On March 6 1986 we set off for a lengthy European tour. The first few weeks were spent in Germany supporting heavy metallers Accept, with Dokken as first act. It was strange not being top of the bill, the venues were canaverous and not always that well attended and we suffered somewhat from lack of soundchecks and silly buggers being played by Accepts crew. I've worked with friendlier bands and it was a relief when we struck off into Switzerland, Austria and Hungary on our own. In Budapest we headlined a 10,000 seat arena, and walking down a freezing corridor backstage I heard a faintly familiar gruff voice call out, "Cut yer bleedin' hair yer old 'ippy!" It was none other than Dr Feelgood's singer Lee Brilleaux (they were one of the support bands along with Jack Bruce), who I hadn't seen for 9 years. He was sitting in an armchair with a pair of slippers on, a case of beer and half empty whisky bottle at his feet. I had no idea they were on the bill and he was the last person I expected to see; much reminiscing then entailed as the contents of the bottle got lower and lower. All the bands went down a treat and at the end of the gig I decided to do a Pete Townsend and trash my Rickenbacker. What I forgot was that only a few nights before the headstock had broken off my Gibson Thunderbird, and I was now left with no basses!
The day after we flew to Stockholm to link up with Twisted Sister for more gigs. The crew were bussing it up which gave us a couple of days off, which we mostly seemed to spend at the Hard Rock Cafe, prising endless beers from assorted journalists. Suddenly remembering I had no bass, my basstech JJ coerced the record label to take us round the guitar shops. I've never seen so many vintage basses and fell in love with a 1976 Thunderbird. Not being flush with the local currency it was JJ again to the rescue, getting the label to pay for it, promising I'd pay back Chrysalis once home. Never actually got round to it tho'!
Upon arrival at the Icestadium the next day, we found our truck and backline crew had turned up but there was no sign of our tourbus, which our sound, monitor and lighting crew were travelling in - strange, cos' their had been no phone calls to explain any breakdowns etc. Showtime came and we couldn't hold off any longer, so we hit the stage with no sound check, the house lights up and fuck all coming out of the PA. It was so quiet we could hear the audience talking! Our debut Swedish gig was a disaster. When the driver and crew walked in 5 minutes after we'd come offstage we didn't exactly greet them with open arms. "Oh", they said, "we thought the gig was tommorrow..."
We continued our way thru' Scandinavia, dumping Twisted Sister and their appalling crew, and returned to Holland, Austria and Germany headlining in our own right. These gigs were much better, we were selling out everywhere and playing tight as a ducks bottom. We felt more than ready to take on our next stop - America!
On the 26th May we flew out to New York for the start of a 10 week US tour (see box right). It was immense fun but very gruelling, often with long overnight drives, checking in at the next hotel at 7 or 8am. Life became very bizarre; it was difficult to know whether to go back to sleep, have breakfast, go for a swim, stay up or do any one of a dozen different things. Often our road crew would soundcheck for us so really there was little to do until showtime 12 or more hours later. If we were in a funky city then I'd go and explore, but often or not we'd be stuck in some godforsaken strip of hotels and I'd go down to the gig in the afternoon anyway just for something to do. Of course after half an hour that got a bit boring too, and consequently the Canadian Club would be sampled increasingly earlier, and eventually it became difficult to know where one party ended and another started. Suffice to say that over the years UFO had built up something of a reputation as a good time party band, attracting a varied bunch of party animals along the way, mostly who just happened to be of the female variety! Then, just as I thought we'd all become accustomed to the endless travelling and little sleep, Paul Raymond cracked. On the afternoon of the second show in Pheonix, Arizona, he managed to get the key to Ted the tour managers room, found his passport, left a note saying he had had enough, and dissapeared! I guess we should have seen it coming, but we didn't. We decided to go ahead with the gig that night with me alternating between keyboards and bass - I learnt the parts on my tiny Casio on the tourbus before showtime! It wasn't exactly ideal, I was bloody nervous and a few songs went rather pear-shaped and we got by, but we obviously couldn't do another gig this way. An emergency meeting was convened and we decided to pull in a friend of Tommy's for keyboard duties. Jake Jacobson turned up after flying in from California the next afternoon, and we proceeded to get to know each other over plentiful free cocktails by the hotel pool as there was no show that night. At midnight, merry but relieved, we boarded out tourbus for an overnighter to Las Vegas, and the next night he played a blinding first gig with us. It was strange without Paul however - I'd really liked him, but Jake did a good job, altho' at times he embraced the old rock' n' roll lifestyle a little too liberally, I guess he was getting it in while he could!
The rest of the year wasn't quite so much fun. Chrysalis were wanting new demos, but we'd been so busy touring we had no new songs, and the last thing we felt like doing was to hole ourselves up in a rehearsal room. However there was a lot of pressure on us to come up with new material, so once again I decamped to the band flat in Birmingham. Precious little got done tho', and I was getting increasingly frustrated at being the only one who seemed to be making an effort. On November 19 I got a call from manager Neil Levine - Chrysalis had finally run out of patience and dropped us. I can't say I blamed them, and once again the future for UFO looked rocky...
In the spring of 1997 we booked into The Abbatoir, a studio complex in Birmingham owned by UB40 (these tracks would eventually end up as "Ain't Misbehavin'" on FM Revolver). Various other labels were expressing an interest in us; meetings were set up and tracks played to the head honcho's as they were finished. I actually prefer the feel and sound of these to anything on "Misdemeanor" - they had a certain raw energy about them, but I was in the minority, for despite several one-off gigs to keep the flag flying, no major label deal was forthcoming. I can't really remember how it ended - I guess things just drifted apart to the point of no return. Tommy returned to California and sadly UFO was no more.
I decided to make a complete break, and in 1988 moved back to London, figuring I'd be better placed to meet other bands and musicians - maybe I'd get into some session work in the meantime. I didn't have to wait long, for one night, whilst propping up thr bar at The Marquee club, I bumped into Eddie Clarke of Motorhead and Fastway fame. I hadn't seen him for 10 years so there was much catching up to do, and as the drinks flowed he suddenly said "fancy joining my new band, its fuckin' great!". Fastway had just finished recording a new album with various bassplayers but had no-one permanent, and Eddie got more and more excited, saying that various American dates were lined up, and how great it would be. It seemed like once again I'd landed on my feet, and the following week met I up with Lea Hart, Fastway's singer. However despite doing one photo session which ended up on the cover of "On Target", things never really progresed any further. In the spring of 1989 there was talk of a US tour with Girlschool which would have been a laugh, but still nothing really definite. Band meetings were inevitably held in a bar somewhere, and with Eddie already having liberally imbibed several large Smirnoff's not much seemed to be happening from one week to the next, which was a real shame as we got on well and I really liked his guitar playing. It would have been great had it come together but it was all rather too reminiscent of the recent UFO situation, and I was just starting to rethink my plans when I found myself in a very bizarre situation. One day the phone rang and a brusque voice said "My name's Johnny Fowler and I'm the personal manager to Andrew Ridgeley. Andrew's looking for a bassist to redo some tracks on his first solo album and youv'e been recommended. Interested?"
If anyone had ever asked me who the most unlikely artist I could think of working with was, I'd have probably said Spandau Ballet, or Wham! You could have knocked me over with a feather, and for a moment I thought it was a wind-up, but no, here I was being asked to go to Maison Rouge studios in Fulham the following week to work with one half of Wham! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but it was an opportunity not to be missed! I duly turned up on the day and was directed to studio 2, but I thought there was some mistake as the mixing desk was littered with Enuff Z Nuff, Def Leppard and AC/DC cd's. "No" said the receptionist "that's definitely Andrew's studio!" Bemused was not the word for it, but sure enough a short while later Mr. Ridgeley turned up, and very charming he was too. It transpired that he'd actually finished his album when he heard the above bands and suddenly decided he wanted to make a rock album, replacing smooth LA session player types with the likes of my good self! It was so strange, sitting at the desk, overdubbing my basslines on his songs, with him sat behind me drawing pictures of hats, and saying "great, great, more over the top!" Anyway, in case you think I'm making it up, here's the cover!
It actually went very well, and a few weeks later asked me to go to Japan with him and his band to do a load of TV and video shoots. I'd never been to the Far East before, he paid handsomely so of course I readily accepted! It was a very bizzarre 2 weeks. We were put up by Sony at the plushest hotel in Tokyo, and on the first night, unable to sleep because of jet lag, they took us on a tour of the most exclusive nightclubs. It was VIP treatment and free champagne all the way, and somehow during the night I managed to get separated from the entourage. It was 4am, the clubs were closing, and I suddenly realised that not only did I have no Japanese money on me, I also had totally forgotten the name of our hotel and didn't have a clue where I was. I spent a totally surreal dawn wandering the streets, avoiding drunken businessmen passed out on the sidewalk, until the subway opened. The Japanese are not the tallest race, and standing head and shoulders above what seemed like millions of teeming people on their way to work, with the combined effects of 36 hours with no sleep and much champage, I completely freaked out! At 8am I managed to place a call to Sony, who immediately got on the case and sent a car to pick me up. It was all too much even for me however, my body clock was totally shot and I never really recovered. The rest of the trip was a blur of flash meals, video shoots and presentation ceremonies, where we would all be limo'ed to a pressing plant or radio station to be showered with gifts by dozens of people who kept bowing at us. We had to laugh - Andrew ended up with about 20 CD Walkmans and video cameras etc, he could have opened a bloody shop with them all, while us, the proles in his band, came away clutching small teddy bears and other useless items. I left mine in the hotel room as a tip for the cleaners.
I saw him again a year later when I was invited to his brother Paul's wedding, with the reception at Andrew's new restaurant venture in Bushey. He'd been dropped by Sony by then - God knows how much they lost on his album - and the last I heard he was shacked up with one of Banarama, spending his millions surfing near Bude in Cornwall. It's alright for some...
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3 - the 80's
4 - the 80's
5- the 80's
US Tour Flyer
Lights Out in Longbeach...
Somewhere in America, Kerrang! scribe Stefan Chirazi forces me to imbibe champagne. Bastard!
Me and Tommy, Kerrang!, 1986
pic: Ray Palmer