Relics 2: Programmes That Can Be Read

Following on the heels of Relics 1, welcome to the second post in the ‘Relics’ series. This one focuses on some tour programmes of note, most of which have been in a box in the attic for over 25 years, and most (though not all) of which are from 1982-83.

I don’t tend to buy tour programmes these days. As a rule I think they are overpriced and uninformative, but back in the day I did purchase them from time to time, and occasionally I managed to get them signed.

The Eagle Has Landed

Saxon’s Bristol Colston Hall gig on The Eagle Has Landed tour was the first gig I went to outside my home town. I loved Saxon in those days. They were the first band I ever saw. They were a fantastic live act and, in fact, I saw them on every tour from Strong Arm of the The Law through to Crusader and they never failed to deliver. (For an amusing Crusader story, check out the Dobby’s Shoelace blog.) On this particular night they played to an ecstatic and appreciative audience. In the words of the tour programme: “They took no prisoners.”  They were touring their live album The Eagle Has Landed and used the tour to debut a new song of the same name. It sounded great and augered well for the next album – though when it came I didn’t think the studio recording quite captured the power of the live performance.

Cheetah supported. Man, did I over-fixate on Chrissie Hammond. “I just wanna spend the night with you,” she sang. As a horny 15 year old, I felt the same way.

The only slight mystery here is how I managed to get the programme signed. If I recall correctly, we left the gig in  a rush to get the train back to Cardiff (a prelude to the shenanigans described in Words and Music).  Though I don’t remember with any certaintly, I suspect I took it along to the HMV signing session (described in Relics 1) on The Power and The Glory tour. I notice, flicking through it now, that Nigel Glockler and Steve Dawson signed the back as well as the front, and Graham Oliver also signed his portrait inside! Overkill, you might say!

A Light in the Black

The music of Ronnie James Dio has played a significant part in my history as a rock fan. I loved the Dio-fronted version of Rainbow and his involvement in other Deep Purple-related projects, such as Roger Glover’s Butterfly Ball album. As readers of Words and Music (and, indeed, Relics 1) will recall, I saw the Dio version of Sabbath live on the Heaven and Hell tour early in my gigging history and was blown away. I was greatly excited, then, when Dio emerged with his own band and a new album – Holy Diver – which proved to be one of the three greatest studio albums he recorded. I saw him on the Holy Diver and The Last in Line tours, both fine performances. This programme is from the Holy Diver tour. The fact that Ronnie has passed away makes this signed copy all the more special to me.

MSG: Re-Armed and Ready

There’s surprisingly little in Words and Music about Michael Schenker, save a short section in which I suggest that his playing “takes you as close to the Platonic Form of beauty as a heavy rock guitarist possibly can”. A slight overstatement? A touch pretentious? You’d only think that if you’ve never heard or appreciated Schenker at his best! He’s a great talent and his playing is truly sublime. Soulful, melodic, controlled, chaotic, cutting, frenetic, soaring … just go listen!

This particular programme is from the Assault Attack tour, November 1982. The tour was notable for the suprising return of original MSG vocalist Gary Barden. Gary had been replaced for the Assault Attack album by former Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet, in  a line-up shuffle that also saw Ted McKenna replace the late, great Cozy Powell on drums to team up with his old mucker from the Alex Harvey Band, bassist Chris Glenn. Assault Attack was a cut above. It had a crisp, clean production that gave it a unique sharp and fluid sound, and, arguably, the Schenker/Bonnet songwriting partnership threatened to eclipse the work of the earlier line-ups. All looked as rosy as the flowers on one of Bonnet’s shirts. Then he got pissed and disgraced himself at a warm-up gig, and that was that.

These were pre-internet days and information travelled less quickly than it does now. Rock fans relied on Sounds, Kerrang! and Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show for their news. I didn’t know that Gary Barden was back in the band until he bounded onto the stage! But his return went down well with the faithful and a great evening was had by all. I particularly remember Schenker crouched over his guitar, almost statue-esque, delivering a note perfect rendition of the extended solo in ‘Rock Bottom’. Great stuff!

Piece Be With You

What can you say about Iron Maiden that hasn’t already been said? They have always been an astonishingly hard working band and their tour schedules have, at times, been truly punishing. How amazing then that they came out to sign autographs for a small group of us who had gathered patiently at the St. David’s Hall cloakroom after the gig. They didn’t all come out together, not at first anyway, but Bruce sorted that out in a wonderful gesture of kindness towards my friend John.

John had broken his ankle not long before on a school skiing trip to Switzerland and attended the gig on crutches with his leg in plaster. We persuaded him to ask the band to sign his plater cast. Held up by friends, John stood with his ‘bad leg’ up on the counter. The first of the band to see him was Bruce, who had a towel wrapped around his neck and was signing and gesturing rather than talking, to rest his voice and keep it in good shape. Despite this, as soon as he had signed John’s leg he went off to get the rest of the band to come and do the same. Think of the kudos John gained, hobbling round the school playground with a plaster cast signed by Iron Maiden! My main memory of the rest of the band that night is that Nicko told a lot of jokes and talked very loudly. He also kept saying: “Well, fuck my old boots!” The next time I came face to face with Nicko, about 25 years later, he was no different! (For more Maiden-related gig memories, check out the Drawn By Quest for Arry! blog.)

Speak of the Devil

This was Ozzy’s first UK tour since Randy’s death. Brad Gillis featured on guitar, in an unusual line-up that also included Pete Way on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums. According to the programme, Lyndsey Bridgewater played keyboards. The tour featured the full, theatrical stage show, with John Allen playing Ronnie the dwarf who was ritually hung during ‘Goodbye to Romance’. Mad times, but quite a show, and how Ozzy managed to keep going and maintain standards at the time is beyone me. Between album release and tour ‘Talk of the Devil’ had also become ‘Speak of the Devil’.

Support was provided by the Impeckable Budgie. Often touted as the ultimate arena support band, their presence seemed appropriate. Tommy Vance had played two Budgie tracks from their Nightflight album as a tribute to Randy on the night he announced his death to the UK rock community. I notice that drummer Steve Williams signed the back of my programme. I saw him wandering around during Ozzy’s set and duly popped down to say hello.

The Werewolf programme is from the Bark at the Moon tour, with Jake. E. Lee. I caught the Bristol gig. The remarkable thing about this gig was that no one left when the lights went on. The band were forced out of the shower for a second encore.

Damage Inc.

The second ‘untimely’ death (is there ever a good time to die?) discussed in Words and Music, another senseless tour accident, was that of Cliff Burton, the extraordinary Metallica bass player. As noted in my book, the UK leg of the Master of Puppets/Damage Inc. tour had been a total triumph, and the Cardiff show I attended was quite unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Tour t-shirts and programme alike feature a list of dates that sadly neither Cliff, nor the band, were able to fulfil. By then I had pretty much stopped buying tour programmes. It’s kind of odd that I bought this one. I reproduce Ross Halfin’s portrait here as my own tribute of sorts. (Hope that’s ok, Ross!)

Farewell to ’83

This was the first time I saw Marillion live. My friend Ray and I went on a Concert Travel Club trip to catch the Birmingham Odeon gig.

1983 had been a great year for Marillion – they had released and toured debut album Script for a Jester’s Tear. As they were readying second album Fugazi, they used a short Christmas tour to get out of the studio, maintain a bit of momentum, try out a few new tracks and ‘break in’ new drummer Ian Mosley. There was a wonderful celebratory Christmas vibe at this gig, well captured by the artwork on the front of the tour programme and the picture of the Christmas Jester into which it unfurled. I found the gig utterly engaging. I loved Fish’s between-song banter and our first taste of the new songs.

Support was provided by Pendragon. They were great. There was a real warmth to their music and performance that was also captured on the cassette tapes they were selling on the merch stand. I bought the ‘blue’ one; Ray bought the ‘pink’ one. These remain the best things I’ve heard from Pendragon. (There’s something here, I feel, about not overproducing music, but just giving it the space it needs to breathe.) One question: ‘Alaska’ – does Nick Barrett really sing about “kippers in the fridge”? (Or rather the lack of them.) I always think of ‘Alaska’ as the Eskimo fishing song! Pendragon also supported Marillion a few months later on the Fugazi tour – and were just as good then.

I’ve seen Marillion on numerous occasions since. There are other gigs I’d probably rate more highly in terms of both performance and set list, and, Script aside, I do have a preference for the Hogarth-era material. Nevertheless, there’s nothing quite like the first time you see a band live. The Farewell to ’83 gig will always carry special meaning for me.

Fish in Water

Read Relics Part One

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  1. Relics 1: And Don’t Forget the Joker « Words and Music

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