The past is a foreign country…..
There was a whole raft of reasons we first decided to finish up with the Weddings back in 1998 but certainly one of the most compelling for me was that as a vehicle I felt it had become just too unwieldy for the commercial size of the act. In the simplest of terms we just couldn’t afford to get the band around in the style to which we had become accustomed. This meant we were faced with an increasingly limited prospect of where the band could play and that made it unsatisfying for me. I have always adhered to the mantra that each year and even each tour should find you playing somewhere new.
And that was the reason that before anyone (i.e. me) could change their mind about such a momentous decision I found myself taking off for Europe with a buddy for a six month stint playing everywhere from bombed out arts centres in the former East Germany to festivals in Northern Scotland, from rowdy pubs in Cornwall to seedy absinthe clubs in the basements of tower blocks in Slovakia. It was rough at times but I guess the fact I keep heading over means it’s something I still find exciting enough.
In the subsequent fourteen year period I reckon I have made the long haul about a dozen times at least. To be quite honest in my mind a lot of the tours have become rolled into one. Was it 2000 or 2001 I toured with Darren Hanlon and Attila the Stockbroker? (Who could forget opening for Ian Brown in Newport). Which world cup was it I played upstairs at the Garage in Islington and had to wait until England had endured the ignomy of an exit on penalties before I could take the stage. Was it that time I left for Greece early the morning after the gig and what year was it Dan Warner came along and made the social faux pas of suggesting on stage that pork pies might be better served warm? (Shame Dan, shame).
Last year in Canada I witnessed the phenomena of two people remembering the same incident totally differently. Myself and Mark Wallace were relating to a friend something that had happened twenty years before. Wally claimed a particular thing had happened to him, I tell it that it had happened to me (we agree we were both present at the time). While I can give you a couple of decent reasons why I reckon I am right it’s also true Wally can do the same to argue his case. The fact of the matter is neither of us is consciously lying and the incident did happen – but as far as we are concerned that is where consensus ends. Memory is a strange beast and I think that is one of the reasons I feel compelled to keep on going out and playing shows and making records – that these things are really something that happen for the most part in the moment and that it’s the doing of them, rather than the memory of them that is most important.
As I write it is with a great sense of anticipation we are putting the finishing touches to another jaunt to the northern hemisphere. Each tour seems to take its own course and establish a character all of its own. The set list takes shape, some songs work better than others in a particular format, there are new songs to promote, new things to talk about on stage. There’s the technical side of things to consider, the practicalities of traveling with certain people. There are airfares to book and posters to be designed and sent out and if the path around the British Midlands and the Ruhr Valley seems to get a bit well worn at times there is always the prospect of a town I have never played to keep me guessing just what might be in store. I always maintained that you should never judge a place solely on how it treats you as a touring act – that Montreal was a great place even though the Weddings could never get a crowd, that New Zealand is probably as nice as the advertisements say in spite of the one debacle of a weekend we spent there in the 80’s and that America’s reluctance to offer anything much to me in a thirty year career is something I best not take personally. But there is no denying that once you have played in a particular town it tends to become somehow more significant. Munich, Reepham, Vienna, they’re all just places on Google Maps until we actually get there and plug in. Then they become the places we play on the 2012 European tour. And this time Wally, I’m taking photos and writing blogs.