Columbia Square working on vocal overdubs, and we had a little chat about music. Everyone knows now that “God Only Knows” was Paul’s favorite song—and not only his favorite Beach Boys song, but one of his favorite songs period. It’s the kind of thing people write in liner notes and say on talk shows. When people read it, they kind of look at that sentence and keep going. But think about how much it mattered to me when I first heard it there on Sunset Boulevard. I was the person who wrote “God Only Knows,” and here was another person—the person who wrote “Yesterday” and “And I Love Her” and so many other songs—saying it was his favorite. It really blew my mind. He wasn’t the only Beatle who felt that way. John Lennon called me after Pet Sounds—phoned me up, I think the British say—to tell me how much he loved the record.
But Paul and I stayed in touch. Another time not too long after that he came to my house and told me about the new music he was working on. “There’s one song I want you to hear,” he said. “I think it’s a nice melody.” He put the tape on and it was “She’s Leaving Home.” My wife, Marilyn, was there, too, and she just started crying. Listening to Paul play a new song let me see my own songs more clearly. It was hard for me to think about the effect that my music had on other people, but it was easy to see when it was another songwriter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.