STRING DRIVEN THING ON THE ROAD, AT SEA & IN THE AIR
Part 2 – Germany
(MANAGING THE UNMANAGABLE)
In his memoirs, Chris gave details on the trips abroad that the band made during their time that they were signed to Charisma which, of course, included supporting Genesis in New York at the Philharmonic Hall, recording at The Honky Chateau in France and drinking the ferry dry on their trip to Ireland, or was it Holland. I can’t verify those stories because I wasn’t there, but I can make accurate comment on our trips on the road, at sea and in the air during the 21st century because I organised them and travelled with the band on them.
Although the Charisma version of the band toured widely, our first trip in this century to another country was to promote the album, “Songs From Another Country”. Chris, George, Andy & Dick played a couple of gigs in Germany for a long-time friend of Chris’s, John Flanagan, with whom we would stay. The travelling logistics were down to me to organise and we all safely made it to Munich Airport from where John transported us to his lovely house in Vilsbiburg, Bavaria.
Our first gig was at the wonderful Café Konrad, a real rock’n’roll venue, in John’s hometown and we were all made wonderfully welcome by the owners and staff alike before performing a storming gig later on that evening. Chris unfortunately broke a tooth on the trip as can be seen in the photo below.
It seemed ideally appropriate for the band to perform tracks from their new album in another country. Relaxation after the gig was achieved with copious amounts of German beer and an excellent jam session. It must be the naturalness of their beer that seems to prevent headaches developing – because, sure as hell, they should have.
Gig two was at nearby Landshut where we performed in the more formal surroundings of the Salztadel. It was an excellent hall and, although performing well, the gig did not have quite the same “rocking” atmosphere as the previous night.
The trip must have been a success as John asked us back again the following year. This time, Chris & Pauline took the opportunity to have a little holiday and went out a week early to spend time with John. Chris also performed a solo acoustic set back at Café Konrad.
By this time, Robin had, by this time, become a full-time member of the band and, with Andy & Dick in tow, I managed to get them all safely from Edinburgh to Munich where John had organised a wonderful red sky to mark our arrival. I’m afraidthat I do not have any pics of this.
Our lodgings were in the middle of nowhere at Gasthaus Spirklhof where, at night, it was so dark that Robin managed to get lost in the room. Our stay there gave us a very early taste of what it would be like if we ever had to go into lockdown & isolation. Who would ever believe that we would benefit from the experience?
Our first morning was pleasant enough and we discovered that the countryside around our hotel was fabulous. We took a walk in the proverbial Black Forest where some fabulous photographs have been turned into a couple of nice photo videos for the band and Robin. We also managed to get the cover shot for his then up-and-coming album, Be Gone.
We were due to play three gigs during our time in Bavaria, the first being in Bilsbiburg in a converted bowling alley. Dr. John & The Separators opened for us before the boys (& Pauline) performed two storming sets. What a gig this was, only surpassed by the afterparty which, for Dick & Andy, culminated in an expensive taxi ride back to our hotel..
We all became a bit stir crazy in our isolated hotel, particularly as we found out that the front door of the hotel was locked during the day until 5pm. By lunchtime, we realised that we had no food, so an escape committee was formed and we dug a tunel from the foot of the fire stair to beyond the kids’ playground. – Ok I’m exaggerating. We actually found a door that opened from the inside but, unfortunately not from the outside. I am not tour manager for nothing – well, technically, I am. I waited behind the door whilst Robin & Pauline ventured to the shop across the road. At the same time, Robin dropped the room key down through a grille on the ground and had to climb down the hole to retrieve it. It was like a scene from “I’m A Celebrity” with giant spiders all around him.
The trip to the shop proved longer than expected as I had forgotten that Pauline & shops combined meant that time passed slowly. By late afternoon, we were going stir crazy and were delighted when we were invited to have a meal at local restaurant Thai Brau. This was owned by Hump & his Thai wife who had promoted the previous night’s gig and was fabulous.
This sustenance set us up for that night’s gig in Wolperdinger, near Jenkofen where, unfortunately the population seemed to be hungover from their Father’s Day celebrations and all but a few failed to show on the night. Father’s Day is seemingly a massive thing in Germany, but the local population missed out on a fabulous performance from the band.
On returning to Stalag Sprinkelhof in the wee small hours, we found the door locked. At this point, we discovered that our room key opened the front door. If only we had known before.
We had another photo shoot the next day before our third gig in The Foggy Dew pub in Mengkofen. Unfortunately, a local biker festival with live music was being held on the same day, so we were relegated from the upstairs function hall to the downstairs bar. Complete with centrally located live wood burning stove, this must be the most bizarre gig ever performed by the band. Strangely, it is also one of their best and the small but vociferous crowd thoroughly enjoyed it. After a good 45 minute first set, the band played a mammoth 2 hour second set fuelled by the beer taps. Pauline wanted to get home but the boys wanted to party. It took half an hour to load the gear and another two hours to get the band out of the pub.
The slightly sore heads the next morning became worse when we learned that volcanic ash from Iceland had filled the airspace and all flights were cancelled. Trying to change flights on-line proved impossible, so we headed to Munich airport where we managed to get re-booked in three days’ time. Whilst John and his family very kindly let us crash at his for the night, it was clear that alternative accommodation for the following two nights would be required for the six of us. We managed to get rooms at Heidi’s Pension which also had a great wee bar and restaurant. We had great fun in shouting out “Heidi, Hi.” at every opportunity. It’s true what they say about German humour!
Over the next couple of days, we amused ourselves by first taking a trip to nearby Landshut where we encountered the most wonderful urinals bringing a whole new meaning to the expression “Golden Shot”. The next day we took advantage of the excellent value group train ticket and went to Salzburg, which is, of course, in another country and is the home of Mozart and The Sound of Music. Some more great photographs were taken, beer was drunk and a great time was had by all.
Back in Vilsbiburg, we roamed the streets taking random photographs and generally being silly.
At one point, Andy decided to give the Germans a sample of his Jakey impersonation and started a drunken sing-song in the street. We later found out that he was plonked on the pavement outside the local mayor’s office and “questions were being asked on high” about the mad Scotsmen in town who were drunk and seen to be chatting up the local birds.
Thankfully, we were able to make it home and, in due course, received our compensation for the unexpected stay.