Drawn By Quest For ‘Arry!

Does anyone remember that funny bit in The Young Ones book when Rik attempts to ‘interview’ Cliff Richard from a vantage point near the back of the stand as Cliff performs on stage? Cliff appears to answer every question with a lyric, but of course there’s a fundamental disconnect and absurdity here, wherein lies the humour. Sometimes, as a fan, even when you’re in closer physical proximity to a ‘rock star’ than Rik was to Mr. Pilchard, it can seem a bit like that.

At one point in Words and Music I describe an occasion when my cousins and I got all tongue tied in the presence of Iron Maiden mainman Steve Harris on Maiden’s Matter of Life or Death tour. We suffered a distinct group failure in our efforts to let him know how much pleasure his music has given us over the years and how much we value his contribution to the great rock tradition. What I don’t say in the book is that, ever a glutton for punishment, I went back for another go when Maiden’s Final Frontier tour brought them back to Cardiff in the summer of 2011. On this occasion I had the added incentive of trying to find out what he thought of the book extracts I’d sent him.

“I’ll introduce you to him,” said Vince, mate of my cousin, West Ham fan, and goalkeeper for Maidonians F.C. “and just see how it goes from there.”

Introduce us he did, in a room that was more sidestage and up-a-bit than ‘backstage’ (the holy grail of the rock fan) … but there were lots and lots of people there and opportunities for thoughtful conversation were limited. ‘Arry gave freely of his time, shaking hands and posing for photos, but his time too was limited. In fact, by my reckoning he was due on stage within about 45 minutes. (It amazed me that he seemed so relaxed so close to a show, but I guess he’s an old trooper by now.)

“This is Michael who did the rock book,” said Vince. ‘Arry nodded, we shook hands and said hello. “And this is Jon,” Vince continued, introducing him to my cousin. In the little time available to us, Jon did his best to fix up a  football match against the Maidonians sometime on the next tour, and Vince took a photo. It was time for Steve to move on. No time for book talk, but we did have a photo. Or did we? Turns out the flash didn’t work! Here’s a copy of the photo Vince later sent to me:

It had already been a good night. It was a real thrill to meet Vince and Voodoo Six guitarist Chris (“Shaven” not stirred) and enjoy a pre-gig drink with them in the famous Brains pub The Old Arcade, along with Jon, his brother (my cousin) Chris, my graphic designer friend Chris, my wife Chrissy (blimey, that’s a lot of people called Chris), and Jon’s friend … Alan. (The last time I’d seen Alan he was getting sucked into the crush at Maiden’s Twickenham gig and promptly disappeared into the abyss.)

Maiden were typically great … and, of course, it was also a thrill to be introduced, however briefly, to Steve. I never got to tell him how much pleasure his music has given me over the years, etc. etc. … but in the cold light of day, I guess he doesn’t need me to tell him that. I think the banners and flags and chants and queues and album sales and ticket sales all over the world tell him all he needs to know. There are earth dogs and rivet heads everywhere!


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  1. simon robinson

     /  June 16, 2012

    The curse of the malfunctioning camera flash gun! I remember Ritchie Blackmore granting a few of us a rare audience backstage at Liverpool years ago and being allowed to take some shots. There is little more mortifying than setting up and the flash fails to fire. Fiddle with the batteries, listen to the unit recycle the charge and then – flash – it goes off in my face. Mercifully there were a couple of frames when shutter and flash coincided and I like to think Blackmore was too busy warming his fingers up on the Strat at the time to notice too much…

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