Roadie #42 – Blog #60

Dec 09, 2008

On the ride into Liverpool from John Lennon Airport, there is much talk in our van (which, I hasten to add, included none of the band) about The Beatles – as though this is all that has ever happened in Liverpool. Come showtime, Chris gets part way through In My Place and reminds the crowd that half of the songs they are hearing were written here. Suddenly, it strikes me what he’s talking about – and how right he is about the degree to which this city has been a part of the band’s history.

Parr Street Studios in the centre of Liverpool, is the place where so many songs from the first three records took shape. Those albums were recorded there (and elsewhere) by Ken Nelson and Mark Phythian, two of the most lovely human beings you could ever wish to meet – both natives of this fine city, I believe.

The guys get to the end of Sleep Chant and Jonny drops into the riff from Lips Like Sugar – an old tune by Echo and The Bunneymen, more Liverpudlians. The fellas used to play this a lot on the Rush of Blood tour in honour of Ian McCulloch who injected a healthy dose of swagger into the Parr Street sessions for that album.

Stretching this point perhaps to breaking, I’m pretty sure that although none of the most recent album was recorded here, co-producer Markus Dravs lives just outside the city. The man’s as German as it gets, but his home turf ensures that the chain stayed in some small way unbroken…

I’ve worked for these guys for years now and we were so busy talking about the moptops on the ride in, that I’d forgotten almost completely about their own history here. The arena we played in tonight is new, as was the recent "City of Culture" moniker. I wonder though, if this city will ever be known for anything but the Fab Four? Then again, I wonder if they want to? I guess if you’re going to live in the cultural shadow of anything, The Beatles are pretty much unbeatable!

Moving on, the ride OUT of the gig is a different affair entirely.

I only become aware that we’re being followed when the van that had been behind us in the convoy draws alongside. Two cars are now behind us driving uncomfortably close. At first I think they’re just trying to get past and being impatient. Our two vans are blocking the road after all and are sticking to the speed limit. I also can’t see why anyone would be following us, as neither of these vans actually contains any band members.

The driver of the first car becomes very erratic and begins weaving side to side and at one point actually seems to be trying to pull in between our two vans. Being as we are side by side on a dual carriageway, with only a couple of feet between us, this is not only clearly impossible but also plainly very bloody dangerous. At this point I’m utterly convinced that it’s just someone that wants to get home who is annoyed that we’re in the way. Once the dual carriageway ends though and we wait at the junction to take a right, this guy pulls past us and edges past the traffic light in the wrong lane to cut us off. Fair enough, I think. He’ll screech off to display his displeasure at being held up and disappear off into the distance.

It’s only when we turn and see him waiting that I start to worry. We are now going to pull up to the airport with him in front and the other car behind us. I’m concerned. We wait for the gate to lift and allow us onto the airfield and their car doors swing open. To my utter disbelief, they spring forth armed with CD covers and pens. At first they look a little confused and unsure of what to do now they’ve caught up. Next, they begin peering into the darkened van windows with only one word to say. "Sigggnnnn", "Siiiiiigggggnnnnn". It’s like being set upon by some insane breed of eBay zombies. I’m completely stunned. They’ve driven like complete loonies just to get an autograph? Even if any of the band were here (which they’re not) do they think that putting the fear of god into them by driving dangerously, like some bad car-chase movie is going to make them in any way pleased to see them? "Oh here, let me sign that for you, do you want a beer?" "Did you enjoy the show? Man, you are SUPERfans". I’m confused way beyond my normal jetlagged, tour-flu state to a point of sheer disbelief.

Whilst I’m in our van considering a slightly aggressive response, Chris’s brother (who just happens to be along for the ride today) displays the Martin family "irrepressibly bright outlook" and bounds out of the van behind us. Now, Chris’s brother has the appearance of someone who’s been dragged through a Rolling Stones tour backwards. He does however, under the shaggy hair and leather jacket, bear a strong resemblance to Chris – and more importantly his speaking voice is (not surprisingly) uncannily similar. They must have thought initially that Chris had undergone a complete transformation into Rock God in the fifteen minute drive. I think at first that he’s signing stuff for them, but apparently he’s taking the CD covers and promising to ‘get it sorted out for them’, at which they back off and return to their cars.

Amidst all this confusion, the gate has come up and we move onto the airfield. I continue even now, to be utterly baffled by their behaviour. I’ve talked before of eBayers being the new paps. This is sheer insanity though. I remember some years ago, a high speed paparazzi chase in Paris ending in the death of a very high profile public figure. I climb onto the plane thinking that our potential accident would have been somewhat less of a media event.
I can see the headlines now….

"Assorted entourage of well known pop group die in crash after high speed pursuit by blokes with marker pens. Band OK".

Roadie #42