A Week with The Rolling Stones
A Week with The Rolling Stones
You can’t always get what you want… sleep-wise
Part One – The run up
“Black hearted to the bone
Older than The Rolling Stones”
(I’M SO BAD (BABY I DON’T CARE) )
I stopped reading stuff about Lemmy, a long time ago.
There were two reasons for it, really: firstly, I figured that after all the years of leaving no stone unturned between us, anything I didn’t already – I probably don’t want to know! And, secondly – having done all my sums, I worked out there’s somewhere in the region of an 87.6% chance that at some point, in any given article, I was going to happen upon some form of ignorance or inaccuracy that would really pan-fry my pot noodle, as it were.
In the past, the way I coped with journalistic inaccuracy was exactly the same as when I heard one of Piers Morgan’s opinions… I simply shut myself in the linen cupboard, buried my face into a pile of 820 gram Waffle Weave Bath Sheets with Egyptian Combed Cotton inlay, Blended Micro-fibre with a looped Cashmere pique border edging… and spent a couple of hours primal screaming into the fluffiness until the anger and frustration left me.
It’s different these days, what, with my dodgy back, gammy knee, those things that just appear out of nowhere and before you even know what it is, it’s swelling up as if you’ve done something wrong in the 10 minutes since it plotted up, uninvited.
And don’t even get me started on all the shit you’ve had since birth and then, boom, ‘it’ just drops off for no reason and suddenly, that thing you always had but didn’t know why – now, it’s just fucking gone!
I tell you, the whole aging thing’s a fucking nightmare!
Which means the cupboards are out of bounds. One face pushing into a towel too quick… and that’s probably Goodnight Irene to one, if not both, hips and… So, you’ll be here for ever more to the replacements.
So, I steer well clear of the reading, you understand – until the other day, when I came across a few boxes of crap I was obviously hoarding for – who knows? Anyway, in one of my boxes were some bits and bobs relating to Motörhead, including a feature I must have kept for a reason. And while looking for that reason, I unknowingly browsed the text and, sure enough, I read something and my brain set off for the cupboard without a word to my head. – and it was all due to a casually dropped slanderous allegation that ‘Lem was excited about something.’
How dare they! Excited? That’s rock royalty they’re toying with there.
It’s a plain fact that never in a field of humans, was so little excitement displayed by a single individual in front of so many people so few times as it was by Lemmy Kilmister!!! And, that’s just a fact!
Don’t get me wrong – It’s not like Lem would wake up, crawl out of bed, flick the TV on and start his day off with the early evening news and a quick reminder to himself that under no circumstances would there be any excitement experienced…that’s just how it was.
And he told me why, once.
* * *
We were at a gig – not sure who, not sure where – but I am sure I liked it, because I turned to him and said something along the lines of how great the band sounded and didn’t he agree?
Well, a ‘yes’ would have been fine – fine for most people – but that really wasn’t Lem. He took me by the elbow, walked us to somewhere a little quieter and, looking me square in the good eye, said, (and I para-phrase), “When you’ve stood a few feet away from a man who is redefining the limits of both the electric guitar and its music right there in front of you – and, by the way, those limits he’s redefining… they’re the same ones you watched him define last night – well, that kind of spoils you for everyone else.”
And it did…
Jimi Hendrix saw to it that, from him on, Lem would be able to count the amount of times he got excited about anything on the working fingers of Django Reinhardt’s left hand.
And, I’m not just talking about music either – I mean life in general.
Although, there was that one time. In fact, let me tell you about Sunday February 23rd 1986…
A Week with The Rolling Stones
I see a red door and I want to take a nap
Part 2 – I fucking hate surprises?
“4th day – 5th day marathon
We’re moving like a parallelogram”
“I, fucking hate surprises!”
There’s, no question that those are the four words you really want to hear when you’ve just told someone you have one for them.
But, how do you respond? Especially when it’s a sentiment with which you can fully sympathize.
Well, first and foremost, it’s important not to bow to the pressure and reveal everything. I’ve made that mistake before and far from boosting my popularity – it merely served to reduce a major chunk of the enormous respect in which I had previously been held.
This is a finely balanced eco-system in which we live – and if we all start pandering to Lemmy’s random whims, who knows how it would affect our finely balanced lives?
For starters, it would bring to an end the game of ever-increasing-circles-of-utter-bollocks-filled conversational ping-pong, in which I seem to find myself permanently trapped for hours on end. Hang on… what do I have to do to… oh, never mind.
So, how did we get here, this time?
* * *
With the benefit of hindsight, what the hell was I thinking?
There I was, speeding through the streets of London, rushing to get back home – traffic light colours meaningless, pavements merely an extension of the road, with people on them – all because I had some exciting news for Lemmy and Würzel – that I couldn’t wait to share with them. This was going to be something they would definitely not forget in a hurry.
And, then, I lost my mind…
I decided to take a perfectly simple scenario – one that involved “ooo”s and “aaah”s and maybe even a gift or two – and, for no good reason transform it into a chorus of moans and whines, by telling them I couldn’t tell them because I wanted it to be a surprise! Frankly, people have been sectioned for less!
* * *
“Now, I’m not going to tell you where, because it’s a surprise – or why, because that’s a surprise, too – but on Sunday, we’re going somewhere… to see something… and, let’s just say – it’ll be great and it will blow your fucking minds!”
I hate blowing my own horn (did it once – 1976 – long story – don’t want to talk about it!) but as speeches go (look – it was my first time – I didn’t know what I was doing – I don’t want to talk about it, all right?) I thought it was a pretty good one. (listen, something didn’t feel right, OK? Like when you sleep with your 1st cousin… I don’t want to talk about it).
Actually, it was good enough, for Würzel, to sign up there and then. Whether he knew what he’d agreed to, even in its current form, I would doubt. Content wasn’t a priority for Würz – he just loved the ride.
The other one was slightly more of a problem.
Lemmy, the yang to Würzel’s yin, was having none of it. Never one for planning, he was also never one to attend an anything without having all the facts (control freak – OCD sufferer – nosey parker… take your choice) But surprises – perhaps he had a bad experience – maybe with a clown, I couldn’t possibly say – so when he said “I fucking hate surprises” he meant it.
“Since when?” I asked feigning interest
“Since I stopped being 8!” It would have been a good comeback had I not known for a fact it was still going on when he was 10.
“so quite recently then?” A cheap shot, I grant you but, nevertheless one that caught him off-guard. This next one would be big…
“Look, just tell me what it is.” Or not…
“No, I want it to be a surprise.”
“Just tell what we’re doing”
“I want it to be a surprise.”
This repetition section dragged on for a while – our ‘phoney war’, if you will – but Lem was a black belt in tautology, the ancient art of delivering the same question in several different ways – using a variety of tones of shout. It didn’t help – I was, now, getting bored with the whole affair. The only thing that kept me going was that with every fresh attempt to “tell me, now”, he appeared to be to be getting ever nearer some kind of breakdown..
One thing I’ll say about me, is that just because I don’t believe in something, I’ll stand so firm on the matter, you’ll think that I did. Lem taught me that himself. What he didn’t know, is that for a tenner, I’ll fold like an Origami swan and admit defeat.
But where the fuck was he going to find ten pounds on a Friday afternoon, with the bank just up the road and still open? He was in Motörhead, for Christ’s sake!
* * *
Anyway – this is dull now, because it was and it went on for hours. I was almost ready to spill the beans just to spare my sanity – my only course of action, I decided, was to sneak out of the house and Lemmy’s life, for 36 hours.
I told Würzel, who agreed to help distract old eagle eyes, downstairs, but before all that, he suggested I stay, because said he had the perfect hide out – under his bed!
What a kind and generous offer, I thought, as I charged out of the door!
* * *
When I charged back in, at around 7pm on Sunday night, shouting about how we had to “chop, chop” as we were running late – miracle of miracles, no one fought back and within minutes, we were on the move.
There were no more questions – in fact Lemmy was remarkably quiet. Perhaps sulking from my disappearance, although he did find a moment for the issue of a simple threat…
“This had better be worth it, or else…”
… he was so adorable when he was all gangsta.
As we all sat quietly, him included, pondering, what an “or else” might look like in his hands, we hit Oxford Street – which, at first glance, seemed to be hosting a rather dignified riot of some kind (rioting was all the rage back then – although rarely dignified) and a large police presence was coping with an ever-growing crowd.
Suddenly, all thoughts of digging my own grave on Putney Heath because it hadn’t been worth it were gone – replaced by piqued interest. Perhaps the surprise element was even starting to grow on him – although he never mentioned it!
* * *
The first out-of-the-ordinary event happened the moment we got out of the car and it gave me the chance to get in on some of the ‘surprise’ action that was going around.
Walking back into the chaos, Lem was spotted by a Motörhead fan, who appeared from the melee to greet his idol. He talked so excitedly, about being at this gig and that gig that I was beginning to think he was never going to apologize for being a policeman.
Instead, he rattled off the standard police-issue line about, when they get home, they can’t wait to tear their uniform off – he told us he put on his jeans and Overkill tour t shirt, poured himself a large Jack and put the Bomber album on (Lem, being Lem told him that was the wrong album and everything – except Ironfist – was better) on the turntable, turned the amp up to 12-ty, and set about pissing off the neighbours. Oh, the tips we could have given him if he’d just asked!
This chat was lovely n’all, and if you were going to be nicked for something, you could not have found a nicer guy to do it, but there didn’t seem to be much else in it for us… until he offered to escort us through the chaos, to the 100 Club.
Well, it seemed like the least we could do for the guy, especially as he was a fan, so we graciously accepted!!
It was then Lemmy turned to me and said, “well, it’s either The Beatles or The Stones and it ain’t the Beatles.” And, you know, for all his faults… when that man was right, he definitely, usually, wasn’t wrong.
* * *
As we approached, I caught the eye of the Stones’ head of security JC, and the other ruthless men mountains on his team – including “Big Joe” Seabrook – God rest him – and they fell about laughing. Of course, I’d have organized a police escort and they cleared the way allowing for our party to make their seamless entrance – Würzel, to whom Lemmy had failed to attach to his lead – immediately took off and charged down the stairs like an excited child.
Within seconds, we became aware of some sort of brouhaha, which we knew had to be something to do with our puppy – and sure enough, as the crowd parted, there was Würz, standing over his first victim of the night – Bill Wyman!
We’d been there for less than a minute and already a Stone was down.
Another 15 minutes of this and we’d be home by Catchphrase, at this rate!
Never was the lyric “if you start me up I’ll never stop” going to mean more than night…
A Week with The Rolling Stones
Let’s spend a whole bunch of nights together
Part Three – Wurzel’s finest hour
“If you want to feel good –
if you want to feel alright
If you wanna shake your stuff …
get some rock ‘n’ roll tonight”
The Rolling Stones are a big deal – the biggest, in fact.
Kings, Queens, Presidents, Popes, film stars, serial killers – all have believed they were a pretty big deal – until the day they went toe to toe with the Stones. This is a band that takes great pride in the kafuffle they cause when their travelling circus hits town.
But, this particular night had nothing to do with that…
On December 12th 1985, the world of this seemingly unstoppable behemoth, stopped turning – when Ian Stewart – the second member of the Rollin’ Stones – the man who lost his job because his face didn’t fit – but, instead of drowning in a sea of self pity, was that much of a man, he simply accepted a change in his job title from that of band member to driver, road manager, piano player, friend, critic, father-figure and the man on whom they could always rely – died of a heart attack. He was just 47 years old.
2 months later and no less distraught, The Rolling Stones – joined by friends – such as Clapton and Beck, Simon Kirke, Jack Bruce and Pete Townsend – are paid tribute in the only way they knew how.
They were stepping back on a stage, for the first time in 4 years – and playing through their individual pain, at a secret memorial event for Stu’s family and friends – and, perhaps those most entitled of all – themselves.
* * *
It was always going to be a special night – a night, which may have been many things – a celebration, a catharsis, a thank you – call it what you want… but a gig, it was not.
I’ve read things that others have written and said about what happened on stage at the 100 Club, that night but it’s something about which I don’t feel comfortable. Opinions on how this solo sounded, on whether he did this well or whether this version of that song was better than that gig on the ’75 tour – on how this was a great show or not… with the greatest of respect – fuck you all. How dare you abuse the privilege of being there and sharing in their grief by missing the point.
Therefore, when Lemmy came to write about that night in his book White Line Fever, he knew what was right and wrong to document, when it came to rock n’ roll, because he was a class act, who got it instinctively (quite why he chose to move the night to 1988, we’ll never know. I did tell him it was ’86 but perhaps… oh, what the hell – we’ll live!).
Anyway – as things wound down at the 100 Club, although the band was clearly very emotional, Keith was kind enough to grab me and invite us back to the intimate soiree he was throwing back at his suite at the Savoy.
If only he’d known what he was doing….
* * *
For Keith Richards, the hotel room is a social hub.
This is a place where his friends – and everyone staying 2 floors above and below, can listen to music, drink, shoot the shit, shoot the wall (special occasions only!) – in other words, hang and when we arrived, things were already underway.
Once again, let me reiterate my rules. This was a private do, attended by a handful of friends, whose privacy I have no intention of compromising.
What I will discuss, however, was the performance of Würzel, to whom the night would belong. Never has the faux pas, been delivered at such lightning speed, with such pinpoint accuracy and with such regularity.
He was Clouseau, Frank Spencer and Dumb and Dumber rolled into one – and, that night, he took the act of putting your foot in it and scaled Everest-like heights of social ineptitude.
And, everybody loved him for it.
Lemmy describes it to perfection in the book – allow me to paraphrase:
“We were talking with Simon when Kirsty MacColl came by with her new husband Steve Lillywhite (producer of the new Stones album). Kirsty was a great old friend of mine… and I gave her a hug. Wurzel turned to Steve and said, “Who’s that old boiler Lemmy’s got a hold of?”… “Er, that’s my wife, actually!”
A good, solid start…
“About half an hour later he was standing at the bar next to Ronnie Wood, when Jo Howard… stunning… walked past and everything was moving – you know what I mean? And Würzel (turned to Ron) and leered “I’d like to fuck her, wouldn’t you?” Ronnie(without skipping a beat) replied “I do actually, she’s my wife!”
The boy was on a roll… and by no means done.
I can’t say some of the other things – because I just can’t – but there was the moment Würz was giving me an in-depth run down on the pros and cons of Mick Jagger.
I could, I suppose, have said something, but with Mick standing right behind him, listening in – I was brought up to believe that it’s wrong to interrupt someone when they’re speaking.
So, as he was winding down, the voice from over Würz’s shoulder asked, “Ever met him?”
“No,” he said turning to face his inquisitor, “have you?… ooo (shoulder slump)… oh.”
I’ve seen many people, particularly women, get lost for words in Jagger’s presence. Würzel, in that moment, showed his feminine side admirably!
* * *
Allow me to tangent away from Wurzel’s ‘pas, just briefly – and focus on something that Lemmy wrote about in the book, upon which I would like to expand and give you the full story of what really happened with regard to the Eric Clapton incident – because it led to one of the most touching moments I have experienced in my life.
That night, there were only about 25 people in the room, meaning there was nowhere to hide – and when Clapton arrived, I saw Lem do something I had never imagined possible – he became visibly shy. It sounds impossible, I know but it’s true, I swear.
Even before The Yardbirds – Lemmy idolized Clapton.
Already fully aware that God wasn’t God, he could find no fault in the rumour that pointed to it being Clapton. He did, however, assure me that he never took to painting it around town – an assurance he could not give me, in the case of Jimi Hendrix, a few years later.
Anyway, I nudged him and told him to go over and say hello – at which point, I watched him turn into a schoolboy right in front of me. Stopping just short of stamping his foot – he whined that he would but he had to wait for the right time – shy-person-code for never.
Knowing that Eric has the ability to be just as shy and reserved – if fate wasn’t given a little bit of a helping hand – this, frankly, was never going to happen. And, as luck would have it, I knew of just such a hand – I kept it at the end of my arm.
Picking a moment when Lem was otherwise engaged, I walked over and said to Eric that – I’d be really grateful – if he had a minute, for me to introduce him to Lemmy?
Clapton, seemed genuinely not unhappy at the prospect, so, within a few short steps, I tapped Lem on the shoulder and said, “Lemmy, this is Eric.” At which he spun around, trying and failing to play it cool – and there they stood, face to face.
So, walking away to leave them to it – I did what any friend would have done. I leaned in and whispered, “this is it – the moment you’ve waited for all your life – so, make it count!”
Aren’t friends great?
* * *
Dream achievement done, it was back to my day job – Würzel watch. Now, where was he?
With a trail of disaster in his wake – wherever there was chaos, he was bound to be at the business end of it – and there was really nothing left for him to do but burn the place down… which was unfortunate because Keith had taken delivery of a hotplate trolley filled with steak sandwiches – and Würzel was staring at them, lovingly.
Keith looked at Würz, Würz only had eyes for the food…
“Want some, Würzel?” (I can’t tell you how the fact that Keith knew his name blew his mind).
With Keith, it works like this – drinks there – food there – etc, etc – help yourself. But, as Würzel stepped forward preparing to do just that – Keith stopped him in his tracks. “Allow me – I’ve been admiring your work all night, so it might be safer…”
He handed over a plate full of food, a napkin and noticeably no cutlery. That man doesn’t miss a trick.
Mid-munch, Würzel leaned over and began to ask the question I’d been fearing for a while. “Si, when Lem’s done, would you introduce me to Clapton? I’d really like to…” I raised my hand…
“Let me stop you there, Würz. You know I love you but there will be no more talking to anybody, looking at things or touching stuff… do you understand? And should an impulsive thought start to form in your mind, then you must let me know straight away, so we can dispose of it.”
He nodded sheepishly – but how do you say no to something as cute as that?
Of course, in the end, I relented and just before we left, at a time that ensured our arrival in the main reception, would confirm to their other guests that the Savoy was still attracting only the very highest standard of patron!
As for Eric Clapton, I didn’t oversee their brief exchange, but there were no “Guitar legend injured in chat.” headlines, the next day, so I guess it went OK.
* * *
But it was as we left Keith’s and walked down the Savoy’s impressive art deco corridors, that I’m not too proud to say, I was moved to tears.
Lemmy, still high on his Clapton encounter, pulled me to one side.
“Thanks for everything tonight, Si, it was an amazing night.”
I was grateful, but it was nothing, I was just glad he had fun.
“No, you don’t know what meeting Clapton meant to me. That’s the first time since I was a kid that I felt like a fan again – and I never expected to feel like that ever again – it was great. Thank you.”
He walked off – I didn’t move. My legs forgot how to work. I hadn’t been expecting to hear anything like that and, it caused water to come pouring out of my eyes. It’s about to do it again, as I think about it. So, I think I’d better sign off now.
_________ * ___________
A Week with The Rolling Stones
Always in a hurry, never stop to worry but
maybe a snooze would be nice
Part Four – A Grammy for life
“Liar – your words are filth and false
you are the vile partner in the final waltz
Liar – will be rid of you a good day in any life”
When it comes to the zeitgeist, few organizations have failed so consistently to capture one, than the Grammy Nominations Committee.
Take 1965 for example…
It’s hard to imagine just how, as they desperately scoured the musical landscape, hoping to hear something worthy of their prestigious gold-painted-soft-lead-grammo-phono-graphicogram-with-external-sound-horn-and-disc-playing-capability statuettes, they managed to entirely miss the musical revolution that was in full swing by which the entire planet were completely mesmerized.
So, yes – that’s the same 1965, during which The Beatles gave us HELP! and Rubber Soul, Dylan gave us Highway 61 Revisited with Like a Rolling Stone, The Beach Boys released California Girls, The Who – My Generation, The Kinks – So Tired of Waiting, The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man, Paul Simon – I Am a Rock, Wilson Pickett gave us the Midnight Hour, The Four Tops – Same Old Song – and a multitude of other classics, including The Tracks of my Tears, Unchained Melody, Goldfinger … Jesus – if there’s nothing there you fancy there was even I Am Hen-er-ree the fucking 8th I am, I fucking am!
Oh, and let’s not forget the song that changed everything – “the five notes that shook the world” that opened The Rolling Stones’ ground breaking (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction…
Yet, come awards ceremony time – while The Beatles were at least nominated – it was Sinatra, Roger Miller, The Anita Kerr Quartet, The Statler Brothers and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass that walked away with the gold-looking prizes – while, like almost every other band and artist listed above, the Stones were ignored altogether!
It marked the beginning of a decade, plus change, of Grammy-shunning upon which the band came to rely – so that, rather than waste time on acceptance speech writing and bow-tie-tying, they were able to focus on redefining the musical landscape and creating the definitive template for rock star behaviour.
The problem for the Stones – is that even if they, themselves, don’t want ‘in’, they have no choice – that’s where they’re going to be. Shutting them out is not possible… not by politics, not by religion, not by laws – not Russia, not China, not Cuba, not The Pope – not even Blackpool Council could overpower them…. so, what chance did the self-important Grammy club stand?
Don’t forget, this is the organization whose infatuation with the middle of the road, meant room was made for a Best Polka Recording category in its roll of honour. I mean, 18 of the 24 award-winning albums were made by Jimmy Sturr – so, nothing dodgy there, then.
And finally, in 1982, the Stones’ contribution to the fabric of modern music was, at last, recognised when their art director walked away with Best Recording Package Grammy, for Tattoo You.
* * *
By 1986, The Grammy Awards had undergone major changes and their finger was now firmly on the pulse of ‘what up’ – as illustrated by the 12 nominations, belonging to the, number 74 in the Billboard 200 Album Chart reaching, Vocalese, by seminal jazz harmony vocal group, Manhattan Transfer!
The Lifetime Achievement Award, that year, was a heady mix, too…
The fast-failing health of legendary Jazz clarinettist, Benny Goodman (he died 4 months later), ensured his inclusion. And, at 92, the classical guitar virtuoso, Andres Segovia, was a shoe-in, as, surely, he was on his last legs.
And, speaking of last legs – Mick and Keith were approaching their mid-40s – which is young if you’re considering a life in Beefeater-ing – but less so if your occupation involves prancing around stadiums dressed in Lycra, ruminating on what may be the outcome if you don’t get sufficient shelter. Surely, it’d be over by Christmas, right? So, with the band, obviously preparing its musical lap of honour and how great for the most important musical prize-givers in musical prize giving to be the first ones to acknowledge this – by giving them a gold-watch award.
* * *
It had been a couple of days since the Stones played the 100 Club and a lot had happened since but, in a few hours, Lemmy and I were off to spend a little more time in their company, at the party being held in their honour – at which at some point during the proceedings, there’d be a short break for them to receive their award live via a satellite link-up with LA… or, something like that.
It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t seen my bed for a while and now might be a good time to grab a couple of snoozing hours… But what do I know about such things?
Luckily, I always had one man within grabbing distance, who knew everything about… well, everything! Lem, didn’t approve of nap usage for anyone not living within the constraints of a conventional life style – and he was on hand to put me straight…
“Bad idea!” he noted, based on his lifetime’s researching on the subject. “It’s been too long and if you put your head down now, it won’t be back up for a good 24 hours.”
I could have argued but his logic actually sounded half-OK – that’s how tired I was!
That all changed, somehow and in no time we were in the car on the way.
Where, you may ask, was the 3rd member of our intrepid band?
Ironically, in Würzel’s case, Lemmy had diagnosed the much maligned quick-snooze, knowing that tonight’s do would provide a room filled with unlimited ammunition with which he could ply his particular brand of mayhem.
It turned out to be a great decision. Several times during the course of the evening, we said to each other “what would WÜrz have done with that?”
Never mind, we’d tell him all about it when he got up in 24 plus hours
* * *
Interestingly, our first stop was at the place where the band were doing interviews for both their Grammy and their new album, Dirty Work – the Royal Garden Hotel – the place that, in a few short years, would become his surrogate London home. Yet, this, I’m pretty certain, was his first venture through its hallowed hallways.
That night, it was pure chaos – as the band hopped from room to room meeting the world’s press.
Desperate to escape this hell, we collected our invites and made our way down Derry Street (over the road) where hundreds of photographers, banked on several levels, were preparing to snap the Stones and their friends in what was the most blinding display of flash bulbs I had seen before or since – to The Roof Gardens, where the party was to be held.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Roof Gardens, it’s an extraordinary place.
It’s a club, situated on the 6th floor of what used to be Barker’s department store – but, if inside is one thing, it’s outside, where Flamingos roam freely in the beautiful themed gardens, that the place truly shines. And with the only access to the club being via a couple of lifts both of which hold no more than 5 or 6 people, at a squeeze – I was thrilled, for once, to be fashionably early.
* * *
We walked in to find some kind of row going on between some important people in TV and an important person in the music industry. The perfect Stones’ reception!
If the club was even open yet, I would doubt – I’m pretty sure we were the first people in there, which was perfect, because it gave us time to befriend the bar staff, show them just how to dispense our drinks (fill glass with ice, free pour two thirds of the available space with Jack and top up with coke) and ensure that, however busy the free bar would get, they would always notice our waving-hand-refill-requests.
Nobody shows greater generosity than The Rolling Stones and we were perfectly set-up for a great night ahead.
* _____ *
A Week with The Rolling Stones
star fucker, star fucker, star fucker, star fucker
Part Five – Never sniff a Flamingo
“We are the ones always too early or too late
We are the first and we just might be the last”
There’s something about a Rolling Stones party.
Think of them as Madame Tussauds, only, with live people – that’ll give you an idea why everybody who’s anybody wants in.
And, as the club starts filling up – sure enough, it’s with music royalty, acting royalty, sporting royalty, comedy royalty, literary royalty, fashion royalty and, well… royalty!
Whatever happens, during the night, is bound to be unusual – but, I don’t think either of us was prepared for how strange our first rendezvous would be.
* * *
I’m not saying that 22 million people were wrong to tune in to the 1975 Royal Variety Performance to see Dad’s Army splitting the Queen Mother’s soon to be hip-replaced sides – nor, that 40% of the nation’s then population shouldn’t have watched Eamonn Andrews surprise Lord Mountbatton on This Is Your Life, two years later.
I’m sure that night’s hilarious sardine anecdote, alone, was worth the cost of a license.
But, if you’ve ever tried explaining these and the other inexplicable ratings behemoths of the 70s and 80s, to kids today – their inability to grasp things is quite understandable.
Yet, once you move on to the popularity of radio – you can see they don’t know whether to laugh – or feel pity… while laughing – for, would you believe that, back then, Radio 1, was the most listened to station on the planet.
Their methods were simple – target housewives, using a cocktail of repetition, riding the mainstream and being safer than safe – while its DJs, with a few exceptions – kept it banal, vapid, lighter than light – yet, with a humour that was, weirdly, endearing.
And, as a result of their huge ratings, they became mega-stars – one of the biggest of which, was Simon Bates – who, for over 15 years, presented the mid-morning show, to 10 to 12 million listeners, daily.
He was, virtually, the poster boy for the station’s middle-of-the-road-ness – which meant, Motörhead, would have been about as far off his radar, as however far the farthest place off a radar things can be.
So, if his introduction was a surprise – that soon turned to shock, as he just launched into a barrage of career-ending revelations about a few of his colleagues – some of whom were actually there!
My first instinct, as he regaled these stories upon two strangers, was to suggest he may want to show some discretion – but, fortunately, Lemmy was way ahead of me.
Having guessed my inner voice of reason would, probably, feel the need to say something, he decided to jump in first – and, sent his booted foot to mention to my shin that I shouldn’t bother. This, as I, wildly, hopped away the pain, seemed to do the trick.
Did anybody notice? It’s hard to say – although, almost a decade later, Riverdance opened to rave reviews. Coincidence? We’ll never know – but, I’m just saying…
Simon Bates was, actually, really nice (unless you work with him, I’m guessing!) – but, his departure brought, with it, the need for alcohol, in a way I’ve rarely experienced! The problem was, with the bar, already, several deep – how would we ever get one?
* * *
Of anyone I’ve ever met, nobody believed, less, in the benefits of planning – than Lem. And, nothing brought him greater joy, than a question, like “what are you up to tomorrow?”
From its, “ooo, making a plan are we, Simon” intro – his response, complete with its many variations on the “when will you learn – making plans doesn’t work” theme – would often last longer than the long track on an Emerson, Lake and Palmer album.
Yet, when it came to getting a drink, nothing was left to chance – and, his pre-party planning – well… it worked like a dream.
That a thing of such beauty should go publicly unrecognised, is tragic – but, secrecy, in these matters, is of paramount importance. Fortunately, the astute-looking gentleman standing next to us was far too perceptive not to notice our queue-barge-ry and was evidently impressed. But, he was also thirsty – and, what do you do when Mick Jagger wants a drink at his own wingding? You sort it…
* * *
Every rock star comes with a fair old whack of preconception – but, none come close to the baggage with which Mick Jagger is weighed down.
With a name that is a synonym for the whole concept of rock stardom – Jagger accepts that he represents all the good and all the bad. While, Lemmy’s fans refer to him as “just like one of us.”
* * *
Despite its intimate nature, Lemmy and Jagger had not crossed paths at Keith’s post-100 Club bash – or ever, in fact – but, that was about to change – and, with both men laden with preconceptions – I can only talk about Lem, who could not have been more surprised by the funny, charming man he met that night.
I’m sure, by now, you know my views on privacy – so, that’s all you get, sorry.
* * *
Fun, at a Stones bash, is almost impossible to avoid… turn a corner – open a door and you’ll find yourself standing in a puddle of it.
So, there will always be those who take it too far – and, out in the gardens, the first palaver of the night is unfolding.
Some people, it seems, were indulging in some plain old fun – when, somehow, high-jinx escalated into frantic sex! Perfectly normal… yet, someone wasn’t seeing the funny side…
The Flamingos, it seemed, were not happy!
* * *
I’ve never been keen on Flamingos… it’s a beef that dates back to my childhood in Kenya… and, it’s their fault.
It was my first sight of them – millions of them – tall and pink and undeniably stunning – stretching for miles – it was an impressive sight, for sure.
Yet, straight away, I was aware of them looking down on me – a kid – their smug, superior expressions showing just how far up their own arses, these motherfuckers are.
But, I was also aware that – with my eyes saying, beautiful Rift Valley – why, was my nose screaming, old gents toilets at Waterloo Station?
The answer dates back to the design stage and nature spotting a fault, in the bird’s overheating system – resulting in the knocking up of a quick-fix solution. Flamingos piss on themselves – then, stand around in a puddle of their own filth all day!
Yes, apparently, in the searing March heat, around Lake Nakuru, spending a penny on yourself, is an absolute life saver. However, 100 feet above High St Kensington, during a record cold spell – it’s a technique that is less about air conditioning – than it is a golden shower experience, if you ask me!
Anyway, as the man, woman… and, other woman – explain exactly what happened – it’s all too clear, that these incontinent flying perverts have, once again, fuck-all to whine about.
Back inside – the party raged on…
* * *
Eventually, we were asked to put everything on hold, as cameras went live and the room was taken, by satellite, to LA, so the Grammy ceremony could witness a suitably shambolic but mercifully quick presentation of their Lifetime Achievement Award to the Stones by Eric Clapton.
Cameras off, the mayhem picked up, right where it left off – until…
* * *
The Rolling Stones know of only one way to get from A to B. They arrive in a hurry… they leave in a hurry… everything is just rush, rush, rush, with this band, I’m telling you.
But then, you have to go back to 1963, to discover why.
With such legendary chart-troublers as ‘yodelling’ Frank Ifield, ‘wobble-boarding’ Rolf Harris and ‘no-gimmick-whatsoever-er’ Maureen Evans, cluttering up the top 10 – a newly formed Rolling Stones decided to by-pass any proven methods of success – and, in the back room of a Richmond hotel, on a Sunday afternoon – chose to play authentic Chicago blues, to a handful of punters.
Within a few weeks, that handful had transformed into an hysterical mob – meaning the band could no longer even pop out for a paper, without being chased by rabid, scissor-wielding maniacs, intent on slicing off a lock of hair with one hand – while grabbing at clothes and penises, with the other.
Having grown tired of the uneven, clumpy hair and bruised genitalia – the band discovered that while running away was fine – driving, was even better – and, over the years, the Stones turned their getaway, into an art form.
Now, at a live show, as fireworks are sent up to entertain – but, mostly distract – the crowd, the band is rushed to a motorcade – several limos, plus various support vehicles deep. Should your arse not be on board when the police outriders take off… you’re on your own, baby!
Therefore, as instructions are hurriedly whispered into my ear, I already know how costly the moment or two, I need, to find Lemmy, are likely to prove. And, sure enough, by the time I’ve tracked him down, a lot has changed. Not only have we missed our ride – but, the joint, in general, has ceased jumping and is now emptying out, fast.
Luckily, having been given details of our next stop, missing the get-go isn’t the end of the world. But, as Lem quite rightly points out – joining the long queue for the lifts is not an option – so, we take the only sensible course – and, set sail, once again, for the bar.
And, from here, fresh glass in hand, Lemmy points out that – not only were we the first people to arrive, at a Rolling Stones party (which is super-fashionable, by the way) but, soon, we’d be the last out, too.
I say soon…
* * *
It must have been around 2.30am, when the army of party-related staff (and, probably, a Flamingo wrangler), embarked upon the mammoth task of cleaning up – which seemed to impose no dent in the regularity with which our drink supply was handled.
They, always, make a big fuss about the accuracy and precision that goes into the measurement of time – but, I’ve actually seen midnight turn into 3am in about 20 minutes. So, it’s no surprise when, 2.30 is suddenly 4 and, then, seconds later, becomes 6 – and, that, apparently, is curfew.
But, we can’t leave without a parting gift, they tell us – which turns out to be the one thing of which we’re a bit short in our lives – 2 full boxes of Jack… each!
* * *
My memories of the hugging and thanking everyone for their kindness and generosity, are all perfectly clear. So, too, is being saddled up with a box under each arm. It’s from there – when we went to put our best foot forward – and, nothing happened – that things get hazy.
Luckily, we knew each other so well, that, by simply looking into Lemmy’s eyes, I knew exactly what he was thinking – and, all 7 of them were saying the same thing… we were drunk!
Not just any kind of drunk, either…
This was the can’t-walk-can’t-talk-can’t-think-can’t-blink flavour, that Oliver Reed used to turn up to breakfast feeling, most mornings.
We were in deep shit – and, had it not been for the refreshments, we were carrying – who knows what might have happened?
____________________ * _____________________