Mick Thomas

Heading Back

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Going to the Galtres Festival on our last Sunday in England was a good decision for sure – this was in lieu of The Rhythm Festival we had been booked to play that had been cancelled the week before the tour. Wally  had been able to sit in on accordion with The Men They Couldn’t Hang for quite a few songs  and I’d even been able to get up for Industrial Town and Green Fields of France. Beyond that the evening seemed to be a mad mix of mud, real ale, tour vans and Billy Bragg on a faraway stage. Hell, we’d even gotten to see a few songs of Adam Ant! But it had been a really late one and by the time we’d gotten the rotten Yorkshire mud off the boots we were pretty much on the way to the airport. I think we were both a bit flat spirited and tired as we drove down the freeway en route to Luton flying out of England on a grey August Monday.

The (not so) Easyjet check in had been predictably an aggravating shambles – pedantic, mercenary and just impossibly cynical. All the while we kept  on smiling through gritted teeth knowing anything more forceful would have no positive consequence. They are going to get the extra money out of you no matter what I suppose. Somehow by 3.30 we were over the English Chanel bidding farewell to England. The experience at Schipol in Amsterdam seemed in direct contrast as everyone smiled and seemed eager to please. Passport stamped, bags collected, information obtained easily and we were in the bus on the way into town. Before we knew it we were sitting in front of an Italian Restaurant just off Leidseplein drinking wine and discussing an interview with Richard Hawley we’d both read in the past week. (Richard Hawley was in the band Pulp but has made some fantastic solo records – in particular Coles Corner, which had been a bit of a tour favourite with the Roving Commission on our recent Australian tour).

The main quote from the article ( and I am paraphrasing here) seemed to be that while a lot of artists don’t ever get to see the bowl of cherries, Hawley felt he had been lucky enough to be given a really good opportunity to chow down on it a number of times.  It was a really strong positive thought and one we held onto there that night in Amsterdam. England has often felt illusive and frustrating – way back to the Weddings filling various venues around London whilst not getting much in the way of AirPlay, to the vagaries of the record company mix ups of the 90’s where we never seemed to be able to get two consecutive records out on the same label. Even to my long list of post Weddings tours where I have always had great gigs and felt close enough to seeing myself as a viable artist on some sort of circuit but always having the reality of balancing the books at the tour’s end that leaves me racked with doubt.

But doubt aside the shows had all been strong and one or two quiet ones couldn’t possibly dampen the thought that while it’s crazy to be planning this stuff too far ahead, or to assume anything in this business, we would be heading back sooner or later. Yes, as the distant drums of a busking hip hop dance troupe filled the Amsterdam night and we sat there staring into the bicycling throng over a passable Italian meal we had to conclude the glasses were most definitely half full.