Fabulous. Any way you slice it, listening to Marvin Gaye at 30,000 feet above Nova Scotia is a stone groove. The funny thing is that I told the other guys that it was really important for them to get some sleep on the flight and they're all snoozing and I remain firmly outside the land of nod. I asked the steward what kind of whiskey they have on board and he said "Jimmy Walker". It did kind've taste a bit like Kid Dyn-o-mite, actually. So three drinks and a Klonipin (Thank you David Thompson) and I'm still wide-eyed and scheming about licensing deals. I should be nice and knackered when we land and it's the morning of tomorrow.
Brussels was a nonevent except that I ran into a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in 10 years. He was on his way to play Motown in Germany, of course. Anxieties aside, we absolutely breezed through Customs with 100 CDs and a couple dozen T-shirts unchecked, thank you. Now we are at the Hotel de New Cologne (I think) and I am attempting to take a nap. It's not working.
Barcelona is really beautiful, it's very European (for some reason) but it also has a breezy California vibe. The weather is just perfect-about 65 degrees and a big, bright sun. Must buy sunglasses (which I will then lose immediately). Palm trees, it's pretty great here. The Hotel of No Colon is pretty low key. It's a cold water affair, which has really rained on my enthusiasm for a shower. When in Rome... David and I just went down to a little cafe place for some cafe' con leche and we're waiting to be picked up for soundcheck at the Zeleste club. Our hostess, Eneida, is ill so we don't know who is coming to pick us up.
There is a small yapping dog in residence at the Hotel Del Shannon. A very nice girl named Cristina came to pick us up and get us to the venue. She has apparently done something horribly wrong in life for she is supposed to be our guide for the next few days. Poor girl.
The show last night was really great. I got stuck with the dreaded Peavey bass amp, but we are in Spain so who exactly cares? My new Epiphone bass performed admirably. The club, Zeleste 3, is a new room above a big room (about the size of Avalon I guess). Yes was playing in the room below us and one of the people there took Clyde and myself down for a peek. Jon Anderson said "I don't know what the name of this club is (about a million people yelled out "Zeleste" but he ignored them), but tonight this is the house of Yes!" (fist aloft!). Silly Jon Anderson.
We played with two local bands, Sidonie and Bondage, both of whom were quite good. The crowd was really responsive for our set. There was just tons of beer in the dressing room so I did the old Guided By Voices bit. After each song I would pound a beer (or about 1/2 of one anyway) and then throw the can against the back wall-SPLAT! They dug it. There was a top geezer there with a Stax/Volt T-shirt who was obviously way into it so I threw him and his buddies a couple of beers. They passed them around amongst everyone standing near them. We played really well. A pretty normal set: All That Way/ Real, Real Gone/ Molly/ Apologize/ Mandy/ Brighton Rude Boy/ Butternut/ Nicola/Back Of Head/ Wide Awake/ Soft. Plus a big encore of "He's A Whore". Note to self: Cheap Trick not very popular in Spain. Most of the girls kind've stayed back a bit, but the guys were bouncing around quite a lot. All in all, a very pleasing experience. Gear back to the Hotel de Nomenclature and it's time to go out.
Cristina had a few friends and they decided to show us a little bit of Barcelona. Her friends included this tiny little girl named Marta who looked like a doll standing next to Clyde. Marta's distinguishing characteristic is that she went to university in Scotland and now only speaks English with a tremendous Glaswegian accent. Very odd. I was wearing a "Back To Mono" button that I got in the Phil Spector box set and they pointed out that mono means monkey in Spanish. I told them that I was anti-evolution. We went to La Rambla (Rambling man...) which is a big strolling area. We went to a couple of bars in search of the infamous absinthe. We were not successful in our search. After the bars closed, our guides took us to a place called Karma which they promised was the cheesiest bar in all of Barcelona. There was a pretty big line and the other guys and gals decided to call it a night. I really wanted to just be a pirate and see this big, cheesy disco so Cristina, Marta and I waited and eventually squeezed in to the most crowded room I have ever been in. You couldn't even dance; you just moved your head around. They played a lot of crappy music (big surprise), but I will admit to a moment of exhilaration when Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" came on. Cristina and Marta showed me their best air-guitar moves and we agreed that the mullet is the haircut of the future.
We left there at 5 A.M. and decided to call it a night. I had been awake for 43 hours and the sun was threatening to come up. Going for the old Keith Richards merit badge, kids. The girls called me "La Bestia" (the beast), but mostly because I asked them to.
Now it is about 3 PM and my good friend, David Thompson, has wandered off without telling anyone where he was going and we are trying to go to the Zoo to see the albino ape (which Clyde has vowed to wrestle, posters are being printed as we speak). That's probably where Dave is. Later on Eneida and her boss are having a dinner for us. I had a huge piece of toast with Anchovies and Tomatoes for breakfast, apparently I had ordered it. It was a bit like the time Ad Frank french kissed me at his birthday party. It was nothing I desired, but one must rise to the occasion.
3 A.M. Briefly, we went to dinner at the home of Eneida's boss, Reyes. Reyes used to be quite a big pop star in Spain in the 80s and she's a mad woman all around. We had a really nice time with "Auntie Reyes". She made us a really excellent dinner (we even posed for photos with the flan) and we drank large quantities of really good red wine. Then Rum, then Scotch. Then all of Reyes' old disco and bubblegum 45s had to come out and be played. It was a really nice evening. Tomorrow we are going shopping and sightseeing with Reyes-and we have vowed to go to the zoo. I have a distinct feeling that we will be sleeping through the zoo hours. Classic Pills. Shopping here is a bit different due to the fact that all the stores close from 2PM to 5PM for the siesta. It seems like a perfectly reasonable thing, unless one is trying to purchase the Birds CD that one should have purchased 10 minutes earlier.
Now we are in Madrid after a long-ass bus ride. It was about 7 hours with a 45-minute lunch break for the driver. I listened to "Exile On Main Street" the entire way. Reyes and Eneida were very excited because they did a segment about our tour on Radio 3. They have national radio here, and Radio 3 is the rock station and there's an indie-rock show on every night at 6. Reyes says that us being featured on there means that every cool kid in Spain knows who we are now. We'll see about that.
David is sick. I guess he caught whatever Clyde had last week. He has a fever and a sore throat. Of course, I've seen him play sick loads of times before, but I'm a little worried about the traveling exacerbating the situation. I'm sure that he'll be OK for tonight, though, and Madrid is sort've the big deal for us as far as distributors and labels and stuff. Also, the promoters who brought us over here are in Madrid and I'd like to impress them.
The promoters are called Love To Art and it's basically these three madmen: David, Juan and Pepe. They are the ones who have brought the Gigolo Aunts over here a few times (as well as Velvet Crush, Tommy Keene and a few others) and every other word they say is "Motherfucker". "Your soundcheck is at 4, motherfucker. Would you like a beer, Motherfucker?" The club they run is called Moby Dick and it's got a great nautical power-pop theme. You know how merchant seamen always love the Raspberries. Yar.
The show went quite well. All my worrying about David and I ended up blowing my voice out a little. I didn't get a chance to really do any warm-ups and the high notes on "Down With The Beautiful" were a bit screechy. No excuses, though, the other guys said that they thought it was good and we got another encore. It's pretty cool to hear a bunch of people in Spain chanting "Pills, Pills, Pills". Geez, I hope they were referring to us. We did "Band On The Run" as an encore. Not seen as clever or cute. They all seemed really excited to hear that it's Dave's birthday. The rest of the set was great and we sold 38,000 pesetas worth of merch. Many autographs were signed, many drinks were bought for us. I even got a good bass amp: and SWR Redhead which Jamie liked a lot.
One odd thing about the Madrid audience is that it was a virtual sausage factory: no women at all. It's OK, just weird. We met a lot of very groovy people. One thing I have yet to mention is that there is not a man, woman or child in Spain who doesn't smoke constantly. In case you were wondering where all the tobacco companies are spending their marketing money...I mean, in all the restaurants, in the airport, in any store you go into. Dogs smoke in Madrid.
Jamie wants it documented that he is "all fucked up-write it down". He can't walk, per se, yet he travels. Oops. Senor assy just said hello. I think I'd better sleep.
We got to see all of Salamanca at least twice while our driver, Pino, looked for the club. We didn't mind, though, 'cuz it's a groovy looking town almost all the way to Portugal. Besides, we get lost on our way to shows in Cambridge so it was Pills Double Live Gonzo. Pills Greatest Hits. Pills Come Alive. Anyway, we found the Goddamn place and we got a police escort from a friendly geezer on a motorcycle.
David and I managed to get up early enough to go the Prado museum for a few hours today. Sadly, we did not have time to check out the Picasso, Miro or Dali pieces that they keep down the street, but we got a pretty fair share of del Goya, El Greco and Valezquez (funny, a lot of his pieces have a guy in the background playing a foam-green Jazz bass and smoking too much).
Anyway, apparently we have flown 3,000 miles to play at an Irish bar: The Irish Rover. And just like in Boston, it is filled with a bunch of bimbo students and interchangeable guys with backward baseball caps. There are tons of American students here at the University and they are all at our show. We do everything we can to avoid these sorts when at home, but they ambushed us here I suppose. We rocked their lame asses anyway. There were some really cool looking mod guys up front and one guy actually know all the words to "Wide Awake" which is a bit of a mindfuck.
Dave broke two strings, and as we were the only band playing, there was no back up guitar. We went into a spooky D minor groove and Clyde did the monologue from "The End" by the Doors. "The Killer Awoke, he put his boots on..." while Dave put a string on. They never noticed a thing. It was a good show, although some fucker threw an ice cube and hit my new bass. Luckily, I know how to say "This is my new bass, you motherfucker and I will hit you in the face" in Spanish. It turns out that the three years of Spanish One I had in high school actually taught me Spanish. Well, it's not perfect Spanish-more like Esperanto retardo- but I am definitely. getting by. It was David's birthday on stage tonight and I got everyone to wish him Happy Birthday in Spanish.
Salamanca is a huge University town so, after we finished playing, the Boom-chp, Boom-chp, Boom-chp music started up. Not my scene, man. A bunch of idiots acting slutty on their parents' dime. I will drink a lot and glare at them. David says it's because I'm a bitter old man. At least I'm a bitter old man in Spain!
The big lesson of today is that riding all day in a van with the boys is only marginally more exciting in Spain. We stopped in Madrid to trade in Pino for a new driver, Ivan, who looks like Pete Donnely from the Figgs. Unfortunately, Dave's cold seems to have worsened. He doesn't sound so good. I am pretty shagged out, too.
People in Spain speak with a built in lisp, so Zaragosa is a swell place to be. Our show went really well at the venue: the Casa Del Loco. Dave rose above his illness and really socked it to them. It was a very large venue and not full, but all the kids shoved themselves up to the front of the stage and danced. They went mental when I announced Dave's birthday.
After the show, this girl Anna, and her friends Olga & Laura and her boyfriend helped us carry our gear to the van (they insisted) and then gave Dave & myself a little tour of Zaragosa. There's a huge basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Pilar which they tell us is a huge tourist destination. We went and sat at the top of this water fountain and talked for a while. They are all big Gigolo Aunts fans so we told them that the Aunts like it when people call them "big pussies". We also told them that Dave Gibbs is a "Sex Bomb" which is a stupid Tom Jones song that's popular in Spain right now, and that Steve Hurley has a glass eye. They promised to repeat these things the next time the Aunts play in Zaragosa. We had a really nice time in Zaragosa and I even managed to get up a bit early the next morning and take a look inside the basilica. Fantastic.
The drive to Valencia was really something. There is no highway between Zaragosa and the East Coast so it was this incredible 2-lane experience through the countryside. You could really see the landscape changing as we went past isolated terra cotta houses with 1/2 pipe shingles in varying states of collapse. The arid earth tones of the North gave way to a deep red clay and there were less olive trees and, eventually, orange groves. As we entered Aragon, it was like a whole different place.
Valencia is a beautiful seaside resort town. We hooked up with the most affable club owner, Vincent, and he led us to his club, the Crater. It was a really small little place with no stage, or dressing room or anything. That's cool, we don't mind meatballing it once in a while. Back to Monkey, right? I finally found some absinthe in a shop near the club. I'll have to smuggle it back to America so I can cut my ear off and mail it to a prostitute. There was an Arabic marketplace near the venue and Dave and I went and petted the camels. One of the vendors, who looked quite a bit like Gene Simmons, said "Oh American: fucking fucking." Um, yes, quite.
The show was very intense. There really isn't any bullshitting the audience when they are 18 inches in front of you. We were billed as "Power Pop Genuino" which sounds like a phrase I would make up. The Crater was just packed to the rafters and people were going mental. It was a very sweaty show and the audience acknowledged Dave's birthday with great vim, verve and vigor. Dave broke his usual assortment of strings and his voice was going, but we had tremendous energy. We did "Psychotic Reaction" as an encore and the people just went apeshit. After that, there was nowhere to go, and the people kept yelling so we did "Picture Book" by the Kinks and even gave our new Van song a try (a suggestion to which Jamie replied "No, No, No, No fucking way, No....One, two, three, four."). Many people bought us many drinks. Yo soy el baracho.
All through the tour, whenever we told people that we were going to play in Yecla, they would roll their eyes and say "Oh, you'll have fun there!" Yecla is a tiny town on the Southeast coast that is a port & trading town. There must be something in the wine in Yecla, because the people are just crazy. It's exactly like in Star Wars when they go into that town to sell Luke's landspeeder and go into that wacky bar. And tonight we are the house band! Also, it is important to mention that it is Carnival the night we are in Yecla, so that just takes it up a notch.
The bar we played in is called the Happy House and it is run by this madman named Raffa and his whole family. It is a tiny little place with a postage-stamp sized stage which they expanded for us with much hammering and pounding. Before we could even soundcheck, Raffa took me into his confidence and introduced me to this amazing peach whiskey. Well, I wouldn't want to be rude.
As darkness fell, all sorts of strange creatures began to scurry from doorway to doorway in the narrow cobblestone streets outside the Happy House. The we heard this amazing music and ran up the alley in time to see the Carnival procession go by. It seemed like everyone in Yecla had some sort of strange costume on. There would be a group of cowboys, then a half dozen robots, then a drunk guitarist-oh wait, that's Clyde. Raffa took us to a hamburger place for dinner. They make their hamburgers with ham, for Christsake. Dave and I somehow managed to order a hamburger with a fried egg and anchovies on it.
We went to the band room above the club and I honestly didn't know if we would be able to play. Eight days of drinking, no sleeping and riding in a van had really worked us over and we were really dragging. Dave could barely talk, let alone sing. Jamie, Clyde and I were sitting there with our heads in our hands, just exhausted. There had been a couple outside who told us that they drove 100 kilometers to see us after hearing us on Radio 3. Also, there had been a full page article about us in the paper that said our music was the sound of 3 cans of Red Bull (an energy drink they have here which is rumored to contain the testosterone of a bull). I was really sad, thinking we were going to let everyone down.
I don't know exactly what happened, but we were absolute beasts on stage. Jamie was just phenomenal. The stage was so small that I could lean on the wall and sing into my vocal mic and the place was just packed out the door. The people were right in our faces and jumping up and down and screaming. There was a window to the bar next to my bass amp and Raffa's sisters kept passing beers to us (and a bottle of scotch found it's way to Clyde's amp). It was just so hot in there that you could drink as much as you wanted to and not get drunk. I had had about 6 shots of peach whiskey before we played (just to level the playing field, you understand) and I drank 5 or 6 beers on stage and a bunch of Scotch and I wasn't drunk at all. I just felt completely high on the energy of the crowd. The entire room sang "Happy Birthday:" to Dave at the top of their lungs. I couldn't believe it, but Dave's voice held out for the whole set. We hadn't been using a setlist for most of the tour and this allowed us to just play according to the vibes of the room. We ended up playing all the songs from our CD, Brighton Rude Boy", "Down With The Beautiful", "Apologize", "Mandy", "Psychotic Reaction" and two sets of encores with "Hobby Horse", "Picture Book" and "The Van Song". It was so hot and wet in the club that I was literally wringing my shirt out between numbers and I really thought I might have peed myself at one point, 'cuz my pants were soaked with sweat and beer and condensation.
After the set, the DJ started playing dance music and all the Carnival people crowded into the already sold out room. Raffa and his sisters insisted that we should toast many, many things. No exaggeration, they poured at least 10 shots down my gullet over the next few hours. The night just would not end and all the feathers and sequins of the costumes made it quite surreal. I tried to break up the drinking with occasional doses of water, but in Spain they have a saying that water is only "por los patos"-for the ducks. I just about crawled out of the Happy House. As Clyde said before we passed out "I feel like Ron Wood". Viva Yecla!
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