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Geoff's Articles

My Brave Fate
Plucked from his home in leafy Wiltshire and deposited in some of the world’s most interesting hotel rooms, Geoff Baker has a quiet observation or two to share about life on the road.

Plucked from his home in leafy Wiltshire and deposited in some of the world’s most interesting hotel rooms, Geoff Backer has a quiet observation or two to share about life on the road.

Bleep bleep. Bleeeeeeeep. What the Sam Hell is that? Bleep. Bleeeeeeeeep. Hello. What? What wake up call? I didn't book a wake up call. What time is… it's six o'bloody clock, you madman, I've only been asleep of three hours.

Great. Now I'm awake; you try getting back to sleep and your brain's giving it that what are you doing, it's morning, it's morning. What the hell am I going to do now? Read something. It's all in German. Apart from the guide to the hotel and you've already done that and noted that 'gentlemen are requested to wear a jacket and tie in the hotel bar'. Women can wear a wet suit and snorkel if they like, but guys have to wear a tie. Great.

Oh God. Brain’s saying you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Check out the mini bar first, look for some snack. Bar of chocolate. That’ll do me. Look at the price, says Brain. What? Look at the price. It’s just a bar of chocolate. Look at the price. OK, Let’s see… ah, schokoladen – 35 shillings. That’s ah… that’s £2. For a bloody bar of chocolate!

A can of Coke, by the way is £2.75. If, of an evening, your tipple is Scotch and Coke, that’ll knock you back £10.22.

You need to know all this. You do. I’m telling you this because you need to know. You need to know about life on the road. We’re in Germany right now and by the time you read this we’ll have whizzed through Europe and maybe Japan too. We’ll be getting on for South America. And you need to know this.

I want you to know it’s not easy. It’s great, but not easy. You worry on the road. You worry about things. Like, how can you order room service when you’ve only got a 20 Mark note (about £10) on you. You can’t do it. You know that if you do and your cheese and tomato sandwich arrives then the waiter’s going to start hanging out in your room until he gets his tip. And you’ve only got this 20DM note. Ten quid, for walking up five flights with a sandwich? No. But he’s hanging out. He’s smiling at you in a “my wife and five children are very poor and hungry” sort of way. The only way to handle this is pretend you’re on the phone. Wait until there’s a knock on the door and then grab the phone off the hook and shout “COME IN”. He’ll reply from the other side of the door and then you dash to the door, fling it open and very obviously rush back to the phone and start talking to your imaginary caller, gesticulating for the waiter to put the sandwich tray on the bed.

That gets them. For a minute. But then he’s still standing there. The tray’s on the bed but he’s not leaving ‘cos he’s holding the bill you have to sign (and tip him). He’s giving it that “It’s OK, I can wait” bit. You’re dead; you can’t put the phone down ‘cos if you do you can sign (and tip). You’re dead in the water; there’s no way he’s not going to get that note.

You worry about waking up. You do. Here in Europe we’re flying out early the next day after a show. Tuesday: Austria. Wednesday: Germany. The call for your bags is coming at 7.00am. Gotta get up, pack, shave, wash, brush teeth. By 7.00am. And you can never find the deodorant. It’s an unrealised law of physics that deodorant moves. It does. Deodorant is mobile. You always put it in your hotel bathroom. On the shelf next to the razors. And it moves. When you need it most, sweating as you are as you scramble to pack four cases before 7.00am., it knows it and it hides. Don’t ask me how, but it does.

So why do you do it?, I hear you ask. Why haul yourself 7600 miles around Europe in 7 days, learning to live with less and less sleep?

I’ll tell you why. It’s the buzz of watching Him crack it. It’s the magic of seeing Paul letting the crowds realise that glee is good. Glee is allowed. You may think it’s obvious but it’s not. There are certain countries around Europe where enjoying yourself at rock and roll shows is verboten. It’s true. Bands come from all over the world to play in these halles and the audiences sit down. They sit down because it’s the rules. No Standing. Verboten. Standing Raus.

I hate rules. Can’t stand the horrible little things. Unfortunately, sertain countries live by them, and to please the men who make them the audience sits down. However, unfortunately for the rile-makers, four years and 200,000 miles of travelling ago, a former Liverpool schoolboy told me “the thing about rock and roll is that it breaks all the rules”.

So we’re in Vienna. It’s very clean, Vienna; people don’t drop litter in the street. It’s the rule. And they’re very nice, the Viennese; very polite. You say “no” to their requests and mostly they listen. It’s a rule.

Paul hadn’t played here since 1976 and the city was humming with excitement over the two sold-out Stadthalle shows. The coming of the tour is front-page news in the local Zeitung. The TV news is babbling continually about der Grosse star and it’s Paul McCartney Day on the radio.

At 8.12pm, Paul walks on stage. Huge sheering all round, smiles everywhere. He waves, they cheer. He straps on the bass, they cheer. He goes “one, two, three” and the band launches into “Drive My Car”, they cheer. And then they sat down.

My heart sank. To my utter horror, row upon row of Beatles fans, Paul fans, rock fans, are sitting down. Maybe they don’t recognise the song? What are you talking about, you madman? Well, maybe they don’t drive cars here or something, maybe this offends them.

“Coming Up” comes next. But they’re not coming up. They are staying sat and I’m coming down. “Looking for Changes”, “Jet” both pass. Still they sat. “All My Loving” is next; that’ll get them. You have to dance to “All My Loving”, you can’t not. In Berlin – where we’d started the tour two days before – they went potty over “All My Loving”; 23,000 people danced to it. Not in Vienna, though. Plenty of clapping and smiling but no get up and let go.

Blast. Paul’s sussed it and is getting sarcastic, saying things like “Welcome to the office outing” and “I want you to let your hair down – IF you want to have any’ from up stage.” “Good Rockin” comes. Not tonight, danke.

What in Christ’s name is going on! Stamping of feet for “Hope Of Deliverance” – a monster hit here – but no getting on them. So I grab a local journalist and ask him. What’s the matter with these people?

“Oh no” he says, “zis is alvays the zame. Zis is hoe they HAVE to behave”. What the hell do you mean by that?

“Oh, it is a zeated concert”. I can bloody well see that. “Ja, zur people are zeated and they cannot get up because it is zee rule. They never get up, not for no-one. It is zur rule in Austria. Ve are not allowed to get up. Ve have zur rule. And zur rule vill not let zem get up. It is zur rule.”

Right. Well Austria’s rules just fell apart. A 2000-year-old discipline went straight out the window, luv. Because when Paul hit the opening keys to “Lady Madonna”, Vienna just had ENOUGH of their rules. It was STUFF THE RULES time all round because, as “Lady Madonna” hit in, the crowd went WHAM. They forgot every rule they’d been taught at school, threw off their traditions and culture and stood on their seats and stamped on them.

The stewards are going mad. They are having multiple heart failures. Their jaws have dropped, and they’re spinning, arms flailing helplessly as thousands of people get out of their seats and rush at the stage. It is chaos. The security is powerless to stop this flood of freedom for fun.

And this journalist who’s been giving us the line about “Rules are Rules” has gone white. “Zis is terrible,” he says. No mate, zis is more like it. “nein, you don’t understand, zis is a madhaus. I must tell my newspaper. Zis does not happen here. It is not vot I zais vould happen. Zis is crazy.”

Yep. Got it in one. Zis is crazy. So here’s £10.22, order me up a Scotch and Coke and damn the price because we’re coming to break your rules. Every time.

From the Autumn 1993 Issue # 67 of Club Sandwich
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