AC/DC vs James Bond..

That, folks, is that. AC/DC play their last European show tonight, then they head off – apostrophes and all – to the US to continue the tour.

Unfortunately for us, visa issues and red tape dictate that American drivers are used for that leg. It’s a shame; crew and drivers have worked harmoniously together for such a long time, yet we must remain east of the Atlantic. So, to the band: we salute you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the odd chuckle since January. I’ve tried to give an honest, lucid – and certainly lurid – account of touring. I owe Namibian a debt of thanks here. Without his ridiculous quotes, I may have faltered.

As you know, he became the storyline’s protagonist very early on, providing me with endless material almost every time he speaks. I must also thank him for a brand new thermos flask that I am supposed to rinse out after use before handing back to him.

 

On the Road again..

You’re assuming I’m retiring from the front line after such a long tour? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as I write this, Wrecker Jon is ably piloting me round Lyon’s ring road.

We’re bound for Barcelona where I – and most of the characters you’ve already met – start an eight-week tour for a band called U2, also popular it seems.

What isn’t popular, though, is blogging. I’ve been told, categorically if inexplicably, not to blog on this next tour. Rather than a promotion for meritorious service to the blogging industry, I am brushed aside like a dried dog turd.

The advice to cease, however, shall be heeded, and to hell with Crazy Sandra’s wrath. When she emailed me to say, ‘I will hunt you down and fucking kill you if you stop the blog,’ I’m sure it was just a figure of speech.

There are a couple of guest blogs pending though, so I can’t shut down entirely. And there isn’t really any reason I can’t intrepidly report on a few more cities. So there may be the odd blog still to come. U2, however, will not be mentioned; I shall use code.

Between now and the end of August, if I say something like ‘still on safari’, or ‘our current secret mission’, you’ll know what I mean. I’m being serious, though – no pictures of trucks and stadiums. Boo!

But I’d like to say thank you for following the blogs on both the AC/DC tour and the Tina Turner Tour. And thanks to those of you who have emailed your comments.

Secret Service

To conclude the AC/DC European Tour leg, all this talk of secret missions has reminded me that there’s a new James Bond novel on the shelves. Enitled Devil May Care, it’s the usual terrifying trail of greed and betrayal you’d expect from a Bond book.

But did you know that Ian Fleming wrote each of his rollercoasters in just six weeks? Wow! Could I write one in September, do you think? After all, I’d need only doll up a few blog entries, add a villain – Little Dick, or Namibian as Blofeld? – and recall a couple of femmes fatales.

The unsmiling Namibian need hardly alter, but we’d give him a thick, Bulgarian accent and exacerbate his limp. Hee hee, it’s barely even fiction. But which of my pals would suffer a flesh-crawling death? Hmm, tricky.

I, of course, would be James. Yes, keeping the British end up. Ooh, just think of it: three hundred sheets of besmirched foolscap. All speed, no limits – a gorgeous autumn project.

Reality check: after six weeks at home, I’ll still be trying to boil an egg..

AC/DC – Bus Poofs..

Ever wondered why the Brits rib the Irish?

Well, it wasn’t that long ago that the M1 out of Dublin had speed limits in kilometres per hour and distance markers in miles. If that’s not daft, then I don’t know what is.

They’ve rectified that now, but as Namibian and I passed the border town of Newry last night, I noticed nothing tangible to mark a change of country. Either that, or I was doing a crossword and missed the sign.

Regardless, this is all a far cry from entering Northern Ireland even a decade ago. One of the bus drivers on this AC/DC tour fondly remembers the days when chaps with twigs in their helmets would ambush vehicles here, interrogating drivers while snipers’ red dots danced on their chests. Red lights in Belfast meant ‘give way’ in those days, an interpretation Namibian still strictly adheres to.

Rock n Roll Buses

Now, in five months, I’ve completely overlooked crew buses – yet they’re a crucial part of the tour. Without them, how would the crew reach the venues? Unless distances are immense, or the journeys involve long ferry crossings, this is how the guys (and girls) who set up the stage equipment travel.

Tour buses are basically mobile hotels, comprising between eight and fourteen beds depending on the design. There’s a chill-out lounge, too, with a DVD collection and one of those blasted gaming consoles – that even men in their thirties seem obsessed with – and a kitchen/toilet. A home away from home, you could say.

The drivers of these vehicles are affectionately known, through no fault of their own, as “bus poofs”. They feebly retaliate occasionally, but “diesel dykes” for rock n roll truckers has never really stuck. Call it sibling rivalry, but truckers and bus poofs both think the grass is greener on the other side.

For example, I’d quite like cargo that loads and unloads itself, and no doubt the poofs yearn to be in a truck when they take a wrong turning and a dozen crewmembers volubly take the piss.

Busy Bus Drivers

Up in Scandinavia, earlier on this Black Ice AC/DC Tour, the bus poofs had holed up in Copenhagen for a few days. Whilst mile after mile was vanishing beneath truckers’ wheels, they’d maintained a gruelling, punctual regime, manning their stations vigilantly.

Yes, every day at 5pm, they’d be on duty, perving as lycra-clad girls emerged from the sports hall next to Parken stadium. It’s not strictly a tourist attraction, I agree, but at least it’s free; one spends enough Danish shitters when in Copenhagen, so anything gratis is good.

Coming back to the point for a change, the crew are dozing fitfully in their bunks as we disembark the Larne – Stranraer ferry. The bus poofs, pandering to the crew – who prefer the beds to the aisle, I assume – drive slowly on the corners. In fact, round the Ayrshire coast’s hairpin bends, they crawl at a pace that even snails would regard as sedate.

Agh! They’re going to delay us considerably. Oh, hang on, they’re very decently pulling over. The trucks roar past, taking bends flat out. Hello, what do we have here? Nambian in the lead, intimidating cyclists? Simply the order we came off the boat; obviously I overtake before Glasgow.

And who should be in Glasgow? Geordie Pete, that’s who. As he gives me a lift to Catering, I question the legality of pootling round Glasgow’s streets in a golf buggy. ‘Well, it’s not taxed or insured,’ admits Pete. He smiles impishly. ‘Maybe keep an eye out for police.’

And do what, Pete? Outrun them? ‘Just try not to draw attention, then,’ he adds, implausibly. At 10mph, veering violently, we stick out like a sore thumb. ‘Stick your arm out,’ he bellows. ‘We’re turning right here.’..

AC/DC – Nowt as queer as folk..

AC/DC have now reached Punchestown Racecourse, Naas. Set amidst 450 acres of rolling Irish countryside – in the heart of County Kildare, Ireland’s thoroughbred county – it has been the home of Irish National Hunt Racing since 1827.

I’m just enjoying the view when David – avid “petrolhead” that he is – frightens me with a megaphone. You wouldn’t think it by his mannerisms but I caught him looking at Sierra Cosworths on the internet the other day. ‘

I may be stupid,’ he said – I wouldn’t go that far, David – ‘but how do you plug this laptop in?’ The laptop in question is the one that he owns, and is in fact using. Well, to address his admission more succinctly: yesterday, aboard the Irish ferry, he was seen adding orange juice to his cup of tea. Hmmm.

Anyway, we’re having a nice sit down (with a cup of tea) and watching the initial stampede of AC/DC punters. Now, why do so many arrive with beer, umbrellas and chairs? It is all confiscated at the gates. I asked a passing fan if her ticket bore any small print banning drinks. Well, for a start, the small print is almost too minute to read.

Small print

But after close inspection, she says ‘no, there’s not a feckin’ stitch on it.’ I sympathise, and agree that prohibited items should be listed. Water, for example, is only OK if the top is removed. Eh?

Apparently, enthusiastic fans are wont to throw bottles, and they cause less damage if the liquid is released on impact with a random head. Bear this in mind if you are going to a stadium gig this summer.

Drunk, a fan then collapses through the turnstile. ‘Where’s the stage?’ he slurs. What, you mean that massive steel structure, needing fifteen trucks to transport, visible from all gates? Just before the show begins, another chap – pickled, blotchy, and reeking of booze – asks ‘where’s my bus?’ and heads back out through the gates.

A drowned rat

‘I knew it was going to rain,’ says Gentleman Steve, master of the non sequiteur. He glances at the sky as if to prove his point. ‘My knee started playing up this morning. Old disco injury.’

But despite the downpour, fans can only wear ponchos and hats; umbrella spikes, under health and safety restrictions, might have an eye out in the front-of-stage mayhem. ‘Yer feckin’ shittin’ me,’ yells one poor girl at a security steward, utterly indignant at her brolly being binned. Yes, they really do speak like that here.

I think it rather infuriates her that I am sitting underneath a colossal umbrella – smiling smugly – not ten yards away, dry as a bone on a confiscated deckchair..

Rock n Roll Bicycles…

I thought I’d write a little filler for the travel day to Naas, Ireland. And today’s theme, I’ve decided, is bicycles.

Almost without exception, now, every driver on this AC/DC Tour has one; bicycles are pretty much essential on stadium tours – for whizzing over to Catering from our designated parking area, or for peddling to the nearest newsagent to purchase Namibian’s cigarettes. That sort of thing..

More importantly, how do you think twenty-nine truck drivers know in which order the trucks are needed after the show? Without some sort of organisation, it would be chaos – a Wacky races, if you like. ‘Load me.’ ‘No, load me first,’ we would all cry, regardless of what is actually down from the stage and ready for packing in trucks. A gridlock would ensue, chauffeurs turning puce with rage. Enter, then, the radio and…the bicycle.

Instructions are given, from the stage via radio, to bring in, say the “Backline” and “Sound 1” trucks. The “lead” driver relays this to his deputy – “Number Two” – and the loading process begins in an incredibly slick fashion. Well, slickish – there is a driver or two on this tour that can’t reverse a lorry for toffee.

Anyway, one of the radio holders may have a few hundred yards to cover to relay a message to the relevant driver. And it needs to be done quickly; another driver might be cocking up a reversing manoeuvre somewhere else and be in need of supervising. Walking takes too long. So there you have it: the bicycle is a vital component of stadium touring..

Chinese anyone?.. (My dad’s guest blog)

 

(London – Ireland travel day on the AC/DC Tour) Photos by Barnaby Davies. Guest text from my tolerant father, Rodney:

The sustainability of this planet is threatened by many factors. The Number One problem is that there are just too many human beings living on it.

 

The majority of those, in the West at least, have become too fat from eating an unsustainable amount of meat. Unfortunately the vast majority of the meat eaters are unwilling to embrace vegetarianism, still regarding it as a bit weird and probably homosexual. My proffered plan, however, proposes a far neater carnivorous solution: start eating each other. Yes. This would tidy things up beautifully, providing a simple solution to a complex problem – a problem which cannot remain unsolved for very much longer.

To start with we’d eat the prison population; they’re generally a pretty useless lot, very expensive to keep and have proved incapable of contributing very much to society. First to be consumed would be the hardened criminals, although their very hardness would likely make them the least palatable.

They’d require a long cooking time in a slow oven to fully tenderise the meat. A note of caution here though: no matter how tempting the crackling might look, it must be discarded – the ink in the tattoos is not a food-grade additive.

An alternative recipe for the really stringy bastards would be a slow casserole or Irish stew. A watchful eye would need to be kept for rogue piercings in the food, although even these could provide entertainment for children – like the sixpence in the Christmas pudding.

Before moving on to the lesser criminals – some of whom could be spared if they showed a genuine interest in gardening – we’d need to hunt down and eat the litter louts and fly-tippers. Boiling would be the preferred cooking option for this group despite running the risk that they’d reduce completely to just a worthless scum.

Gordon Brown and Robert Mugabe would need to be turned into a very thin soup which could be handed out to the citizens most affected by the way each of them has brought their country to its knees.

It’s a shame to have to include Jeremy Clarkson and Terry Wogan in this list as they’re both fairly witty and entertaining men, but their obstinate refusal to acknowledge man’s effect on climate change mean they’ve become figureheads for the glib complacency of anyone who is too lazy to care, and as such they really mustn’t be spared.

It would be wrong of course to discriminate against anyone with genuine learning difficulties ……. but ….. those people who pick up dog shit, tie it in a non degradable plastic bag then leave it at the side of the path for ever. Duh! And then we’d save a nice plump banker for the Christmas roast.

Not a bad plan, eh? And that’s before we even start on the foreigners…

AC/DC Play Wembley Stadium..

Let me introduce my neighbours: Tom and Dot.

Dot is indispensable. She moves my post from the front door while I’m away, and she used to feed the cat before the Old Boiler stepped in. Dot is now down to light duties, and is rewarded accordingly.

She still waters the outdoor plants but, vertically challenged, the hanging baskets are a bit much for her. ‘I end up watering myself,’ she laughs.

Tom, conversely, gets under one’s feet and talks tangentially of his work on the railway at every opportunity. ‘Ain’t like it used to be,’ he says. ‘Much better after you left,’ retorts Dot. He is slightly deaf and spends a good deal of his time watching drivel on the television – at high volume.

Jeremy Kyle

Last time I popped next door – I’d run out of tea – he was glued to one of those confessional programs with the subtitle ‘Is my cousin really my sister?’ blanketing the screen. I’m extremely lucky to have them as neighbours.

When I’m at home, I occasionally glance through old photo albums – simply to remember where I’ve been. That sounds ridiculous I know, but if you regard these past five months as pretty standard life, it’s difficult to recall, say, where the Beastie Boys played in ’98. Anyway, I came across a picture of me at seventeen and thought you may like to see it. Good heavens, what a mess I looked as a teenager.

AC/DC Tour Video Footage

 

All good things come to an end, however. After lunch, it’s back to the grindstone: Wembley Stadium, where I discover Namibian sulking, a disconsolate figure in his lorry. In a single stroke, he has managed to wipe all of the AC/DC outdoor-leg footage from his video camera.

While transferring it to DVD he has pressed the wrong button…and deleted the lot. He is inconsolable this afternoon. German Holger is also in low spirits – he has had his bicycle stolen from outside Tesco. Oh dear..

Facebook and Fringe..

Exhausted, I can do little more than dribble in front of Facebook this morning. Yet it seems to be in Swedish, or possibly Finnish. Staring at the screen, utterly fogged, I’m on the verge of despair. Help!

As if by magic, a British Airways stewardess rings me. A honeyed word, and she has fixed it. The button, should you ever face this difficulty after a foreign jaunt, is in the bottom left hand corner. The choices for English, incidentally, are UK, US or Pirate. Try the latter, and see if your PC metamorphoses into a parrot and says, ‘pieces of eight.’

As usual, there’s no time for tomfoolery, though; the Old Boiler has booked me for lunch. Oh dear, I’m asked what I think of her new fringe. Now this is a trick question, right? Like, ‘does my bum look big in this?’

My answer, however, can’t be too hasty in case I sound dismissive and insincere. I stroke my chin a couple of times and ask her to swivel her neck before admitting she looks rather lovely.

In fact she looks rather more lovely than I’m comfortable with now that we’ve “mutually” decided to cut out the sex..

AC/DC Play Amsterdam..

I took a few pictures of the AC/DC show in Amsterdam from “front of house” last night. The best “seat” in the Ajax stadium was a basket suspended from the rafters – rather like one of those window-cleaning cradles that dangle from skyscrapers.

Clad in a full-body harness (nothing like a corset), I pranced gaily along a metal catwalk just beneath the roof…and looked down. Gulp!

Access to the basket, as shown in the photo, was down a rope ladder. The specks below are not dwarfs; 140 feet directly underneath are AC/DC fans. They quaffed Amstel from plastic pint pots, blissfully unaware I was climbing over a waist-high railing above them.

Vertigo

‘Nothing loose in your pockets?’ asked one of the house riggers, checking I even know what a carabiner is, let alone how to clip onto the inertia line. ‘Only a phone, camera, some petty cash and half a dozen signed plectrums,’ I said innocently.

Blimey, it was high up there. How these rigger chaps can happily straddle beams at this altitude, winching motor cables all day, is beyond me.

Ooh, just while I think of dizzying heights, if you get a chance to see Man on Wire, then do so. It’s a super documentary about a French tightrope walker who fraudulently enters New York’s Twin Towers in the ’70s. He rigs a cable, and sure-footedly crosses between the two towers, much to the consternation of the police. But what can they do? Helicopters hover; officers shout. But no one likes the look of retrieving him from the wire.

Home, Sweet Home

Wired on nothing but coffee, last night’s drive – finally – was back to Britain. Ah, the White Cliffs of Dover and a plethora of illegal immigrants. Home, sweet home. Those gloved Neanderthals at HM Customs & Excise waved me past, but I had that momentary indecision of looking straight ahead or smiling at them.

It’s like those green ‘nothing to declare’ channels at airports – if I avoid eye contact I feel conspicuously suspicious, but glancing over chummily could be interpreted as a double bluff. Any expression, I find, is one of guilt, as though I’m concealing a condom of barbiturates up my bottom.

Vultures neatly sidestepped, it was the home run – quite literally. Abandoning the truck at Wembley Stadium, I’ve sneaked down to my house in Hastings on the train, hoping to goodness that I turned the iron off in April..

Lunch with a Dutch Girl..

Wow, the Pet Shop Boys are still performing; the Pandemonium tour is in full swing. With just one truck, Neil and Chris have got the equipment down to nine tons – ‘We’ll have to lose some of the crew; you’re a heavy lot,’ they say. This I glean from the tour programme.

What I admire most about them – call it the sublime to the ridiculous if you like – is the importance they place on mealtimes. One o’clock is lunch.

My lunch today is with Donja, the sort of Dutch girl you could buy a farm and settle down with. Living in Central Amsterdam – a hefty cycle ride from the Ajax Stadium – she is convalescing from a snowboard accident. ‘I broke my back,’ she says matter-of-factly. ‘And my left arm.’

A week or so later, her right arm appeared bluer than it ought to; something was wrong. Movement was dexterous, if a little painful, but she forced those rogues at the hospital to take an X-ray. ‘Sorry,’ they said, ‘but that arm is broken, too.’

A corset!

For someone fresh out of a corset – not as saucy as it sounds; it’s more like a harness, really – she’s in remarkably fine fettle, buzzing round the flat like an able-bodied person. Perfectly capable, in fact, of preparing my lunch.

‘You should be able to cook at your age,’ she says, barely visible behind a square foot of Turkish bread. ‘Why don’t you do a course?’ Well, because the whole exercise seems such a bore, that’s why. When I’m hungry, I want to eat immediately, not fool about chopping things.

Food and Wine

I’ve just realised, with an embarrassed shudder, that I’ve stalled for more than a decade now, surviving when at home on a food-for-wine program. This entails being pampered by Shiraz-guzzling beauties most of the time, but heating up a stir-fry myself at an absolute push. I’m not proud of it.

‘I admit it’s less pathetic than a girl not being able to cook, though,’ says Donja, making me feel marginally less useless. She spits a cherry stone onto the garden soil. It feels a bit like a Sunday.

Back at the AC/DC stadium, French Fred is photographing his shoes..

No Sex Please, We’re British..

“Wrecker” Jon has very kindly offered to write a guest blog – to cover the travel day from Gothenburg to Amsterdam, a day on which there is little to report.

The handwritten note, featured below, was left for me as we shared a cabin from Finland to Sweden the other night. It will be a nice surprise for him to re-read it, I think. Anyway, here’s his blog:

Barn and I met in 2001, working for “Stagetruck”. That summer we went on not one, but two jollies to Russia. Both trips, as you might expect, were full of drama – and incidents aplenty. We got on famously, swapped phone numbers, and kept in touch. I invited him to my home in Coventry in December of that year, and arrangements were made.

New Girlfriend

However, Barn was not to be visiting me on his own. Seven weeks earlier, in Greece, he had met Sue, a delightful girl. This presented me with a slight problem; I have no spare beds and was planning on offering him full use of the sofa.

Not a problem, I thought. My good friend Ian only lived down the road, and sure enough he sprang to the rescue. They could stay in his spare room.

Ian had only one stipulation: no sex. His spare bed was old and rickety, and prone to collapse. So Ian asked if I could have a quiet word. Could Barn please refrain from consummating the new relationship?

Bedtime..

Barn had only that day jetted in from Miami, having spent time riding round on Harley-Davidsons, so was jet-lagged. We briefly caught up over a couple of drinks, then had an early night. Ian and I made our makeshift camp beds in the downstairs lounge; Barn and Sue retired upstairs for some well-earned rest.

Well, it didn’t take long for the inevitable. We heard an almighty crash as, yes, the rickety bed was now a broken bed. Ian and I chuckled ourselves to sleep – at least the bed had had a happy ending. The next night I decided it would be best if they stayed at my house, on a blow-up bed. For the record, my floorboards survived the night…