Bumper tale today from the road: I’m still on holiday, so time for some tales.
Here’s one from a few years ago.
The Klingons’ Bus vs the Starship Enterprise
Long, long ago, in a tour bus far, far away…
I did a tour once which was quite unusual in that instead of staying in a hotel in (or near) the town we played in after each show, we drove overnight to the next town on the itinerary, where day-rooms were available for us. This had its good and bad sides…
On the plus side, it was possible to spend each day looking round the town rather than sitting on a tour bus.
On the down side, the theory that we would get onto the bus after the gig and sleep was not always put into practise.
By unspoken agreement the two buses were divided between those who accepted the proposed behaviour implicit in this arrangement and those who had no such intentions.
The bus occupied by the former (the MD and the lady backing singers) was known as the Starship Enterprise and the other as the Klingons’ Bus.
Funnily enough I found my self more often than not (actually, all the time!) on the Kingons’ Bus along with all the band and the Artist’s Man. Notice that I award the Artist’s Man a capital ‘M.’ this is because the title of ‘Man’ in this context denotes a range of functions similar the those of a butler, major domo, factotum, gatekeeper, medieval chancellor, chief cook and bottle-washer rolled into one. The Man is the one who was sent into the dressing-room before the Albert Hall gig which opened the tour to check up on what the band were drinking and report back to the Artist. The list of beverages in this case being orange juice, tea, peppermint tea, coffee, diet Coke and mineral water was not initially given much credence, and for the first and last time on the tour the Artist himself popped his head into the band dressing-room to check for himself.
The Man controls access to the Artist and can make or break a musician’s future in the organisation with a well-placed word or carefully timed frown.
The Man also supplies the “pills and powders that get them through this passion play” (Joni Mitchell,’Coyote’ from ‘Hejira’) to the Artist and thus inevitably to those gentlemen of the orchestra who enjoy the occasional stimulant. This is a significant boost to the Man’s finances and is one of these creatures’ most jealously guarded perks.
It was quite unusual for the Man to enjoy such close contact with the band, but as the Artist declined to spend his nights on a tour-bus and flew between cities but did not feel able to offer the same luxury to his Man, said Man duly took up his position in the Klingons’ Bus.
This was a double-edged sword: one the one hand the boys in the band could not be quite as free with their opinions on the Artist’s work, integrity, personality traits and general level of talent as would normally be the case, but on the other it meant that the supply of Gentlemans’ Smoking Mixture and/or nasal decongestant was reliable and of high quality. Most of the band took the view that the first hand was an acceptable price to pay for the second.
The Klingons’ Bus was thus a nightly riot of celebration and amusement in which the Man was a joyful participant, not least because he preferred the camaraderie of the band to being treated like some kind of super-charged Filipino house-boy by the Artist (whose personal qualities amongst many other ommisions did not include either a graceful way with the servants or the gift of entertaining conversation unless it concerned his own genius in which case it was not so much entertaining as monomaniacal and stultifyingly dull.)
Like most Men he was just bright enough to do his job but not bright enough to realise the genial contempt in which he was held by the band. He had in theory no authority over us but in practise the absolute gift of life and death. (Well, maybe a slight exaggeration there…)
So the nights passed, each one ending in a glazed stumble to the day rooms accompanied by futile promises to “get some sleep tonight” that were as much of a waste of time as the activities that provoked them. There is according to one of the participants in the revelries a video tape of 2-3 hours of one such night, which he refers to as “that” journey between Madrid and Barcelona. The fact that I can’t remember why it should be referred to as “that” journey is perhaps indicative of the nature of the activities with which we passed the time.
It was on such a night that the Artists’ Man brought up the subject of the tennis games with which some of us attempted to undo the damage done by the nights’ activities.
“The Artist would love to come and play tennis with you sometime: let me know when you’re next playing and he’ll come and join in.”
“OK,” we replied, “of course!” Subtext: ‘oh fuck.’
“Just one thing though: don’t beat him!”
A day or so later we convened for our tennis game and put ourselves on our best behaviour as the Artist appeared in immaculate tennis whites with the most expensive racket money could buy.
The game commenced and we duly “made allowances” for his pitiful attempts at ground-strokes, his pat-pat serve and fluffed volleys.
It was during a particularly irritating game that I did something which became one of the few regrets I have in my career. The Artist had put up a sitting duck of a lob: no penetration, no real height, asking- nay, begging for the text-book treatment, which is to smash the ball using a serve motion as hard as possible directly at the opponent’s genitalia.
As I raised my left hand to point at the ball in approved fashion, swung the racket behind my back with a backhand grip to impart extra “snap” to the ball as my arm transferred my entire body weight onto the ball to speed it on it’s way to its appointment with the Artist’s testes, I caught the eye of the Man standing at the side of the court. I read a panicked “no!!!!!” in those eyes, and to my eternal regret, I took all the power out of the stroke and hit the ball wide…..
Ho Hum: a beer, methinks. This Provence climate brings on a mighty thirst.