Monday, June 18, 2018

Here We Go Again!

 At the end of April underneath the concrete of the Westway (a major carriageway heading west from Central London) we performed at a PETA gig in the newly appointed club Subteranea . It was surprisingly good even though it was a bit of a squash on the stage. It was both a promotion and a nod to Chrissie’s association with the organisation for the last 30 years. There were balconies above me either side so I could look the audience in the eye. It made a nice change. Everyone was pleased and I quickly disappeared back to my home in the ‘shire’.

 My time off consisted of a lot of physical work which helped keep me in shape. One job of many was shifting and scattering 6 tons of 20mm Hereford stone which helped lift my boots out of the Silurian clay/mud in the barnyard and give me a clean run to my new door. This was hard work but quite satisfying. After some final decisions on the barn build interior, there was a quick scramble to get my bag together, and in a few hours I was at the Heathrow airport hotel ready for next mornings flight to San Francisco.

 A few days previously, I had received a phone call from Johnny Borrell of the band Razorlight about getting some photos done for their new album that I had played on earlier in the year.
The photos were shot at the hotel at Heathrow, as (due to my flight in the morning), we needed an easily available location.

 Johnny told me the album was mixed and mastered and ready to go, so a few pictures were needed to put the finished package together for it’s release.
 The flight was uneventful and I dozed a little in between films. One notable film was Michael Caine narrating the film about the sixties called; ‘My Generation’. A must see.

 The sky was clear and blue as we flew over Hudson Bay and down past what was left of Mount St. Helens and on into the Bay Area. Today being the 16th of June and the 36th anniversary of James Honeyman-Scott’s untimely death, I looked down on the icebergs and continued to miss those days whilst enjoying every second of these.

The world cup tournament had started in Russia. This caused most games to be played in the morning hours here in the U.S.A. Good.

Mexico beat Germany 1-0 on the Sunday and England play their first game tomorrow (Monday 18th).

All to play for.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Last Show 'Till Summer

'Flying to Philadelphia from Greenville, SC.'

With the overnight tour bus trips behind us, we flew into Philadelphia the one hour from Greenville and enjoyed our last travel day without a show. It wasn’t hard to do as the sun beamed over Philly. A good meal on Rittenhouse Square rounded off the evening and I got a great night’s sleep.

The following day was a 90 min. drive to the Count Basie Theatre and a great night. I took a hot bath back at the hotel and was ready for tomorrows gig at the Tower Theatre.
'The Pretenders SOLD OUT' Photo: James Walbourne
There was a Heavyweight Championship fight being held in Cardiff, Wales on that Saturday and the timing was perfect after sound check. It took a while to get a picture as my plans had been thwarted by last minute changes. I managed to see the last six rounds of Antony Joshua taking
a points win over the more than capable New Zealander Joseph Parker. Joshua chose to go the points win route and play it safe but it made the fight an uneventful affair.

'On stage at the Tower Theatre' Photo: Valerie Simadis
The fights coming up in this division are going to heat the whole thing up with the unpredictable Deontay Wilder and the 6 foot 9 inch former champion Tyson Fury coming into the mix. Those fights for Antony Joshua will be a lot more challenging.

The Tower Theatre has quite a history. David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars performed at the Tower after the building had been refurbished following ‘the fire’. That face lift managed to dredge it out of the doldrums of the $1 movie theatre years. A comparatively unknown Genesis played at the venue the same year as indeed the early Pretenders had eight years later. We performed an exceptional show and all was well with the world.
'Martin gets his own dressing room!'
The following day we flew into the grey of Boston to play the Orpheum. The trip to Boston seemed to pass at a remarkable rate and suddenly, as we arrived, the show was over in a flash. Unfortunately, I suffered from a detachedness that made me question tempos and arrangements and I had to think about what I was doing instead of just doing it. These types of mental states can be hard to deal with but after a hot bath and 6 hours sleep I made my morning tea and had a fruit breakfast.

I woke up in Boston to a fresh fall of snow. After my feelings of reserve and of pacing myself through last nights show I had slept well and felt ready for our final show in Morristown, New Jersey. The stage that night was so cold for me, and I spent half of the show trying to cover up with a towel. I could have done with the heaters I had used on the Stevie tour a year ago in the ice hockey arenas.

As I reached the lobby of the hotel I learned two things. Firstly, we had one of our equipment vehicles in a small altercation with a tree during the drive south from Boston, and secondly, we were to catch the train south and not fly.

The train was a good time to catch up on some computer work, including writing out this blog! When the train joined the coast, the snow around the creeks and the harbours looked tranquil and were now flooded in the beauty of sunlight that subdued and hid the cold darkness of the water.

My train travel fruit plate arrived with the seemingly compulsory salt and pepper. WTF.

'Salt and pepper? WTF?!'
Full of fruit, we traveled into New Jersey and after a good show finished the tour.
We stayed close to JFK and got a few hours sleep before heading to the airport. I didn’t sleep on the plane and quickly got to my car. Within two hours, I was home.

Another tour was finished and the complications of accumulative jet lag and exhaustion took over. It took a difficult week to get to terms with my home and the work going on (or lack of it). Meetings were set and I had to crack the whip and press on with various other matters.

I will let you know what happens in due course. Be kind to yourselves and others.


Monday, April 2, 2018

The '2nd Castlebar Festival of Music'

Martin Chambers and James Honeyman-Scott at the '2nd Castlebar Festival of Music' in Ireland, 
July 30-August 1st, 1981.

Special thanks to Carole Wardle for these excellent photos!

To read more about the festival, check out this article in the Mayo Advertiser.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Corvus Corax the Sentinel

 In Santiago I had purchased a painting and an etching from a night street market. Since the artwork was awkward to carry it was now stored in one of the guitar flight cases. I would see it again at our last show in New Jersey before I flew home.

 I rarely buy this sort of stuff but I liked the modern painting and the etching of a Corvus Corax, a Raven which is a bird that is ever present in the conifer woods near my home. The raven is a creature that can tell you all that is going on in the surrounding area if you are patient enough to pay attention and learn to interpret their extensive vocabulary. Nothing gets past the sentinels posted by these family groups.

'La Recoleta Cemetery'
 Upon leaving the gig in Montevideo the heavens opened up and a flashing and crashing storm lit up the whole sky through the night. We had an early start out to the airport the following day and the storm was still surrounding us. Due to the inclement weather, not many flights had managed to get into Montevideo so we were unable to catch our flight.  

 Having checked in, we just hung about for many hours. After about 7 hours it was more than obvious that plan B was to catch the late night flight direct to Córdoba. Originally we were to fly back to Santiago and then get a flight to Córdoba.

'At the Cemetery'
 The small Bombardier jet shook us all the way through the dark skies and got us to Córdoba at 23.20 hrs. We had a 13 hour day at the airport and the crew were scattered somewhere between Santiago and Montevideo. Luckily the following day off helped to get us all back together. The gig went well and before we knew it we were back at the hotel for a busy day tomorrow.

  The 10.15 flight took us to Buenos Aires and we were to play a show later in the day. I have never been a fan of flying on the day of a show. It makes me feel unbalanced but needs must, so the plan was to have a good lunch and a long walk after arriving at the Park Hyatt.

 Luckily, I had a friend who had lived in Buenos Aires and had given up an afternoon of riding horses to take me to a very cool restaurant. The weather was wonderful and after I walked around La Recoleta Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery was the final resting place of many presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners and poets. The black marble tomb of the much loved Eva Perón is comparatively modest but is still a rather large piece of prime real estate.

 I took a short siesta in the late afternoon and with no sound check we took to the stage.

 The following day was a 14-hour travel day via Panama again. We crossed the equator once again and lost two of our crew to drink at the airport. They spent the night in the airport and caught up with us in Puerto Rico the following day. I felt for them as I had bought the first round of margaritas but I made the flight ok so I didn’t feel to bad for too long.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Crossing the Andes Mountains and On to Montevideo

  With a throbbing blue knuckle I enjoyed some staggering views of the Andes mountains and the grasslands of Argentina. After a few hours we flew over a little of the South Atlantic and into Montevideo.

Our hotel in Montevideo
  Descending from altitude above the Rio de la Plata, it is easy to understand it is the widest river estuary in the world at nearly 200 km at it’s widest point. The brown muddy Paraná River. drains a huge area into this massive estuary which slowly enters the South Atlantic. From my seat (1F) in front of the aircraft’s wing, it was a grand spectacle.

  This is also the site of an incident at the outbreak of World War II where the marauding German battleship Graf Spee had been looting and sinking the easy pickings of the South Atlantic cargo routes. The pocket battleship was later forced to blow itself up before engaging the gathering British warships at the entrance to the River Plate.

 The skeleton crew, having left the forlorn killing machine before it’s demise, it is alleged that the episode had been politically manipulated by the collusion between the British government and the neutral Uruguay government.

  The hotel was set between the airport and the old town of Montevideo but it took four hours for me to get a room. Both bands and crew were staying in this hotel and my initial room when I entered could have still been occupied. I didn’t hang about to find out. There was a room service tray half finished on the desk and the bedding was disturbed. I was offered another room that was fine but for the feedback noise coming from the bathroom. I retired to the bar and told them to let me know when all was sorted.

Uruguay won the first ever World Cup here in 1930! 
 Two hours later I went back to reception to find out if anything had been done. I rattled my sabre and within thirty minutes all was well. 

   The first World Cup tournament was held in Montevideo in 1930 and the Estadio Centenario where the final was held and where Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 was our venue for the evening. I had bought a football so we had a kick about on the pitch that was surrounded by the light blue seating. We were told not to, but we are musicians and sometimes are hard of hearing. After a few minutes we were told to ‘clear off’.

  It turned out to be a great gig despite me pulling a thigh muscle passing the ball to James Walbourne in the afternoon.

 Tomorrow we have two flights to get to Córdoba in Argentina. It was going to be a long day. What I didn’t know was how long!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mexico to Lima, Pacific to the Atlantic

  Our third crossing of the Equator on this tour took place on Monday the 12th of March at 11.53am local time. We were 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean with the Galapagos Islands about 250 kilometres away on our starboard side and Ecuador to our port side. It was a travel day and the smell of burnt plastic was dying away until we got into the city of Lima.

 The show was played in a large carpark next to a freeway and my sore throat was getting worse, as I had developed a dry cough.  I can’t remember much about the show other than the fact that my drum tech Justin was doing a great job of setting the kit with different hired hardware everyday. My drum kit was flown everywhere along with all the other equipment, but at every gig, DW, my drum supplier, were furnishing Justin with the stands. This saved on the expense and logistics of the space and weight needed.

Positioning everything at every show is not an exact science and a centimetre here or there can mean the difference between skinned knuckles, bloody drum heads or not. It was so far so good but that was about to change. I was very much looking forward to Santiago in Chile and Montevideo in Uruguay that were our next two shows.

 The sound check at the National Stadium in Santiago was under the brightest afternoon sun. The heat was intense and reflective covers were over the drums. That night I hit the middle index finger of my right hand on the wing nut holding a cymbal in place on the last beat of Down the Wrong Way, right on the knuckle.

Fortunately, this was the point in the set where I left the stage. It hurt like hell and I wrapped my finger in the icy towels that I walk off stage with every night. It was turning blue but there was no blood, my own fault for being so bloody final about the last bosh on the cymbals. Still, I caught the stick!!
 These things happen from time to time and my knuckles bear testament to the last fifty years of playing the drums.

  To make up for it, there were fifteen birds of prey circling around in the air above the stadium on the thermal we were helping to cause.

 Tomorrow we travel over the Andes Mountains heading east to the S. Atlantic and Montevideo at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, the mighty river plate.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Over The Equator Again

I bought the largest hat I could find!
  From Porto Alegre we flew to Mexico City in the Northern Hemisphere via Panama. We had four nights in the heart of Mexico City at The St. Regis Hotel. During our stay we followed the tourist route and visited the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

  Mexico City lies in a high valley not unlike Yellowstone National Park. The only difference is the 10,000,000 vehicles and method of rubbish disposal. Whenever we were in the city, it was impossible to get the smell of burnt plastic out of my nose. Although the air quality was bad, it was a huge improvement compared to what it had been in the past.
'Police of Monterrey'

  After our four nights we flew to Monterrey not far from the Texas boarder and played a show the following day. We had prefabricated dressing rooms in the car park of this show and we felt the familiar shudder and wobble of an earthquake tremor a few times. It was difficult to tell if the tremors were real, or if the crew were wobbling the temporary dressing rooms to entertain us!  

  Afterwards we moved on to Guadalajara in the west. In this city the policing was heavy duty and the vehicles were loaded like tanks with a serious calibre canon type weapon fixed on the top. In the day and a half we were in town, 16 people were shot dead!

Soon we made our way back to Mexico City this time to play two shows. When we arrived at the airport, there were quite a few fans, many photographers and a few press representatives. We waded our way through the mass of people and were back in the same rooms at the St. Regis that we now considered a home away from home. 

 The shows were a grand way to spend a Friday and Saturday evening. On Friday, before I took to the stage, I visited with Phil Collins (who I had not yet said ‘Hello’ to) in his dressing room.


 Having never met one another before, we rattled through the last three decades or so, and about his son Nic playing drums behind him.

  Nic is 16 years old. He is living in Miami and has a band called Fifty Eight Hundred. He’s definitely a credit to Phil and a great player, playing with a bunch of top musicians in a band where the lead singer is his dad. Not a bad gig at 16 years of age when you really have to lead a rather large musical ensemble of a dozen or so musicians. With Leland Sklar on bass, he sits in the middle and fires off a great engine.

Our 'home away from home' in Mexico City
 One important thing to mention about Mexico City and performing there is the fact that it is at an altitude of nearly 7,500 ft. Denver in Colorado is a mile high, Mexico City is half as high again. It's well worth being aware of that fact. Stage right was the oxygen bottle, but from my past experiences it is best left for any extreme reactions. Back in the day (on our first tour) when I took some at a gig in Denver, it made my head have needles and pins and caused more problems than it solved.
Meanwhile, back in Hereford...
With one more day off in Mexico City, and a bag full of gifts and trophies, I spent my final evening at a restaurant where a different mariachi band would blow us out of our seats each night.

 The following day I'm up at 04.45 to leave the hotel at 05.30 for adventures in Peru!